Sunday, December 30, 2012

Truth In Nature For All To See

I've just finished reading an essay entitled "The Sea Within" by Peter Kreeft, linked from the The BigPulpit  In this essay, Kreeft attempts to unravel the mystery of the sea and what it is that draws us to it both physically and spiritually. Though never really coming to a solid understanding of the draw the sea has on man, he does ask thought provoking questions that I believe most of us may have had while standing on the shore of the sea, mesmerized by its constant motion and vastness.

God has provided us with three things in His creation that to me gives us a glimpse into his never ending majesty and His providential presence among us. The universe, the mountains and the sea are three things that have been ever present to man in his short history and they have always captured his imagination. To modern man, the advent of science may have diminished the mystery of God's creation to a certain level, but it has never been able to completely eliminate it because this mysteriousness goes much deeper than the physical world that science deals with in attempting to explain its workings.

Today we know more than our ancient ancestors about the ways of the universe with its galaxies, planetary systems, and the Big Bang, or how the mountains of the earth are formed through plate tectonics and volcanic action, or how the tides of the sea came to be and the importance of the oceans on our climate. Science has questioned creation and has provided some answers. But when I look up at the night sky, or a mountain with its peak covered in clouds or the constant waves of the sea, the questions that science asks are not necessarily the same questions my soul and spirit asks. To be honest, I don't believe my spirit even asks questions that science has tried to answer but rather remains still and absorbs what it sees..

When I look at the night sky I know space objects are orbiting because science has explained some of that, but what I "see" is the never ending immensity of the universe that in turn acknowledges the One outside this space and time who created it all. It is mind boggling and no attempt to capture this sight within my understanding is successful, so I do what I am best capable of doing; to be awed by it all without understanding. No attempt by science can minimize what I see to pure physics, because I am more than a product of the physical. God saw to that. I look at the universe and I see myself surrounded by the majesty of God without even leaving this life. That in itself is awesome.

When I look up at a mountain, I see an immense object whose peak rises so high that at times it is covered by a cloud, however, my spirit doesn't stop at the cloud, but tries to pierce that cloud in search of what is above it knowing there is more to see than just a peak. Anyone who has stood on the summit of a mountain and has looked across the landscape below knows how insignificant all seems to be from our vantage point. Houses, roads and even people are simply pin points from where we stand. We stand above strife, war, anger that we know continues at the base but we are detached from it temporarily. It gives us a sense of peace, a peace and joy we desire always. At times I even feel I am in control of everything below me and I do not want to descend back to the depths that awaits my return. I suppose I can say I have understood a bit of what it is to be God as I stand on a mountain peak, but not a god that manipulates its greatest creation as a puppet on a string.

This god, the God for whom my spirit and soul was created, left His lofty mountain and descended to become part of this cacophony of a life we had made for ourselves. From this mountain I've been given a sense of the love God has for all of us when he came down to suffer with us, to reveal Himself to us and to raise us back up to the mountain peak in order to live with Him. At the summit of this mountain, I have been given a surer knowledge that  God is not a weak God but one who's strength is beyond our comprehension. A God who willingly gives his life for his creation despite their sinfulness as Christ did is not a weak God or man. It is some of this strength that I discovered in myself as I held my firstborn for the first time. I would die for this child in my arms. Not for what this child had done, but for who he was, mine. I would still do it with no question.

To me, the ocean is probably the greatest of the three things I have mentioned. From the shoreline I cannot see the end of it, only the horizon that seems to meet it. I can see the waves coming in as the tide rises, but I do not see where each wave originates. Unlike the universe and the mountains, the oceans are here on our level so it makes it more real to me. In my youth, I remember going to the ocean with my buddies to watch the girls on the beach. However, even in those days when my hormones raged, I would have been satisfied just walking along the shore enjoying the ocean had my friends suggested it. That is how enticing the ocean was to me and still is.

If you had asked me several years ago what it was about the sea that so attracts me, I could not have given you one particular answer. As humbled as I am by this body of water and the huge waves that constantly roll in, I feel a sense of security. I feel its consistency of motion and it comforts me. The ocean exposes my physical limitations in relation to her, as she herself demonstrates that she has no limits and can devour what she wills. In my love for the ocean I still have a fear of her in the sense of respecting her and her power. It is not a fear of trembling for my life unless I foolishly defy her and place myself in harms way. I have come to view the ocean and its waves as an exhibition of God's Truth in my years. It is in this view that I have finally arrived at a possible answer to the question of why I am drawn to her.

