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!


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Saint for Our Times

Every so often I will encounter someone who believes that the Gospels, and indeed the entire Bible, are really no longer relevant because, "...after all, they were written thousands of years ago. How can they possible apply to our lives in today's world?" These are the same people who actually believe that human nature has changed, or in their parlance "evolved", since those barbarous times that preceded our more enlightened age.

These folks are perhaps best typified by a high school English teacher I sat next to on a plane a few years ago. In the course of our conversation, when she mentioned that she was currently teaching a course in English literature to seniors, I asked what authors she focused on. "Stephen King," she replied, "and Philip Roth, and Virginia Woolf, and Norman Mailer, and J. D. Salinger, and Toni Morrison, and Jack Kerouac, and Elizabeth Bishop, and James Joyce..." As the litany continued I interrupted her and asked, "Oh, so this is a course in modern English lit?" "Oh, no, she replied, but I find that most of those old, dead guys like Shakespeare really have little to tell us today." I won't bore you with the rest of our conversation; but, as you might imagine, it was rather animated.

All of this leads me to several observations. First, a work of truly good literature, what we would traditionally call a "classic", is a classic because it is not a captive of its times. This is why these works continue to be read even after hundreds, and in some instances thousands, of years. They are timeless because they are able to grasp and unravel and depict those "permanent things" in ways that continue to enlighten us regardless of the times in which we live. This is why I am never bored, why I can always find enjoyment by just sitting down and reading one of Shakespeare's plays, or a Jane Austen novel, or an essay by T. S. Eliot.

My second observation relates to the continued relevance of Sacred Scripture. If we believe that Jesus Christ is the Incarnate Son of God, the creative Word of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, then anything He said is a priori relevant; indeed, His words must be the most relevant words ever spoken. And since Sacred Scripture is His Word, it too applies to all times and peoples. If we consider such works as  Hamlet and Moby Dick, the words of mere men, to be classics, then Sacred Scripture, the Word of God, must be the Classic Supreme.

My final observation relates to the actual subject of this post: the continued relevance of the saints, even those who lived in very different times and were products of very different cultures. Despite all their differences, despite their separation from us in time and culture, the saints all have this one thing in common: the saints lived the Word of God. In other words, their lives reflected God's will for them and for humanity. And so, because the lives of the saints reflect God's Word and will, their lives can be nothing but relevant to us.

I mention all this in order to introduce a saint whom many would no doubt consider irrelevant when viewed through the lens of our modern sensibilities. She wrote nothing. She left behind no words of wisdom. She knew no popes or bishops, and probably very few priests. She didn't socialize with the rich and famous; indeed, she was rejected and cast aside by almost everyone, even her own parents and the cloistered nuns she lived with for a time. Only the poorest, the outcasts, the imprisoned -- the little ones of Christ -- were drawn to her, as she was drawn to them. She was blind, hunchbacked, lame, ugly and a dwarf. She lived 700 years ago in Citta-di-Castello, a small Umbrian city in central Italy where she survived as a homeless beggar. But she was far more than all these things, because she was also holy. She lived the Gospel as very few have before or since. Her name was Margherita, but we know her as Blessed Margaret of Castello. (Margaret has been beatified by the Church, but not yet canonized.)

I was first introduced to Blessed Margaret 30 years ago when someone in my previous parish (I have forgotten who) gave me a copy of Father William Bonniwell's book, The Life of Blessed Margaret Castello. (Although first written in 1952 and reprinted in 1979, the book is still available in paperback. Click on the book's title to order it via Amazon.) At the time we were forming a pro-life group in the parish and, after reading the book, I recommended we name Blessed Margaret as our group's patron saint. That began my relationship with this remarkable woman.

