Friday, February 10, 2017

The Primal Sanctuary

Sanctuaries are much in the news these days.  Sanctuary cities are providing protection for people who may face deportation under newly imposed orders affecting undocumented immigrants.  We have wildlife sanctuaries, marine sanctuaries, and sanctuaries in our churches.  Sanctuaries are where we seek protection and safety.

At the Opening Mass for the March for Life on Thursday, January 26, Cardinal Dolin spoke about the primal sanctuary, the mother’s womb.  When we violate this most sacred sanctuary, no other sanctuary remains safe.  I would urge everyone to follow the link and read his message. 

I watched the 2017 March for Life coverage on EWTN for about six hours.  For the first time in history, the vice-president of the United States spoke a strong pro-life message at the rally.  While there has been much criticism of Donald Trump’s first days in office, one cannot deny the glimmer of hope we now have that Roe v. Wade may someday be overturned.  Imagine how different the mood at the Rally would have been different had the election gone the other way. 

Now, acceptance of euthanasia appears to be spreading like darkness over society.  As one speaker so aptly put it, once we lose respect for the beginning of life and the end of life, we lose respect for what lies in between.  The evidence is apparent in the senseless killing of innocent lives we hear about most everyday.

Liberal minds view anyone who voted for Donald Trump as a bigoted hate monger.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Oh yeah, you can find a few who supplant the message and twist it to fit their own sick agenda.  Jascha Heifetz is quoted as saying, "No matter what side of an argument you're on, you always find some people on your side that you wish were on the other side."   

The country is now in an uproar because Trump imposed a travel ban on those coming from primarily Muslim countries.  The question seems to be whether the ban targets a specific religion.  Where were the protesters when Obama’s healthcare mandates targeted Catholic institutions, businesses, hospitals, and orphanages?

Trump was elected by those who saw respect for human life in a frightening decline.  They saw government encroaching on freedom of religion by mandating immoral behavior.  They saw the basic rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness being eroded.  The other candidate would have exacerbated the problem.  We had no choice. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Too Much Trouble?

My only New Year Resolution is to refrain from saying, “It’s too much trouble.”  I am one of those people who lament the fact that things aren’t as good as they used to be.  Think of all the details that enhanced our life’s experience that are no longer appreciated.  From ornate architecture to personal appearance, we do not take the time or effort to do the little things that turn functional into special.

I marvel at the skilled detail early carpenters and masons incorporated into homes and storefronts centuries ago.   Decorative millwork was done by hand without power tools and fancy equipment we see in modern shops today.   Unless you are a high-end contractor, you probably do not know the terms bargeboard, haunch, or tympanum.  New construction, at least in our rather low-income area, no longer includes eave brackets, pilasters, or mansard roofs.  These things have fallen out of fashion despite the fact that contemporary manufacturing techniques would make them simple to construct compared to the labor necessary two hundred years ago.  If cost is not the major detriment, why do we now seem to favor functionality over beauty?  Perhaps it is just too much trouble.

Children and adults once dressed in their Sunday best for going to church or even social events.  If you have ever watched a movie clip of a major league baseball game in the Babe Ruth era, you will see white shirts and neckties on the men in the stands.  Few boys today likely own a suit or necktie anymore.  Women wore dresses in public with few exceptions.  Customs change over the years and dressing up is now considered an unnecessary burden.

As life becomes easier, we tend to get lazier.  We don’t have to work as hard, so we don’t appreciate hard work.  Why put in the extra effort if no one notices?  Decorations have become simplified.  Instead of doing the Clark Griswold theme on the house at Christmas, now we can set one laser light on the front lawn and shine beams on the whole façade.  Ten minutes work and we are done. 

Our church dinners were once a time for unification.  We used real plates, cups and saucers, and passed food in serving bowls.  Cleanup time and doing dishes afterwards was when we bonded with our fellow parishioners.  Now we use paper plates and Styrofoam coffee cups.  Most folks just leave when they finish eating.
Even our family dinners have suffered.  Too many distractions have left little time for parents and children to share a meal together. 

Mass attendance is down.  For many Catholics, fitting Sunday Mass into their busy schedule is too much trouble.  As God has been pushed aside by our society, taking time for worship is no longer top priority for many.   Church décor has been simplified to the point where the magnificence of God’s majesty is lost in the mundane.  Many of our newer Sanctuaries fail to reflect the incredible beauty of their inhabitant. 

