The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!


Monday, June 18, 2018

Homily: Monday, 11th Week in Ordinary Time

Readings: 1 Kgs 21:1-16; Ps 5; Mt 5:38-42
-----------------------
Many years ago, while browsing in a used bookstore in Sydney, Australia, I noticed a most unusual map hanging on the wall. It was a map of an alien world, a world of oceans and continents, nations and seas, mountains and deserts, but very different from our world.

I took me a moment to realize what it depicted and when I laughed aloud, the proprietor said, "Not bad, Yank. You figured it out pretty quick."

You see, it was a map of our world, but it had been printed upside-down, with the South Pole at the top and the North Pole at the bottom. Complicating things was the fact that Australia was centered on the map, with Asia and Europe off to the lower right, North America to the lower left.
Our World Turned Upside-Down
The proprietor said most Americans and Europeans got upset when they figured it out, saying, "It's wrong," or "It's not accurate," or other stupid things. Actually, about the only thing you can say is that it's unconventional, because it's certainly no less accurate than any other world map. It's just upside down...well, from our point of view.

Today's Gospel reading is a lot like that map.

For countless centuries the ancients believed in what we might call the Law of Vengeance. It was really a pretty simple concept: if a person or a tribe committed a crime against me or my tribe, we would take vengeance on them and destroy them. Murder, tribal warfare, and constant strife followed, on both a small and a grand scale - not unlike the ethnic cleansing in our own world. It really didn't work very well.

Then, among God's chosen people, there came a new law: the Law of Retaliation -- a significant advance, ethically, socially and legally. It mandated that no punishment should exceed the crime. It satisfied the honor of tribes, clans and families and avoided endless feuds. And this was pretty much how people thought at the time of the Gospel...until Jesus turned the world upside down, just like that Australian map.
"Offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well" [Mt 5:39].
This went counter to thousands of years of ingrained tribal and national culture.

Jesus came into the world to conquer evil, but taught an astounding strategy: defeat evil by surrendering to it! Triumph over evil by allowing it to triumph over you. Imagine what the people thought as they listened to Jesus.

Isn't this cowardly? Shall we let evil rule the world by giving it carte blanche? Doesn't this make us its accomplices?

No. And Jesus followed his teaching with several examples, showing us that it takes far more courage and selflessness to be a disciple than to fight violence with violence, evil with evil.

Let us never forget that Jesus knows the heart of man. He knows our militant idealism against evil is too often just a mask for self-righteousness. to satisfy our craving to win.

"An eye for an eye" [Ex 21:24] was a necessary step in the world's ongoing education to accountability, but it can't be the last word. If I pluck out your eye because you have plucked out mine, eventually we'll have a blind society.

No, Jesus tells us, surprise your adversary with compassion, with love, with forgiveness - with true justice according to the Heart of Jesus.

Put evildoers at the risk of being converted. Change human society by introducing the principle that motivated Jesus: self-giving at all costs.

After my enemy has slapped both my cheeks, he'll have no more to slap. Perhaps he'll be ashamed.

If I give him both my shirt and my coat, perhaps he'll learn to have pity on my nakedness.

Perhaps my open hands and silent mouth will, like an eloquent teacher, win a brother in the Lord.

Perhaps...perhaps...perhaps.

But wrapped up in that perhaps is our willingness to abandon ourselves to God, to trust in Him completely. It's the same trust manifested by 2,000 years of Christian martyrs.
2,000 Years of Martyrs
In our first reading Jezebel used evil for selfish ends, taking the life of the innocent Naboth. But as she and Ahab ultimately discovered, God's will always overcomes evil -- not our will, but God's will, and in God's time, not in ours.

This is the risk we take as disciples of Christ: that my apparent weakness will be seen as an invitation to even greater violence against me.

Yes, this is the risk -- but far less than the risk Our Lord took when He came into our midst.

The risk He took when He handed Himself over to us, to be stripped naked, whipped and mocked.

The risk He took when He opened His arms on the Cross.

How are we to act? Not according to the Law of Vengeance, or the Law of Retaliation, but according to the Law of Christ. We are called to act as He taught, as He acted.

He allowed His blood to be shed, blood that transformed the heart of the man who held the lance. Jesus turned a Roman soldier's world upside down when that Centurion looked up at the cross, and saw Almighty God mocked, beaten and crucified.

And that's what we, as Christians, are called to do.

