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.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Happy Birthdays

Last evening we celebrated two birthdays. Yesterday was our friend Andy Truax’s birthday and today is Diane’s birthday. Andy is married to Jamie, who’s been Diane’s close friend since they first became best pals in grade school in Pensacola. A few years ago she and Andy moved to Central Florida and now live nearby, so Diane and Jamie get together frequently, usually to shop. 

And so, the four of us decided to celebrate over dinner at Coastal Del Mar, a fairly new seafood restaurant here in The Villages. We had a delightful time and enjoyed the food and the stories. The restaurant even surprised us with free birthday desserts, a wonderful key lime pie. A good time was had by all.

Here’s a photo of Jamie and Andy from last night…cute couple.

And here’s a photo of an even cuter couple…yep, that’s us.

When I first met Diane, as I was making my way through flight training in Pensacola, she was entering her senior year at Florida State and was a few months shy of her 21st birthday. That was a while ago, but I’d better be discreet and not mention the year. I will say, however, that Diane seemed to enjoy the fact that Andy is exactly one day older than she.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Just Some Stuff…

Vaccinated vs. Unvaccinated. President Biden, and his sidekick, Dr. Anthony Fauci, have spoken frequently and loudly about the “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” Their purpose was always to shame those who haven’t gotten the mRNA COVID shots or, almost as bad, neglected to be boosted. In the spirit of full disclosure, Dear Diane and I both got the two Moderna shots and the 1st booster…but that’s it. We’ve decided to get no more COVID shots until we know more about the effects of these still experimental drugs. 

I actually believe I contracted COVID back in early 2020, before I had been vaccinated. I felt so bad I went to the doctor on a weekend and was treated by a very nice and seemingly competent PA. I had all the symptoms of COVID, but since no test was yet available, she assumed I had a bad case of some random virus. She gave me meds and told me to rest, drink liquids, and come back if it got worse. After a week or so, I recovered and forgot about it. But many months later I spoke to several others who had suffered from COVID and our symptoms, although they varied in intensity, were identical. Despite my age, I am in good health, so I think I just slid through my case more easily than many. 

Anyway, yesterday the CDC released its latest data on COVID deaths and — surprise, surprise! — “a majority of Americans dying from the coronavirus received at least the primary series of the vaccine.” This, of course, alters the narrative that it is only the unvaccinated who will die from COVID. My unscientific guess is that those who are dying today are folks with serious comorbidity issues and compromised immune systems. Perhaps the president should change his mantra since it apparently doesn’t reflect the “science,” which is always a moving target.

Dumbing Down the Legal Profession. The American Bar Association has decided that those hoping to enter law school should no longer be required to take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), and apparently Harvard and Yale have decided to go along with this. Interestingly, the LSAT is designed to measure prospective law students’ ability to reason, solve problems, comprehend what they read, along with other intellectual traits that lawyers believe they should possess. I certainly won’t argue with the need for these traits. If I ever need a lawyer, I want him to be rational and smart. But one can only assume that by failing to test for these traits and abilities, some aspiring lawyers will lack them. I suppose, then, we can conclude that, on average, the lawyer of tomorrow will be less rational, less capable, and not nearly as smart as today’s lawyer, assuming such an outcome is even possible.

Okay, okay…my apologies to all my lawyer friends for that last remark. Perhaps I was thinking only of those lawyers who gravitate to government and subsequently do everything they can to siphon political power from the people, who are sovereign.

Abortion, Religion, and Politics. Shortly before the recent mid-term elections, during one of those “after Mass” conversations with a parishioner, I was told that “the Church really shouldn’t get involved in politics. After all,” he added, “our country was founded on the concept of separation of church and state.” I assumed he was telling me this because of his tacit acceptance, and the Church’s adamant condemnation, of abortion. As it turned out, my assumption was correct. Of course, his supporting statement was false. Our nation was not “founded on the concept of separation of church and state.” In fact, that specific concept was voiced by only one man, Thomas Jefferson, in a rather obscure letter written to a Baptist Association in Danbury, Connecticut in 1802. The Constitution does not demand separation. Here’s the actual text of the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Note that the first freedom, that which the founders believed to be most important, is the freedom of religion. The Constitution prohibited Congress from establishing a state religion of the sort found at the time in many European countries, especially England where the ruling monarch was, and remains today, the head of the established church. But it said nothing about banning religious faith from influencing political thought or action. Indeed, for true believers of any faith, religious values have a major influence on every aspect of their lives. This understanding no doubt drove the founders to add the second clause in which the government may not prohibit citizens from freely exercising their religious faith. Both religious freedom clauses are further supported by the subsequent clause that guarantees the freedom of speech. 