In this new year, I want to take the time to appreciate how hard work reflects the beauty of our creator.  To settle for less is an injustice to the natural beauty that surrounds us.   Instead of looking for an easier way, let me look for a better way.  Help me make the extra effort, go the extra mile, and inspire others to do the same.  May it never be too much trouble. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Back to the Future

Imagine the year is 2525, and you are sitting comfortably in your luxury pod on Mars studying early twenty-first century writings, trying to learn what life was like for your ancestors on planet Earth.  At your disposal are thousands of recently discovered digital files that have been meticulously translated into contemporary Martian vernacular.  These appear to be reports from numerous sources on events that occurred near the end of the earthly inhabitation.   The only problem is that many of the reports seem to contradict one another.  The challenge is to determine which of these early writings are factual, and which contain misleading or downright false information.

What we know so far.  The twentieth century saw a transition in the way information was exchanged on Earth.  Events were originally recorded by a handful of usually reputable sources on a flat media called paper made from protrusions called trees that once existed on Earth.  By the year 2016, many of these newspapers became extinct.  Almost all news was now coded in digital media passed electronically through various networks via something called the Internet. 

The popularity of this new media quickly soared.   News traveled instantaneously all over Earth.  Terminal ports became commonplace among the populace, allowing anyone to pass information anywhere.  Yet, this remarkable ability also became its downfall.  The number of news sources grew dramatically.  While some were reputable, many were not.  Some reports contained erroneous information.  Others were deliberately skewed to promote a certain agenda.  Still others were downright spurious stories from which arose preposterous conspiracy theories that gullible individuals accepted as fact.   Even today, some Martians do not believe human beings ever inhabited Earth.

In the twenty-sixth century, we Martian historians are faced with the task of determining which of these early digital writings represent factual information about our earthly origins.  The complexity of this challenge is daunting.  Even reports attributed to once known reputable news sources predating the so-called Internet have been called into question.  Each story much be corroborated, looking for consensus and discrepancies.   Some are easily verified as factual, and some are obviously ridiculous.  Those are readily classified.  Many others contain some truth, but perhaps exaggerated or distorted.  These are disputed, requiring a team of qualified individuals to decide where they belong in the historical record. 

Now, imagine you are a Bishop in the fourth century facing a similar challenge.  You are sitting comfortably in your dimly lit catacomb preparing to attend a council where you will have to peruse a stack of early Christian writings on velum to determine which contain the inspired Word of God.  Some are already accepted as inspired, and others not.  Yet, many are disputed, requiring a team of duly appointed bishops to determine what will become the Canon of Scripture, the Bible that will guide future earthly generations, and perhaps even beyond.  Think about that responsibility and how misled Christians could be if a mistake were made. 

That is why God Incarnate in His Son, Jesus Christ, established a Church, and promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide the Church to all truth.  There is no fake news in Scripture.  If you trust in the Bible, you are trusting in the truth of the Catholic Church.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Feeling Blessed

I have much for which to be thankful, so much so, that compiling a list is an overwhelming task.  For my wife, sons and daughter, grandchildren and that all of us seem to be in good health is a blessing.  We are very fortunate to have a comfortable home, and freedom from major worries.  I realize all of this could change in a heartbeat, and I am forever grateful. 

On this Thanksgiving, I cannot stop thinking of those who are so less fortunate.  We know about those living in poverty around the world, those in war-torn areas, and children who are dying of starvation.  These are problems solvable by man and we need to work tirelessly to do so, but today, I am thinking about others closer to home who are anguished by circumstances beyond control. 

I am thinking of a friend who this Thanksgiving finds himself recently paralyzed from the waist down from a strange disease called Transverse Myelitis.  I am thinking about two neighbors battling terminal cancers and their families who are struggling to see their loved-ones dying.  I am thinking about the Flora, Indiana parents who lost four children in a tragic fire earlier this week.  I am thinking about the families of the children who died in a horrible school bus accident in Tennessee.  I am thinking of those who are suffering mental anguish for situations known only to them.

While we are laughing and enjoying our lavish Thanksgiving dinners, so many others will be shedding tears, just trying to get through the day.   Forty-one years ago, on the night before Thanksgiving, my own father died.  No doubt it was the worst Thanksgiving our family ever endured and one I will never forget.  Let us remember all of those who are suffering loss this Thanksgiving, comfort them when possible, and keep them in our prayers.

