Pregnancy and the Power of Prayer

It was after midnight last Wednesday, and her contractions had been occurring off and on for hours. My wife and I looked at each other, exchanging glances which were equal parts joy, equal parts anxiety.

If our newest child was ready to make her entrance into the world, then of course we were glad to welcome her. But did it have to be right now?

My mother-in-law was on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic at that moment. The plan was for her to arrive a little over a week prior to our baby’s due date so that she could help out when the big day arrived. Of course, that wouldn’t work out so well if she happened to be stuck in the airport or still in-flight at kick off.

I asked my wife what our plan should be if that occurred. I had to ask, because I didn’t have any ideas. After some discussion, we came to the consensus that the unfortunate scenario outlined above simply couldn’t happen –indeed, wasn’t allowed to happen– due to it making matters too complicated. We hoped and prayed that God would agree.

The night passed without incident (albeit with many more contractions). After waking, I checked with my wife to make sure everything was okay. So far, so good. Maybe it was just false labor?

I went to work relieved. I actually joked about the matter with a co-worker — can you imagine the predicament I’d be in if my mother-in-law got stuck at the airport while I took my wife to the hospital? Or if I was at the airport when my wife needed to be taken to the hospital?

Not a pleasant thought at all, actually. I didn’t joke about it too much.

After a couple of hours at work, I went to the airport. Mother-in-law arrived safe and sound with baggage completely un-lost. Drove home, unloaded mother-in-law, handed keys to my wife so she could make her OB appointment. Headed to the door, prepared to take my alternate vehicle back to work. Mother-in-law stopped me:

“She’s in no condition to drive herself to this appointment.”

Ah. So much for false labor!
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A Beatification and a “Martyrdom”

More than a million of the faithful were present at the Vatican for the beatification of Blessed John Paul II, to include the godparents of my eldest child and the future godparents of her soon-to-be-born sister. The joy at this momentous event spread to my home parish and, I’m sure, to Catholics and admirers of John Paul the world over.

I woke up the next morning to a celebration of a far different nature. CNN was streaming video of a jubilant crowd gathered outside the White House cheering the news of Osama bin Laden’s demise. Watching the multitudes wave their flags and scream with joy, I remembered the pain and grief I felt on September 11th. I thought of the thousands who died that day and the thousands upon thousands who’ve died since.

As I continued to watch the streaming video, I too became elated, emotional and joyful at the news.

This bothered me — for several reasons.

For starters, I had a very practical concern: now that this man was dead, he’d likely be considered a martyr by Muslim extremists. His “martyrdom” would doubtless inspire retaliatory attacks. More innocent people would die.

I also realized that others might have died in the operation. Early reports suggest a woman used as a human shield was killed during the exchange of fire. I don’t know of her involvement (if any) with bin Laden, but the possibility remains that an innocent bystander was killed.

Beyond that, I was bothered by a tougher moral quandary: regardless of how heinous his or her deeds while living, is it right to celebrate a person’s death?

I certainly didn’t think so. One of my great struggles is following Jesus’s instruction to love my enemies. As difficult as I find it, praying for them seems like a good start. Celebrating their deaths does not.

Using similar words, I spoke about this with a colleague at work. When I asked him my question on the morality of celebrating an enemy’s death, he answered with another question: would God celebrate?

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