Because our bishops — and, yes, even priests, deacons, religious, and the faithful — are citizens, they may scream to high heaven about the gross injustice of the government’s support for the willful slaughter of the unborn. Abortion is by no means solely a religious issue. It is also moral and political, as we all saw in the last election. Politics, religion, and morality cannot and should not be separated. Religious values have always had an impact on politics. We need only consider the Ten Commandments and their place in many of the world’s legal systems. 

When I said all this to our parishioner, he just shrugged and mumbled something about disagreeing. But he apparently decided not to argue the issues with me and walked away. At first, I was pleased because his silence told me I had “won” the argument. But then I realized I had done little to change his opinion. In truth I had focused more on myself and my ability to argue effectively than on his need for conversion. We must learn to listen to Jesus and let the Holy Spirit speak through us:
“…do not be anxious how or what you are to answer or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say" [Lk 12:11-12].
I’ll have to talk with this parishioner again.

Breaking with the Left. I often must remind myself of the reality of the passage of time. For example, anyone younger than 35 really has little memory of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European puppet states. After all, by the early 1990s much of the world had been transformed. For decades all of these nations had been ruled by the iron fist of communism, an ideology that maintained power only through the application of terrorism against its own people.

The exploited and the poor, those who suffered under earlier tyrannies, had liked the sound of socialism. It seemed to provide a solution to their problems, to offer a better life, to promise a leveling that would eliminate the vast disparity among the classes. Yes, indeed, socialism, and even its more violent and oppressive manifestation in communism, sounded so very good to the uninformed. Often enough, war and revolution created the catalytic environment needed to bring about radical societal change and a total shift in the balance of power. The Soviet Union was born out of the chaos of World War One and its subsequent discord, while Communist China arose in the aftermath of World War Two. 

But once the left assumes power and the people actually experience the reality of totalitarianism, they realize their lives are controlled by a corps of elites who wield absolute power. Even after they come to understand the truth about socialism, it becomes very difficult to turn back the clock. Only when an oppressed people decide that their freedom and that of their children is more important than life itself do they rise up, cast off their chains, and overthrow the tyrants. Perhaps the people of China, Iran, Cuba, North Korea, and too many other nations will someday make that decision.

Now for something a bit lighter, a wonderful fish story. 

A Goldfish Story. When I was growing up, like a lot of kids, I had a few goldfish. I managed to keep them alive, at least for a while, and I suppose the biggest ones might have grown to four or five inches long. The size of the tank seemed to be the limiting factor, so they never got much bigger. I just assumed that goldfish were by nature small fish. But the other day I was hooked by a story about a man who caught a rather large goldfish in a French lake. How large was it? A whopping 67 pounds. Here’s a photo of the UK fisherman, Andy Hackett, with his catch, a goldfish appropriately named “Carrot” by the locals. And don’t worry, after photographing his record catch, Hackett released Carrot so the remarkable fish could gain a few more pounds and continue to set new world records.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Take some time today to thank God in prayer for all He has done for you and for those you love. God never stops loving and He continues to move His eternal plan forward. And because you and I each have a role to play in God’s plan, we should all understand how important we are to Him. Be open to God’s Word and His call to love and serve Him and all those He puts in your life. 

Thanksgiving, then, should be a joyful time and there are few better manifestations of that joy than the hymn of Psalm 100:

A Psalm for the thank offering. 

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the lands!
Serve the LORD with gladness! 
Come into his presence with singing! 

Know that the LORD is God! 
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him, bless his name! 

For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. 


