Thursday, May 31, 2007

The HPV Vaccine: Should Your Daughter Get It?

As I anticipated, my article on Catholic Exchange on this subject drew a fair amount of fire. (Also not a few attagirl's from some of my readers (thanks, gals!). For better or worse, I was in Chicago when the article hit cyberspace, and so by the time I read the ensuing exchange, the verbal sparring had pretty much died out.

I did have one note in my e-mail box from a concerned reader. I'd like to share it here, along with my response, as my final thought on the subject. Although I appreciate that people have a wide variety of views on the vaccine itself, my primary purpose of writing the article was not to persuade people to get the vaccine for their teens, but to talk with their teens about the reasons some parents are choosing the vaccine for their children. There comes a time when a parent needs to do more than pray, and say more than "don't." I wish my parents had ... and in retrospect, I'm sure they do, too. (Unfortunately, the best any parent can do is act on the information they have at the time ... which is what makes discussions like this so important!)

And so, I leave you with this final exchange. God bless!

Dear Mrs. Saxton,I just read your article "The HPV Vaccine: Should Your Daughter Receive It?" on Catholic Exchange. Thank you for taking time to respond to this incredibly important life issue. I do disagree with your summary paragraphs which seem to instruct parents to get their daughters vaccinated (out of fear of uncontrollable circumstances), for dangers exist in receiving the HPV vaccine (oftentimes even fatal as you smartly pointed out in an earlier link). Sadly, I think Merck would love the overall sentiment off your article.

For many serious reasons Merck is a company to boycott. One reason: as stated on the Children of God for Life website: "For over 30 years Merck has been using aborted fetal cell lines in the production of vaccines, despite the fact that there are ethical alternatives that could be used. Further, when pressed to cease this immoral, unnecessary practice, Merck assured the American public that 'No further fetal tissue would be needed now or in the future to produce vaccines.' They have broken that promise by contracting with Dutch Biopharmaceutical company, Crucell NV, for use of their new aborted fetal cell line, PER C6 - taken from the retinal tissue of an 18-week gestation baby, which will be used in their new HIV vaccine. Not only do they refuse to listen to the voice of over half a million Americans who have written to protest, they continue to exploit our unborn and profit from the destruction of innocent human life. "

FYI: two websites that may find helpful in further research:National Vaccine Information CenterandChildren of God for Life especially their page titled: "Gardasil HPV Vaccine - Get the Facts!"Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts.

Above all, we as mothers should continue to pray for God's wisdom and guidance and to pray for our daughters' physical and spiritual safety. Have a wonderful day. Peace,Denise Montgomery

Dear Denise:

Thanks for writing, and for sending me the information on the vaccine.

Like any mother, I do pray for the safety of my children -- spiritual, physical, and every other kind. I also talk with my children about chastity, and about God's wonderful plan for marriage (at a level appropriate for their age, of course). This is the task of every parent, to be the first and primary educators of their children.

My primary purpose in writing the article, however, was to get parents to consider the possibility that there comes a time when we need to do more than pray, and say more than "don't." My dear mother did both these things throughout my childhood ... In fact, "don't" was pretty much the sum total of my chastity training ... just as it had been for her, from her mother.

It turned out to be not nearly enough. I did not have the information I needed to protect myself, and to stay safe ... What was worse, I didn't feel as though I could talk with my parents about what was going on in my life .... because I honestly didn't think they wanted to hear about such things -- the lectures were always one-way, from them to me: "Don't."

We need to do better. We MUST do better. God bless you!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Going on a Bear Hunt....

Christopher is reading this classic in his first-grade reader. I don't know if it's a classic in the technical sense (generally defined as a book most intelligent people own but have never actually read unless forced to by a third party such as a teacher or other guy you are doing your best to impress) ... but it brings up pleasant memories.

My mother, you see, was the original Campfire Girl. She knew a million little ditties, complete with actions and sound effects, to keep children entertained for hours on end. (Since we had no television, it didn't take much to keep us entertained back then. Now Mom would be lucky to keep her audience from bouncing off the walls for a full fifteen minutes.)