Can we let God turn the world upside down, and can we let Him do so through us, with love and forgiveness?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Book By a Great American

I am proud to say that in all my years as a Massachusetts resident I never voted for former Senator John Kerry. And I certainly didn't vote for him when he ran for president, a race that, thankfully, he lost. Why did he fail? I've always believed one key reason was the public exposure of his less than honorable service during and after the Vietnam conflict. And this exposure was largely due to John O'Neill who formed the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to counter the steady stream of untruths told by Kerry after his return from Vietnam. The future senator and Secretary of State told many a whopper about his supposed heroics, but far worse he lied about the honorable service of the truly heroic men who served in Vietnam and fought the Viet Cong in the Mekong Delta. Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to John O'Neill for making the truth known.
John Kerry with Jane Fonda
John O'Neill and I are Naval Academy classmates -- Class of 1967 -- which for me is a true honor. My own service in Vietnam doesn't compare to that of John and his fellow warriors in the Brown Water Navy. As a Navy helicopter pilot I flew some search and rescue missions, mostly off the coast of Vietnam, but John and his crews were truly in the thick of things. Yes, indeed, we owe them a lot. It's just so sad that politicians of both parties failed in their responsibility to those whom they sent into harm's way by losing a most honorable and winnable conflict.
Brown Water Navy
But that's all behind us now...well, mostly. And John, too, has turned to other things. In fact, he has written a book, and a wonderful book it is!   

I've long been fascinated by the story of the excavations that uncovered the tomb of St. Peter beneath the Vatican Basilica that bears his name. Over 30 years ago I read John Walsh's book, The Bones of St. Peter. But that earlier book only whet my appetite to know more.
Remains of St. Peter's Tomb
And then 10 years ago, Diane and I, on one of our trips to Rome, managed to get tickets for the tour of the tombs beneath St. Peter's Basilica. Called the Scavi Tourit's limited to about a dozen people and includes the tomb of St. Peter and the necropolis uncovered during the excavations. It was a fascinating experience and the highlight of our visit. I even posted a brief description of the tour on this blog: Click here. (Should you not be able to visit Rome and take the tour, you can still experience the virtual tour online. Click here.) And yet, even after that up-close-and-personal visit, I still wanted to know more about the history of the excavations. 


https://www.amazon.com/Fishermans-Tomb-Vaticans-Secret-Search/dp/1681921405/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1528849455&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=the+fisherman%27s+tomb&psc=1
John O'Neill's book, The Fisherman's Tomb: The True Story of the Vatican's Secret Search, has answered all my questions. It's tells the captivating and true story of the search for St. Peter's tomb, a search necessarily conducted in secrecy since it began in the midst of World War II when Hitler's Wehrmacht occupied Rome. It's an exciting story with a remarkable cast of characters: Pope Pius XII, one of my heroes; Margherita Guarducci, a remarkable archaeologist and epigrapher, a woman you will never forget; and a Texas oilman who secretly funded the entire project. John O'Neill has given us a real page-turner. I sat down, opened the book, and began to read. I couldn't put it down until I finished hours later. Get the book. You'll love it!

I actually have to buy another because a friend grabbed my copy the other day and has yet to return it.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Homily: Memorial of St. Barnabus (Monday, 10th Week of Ordinary Time)

Readings: Acts 11:21b-26; Ps 98; Mt 5:1-12

The Beatitudes, with which Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount, are not only a gateway to the sermon, but also a gateway to Jesus' teaching.

But we should understand they don't refer to different kinds of Christians but rather to different demands made on everyone who wants to be Jesus' disciple. In other words, we must all be poor in spirit and meek; we must mourn, hunger and thirst after righteousness, be merciful and clean of heart; we must be peacemakers, and be willing to suffer persecution while seeking holiness.
The Sermon on the Mount
Jesus promises salvation to all who strive to follow the spirit and meet the demands of the Beatitudes. Healthy and sick, powerful and weak, rich and poor - Jesus calls all to the blessings experienced by those who live up to His teaching. While the Beatitudes promise salvation not in this world, but in the next, they do promise peace in this life, God's peace even in the midst of suffering.

In a sense, then, the Beatitudes encapsulate the entirety of Christ's teaching. These promises are so new, so radical, so at odds with the way the world has always evaluated things. By placing spiritual good above material or worldly good, they rule out the religiosity of the Pharisees, a religiosity that regards earthly happiness as a blessing and reward from God, and unhappiness and misfortune as punishment. 

