Suicide Prevention is a Pro-Life Issue

by Ed Harpring

Tragically, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, claiming over 40,000 lives per year. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the number of suicides in the United States is at its highest level in 30 years. Their 2016 report revealed a 24% increase in the number of suicides from 1999–2014. Even more alarming is the stark fact that suicide is now the third leading cause of death among persons aged 10-14, and the second among persons aged 15-34 years.

Ambassadors for Life, a newly formed group of high school students in the Archdiocese of Louisville, focuses on the full spectrum of “Life” issues, and is facilitated by the Pro-Life and Youth Ministries Offices. Because many of these young people know someone personally who has taken their life, they have asked us to focus on suicide prevention as one of our “Life” issues. The Ambassadors are right – suicide and suicide prevention is a Pro-Life issue, and it’s essential that we do more to arm our youths with the resources and formation tools to better understand the warning signs of suicide.

Studies confirm that approximately 90 percent of people who take their own lives have some type of mental disorder, primarily depression. Experts tell us that depression can originate from a variety of factors, making it particularly difficult to successfully treat.

St. John Paul II commented on the increase in suicide and depression in 2003:

The spread of depressive states has become disturbing. They reveal human, psychological and spiritual frailties which, at least in part, are induced by society. It is important to become aware of the effect on people of messages conveyed by the media which exalt consumerism, the immediate satisfaction of desires and the race for ever greater material well-being. It is necessary to propose new ways so that each person may build his or her own personality by cultivating spiritual life, the foundation of a mature existence.

Note the connection between our current cultural focus on consumerism, instant gratification, and the lack of meaning in life, especially for youths. St. John Paul II famously told millions of youths at World Youth Day what the solution is to depression and the lack of meaning in life that inundates our materialistic culture.

It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life.

Finally, St. John Paul II urged compassionate care for those who may show signs of depression:

In his infinite love, God is always close to those who are suffering. Depressive illness can be a way to discover other aspects of oneself and new forms of encounter with God. Christ listens to the cry of those whose boat is rocked by the storm (cf. Mk 4: 35-41). He is present beside them to help them in the crossing and guide them to the harbor of rediscovered peace.

Similarly, the Catholic Church urges hope, not despair, towards those who have lost their lives to suicide.

CCC 2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

The increase in suicide, especially among adolescents is a major concern to the Church. There are many good resources that are available to better understand ways to prevent suicide. Listed below are resources to help prevent suicide and assist families who have experienced the death of a loved one by suicide:

http://www.ncpd.org/
https://afsp.org/
https://www.jedfoundation.org/

 

What the Convocation of Catholic Leaders Was All About . . .

by Ed Harpring

A team from the Archdiocese of Louisville had the rare privilege of attending the Convocation of Catholic Leaders – “The Joy of the Gospel In America” – for four days in Orlando over this most recent Fourth of July weekend. I am delighted to have been a part of our local team attending this ground-breaking gathering along with over 3,000 attendees from dioceses, apostolates and Catholic organizations from all over the country.

I have attended many conferences in the past, but this one definitely did NOT follow the typical conference format of listening to speakers, taking notes and then sharing what you have learned when you return. This convocation was totally different.

According to one of the key organizers, Jonathan Reyes, Executive Director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, the convocation “aims to create a national conversation that will energize Catholic leaders to help the local Church go forth boldly and respond confidently to the concerns, challenges and opportunities of modernity with the perennial joy of the Gospel.

We have just been stunned by the number of apostolates, missions, ministries and services there are in this country that are all over the place — at the diocesan level, at the parish level, at the national level — and they are all doing good things. They are all asking the right questions in their own different way, but they’ve never been together in the same room. And we thought the bishops can call them all together for a moment of national unity — we need unity in a deep way, in both the Church and the wider culture — for a moment of confidence in the Gospel, to set out in the deep, and to just be called to be missionary disciples.

The Convocation will respond to four key questions:

  • What is the nature of this current historical moment in the Church and in our nation?
  • How do we respond to this moment as missionary disciples?
  • Where are we called to go and to whom are we being sent?
  • How will we engage this mission?