Of course, when Christopher asked me to read the story to him first, I pulled out all the stops: Growling, squishing, rustling, and tiptoeing as the story required, as he looked on first in protest (his TEACHER didn't do it like that) ... then with wonderment ... then with unbridled glee.

Goin' on a bear hunt
Gonna catch a big one.
It's a beauu-u-u-u-tiful day!
I'm not scared!

You want to know something interesting? The louder and more animated I became, the quieter and more subdued they became. (Sarah actually rolled herself in her lovey on the floor and went to sleep.) This contrasts strangely with the three days previously when, at that precise hour I was rolled into the fetal position on the couch, coping with stomach flu and a migraine (yes, simultaneously). I actually thought they were going to kill each other ... and I didn't particularly care so long as they were quiet about it.

But today, they sat still and watched the spectacle unfold in front of them. And not once did they ask to turn on Little House on the Prairie.

It was a good day to be Mom. Cuz I'm going on a bear hunt ... and I'm not scared!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Mothering by Heart

“Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.” I’m not sure who said it first, but every mother knows the truth of it.

It’s Sarah refusing to leave for church until she has put on her “lipstick” (flavored chapstick), and holding her baby over her knees and patting its back, just as I used to soothe her when she couldn’t sleep. It’s Christopher placing his shoes carefully next to his father’s, one on its side and the other propped up by the toe … in the middle of the entryway, exactly where Craig kicked his off as he walked in the door.

In recent years, my tributes have taken a different form: hearing Mom’s voice channel out of my own mouth with exactly the same intonation and heat my sisters and I swore we’d never use on our own kids. (To my knowledge, none of us have pulled it off completely.) However, I also do my best to emulate some of her great qualities: Her generosity to those in difficult situations, her well-toned faith muscles (some days they are the ONLY muscles that get a workout), and her creativity in the kitchen as well as in the home. She makes quilts and handmade dolls; I write. (That's my mother on the right.)

This past week we attended a benefit dinner for our friends Jim and Lilian Anderson (below, right), who are in the process of adopting a third child from Guatemala. It was a true “labor of love” for Lilian, who is a fabulous cook (the kids particularly enjoyed dunking strawberries in the chocolate fountain), and we all had a great time. It turns out that their adoption adventures started long before she knew Jim, when she sponsored a little Guatemalan boy (now 18) so he could go to school and learn a trade. Last year the boy and his family traveled for two days just to be able to spend a few hours with the woman who had been so kind to him over the years.

In a true sense, Lilian had mothered this child spiritually, making it possible for the young man to reach his full potential, despite the hardships he had to endure along the way. When it came time to bring a child home, it was only natural that Lilian’s heart turned first to the country where she already had an attachment. That love keeps them going back again and again, despite the expense and other hardships overseas adoptions entail. She does it because she is a mother, and like all mothers she is willing to go to the ends of the earth, if necessary, for her children.

The Catechism affirms that “Spouses to whom God has not granted children can nevertheless have a conjugal life full of meaning, in both human and Christian terms. Their marriage can radiate a fruitfulness of charity, of hospitality, and of sacrifice” (CCC 1654).

Watching Lilian’s family and friends come together in support of them, I realized I was witnessing a beautiful expression of this truth. By their hearts of love, generous hands, and willingness to sacrifice both financially and emotionally in order to enlarge their family through adoption, Jim and Lilian had gifted us with an opportunity to imitate their example – not as children, but as family nonetheless. The family of God.

Happy Mother's Day!

Heidi Hess Saxton is the editor of “Canticle” magazine and the mother of two young children regularly featured in the adoption column. In honor of Mother’s Day, Heidi extends a special offer to readers: Subscribe to “Canticle” by June 10, and get $1 off your subscription! Mention code SC07 when you place your order by calling 800-558-5452 or going online at

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Enemy Without

If you have ever had a suffering child, you will relate to the fatherly reflections of Tom Sullivan on today's "Silent Canticle" blog. (I have posted a picture of Tom and Gabriel there.)

When the "monster" you are battling is so big and uncontrollable, it can be very easy to lose heart and surrender to despair or self-pity. In our darkest moments, we may even begin to question the very existence of a benevolent God. (Thankfully, God never returns that particular favor by leaving us to our own devices.) In Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul tells us to
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.... taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.