And so I think it's good for us to turn to them on occasion, reminding ourselves of what Jesus is telling us...

The poor in spirit? These are the detached, the spiritually needy, the truly humble, who look only to God for salvation and trust in His mercy. They know they are children in the presence of God, that they own nothing. Everything comes from and belongs to God. This spiritual poverty is what Jesus asks of each of us.
Blessed are the poor in spirit...
Those who mourn... Too often we think this applies only to the mourning that follows the death of a loved one. But Jesus takes it much further. We are blessed, He tells us, when we suffer and bear our suffering with love and a spirit of atonement. We are blessed in our repentance, and when we are pained by or suffer from the offenses of others.

Indeed, the Holy Spirit consoles those who mourn, those who weep for their own sins and the sins of the world. These are truly blessed.
...for they will be comforted
The meek suffer patiently and with humility, even in the midst of unjust persecution. The meek aren't the weak - not at all - for once again Jesus turns the world upside down, showing us the strength of the meek, those who remain serene, humble, and steadfast in their faith, who never give in to resentment or discouragement.

You and I, when we are irritable and resentful, simply display our lack of humility and interior peace. The virtue of meekness is the antidote and a necessary part of the Christian life.
Blessed are the meek...
Hungering and thirsting for righteousness, we strive to do God's Will by seeking justice, obeying the commandments, living a life of prayer - in a word, striving for holiness.
Seeking holiness, we are called to turn to the Church, the universal vehicle of salvation; to love the Church's teaching and the Sacraments; to strive for an intimate relationship with God in prayer; and to seek justice, God's justice, in all we do.

Jesus wants us to hunger and thirst for all He offers us, including His Presence in the Eucharist; for it is all good. 
Hunger and thirst for God...
The merciful always forgive. They accept other's defects, helping them cope with them, and loving them despite their sins. To be merciful is to imitate Jesus, the source of all mercy. To be merciful is to rejoice with others and to suffer with others. It's really the practical application of the 2nd of the great commandments: love your neighbor as yourself.
Blessed are the merciful...
The clean of heart have the capacity to love, a gift God offers to us all. They have an upright and pure attitude to everything noble. As St. Paul instructed the Philippians: 
"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is beautiful, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" [Phil 4:8].
Helped by God's grace, we should strive to cleanse our hearts and acquire this purity, for its reward is the vision of God.

The peacemakers foster God's peace in themselves and in others. They strive to be reconciled and to reconcile others with God.

Being at peace with God is the cause and effect of every kind of peace.  Any peace on earth not based on this divine peace will be shallow and misleading. "They shall be called sons of God" [Mt 5:9]. As St. John makes clear in his first letter,
"See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are" [1 Jn 3:1].
Blessed are the peacemakers...
The persecuted suffer because they strive for holiness, something the world despises. They are blessed for being true to Jesus, for suffering patiently and joyfully.

In every Christian's life there are situations that call for heroism, where no compromise is possible. One either stays true to Jesus Christ whatever the cost or one denies Him.

St. Bernard calls it "the beatitude of the martyrs." But don't be deceived into thinking it doesn't apply to you; for martyr simply means witness, and we are all called to be witnesses to Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Christian martyrs today
We are reminded of this today, the memorial of St. Barnabus, who not only spent his life as a witness to Jesus Christ, but willingly gave his life.

St. Barnabus, Martyr 61 A.D.
To refuse to be the Christian witnesses we are all called to be is to lack faith, to have no trust that God remains with us to support and strengthen us.

Yes, indeed, following the Beatitudes, living the true Christian life, isn't easy; but God promised to remain with us, to help us as we struggle to put them into practice. Because of this promise, you and I can believe that all sacrifice and all suffering has value.

When we suffer, yes, our faith can be tested. But we know that we can trust God no matter how difficult the circumstances. We can say, "Thy will be done," no matter how much we are defeated. If we can do these things, our faith is real and practical.