I won't go into detail on her relatively brief life (she died at the age of 33), because those details are available elsewhere on the web. (Click here to read an abbreviated version of her life.) I do believe, however, that Margaret is perhaps the perfect saint for our times. Who can better represent modern society's unloved, the outcasts that the world would just as soon dispose of through abortion or euthanasia? Margaret was the daughter of a wealthy, well-connected couple who were horrified and embarrassed by the birth of their less than perfect child. Today, armed with such modern medical tools as amniocentesis and ultrasound, her enlightened parents would no doubt have aborted her. How many saints like Margaret have been lost to the world because of parents whose only measure of a child's worth is physical perfection? And speaking of physical perfection, Blessed Margaret's body remains incorrupt to this day and can be viewed in the church of Santo Domenico in Citta-di-Castello, the city where she lived her adult life.

I suggest that, in anticipation of her feast day, April 14, you and I pray her novena, asking her to intercede for our nation and our world, to soften the hearts of those who have embraced the culture of death. Here's a link to her novena on the web: Novena to Blessed Margaret of Castello. And there is also a wonderful DVD on Blessed Margaret that you can obtain here.

Blessed Margaret, pray for us.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pope Pius XII: Hitler's Nemesis

The revisionist "historians" who seem so intent on defaming Pope Pius XII by falsely misrepresenting his role during World War II have in recent years been rebutted by some very reliable sources. One of the more interesting new books on the subject, written by Dan Kurtzman, is A Special Mission: Hitler's Secret Plot to Seize the Vatican and Kidnap Pope Pius XII.

(The photo below shows Pope Pius XII greeting the people of Rome during World War II.)


The book breaks new ground by bringing to light the hatred Hitler held for Pope Pius, whom he called a "Jew lover", and describing in detail the plot Hitler formed to occupy the Vatican, kill all the members of the curia, and take the pope prisoner. It's a fascinating read and presents a balanced picture of Pope Pius, his courage, and the difficulties he faced surrounded as he was by a ruthless enemy. I highly recommend it.

It you'd like to read a review of the book, click here: The Plot to Kidnap Pope Pius XII.

Another book on the same subject, written by Rabbi David G. Dalin, is The Myth of Hitler's Pope, and  chronicles how Pope Pius XII rescued Jews from the Nazis.

Two more books, written by historian Sister Margherita Marchione, PhD., provide irrefutable evidence of the extreme measures Pope Pius XII took in defiance of the Nazis to aid the Jews of Europe. Here are links to these books on Amazon:

and


Finally, there is the wonderful book written by Eugenio Zolli, the Chief Rabbi of Rome during the wartime years. His book, Before the Dawn, describes his journey to Christianity and his conversion to Catholicism after World War II. Becoming a Catholic, Zolli, whose given first name was "Israel", took the Christian name of Eugenio to honor Pope Pius XII (Eugenio was the Pope's baptismal name) for all he did to save Jews during WWII. One could hardly find a better witness than Rome's wartime Chief Rabbi.


And for those of you who'd rather watch the movie than read the book, Ignatius Press offers an excellent DVD called, A Hand of Peace, detailing Pope Pius XII and his response to the Holocaust.

I think it's time we Catholics come to the support of this courageous and holy man who is being unjustly and viciously attacked by so many. But we can't do this unless we know the facts.

The Persecution of Christians: An Update

Periodically I try to provide a brief update on one of today's most under-reported stories: the tremendous increase in the persecution of Christians worldwide. Large numbers, often hundreds at a time, of Christians have been martyred or imprisoned or forced from their homes, literally hundreds of churches have been burned to the ground, and yet we rarely hear about it on the network news or read about it in the pages of our local newspapers. And because it's such a surprise to encounter reports in the media of this ongoing and growing tragedy, I believe it's important to bring these reports to your attention whenever I do encounter them. (The photo below shows Muslim extremists attacking and burning a church in Pakistan.)

The first is from the heart of the mainstream media (ABC News), and addresses the subject of the persecution of Christians in some detail. It is especially concerned with the persecution that takes place in Muslim countries. Click here to read the story: Christian Martyrs.

The second, from the online version of the magazine, American Conservative, was written by one of their regular contributors, Philip Jenkins. It focuses on the growing hostility between Christians and Muslims in areas outside the Middle East; for example, nations like Malaysia and Nigeria. Click here to read the article: Christians and Muslims.

