Summer Ethics

I took a bioethics course this past summer at St. Paul’s University. My professor was exceptional. My reading list was great and exciting because I got to read excerpts from exceptional important thinkers including Aristotle, Aquinas, Maritain, Rhonheimer, and St. JP II. All the major bio-ethical issues were approached from a personalist bioethics perspective, which is an ethics grounded in reason through objective truth and the dignity of the human person. To say the least, it was encouraging to see an intelligent philosophy which was not secular and liberal.

Before the final exam, I was chatting with my friend “Dan”. I’ve had another course with him in the past and had gotten to know him a bit over the past year. He is an intelligent man, an A student. I mean, if I had half of his intelligence, I would be satisfied. As we were chatting, he told me that this was the hardest course he had ever taken in his university career (he’s been at it for more than 5 years). I couldn’t understand why so I asked him. He told me that the whole paradigm through which the contents of this course were presented, were so difficult for him to understand, and he just couldn’t manage to wrap his head around the idea that an ethics could be built upon objective truth (and the existence of an interested God).

I empathized with him. I knew exactly what he meant from the opposite perspective because that was one of the underlying reasons I struggled with my Health Sciences degree. I couldn’t understand how the basic notion of the dignity of the human person could be so forgotten in contemporary ethics. When Dan told me this, I was reminded how most of the population views the world, fixated in a utilitarian type mentality which they don’t want to admit.

From this little incident, I was reminded to pray for conversion among those in the health/ethics field especially. Also that this prevailing blindness in our culture be lifted in order that we may all see the beauty in esteeming the dignity of the human person as such.

Rembrandt's "The Return of the Prodigal Son"
Rembrandt’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son”

He Knows.

Growing up praying the Rosary as a family was not always the easiest thing to do, let alone the most exciting.

In 2008 (approx), I knew the Lord was asking me to iron out the wrinkles of my recitation of the Rosary. (Hitherto, it had become void of meaning and intent). So, the best way to discipline myself was to literally go to the adoration chapel at St. Mary’s, my parish, and kneel and pray the rosary on my own. Every time I felt my mind wandering, I would start from the beginning, even if I was on the fourth or fifth decade. I knew that this was what the Lord wanted, so I didn’t complain. It was one of the most painful things I’ve ever done. It really was a boot camp, a learn-to-pray-the-Rosary boot camp with our Blessed Mother. I continued this at least for one whole year. Since, I’ve been able to fix my focus upon the mysteries while praying it daily with my family.

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Within the past year, I’ve been graced with a beautiful friendship, and one particular gift was knowing that this friend was intentionally praying for me through the Rosary. I was recently given the most precious of gifts I had ever received from anybody, from this dear friend – a Rosary, a used one. I cannot deny nor hide what the Lord has done with that. I’ve received a “renewal” and a far more profound appreciation and love for our Lady. Curiously, the Lord knew, even when I didn’t, that I would be praying a Rosary Novena a few months after receiving it, with that very Rosary. Everyday I willingly pray with it and usually have it on me everywhere I go. It is that precious. Throughout it all, He knows what I need at a particular point in time. He knows.

All this to say, spiritual friendships are precious, definitely blessed by the Lord. He uses them to lead us up Mount Carmel by giving us little surprises, in my case, the Rosary given by my dearest friend, meant to direct us towards the Summit, towards the perfection of charity and total surrender.

Convocation 2014

Monday, June 16, 2014 I graduated. I received my Bachelor of Health Science degree with a Minor in Philosophy. It was held at the National Arts Centre. A pretty good experience.

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I have a lot to be grateful for. Overall, despite the fact that I failed Anatomy & Physiology I in my first year and struggled throughout the 4 years in other respects, the Lord was good and merciful and helped me persevere till the end. I see a little bit more each day how this choice of program, despite my bitterness at times, has been extremely providential and how the Lord will be using it as a front to fight for Truth.

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Ha, so now I’ve got a BA in Philosophy to complete for next year and then I am done undergrad for good. Two Honours degrees in 5 years isn’t too bad at all.

Pax et caritas,
C.

Good End: CSEB Poster Day

I finished my last exam for my undergrad on April 22nd. All that is left to do is attend the ceremony in the gown and receive a paper worth a couple of thousands of dollars.

I had a rather unusual ending for my degree. For the past four years, I had been wanting out because I didn’t enjoy my program. My last semester, I had one compulsory 4th year course to take: Epidemiology. Part of the course work was to conduct a small research of literature and present it to judges at the Canadian Society for Epidemiology and Biostatistics student conference. It was to be done in partners.