We were created in Love and Truth. We have an innate desire to know the Truth no matter where it leads us. We all want to know the Truth and expect it and demand it of others. Even liars expect the truth from others though they themselves seek to deceive through their own lies. No where in our history has a liar ever been honored or admired for being a liar, but even this world admires the honest man who always tells the truth and can be counted on. The ocean entices me simply because its constancy reminds me of God's Truth and my desire and search for it.

My visits to the ocean speaks to me of God's Truth as it washes over me each day. I expect to see its waves every time I visit her and I am not disappointed. In the same way I am taught that the Church is the foundation and pillar of Truth and I expect and find it within her walls. When I step into a shallow tidal pool left behind by the last high tide I feel its warmth, just as I do when I step into Truth that was left with the Church. As with the ocean exposing my physical limitations, the Truth gives me guidelines to life in God within the limits of my creation, yet at the same time it sets me free.

I never tire of visiting the ocean and I suspect no one really does for its draw is indeed powerful as it speaks of the Truth. We may lie, defy the Truth or try to avoid it as we dance around the waves so as not to be touched by them, but we are still drawn to it. That is our dilemma. We may dislike the Truth, but we want it. We need it. We are drawn to it despite ourselves. We can either let its waves gently wash our feet and set us back on the narrow path, or let it come crashing down on us, eroding and destroying all the lies we have set up and built our lives on. To me, the ocean is the visible representation of God's Truth working within each of us, over and over again, never stopping.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Waiting For The Heroes Of Our Age

I suspect that many people have been waiting as I  have, for someone to come along and fix things in our society. Lately, our society as left a lot to be desired. Civility has all but vanished in our little worlds as well as the world at large. Violence, in all its dimensions, is more common place whether in word or deed and has largely replaced a certain safety and peace we had come to expect from each other including the respect and dignity due to each one of us as human beings. Selflessness has been replaced by selfishness where the common good of our society is no longer considered first and foremost, but coming after our own desire of what is good for me and the heck with everyone else.

There is very little in our world today that unifies all of us, but much that divides us. Secularism and relativism is fast encroaching upon us with devastating results. We bemoan what we see and experience in our violent world, yet we continue to place obstacles before us instead of recognizing and accepting the good that could alleviate the problems we face. God? Of course God, but as in the past, God spoke through people He chose such as Abraham, the Prophets or the Church. Diseases were cured through the Curies and Salks of the world that God sent to us. Evil was confronted by pious and courageous men and women who thought not of themselves but of their fellow man and their own children as they marched off to war to defeat it. Religious faith was fought and defended with the likes of Augustine, Aquinas, Padre Pio and all the saints that God raised to defend us.

We seem to have a severe lack of these heroes in our society today. Cancer and HIV are rampant, wars and conflicts rule the landscape, religion is seen as a pariah on the world and godlessness seems to rule the day. Though many do fight against these evils and heroically at that, where are the particular heroes that will lead the way for the others? Where is the Salk that will find the cure for cancer? Or for Parkinson's and HIV? Where is the statesman that has been given the gift to soothe the violence subdue the evil that that permeates the world, pitting nation against nation, people of one ethnic group or culture against another? Where is the saint that will warn us against taking the wrong path or instill in the world a true desire for peace that it clamors for? Has God given up on us? Is that why we cannot find these true heroes in our midst anymore?

God is faithful and we've seen that time and again in the Old Testament even when Israel turned away from God. God would not have come to us and sacrificed Himself  in our place if at some juncture in human history He would have washed His hands of us. So no, I do not believe He has given up. As a matter of fact I believe he continually sends heroes into this world to help us but we in turn keep rejecting each one that is sent. How do we reject the heroes sent?

