Tag Archives: catholic

VIDEO REPORT: Mount de Sales stands up for life

There are many parishes and schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore that strongly support the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.  Mount de Sales Academy in Catonsville is one of the most passionate. For the 25th year, students from the all-girls school have participated in the march – traveling to the capital in six buses Jan. 24. 

Check out the following video report on the school’s appearance at the march and be sure to read this week’s Catholic Review for full coverage of the March for Life. We feature a compelling story about a Hunt Valley woman who has a very personal experience with abortion.


The Doubting Disease

The Salt Lake Tribune has a nice piece in the Dec. 11 issue looking at scrupulosity, a psychological disorder that drives sufferers to worry obsessively about sin. Sometimes called the ‘doubting disease,’ the condition plagues many religious-minded people of all denominations.

A snip…

Though it has been described for centuries in Catholic literature and afflicted saints such as Ignatius of Loyola, Alphonsus Liguori and Catherine of Siena, as well as reformer Martin Luther, scrupulosity has been recognized in the field of psychology only in recent decades.

A series of books, beginning with The Doubting Disease: Help for Scrupulosity and Religious Compulsions in the mid-1990s, helped raise awareness.

Scrupulosity is not in itself a diagnosis, but falls within the OCD family of anxiety disorders, explains Jonathan S. Abramowitz, a clinical psychologist and researcher in the field at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Unlike the normal person who can reject intrusive thoughts — and everyone has them — people with OCD get tied in knots by their mistaken ways of thinking and behaving, Abramowitz says. They cannot handle ambiguity, which makes it hard for one who is scrupulous to remain a person of faith.

According to the International OCD Foundation, up to 3 million U.S. adults and about 500,000 children suffer from OCD. Of those, 5 percent to 30 percent have scrupulosity, according to one estimate.

Its sources are biological and likely environmental, but Abramowitz believes OCD manifests itself as scrupulosity mostly in those who care a lot about their faith, whether that is Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism. Conversely, it makes it difficult for the faithful to remain faithful.

A Catholic woman may confess to her priest constantly about intrusive obscene thoughts while gazing on a crucifix, a “sin” she fears is unforgivable, while an Orthodox Jew might worry obsessively that he didn’t keep his milk separate from his meat in accord with kosher law.

“Folks with scrupulosity have a pretty harsh view of God. They see him as looking down with a magnifying glass, waiting for people to screw up so he can blast them with lightning,” Abramowitz says. “That runs counter to what most religions teach.”

There’s much more here.

John Philip Sousa couldn’t say no

A tapestry at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore commemorates a performance by John Philip Sousa benefiting a new Baltimore hospital built by the Sisters of Mercy. (Mercy Medical Center Photo/Kevin Parks)

A tapestry at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore commemorates a performance by John Philip Sousa in the 1880s. The concert benefitted a new Baltimore hospital built by the Sisters of Mercy. (Mercy Medical Center Photo/Kevin Parks)

Nuns with a good cause are generally unstoppable.

Consider this fascinating story I learned Dec. 9 while on a media tour of Mercy Medical Center’s new $400 million Mary Catherine Bunting Center in Baltimore.

Back in the 1880s, when the Sisters of Mercy were building a new hospital in Baltimore, someone suggested they book John Philip Sousa and his U.S. Marine Band for a fundraising fair. The famed composer and “master of the march” was the Bono of his day, drawing huge crowds across the country for concerts.

The nuns hatched a plan to travel to Washington, D.C., where they intended to meet President Grover Cleveland and ask his permission for Sousa and his band to appear at the fair.

Sister Mary Borgia Leonard, one of the nuns who traveled to the capital, wrote in a letter that the sisters departed from Calvert Station in Baltimore without a clue as to how they would secure a meeting with the president.

The sisters somehow managed to get into the White House, where Sister Mary Borgia reported that a “liveried brass-buttoned official” informed them that the president was “out riding” and that it would be impossible to see him. Another official later suggested they consult the Secretary of the Navy, helping them set up the meeting.

Sister Mary Borgia wrote that the secretary “listened attentively to our story and responded to our request without the least hesitation.”

Sousa performed on the opening night of the Baltimore fair, helping the sisters raise an astounding sum of $20,000 – the equivalent of about $440,000 in today’s dollars.

Sousa once said that “sincere composers believe in God.” Sounds like they also believe in God’s nuns.

‘Christ has no hands but ours’

It is said that after German bombers destroyed an English cathedral during the Second World War, dedicated volunteers worked to repair one of the church’s broken statues of Christ. Rather than restore the figure’s missing hands, the artisans left Christ handless – replacing the artwork’s “Come unto Me” inscription with “Christ has no hands but ours.”

While the authenticity of that popular story is a matter for debate, the message it conveys is not: Christians are called to be Christ’s presence in the world today.

Priests carry out that call in a special way – celebrating Mass, anointing the sick, absolving sins, helping the poor and serving in ways that often go unnoticed and unappreciated.

Stephen Golder Photo

Stephen Golder, a photographer who lives in Georgia, recently completed a powerful project focused solely on the hands of priests.

With the blessing of leaders of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, the Catholic convert devoted seven months to following priests in northern Georgia, photographing their hands as a project for the recently completed Year for Priests.

Stephen Golder Photo

As you can see from the photos posted in this blog, the results are stunning.

