The next time you think, "Darn it--kids these days!" take a moment to remember this outstanding young lady in Alaska:
In addition to the selfless act of sharing her child through adoption, 19-year-old Kaleena Pysher has succeeded in providing her baby milk, even though the adoptive parents live out of state. She’s also prevailed despite the complex feelings of separation, knowing her gift is one of love.
“I know in my heart and my mind this is the best thing,” Pysher said told Alaska Dispatch News.
It sounds like abortion was never an option, and that pumping around the clock (every two hours for six weeks!) was something she knew was in the child's best interest.
Her motivation for donating her breast milk for her daughter is the same as her reason for choosing adoption. “I want her to have the best,” said Pysher.
Pysher, who gave birth in November, bonded with her baby during pregnancy, singing and reading to her. Giving birth went well for Pysher too. “As soon as she came out, they plopped her on my chest,” she said. “She was crying. I was just so happy.”
Pysher had learned about the benefits of breastfeeding through a visiting nurse program, and her daughter’s adoptive parents agreed to provide her a breast pump and pay to ship her breast milk.
The child is blessed, the family must be delighted, and everyone will benefit in the end. Yay for the visiting nurse program, and yay for the generosity of spirit, which must transcend even this singular bond. The young mother has put off the inevitable mourning she must undergo,
but does understand the implications of her sacrifice, saying she would not trade the experience for anything. "Now," Pysher said, "I know there's a stronger love."
Not everyone shrugs his shoulders and looks the other way:
Jim Guell, 73, and a retired insurance broker, lives in a mobile home park north of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, directly across Highway 41 from where a series of billboards have been advertising competing local adult stores.
Six billboards, three each, for the sex shops Lion’s Den and Xcite are in close proximity in a string of eight billboards on the highway.
"I got tired of seeing those advertisements, those boards, every time I came home," Guell, a member of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal association, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I look out the window of my home and they're lit at night and I thought, I've got to combat this some way."
He got the ball rolling, talked up the issue, passed the hat, and invited others to join the fight. Now there are competing messages --and not just among the smut vendors:
So the line of messages on the eight 48-by-14-foot signs, approximately 500 feet from each other within two-thirds of a mile, goes like this: Horicon bank, Lion’s Den Adult Superstore, “Got God?”, “What would Jesus say about pornography?/Porn Destroys Love,” Lion’s Den Adult Superstore, Xcite, Xcite, Xcite, Lion’s Den Adult Superstore.
That's a holy combat -- and it wasn't his first. The first was beating his own porn problem earlier in life. Have heart -- often, the good guys win.
Today is the feast of my patron saint, Saint Margaret of Scotland.
Margaret was the daughter of King Edward the Exile of England. After her father's death, she fled from England; she was received by Malcolm III of Scotland, who later married her. As queen, Margaret convoked a synod which made regulations concerning the Lenten fast, Easter Communion, and marriage laws. She founded several churches, and was constantly engaged in prayer and pious practices.
When I converted to the Church in 1984, I pored over a mini Butler to find just the right saint. Finally, I settled on this woman for a few reasons: she was lay, she had many children, and she died shortly after her husband (why stick around?). She also lived in a different land from where she was born. Small point, but nostalgically important then (and still).
When the time came for my entrance into the Church, I announced I had chosen my "name," at which the priest receiving me was perplexed. "We don't do that any more," was his less-than-gracious reply. Remember, this was pre-RCIA and "off-season." (I was slipping into the Church in February because I wanted to have everything completed before my wedding.) We tussled, and then compromised. He would enter "Margaret" as my middle name.
Obviously, I have since had children confirmed -- children who were asked to choose patron saints -- and it was a big deal. But, for the record, dear Margaret is a part of my paperwork ... somewhere.
It is also the feast of Saint Gertrude (the Great!) and thus the name day of a fine woman who passed away in 2009. Mothers matter. And this mother (like Margaret) made a great difference:
October 21 ,Gertrud Gänswein, the 78-year-old mother of Pope Benedict's personal secretary, Msgr. Georg Gänswein, passed away at her home in Freiburg, Germany. Her death was unexpected.
She had appeared in vibrant health just two months ago at the celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the priestly ordination of her son and she was at the time received in an audience by Pope Benedict XVI.
The Italian writer Alessandra Borghese, a friend of don Georg, in an article published four months ago, on June 11, in Gente, said that Msgr. Georg's relationship with his mother was "decisive and fundamental" for his priestly vocation, and that this relationship was then still "extremely close."
In an interview two years ago, Msgr. Georg said his mother was "a woman who above all knew how to give answers to the questions of her children."
I imagine, according to custom, she was buried with the linen cloth that wrapped the hands of her son at his ordination -- her son who was subsequently named an Archbishop. (I know one dear woman whose eyes positively sparkled when she pondered that detail of her own imminent passing!) Surely, the Church's calendar is filled with feasts dedicated to strong women -- on whom the integrity of our culture depends. Happy feast day to all Margarets and Gertrudes -- and their spiritual daughters!
