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October 2, 1987     The Message
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October 2, 1987

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October 2, 1987 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Question Corner 9 Q&A " By FATHER JOHN DI]ZEN N C News Service Colum,pJst . = P The special pain and confusion after the death of children Q. I was married in 1951 and-prior to our sixth wedding anniversary had become pregnant seven times. Four of these pregnancies resulted in healthy full-term babies. The other three I lost in the early weeks of pregnancy. Now, 30 years and more later, I think of them often. I realize tha.t with a houseful of babies who took up all my time and attention i never truly mourned them as I should have. A few nights ago, a priest on television told how he had comforted a young mother who had lost her baby as I did. He told her that when it was time for her to enter heaven her baby would be waiting there for her. Needless to say, it was a very emotional mo- ment for me. However, I recognize that theological teaching sometimes gets distorted by the motiva- tion of the person relaying the information -- in the same way one of your recent columns sug- gested that information about the Blessed Virgin Mary can be distorted. Please give me some help, Having been sub- jected to so many common popular religious myths, I don't quite dare to believe what I would hope. --Massachusetts A. The death of children always is one of the deepest hurts and mysteries we human beings are required to face. That always is true in the death of someone we love, but for people whose Catholic and Christian faith is strong and a big part of their lives, there is a special pain and confusion when babies die as yours have. I don't know any answer other than the one I have given before to parents who have suffered the same kind of loss as you have. Maybe it will help as time goes by to keep a few things in mind. Jesus told us clearly and we firmly believe that baptism is the sacramental or "sign" way by which people enter into his community of faith. We have clear evidence that from the earliest cen- turies Christians pondered the exact meaning of this teaching about baptism. One major reason for this pondering is that the vast majority of the human race, past and present, die without baptism; in fact, they often live and die without even hearing of God or Jesus, If God loves all people, as we also firmly believe, and wishes them to have the grace of redemption, how does that come about? The possi- ble explanations offered by theologians through the centuries are numerous. But one principle endures all through theological tradition: Considering God's obvious universal intention for the salvation of the human race we believe that the gift of his redeeming love is offered genuinely to anyone who does not place a personal obstacle in its way. This would apply to children such as those you have lost. How God accomplishes this he has not told us, as be has not told us many details of his plan for salvation. My own conviction, entirely in accord with the teachings of the church and similar to that of major theologians through the centuries, is that God sees the child of a family such as YOurS as a Christian part of a Christian family. What does that mean? Without becoming too involved or technical, the explanation is basically this: The Christian {and Catholic) identity which you and your husband have is not plastered on your "natural" life like frosting on a cake. You are not some sort of neutral person with a veneer that we call "Christian." You re Christian people; your "personality" so to speak is itself Christian. Thus, neither would your children be somethin 8 neutral to which some day this "veneer" called Christianity might be added at baptism. Had they been born, baptism would have signaled and brought about their participation in this visible church on earth. But the grace of bap- tism does not come in one magical moment. Consider, for example, our church's belief con- cerning catechumens who are preparing to enter our faith. By church law such an individual is con- sidered a member of the church and has a full right to Christian burial at Mass, even though a baptism ceremony was never performed. The same applies to children who die before their parents are able to have them baptized (canon law No. 1183}. This policy reflects our tradition that the grace of baptism is working long before the pouring of the water. We might go even further and recall that in our Christian understanding of the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity, God's creation of us is in itself an act of the redeeming salvific will of our Creator. Although the church's teaching on this matter is not definitive, certainly this much is true. God loves your children as much as he loves you; Jesus died for them as much as for any of us; your babies are in the Lord's loving and redeeming care. While your children will never be with you again on earth, they always will be part of your family. As the priest told you, the full joy of that relationship is something we can look forward to. I will pray for you and the other parents who have suffered the same kind of loss. I'm sure many readers of this column will do the same. A free brochure outlining Catholic prayers, beliefs and precepts is available by sending a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Father John Dietzen, Holy Trinity Parish, 704 N. Main St., Bloomington, Ill. 61701. Questions for this column should be sent to _ Father Dietzen at the same address. (Copyright (c) 1987 by NC News Special jubilarians Mr. and Mrs. Frank Scheller of Evansville will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary Oct. 11 with a Mass of Thanksgiving at 10 a.m. at St. Boniface Church, Evansville. A buffet luncheon and reception will follow at the West Haven Gun Club. All ?. friends and relatives are invited. The couple requests no gifts. Mr. Scheller and the former Alida Engbers were married October 11, 1927 in Assumption Church, Evansville. The couple has six children, Rosemary Humphrey, Charlotte Brinker and Thomas Scheller, all of Evansville; Joyce Barton, of Newburgh; Frances Hess of New Market, Indiana, and Rite Lanning of Coral Springs. There are 16 grandchildren and 15 great.grandchildren. Mr. Scheller is a 61 year member of the Carpenter's Union 60 and worked for 25 years with Chris Nix Construction Company and 25 years with Anderson and Veatch. Pope Continued from page 8 times impossible," he added. The pope encouraged efforts toward unity, declaring, "there can be no contradiction be- tween the results achieved by analytical reason and those achieved by reason illuminated and guided by faith." In a press conference follow- ing the papal audience, Ian Bar- bour of the department of Silver jubilee Evansville native Sister Mary Jane Kleindorfer, H.V.M., will celebrate her 25th anniversary as a religious with a Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday, Oct. 4 at St. Anne Catholic Community in Warren, Mich. She is the daughter of the late Dr. and Mrs. R.L. Kleindorfer. Sister Mary Jane attended St. Benedict School, Memorial High School in Evansville and St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in Terre Haute, where she earned a B.S. degree in music education. She entered the Sisters, Home Visitors of Mary in Detroit in 1962. Sister Kleindorfer also attended the University of Detroit and Pins XII Institute for post graduate work in religious studies. She served in the Detroit parishes as a pastoral sister until 1984 when she became director of the St. Anne Senior Center in Warren, Mich. iiiii religion at Carlton College in Northfield, Minn., said issues discussed by the conferees in- cluded: the so-called "big bang theory" to explain the creation of the universe, the "puzzling question about the beginnings of time, if there were hegin- nings," the immensity Of time and space and "the experience of the intelligibility of the world, which is itself inex- plicable." Efforts to understand the universe's beginning involve fundamental issues for all the disciplines, several conference participants said. Father Michael Heller of the Pontifical Theological Academy in Krakow, Poland, said one problem is that such concepts as time, space and probability become "fuzzy and then disappear" as scientists try to study the "first few frac- tions of seconds" of creation. Mathematical models are "more helpful" than human language at this phase of "intense research" in the universe's creation, he said. Robert Russell of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences in Berkeley, Calif., said scientists and Christian theologians are beginning to agree that the universe has a finite past, but they differ over whether that claim means the same thing to each field, he ad- ded.