For God's will works in bad times and in good times.  It works in ways that are far beyond our ability to understand, but we can always trust in it.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Homily: Memorial of the Immacuate Heart of Mary

Readings: 2 Tim 4:1-8; Ps 71; Luke 2:41-51

A long time ago, way back in the year 431, the Council of Ephesus gave Mary the title: Theotokos, a Greek word meaning "God Bearer" or "one who gives birth to God" or as we say today, "the Mother of God". By giving her that title, the council didn't mean that Mary was the Mother of God from eternity. But because Jesus Christ is true God and true man, and Mary gave birth to Him, she is, therefore, the Mother of God in time.
Icon: Theotokos
It's the misunderstanding of the Church's long-held teaching on this relationship between Mary and Jesus that has led some Christians to think that we Catholics worship Mary as some sort of goddess. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. But from the reality of this relationship, we can fulfill Mary's prophecy in the Magnificat and can call her the "Blessed Mother" [Lk 1:48].

As many of you know, motherhood is no easy vocation. Both my mother and my wife had to put up with a lot and sacrifice even more during those years when their time was focused so intently on raising their children.

But can you imagine how it must have been for Mary...to be the Mother of God...and be fully aware of it? After all, Gabriel didn't hide anything from her:
"Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end" [Lk 1:31-33].
And so Mary knew from the first that this child of hers was the "Son of the Most High."
"He will be...the Son of the Most High"
It must have been a remarkable family life; she and Joseph raising Jesus who is fully human, all the while aware of His divine origin.

Luke, and to a lesser extent, Matthew give us a glimpse or two of life in the Holy Family. It's as if the Holy Spirit is telling us, "You don't need to know the details of daily life in this holiest of families, but I will share a few incidents with you, so you will know who Jesus, Mary and Joseph really are."
Just consider all that Mary encountered:

The long arduous trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and the unexpected need to give birth in a cave, a stable fit only for animals.

The Presentation in the Temple, the prophecy of the pain she would suffer, the sorrow she would experience.

The life-saving flight to Egypt, refugees in a foreign land where they would await the death of a brutal king.

The quiet years in Nazareth, when she must have wondered how this Son of hers, this Son of the Most High, would fulfill all that had been prophesied.

And that one event Luke shares with us in today's passage: the Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem, when the 12-year-old Jesus is lost in the crowd of pilgrims. The panic she and Joseph experience, the frantic search, the joy of finding him, and their bewilderment when after three days He wonders at their parental concern.
"I must be in my Father's house."
In each instance Mary found herself in the dark -- just as later she wouldn't fully understand her Son at Cana, or when He asks the crowd, "Who is my mother?" [Mt 12:48] or when she cradles her Son's lifeless body in her arms at the foot of the Cross on Calvary.

But in every instance, Mary ponders these things in her heart. She need not fully understand these things; and, anyway, how could she understand? How could any mother fully understand the crucifixion of her Son?

And so she ponders. She steps away from the crowd, seeks the quiet of contemplation, and savors all that has been revealed to her. In doing so teaches us how to pray, how to accept God's will, how to abandon oneself to God's love.

Mary ponders, she returns to the source, to that day when the angel declared her, "full of grace," when her heart overflowed. Yes, that pondering heart of Mary is immaculate, perfectly pure in its intent, because it focuses solely on Jesus.

Mary is single-hearted. She trusts in God, just as she trusted when Gabriel asked for her response. But now, that same trusting, pondering, immaculate heart is focused on you and me, interceding for our salvation.

This is the immaculate heart, the heart of Theotokos, the Mother of God that we honor today.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, pray for us.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Declaration of War: an Anniversary

Today is the 74th anniversary of D-Day, when more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified beaches of Normandy, France. This successful invasion of occupied France was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany and its allies. We should honor all those brave men with prayers, thanking God for blessing them with the sacrificial courage they demonstrated on those beaches, especially those who sacrificed their lives so we could live in freedom today. Only a small remnant are still alive today.
D-Day at Normandy