The shield is possibly the most versatile of all the pieces of armor. A Roman shield was a monstrous piece of equipment, nearly as tall as a solder, and much wider. The idea was that as they approached the walls of a city, and had firey arrows raining down on them, the soldiers could march in a "huddled" formation, shields raised, to deflect the missiles not only from themselves but from their neighbors as well (who were then free to fight if attacked from the side). And finally, if a soldier fell, he could be transported on that shield by his comrades.

When we are under attack, we need the support of our friends and loved ones (both those alongside us, and those already in heaven) to shield us, and possibly even to carry us at times. We need not fight each battle alone, for we have our comrades to fight alongside us. We may not always be able to see them in the din of the battle, but we can trust they are present.

Today I would like to offer a prayer for those who are battling "monsters from without." Sickness. Brokenness. Unemployment. Threat of violence. Poverty. Thoughts of despair, even suicide. Look up: the shields are in place all around you. You are not alone, and you need not worry about a month, a week, or even a day from now. Focus on the present. That is where the grace of God is found.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your faithfulness, and for the love that we can never outrun or outwrestle. You love us more than we can imagine, and are working behind the scenes to turn every moment of pain and weakness into something beautiful. Give us grace, just for today, to trust that you are near even when we cannot feel you. And send us the comrades we need to win the battle. Amen.
Mary, Mother of Sorrows, pray for us.
St. Michael, heavenly warrior, pray for us.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Empathetic Heart

Yesterday I learned that the youngest son of Tom Sullivan, my partner at Canticle, was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. Gabriel is just 3-1/2 years old. My first thought (after, “Lord, please heal that little boy quickly and as painlessly as possible”) was, “Oh, that poor family.”

Please pray for Jeffrey, Tommy, Maria, Michael, and Joshua, along with their parents Tom and Carol, when you remember Gabriel.

When I heard the news, I was transported back to childhood, when I had a ringside seat to my younger sister’s struggle with bone cancer. Today she is a vivacious mother of two nearly grown children who moves faster on one leg than most other people do on two. But it was a scary time; as my parents struggled to tend to my sister’s needs, the effects of that struggle hit all of us with relentless force.

As I recall, the people who helped me the most were not effusive in their sympathy. After a while, it was hard not to resent adults who would greet me with a pained look and a saccharine, “How’s your sister?” (see photo).

My hero at that time was a walleyed old waitress at the corner cafĂ©. I’d sneak in to the diner after school, and for thirty-five cents (the cost of a Coke), I could sit and chew on Marguerite’s ear for the better part of an hour. (The diner was usually empty at that time.) I always came away from that place feeling as though I was not entirely alone in the cold, hard universe. She wasn’t particularly “soft” or even sympathetic – mostly she told me stories about her childhood. But she was the one person who never asked about my sister.

Foster parents and adoptive parents can sometimes find themselves having to help a child who has been traumatized by circumstances beyond his or her control. They may have big, ugly feelings about themselves: Misplaced guilt for something they said or did that (they think) made their birth family disappear, misdirected anger at you for their loss, or an increasing sense of shame over being “different” from their peers – and from you. At times like this, a certain amount of understanding is crucial; however, try not to dwell on it. That child will be far better off if you maintain a certain level of detachment, and show him or her how to resolve those feelings in a healthy way, and to rise above his past by focusing on the future. A truly “empathetic heart” is not soft and squishy, but brave.

Urgent Prayer Request

Tom Sullivan, the resident technology administrator and Canticle layout and cover design artist, was just told that his 3-1/2 year old son, Gabriel, has bone marrow cancer. Please pray with us, that God would heal this little boy.
(left, with sister Maria). Please pray also for comfort and wisdom for Tom and Carol, and for peace for Gabriel's older siblings: Jeffrey, Tommy, Maria, Michael, and Joshua.

Heavenly Father, be with little Gabriel.
We do not understand why this is happening,
but we know that nothing takes You by surprise.
And that, no matter what, Your plan is best.

So we entrust Gabriel and his family to You now,
and ask You to heal that little boy,
and make his family stronger than ever before.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Mary, Queen of Sorrows, pray for us.
St. Don Bosco, friend of children, pray for us.