Another story appears in the online version of Der Spiegel, a popular German magazine (sort of their Time) and also focuses on the persecution of Christians in nations where Islamic extremism has taken hold. Like the above articles it provides an in-depth look at this disturbing and grossly under-reported trend. Click here to read the article: Christianity's Modern-Day Martyrs.

These are not "happy" stories, and they certainly do not coincide with the politically correct policies of so many media organizations; but I believe the persecution of Christians has now risen to a level at which it can no longer be ignored. We will hear more of it.

Of course, mass murder and its accompanying mayhem is an extreme form of persecution. There is a much more subtle form, one that is perpetrated not by Muslims or Hindus or any other religious group. Indeed, it is carried out by some of the least religious members of society. It is the kind of persecution that is motivated by an extreme but increasingly popular form of political correctness, the kind that can be found in our own "enlightened" Western democracies. As I have mentioned many time before, this subtle form of persecution is now well advanced in many European nations and in Canada. But it's also making an appearance here in the good ol' USA. Stopping it will require a vigilant and active citizenry.

Hey, Jesus promised we would undergo persecution so we shouldn't be surprised when we encounter it. But even during persecution -- whether of the subtle or not-so-subtle form -- we are still called to preach the Gospel, to love our God and neighbor, and to defend the Church Jesus founded.

God's peace.

Ralph McInerny's International Catholic University

As the few, loyal readers of this blog know, Dr. Ralph McInerny -- philosopher, theologian, multi-discipline scholar, best-selling novelist, poet, and Professor Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame -- died on January 29 at the age of 80. Dr. McInerny led a remarkably full life, a life marked by many significant achievements. In addition to his many books, one achievement will remain with us long after his death. Dr. McInerny was the founder of the International Catholic University (ICU), a wonderful organization that offers a wide variety of self-study courses, plus two graduate degree programs, all designed for today's busy Catholic. I have taken a few of the self-study courses myself, and found the faculty and the course materials to be excellent. ICU also offers two accredited "distance studies" masters degree programs, in theology and philosophy, which are administered by the graduate school at Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, CT. Perhaps if I can open up some free time in my busy life, I might just apply for one of these programs. After all, it's never too late to learn.

If you are interested, click here to read about ICU and its offerings.

I have included below a brief video made by Dr. McInerny, in which he discusses ICU and its mission.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bug Fixed

The folks at Google fixed the bug and my blog's header is once again visible. My grumbling has ceased.

Blogger Bug

In case you're wondering what happened to my "Being is Good" heading with the clip from Michelangelo's painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, I've become the victim of a Blogger bug. For some reason that image was deleted and I am unable to upload any images to my blog. Apparently the powers at be know about this issue and are working to fix it. We'll see how long it takes. Grumble...grumble...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Grandchildren

I just realized that in the few posts I made during our trip up north, I included photos of only five of our seven grandchildren. And so, in an effort to appease the two neglected grandsons, I present you with Ezekiel and Phineas (wonderful biblical names), who are quite obviously rabid New England Patriots fans. And how about all that hair?


...and, of course, I must include another photo of the new baby, granddaughter Veronica. I especially like her one-eye-open smile.


...and, finally, here's one more of the four siblings who live on Cape Cod: (L to R) Eduardo, Pedro, Carlos and Camilla.

Here Comes the Total Secular State

It seems to me -- and, of course, I'm wrong more often than not -- that we are about to reach an important point in our nation's, and the world's, history. It's a point in time when we will have less time and opportunity to turn things around, to reverse course and avoid what appears to be inexorable movement toward a society in which the state dominates and controls every aspect of the individual citizen's life. Once the foundational elements of this movement are put in place -- and universal, government controlled health care is simply one of these elements -- it becomes virtually impossible to remove them. Ceding power is something that governments don't do on a regular basis. And as we become increasingly democratic -- i.e., driven more by the whims of the electorate than by the Constitution -- the popular feeding frenzy ensures the continued growth of federally generated and controlled entitlements. Social Security and Medicare will soon be bankrupt, but can you imagine any politician proposing major cuts in either program? Not hardly.