Consider this possibility for the answer: Since 1980, 1,200,000,000 (billion) children have been destroyed in the womb through abortion. Compare that number with China's population of 1,339, 724,852. How many heroes in this number did God send to this fallen world? If we keep destroying and killing the modern day prophets that are sent by God then who will speak for Him in our world? Maybe, just maybe God will begin to speak to us directly and we will not like what He has to say.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Continuing Christmas Silence

I'm sitting at my desk next to the window and large, white flakes are whipping around outside. I knew this snow storm was coming and yesterday I made preparations. I now have plenty of food, lantern fuel, candles and of course water. I don't have a furnace but I've got a wood-stove that has been my companion for over thirty years and plenty of wood to feed it. I can either cook on the wood-stove or use my kitchen stove which is fueled by propane. Without power, the only thing I would need to light the propane stove is a  match and yes, I've got a box of "strike anywhere" matches. I've battened down the hatches and I am as prepared as I can be for whatever comes my way. I've been through this umpteen times and this time will probably be no different.

As fortunate as I am in having my little fortress, I know others may not be so lucky, however as is always the case, preparations around our community will allow those without heat should we lose power to at least have a warm place to go with food provided. Inconvenient? Yes, but most are usually very grateful for this. I've even had neighbors in my own home when the need arose for a warm place. You learn a lot about your neighbors in these situations. Stiff upper lip and all that rot right?

But for now the peace and quiet is exquisite. Any noise outside is muffled except for the occasional metal scraping of the town plow going by. This gives me a chance to get a peek as to how much snow we've gotten so far. So, what does one do on a day or two of this? Cook. I have taken a new loaf of bread out of the oven and that has been replaced with a pot of homemade, french-Canadian style, baked beans for this evening's supper. I got that recipe from my Mama. Navy pea beans, salt-pork, onion and prepared mustard. Nope, no sugar.  I may have been born a mere hour from Boston, but Boston Baked Beans with all that sugar and molasses has never ever tickled my palate.

I've been on a quest for over a year for a fluffy, moist, home-made bread that will retain its freshness for 4 or 5 days. Two weeks ago I finally found one, or I should say I found a new method of making my own  bread recipe. I've not been disappointed.  This bread is so soft, moist and fluffy that you can make little dough balls out of the crumb and flick them around the house. My only problem now, as it has been for a few years, is in finding plastic bread bags to store it in. Other than having to order 1000's of bags at a time or just a few that cost more per bag than the ingredients in the bread, I approached my super market that has its own bakery and was able buy 20 bags from them for less than two dollars. Can't beat that huh ;). They are rather thick, so that makes them reusable. Even better! I don't know why I never thought of asking them before, but better late than never.

I keep a cast iron tea kettle on the wood-stove to get a bit of humidity in the house.  I made my own potpourri for the kettle last week consisting of nutmeg, cinnamon, a bit of allspice and a half cup of apple cider.  This is by far better than anything I've bought in the past to add to my kettle. Imagine the smells wafting through the house at the moment, the potpourri, bread, beans baking....yeah...see what I mean? Its enough to make me want to nap it is so relaxing. I probably will a bit later. The beans can take care of themselves. I also got skinless franks to go with the beans. The best. Old Neighborhood brand. Got that? Get them.

I've got three glass lanterns in case we do lose power. All are rather tall, 12" or more, with a glass chimney and glass fuel globe on the bottom. Ever put a lantern in front of a piece of polished metal? The reflective, diffused light is almost as bright as an incandescent bulb. Now light three of them and you have as much light as you had before the power went out. Perfect to read by without eye strain. I keep the candles for the bedroom and bathroom. It's plenty of light.

Books. I'm never without books. After home-made beans, books are next in priority. They don't sit on my shelves to look pretty but to consume and consumed they are. Like the beans. I've already picked out a book to read should the time allow, and it will, I promise you. It's by Archbishop Charles Chaput. Did you know his name is pronounced "chapoot" ? Yeah, I found that out about a year ago. I still pronounce it "chapit". Force of habit. Forgive me Archbishop. What do you want from a Yankee that pronounces Worcester as "woostah" or Gloucester as "glosta"?  I have a few more, but we shan't go there. If you want to go there, take the log out of your own eye first...we all have our foibles when it comes to pronunciations.