On the Beach D-Day
But there's another little-known anniversary that was marked this week, one I believe is particularly relevant. June 4 was the 76th anniversary of the last time the Congress of the United States declared war. On June 4, 1942 the USA declared war on three nations: Hungary, Bulgaria and Rumania. At the time all three were puppet states, allies of Nazi Germany. We had already declared war on Japan (December 8, 1941) and on Germany and Italy (December 11, 1941). Prior to these six declarations during World War Two, Congress had declared war only five times: with Great Britain (1812); with Mexico (1846); with Spain (1898); with Germany (1917); and with Austria-Hungary (1917). Despite all the conflicts in which we have engaged since that declaration of war 76 years ago, Congress has not declared a state of war with any nation. 
Korean "Police Action"
There was no declaration of war with communist North Korea -- or their communist allies, the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union -- even though well over a million Americans took part in the conflict (1950-1953) resulting in nearly 150,000 killed or wounded. The Chinese communists actually fought alongside the North Koreans and the Soviet Union provided arms, training and air support to our enemy. President Truman called the conflict a "police action" under the auspices of the United Nations. And despite the fact that his stated objective was to free North Korea from communist rule, this was never achieved and today we are living with the results of that failure. No peace treaty was ever signed and the Koreas -- North and South -- have lived under a mere "cease fire" for the past 65 years. Thanks to President Trump, this may change. I encourage you to pray for peace on the Korean peninsula. Pray that the Holy Spirit enter the hearts of all who will take part in next week's summit and bring about a long-term solution.
President Donald Trump and Kim Jong In
Neither did we declare a state of war with North Vietnam, in a conflict that involved Americans for over 20 years, from 1954 to 1975. Vietnam was another conflict with ill-defined objectives and predictable results. Ostensibly we were involved to ensure the freedom of the Vietnamese people and yet the conflict ended with the communists overrunning the entire country. This was an American political failure, resulting from gross political weakness and a failure of leadership. It resulted in a strategic military failure despite the steady stream of tactical military successes by American troops. Of the more than 2.5 million Americans who served in Vietnam during the long conflict, over 10% of them were killed (58,169) or wounded (310,000). Vietnam, of course, remains a "conflict" since Congress never issued a formal declaration of war. Personally, I have always considered my involvement in the Vietnam conflict (I was a Navy helicopter pilot) as a particularly honorable part of my life. 
Vietnam: Helicopters Rule
Since then the United States has been involved in many other conflicts, including the so-called "Gulf War" (1990-91), our response to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. After the terrorist attack on the United States of September 11, 2001, we engaged in additional long-term conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite the wishes and delusions of many of our politicians, we remain involved in both of these conflicts along with several others spawned by our half-hearted "war on terror." Given what has been happening in the world, no one can honestly declare that we have won or are winning this pseudo war. 

Given all this I suppose one can make a reasonably good case for saying we have not won a major conflict since Word War Two, the last time the United States Congress declared the nation to be at war with an enemy. Would it make a difference if Congress actually declared war on all forms of Islamist Jihadism, on all groups or nations that use terrorism or support terrorists? A declaration of war gives the president very broad legal authority. He can stop the export of any products, even agricultural products; he can take complete control of the nation's transportation systems; and he can direct manufacturing plants to produce weapons and seize those that refuse. Such a declaration also makes anyone who supports the enemy an enemy agent and liable for prosecution. These are certainly substantial powers, but there is much legal precedent for granting the president such extensive powers during wartime.

The first problem is that a declaration of war presumes that the government intends to win the war, thus creating high expectations on the part of the electorate. Only Congress can declare war, but that means our senators and representatives must live with their decision and its results. And make no mistake, members of Congress prefer not to take responsibility for anything that might threaten their reelection. Without a declaration, failure can more easily be rationalized or simply ignored. 

The second, and perhaps greater, problem is that a declaration of war demands that Congress identify the enemy. One cannot officially declare a "war on terror" because such a declaration identifies no enemy entity. Terror is a tactic not an enemy. The real enemy is that segment of Islam that desires to destroy Western Civilization. Until our government and the people who put them in power can accept and declare this, we will continue as we have since Word War Two.

Get Educated...Get a Life

Get religion, get smart. According to a study conducted at the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University, young people who practice and are committed to their faith perform at a higher level academically than those who are less religious.


llana Horwitz
Ilana Horwitz, the doctoral candidate who conducted the study, interviewed almost 2,500 public schools students aged 13-17 placing them into five categories based on the depth of their religious life. She named the categories from most to least religious as follows: abiders, adapters, assenters, avoiders and atheists. (It seems she has a preference for "a" words.) Her study concluded that the more religious had a significantly higher grade point average than the less religious. For example, the "abiders" -- described by Horwitz as those who attend religious services, pray on a regular basis, feel close to God, and emphasize the role of faith in their daily lives -- earned an average GPA of 3.22. In contrast the "avoiders" -- those who believe God exists but avoid religious involvement in their lives -- earned an average GPA of 2.93.



Horwitz attributes the difference to two key factors: conscientiousness and cooperation. She went on to conclude that "church attendance and doing well in school require commitment, diligence, and routine...The ritual practice of rising and going to church or mass, and so forth – whether compelled by one’s own faith or one’s parents’ demands – commits a youth to a practice and routine, a skill that translates into tools needed for academic success.”