Let me give you an example. As a retired naval officer, I'm a member of a large organization called the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). MOAA is really a lobby that ostensibly advocates a strong national defense, but actually focuses largely on compensation and benefits for active and retired military officers. Let me state that retired military officers are well compensated, and also receive fairly good health and other benefits. But MOAA seems willing to advocate for almost any benefit regardless of its long-term impact on defense readiness and costs. This is just the way of the world these days -- a sort of Ayn Rand Syndrome in which everyone places personal needs above the needs of the society. Personally, when I first put on a uniform in 1962 I did so because I wanted to serve and defend my country. I didn't make career decisions based on compensation, benefits or retirement income. I wasn't unhappy that all these things were part of the package, but they certainly didn't drive my decisions.

But today the desires of special interests always seems to outweigh the needs of the general interest; just as the immediate desires of the electorate always seem to outweigh the problems left to their descendants. Today immediate self-interest rules and so I see little hope that the citizenry will elect those willing to make the hard decisions needed to keep our nation from continuing its movement towards total state control. Congress might have sunk to its lowest approval rating in history -- closing in on single-digit approval -- but voters will still probably re-elect their own local representatives under the assumption that "our guy is different." Perhaps I'm underestimating the intensity of the public's hostility toward incumbents, but I think not. I suppose we'll see in November.

Interestingly, our current administration certainly seems unaffected by this public hostility and has continued its commitment to increased state control. In fairness, though, movement in this direction is nothing new and many previous administrations have abetted the process to some extent. But the Obama administration has moved with more determination and speed than any of its predecessors. I suspect the reasons behind the President Obama's single-minded focus are more ideological than political. In other words, I believe that his administration is willing to sacrifice political gain and longevity for what it believes are non-reversible ideological gains. And that's more than a little scary.

Unlike many of the conservative commentators and opinion makers, I am less concerned about the economic consequences of this movement toward state control. The economy is certainly important, but a nation can survive a collapse into poverty. No, my concern relates to the place of religion in our society and why the state will work hard first to control it and then to suppress it.

If you want to see growing state influence and control at work, you need not look far. Just glance to our north and see what has taken place in Canada. As Canada has become increasingly secular and, like much of Western Europe, cast aside its religious traditions, it has focused on a kind of ill-defined "tolerance" as its reason for being. Ironically, this tolerance is not universal and becomes almost violently intolerant of anyone who speaks out against any politically correct protected species. For example, to speak negatively about Islam or homosexuality is automatically labeled "hate speech" and becomes a criminal offense. And so, under the guise of democracy and tolerance what we really have in Canada is a budding totalitarian state, one already equipped with "thought police." Don't think it could happen here because of our First Amendment protections? Guess again. The courts have already gone a long way toward redefining the freedom of religion clause into a freedom from religion clause, and I expect they will continue in that same direction. The intent of the Constitution, and in particular the Bill of Rights, was to place restraints on the government, but it has "evolved" to the point that it now places restraints on the rights of the people -- and interesting turnabout since, in this country at least, it is the people who are sovereign, not the government.

All of this is motivated by the fact that the secular state cannot succeed without total authority. It cannot abide competing authorities, especially those that contradict its driving principles. And so one of the first things it must do is eliminate, or at least co-opt, religious authority. The Catholic Church is, of course, the most obvious target because of its hierarchical structure, its unchanging stance on moral issues, and the faith of its members. You can, therefore, expect increased attacks on the Church and especially on its leadership. The administration itself will not attack the Church directly; it will leave that task to sympathetic organizations and media outlets. And, believe me, it will have its effect, just as it has in Canada and in Western Europe. I'm afraid the faithful remnant grows ever smaller.