Update: The snow is coming down faster now. The only things faster are the chickadees that are flitting back and forth from the bush outside my window to the bird-feeder. The frequency in which I have to refill that feeder makes me wonder if those chickadees are actually flying pigs rather than birds...

The quiet is now profound. I can hear the cats purring but it is a gentle purr. The lady of the house is even quieter than the cats because she reads a lot and not a peep can be heard from her. No, she's not reading "chapoot", but murder mysteries. No thanks. To me, reading Agatha Christie is like having to eat Boston Baked Beans.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Third Hour Of Christmas

Those with an eye for detail must have noticed that several of my posts are written in early morning. I've gotten up early for so long because of my work that even on days off I have trouble sleeping to a normal hour.

It is now three o'clock on Christmas morning and I'm awake. I know many of you would think that odd for someone to be awake at this hour especially if one is not preparing for work, but here I am. As would be expected, it is very quiet at 3:00 am, especially living in the country. As a matter of fact, the road I live on is isolated and has no street lights. My neighbors are so far away that any light emanating from their houses is unseen from my own home. You can be sure that when I look to the night sky every star created seems to be visible. It's an awesome sight.

But there is another quiet that rests here at this hour. It is a quiet that goes deep within me, to the core of my being. It is easy to feel the solitude that the shepherds must have felt two thousand years ago watching their sheep on that first Christmas morning. Unknown to them and the rest of the world, God was quietly at work saving us all. Though I may not feel it, I now God is quietly working in my own soul. It is a deep work, a quiet work with no fanfare. It is a work so important to Him that He came among us and died so we would not self-destruct in our foolish ignorance. Though I may not always feel Him at work in me, it is at times like this, at this hour, that I feel a profound peace within me despite the turmoil that surrounds me.

This third hour of Christmas is a blessing to me from my Lord. I am alone with Him and he whispers things unheard but to the ears of the soul. My soul. There is a big difference between worldly peace and the peace of heaven. When I pray for peace in the world, I know that this peace will only last until the next violent act. The peace that heaven offers is a lasting peace. It is a peace that anchors itself in our hearts and souls if we are open to it. It is not a peace that depends on weakened man but on the One who created me. So yes, it is a lasting peace.

It is a peace that gives me a glimpse of heaven while I'm trying to keep my head above the water of this world. This is a spiritual peace that only the soul can experience, yet the body cannot help but respond to it. I know I will lose my grasp on this peace while treading the worldly waters if I allow it, but like Peter, I will call out "Help me Lord!", if I begin to sink again.

As always, I awaited His coming these past few weeks of Advent as I do every year. I have not been disappointed. He has come. He is here now for us all.

With all the love that this weak little man can muster at this third hour of Christmas, I desire for all of you a very holy, blessed and joyful Christmas. Come Lord Jesus, Come!

Monday, December 24, 2012

St. John the Baptist's Personhood

The argument for abortion has taken twists and turns for pro-choice advocates. Once it was the question as to when life actually began in the womb and once medicine confirmed that life actually began with the fertilization of the human egg by the human sperm, then the other question asked and used by pro-choicers was whether or not this new life was actually human. With the advent of DNA testing we come to solid evidence that the DNA of the new life IS actually a human life. It is not a puppy or a kitten but a human life.

Now we are confronted by the question of whether or not this new life is actually a person. If we cannot prove it is a person then there is no reason not to abort. Since the "person-hood" of the unborn cannot be proven in solid terms or defined such as a materialist demands then it stands to reason that a rejection to abortions cannot be justified by the pro-life advocates. Then again to some who defend abortion, it has nothing to do with any of the above questions but simply as a choice a woman can make given it's her right to have an abortion.

If Christians have difficulty with the notion that an unborn human life is not a person or has not reached person-hood in their development then we have to ask the question of when does an unborn, human life acquire the characteristics that makes it uniquely a person. I've read several articles by people trying to define what makes an unborn human a person and the definitions run the gamut. I can ask twenty people the same question and get twenty differing definitions of what is or makes a human being a person.

