The emails were coming nearly every day. They were desperate and urgent — and they were long. They were from Eric Encina in the Philippines, a man whom I had never met, but who found Catholic Exchange on the internet and was sure that here someone would listen and someone would help. The subject lines of the emails encapsulated a story that has become all-too familiar as the western culture of death invades by stealth and strong-arms poorer traditional populations to accept a death-dealing agenda: An Appeal to the American People for Life, Family and Justice; Serious Health Crisis Under the Culture of Death; Population Growth, Sexual Morality and Temperance; Pro-life/Family Proposals for Philippine Election 2007; Malthusian Evils in the Philippines — those were just some of the subjects.
Did I mention that they were long? Each one was full of reasoned and yet passionately-presented arguments about the way American international aid policy was impacting life in the Philippines. There were statistics and analyses of statistics and commentary on UN regulations and local and international monetary and banking systems and tax regulations and proposed Philippine national legislation. It all boiled down to a single cry of the heart: Why was there no money for development or food aid, but unlimited funds for population control?
I asked Eric to stop sending them – that they were not useful to me – and that I would get back to him when I could figure out who might be able to help him, but he was insistent that I should keep the emails. Not knowing anything about his circumstances and what physical or economic vulnerabilities he was operating under, I reassured him – yes, he could send them to me and yes, I would keep them. I created an email folder and they kept coming, until there were over twenty.
And what was I to do with this? For one thing, I was not qualified to evaluate the facts that were being presented. And even had I been qualified, what would I do with these very long and detailed missives that were not the kind of thing that CE would publish? But there was Eric, my brother, on the other side of the world, pleading for help. As each email came in, I would add it to the folder and rub my forehead in dismay, "Lord, what I am supposed to do with this?"
I called the Acton Institute. You may know the Acton Institute as an occasional contributor to Catholic Exchange, usually in the Edge columns. The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty conducts academic investigations within the disciplines of philosophy, economics, theology, and history and publishes the results of those investigations in academic settings as well as popular articles. Knowing that the Acton Institute had published material dealing with international monetary policy and the sometimes deleterious effects of "foreign aid," I figured it would be a good place to begin.
I explained my problem and asked if they had anyone on staff that was qualified to assess the information Eric was providing and help him to publicize it in the United States. From my description of the emails they determined that it would be better if I contacted C-FAM, The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan research and educational institute focusing on international social policy.
You might also know C-FAM from their articles that CE occasionally reprints, usually in our Pro-life channel. (Right now, C-FAM is asking you to sign a petition urging the United States Senate NOT TO RATIFY the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women — "CEDAW", because of the devastating effect that this treaty will have on families around the globe. At the bottom of this article you will find a link to the webpage where you can sign the petition online.)
I called C-FAM and they said that they were indeed an organization that dealt with exactly the kinds of issues to which Eric was trying to draw attention. Finally, I was able to put him in touch with the right people.
I tell you this story because so many of the things that go on here at CE involve making connections between Catholics who need help or information with those who can provide it. These things usually occur behind the scenes and do not become the subject of articles, but I want you know that they are going on all the time here.
Last week, CE had the privilege of being the site of the world internet premier of an amazing new image of the Blessed Virgin shown carrying the "Light of Life," the unborn infant Christ, in her womb. A special exclusive offer of the prints was made to CE readers (and is still available.) This week Nellie Edwards, the artist, received an email with the subject line, "Read it, loved it!… CE article." It contained a request from a Catholic pro-life group to use the image on a set of comprehensive pro-life brochures they are creating for priests to hand out in confessionals. Arrangements are now being made to fulfill that request.
(It occurs to me that someone reading this might be moved to see how this inspired portrait of the Madonna and Child could reach Eric Encina in the Philippines and aid the pro-life work he is doing. Why should only harm to the pro-life cause in his country come from America? Shouldn't help come too, from us who are related to them in the faith? If you would like to help, contact Nellie Edwards here. I have already told her how to get in touch with Eric. )
CE is very grateful to have the privilege of making this image of Mary known to the public as Nellie Edwards did not have any way personally to reach the kind of national and international audience that CE is able to reach. Acton Institute, C-FAM and LifeSite News (another organization whose articles we frequently feature) are all doing great work, but their audience is miniscule in comparison to Catholic Exchange. By featuring their articles and linking to them, CE is able to bring their work to the attention of many Catholics who would otherwise never see their websites. This is true of many other fine Catholic organizations with which we partner daily to bring you the very best in Catholic content. CE is the tide that lifts many smaller Catholic boats, increasing their visibility and aiding them in the vital work they are doing for the culture of life.
