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!


Although I am an ordained deacon of the Catholic Church, the opinions expressed in this blog are my personal opinions. In offering these personal opinions I am not acting as a representative of the Church or any Church organization.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

A Story of Success, Failure, and Salvation

Years ago, an acquaintance — let’s just call him Fred (not his real name) — died rather suddenly, the result, as I recall, of a brain embolism. Fred, a financial wizard of some repute, was considered, by most human standards, very successful. His expertise in the confusing and challenging area of international finance landed him an influential position at a major financial institution. His reputation grew, his expertise was sought, so he decided to start his own consulting firm providing financial and organizational advice and direction to companies hoping to expand their international business. Instantly successful, he opened a Manhattan office and even maintained a small apartment in the city which he used when work was especially demanding. Fred, his wife, and their two teenagers lived in a large home in an upscale New York suburb. They vacationed in all the best places, and the kids went to the best schools. Yes, indeed, Fred enjoyed a very good life. Well...it would have been a good life, had he actually enjoyed it. If you had asked those who thought they knew Fred well to describe him using one word, I’m sure most would have responded with, “angry.” 

Fred and I were both consultants and first met when we happened to be assisting the same company at the same time. Our work, of course, was very different. Fred showed his clients how they could make tens of millions by expanding internationally, while I provided needed training for front-line managers and sales and support people. Occasionally I also offered some customer-focus direction. Fred got paid very big bucks, while I got paid. We were both happy...well, I was anyway.

I referred to Fred as an “acquaintance” because our few meetings had always been in business situations, and we certainly weren’t friends. I suspect Fred had few, if any, real friends, something that become more apparent over time. The last time we met was a dinner Fred and I shared in the restaurant of the hotel in which we were both staying. For once he seemed quite pleasant. For whatever reason he was unusually talkative that evening and far more revealing than ever before. Perhaps he’d concluded I was no threat. Anyway, for several hours, over dinner and drinks, we talked about of many things. Fred told me about growing up as an only child in a rural Pennsylvania community. His dad was a heavy equipment operator and his mom taught elementary school. 

I can’t recall how or why, but at some point the subject of religious belief arose. He told me his father was Lutheran and his mother Jewish, so “religion wasn’t something we talked about. It was pretty much avoided, so I suppose I’m agnostic.” His family wasn’t poor but neither were they wealthy. He said he had always envied those with money and decided he would find a way to join their ranks. He had some memorable lines; for example, “Education actually became my religion, the path to the salvation I hoped for.” He studied hard, earned scholarships, and in graduate school chose a challenging field in high demand. His was a planned success. In his words, “My work is my life, and my life is my work.”

At some point that evening, when I asked him about his family, he responded oddly by saying only, “I take care of them, so they’re happy enough.” He then changed the subject and began to describe the weaknesses of the client company management that had hired us both that week. The occasion was a company-wide series of meetings. I would conduct about a week of customer focus training for the company’s field engineers, while Fred would work with the management team, helping them implement the plan he had developed for their fledgling international operations. As he spoke to me about their lack of vision, he grew more irritated and more sarcastic. I suppose my expression of surprise tipped him off, for he stopped suddenly and laughed. “As you can tell, I don’t suffer fools gladly.” Indeed he didn’t, but I knew he was wise enough not to display his irritation in the client’s presence. And I knew he trusted me, knowing I would never reveal his true feelings to those he served. 

It was my turn to change the subject. “Fred, you said your family was happy, but how about you? You’ve worked hard. You’re certainly successful. You’ve just published a book. Quite honestly, though, you don’t seem very happy. What are you hoping for in this life you’ve been given?” 

The question obviously surprised him, but Fred was an intelligent man and far more introspective than I’d expected. “An interesting question,” he said, “but with no easy answer — the kind of question I’d usually avoid. I’ve never thought of my life as a gift. You’re getting theological on me, aren’t you?” He raised a hand to stop me from responding and added, “Let’s just leave it at that. You’ve given me something to think about, and that’s always a good thing.”