I suppose we could ask whether or not emotions are part of being a person and we would have to answer yes. If we accept the argument that though human, the life in the mother is still only a mass of tissue, a blob that DNA says is human but without person-hood then this blob would not have emotions let alone exhibit them. But to a confused Catholic that truly does not know if the unborn are persons we should consider last week's reading of Mary visiting Elizabeth. If we as Catholics believe scripture as divinely inspired and inerrant then this reading should have given the confused Catholic pause. Here are the verses;

Luke 1:41-44
41 And it came to pass that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost. 42 And she cried out with a loud voice and said: Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold as soon as the voice of your salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.

The first thing we must notice is that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost when she spoke to Mary. In fact what Elizabeth said to Mary was actually inspired by the Holy Spirit. And what did the Holy Spirit say through Elizabeth?   

44. " For behold as soon as the voice of your salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy."

If St. John had been merely a blob or a mass of tissue though human but without person-hood, then he would not have leapt for joy. Joy is an emotion that we all feel at times as PERSONS! He heard the sound of Mary's voice and reacted with emotion. Only a person could do that and react in this manner. If we truly believe God as the author of holy scripture and holy scripture is inerrant then what are we to make of the above passages? There are other verses also in the Old Testament that gives testimony to the unborn as being a person.

I realize that this may not convince anyone that is not a believer in the Bible as proving that the unborn, human life is a person, but I personally know some people that are Catholic but are not sure of this and are genuinely confused. Perhaps this verse can go a long way in convincing them that the Church is has been right all along: Being human DOES mean we are in fact persons and not just human blobs without personality.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Newtown: Where Are The Atheists And The ACLU??

President Obama gave a speech at the Newtown High School in CT. in honor of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. He did what he should have done and did it well in my opinion. Yes, we can parse every word he uttered and find something wrong somewhere, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt and say his intentions of trying to comfort those in the audience were true. But this post is not about what his intentions were, but what will be the reactions of the atheists and the ACLU concerning the President's speech.

Where did the President give his speech? In a public school. What among other things did he talk about? God. Surely there must have been atheists that were offended by his numerous mentions of God, prayer and scripture. Obama quoted scripture, emphasis mine.

 " not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away...inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands."

This goes completely against atheist thinking, yet not one word from them.  And this, " And even when we're trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God's heavenly plans.-Obama. 

Divine Plans? Atheists do not see any divine plans let alone a divine being. Where's the outcry from the atheists? And this, " You remind us what matters. And that's what should drive us forward in everything we do, for as long as God sees fit to keep us on this Earth.
"Let the little children come to me," Jesus said, "and do not hinder them — for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven."

The atheists must have been fit to be tied. There is no 'reason' for our being except a random occurrence  of nature, at least that is what we are told time and again by atheists.

And finally this,
God has called them all home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on, and make our country worthy of their memory.
May God bless and keep those we've lost in His heavenly place. May He grace those we still have with His holy comfort. And may He bless and watch over this community, and the United States of America. (Applause.)

Atheists have made it their full time job in making sure there is separation of church and state in our country. They've ridiculed, prosecuted and persecuted religion at every turn. Now I'm waiting. I'm waiting for them to take the President to task and to demand an explanation for the words he spoke at the school. This was a public place and the speech was given by a public official, the President of the United States. Is he going to be given a pass? Why? Did the circumstances dictate that the speech was 'okay' with atheists considering why Obama was there in the first place? Who determines when the mention of God is okay in a public place for Americans? Atheists? Are they the authority of when and where God can be mentioned without consequences? Who gave them that authority?

The ACLU. Where are they? Where is their lawsuit against the President? Or is he immune from lawsuits? Why are they not representing the atheists who were offended by all this mention of God by the President? So far we've not heard a peep from either the atheists or the ACLU. They are not fools. They know that if they had put up a stink about the mention of God from the President after this massacre of innocent children that the backlash against them would have been enormous. They would have lost whatever integrity they believe themselves to possess.

No, you won't hear anything or much of anything at all, or even a lawsuit from both of these groups for they are nothing but cowards.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Avoiding Newtown

I was stunned when I heard the news on Friday afternoon as I'm sure we all were. I kept hearing bits and pieces of information as the day drew to a close, taking stock of what I heard, then something else would grab my attention and I would turn to the task at hand, putting Newtown on my back burner. On Friday night and into Saturday, I made several efforts to avoid hearing more news about the massacre, telling myself I would wait until the media sorted it all out and the truth and details that would emerge would be more accurate and not the result of reporters trying to get the 'scoop'. My avoidance of hearing more information concerned me. I began to feel as if I didn't really care about this and I wasn't sure why and then on Sunday morning I went to Mass and the real reason of why I wasn't glued to the TV all weekend hit me in the face.