Here’s how Golder describes the effort:

Stephen Golder Photo

Photographing these hands, especially focusing in detail on the movements and images of the Eucharist, has left us properly awestruck at the incredible beauty of our faith.

It is our hope that these images will remind the faithful of the enormous gifts our priests bring to us: not only Christ in the Eucharist, but Christ in all they do.


Deacon Greg Kandra, author The Deacon’s Bench, was probably the first to call national attention to this innovative effort. He met with the photographer, who convinced the good deacon to allow his own hands to be photographed as well.

St. Teresa of Avila wrote a prayer that seems to fit perfectly with Golder’s design:

Christ has no body now on earth , but yours,
No hands but yours,
No feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which is to look out Christ’s compassion to the world;
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now. Amen.

Stephen Golder Photo

KKT weighs in

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Maryland’s former lieutenant governor, is weighing in on Sarah Palin’s new book, “America by Heart.” 

Townsend, a Catholic, is particularly concerned that the former Alaska governor has criticized President John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association. It was in that landmark address that Kennedy asserted that he should be judged by his political views and not his Catholic faith.

Palin argues that Kennedy “essentially declared religion to be such a private matter that it was irrelevant to the kind of country we are.” Instead of embracing faith as a part of what defined him, Palin argues, Kennedy ran from it — failing to reconcile his private faith with his public role.

In a Dec. 5 opinion piece in The Washington Post, Townsend defends the assassinated president, her uncle. She says Palin’s argument “seems to challenge a great American tradition, enshrined in the Constitution, stipulating that there be no religious test for public office.”

A careful reading of her book leads me to conclude that Palin wishes for precisely such a test. And she seems to think that she, and those who think like her, are qualified to judge who would pass and who would not.

If there is no religious test, then there is no need for a candidate’s religious affiliation to be “reconciled.” My uncle urged that religion be private, removed from politics, because he feared that making faith an arena for public contention would lead American politics into ill-disguised religious warfare, with candidates tempted to use faith to manipulate voters and demean their opponents.

Kennedy cited Thomas Jefferson to argue that, as part of the American tradition, it was essential to keep any semblance of a religious test out of the political realm. Best to judge candidates on their public records, their positions on war and peace, jobs, poverty, and health care. No one, Kennedy pointed out, asked those who died at the Alamo which church they belonged to.

But Palin insists on evaluating and acting as an authority on candidates’ faith. She faults Kennedy for not “telling the country how his faith had enriched him.” With that line, she proceeds down a path fraught with danger – precisely the path my uncle warned against when he said that a president’s religious views should be “neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.”

Townsend contends that her famous uncle “was courageous in arguing that government funds should not be used in parochial schools, despite the temptation to please his constituents.” She argues that although many Catholics would have liked the money, Kennedy “wisely thought that the use of public dollars in places where nuns explicitly proselytized would be unconstitutional.”

When Townsend ran unsuccessfully for the governor’s office in 2002, my former editor and I had a chance to interview her for a profile in The Catholic Review.  Interestingly, back then, although Townsend vehemently opposed vouchers that could help parents choose which schools to send their children, she favored providing public funds to continue a state program that earmarked money for nonreligious textbooks in Catholic and other nonpublic schools.

“It’s proved helpful to the citizens of this state, to the children of this state,” she said, “and I think when we see programs that help the kids I think we should continue them.”

Townsend has often been a lightening rod within the Catholic Church. An incredibly staunch supporter of keeping abortion legal, she has spoken dismissively of American bishops who defend the sanctity of life and who hold politicians accountable, saying they have “lost their way.”

In the election issue of The Catholic Review eight years ago, Townsend said she favors “choice” because she believes “women can make the best decision on what they should do with their bodies.” Asked twice whether there are any restrictions on abortion — any at all — that she would support, she dodged the question by saying repeatedly, “I trust women.”

In that interview, Townsend said her call to public service grew out of the Catholic commitment to reaching beyond oneself.

“I was always taught by the nuns to do your duty and to figure out what your talents are and how best to use them,” she said. “Part of it is to figure out how you can, as the Bible says, love your neighbor. And I think I’ve discovered that public life and public service is the best way to use my talent.”

What do you think? 

Is asking a candidate about his or her faith laying down a religious test for office? Was it fair for us to ask Townsend and other candidates about how their faith shapes their approach to leadership and public life? Is faith such a fundamental part of what defines a person that it makes it fair game in evaluating a candidate?  Where do you draw the line?

I really want to hear from you.

Redemptorists tweet through Advent

The Redemptorists of the Baltimore Province are making it about as easy as it gets to read snippets of daily Scripture this Advent. Every day, they are sharing a short Bible passage on Twitter, Facebook and their website. Twitter only allows messages of 140 characters or less, so these messages are short and sweet!  In this hectic time of year, take a few seconds (really, that’s all it takes!) to reflect on the true meaning of the season.

Send the pope a Christmas message

When you’re sending your Christmas cards this year, don’t forget the pope.

A website sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications has a link where users can write a Christmas message or share a photo with the Holy Father.  The greetings will also be shared at the Pope2You website.

What would you say to the pope this Christmas season?


12/10/2010 – Update: Lots of folks are taking a look at this post!  Be sure to visit www.catholicreview.org/matysekblog for similar posts.

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