I never saw Fred again. When I returned home, I sent him a copy of Peer Kreeft's book, Making Sense Out of Suffering. It had been published just a few years before and for some reason I thought Fred would benefit from it. I suppose I saw his anger as a symptom of a suffering soul. He responded with a brief, rather cryptic note: "Thanks for the book -- a lesser gift, but it's led me to think of a greater one. We'll see. - Fred"

Fred died about a year later, but It was some weeks before I heard the news. I believe he was in his mid-50s at the time, probably ten years my senior. I can't explain why, but I felt compelled to call his wife, a woman I had never met, to express my condolences. After a few explanatory comments, she said, "Oh! You're the one who sent the book. It really had an impact on Fred.” I didn’t pursue that comment but just told her I would pray for her and her children, and would also pray for Fred. She thanked me for that.

So often, as we struggle through life’s ups and downs, we mistakenly assume only wealth and success can bring the happiness we all seek. Fred was perhaps a perfect example of this fruitless search, a man who had achieved much in the eyes of the world and yet was demonstrably unhappy. I sensed he had reached a turning point, a realization that life pointed to something greater than the material rewards he had actively pursued. Our loving, merciful God offers His gift of faith to all of us, and does so repeatedly in ways to which we are most likely to respond. Our task is to recognize the offering, the wonder of this gift, and to respond in thanksgiving and love. I pray that Fred, before Gad called him to eternity, had come to understand and accept God’s gift of life as “the greater” gift. 

Friday, October 15, 2021

The Amazing Grace Notes

Our parish, St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Wildwood, Florida, is truly blessed to have some remarkably talented musicians who share their talents at every weekend liturgy, at funerals, and whenever we need liturgical music. Every so often these three women put on a concert as a fundraiser for the parish, and I thought perhaps my select group of readers might enjoy their latest. It was conducted live on both Facebook and YouTube earlier this week. They call themselves (and so do we) “The Amazing Grace Notes” for obvious reasons. Here’s a link to the YouTube video of their concert. Watch it all and enjoy it


Thursday, October 14, 2021

An Emmy for Kamala

As I suppose everyone knows by now, Vice President Harris recently agreed to take on an entirely new responsibility. How she can possibly handle this added burden, given the number of critical assignments the president has already tossed onto her plate, is anyone’s guess. 

After all, she’s already responsible for managing the borders of the United States and judging by recent and rather embarrassing reports, it would seem she has a lot of work to do. As “border czar” her actions might seem to be rather low-key, but the administration can’t stop praising her accomplishments. Accepting the validity of this praise, we must admit that without her behind the scenes diplomacy the minor problems at the border would likely be far worse. Thank God the DHS Secretary has promised America that “the. border is closed”— otherwise the VP’s work would be even more demanding.

But that’s not all. President Biden has also tasked her with ensuring the protection of voting rights, another difficult challenge given her party’s focus on ensuring exactly the opposite. Once again, she must work feverishly in the shadows to seem to meet the expectations of voters while not discouraging the fraudulent activities of the party’s operatives. I suspect she has found a way to meet this challenge and will succeed, at least in the minds of those few Democrats who actually believe her to be electable.

Oh, there’s more. The president has also given this obvious superwoman responsibility for broadband Internet. In this duty she must oversee the federal government’s expenditure of over a billion dollars to provide an expansion of hi-speed Internet to Native American tribal lands as well as to Alaskan and Hawaiian communities. But that’s just a tiny piece of her overall goal of spending $100 billion to ensure the provision of reliable, hi-speed broadband Internet service to all Americans. Judging by her previous experience as a Democrat senator, she will surely have little problem spending the money.

Her latest assignment? She is now the nation’s chief space cadet, having accepted the honor of chairing the National Space Council. The NSC is responsible for developing the nation’s space exploration policies and overseeing the development of space-related national security strategies. 

Just a few days ago we were given a beautiful example of her enthusiastic approach to this new spacey responsibility. The Vice President released a video of her meeting with a number of school-age children. Her goal? Presumably to motivate all those newly woke kids to chuck their dreams to major in gender studies, comic art, or cannabis cultivation and choose instead to study something that might actually help them land a real job. But then we found out that the children in the video were not “real kids” but paid child actors who had auditioned for the job. Of course, that Kamala and her staff would do this is perfectly understandable. Like her boss, opening yourself to the unpredictable comments and questions of regular folks is problematic. The following is an example of what could happen:


Far better to hire a bunch of actors (or answer questions only from mainstream media) so everyone involved follows a pre-approved script. Watch the video and see if our VP didn’t earn herself an Emmy. Here’s a link to her video. Prepare to cringe.







