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Voices Online Edition
Vol. XIX No. 3 Michaelmas 2004
Celebrating 20 Years - 1984-2004

Letters to the Editor

Printed Liturgical Resources | Starting a Pro-Life Group | More on MOMS | Spiderman and Barbie Breath? | WFF's Sourcebooks Inspired "domestic church" | On the Licit Use of "Natural Family Planning" | Spirits Lifted! | Catholics Face Challenges | Pope Stands Firm for Truth | Keeping Holy the Lord's Day

Letters to the Editor are not usually published on line. It's our 20th anniversary celebration therefore we have decided to publish the letters for this issue.

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About Letters ... We are very glad to get your letters, and we read each one. We print as many as we can, and give preference to those of widest interest. We encourage questions on issues concerning Catholic women and welcome all comments you have about Voices and Women for Faith & Family. All published letters may be edited. Please include your name and address (which may be withheld on request). If your letter is not intended for publication, please tell us. Letters may also be e-mailed.

Letters to the Editor
Printed Liturgical Resources | Starting a Pro-Life Group | More on MOMS | Spiderman and Barbie Breath? | WFF's Sourcebooks Inspired "domestic church" | On the Licit Use of "Natural Family Planning" | Spirits Lifted! | Catholics Face Challenges | Pope Stands Firm for Truth | Keeping Holy the Lord's Day

Printed Liturgical Resources
Your web site and a number of others provide fantastic online resources for understanding and "living" our Church's seasonal and sanctoral calendars.

But what printed resources do you draw from and would you recommend?

Can you provide a "top ten list" of books or Church documents that would be helpful to have on my bookshelf? Rare or out-of-print or expensive books/resources need not be omitted, as the Internet has made it much easier to acquire such things.

What about the book Eternal Seasons, compiled from the writings of Henri Nouwen? I hear "good" and "bad" things about Nouwen -- what do you think of him as a Catholic writer, or at least what do think of this book as a resource for meditations on the liturgical seasons?

Mike Bradley, Jr.
via e-mail

Here is a list of basic resources:
1) Bible (Revised Standard Version-Catholic edition, or "Navarre Bible")
2) Catechism of the Catholic Church
3) Daily Missal (Scepter Press edition)
4) Documents of Vatican II
5) Ecclesia de Eucharistia - Pope John Paul II's encyclical on the Eucharist.
6) Missale Romanum (Roman Missal - editio typica tertia - 2002) and its General Instruction and Calendar of the Church Year. (Note: the Missal is not yet translated into English. The General Instruction is available on the US bishops' conference web site. (
7) Redemptionis Sacramentum (instruction on correcting liturgical abuses)
8) Liturgiam authenticam (on liturgical translation)
9) Directory on Popular Piety
(Note: 7-9 above are available at, Documents section, or from the Vatican web site.)
10) Catholic Encyclopedia (1913 edition)
(available online at New Advent - see WFF web site Links page.)
Plus the Vatican web site - for documents and biographies of recent saints. (
We would consider spiritual writing in a separate category. Among those whose meditations on the Mass we'd recommend are: Pope John Paul II, Sign of Contradiction; Father Romano Guardini, Sacred Signs, The Rosary; Cardinal Ratzinger, Feast of Faith, God in the World, to name a few. Saint Augustine's Confessions and Saint Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle would be on our core list of essential spiritual reading.
If you read these, you would not need to worry about the reliability or orthodoxy of other authors.

Starting a Pro-Life Group
I recently came across your web site and I wanted to ask you how I would begin a pro life group in my area ... it is a cause I believe in more strongly than any other and I feel it is time to get involved.

Florence A. Sundberg
Woodbury, Connecticut

We applaud your willingness to take the initiative on this! We've sent you a packet, including a pamphlet, "About Local Groups". Even though the suggestions for study were not confined solely to pro-life activities, it contains helpful suggestions for getting a group started.

We strongly recommend the many useful resources produced by the Pro-Life Activities Committee of the US bishops' conference. Many are available on their web site:

Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 4th Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20017-1194
Phone: (202) 541-3070

More on MOMS
I was looking up information on MOMS [Ministry of Mothers Sharing] and was shocked to read the letter about how MOMS is not a Catholic program.