One of the more interesting elements of all this is the role many churches and their leaders play in plotting their own destruction. They hear all those wonderful humanitarian words emanating from the halls of government and jump to the conclusion that they and the government share a common belief. They believe the statists are motivated by the same Christian moral principles that motivate them. They then join in "partnerships" with government in which government is always the senior partner, the partner with the cash. And with this seniority comes control, followed by demands to set aside church teaching for the sake of political correctness. We're already seeing this with Catholic Charities in many dioceses as city and state governments demand that Church agencies ignore the Church's teachings on homosexuality and marriage when it comes to such issues as adoptions and hiring. Instead of maintaining their independence, many Christian churches have opted instead to take the easy money offered by the government. It's so much easier than preaching charity and truth to their congregations.

I suppose all that is the bad news, but as I said at the start, I'm wrong as often as I'm right. The good news is that no state that rejects its religious foundations can survive for very long. Without that foundation it will collapse. In this I am not wrong. And the real Good News, of course, is that Jesus Christ will triumph. We are not to be afraid of the world. We are called instead to preach the Gospel, to live the Christian life by loving God and our neighbor, and to turn to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church for direction and for the graces that come only from its sacraments. We are truly blessed!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Manhattan Declaration: A Call to Conscience

For some reason I thought I had already mentioned the Manhattan Declaration on this blog, but apparently it was one of those intended tasks that got lost amidst the aging gray cells and was never actually accomplished. Such things seem to happen more frequently these days. Well, better late than never I suppose. Anyway, I would guess that if you're not familiar with the Manhattan Declaration, you would want to know something about it.

The Manhattan Declaration is a 4,700-word declaration put together by a coalition of Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical clergy, leaders, and scholars in the U.S. It addresses common concerns about the sanctity of life, the importance of traditional marriage, religious liberty, and rights of conscience. The declaration was signed initially on November 20, 2009 and has since been signed by nearly a half-million others.

You can read the entire declaration (and download it) by going to this website: Manhattan Declaration.

I have included the brief summary section of the declaration below to provide an overview of its intent and scope. 
We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, have gathered, beginning in New York on September 28, 2009, to make the following declaration, which we sign as individuals, not on behalf of our organizations, but speaking to and from our communities.    We act together in obedience to the one true God, the triune God of holiness and love, who has laid total claim on our lives and by that claim calls us with believers in all ages and all nations to seek and defend the good of all who bear his image. We set forth this declaration in light of the truth that is grounded in Holy Scripture, in natural human reason (which is itself, in our view, the gift of a beneficent God), and in the very nature of the human person. We call upon all people of goodwill, believers and non-believers alike, to consider carefully and reflect critically on the issues we here address as we, with St. Paul, commend this appeal to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

While the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention, we are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions.

Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense. In this declaration we affirm: 1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; 2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and; 3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.

We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty.
The declaration has received wide support from Catholic bishops and I would hope that after reading the entire declaration, you would take a moment to "sign it" online. I believe it sends a needed and meaningful message. You can view the names of US bishops and other religious leaders who have signed the declaration here. (Note March 27: The Manhattan Declaration folks have apparently revamped their website and I can no longer find the list of religious leaders who have signed. My bishops -- Bishop Coleman of Fall River and Bishop Wenski of Orlando -- have both signed.)


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Coming Home

Diane and I leave for home tomorrow...finally. We've had a wonderful time visiting with our children. We sent my brother, Jeff, home to his Father. And we welcomed the latest addition to the family, Veronica Lynn. All wonderful things. But I'm once again tired of being up here in the Peoples Republic of Massachusetts. Every visit only reinforces our decision six years ago to move south.

I haven't paid a lot of attention to international or national news during our trip, preferring instead to take a vacation from the world. But today it's been hard to avoid all the craziness about healthcare. It seems our pro-death president and his congressional flunkies will likely get their way and give us a healthcare bill that has little to do with healthcare and a lot to do with increasing the federal government's power over the lives of its citizens. The bill is blatantly pro-abortion and will lead only to the deaths of millions of innocent, unborn children.