Columbus Day…A Little Late

Despite the title I gave this post, Columbus Day was actually celebrated a bit earlier this year. But that’s just my view, that of a holiday purist, someone who believes dates are important reminders of real people and events, and that holidays should never be moved to Mondays. Columbus Day used to be celebrated on October 12 to commemorate the day the explorer arrived in the Americas in 1492. But this year it was moved to Monday, October 11, so government workers could take advantage of a 3-day weekend. That came about because of the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act,” passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on June 1, 1968. Even back then, when I was a 20-something young naval officer and, therefore, a government employee, I considered this law a travesty. I actually wrote to my congressman, encouraging him to vote against it, but not surprisingly received a only form letter in response. Even today I still receive form letters from members of congress, so things haven’t changed much. Anyway, I’ve been far too busy lately and, although I certainly hadn’t overlooked Columbus Day this year, I had little time to celebrate. And so, today, I’m commemorating this heroic figure a few days later than usual. 

But these days, the larger issue is whether we should celebrate this man and his accomplishments at all. Some states and localities have canceled any commemoration of Christopher Columbus and instead substituted the celebration of “indigenous people.” I find this to be almost as stupid as the Monday Holiday Act, largely because it is driven by lies instead of historical fact. 

For the left, those who hope to eradicate all vestiges of Western Civilization in our national life, Christopher Columbus is a prime candidate for cancelation. In the view of these idiots, he is a symbol of imperialistic European greed. They also frequently accuse him of encouraging the genocide of those peaceful indigenous folks he encountered when he reached the Americas. This, of course, is complete garbage. When you really study the life of this extraordinary man, you encounter a deeply religious Christian, a devout Catholic who desired only to serve God and his fellow human beings. He desired the best for those he encountered in the new world, and for Columbus the best was their salvation.

Columbus Statue High Above Barcelona Harbor

As a naval officer, I can say without qualification that Christopher Columbus was a remarkably competent seaman. He was a sailor from his youth and over time became an excellent navigator, a demanding and challenging skill in those days. An Italian from Genoa, he had sailed the North Atlantic as a young man and came to realize that a voyage to the East would be possible by sailing West across the Atlantic. (By the way, in those days no one, except the truly ignorant, believed the earth was flat.) Columbus realized, too, he would need serious financial backing to make such a voyage, support he eventually received from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain.

Columbus made several voyages to the new world, and always treated the native peoples with great respect. When any of his crew mistreated the natives, they were severely punished. In his diary, Columbus wrote, “…in the world there are no better people or a better land. They love their neighbors as themselves, and they have the sweetest speech in the world and are gentle and always laughing.” He was horrified when he encountered the vicious Carib tribe, a warlike people who were cannibals that practiced sodomy and the castration of young boys they captured, among other horrendous practices. He rescued and returned their captives to their home islands. Interestingly, Columbus also asked King Ferdinand to apply any profits from these voltages to the financing of a crusade to recapture Jerusalem which he believed was tied to Christ’s Second Coming. Who knows? He may have been right. The fate of Jerusalem is still in some uncertainly.

If you want to learn about the true Columbus, read one of Samuel Elliot Morrison’s wonderful books on this remarkable explorer and even greater Christian. And continue to celebrate his life, his accomplishments, and his faith every year on October 12.



Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Homily: Tuesday, 28th Week in Ordinary Time (Year 1)

Readings: Rom 1:16-25; Psalm 19; Luke 11:37-41

_____________________

In my previous parish, a retired bishop who summered in our town used to help us out by celebrating one of the Sunday Masses. One Sunday, just before the dismissal, the bishop blessed a couple who were celebrating 50 years of marriage. As you might expect, after the blessing the entire congregation applauded.