I am the Family Life Director at my parish for almost 10 years now and we have had this program for about 12 years. This program has been a blessing to so many women and has brought many of them back to the Church. I have recently completed a session with a group of 9 single mothers, including widows, divorced and never married mothers. These women thought the Church no longer cared for them and have now found hope and a home in their Catholic Church again. The last session on "Called and Gifted" is all about the changes in the Church after Vatican II and explains beautifully our role in the Church and calls us all to be a part of our church.

I hope that you take another look at this program, as it is a gift to women of all ages and backgrounds and reminds us how "We are called to serve our Lord, Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church".

Maria James
via e-mail

If you read our response to a reader's question about this program (Voices Pentecost 2002, you will see that the problems are not only with the materials used and suggested, but also with the omission of key Church documents, such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Apostolic Letters "On the Dignity of Women" (Mulieris Dignitatem) and "The Christian Family" (Familiaris Consortio). Read on...

Spiderman and Barbie Breath?
Having been a participant in the MOMS program I find your arguments laughable.

My faith is not only NOT in question, but has been strengthened to no end by the community of women to which I now belong.

My place in my family, my community and most of all my Church have been re-centered. I know everyday what a blessing it is to have the gift of my family, how lucky I am to see God in the smile of my child and how much my Church needs my time and talents to make our parish a richer place.

Before I did MOMS, I came to church and I went home. I am now a Catechist, teach vacation Bible school, do Bible study at church, volunteer in our Open Arms ministry, volunteer at our preschool and many other things.

I now live my faith.

MOMS got me to know women in our parish. And it's the women of any parish or neighborhood or community that keep the lifeblood pumping.

We are the creative element in most endeavors. We are why there are 4 year old tea parties and Spiderman Band-Aids and Barbie breath. We are the soft spot to fall for our husbands, our children and our friends.

The MOMS ministry may not be perfect. But I thank God every day that one Sunday when I was leaving Mass I picked up that little pink paper that said, "MOMS".

Kellie Meckes
St. Louis, Missouri

We are glad to hear you had a good experience, but we are puzzled by your comment that you find our "arguments laughable". In fact, we did not propose "arguments" against the program, but listed some of the problematic resources the program includes -- and some very important omissions. In addition to including works of very radical feminists (such as "Psalms" by Edwina Gately) we pointed out that

MOMS resources do not contain even one single reference to any work of Pope John Paul II, utterly ignoring his profound insights into the meaning of family (Familiaris Consortio), human life (Evangelium Vitae) and womanhood (Mulieris Dignitatem). Considering the purpose of MOMS, this is astonishing. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is not cited even once, unsurprisingly.

We would be glad to learn that these problems with MOMS have been corrected. As we said, "The idea of Catholic women getting together for fellowship, prayer and study is great. This is one of WFF's goals, in fact". We understand some modifications in the program as presented in the Archdiocese of St. Louis last year were made, at the suggestion of Bishop Herman. But your letter does not even mention any of the serious defects and omissions we noted, and does not address any problems we raised. This makes your "laughable" comment even harder to understand.

WFF's Sourcebooks Inspired "domestic church"
I have been receiving Voices for the past few years and just love it! It's the only periodical I immediately devour upon receiving, which is no small feat with three children under the age of 3!
Your Sourcebooks for Lent/Easter and Advent/Christmas were the catalysts for our family to begin really celebrating the liturgical year and establishing customs for our own little "domestic church".
My family library also now includes Joanna Bogle's Book of Feasts and Seasons among other great books in your bibliography! Thank you for your apostolate.

Suzanne Gallus
via e-mail

On the Licit Use of "Natural Family Planning"
I'm a fairly recent subscriber and do enjoy your magazine and appreciate the work that you do. I'm writing concerning the "Role-Modeling Chastity" article by Wendy Kennedy (Voices, Pentecost 2004), which, for the most part, was well written.

It seems a minor complaint, but one I'd like to draw to your attention and to the author's attention, if possible. On page 18, under the Natural Family Planning section, she says, "Humane Vitae does not doom Catholic couples to dozens of children".

My complaint is the choice of the word "doom". We are not doomed to children -- they are blessings, even if we have dozens! This wording tends to put off those faithful Catholics who are skeptical of NFP's licit use. I've seen numerous forum discussions of this issue -- that the teaching of NFP has become Catholic birth control, since the intent and mindset of many can be contraceptive.

Now I understand that the author probably doesn't mean this, but the impression is there. NFP can be marriage-building and wonderful, and it can be abused.

