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Denver, Colo., Oct 30, 2014 / 05:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As a 29 year-old woman with terminal brain cancer reconsiders her resolve to end her life, one scholar says the change of heart indicates a more mature level of thinking.

“That’s advanced thinking, that’s higher order thinking – when you can let go of the trappings of this world and realize there is something else,” reflected Dr. Julie Masters, chairman of the Department of Gerontology at the University of Nebraska.

She told CNA Oct. 30 that Brittany Maynard’s reconsideration is an “interesting development.”

“I think reading some of the things she has said about this idea that she is there with her family and seeing the value of that offers people another perspective on end-of-life care, and what that means,” Masters said.

After being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, Maynard announced earlier this month that was planning to end her life Nov. 1. She and her husband moved to Oregon, one of just a few states that allows physician-assisted suicide.

But in a new video, posted Oct. 29, Maynard said she is reconsidering.

“I still feel good enough and I still have enough joy and I still laugh and smile with my family and friends enough that it doesn’t seem like the right time right now,” she stated, adding that the time to take her life will likely come eventually.

Although Maynard did say that her health has been declining, she also stated in the video that “the worst thing that could happen to me is I wait too long because I am trying to seize each day and I lose my autonomy.”

Dr. Masters, who teaches a class on “Death and Dying,” reflected on this vantage point of choice and autonomy, saying it is a common factor when considering end-of-life choices.

“The number one reason why people choose physician-assisted suicide is because of autonomy. They want to maintain their autonomy, their right to choose,” Masters stated.

However, she questioned whether physician-assisted suicide is truly a choice or an expectation.

“We look at physician assisted suicide, and it is a choice in the sense that it is available in five states, that’s reality,” she said. “But the question becomes then, is that an option for people, or does it become an expectation?”

She suggested that the increasing number of physician-assisted suicides can impose an expectation to end one’s life when it is no longer seen to have value.

While noting that she does not know Maynard and cannot speak for her exclusively, Masters said she suspects that the young woman has been given a reason to pause and think about her life.

“That’s important,” Masters said. “It sure sounds like to be able to take a trip with her family and to be surrounded by her family, she is getting a glimpse of a quality of life she hadn’t anticipated.”

Referring to a Fox News piece on the situation, Masters suggested that Maynard is acknowledging the important things in life, adding to the joy that she is still experiencing amidst the suffering in her daily life. This indicates more advanced thinking, she said.

Acknowledging that it is hard to watch someone suffer and die, Masters believes that “we could give a little more attention to relieving suffering.”

While firmly stating a belief that there can be value in suffering, she also noted the importance of comforting and relieving suffering, which can also help alleviate the fear that can accompany the thought of death.

“It’s about fear,” she said, explaining that “people are afraid because they have examples in their mind of other people who have died a hard death.”

Reacting to end-of-life choices out of fear is common, Masters noted, stressing that the pain and symptoms of a terminal illness should not be controlled by this fear, but met with support, care, and comfort.

“That’s where we could do such a better job of communicating options to people. Brittany has not only advanced the movement of Compassion & Choices, but she has also advanced the movement of questioning the value of hospice and palliative care, and the value of life.”

“Death can be a gift, and it can be approached in a comforting way,” Masters said, noting the critical importance of hospice and palliative care for people near death.

When people lose sight, she continued, “they get this tunnel vision, and they only see one option, and that’s suicide.”

“For Brittany, it seemed for awhile as if she thought there was only one option, but now she sees there are other options and maybe she is being open and considering the other options,” Masters suggested.

Acknowledging that Maynard’s story is prompting people to talk about end-of-life issues, Masters said she hopes this will be an opportunity for people to reflect on life and engage in dialogue in order to process what end-of-life decisions really mean.

“This is an opportunity for people to think,” she explained.


Washington D.C., Oct 30, 2014 / 03:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- According to the Archbishop of Washington, the recent Synod on the Family worked to address the challenge that many young people today don’t fully understand the nature of marriage.

“There were a good number of us within the synod who felt, given the heavily secular climate today in which so many of our young people are living – what they see in media, television, electronic print, in movies, the music they listen to, the world they’re engaged in – (that) the idea of a permanent, enduring bond that would be life-giving and at the same time be indissoluble is not uppermost in their awareness of marriage,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl asserted in an Oct. 30 conference call.

Cardinal Wuerl was speaking about the Oct. 5-19 extraordinary Synod of Bishops, which was held in anticipation of next year's World Meeting of Families and the ordinary Synod on the Family. After the 2015 synod, Pope Francis is expected to issue an apostolic exhortation.

In his analysis of the synod, Cardinal Wuerl specifically discussed two negative outcomes of confusion about the nature of marriage: cohabitation, and the failure of some marriages.  

“One of the increasing concerns is the number of people who aren’t even getting married today: the number of people who are simply living together without benefits of even civil marriage. And that says, to me, we have a long way to go in helping present as clearly as we can the beautiful gift that is marriage,” Cardinal Wuerl stated.

Another area of concern among synod fathers was the process of marriage annulment.