Later a parishioner approached me in the parking lot. He was very upset because of the applause which he considered entirely out of place at Mass. At first, I thought he was joking, and my reaction probably wasn’t what he’d hoped for. He went from upset to furious. I tried to calm him down by explaining that when something especially good happens in the lives of members of our parish community, it’s entirely appropriate for the community to share in their joy. Applause is simply our culture’s way of expressing that joy. And doing so at the end of Mass, right before the dismissal, is also appropriate. It didn’t work. Family in tow, he stormed off to his car. I should have asked him why he complained to me and not to the bishop. After all, I’m just a deacon.

Sadly, he always seemed to come across as a dour, joyless person, more focused on others’ faults than on the good in them. I didn’t doubt his faith, but I didn’t see a lot of Christian love there. He seemed to be devout, and because only God knows his heart, I won’t judge him.

We all have some of the Pharisee in us – some more, some less. In today’s Gospel passage Luke describes a meal Jesus had at a Pharisee’s home. I've always found it interesting that the Pharisees, who didn’t trust or like Jesus very much, seemed to have Him over for dinner a lot.

Well, Jesus neglected to perform the ritual washing before dinner – an omission that offended his host. I’m sure Jesus didn’t forget, but that He did this intentionally to put the spotlight on the man’s hypocrisy. Certainly, that was the result. Our Lord used some harsh words in His rebuke:

“…you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?” [Lk 11:39-40]

Of course, Jesus is no longer talking about cups and dishes. He’s talking about the human heart. He isn’t criticizing the ritual washing itself. No, He’s criticizing the Pharisees' placing more importance on the ritual than on obeying the commandment to love God and neighbor.

For example, as Catholics we observe many rituals. We’re observing one now by following very specific rubrics as we celebrate this rite today. And this is as it should be, because the rite is as old as the Church itself, designed to bring us closer to God through hearing His word and receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.

But the ritual is a means, not an end. The end brings us into communion with Jesus. When we let this happen, Jesus becomes one with us, and transforms our hearts and minds. In other words, what we do on the outside should help us change on the inside. But when we focus solely on the externals, we break this connection.

Although not directed at Pharisees, Paul’s words today could be applied to them as well: 

"...for although they knew God, they did not accord Him glory as God or give Him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fool..." [Rom 1:21-22]

Yes, we’re all Pharisees sometimes, focused on the outside. And the more devout we are the more susceptible we are to this not so little vice. We can get so wrapped up in our devotions and rituals that our focus shifts to ourselves at the expense of others. We become so focused on the externals, that we neglect the internal.

We won’t get to heaven by just worrying about ourselves and our own salvation. It’s another of those great Christian paradoxes: we’ll only reach our goal if we forget about ourselves and devote our efforts instead to helping others achieve theirs.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, the 19th Century Jesuit poet, frequently corresponded with the poet laureate of England, his friend Robert Bridges. Bridges, an agnostic, once wrote, asking Hopkins how he could learn to believe. I suppose he expected some deep theological answer. Hopkins replied in a letter with only two words, the words Jesus left with the Pharisees: “Give alms.” [Lk 11:41]

Yes, brothers and sisters, give alms. Care for others. Wash some feet. Imitate Jesus. Heal, forgive, and serve each other. Then everything will be clean for you, inside and outside.


Sunday, October 10, 2021

Kill the Babies Or Else…

President Biden and his increasingly far-left regime, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and most Democrat politicians have all proven one thing: they hate children. Why else would anyone actively promote the slaughter of unborn children and strive to stop any attempts to limit abortions? Remember, back in 2011, when President Obama threatened to cut off all Medicaid and related funding to Indiana when the state legislature and governor passed legislation to stop state funding of Planned Parenthood? Just think about that. If you don’t kill the unborn, Obama declared, we will cut medical funds to the poor. How nice...

Today is no different. As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to overturn the Texan law that severely limits abortion in the state, Joe Biden has pledged a “whole of government” response. He has called on his evil but feckless attorney general, Merrick Garland, to “protect abortion rights” of all Americans by applying the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra also chimed in saying, “…we are telling doctors and others involved in the provision of abortion care, that we have your back.” 

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, reminds us that “There are no lengths the Biden administration won’t go to in their drive to prop up the abortion industry and impose abortion on demand up to birth nationwide, on a public that resoundingly rejects their agenda.” But note the change in the pro-abortion forces’ language. Once they wouldn’t utter the word, “abortion,” but instead used such euphemistic phrases as “reproductive health.” But no longer. Now they openly declare their intention to support “abortion rights” and “abortion care.” I find the latter particularly disgusting. For whom are they providing “care”? Certainly not the unborn child who is torn apart during this “safe procedure.”