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Dogs as Comfort Critters

When I was a mere child, our family, like many families, enjoyed a number of different pets. We were pretty much a dog family and shared our home with several wonderful canines. 

The other day, while driving on back roads to conduct a cemetery committal service in rural Beverly Hills, Florida, I noticed two young children playing with a large dog in their front yard. I think the dog was one of those labradoodle mixed breeds, a good-looking animal. The children were young, a boy and a girl, maybe seven or eight years old, and they were really enjoying themselves, as was the dog. I sat at that stop sign and watched the three of them for maybe a half-minute before a pick-up pulled up behind me and leaned on his horn. That broke the spell, and off I went to bury the dead. But as I drove the rest of the way, I thought of all the dogs who blessed our family and my childhood with their presence. Dogs are truly wonderful creatures, just another gift from a God who loves us. I think He gives us dogs to teach us how to love unconditionally, just as He loves.

The first dog who shared our home with me was Patches, a Boston Terrier, of whom I have absolutely no recollection. I have a photo of me as a baby with Patches standing guard, but I think she died not long after that. Our next dog, the first pet I can remember, was Clipper, a German Shepherd. I have many memories of Clipper who used to sneak into my room and climb into my bed after my folks had retired for the night. He knew my mom didn’t appreciate his shedding on my blankets and sheets, but he and I openly conspired to disobey. Mom eventually relented. I always felt privileged that Clipper chose my bed and not that of my brother, Jeff, although I suspect Clipper based his decision on the amount of room available in each bed. Jeff was four years older and took up a lot more space. Clipper was a terrific dog, even though he did enjoy chasing down the chickens raised by one of our neighbors in rural Nichols, Connecticut. As I recall Dad was frequently forced to pay for recently slaughtered fowl. Here's Clipper enjoying himself in the snow (probably about 1948):

When I was about five, we moved to Larchmont in suburban New York, and Clipper moved with us. He didn’t care much for suburban life since he was no longer allowed to roam freely. Fortunately for Clipper and the entire family, after a year or two we moved to Panama City Beach, Florida when my dad, an Army reserve officer, was recalled to active duty at Camp Rucker (now Fort Rucker) in Dothan, Alabama. Dad rented a small 2-bedroom cottage right on the beach. He would spend weekdays at Rucker and weekends with us. Jeff and I attended the local public school, Drummond Park Elementary School, which in those days was segregated. Of course, as young boys, this meant little to us. We simply enjoyed living right on the beach where we’d romp in the surf with Clipper and watch out for dangerous critters like Portuguese Man o’ War and sand sharks. Here we are in our sandy Florida backyard — I’m the little one — with our dad and Clipper…

Our next move took us to Heidelberg, Germany, again thanks to the U.S. Army. But first my folks had to see about finding a renter for our home in Larchmont. And since we couldn't take Clipper with us to Germany, Dad sold him to a man who owned a butcher shop on Long Island. I expect Clipper spent the rest of his days living and eating well. We all missed him.

Heidelberg was fascinating. We didn't live in Army housing but lived "on the economy," renting a flat in a small apartment house in town. Jeff and I also attended German schools, so we certainly got a taste for the country and its people. This was in 1951-52, not too many years after the end of the war. I remember asking my mom why we couldn't get a dog, and she laughed and said, "That would just make Frau Sauer [our landlady] even more sour."  

Heidi and Mom
But Dad surprised us when we returned to New York. He had purchased a Weimaraner puppy and had it shipped from Germany to our home in Larchmont. The dog's name was Heidi, although her official Kennel Club name was “Arnheid von Geisberg.” I always thought this more elaborate name made her uncommonly regal, and she certainly lived up to it. 
Heidi immediately became one of the family. Although she was a rather large dog, she was very happy being a homebody and adjusted quickly to our family's odd lifestyle. 

When she was about three my folks decided to breed her with another purebred Weimaraner, resulting in eight wonderful little puppies. We sold seven but kept the largest male, whom Dad named, "Der Alte," the same name the Germans gave Konrad Adenauer, a name connoting age and wisdom. Unfortunately, he didn't live up to his name and simply refused to grow up. I think living with his mother simply spoiled him. We eventually sold him to a man who lived on a large rural estate where Der Alte enjoyed himself for years.