Ironically -- given that our president is African American -- abortion has been the leading cause of death in the African American community since the US Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Over 13 million black babies have been murdered in this country since abortion was made llegal. Although African Americans represent only 12% of the population of the United States, they account for 35% of the abortions performed in this country. Don't believe it? Well, you should, because these figures come from the US Government's Center for Disease Control. Abortion is decimating the African American family in the US. It is truly a form of genocide, and it's supported by virtuallly all African American "leaders." To my knowledge this is the world's first instance of a genocide supported by its victims. And so, all those folks who wax eloquently about our president's great intellect should ponder this fact. I have, and have come to the conclusion that this man is either insane or a complete fool.

Ah, well, when a people abdicates its sovereignty (and remember, we Americans have always held that the people, not the government, are sovereign) they get the kind of leadership they deserve. A people foolish enough to cede its rights to those it has placed in power will soon find themselves enslaved by corrupt, power-mad leaders.

How did Thomas Jefferson put it? “Periodic revolution...at least once every 20 years...[was] a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.” It would seem we're long overdue.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Jeff McCarthy's Funeral & Homily

We gave my brother, Jeff, a beautiful funeral on Saturday at my former parish on Cape Cod, Holy Trinity Parish in West Harwich. Fr. Ed Healey celebrated the Mass and I assisted and was privileged to give the homily. Four other deacons joined us in the sanctuary, something for which I am especially thankful. Three of Jeff's West Point classmates (class of 1962) also attended, including his roommate and a longtime family friend, Marsh Carter. Another classmate in attendance was General Dennis Reimer, USA (Ret), former Army Chief of Staff and good friend of my brother. But we were all particularly pleased that Jeff's son, Marshall McCarthy, was able to be with us. Marshall flew up from his home in Costa Rica and rekindled his relationships with his cousins whom he hadn't seen in 20 to 30 years. God turns all to good.

I have included my homily below for those who might be interested.
_________________________

Family separations are always difficult. Those of us who spent a lifetime or two in the military certainly know what family separations are all about. Of course, some separations are greater than others.


One of my former executive officers, Captain Collie Haines, had been a POW in North Vietnam. And as we left on a nine-month cruise, Diane noticed his wife hadn’t joined the other wives and children at the pier to wave goodbye. Later she told Diane, “No, I decided not to see the ship off. The last time I did that he didn’t come home for seven years.” Yes, some separations are greater than others.

And as those families watched that ship until it could no longer be seen, someone would inevitably sigh, “Well, they’re gone.” And you know something, that’s a little like dying. Indeed, it’s a lot like dying. Except, as we sigh, “Well, Jeff’s gone,” there are other voices waiting and ready to shout happily, “There, see! Jeff’s coming. He’s coming home.”

Now I realize it’s not always easy to accept this, because as a deacon I see my share of death and the grief that follows it. It’s at these times that I’m asked all sorts of questions. So many people are afraid of death; so many worry about what lies ahead. Sometimes they’re afraid of nothingness, but with God’s help I can usually help them ease that fear. Most, though, are simply afraid of coming face to face with their lives, of encountering all those mistakes, all the hurt they caused, all that sin, and finding it too much to bear.

But Paul, in our reading from Romans provides the antidote to this fear. Yes, we will be judged; but did you notice the question Paul asks: “Who will bring a charge against God's chosen ones?” You see, the wonderful thing is that Jesus Christ is on our side. That’s why Paul also says that Jesus “is at the right hand of God [and]… indeed intercedes for us.” Oh, yes, brothers and sisters, we will be judged, and all those foolish sins of ours will be evidence against us, but we’ll also have Jesus pleading our case.

Can’t you just imagine Jesus turning to the Father and saying, “Father, this is Jeff. And like every man he had his faults, but I’m pleading for him now. I want you to disregard all that weakness because I died for him. Instead of looking on his sins I’m asking you to look on his repentance, to look on me, your Son, as I die on the Cross for Jeff, paying the price for those sins of his.”

Yes, having Jesus as your defense attorney is about as good as it gets. How many lawyers do you know who will die for their clients?

Of course, we can make His job a lot easier by the way we live, by loving our God and bringing His love to one another. At the end of our reading, though, Paul lists the things that will never come between us and the love of God – among them neither life nor death. And so we’re not to worry; we’re to trust in God’s mercy, in His forgiveness, and in the love He had for us when He brought us into being.