Do I think all couples should learn a method of NFP? Yes. Do they always have to use it? No. Certainly more Catholic couples should be aware of the method, but they should also have a better understanding of the Church's teaching on human sexuality and procreation. The Church and people within it should also be supportive of large families, which are in short supply these days.

Thank you again for your great publication and the hard work it must take to put it together!
Jennifer Julius
via e-mail

Response from Wendy Kennedy:
Thank you for your excellent comments about my article, "Role Modeling Chastity". You are absolutely right -- children, in any number, are a blessing, not a curse! Please forgive my use of the phrase "doom Catholic couples to dozens of children". It was my misleading attempt at empathizing with the large number of people who think a large family is inevitable when using NFP, not as a put-down of large families. I can see how the term "doom" would give the wrong impression. What I was actually trying to do is allay the fears of those who think that NFP doesn't work. I start each of my NFP classes assuring the couples that my own large family was NOT due to the failure of NFP, but rather because my husband and I used it to welcome a large family.

Your comments about the licit use of NFP, and the fuzzy distinction between NFP and contraception brought up important issues. While they fell outside the scope of my original article, they merit more discussion.

You ask the same questions I did years ago -- in fact, I quit teaching NFP for two years because of my distress at the way people were using NFP with a "contraceptive mentality". I have come to realize, though, that while we often come to God with imperfect motives, He uses those motives to gently bring us around.
Couples that start out using NFP as a contraceptive most often find that God uses their practical openness to life to change their hearts. In fact, I find that is one of the greatest barriers to people using NFP (besides thinking it doesn't work). They are afraid they will change their mind and choose to have more kids! They fear their own resolve.

As to the licit use of NFP, you are right. No couple is required to use it. The Church teaches that "large families are a sign of God's blessing and the parents, generosity" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2372) and that "those merit special mention who with a gallant heart, and with wise and common deliberation, undertake to bring up suitably even a relatively large family". (Gaudium et Spes 50:13)

Humanae Vitae limits the licit use of NFP to "grave motives" only, with the couple prayerfully considering their "physical, economic, psychological and social conditions". (10)

WFF comments further:
There has been much confusion about the legitimate use of "natural family planning"; and there is no substitute for going to the source, Humanae Vitae, for helpful insights and answers.

Concerning the "grave motives" quote above, the official Vatican translation of Humanae Vitae 10 ("responsible parenthood" section), is "serious reasons". Following is the relevant passage, from the Vatican web site:

HV10. ... With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time. (emphasis added)

Also, concerning the lawful use of the infertile period and the distinction between this and artificial contraception:

HV16. ... If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which we have just explained.

Neither the Church nor her doctrine is inconsistent when she considers it lawful for married people to take advantage of the infertile period but condemns as always unlawful the use of means which directly prevent conception, even when the reasons given for the later practice may appear to be upright and serious.
In reality, these two cases are completely different. In the former the married couple rightly use a faculty provided them by nature. In the latter they obstruct the natural development of the generative process. It cannot be denied that in each case the married couple, for acceptable reasons, are both perfectly clear in their intention to avoid children and wish to make sure that none will result. But it is equally true that it is exclusively in the former case that husband and wife are ready to abstain from intercourse during the fertile period as often as for reasonable motives the birth of another child is not desirable. And when the infertile period recurs, they use their married intimacy to express their mutual love and safeguard their fidelity toward one another. In doing this they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love. (emphasis added)

- Editor

Spirits Lifted!
I found myself turning to Voices in recent weeks. With so much being questioned today, your articles on contraception, marriage, pro-choice Catholics, etc. have lifted my spirits. Thank you.

Ellen Mary D'Agostino
Yonkers, New York

Catholics Face Challenges
I agree with George Weigel's article regarding the federal marriage amendment in the Pentecost 2004 Voices.
Also in the same issue the article on Catholics and political responsibility is very, very informative too. Yes, Catholic politicians and Catholic voters have a very big responsibility this year, more so than any other years before.

Many people are just beginning to realize the immoral disorders that are upon us. The signs of the times demand a return to sound moral values. Immoral values have gone too far and for too long.

True education begins and ends with the Lord; keep your eyes on Jesus.

Please be assured of my humble and sincere prayers for your wonderful magazine, Voices, your wonderful ministry, all your co-workers, your families and you.

Mrs. Ann R. Consiglio
Saxonburg, Pennsylvania

We appreciate your prayers! You are right that Catholics and other Christian believers face an enormous responsibility this year, to stand up for fundamental moral teachings -- beginning with most essential: the right to life, which undergirds all the others.