The Mass was the most somber Mass I had ever gone to. Our pastor mentioned Newtown in the opening prayers and comments and my eyes welled as my throat constricted. I was on the verge of sobbing out of grief through the whole hour of Mass. As I looked at everyone's faces filing past my pew after they received communion, I saw and felt the grief and pain on their faces. Tears streamed down my face. I couldn't help it. I almost lost it and then I knew why I avoided the news. I just couldn't bear it. I just could not bear anymore bad news, tragic news that seemed to permeate my world in which I lived.

Despite hearing or reading the questions of where was God, or why was God not there, I knew the answers already. He was there witnessing the effects of a broken world in which man had free will and I am sure beyond all doubt that God was horrified at what He saw happen in Newtown, for if he was not horrified by it, as my pastor explained, I would not be sitting here in Mass worshiping a God that didn't care. 

We view God with our limited vision, and think of His motives with limited hearts and minds never really answering our questions during such times. We become angry with God when we are in pain. We may swear off our faith or cut our own noses off by refusing to go to Mass because we perceive God as uncaring when such crimes happen because we think we may be punishing God. I wasn't angry at all, but stunned and hurt. I put myself in place of the parents that lost their children in the wake of this massacre. I couldn't bear thinking of losing my children and put that thought right out of my mind or tried to.

After Mass, as I was getting out of my pew, I encountered a man that I see every Mass I go to and we just looked at each other. Nothing was said but again, our eyes welled up as we nodded to each other in acknowledgement of each others presence. Tight lipped, we turned to our own way and left the church as another day in this broken world was about to begin.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Church and Calamity: Prescription For Truth

I've noticed a ripple of change going on in my parish, good change. Over the last two years my parish priest began a subtle shift in the way he celebrated Mass. It's become more...reverent, not to say his Masses were lackadaisical in the past. He seems to put more emphasis in his prayers, especially the Eucharistic prayers, and his movements are more deliberate, calculated, and with a force of determination in leading the faithful to see what the Mass is: Worship of God. If there was a sense that Mass was leaning toward a communal get together rather than the worship of God through the Eucharist, it no longer exists.

His homilies also seem to have gone through a subtle change. If anything, Father D very often dealt with the Gospel's subject matter in a generalized, "safe" way so as not to offend certain sensibilities in the pews but without pandering, especially in a PC manner. I would have desired a more to the point offering from him during his homily, but overall I liked them and usually could extract something from them that benefited me in some way.

Before his assignment at my parish, Father D was the Dean of Catholic Schools in my state and a bit of a free thinker for lack of a better word. I had a chance to listen in on conversations he's had with other parishioners at social events in our parish at times and he seemed to have a certain "progressive" bent to the way he thought about society in general. I suppose I have always thought him to be a liberal, but certainly not to the extreme that seems to pervade our culture. No, not at all, but it was there, just below the surface. But one thing is certain though, he never let his politics or even his free thinking invade the sanctuary during the Mass.

It was during the last presidential campaign that I began to notice his shift from safe homilies to a more direct trajectory on moral issues in our society, especially in the culture war we are now engaged in such as abortion, homosexual/SSM, the HHS mandate that we as Catholics face and the precarious position our Freedom of Religion has found itself. Though I never heard his opinion on national healthcare, I would have to think that his thoughts on this issue ran along the same lines as the bishops in general, that healthcare should be a right and all of the people should have access to it no matter their financial position. I understand all this and empathize with them, but I believed them naive in trusting the government in doing things in a morally acceptable way, healthcare included.

It seems clear to me that the position the bishops have on national healthcare was never really thought out. I have a distinct feeling that the bishops and some of the priests believed national health would just descend on this country in a non-confrontational manner where peoples rights and freedoms would not be impaired and all would be hunky dory. The 2008 presidential election seems to have slapped the Church back into reality about government and how it is run. This administration was no friend of Christianity or constitutional freedoms. I believe my pastor felt the sting of that slap and began to see what was coming down the pike.

