I’m a writer, pro-life activist, and slow-but-steady hiker in New Hampshire. (More here about all that.) My attitude is summed up by something Pope Francis once said: “Do I, a Catholic, watch from the balcony? You can’t watch from the balcony! Get involved! Give it your best.

Faith and Wonder Amid “Littleness”

It’s Good to Be Here by Christina Chase (Sophia Press, 2019)

Christina Chase’s book “It’s Good to Be Here” is as straightforward and challenging as the subtitle promises: “a disabled woman’s reflections on God in the flesh and the sacred wonder of being human.” This is not a book for the bedside pile, to be picked up at odd moments. I tried that, but “It’s Good to Be Here” demanded more from me. Chase drew me into sharing her reflections, not just observing them. Each chapter provoked thought as well as prayer.

The declaration “it’s good to be here” is strong stuff, coming from a woman living with physical challenges in a culture that devalues disability. Fortunately for herself and her readers, Chase doesn’t look to culture for validation. “When we think of living divine lives in a sanctified place, we may think of a world with no imperfections…[n]o suffering. However, that is not the definition of a sanctified place, of a holy place in which God dwells. For Christ dwelt here.”

This is neither a memoir nor a how-to manual for dealing with adversity. The book jacket calls Chase a “twenty-first century Thérèse of Lisieux,” and while the comparison is apt in some respects – chronic illness, profound faith in God, appreciation of The Little Way – Chase’s voice is very much her own. As I pondered her words, I felt as though I were with a down-to-earth mystic filled with warm good humor (though not flippancy).

Take time with this book. Haste will not do it justice.

Review originally published at Amazon.com.

USCCB leads petition drive to FDA: keep COVID-19 vaccine free from abortion connection

Originally published at Leaven for the Loaf.

letter to the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from a coalition of concerned Americans has urged that any vaccine being developed for COVID-19 be derived from ethical sources, without use of cell lines derived from aborted human beings. An associated email petition drive organized through the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) invites the general public to send the same message to the FDA.

The April 17 letter says in part, “To be clear, we strongly support efforts to develop an effective, safe, and widely available vaccine as quickly as possible. However, we also strongly urge our federal government to ensure that fundamental moral principles are followed in the development of such vaccines, most importantly, the principle that human life is sacred and should never be exploited.”

The letter, released by the USCCB, is signed by several USCCB members as well as by physicians and other health care professionals, medical ethicists, and pro-life activists.

NOT A HYPOTHETICAL SITUATION

According to the letter, the concern over how a COVID-19 vaccine is to be derived is based on work that is already happening. Practical decisions are being made now. 

We are aware that, among the dozens of vaccines currently in development, some are being produced using old cell lines that were created from the cells of aborted babies. For example, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has a substantial contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and is working on a vaccine that is being produced using one of these ethically problematic cell lines. Thankfully, other vaccines such as those being developed by Sanofi Pasteur, Inovio, and the John Paul II Medical Research Institute utilize cell lines not connected to unethical procedures and methods.

It is critically important that Americans have access to a vaccine that is produced ethically: no American should be forced to choose between being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus and violating his or her conscience. Fortunately, there is no need to use ethically problematic cell lines to produce a COVID vaccine, or any vaccine, as other cell lines or processes that do not involve cells from abortions are available and are regularly being used to produce other vaccines.

from coalition letter to FDA, 4/17/2020

SHARE THE MESSAGE 

Share this letter and petition as you see fit. The online petition has a clear message, but includes space for your own words. 

Petition: https://www.votervoice.net/USCCB/Campaigns/73486/Respond?fbclid=IwAR1hxb17qXYhIVy8a099oh7PPJh_YBXRi6vJZGV-DvXwP13lXJadrhmlV-Q

This is not about whether vaccines in general are a good idea. (I am grateful for some and reject others.) This is about refusing to embrace abortion in order to cure or prevent COVID-19. 

I wish the letter had been unnecessary. The people who signed it clearly saw the need, though. All of them live and work in the real world with real people. They take things like pandemics seriously. 

They have the right idea. I’m with them.

Image in post header by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

Updating a Trail Journal

For hikers, backpackers, slackpackers, and trail lovers everywhere, especially in the Granite State: I’ve gone back to add a few updates my 2009 Cohos Trail journal, in case anyone is inspired to follow in my oh-so-inexperienced footsteps. You’ve gotta start somewhere.

That 2009 hike was my 50th-birthday present to myself. The journal, now that I look back on it, is both a record of ten joyous days and a cautionary tale of what not to do on a backpacking trip. (Don’t forget to pack camp shoes, for one thing.)

The updates include notes on what accommodations are still available, trail re-routes, and where to find good fudge along the way. Great fudge, actually. You’re welcome.