\What disturbs me most, however, is the cowardice of our bishops. Few seem willing to openly and consistently confront the Catholic politicians who support abortion. There are, of course, exceptions and Nancy Pelosi’s bishop, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, has been a true stalwart. The archbishop recently stated, “A conversion of heart of the majority of our Congressional representatives is needed on this issue, beginning with the leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi.” He then continued with more than mere words, but called for spiritual action on the part of the faithful: “I am therefore inviting all Catholics to join a massive and visible campaign of prayer and fasting for Speaker Pelosi: commit to praying one rosary a week and fasting on Fridays for her conversion of heart.” I intend to join Archbishop Cordileone and in my own small way, ask all those who read this blog to do the same. 

Another disturbing event, related to the slaughter of these modern day innocents, took place just the other day when Nancy Pelosi visited the Vatican on October 8. How ironic that this was the feast day of St. Simeon, who greeted the newborn infant Jesus when He was presented in the Temple in Jerusalem by Mary and Joseph. How many infants have never been presented in a church for Baptism, thanks to the child-hatred of Nancy Pelosi. 

More disturbing, however, was the reception the Vatican gave Pelosi. The Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development stated, “We welcome Speaker Pelosi from the U.S. House of Representative. We talked about caring for the environment, in the light of [Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical] Laudato si, migration issues, human rights, health in times of pandemic, and the work of the Vatican COVID Commission.” Note the one subject that apparently went undiscussed: abortion. Apparently the "human development" of the unborn does not merit any attention. This was especially troublesome given that Pelosi, along with the president, is among the most prominent Catholic politicians and has done all in her power to advance and encourage abortions in the U.S. 
Pope Francis and the Pelosis

Pelosi and her husband also had a private audience with Pope Francis, but the Vatican had no comment about any subjects discussed during their meeting. One can only hope the Holy Father explained Church teaching to this self-proclaimed “devout Catholic” who seems to consider herself holier and smarter than the Church. One wonders what Archbishop Cordileone thought of her Vatican visit.

Brothers and sisters, pray for the unborn, pray for those who seek and perform abortions, pray for those politicians who further the culture of death, and join the Archbishop of San Francisco by praying the Rosary and Fasting every Friday for the conversion of all.


Let’s All Be Multicultural

Are you a multicultural American? I’ve been asking this question of myself for some time now, but really haven’t come up with an acceptable answer. My own heritage is 100% Irish, so I have no problem with the Irish and all those Irish wannabes drinking green beer or eating corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. This despite the fact that the Irish, the ones who actually live in Ireland, apparently rarely, if ever, consume corned beef and cabbage. Just don’t tell that to all those Irish-Americans who consider themselves more Irish than the Irish. I, however, detest cabbage in all its forms so I tend to focus on the Murphy’s Stout or perhaps a wee dram of Paddy’s or Kilbeggan Irish whiskey.

I also enjoy joining the Germans for Oktoberfest when, once again, beer takes center stage. There seems to be a pattern here. But we can’t ignore the many, tasty German foods: varieties of wurst, or schnitzel, or sauerbraten. Just trash the sauerkraut, another disguised version of always distasteful cabbage. 

And then there are the Italians, probably my favorite collection of ethnic Americans. They have all kinds of holidays, perfect excuses to celebrate and share their wonderful food and excellent wines with those of us who wish our names had more vowels than consonants. There’s nothing like a good Neopolitan pizza and a bottle of inexpensive Chianti. Yes, I actually am an Italian wannabe, and look forward to our next trip to Italia, once they scrap all the COVID nonsense. 

I also love the Jews, our elder brothers and sisters in faith, but don’t really care much for their traditional foods. I suppose I’m too much of a meat and potatoes guy. But on second thought, I always did enjoy Mrs. Moll’s potato kugel and brisket. The Moll family were our neighbors in Larchmont, New York, where I grew up as a kid. I hung out with their twin sons, Richard and Robert, and would on occasion be asked to join them for dinner. If I happened to be there at lunchtime, Mrs. Moll would always offer me a nice thick pastrami sandwich. Jewish wines, however, tend to be far too sweet for me, so I politely decline them when asked. I like to think that at Cana Jesus didn’t turn water into a first-century version of Manischewitz, but perhaps offered the newlyweds a drier kosher wine.