As I mentioned earlier, Paul asks another question: “Who will bring a charge against God's chosen ones?” We are God’s chosen, you know – that’s right, you and I. And it’s one of those realities we really don’t think about often enough. Imagine the difference it would make in our lives if we’d just let this truth really sink into our hearts, if we would joyfully accept that God has chosen us, that we are precious in His sight – and not just some of us, but every last one of us. He wouldn’t have created us if He didn’t love us.

I’m convinced most of us would live our lives differently if we really knew in our hearts that we are chosen by God, that God has destined so much for us. And this brings me again to those who fear death. If we’re chosen by God and precious to God, then death means nothing less than going home to a loving, merciful Father. No wonder John writes in his first letter, “In love there can be no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love.”

If death simply means our loving Father is calling us, and if we know that our Father chose us from all eternity, well, then, what’s to fear? And that’s why we’re here today. We’re not here to talk about the past. We’re not here to relive Jeff’s life…No, not today. That’s something we, his family and friends, can do for years to come.

You see, this funeral Mass is first and foremost an act of worship. It’s an act of praise and thanksgiving, where we praise God for His goodness and thank Him for His love and the gift of life, the gift of eternal life. This Mass is offered in intercession for Jeff McCarthy because we Catholics believe, and we believe this with all our being, that God hears our prayers for the forgiveness of the sins of our deceased loved ones.

This isn’t a time to praise another human being; on the contrary, it’s a time to praise God; for it’s the Good News of Jesus Christ that we celebrate today…

…the Good News that lies at the very core of our faith

…the Good News that tells us the Father loves us so intensely He sent His only Son to become one of us

…so intensely He allowed His Son to die for our sins, for the sins of those who put Him to death

…so intensely that through this redeeming death He gave us the gift of eternal life.

This is what we celebrate today. We’re here to give Jeff to the Father, to thank God for Jeff’s life, and to ask the Father to grant him a new life, a life far greater than the one Jeff shared with us, an eternal life of happiness. This is something we can believe in. This is something we can all hope for.

Just look again at Luke’s description of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. As they walked from Jerusalem, they were overwhelmed with disappointment. All they could think about was how was cruel and heartless the world was. With the death of Jesus, their hopes and dreams had shattered. Do you recall what they said?

“But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel…” Yes, they had set their hopes on Jesus – well, on the Jesus they believed Him to be – but His death turned what they thought would be a glorious future into despair. And so they had left Jerusalem to return to their old lives, their lives without Jesus, lives that now seemed empty and dark.

But then they met Jesus, didn’t they? Right there on that narrow road to Emmaus. He was so different from the Jesus they had imagined, not some earthly king, not some political liberator. No, they met the real Jesus, the risen Jesus, the Jesus who had destroyed death, the Son of God, the creative Word of God who created all that is. It’s this same Jesus who walks with Jeff today, who wants to walk with each of us.

For it’s only Jesus Christ who can give us the strength to struggle on with life when our hopes have been shattered. Notice the disciples didn’t realize their hearts were on fire when they were with Jesus. No, it was only later that they realized how Jesus had changed them by His presence, changed them by Word and Eucharist.

Our hearts too should burn within us as we meet Jesus even when, like the two disciples, we don’t always recognize His presence. And believe me, He’s with each of you today, just as we pray He’s with Jeff. He’s ready to walk with you, to share your grief, to bring you hope, and turn darkness into light.

You see, brothers and sisters, He’s always ready to share your burdens. Trust me, He can handle it. He can help you carry that cross. After all He’s had a lot of experience.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Post from New England

Our ongoing trip up north, and all the busyness that has accompanied it, have conspired to keep me from posting anything on the blog. And the weather has seemigly joined the conspiracy.

I apologize now for complaining about our cold winter in Florida this year. We've been here on Cape Cod for a week and already I'm tired of the weather. It's apparent, too, that my six years in Florida have spoiled me, because the temperatures here have actuallly been fairly mild for March: 30s at night and high 40s during the day. But it's still too cold for me. To make matters worse, it just started raining and the reports promise several days of the same.