What has really been missing in many homilies across our nation is the direct teaching of the Church on all issues from the pulpits, especially the controversial ones, and it has been no different in my parish over the years until recently. Sometimes teaching a Truth requires no more than affirming the truth rather than condemning an action that is contrary to the truth. With SSM for the future now becoming a reality in many states, Father D has begun to promote traditional marriage as between a man and a woman in all its glory. He never has to condemn the SSM movement that is occurring for the truth about marriage is doing that on its own. His homilies leave absolutely no doubt as to what the Church teaches about marriage without even having to mention SSM. Promoting the good without having to condemn the bad.

This past weekend was no different. Citing the annual secular war on Christmas, Father D spoke of our responsibility to speak out as Catholics, not only with our words but our actions also. He was not ambiguous in any manner as he encouraged all to defend the faith as we profess it, both within our families and in the public square. He acknowledged that many of us, including himself, have not been fervent enough in our faith to teach the public the truth and how we now find ourselves with the very real possibility of losing our religious freedom. Our apathy in faith is what has brought us to this precipice. He encouraged us all to use this year's Advent as an opportunity in not just changing ourselves, but in turn, our society as well. Yes, his homilies are very encouraging to say the least.

Is all this too late? Some may say yes it is, but I say no, it is never too late to speak the truth, though some may have fallen by the wayside because of the lack of hearing it from our Church. Our Church history is rife with calamities that endangered its mission and life yet God has always produced saints to come to the rescue in these times. Heroes of the faith.  We are in dire need of heroes right now that will produce a faithful and pious Church. I know it is the turn of events in the last two elections that has helped Father D along in preaching the Truth more explicitly, but sometimes calamities such as our society is finding itself in is the right prescription to our healing. Painful? Absolutely. Redemptive? Oh yes!. It doesn't stop with the priest at the pulpit however. After every Mass we are exhorted to go forth and spread to others what we have received at Mass. We, as the faithful need to step up to the plate also. We are all to speak the Truth no matter the consequences.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Good Deed

By now, many of us know the story of NYC police office Lawrence DePrimo  who upon meeting a homeless man without shoes and who's feet were freezing, went out and bought this man a pair of boots. Chances are that no one would have known of this kind deed had it not been for the picture which has been plastered in the newspapers. Questions have been raised as to whether the man was really homeless and  where are the boots he had been given since he has been seen barefooted about the city. Whether the police officer had been played or not by the man who was barefooted is also being asked. My answer to those questions is so what? What if he had been duped?

Is the officer's deed any less kind or valuable if he indeed has been played by the man in the street? I don't know if the the officer was Christian or not, but what he did for that man was. This whole story says more about the police officer than it does about the homeless man. For the record, it seems that yes, the man is no longer wearing his boots but not because he sold them for drugs or booze but because he hid them. Why? Because they were valuable and his life could have been in danger had someone tried to steal them. That's the reality of life in the street.

What  DePrimo did and the manner in which he did it should be a lesson learned for all of us. Not only did his act of kindness sought to relieve the suffering of a man he didn't know, but it is obvious by now that it was not a publicity stunt and the officer had no idea his picture had been taken. He gave of himself quietly and without fanfare. DePrimo is a public servant as are politicians, but you would be hard pressed to find a pol working a soup kitchen or visiting a slum without the requisite cameras recording their every move for a photo op during an upcoming election. DePrimo did not plan on making himself or the homeless man the focus of the darling media.

 Yet, what if DePrimo had done his act of kindness only to find out later that the homeless man was not homeless and just a drug addict looking for money to buy his next fix, or just to buy a bottle? It would not matter one whit as to whether or not DePrimo's act seemed wasted. No deed to alleviate the suffering that we believe we see is a wasted deed. If the officer had been duped by the man, then the man would have to answer for his deception at some point in his life, not DePrimo.  In his eyes, he saw a suffering man and didn't ask whether he was a drug addict, an alcoholic, a thief or anything else as to why he was homeless and barefooted. He just accepted what he saw and had the means to help and he did. No questions.