I also enjoy many Asian foods, from China, Japan, and Vietnam, although my all-time favorite Asian food is Filipino lumpia. Back in the mid-70s, aboard the USS Okinawa, the officers’ wardroom was blessed to be managed by Senior Chief Filipe who made the best lumpia I have ever tasted. I’m searching for a good recipe and when I find it will have to convince Dear Diane to give it a try. I’ve also sampled perhaps too many glasses of sake as well as a variety of excellent Asian beers. 

So, you see, I am very multicultural, at least when it comes to food and drink. I also enjoy the people I have known, wonderful folks who, like my grandparents, immigrated to this country and settled here in the U.S.A. for the long term. Most brought pieces of their cultures with them — their unique foods, their music, art, and literature, their faith — making wonderful contributions to our uniquely American melting-pot. Because most immigrants came here for a purpose, to escape repression, corruption, violence, genocide, and the other evil trappings of their decaying societies, they willingly embraced the American form of Western Civilization. Thank God for that. 

But today, things are changing. The multiculturalism of the left makes some truly foolish claims; for example, that no civilization is better than any other. Sorry, but even the most cursory study of history and culture will show this to be false. Western Civilization has been a true gift to the people of the world. It has brought them more personal freedom, more economic opportunity, more political freedom, more progress in the sciences and technology than any or all other civilizations. Why do you think so many people have continued to take such horrendous risks to enter this country while virtually none leave? Sadly, our current administration and its fellow travelers seem to despise the nation and the civilization that allowed them to take office. It takes centuries to develop a multinational civilization, but only a few short years to destroy it. If we let them, those in power today will lead us back to the barbarism that results when civilizations die. We can’t let that happen. Pray for our troubled, divided nation and our civilization.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

How the French See Islam

Harris Interactive, in a survey they have called, “The Heart of the French,” offers some snapshots of the current religious and societal views of the French. As a result of significant migration in recent years, the population of France has undergone significant changes. Of particular interest are the thoughts of the French relating to the future growth of the nation’s Muslim population. I’ve included just a few tidbits below. The survey was conducted in late July. 

Note: If you would like to access and digest the complete survey and its results, you must be a French speaker, or at least a French reader. Unfortunately, I minored in German, and with the exceptions of a few “social phrases,” French remains a mystery to me. I relied, therefore, on the summarized reports of others. For the complete survey (quite long), click here: Le cœur des Français  (If anyone can find an accurate translation of the survey, please pass it along.)
  • 39% of French believe Islam will become the largest religion in France. 55% of Muslims and 44% of Roman Catholics believe this. 
At first  glance, this can be misinterpreted because today most French are essentially irreligious. This is particularly true among France's younger citizens. The threshold needed to become the "largest religion" is, therefore, not very high. The most relevant result here is that vast majority of Muslims are faithful believers, while most non-Muslim French have rejected Christianity, whether Catholic or Protestant.
  • 72% of French believe France will lose its historic identity if Islam becomes the largest religion. 83% of Catholics and 67% of Protestants and non-religious people believe this. 
Interestingly, only 17% of Muslims responded by saying France would lose its historic identity were Islam to become the nation's largest religion. I can’t say what this wide divergence of opinion indicates, other than the fact that many French and Muslims view the impact of Islam on French culture very differently. 

According to a 2019 poll, 61% of French citizens believed that Islam was not compatible with French society. At the same time, when asked which party was best suited to handle the challenges relating to the Islamization of France, the rightist National Rally (RN) led by Marine Le Pen, received the highest score in the poll. France, of course is well “ahead” of the United States when it comes to Muslim migrants and immigrants. A Pew Research study predicted that the Muslim population in France will grow from 2020’s 5.7 million to 13.2 million by 2050. Muslims would then represent 20% of the French population. 

It’s all very interesting, but considering how the current US administration is dealing with immigration issues, we might expect similar responses from Americans in the future. I suspect Pew Research or another polling group might soon conduct a parallel study in the U.S. If so, its results will certainly be of interest.