Another Catholic organization that may have been new to you is CatholicMil.org. A stirring article from them was featured on CE early this month. Did you know that 300,000 Catholics serve in the main branches of the US Armed Forces, while another 375,000 serve in the Reserves and Coast Guard? Most of these are young adults ages 18-23. Yet only 307 Catholic chaplains are available to serve them and their families. For pastoral care when chaplains are not close by, CatholicMil.org has established a 24/7 Q&A forum which includes access to Fr. John Paul Echert, Air Force Reserve chaplain and EWTN theologian, Christopher Stefanick, Diocesan Youth Director of Denver, and Dr. James Toner of the Air War College to handle questions regarding military ethics. CatholicMil.org is even able to arrange for RCIA and sacramental preparation in the field. To find out how you can help Catholic military families and the chaplains who serve them, go here.
We thank God for the very fine cooperative relationship we at CE have been able to build with these and other Catholic apostolates. They know they can count on us to help get the word out when your action as a citizen is crucial. Building these relationships with other Catholic apostolates requires the constant attention of the CE editors as staff changes occur within various organizations and as new issues arise that you need to be aware of. On Monday, we brought you news from the legal group named after the great saint, Thomas More, and aptly devoted to protecting the exercise of religious conscience in the public sphere. The news was indeed disturbing: four San Diego firefighters were ordered, against their wishes, to participate in uniform on their city fire truck in the city's annual "Gay Pride" parade, during which they were subjected to the vilest sexual harassment. The Thomas More Law Center is representing the fire fighters in their suit against the city. We will keep you posted about this developing story.
Sometimes the very best exchanges on CE occur between our readers, as they respond to articles and to one another. An article Tuesday by Katherine Andes on the importance of limiting our children's plugged-in-to-media time prompted a terrific exchange of ideas among parents as to how to limit the time children spend staring at a screen and promote their involvement in other, more healthy activities.
It is not unusual at all for the comments under an article to greatly expand the points and the information delivered as our knowledgeable readers make their own contributions to the discussion. Sometimes indeed the fur will fly on those issues about which Catholics may legitimately disagree, whereas at other times, those very same Catholics will echo and augment one another's reasons for the faith in response to a questioner or doubter – as our own Mark Shea frequently reminds us, quoting from G. K. Chesterton: "Catholics agree about everything; it is only everything else they disagree about." If you want to join the discussion, you will need to register with Catholic Exchange — it is painless and free.
Speaking of free, if you are like me, the expression "free time" is as fantastic as "flying pigs." There just ain't no such animal! That is why I love our blog, CE On Time, where other busy Catholics share tips on everything from planning vacations to organizing closets to dealing with a flood of emails and making time to improve your prayer life. If you're not reading CE On Time, you are really missing out on some great ideas for improving your work and family life. If you are already a regular reader, surely you know someone else who could benefit from the wealth of practical wisdom accumulating on this blog — don't keep it to yourself; send someone a link today.
If you are used to visiting the Church Today section of CE to enjoy the daily readings or pray the liturgy of the hours, I encourage you to click over regularly to Ave Maria Meditations. Our blogger there is a third order Franciscan with an eye for what is good, beautiful and true on the internet. Nearly every day she posts a reflection from the life or writings of a saint, a litany, or a meditation on one of the feasts of the Church – all punctuated with gorgeous art work. If you have a friend who needs a spiritual boost, you can find just the right words of tender encouragement on this lovely blog. For that matter, check out all the CE blogs here.
In the newspaper business, they have an expression, "below the fold." It refers to those news items that are on the bottom when the paper is folded in half so that the lead headline is at the top. Every journalist wants his or her front page article to get above-the-fold exposure but due to limited space, somebody is inevitably going to get stuck "below the fold." The same is true on CE. Of course, we aren't folded over, but we know that everyone who sees our front page on his or her monitor screen is only seeing a portion of all the great features on CE – there just are too many to fit them all on the screen at once! — and we know that if you aren't scrolling down you might be missing some great CE stuff "below the fold."
This by no means covers everything on CE, but I hope this little peak behind the scenes and below the fold will inspire you to explore more areas of our website — after all, you make it all possible.
[Don't forget to sign the C-FAM petition urging the United States Senate NOT TO RATIFY the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Go here to sign online.]