Heidi was especially close to my mom, and used to sit with her, or on her, or beside her whenever possible -- see the photos above and at left. Only when mom wasn't around would she condescend to spend quality time with the rest of us. 

Heidi lived with us for more than a dozen years and during that time learned to tolerate all of our strange idiosyncrasies. For example, Dad acquired a very clever parakeet named Heinz who used to land on Heidi's head and talk to her in his broken English. Heidi ignored him, assuming he was just another of the odd creatures who inhabited her home. 

I was almost 8 years old when Heidi joined our family, and she died when I was home on summer leave from the Naval Academy. It was heartbreaking. 

Will our dogs join us in heaven? Well, if the lion will lay down with the lamb, I don't see why God won't let the dogs who loved us and cared for us, probably more than we cared for them, also be with us eternally. St. Thomas Aquinas may disagree, but I'll bet he never had a dog. 

Monday, November 14, 2022

Homily: Mass and Healing Service - 11/12/2022

Readings: 3 Jn:5-8; Ps 112; Lk 18:18


Today’s readings are all about faith, and prayer, and healing; but, essentially, they’re really about faith. Without faith, prayer is empty, like the self-centered prayer of the publican who prayed only to himself. And remember what happened when Jesus visited his hometown of Nazareth?

“…he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith” [Mt 13:58].

Yes, without faith, healing doesn’t happen. Faith, then, is at the heart of it, isn’t it? Even though we’re all in need of healing, it’s through our faith we can cry out to God in our need.

But in our relativistic, politically correct world, faith is seen as little more than superstition. I’m speaking, of course, about supernatural faith, not natural faith in what others tell us and do. We express natural faith: faith that the plane we’re in will get us safely to our destination; faith that my phone calls the right number, that the pharmacist gave me the right prescription; faith that Mongolia exists, even though I’ve never been there; faith that the other driver will stop at the stop sign. Human, natural faith drives almost everything we do.

But supernatural faith is our free assent to all that God has revealed, all which we profess in the Creed, that which we celebrate here today. As Scripture reminds us, 

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” [Heb 11:1].

Supernatural faith is a gift from God, one that calls for obedience, but obedience demands humility. Those who live in a world without humility, a world that needs no God, simply reject the gift of faith. They can neither accept what God has promised, nor believe He actually loved them into existence. Lacking faith, they face the world alone, and afraid.

Some of us here today are afraid: afraid because of an illness; afraid of getting old; afraid of death. Some of us are afraid because our lives haven’t turned out quite the way we’d planned, and we fear an unknown future. Some of us are plagued by guilt, and guilt breeds doubt and fear in our hearts. Some of us can’t accept forgiveness because we are unable to forgive others, or to forgive ourselves. And so, the doubts and fears remain. There’s a beautiful verse from Psalm 95: 

"If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts" [Ps 95: 7-8].

Well, His voice is calling us, calling you and me, calling each of us individually. But hardened hearts are unlikely to listen to or even hear His voice. That’s what Satan does when he attacks our faith; he does it through doubt and fear. And that’s why Jesus tells us so often: “Be not afraid.”

And doubts? Don’t let them trouble you. Even the Apostles doubted, when their faith should have been strongest. At the very end of Matthew’s Gospel, as the 11 accompanied the Risen Jesus to the mountaintop, immediately before His Ascension, Matthew reveals:

“When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted” [Mt 28:17].

Remarkable, isn’t it? It’s why the Risen Jesus, after confronting Thomas and his doubts, says to us:

“Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” [Jn 20:29].

And that’s you and me. We are blessed.

Let me share an experienced from a few years ago. The deacons in my previous parish on Cape Cod conducted a weekly Liturgy of the Word with Holy Communion at a local nursing home. After the liturgy, if we had time, we usually helped our volunteers return the residents to their rooms.