These are challenging questions, no doubt, but the Church is facing a more and more secular culture evidenced by the following alarming trends:

  • The total number of Catholics in the United States dropped by 3 million since 2007.
  • More than a third of all millennials – those born between 1981 and 1996 – claim no affiliation, and just 16 percent identify as Catholic.
  • For every one Catholic convert, more than six Catholics leave the church.
  • The number of unaffiliated, or the so-called “nones,” is shooting up to about 23 percent of the total population from just 16 percent seven years ago.

The bishops have identified two essential outcomes of the Convocation

  • The participants, with new insights, will be better prepared and energized to share the Gospel as missionary disciples.
  • They will equipped with new communications strategies and models of evangelization to meet the challenges of an ever increasing secular culture.

By all measures, the Convocation was an outstanding success, with many conversations still continuing via the many catholic news channels and social media sites.

Use the hashtag #CatholicConvo to join in the discussion and check out the Convocation’s webpage on the USCCB’s website at http://bit.ly/2tzXcjx with videos from the event as well as many other documents and bits of information.

 

 

“Our Lady Of Fatima”

by Ed Harpring

The month of May draws our attention to Mother’s Day. This year we have the added focus on Mother Mary’s role as our heavenly mother with the ongoing Centennial of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima celebration taking place around the world (including the Archdiocese of Louisville) and Feast Day on May 13th.

The apparitions of Fatima to many of us have a mysterious and prophetic aura about them with the “miracle of the sun” spinning and dancing in the sky to more than 50,000 onlookers, the three secrets revealed to three young Portuguese children, Lúcia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto, starting on May 13, 1917, and the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our Lady appeared six times between May and October 1917 to the three children.

Despite the intrigue and mystery of Fatima, the overall message is straightforward and aligns with the “Good News” of the Gospel. Mary implores us to turn away from sin, open ourselves entirely to her Son – Jesus through prayer, reparation, repentance, and sacrifice. And yet she provides her tender motherly solace through her Immaculate Heart. “My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”

And today, we know that Mother Mary’s descriptions of evil in the world are all too real. The battle between good and evil is raging -100 years. Sister Lucia related before her death in 2005 that the final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family. Family and marriage is under attack like never before, and we know that in our county alone, nearly 60,000,000 unborn lives have been lost to abortion. Similarly St. John Paul II in his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, said “we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the “culture of death” and the “culture of life.” We find ourselves not only “faced with” but necessarily “in the midst of” this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.” Saint Mother Teresa echoed this when she proclaimed that the “The Greatest Destroyer of Love and Peace is Abortion.”

But like the good mother that she is, Our Lady gave us the antidote to the evil in our world – the rosary.

She stressed the importance of praying the Rosary in each of Her apparitions, asking the children to pray the Rosary every day for peace. Our Lady of Fatima promised that “in the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph.”

The Archdiocese of Louisville will celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima Anniversary on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima: Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 11am at the Cathedral of the Assumption. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz will be the celebrant and concelebrated by Fr. Matthew Hardesty, Director of the Archdiocesan Marian Committee and Pastor of Holy Trinity, Fredericktown and Holy Rosary, Manton.

 

 

“Motherhood Is . . .”

by Deacon Stephen Bowling

In the liner notes of his 1975 album “Windsong”, the late John Denver wrote about how he had tried to record the sound of the wind in order to incorporate it into the album which carried its name, but for some reason, he “could never capture the sound on tape so as to do it any justice.”

This is the same kind of problem one has when trying to adequately describe all that goes into the concept of motherhood . . . our language is simply not big enough to do justice to the power and beauty that the word encompasses. The word defies being forced into any description we might wish to place upon it . . . nevertheless during the month of May every year we all make our attempts at doing so.

Perhaps it is this deficiency which drew me to the above quote on motherhood by Gilda Radner. I think it more than any other begins to capture the true essence of motherhood without in any way diminishing the grandeur and holiness it carries with it. In many ways the quote actually seems to enhance the term – something I thought impossible before finding it.

“Infinite Optimism” may be a phrase which begins to tell the story properly.

Motherhood always seems to me to be at its heart an act of positivity . . . something, as John Denver himself said on that very same album, which “works in the service of life and the living . . . part of the movement, part of the growing, part of beginning to understand.” Mothers always look for the best in us; they support us when we are in need, they protect us when we are afraid, and perhaps most important of all, they love us for just who we are, just as we are.

