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Archbishop's Desk

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  • Growing as a human person in the presence of God

    Last month, I was happy to join other bishops from New England for our annual retreat. One...

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Milestones

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  • Bristol native makes first vows as School Sister of Notre Dame

    WILTON – During a eucharistic celebration attended by more than 200 friends, family members and...

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Youth

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  • Northwest Catholic's freshmen come from 27 towns, one foreign country

    Members of the Freshman Contact program who helped the newcomers adjust. (Photo submitted) WEST...

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demarco_halfIf we can answer one simple question correctly and carry out its logical implications, we can gain an understanding of ethics that is an outline for good behavior, joy and fulfillment for all human beings. The question is this: To whom does the mother’s milk belong?

The natural evidence indicates conclusively that the mother’s milk belongs to the baby she is breastfeeding. From the standpoint of its ingredients, the milk is ideally suited to the child’s biological needs. It provides proper nourishment and strengthens the child’s immune system, protecting him or her from infection and disease. The milk is of no special benefit to the mother. Psychologically, breast feeding fosters a loving bond with the mother and helps give the child both a sense of self as well as a sense of belonging. Nature has made it abundantly clear that mother’s milk is intended for the child and to be provided by the mother.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, combining insight with a touch of humor, once stated, "A pair of substantial mammary glands has the advantage over the two hemispheres of the most learned professor’s brain in the art of compounding a nutritive fluid for infants." Nature does naturally and spontaneously what science cannot do deliberately and painstakingly. Can we say that breast milk is better than any udder milk?

The demonstrable fact that the milk belongs to the baby establishes the fact that a human being is not an isolated entity riveted to its own selfish needs. The mother is for the child, just as Adam, from whose side Eve was taken, is for his wife, and Christ on the Cross, from whose side gushed blood and water, is for all other human beings.

In other words, human beings are persons, which is to say, they have their own unique individualities, but also live and love in relation to other persons. A human is far more than a mere individual. The network that results, ultimately, from a series of interpersonal relationships is a good society of ethical people.

We can say, therefore, that the image of the mother giving milk to her infant serves as a prototype for all ethical human relationships. Ethics honors the nursing mother by recognizing that she sets in motion a series of interpersonal relationships. The father is needed to provide for his children something other than food. As theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar contends, mother and father must provide both a "hearth and a horizon." Hence, the fundamental role of marriage and the family comes into view. The family, then, becomes the fundamental unit of society. In this way, the milk of human kindness permeates society and nourishes all its inhabitants.

When St. Augustine said of the nursing Madonna that "[s]he gave milk to our bread," he was referring to the Eucharist and how it provides both corporeal as well as spiritual benefits for all human beings. The nursing mother, then, is a prototype for all ethical relationships insofar as she represents the fullness of personality, offering to others both bodily and spiritual nourishment.

It has been said that breastfeeding is a gift that lasts a lifetime. The truth of this statement lies in the fact that breastfeeding offers a powerful and long-lasting experience, as well as an icon, of what it means to be a person. And being a person, in the ethical sense, is to live in relation to others in a spirit of giving and receiving.

Ethics, as Pope John Paul II liked to say, is actually nothing more than "anthropological realism." What he meant by this, simply, is that we behave ethically when we are acting as real human beings. We may learn a great deal at our mother’s knee, but that learning process had its origin at our mother’s breast.

The mother’s breast is the one material reality that simulates the spiritual reality of love. Just as love grows by giving it away, mother’s milk replenishes itself to the degree that it, too, is given away. All other material things are depleted when given away. It is the glory of love and generosity that, as Christ said, will increase our lot a hundredfold.

Ethics need not be a difficult subject to grasp. All we need do is understand that a mother’s milk belongs not to her or to anyone other than her baby. Ethics, then, far from leading people into the morass of relativism or skepticism, is really baby simple.

 

Dr. Donald DeMarco is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell and Mater Ecclesiae College in Greenville, R.I.

 

Events Calendar

September 2014
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12:00 AM
Archbishop O'Brien Library , Bloomfield, United States
The Archbishop O’Brien Library will participate in a community-based project with Life Choice Donor Services, a non-profit organ procurement organization, during September, to raise awareness for organ [...]
Date :  September 01, 2014
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06:00 PM
St. Ann Parish, Avon, Avon, United States
The Social Justice Committee of St. Ann’s Parish in Avon will have its popular annual clothing sale from 6-9 p.m. Sept. 19 and from 8:30 [...]
Date :  September 19, 2014
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08:30 AM
St. Ann Parish, Avon, Avon, United States
The Social Justice Committee of St. Ann’s Parish in Avon will have its popular annual clothing sale from 6-9 p.m. Sept. 19 and from 8:30 [...]
10:00 AM
St. Paul Catholic High School, Bristol, Bristol, United States
St. Paul Catholic High School open houses at 10 and 11:30 a.m. Sept. 20,  7 p.m. Oct. 8 and at 10 and [...]
Date :  September 20, 2014
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11:00 AM
Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary, Bloomfield, United States
Applications are being accepted for the 2014 Catholic Youth Spectacular (CYS), set for Sept. 21 on the [...]
Date :  September 21, 2014
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12:00 AM
The Archdiocese of Hartford is participating again in the national Family Day program launched by [...]
Date :  September 22, 2014
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11:00 AM
Wampanoag Country Club, West Hartford, West Hartford, United States
HARTFORD – The 22nd annual Archbishop John F. Whealon Memorial Golf Tournament will take place Sept. 23 [...]
Date :  September 23, 2014
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06:00 PM
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Hamden , Hamden, United States
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Hamden will have its monthly Pro-Life Holy Hour Novena from 6-7 p.m. September 24.The Holy Hour will include exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, pro-life rosary, [...]
12:00 AM
Hartford GYN Center, Hartford, United States
The Pro-Life Ministry of the Archdiocese of Hartford will participate in the international 40 Days for Life campaign from Sept. 24 through Nov. 2. The success of the campaign is evident in [...]
Date :  September 24, 2014
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06:00 PM
Holy Family Retreat Center, West Hartford, West Hartford, United States
"Know Greater Joy" is the theme of a Men's Weekend Retreat being offered Sept. 26-28 at Holy Family [...]
07:30 PM
St. Therese Church, Branford, Branford, United States
LYRA, an a cappella group of four professional vocalists from St. Petersburg, Russia, is returning to [...]
12:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield , Litchfield, United States
A Beginning Experience Weekend will be conducted Sept. 26-28 for divorced, separated and widowed men and [...]
Date :  September 26, 2014
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09:30 AM
Holy Angels Parish Center, South Meriden, Meriden, United States
MERIDEN – The Meriden-Wallingford Council of Catholic Women will sponsor a catered breakfast at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 27 at Holy Angels Parish Center in South Meriden. Guest speaker Deacon Thomas J. Davis [...]
12:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield , Litchfield, United States
A Beginning Experience Weekend will be conducted Sept. 26-28 for divorced, separated and widowed men and [...]
Date :  September 27, 2014
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01:00 PM
Polish-American Club, West Haven, United States
NEW HAVEN – St. Stanislaus Parish will have its annual picnic/harvest festival from 1-8 p.m. Sept. 28, rain or shine, at the Polish-American Club at 194 W. Spring St., West Haven. Polish and [...]
12:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield , Litchfield, United States
A Beginning Experience Weekend will be conducted Sept. 26-28 for divorced, separated and widowed men and [...]
Date :  September 28, 2014
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07:00 PM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
Caritas Christi Center will offer a New Life Seminar for the separated and divorcd from 7-9 p.m. on nine [...]
Date :  September 29, 2014
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