We are thankful for the bishops who have stood firmly for this truth -- and have faced criticism for their actions. (Our web page, "Diocesan Bishops' Statements on Catholics and Political Responsibility" is the most complete listing on the Internet, and is updated constantly.)

Pope Stands Firm for Truth
I grew up Lutheran, and then discovered through experience and heartache that the Church abandoned their role to protect marriage. The pope is the only church leader -- along with a smattering of fundamentalist churches -- that will stand firm publically in their opposition of government's over-reach of authority into the private lives of citizens that undermine marriage and parental authority over the care, custody, education and support of our children; God's precious gift to parents.

Thank you. Your organization is in my prayers....

Jon Wood
via e-mail

Keeping Holy the Lord's Day
Just want to tell you that I found the Pentectost issue of Voices very inspiring.

The first article I read was the one on keeping the Lord's Day ("A Matter of Life and Death" by Robin Maas). I'm always bothered by the fact that Sunday has become just like any other day in our current society -- however, the article has me thinking that I'll go against the grain more than simply refraining from unnecessary work.

For example, perhaps I should not have my daughters participate in gymnastics meets that fall on a Sunday. That is hard work for them. With the Saturday vigil Mass available, it doesn't interfere with going to Church. However....

But where would you draw the line? I grew up with Sunday sports -- not personally, but watching them on TV. I'm sure there are a lot of Christian athletes who play their sport on Sunday -- which I'm sure is more work than play a good percentage of the time.

One of my favorite priests from San Diego loved to watch the Chargers on Sunday afternoons. It wouldn't make sense to personally refrain from serious sports participation while at the same time watching others do it on TV -- we do like to watch with my father and brother during basketball season. Sunday sports has become such a universal part of our culture - is that healthy, or just another symptom of secularization?

I guess I should at least give more "positive" focus to keeping the Lord's Day while travelling -- e.g., have family prayer -- and, in the case of Sunday meets, if it comes to a choice between eating out with the rest of the team on Saturday evening or going to Mass, then choose the latter -- which may be a little hard for the girls. Or just join the group after Mass if possible.

Elizabeth Marcotte
Hays, Kansas

You raise some interesting questions. When does leisure activity - legitimate and laudable on Sunday, the day of rest, as the pope has said (e.g. in Dies Domini), - "morph" into something that is not appropriate? (You can find Dies Domini on the Vatican web site:

It seems clear enough that the recreation of enjoying a backyard game of volleyball or the like -- no matter how strenuous the physical "work" -- is not quite the same as participating in a professional game of football, or horse-racing, say. Is it okay to WATCH the latter as a form of leisure, if it is not okay to participate? And if it's not okay to be a player on a competitive pro team, what about other people who have jobs that involve working on Sundays? What about "recreational" gambling? Betting on a poker game isn't the same as a game of "Go Fish" with the family, obviously. Not all recreation or leisure is the same.
Making hard-and-fast rules about these matters would be very difficult and might risk losing sight of the principle - that is, that Christians should orient all our activities on the Lord's Day, recreation as well as worship (even work), toward remembrance of God: beginning with His sacrifice on Calvary.

(The anticipated Sunday Mass on Saturday evening is the beginning of Sunday's celebration. If we go to the anticipated Mass, that's when our Sunday begins.)

It seems to me that kids' gymnastics meets and watching sports together come within the category of good recreation, that involves family and community -- especially if we make a point of dedicating everything we do especially to God on His day. (It would be really really good if Christian people made a point of remembering Sunday at the end of the day, as well as at the beginning, with evening prayers said together as a family, if possible -- maybe reading or reciting a Psalm along with other prayers.)

About team activities that conflict with Mass, this would certainly take some planning. As the anticipated Sunday Mass is usually around 5 p.m. on Saturday, joining the team later might work. Or maybe you could go to an early Mass on Sunday, before the meet, or late on Sunday afternoon, after it's over.

But if there's no workable solution, we have to set our priorities, even if we may have to make sacrifices. Your daughters are just beginning to encounter the difficult choices every Christian must make in taking a stand for truth.

You might explain to the girls that this is not only the right thing to do, it may even give them an unexpected opportunity to witness to their faith. They could tell their teammates that they are sorry to miss the party this time, but there was no other time they could go to Mass -- and Mass is just too important to miss. (We wouldn't even think of missing a human wedding banquet, would we?)

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