[The above portion came from the regular newsletter offered by Robert Moynihan, editor of Inside the Vatican. Always informative and well-written, I highly recommend it -- here.]
I don't know much about this wrongful conviction, other than what was in the story, but of course the forgiveness angle was obvious. A mother of three was jailed for the murder of a homeless man, on the testimony of a [now deceased] woman with a penchant for lying. The actual murderers were eventual found, and now, 17 years after the conviction, Susan Mellen has been reunited with her family.
"I'm a free woman now. Let me do the running man," she said, and did a few jogging dance steps before the microphones. She joked and beamed but also described her imprisonment as "cruel punishment."
"I would cry every night" in prison, Mellen said, but never lost faith and even wrote "freedom" on the bottom of her tennis shoes "because I knew I was going to walk free one day."
Mellen said she held no ill will against those who put her behind bars. "No, no, I always forgave my enemies," she said. "Even your haters, you have to forgive them and sometimes you have to thank them because they bring you closer to God."
Mellen said she planned to go to dinner with her family and wanted to eat an avocado, steak, or maybe something she had never had. She also hoped to have a McDonald's Happy Meal with her youngest daughter. "Me and her were at McDonald's when I got arrested and we didn't have a happy meal that day," she said. "... It's a happy ending right now...We're going to have a new beginning."
I would contend that her spirit of forgiveness allowed her to dance and joke, during what would have otherwise been an opportunity for rage and resentment. Anger is not out of place, and there may be dark moments when it seems overwhelming, but if she keeps making her acts of forgiveness -- for the undoubted injustice and lost opportunities -- whe will maintain that joy for the rest of her life.
This is the most helpful address I've seen so far at the Synod:
Arturo and Hermelinda As Zamberline, married for 41 years with three children, addressed the Synod during the morning session Oct. 9. The designated subject for the session was the "pastoral challenges concerning an openness to life."
"We must admit without fear that many Catholic couples, even those who seek to live their marriage seriously, do not feel obligated to use only the natural methods" of birth control condoned by the Church, said the Zamberlines, leaders in their country of an international Catholic movement, Teams of Our Lady. "We must add that generally they are not questioned by their confessors" on the subject.
The Zamberlines, who are participating in the Synod as non-voting auditors, said the "rhythm of life" today makes it difficult to find time to learn natural methods of family planning, which they said have acquired an "unjust reputation of being unreliable," because they are badly explained and thus badly practised.
"The great majority of couples do not reject the use of contraceptive methods. In general, they do not consider them a moral problem," the Zamberlines said.
The Brazilian couple concluded with an appeal to the Pope and the Synod to help Catholics understand and obey Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI that affirmed Church teaching against contraception.
"If couples, as well as clergy, could at least find illumination and support, that would already be a great encouragement! Often, contradictory advice only aggravates their confusion. We ask, may the magisterium hasten to give priests and faithful the major lines of a pastoral teaching program to help people adopt and observe the principles laid out in Humanae Vitae," the Zamberlines said.
In remarks introducing the couple to the assembly, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris, one of three Synod presidents appointed by the Pope, said Catholic couples "often do not believe that the use of contraceptive methods is a sin and therefore they tend not to speak of them in confession and so they receive Communion untroubled."
"It is necessary to encourage a mentality of openness to life to thwart the contraceptive mentality and the spread of an individualist anthropological model that in certain countries has led to a strong demographic drop whose social and human consequences are not sufficiently considered today," the cardinal said.
This address outlines clear and concise challenges:
natural methods of spacing children are not being taught;
couples don't know that contracepting is a serious sin;
a mentality has accrued that separates married love from its natural fruitfulness.
Fine -- that's one of the primary reasons for this Synod -- to see how mammon has confused the faithful, who are called to be lights amidst the darkness. Too much of that confusion has seeped into the Church, and it must be resisted with the light of Christ. As I note in my latest column (not yet online):
Scripture makes clear that the Church cannot bow to secular conventions, as Saint Paul cautioned: “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2) or as Chesterton pithily remarked, “those who marry the spirit of this age will find themselves widows in the next.” So what do we do for a generation that insists that Church teaching is too demanding, uncharitable, and unlivable? We reject capitulation and insist on that transformation which makes all things possible.
Just as a parent doesn’t coddle a child who finds algebra “impossibly hard,” the Church should lovingly but firmly explain the foundational principles that make authentic chastity entirely possible. Just as reviewing the groundwork for equations—the nature of constants and variables—prepares a student for success in math, reminding the faithful about divinely revealed truth and God’s passionate love for humanity will allow them to “renew their minds” according to his purpose. And in that equation, while there is nothing so variable as the whims of man to live in a world of his own making, there is nothing so constant as divine grace which restores him to reality, drawing him back to the love that will set him free.
My prayer is that the Synod proposes concrete ways to "illuminate and support" married couples so that they can live the fullness of their vocation, and provide inspiration to those who want something more than what the world offers. Illuminate the darkness, support the good, and remind people of their inherent dignity!