I ended up with a really amazing partner, Marty. We worked well together and our intelligence level was quite equivalent, making certain parts of our work quite entertaining. I proposed the topic of Methotrexate (MTX) and Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis at the outset and he agreed. Together, we refined our topic and worked really hard throughout the semester. The project became increasingly important to me personally since my youngest sister has arthritis ( for the past 5 years) and she recently began to treatment with MTX. The more I learned, the more I felt I was able to understand my sister. For once in my degree I felt like I did something meaningful.

Though we did not win at the conference, we still ended up with an A+…I’ll take that!

Here’s Marty and I on Poster Day, April 5th, 2014 ( Roger Guindon).

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I Denied Knowing my Lover

The Denial of Peter (Gerard van Honthorst)
The Denial of Peter (Gerard van Honthorst)

I wear a fairly large silver crucifix about 2″ long, usually visible and drawing attention. People ask me where I got it, other times it has leads to much deeper conversion in the most unlikely places (i.e. a Gelato place). Above all, this necklace has caused me a peculiar grief while wearing it, and an even greater grief, I’m certain, to my Lover.
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My crucifix has initiated conversations about my faith. I only noticed this recently, but whenever I am with catholic but non-practicing/agnostic friends, when asked if I’m religious, I hesitate. Primarily, because I’m unsure whether they mean spiritual or religious; (terminology these days!) and (yes, I over think!). But even when I know what they mean, I am so perplexed despite being a practicing Catholic and knowing my faith is the most important thing in my life.

A very close childhood friend of mine asked this very question during this past Triduum, and while answering the minimum, my face turned blood red (I never blush). This friend noticed my crucifix before asking me and as a response to my answer gave a look as though I was a pioneer with a naive ideology. When I think back, I don’t know why I could not have been straightforward with the question. I was a coward (see blog post “You’re a Wimp” at http://triathletewithacollar.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/440/). Nothing was at stake, but I was still ashamed and timid to talk about why I still decide to practice and believe all that the Catholic Church teaches on my own volition.

If someone asked me to describe my boyfriend or fiancé, given that I am head over heels over him, wouldn’t I go on and on about how great he is? Isn’t it my duty to ensure that whomever I am talking to knows my boyfriend inside out by the end of the conversation?

I did not do this. I felt ashamed and unnecessarily threatened, despite the several times I have told my Lord that I love Him and wish to do anything He desires of me. I was Peter. I denied Christ through my inaction, my inhibition and mostly by my lack of joy answering the question. Peter denied Christ thrice. I denied my lover more than I can count.

I’ll keep pressing on as Peter did. I’ll keep going back to Mercy and Love, and spend more time with Him. It is only by His grace that my great love and joy for Divine can be passed on to all those whom I encounter.

An abode (1)

Since I started university, there has been only one place which can, now, earn the title of being my (mostly) quiet abode. It is not the library, for there have been several semesters which i have not stepped into the Very large room of books and cubicles. It is not my favourite coffee shop either. Nor is it my usual spot to study on campus – the law building for the most part.

It is a quiet room inside a modern looking french. A small circular room accommodating 5 chairs and 5 kneelers. In the centre of the room is an odd looking tabernacle. Despite the rough patches, I learned to call that place my abode because it was the only place where I could meet my love. It was the only place I could hear my love talk to me in silent whispers ( while at school that is). It was the only place I could feel His embrace and learn to embrace Him back. It was the abode of love, my Love, my Lover, The Lord.

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So now that I have completed my Health Sciences degree from the University of Ottawa (pending graduation June 2014), in all, it was the place where I received the strength to keep going these past four years of constant academic struggle.

(Clearly, I have a devotion to Eucharistic Adoration. Adoration is among the top three things I look forward to in Heaven! )

Friday

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Lent is my favourite liturgical season. This year I bought Bl. JP II’s (soon to be Saint JP II the Great) Biblical Way of the Cross. It is different than the traditional (i.e. St. Alphonsus Liguori version used at most parishes). I prayed it with my family every single Friday of Lent and it proved to be a blessing despite the terrible timings, tiredness, exam/assignment deadlines and everyone’s super busy schedule. I adore my mother’s perseverance in getting the whole family together each week (apart from our daily Family Rosary/Divine Mercy Chaplet Prayertime).