It seems, then, an active religious faith can make a difference in both this life and the next. Get religion and get smart; or you can follow the road most taken and...

Get a relativistic education. I was taught, in both school and at home, that if I knew little or nothing about a subject, I should remain quiet for fear of revealing my ignorance and sounding like a complete fool. When it comes to all those important, earth-shaking topics, I've tried to follow this advice, although those who know me well might disagree.

Usually, though, if I'm interested in a subject, I read about it, study it, and relying on my common sense, listen to the arguments of more knowledgeable people. Only then do I feel comfortable to form an opinion. Even then I'm ready to change that opinion as I learn more about the subject and the motives of those making the arguments. The sought-after end is always the truth.

Apparently, in a world dominated by relativistic thinking, comprehending the truth is no longer the desired goal. How can it be, when your truth and my truth and their truth, all very different from one another, all become acceptable? The true relativist accepts all of these "truths" as valid because no knowledge, no beliefs, are truly objective; all is subjective. Indeed, he rejects the very idea of objective truth and, like Pontius Pilate, can turn to the Source of Truth itself and sneer those words, "What is truth?" Remarkably, he can do so without any embarrassment whatsoever.

Today, however, political correctness has led to a strange, illogical twisting of relativism. Now only some "truths" are acceptable. Those that support the ideological left are fine regardless of their relationship to objective reality. Any other truth must be attacked and discarded. The lie, then, becomes a truth if it furthers the desired ideological ends. This is why so many of our politicians and their elitist fellow travelers can knowingly tell obvious lies and not be taken to task by a media driven by the same ideology. As Lenin is reported to have said: "A lie told often enough becomes the truth."

I encountered a beautiful example of this a few months ago. Supposedly intelligent college students didn't hesitate to offer their opinion on the president's State of the Union speech several days before he delivered it. Assuming he had already delivered the speech, they willingly aired their opinions of what he supposedly said. What fun to listen to their comments on the content of a speech as if they had actually listened to it. In other words, they lied, but that's okay because their lies support the ideology. They have been so completely indoctrinated that their opinions before and after the speech would be virtually identical. This is what ideology does. It brainwashes. Don't confuse me with the facts; my mind is made up. Or, perhaps more accurately, the ideology has captured my mind and dictated my thoughts.

Here's a video of these NYU students:


Uncovering and highlighting the ignorance of those claiming to be educated would be great fun were it not so sad.
Lenin and Hitler: Little Difference
Should you visit a college campus and have the bad fortune to experience an up close and personal encounter with a violent leftist of the Antifa movement, just ask him to define fascism, the ideology he claims to oppose. Ask him to describe the kinds of policies fascist governments have historically imposed on their populations. Ask him to do the same for communism and communist governments. The answers (or lack thereof) will amaze. Indeed, there is little difference between Antifa activists and the true fascists they condemn -- just as there was little difference between the tactics of Hitler's Nazis and Stalin's Marxists. Truth, understanding, and knowledge are of no importance. Only the ideology counts. It results, of course, in the enslavement of the ignorant, the very "useful idiots" the ideologues call on to do their dirty work.
Ben Garrison Cartoon
Yes, indeed, there's an element of slavery here. Too many have become so complacent in their ideological servitude that they are unable to think. I fear it has begun to affect the nation as a whole. As Americans we probably enjoy more physical comforts than those living elsewhere and yet at the same time we are losing our mental freedom. Even more strange is the infantization of college students who must be protected from any thoughts that might possibly disturb them.
Protect me...please, please protect me

Of course, far too many colleges and universities encourage all this by eliminating required, foundational courses in history, philosophy, literature, and the development of civilization. In 1962, as a freshman at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, I was required to take a course in logic. (I still have both the textbook and workbook, to which I have referred many times over the years.) I suspect very few college students could even define "logic" today. And I still fall back on what I learned that same freshman year in the legendary Carroll Quigley's course on the Evolution of Civilizations. Professor Quigley was the kind of liberal that no longer exists, one who would graciously listen to other points of view and engage in the give and take of good argument. 

Carroll Quigley
Without an understanding of the human condition -- the knowledge offered by the foundational studies mentioned above -- no person is truly educated. But even where such courses continue to be taught, their content is too often distorted by the prevailing leftist ideology. Argument and open discussion of contrary views -- the means to seek out the truth -- are not just discouraged but even prohibited.