“The fact that there are Catholic couples and people who have re-married, and therefore can’t come to Communion, the fact that they would desperately like to do so, and the Church recognizes the good of that; the question is, 'how do we do that while being faithful to the teaching of the Church concerning the bond?' That brings us to the question of an annulment, the declaration that there never was a bond in the first place,” Cardinal Wuerl commented.

It was in reference to this that he suggested that “so many of our young people” might not have a correct understanding of marriage, to the extent that they cannot validly contract a marriage.

“Having said all that,” he continued, “there were many, many of us who felt (that) if we’re going to go the route of annulment, then that process can’t be so costly or so burdensome that it becomes a weight around the shoulders of the people trying to regularize their situation.”

Cardinal Wuerl added that “there were a number of suggestions on how to do that,” and that “that’s probably going to be an area that there’ll be a lot of discussion (about) between now and the next synod.”

One way to address the widespread confusion about the nature of marriage would be to properly catechize children and teenagers about the faith, the cardinal continued, beginning in Catholic schools.

Regarding a term that received much attention in the synod’s mid-term report – causing media speculation and confusion – the principle of “graduality” was nowhere to be found in the final document, Cardinal Wuerl confirmed.

“The whole concept of 'graduality' – that surfaced but you don’t find it in the final document,” he said.

“And I think one of the reasons for that is it’s a theological concept. It’s not a concept that you find well-expounded, well-defined, well-developed. And so if there’s going to be any reference to that in the future, I think it’s going to require a lot more thought and a lot more theological penetration." "That doesn’t mean it won’t come back up again, but my thought is that ... it needs a lot more thought and a lot more theological development."


St. Alonso Rodriguez
10/30/2014 12:00:00 AM
On October 30, the Catholic Church honors a man whose humble occupation gave the world only glimpses of his extraordinary holiness. During his lifetime, Brother Alonso Rodriguez never became a priest, published a book, or advanced professionally. But writings discovered after his death revealed a true mystic, who attended to a rich spiritual life while he worked as a doorkeeper and porter.Born in Spain during 1532, Alonso married at 26 and worked as a cloth merchant, coming to religious life only through a string of crushing tragedies. His wife and two of their children died by the time he was 31, and his turn toward a life of prayer and penance could not prevent the subsequent death of his third and last remaining child -- nor the discouraging failure of his business. Without his wife and children, and having few prospects due to his lack of a higher education, the Spanish layman turned his thoughts to religious life. Even there, however, he faced difficulties. In his early years, Alonso had met one of the first Jesuits, Bl. Peter Faber, and with his old life in ruins, he developed an interest in joining the recently established Society of Jesus. Alonso's lack of education prevented him from pursuing their course of priestly ordination, and he failed to acquire a diploma from the College of Barcelona despite attending for two years. The Jesuit Fathers in Valencia said he was unfit to join. But Alonso's years of prayer had not been in vain: they were answered when a provincial of the society, sensing his dedication, admitted him as a lay-brother.In modern times, Jesuit Brothers work in a wide range of fields, with few limitations apart from their lack of priestly ordination. During the 16th and 17th centuries, however, the lay-brothers of the Society of Jesus were known as “temporal coadjutors,â€� and assisted the priests of the order by performing its more routine duties such as cooking, construction and farming.The Jesuits sent Rodriguez to the college of Montesión on the island of Majorca, to work as a porter and door-keeper. He assumed the responsibilities of receiving visitors and guests and carrying their luggage, tracking down students or priests when they were needed, delivering messages, and distributing alms to the poor. While other Jesuits traveled the globe evangelizing whole nations, and undertook a vast reform of the Catholic Church throughout Europe, Alonso carried bags and ran errands for 46 years.But students began to seek him out, realizing that their doorkeeper was a man of unusual wisdom and faith. His Jesuit superiors started to take notice as well, and asked him to begin a private record of his life and thoughts.  Rodriguez struck up a notable friendship with one young man, Peter Claver, and advised him to volunteer for the South American missions. Following his advice, St. Peter Claver eventually catechized, baptized and spoke out for the rights of 300,000 slaves in South America.When Brother Alonso died in 1617, his superiors examined the written records he had left behind describing his spiritual life. What they found was the life of a saint and mystic. His approach was simple: Christ was appearing in every person who appeared at the door; the task was to encounter God in any task. From this awareness, he proceeded to a life of contemplation akin to the renowned saints of his era (such as St. Ignatius or St. Teresa of Avila), whose grand achievements are better known.Brother Alonso Rodriguez was declared a saint in 1887. He is buried on the same island of Majorca where he answered the door and carried bags for five decades.

First Reading - Eph 6: 10-20
10/30/2014 12:00:00 AM
10 Finally, brethren, be strengthened in the Lord, and in the might of his power.11 Put you on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil. 12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. 13 Therefore take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice, 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace:16 In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. 17 And take unto you the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God). 18 By all prayer and supplication praying at all times in the spirit; and in the same watching with all instance and supplication for all the saints: 19 And for me, that speech may be given me, that I may open my mouth with confidence, to make known the mystery of the gospel. 20 For which I am an ambassador in a chain, so that therein I may be bold to speak according as I ought. 

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