“Infinite optimism” is perhaps one of the most succinct descriptions for Holy Mother Church as well. Even though there are many who might not be able to live up to this ideal expression of motherhood, the Church herself absolutely must do so . . . to assist those in need and to model for us all exactly how “mothering” was intended by God to be done from the very beginning.

The Church indeed works in “service of life and the living” as it seeks to accompany us along our journey through this life. Our benefit is always in her heart, our welfare is her intent and our success and salvation are ever her wishes for us.

The Church is our spiritual mother and the infinite optimism she pours forth upon us in the sacraments is intended to become a living part of us, just as the Gospel itself is as well.

On this upcoming Mother’s Day . . . a day when we seek to remember our own mothers’ “infinite optimism” (or at least their best attempts towards it) we also should take a moment and remember Mother Church and her best attempts at achieving this sacred goal too. Just as with most mothers, the attempts and the successes are far more numerous than we might always remember . . . and the victories that she has achieved for us are very much worth celebrating anew once more.

“The Joy of Children Makes Their Parents’ Hearts Leap!”

by Ed Harpring

In the United States, alone, 2.9 million cases of child abuse are reported every year, and more than 4 children die from child abuse and neglect on a daily basis. Over 70% of these children are below the age of 3.

The statistics are gut-wrenching and a clarion call to action for all of us. We can take steps to educate ourselves but the most important factors are to:

  • Know the signs. Unexplained injuries aren’t the only signs of abuse. Depression, fear of a certain adult, difficulty trusting others or making friends, sudden changes in eating or sleeping patterns, inappropriate sexual behavior, poor hygiene, secrecy, and hostility are often signs of family problems and may indicate a child is being neglected or physically, sexually, or emotionally abused.
  • Report abuse. If you witness a child being harmed or see evidence of abuse, make a report to your state’s child protective services department or local police. When talking to a child about abuse, listen carefully, assure the child that he or she did the right thing by telling an adult, and affirm that he or she is not responsible for what happened.

Sadly, our “throwaway culture” as Pope Francis tells us, diminishes the dignity of human life . . .

Continue reading ““The Joy of Children Makes Their Parents’ Hearts Leap!””

“No Easter Without Lent”

by Ed Harpring

This year, with our unusually warm weather, we have been prematurely catapulted forward into spring. As much as I am enjoying the early warm weather, I almost feel like I am getting my dessert before dinner. In other words, I feel a little guilty, that I haven’t properly journeyed through the cold winter’s days to earn the joy of springtime. A famous quote that leads us to the same place is “Remember, there is no Resurrection without the Crucifixion; No Easter Sunday without Good Friday; No empty tomb without the Cross.”

40-days-for-lifeSo, as much as my weak human constitution would like to, we can’t just skip over Lent and fast forward ourselves to Easter Sunday. In general terms, most of us think of Lent as the preparation for Easter, the highest Feast Days in our Catholic faith, through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

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“The Call”

by Deacon Stephen Bowling

Believe it or not, one of the greatest moments in my life is the time I once encountered a group of angels. fa52f891ddca55efd762209646fba3b3

Some time back, I happened to turn the channel to PBS (which I rarely watch) and there, with melodic voices filling my ears, I saw five honest-to-goodness angels.

That is indeed the ONLY thing that they could have been, I thought, for nothing but angels could sing with the resounding power and beauty of these women.

It turns out I was watching a concert performance by a group called Celtic Woman which had been recorded outdoors at the Powerscourt Estate and Garden in Ireland; a magnificent rolling county estate where these five women and an enormous orchestra filled the Irish countryside with magnificent music on one special evening back in 2009.

voa-fb-851x31521Ironically enough, their 2017 world tour is entitled Voices of Angels . . . something that I can very much attest is aptly named.

I became a fan of their music that very night and have followed them ever since, but in particular it was the opening song during that first concert I saw there at Powerscourt which has sparked my imagination . . . and haunted my mind ever since I first heard it.

It is entitled, quite simply, “The Call.” and I have embedded the video here below . . .I encourage you to view it before continuing and experience with me one of the most powerful moments I’ve ever felt:

Continue reading ““The Call””