Friday, October 8, 2021

The Reality of COVID-19

We’re well into our second year of coping with the COVID-19 virus and yet so many people are still overcome by fear. We have a collection of vaccines that offer real protection. Does it protect everybody? No, some vaccinated people have also contracted the virus, but in most instances these cases tend to be rather mild. And many others, who have survived the virus, have enhanced immunity, far greater than that provided by the vaccines. 

But perhaps the most telling statistics relate to deaths as a result of COVID. As of October 6, there have been 700,952 deaths in the United States attributed to the COVID virus — this out of a total U.S. population of 334 million. Over 76% of these deaths were among those aged 65 or over. But how many of these seniors had other underlying health issues that likely contributed to their deaths, or were actually the primary cause of death? Over the past 18 months I have conducted or assisted at dozens of funerals and committal services. Quite a few of those who died had tested positive for COVID, but many of these also had terminal illnesses and were not expected to survive. As one doctor told me, “Follow the money.” Apparently hospitals benefit from COVID cases.

Very few young or middle-aged adults have succumbed to the virus. Those between the ages 18 and 49 account for a little less than 6% of all COVID deaths, or 41,783 of 700,952 deaths. Those Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 account for 17.5% of the COVID deaths, or 122,500 of the 700,952 total deaths. Perhaps most surprisingly, though, is the fact that less than one-tenth of 1% of those who died of COVID were below the age of 18 — a total of 499 deaths out of 700,952. In fact, far more children died from other individual illnesses, accidents, and other causes than from COVID. It appears children, if they contract the virus, tend to have only mild or asymptomatic cases and also do not spread it to others easily. In previous years, for example, influenza killed far more children each year than COVID since it hit our shores in late 2019. Masking children in our schools, then, would seem to be designed not to protect them or their teachers, but to exert control. And always remember, governments like to exert control.

You can view a graph of these statistics here: COVID-19 Deaths as of 6 October 2021.

I include the above to remind those who are fearful that the chances of reasonably healthy people of any age dying of COVID is quite small. I’m currently 77 but am not worried about getting COVID. Of course I believe in exercising prudence and so both Diane and I got the vaccination earlier this year, and will likely get the booster, especially if we decide to travel north to visit family this fall. But fear? No, I have no fear, and neither should you. But my lack of fear doesn’t stem from statistics. 

First of all, if, as a Christian, you allow fear to consume you, your faith is weak. As I so often remind others, perhaps too often, the opposite of faith is not despair; rather, it is fear. Jesus often reminds us of this. Remember that wonderful Gospel passage [Mk 4:35-41] when, crossing the Sea of Galilee, a storm arose causing the disciples to waken a sleeping Jesus and ask Him: “Do you not care if we perish?” Of course, Jesus immediately calmed the sea and storm, but He then asked the disciples that double-barreled question, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” And He asks you and me that same question today.

I get all kinds of questions about COVID. Some people have asked me, “Is God punishing us by inflicting us with this disease?” I usually answer by saying, “Darned if I know, but I don’t think so. We seem entirely too capable of punishing ourselves without God’s help.” Of course, It all started back in Eden, didn’t it? Our first parents, who had been created “very good” by God [Gen 1:31] decided that wasn’t good enough and ignored God’s warning. They disobeyed and brought death into the perfect, deathless paradise God had created. That sin, that original sin, brought death and all kinds of other bad stuff into the world, and among that bad stuff is COVID. God doesn’t will death and disease, but His permissive will allows it. You see, I don’t believe in coincidence when it comes to God. After struggling through these 77 years I’ve come to the realization that everything that happens in my life has a purpose, and if I remain faithful, it will always lead to good. 

The very core of the Gospel may be found in those wonderful words from John: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” [Jn 3:16]. Eternal life, folks. That’s what it’s all about. So, why would any of us who believe the Gospel, who believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, and who live our faith — why would any of us be fearful?

If you’re still plagued by fear, I suggest you spend some time every day in prayer, preferably before the Blessed Sacrament, asking Our Lord to deepen your faith and dissolve your fears. There’s nothing to fear, brothers and sisters, because we’ve been shown the path to eternal life.