Good Friday, I attended the Way of the Cross through the streets of downtown Ottawa, led by our shepherd, Archbishop Prendergast. I’ve been going to all of them ever since they started, save the very first one. It’s incredible to see people of all ages and various states of life there, following silently behind the Cross.

I attended St. Mary’s, my home parish (when not attending St. Patrick’s Basilica), for Good Friday Mass. It was an incredibly beautiful and solemn Mass. I invited two guys from school, and one stated that it was the most beautiful Mass he’s been to, apart from an Eastern Rite Mass. That was affirming of all the changes our priests were implementing.

Later in the evening, I picked up two of my best friends and we attended a Gregorian Chant concert. When the three of us left, we didn’t utter a word for several minutes – there could not have been a more perfect way to take part in Good Friday. One of my friends suggested to go out for late night tea. So we found a spot that was open and spent a few hours together where our friendships flourished.

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An Intimidating Threat

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As a Health Sciences student, I am constantly being fed facts which I, in turn, am expected to regurgitate on an assignment or exam. My ears are constantly infected with world-renown guest speakers, who, so eagerly want me to be stupefied by their work in “developing” (or more “politically correct” Low-Middle Income Countries -LMIC) countries – work which contributes to population control and sex education, which is apparently a huge problem. If you haven’t guessed already, I’m talking about birth control, safe abortions and sex education, all to improve the UN Millennium Development Goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, promoting gender equality and empower women, improving maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS (malaria and other diseases), and ensure environmental sustainability.

Amid the academic crucifixion of the Truth of life, I witness a social crucifixion during the Annual National March for Life as well as the silent protests shedding light on abortion downtown Ottawa. Truth being crucified by lies, deception, anger, and wit. Those who stood and who continue to stand for Life and Beauty are crucified, not by Romans, but by apathy and a lust which sucks all beauty out of the consummation of love.

It was not until a few days ago that I realized something. It’s bit of a paradox, but not entirely. The presence and work of the so-called pro-choice groups such as the Radical Handmaids, actually validate what pro-lifers stand for – Truth. Too often and too quickly do I lose hope when it comes to such hot topics in global health, because I realize that pretty much the whole world – under the control of the Global North and global health professionals – is hard at work to promote and propagate this ideology.

Insidious pessimism.

Just like the domain of promiscuity and the grace that comes from consummating love within marriage, abortion and the appeal for a culture of life are at war because the opposition sees, perhaps subconsciously, an importance in the issue, a threat to its nihilist existence. That is what Truth, Beauty and Life does. It threatens deception, ugliness and death. “Pro-choicers” continue to fight for something they already have (don’t they have the laws and the United Nations, the WHO…etc. in their favour?). They have yet to see that their glittering pyrite wasn’t gold after all.

“From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring

-Tolkien

Kindness Week: Contemptibly Inadequate

b674736c9b9f790a6f3031eef9674ef0When I first heard of ‘Kindness Week’, I chuckled a bit because I thought it was pathetic (in its strictest sense). Maybe I’m a pessimist when it comes to these sorts of things, but I really thought it was contemptibly inadequate.

Kindness Week had it’s inception seven years ago in Ottawa. It is the “flagship event” of an initiative called ‘Kind Ottawa’, who, as their site claims, is a “vibrant movement in [the] community, encouraging people to ‘choose to be kind’ ” (http://kindottawa.ca/about-2/).

The main reason I find it’s necessary to be critical is due to the fact that I was under the assumption that kindness was a basic value which was supposed to be taught by our parents. If not parents, then certainly in early childhood education. Money is spent  towards initiatives which encourages people to ‘choose to be kind.’ Money which could and should be spent elsewhere.

Scrolling through the site, I found a long list of supporters and sponsors. Among them are Ottawa’s political leaders, small companies, schools. According to them, it is only because of these supporters who ’employ their resources, experience and enthusiasm [which] bring Kindness Week to life in Ottawa.’ Commendable. Very much so, I guess.

Kindness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is a trait even secular society values to some extent, perhaps not to the extent of altruism or complete sacrifice (see what the researchers from Université de Montreal and University of Ottawa wrote about Bl. Mother Teresa’s altruism).

What happens at the end, is that the root problem remains unaddressed.

What happens at the end is that politicians can add one more event to their list of accomplishment for social change.

What happens at the end is that each individual is let off the hook, relieved of responsibility for practicing kindness each day.

Tell me what’s wrong with this picture?