Was DePrimo being naive when he didn't question the man about his motives or his present condition? It depends. Was Christ being naive when he KNEW man's motives and sinfulness and did His own good deed on the cross anyway? No good deed to our fellow human beings goes unnoticed by our loving Father, no matter who the recipient of that deed is.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent IS Hope and Change

People seem to have a common desire when it comes to hope. Hope to many of us means different things. We hope for better times ahead whether they be in the form of financial stability or success, a better job, a good marriage, having children, our health, etc. Change, when combined with hope means we seek a change in others and ourselves or a change in things around us that conforms  more closely to our own desires or wants.

When Obama campaigned for his first term as President he spoke of hope and change in such a way that many who heard him were captivated by these words. They felt that when he spoke of these two things he was actually echoing their own thoughts of what they believed hope and change meant in their own lives. He never really clarified what he himself meant by hope and change, but allowed others that heard him come to their own conclusions in what he meant. People wanted change in their lives and country for what ever reason and their hope was in Obama, the man to give it to them.

It took a whole generation for Americans to come to accept the belief that government was the source of benevolence, the source that would provide their every need. Though this belief was slow in coming and subtle in its approach, it nevertheless seeped into the American psyche that the government was the entity that would provide all we needed to live a happy and full life. As many have said before, half this nation now has an entitlement mentality, that they are entitled to have what others have whether they themselves have worked for it or even deserve it. Half of America now works for the other half and the balance has not yet leveled out.

The road to government dependency is now fully paved and many are embarking on it. As more and more people begin to see the government as their source of happiness and safety net the more they stray from what should be their hope and the change that true hope will bring about. It has been four years since Obama's hope and change has been implemented and now this nation has to come to grips with it. What we see is hope and change that is empty and with no substance. This is what a nation without God ends up with.

This year as in every year, we enter the season of Advent in preparation for the coming of the Christ Child. It is during this time of preparation that our hope, as faithful Catholics, for His return needs to be honed to a fine edge. It is during this time that true changes need to be made. Unlike Obama's hope and change, our hope and change is spiritual and eternal in nature and should begin with Christ and end with a change in our hearts.

My own yearning of hope and change has been rattled a bit by the elections though I had not placed it in government. No, I did not vote for Obama and no, I did not think that Romney had all the answers for this country, but I do think he would have given this country a bit more time in turning itself around. Calamities, destruction and disasters have always been catalysts for people to turn back to God and when we look around us today and see what we have wrought for ourselves, I believe that it is the wake up call that we've needed and knew was coming. Do not fool yourselves into thinking our politicians are solely responsible for our state of affairs. We voted for them. The responsibility falls right onto our laps.

Advent is a time of hope and this hope in Christ is sorely needed today. Changes made to our hearts to live out this message of Hope that Advent calls us towards is needed also, more than at any other time in our recent history. We all have a desire to see our societies reflect the good and moral nature of God but that will not happen without a true conversion in our hearts. Advent is not just to prepare for Christmas, but to prepare for our Lord's final coming. Lent calls us to fasting and prayer, yet Advent is no less a call to do the same in order to cleanse ourselves of the ungodly that we harbor within our hearts. We as individuals and as a nation need to call upon God to instill new hearts, pure hearts and more loving hearts in each of us if we expect our hope for change to be reflected in the world around us. 

This nation is in for some hard times, though they need not be unfruitful. We should not view the election results as a disaster, but as a time to open our eyes to the spiritual reality that surrounds us and is everlasting. We should look at the results of the last election as an opportunity to renew ourselves and our relationship with God. When we as faithful Catholics see society out of control and headed for an abyss, it is then we see ourselves clearly at the mercy of God. It is too bad that we have to wait until a disaster before we recognize this, but with every disaster comes a chance for healing.

When all seems lost it is then we look to the Shepherd to guide us. Faith needs to be tested in order for it to be strengthened and flourish, and believe me, our faith will and is already being tested. Be thankful for that. Asking God to instill in us a new heart during this season of Advent is a step in the right direction towards prioritizing what is truly important in our lives. It is the first step that should be taken. If we want to change the world, our nation and our society, we need to make changes in our hearts and that can only be done if we place our Hope and Change in God, beginning this Advent.