Yes, it's a sad truth that most college graduates today depart these institutions woefully uneducated. Some have acquired the basic technical skills demanded by a chosen career field and go on to accept entry-level positions in industry, government, education, or health care. But they have been trained rather than educated. No doubt many will succeed as the world measures success, but are they prepared to answer, or even ask, life's great questions?

Others, having focused on politically correct areas of study, graduate with few marketable skills and find themselves working at what are essentially unskilled jobs and living in mom's basement.

Mom's Basement Ain't So Bad
Still others choose to enter professions that require the increasingly specialized knowledge and skills taught in  graduate schools. Brandishing advanced degrees and professional success they are viewed as experts to whom the world should listen. In truth, their expertise and knowledge are often so specialized, so narrow, that they are less likely to offer the answers so many seek.

A young person today must make a choice. If the goal is wealth and worldly success, and nothing more, then by all means do what must be done to attend one of the elite institutions. Accept the indoctrination and be prepared to live a narrow, meaningless life.

I've already, probably too often, offered my opinion on the quality of higher education at most colleges and universities. To the young person of faith, I offer the following advice. First, listen to St. Paul and what he told the Philippians:
I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus [Ph 3:14].
In other words, don't sweat the small stuff, and that includes how you earn your living in today's world. Focus instead on the eternal "prize of God's upward calling." Be a person of faith, one who sees beyond this life to eternity.

My most recent advice to the average high school student is to learn a useful trade, the kind that will always be in demand, or enlist in one of the military services, while at the same time pursuing higher education online. And then read. Read and re-read the works of those whose thoughts formed humanity's great civilizations. 

That advice hasn't changed. 
A Marine in Afghanistan - Learning About Life
Life, in fact, is the best educator. And I really believe that the average 20-year-old Marine with combat experience in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere has a deeper understanding of the human condition and the state of the world than most recent college graduates. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Random Thoughts

What follows are just a few random thoughts that popped into my aging brain as I scanned the news yesterday evening and this morning. Among them are a few predictions, which will likely be very wrong indeed. In truth, though, I've sometimes done pretty well looking into the future. For example, back in 1967 when I was making my way through Navy flight training in Pensacola, I would occasionally chat with another flight student who happened to be a Saudi. It didn't take long to realize that he and his colleagues despised us. These conversations and other subsequent interactions I had with military officers from Muslim nations convinced me that our greatest future threat would come from the Islamic world, a threat motivated by a kind of irrational fanaticism. Whenever I aired these concerns in military circles the response was predictable: "You're crazy. It's the Soviet Union we need to worry about, not a bunch of Arabs." This attitude changed on 9/11/2001.

More recently I got quite good at predicting President Obama's actions involving the Middle East. My rule of thumb? Any action he took, any decision he made, would always support the Shiite Muslims. I may be wrong, but I believe this stemmed from the fact that his father was supposedly a Shiite. But enough of the past...


Bye-bye Europe. If you plan to vacation in Europe, I'd suggest you do so soon, while it still exists. The pro-abortion vote in once Catholic Ireland is just one more symptom of Europe's rapid decay. The acceptance of abortion, indeed the entire contraceptive mentality that has gripped much of Western Civilization for the past 50 years, is the primary cause of its future destruction. Once a people decides its weakest can be destroyed for any reason whatsoever, human life at every stage becomes essentially worthless. This can lead to nothing but the people's ultimate self-eradication.

The root causes? Europe's movers and shakers openly deny its Judeo-Christian roots and have convinced most of the population to do the same. In fact, Europe has discarded Christianity to such an extent that today European atheists quite likely outnumber its active Christians. And Europe's Jews are more at risk than anytime since the 1930s. It's all very sad and so predictable. Once the cult is removed from a culture there's really nothing left that's worth saving. I expect that my children and grandchildren will witness Europe's accelerating destruction from a kind of continent wide civil war. It will be messy, fueled by an immigrant-led insurgency, a confused and suicidal secular establishment, and a feisty nationalistic remnant. Think of Syria on a continental scale. Messy indeed.

Memorial Day Forgotten. I had hoped to visit the national cemetery in Bushnell, Florida on Memorial day, but then discovered that, along with Diane I was assigned as on-call chaplain at The Villages Hospital. And so we spent a few hours popping in and out of the rooms of the newly admitted folks, praying with them, talking and laughing about all sorts of things, and spreading God's love and mercy wherever He thought it was needed. It made for a good morning, and got my mind off of the weirdness that seems to arise on Memorial Day.