On a lighter note, I am thankful for the recent election results, not that Donald Trump won, but that a pro-life platform won.  Our religious freedom now has a better chance of being safeguarded.  If nothing else, we now have a ray of hope.  Keep praying!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

When Voting is a Matter of Life and Death

My father and I had a disagreement.  The year was 1972, the first time I was eligible to vote in a presidential election.  Dad believed in Richard Nixon and supported his candidacy for president of the United States.  For me, Viet Nam was the major issue.  I drew a high number in the very first draft lottery and was not drafted, but many of my friends were.  Nixon’s opponent, George McGovern, seemed like the best candidate to quickly end the war, at least in my eyes.  We had respectful conversations about out differences, but agreed to disagree.  Nixon won the election handily, but I know my father was very disappointed in him when the Watergate scandal came to light.  Dad died a year after Nixon resigned.

Today, I would reject McGovern as a liberal, but I didn’t think that way when I was 22 years old.    I grew up a Catholic who saw the first Catholic president get elected and then assassinated.  Most Catholics considered themselves Democrats and my Protestant father was a Republican.  That is just the way it was.  Shortly after Nixon’s election, however, things changed.  In 1973, the Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade made abortion legal, and the Democratic Party took a ride down a very slippery slope.

I eventually switched parties because of abortion.  How can any faithful Catholic support a party that promotes legally killing unborn children?  Abortion is a deal-breaker that trumps all other issues.  Loss for respect of life requires a spiritual depravity that comes from ignoring the existence of God.  Lack of self-discipline and personal responsibility, marital infidelity, and immoral behavior become palatable when a person comes to rationalize killing the unborn.  Marriage, families and religious freedom become vulnerable.  This mindset harbors a tendency to carelessness, conflict, and violence.  I believe there is a direct correlation between violence perpetrated on an innocent child and violence in our inner cities. 

So, as a Catholic, how do I cast a vote in a presidential election where both candidates are extremely flawed?  I must cast my vote based on party principles and not particular personalities.  Promoting the right to choose abortion by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party is completely unacceptable.  Supporting a platform that promotes evil makes one an accessory.  Casting a vote for Hillary Clinton would be a mortal sin for me.  I would not risk my salvation even if I agreed with her on other issues.   That means I have no other choice but to vote for Donald Trump, despite knowing he is defective. Yes, I could refrain from voting altogether, but doing so could aid Clinton’s election, and I cannot take that chance.   I hope my Dad would agree.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

False Prophets?

A high school friend of mine went on to become a preacher at a small independent Christian church.  Recently he posted a link on his Facebook page with this display.

What followed was a deluge of over 400 replies from followers of countless denominations and sects claiming they alone had the truth and all the others were false prophets.   The original False Prophet post came from something called the Christian Resistance, whatever that means.  It always amazes me how so many Bible-only Christians claim they alone hold the correct interpretation of Scripture.  Despite their varying beliefs, they all unite to agree the Catholic Church is unbiblical, even though they would not have a Bible to quote without the Catholic Church.

Refuting such claims for a Catholic is almost futile in the hostile environment of a protestant forum.   To the credit of a few fellow-Catholics, several responders did try to defend the Church although their message was likely lost in the din.  Sharing our faith with others is difficult when they have preconceived ideas that have been reinforced erroneously over many years.

Today, I watched a DVD I recently purchased from CatholicAnswers called The Three Secrets to Sharing the Faith, by Catholic apologist Trent Horn.  In it, he recommends the Socratic method of asking questions to those who challenge us about various issues of Catholicism.  Trent addresses the problem I often face when an opportunity arises to share our faith.  I get flustered if I can’t produce a quick reasonable response someone opposed to some aspect of Catholic teaching or practice.  Impromptu encounters offer brief opportunities for evangelization that may never come again.  I have often been kept awake at night, thinking of what I should have said during a conversation I had earlier in the day. 

Trent Horn’s video presentation demonstrates that not knowing all the answers need not prevent us from engaging in conversation, even when the opponent may seem more knowledgeable than we are.  Sometimes, all we need to do is question the challenger about what he believes and ask how he knows it is true.  Often they are regurgitating false information passed on by anti-Catholics that cannot be substantiated when pressed.  Trent also tells how to keep discussion civil and positive.  If you have found yourself in an uncomfortable position when challenges come up, I would recommend grabbing a copy of the DVD.