None of this, however, has dimmed the new bright spot in our llives, a grandaughter named Veronica Lynn who was born on March 2 and weighed in at a healthy 7 lbs. 1 oz. She is our second grandaughter and seventh grandchild. We continue to be blessed with beautifull and healthy little ones. God be praised.

On Saturday we will celebrate the funeral Mass for my brother, Jeff, and then inter him with our parents, Martha and John McCarthy, in Chatham, Massachusetts. I am so pleased that Jeff's elder son, Marshall, will be able to attend the funeral. Marshall lives in a rather remote corner of Costa Rica -- Pavones on the Pacific coast, close to the border with Panama -- where he and his wife, Angela, own and operate a resort, Cabinas La Ponderosa. It's a lovely spot and I'm sure Marshall won't mind if I give his place a llittle publicity. If you like the idea of adventure in the tropics with some excellent surfing thrown in, check out the website.

Marshall arrives in Boston at midnight tonight, and I'll be there to meet him and drive him to Cape Cod. And so it promises to be a long night. We've been staying with our dear, old friends, the Greens, who also volunteered to shelter Marshall during his brief visit. What good and thoughtful friends!

So far we been splitting our time with our new grandaughter in New Bedford and our four grandchildren who live in Hyannis, and enjoying every minute of it. I've included a photo below that I took just a few minutes ago. Imagine not enjoyiing oneself with these four!

Early next week Diane and I will head west and visit for a few days with our other two grandchildren who live in North Andover, Massachusetts. Then, after a quick return visit to Cape Cod, we'll begin our drive south to the warmth of sunny Florida.

Blessings and God's peace...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Yesterday & Tomorrow

Our annual diaconal retreat was wonderful! Deacon Bill Ditewig, an old friend and a wonderful teacher, conducted the retreat. Deacon Bill teaches and directs the theology graduate program at St. Leo University here in Florida. His talks during our weekend retreat focused on the deacon and the Mass, and placed particular emphasis on the spirituality of the deacon's vocation of worship. Although I suppose I already knew most of the basic information Bill provided, his insights and ability to integrate that information with other elements of the deacon's ministry gave me a renewed appreciation of the deacon's role in the liturgy. I only wish we had been able to spend more time with him.

Tomorrow Diane and I head north to visit our children and grandchildren in Massachusetts. We have a new grandchild arriving any day now, a beautiful reason to celebrate. We are also going to participate in the funeral Mass for my brother, Jeff, and then inter him with our parents in Chatham, Mass. And so the joy of the trip will be mixed with sadness. But I am thrilled that Jeff's elder son, Marshall, will be attending the funeral. Marshall will fly up from his home in a very remote section of Costa Rica. My grown children are excited about once again spending some time with their cousin whom they haven't seen in many years.

Of course, my biggest concern regarding this trip relates to the weather. Leaving Florida for the frigid north, especially when another blizzard-like storm is predicted to hit over the next few days, is not something I would normally do. Only a new baby and a funeral could motivate me to make such a trip. Just my luck, Massachusetts will probably get hit with another two-feet of snow just as we arrive. Ah, well, I lived with snow and cold for most of my life. I suppose I can handle another few weeks of it.
Two feet of snow
Some recent polling statistics on Catholics. Here's some data that might depress you a bit, so if you'd like to remain bright and cheery, I suggest you read no further.

The Knights of Columbus and Marist College just released the results of a survey that focused on the age-group called American Millennials; i.e., young adults aged 18 to 29. According to the results of their extensive survey...

  • 85% of Catholic Millennials (those 18-29) believe in God.
  • 66% of Catholic Millennials say abortion is morally wrong, while 63% say the same of euthanasia.
  • 82% of Catholic Millennials see morals as “relative.” The majority of practicing Catholics (54%) disagree.
If you want to read more, detailed results are available in a PDF PowerPoint file here: American Millennials. And if you don't want to read more, I don't blame you.

Blessings...