Every Memorial Day I suffer because of the stupidity and ignorance of so many. Yesterday, for example, some leftist talk show host stated that on this day we should honor those who resist President Trump. Hearing such talk from the left encourages me since I can't believe most Americans could possibly agree. If the day ever comes when a majority discard the true meaning of Memorial Day and replace it with such gross political tripe, we are doomed as a nation.

Then there's the trivial uttered by the clueless. Earlier yesterday morning a smiling TV meteorologist declared that Memorial Day is "really the day we celebrate the beginning of summer, the first real beach day!" She was hoping to join her family for a week's vacation at the Jersey shore.

Of course there are also those well-meaning but ignorant folks who confuse their holidays. One news flunky told everyone to "be sure to thank all those veterans out there on this day when the nation  remembers them." Yes, it's always nice to be thanked (on Veterans Day), but the ones we thank on Memorial Day are the ones resting in peace in our national cemeteries.

And I try to ignore all those who create the commercials and newspaper ads that use Memorial Day as a way to push their wares.

I really think the decline began in June 1968 when Congress voted to change the dates of four of our national holidays to give people three-day weekends. No longer would Memorial Day be celebrated on May 30; we would now salute our fallen on the last Monday of May. With this, people began to think more of the long weekend with its barbecues and trips to the shore than of those who gave their lives so we could taste such pleasures in the freedom they won and preserved for us.
Antifa Doing Their Thing
Democrat Crack-Up. I don't understand the Democrat party. Their visceral hatred of Donald Trump has seemingly blinded them to the reality of political life. Not long ago the polls (if you can believe them) gave the Democrats a huge lead in the upcoming November mid-term elections. Now those same polls show them several points behind. The party, which once had a rather large, influential, and moderate center, now seems to be led by those of the far left. Even Hillary, who's not all that moderate, recently complained that the socialists (aka Marxists) have taken over the party's leadership. And at the grassroots level it has become a party of far left special interests -- Antifa, Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood, CAIR, La Raza, Southern Poverty Law Center, etc. -- that certainly don't represent the beliefs of most Americans...at least not yet. Has the party become so ideological that it has lost the ability to engage in any kind of bipartisan effort or seek productive compromise? It would seem so. If the Democratic far left wins in November I suggest you pack your bags and go off the grid.

The Senator's Father
John McCain. Let me state up-front that, even though I voted for him, I've never been a fan of John McCain. I got to know his father, Admiral John S. McCain, years ago when he was Commander-in-Chief Pacific. As a young junior officer and Navy helicopter pilot I flew him around Hawaii for a few weeks and during this time had a number of interesting conversations with this crusty, cigar-smoking admiral. I developed a tremendous respect for him.

As for Senator McCain, I've always thought he was too much the politician. For me that's perhaps the worst thing you can say about a public figure since I can't think of a single career politician I respect. I'm sure there are a few deserving some respect; I just can't think of one. Career politicians, driven by their desire to remain in office, tend to lose whatever philosophical and moral grounding they might once have had. Lacking this firm foundation they say whatever is necessary to appease the voters and then do what is necessary to maintain power. I won't denigrate Senator McCain's patriotism because he certainly suffered at the hands of the Communist butchers of then North Vietnam. This, however, happened years ago and I have many friends who suffered right alongside him. No man should be judged solely on the good or bad he did in the distant past.

I'm concerned more with the senator's recent political antics that seem to be focused more on creating problems for his personal foe, President Trump, than on the good of the country. The latest piece of news is that he is waiting until after June 30 to resign, thus eliminating the need to have an election for his seat this year. This would allow Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to name McCain's wife, Cindy, to serve as senator until the 2020 elections. If this is true -- and I don't know that it is -- it seems to be just another example of a career politician's sense of entitlement. The voters are ignored so the politician's plans can be fulfilled. We'll just have to wait a month to find out.
John and Cindy McCain
I'm sorry that the senator is dying but that's something we must all face. As Senator McCain approaches his death, I ask God to grant him the same grace I hope and pray He grants me: that John McCain, the man, has the will to repair any damaged relationships he may have caused; that he is humble enough to heal any wounds he may have inflicted; and that he turn to His merciful God and Judge in repentance.

God's peace...