Well, one day I was pushing Teresa in her wheelchair. Now, I’d known Teresa for several years. She was in her early 90s, but had recently started to have some mild memory problems. But one thing hadn’t changed: Teresa talked incessantly. It didn’t always make complete sense, but it never stopped.

On this particular day as we approached the elevator, Teresa was chattering away when we encountered Connie. Connie, also in her 90s, stood in the center of the corridor, but was screaming, loudly. Teresa asked me to stop the wheelchair, and then reaching out she touched Connie’s forearm, rubbing it gently, not saying a word. The three of us remained there for what seemed like an eternity – Connie screaming, Teresa rubbing, and I wondering how long this would go on. But then Connie’s screaming eased and soon stopped completely. She became very calm. Teresa gave her arm a final squeeze and said quietly, “We can go now.”

I wheeled her into the elevator and as soon as the door closed, she said, “Connie’s OK, she’s just afraid because she doesn’t have much faith.” She then went on talking about how good the lasagna had been the night before.

Whenever I read today’s Gospel passage from Luke, I inevitably think of that day, about Connie's fears and her lack of faith, and about Teresa's faith and her lack of fear. You see, at the very end of that Gospel passage Jesus asked a rather frightening question:

“But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” [Lk 18:8]

If we’re here on that day, will you and I be another Teresa or another Connie? Of course, I learned something else in that nursing home. I learned that faith is contagious. Through her faith Teresa calmed Connie’s fears, helping her accept God’s gift of faith. And, not surprisingly, Teresa taught me my own faith was far from perfect.

God, you see, gives us this wondrous gift so we can share it with others, just as Teresa shared it with Connie and me. This is how much God loves us. He loves us so much that He entrusts us to share this most valuable gift with everyone we encounter.

Teresa recognized something else. She had come to understand that God calls us to do one thing in this life: to serve Him and His people. We’re called to be servants, expecting nothing in return. God doesn't promise his servants safety. He doesn't promise us long and happy lives. He doesn't promise success, or fame, or wealth, or beautiful children, or a nice home. 

God promises us one enduring thing: eternal life, which is the greatest gift He could ever give us. He also told us that to achieve eternal life, to collect on this promise, we must love Him in return, and do His will. That can mean carrying our cross.

Now, you might think this is a strange thing to say right before a healing service. After all, shouldn’t we be talking about healing rather than cross-bearing? Shouldn’t we be like the widow in today’s Gospel passage? Through persistence didn’t she ultimately get exactly what she wanted? Yes, but how does Jesus explain this parable to the disciples? Listen again…

“Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily” [Lk 18:7-8].

Did you hear the promise? You can expect justice from God – not man’s justice, but divine justice. And His justice is an enduring, eternal justice, always tempered with mercy. If we have a faith that endures, a faith that refuses to give up even when all else has been taken from us, God will bless us with His justice and mercy.

What form this justice and mercy will take, we don’t know…and so we leave that up to God, for He knows what is best for each of us. But the faith that endures is the faith Jesus showed us, a faith that persisted to the end, even as He hung on the Cross.

Jesus’ sacrificial act of faith was for us; it was for our salvation. This is the Good News. Our God loves us so much, He’s willing to die for us...which begs the question: what are we willing to do for Him? Fortunately, Jesus answers this for us: We must serve. How did John put it in our first reading?

“Please help them in a way worthy of God to continue their journey” [3 Jn 1:6].

Here again, then, we called to serve, even as we ourselves beg for God’s mercy. In other words, those of us who seek healing must also become healers. I’ll repeat that: if you seek healing, you must become a healer, and a forgiver. That’s right, all of us here today for healing are called to be healers and forgivers of others.

Think of what that means. Do we spend our days and our nights wrapped up in ourselves, thinking only of our own brokenness, our own fears and doubts, our own need for healing, thinking about those who have hurt or offended us?

Or do we follow the example of our Savior? Do we reach out to others, as Jesus reaches out on the Cross, helping them overcome their fears by extending God’s love.

John also promised that “perfect love drives out fear” [1 Jn 4:18] and only God’s love is perfect. But just as we are called to share the gift of faith, God expects us to spread his perfect love throughout the world, at least in the tiny slice of the world in which God has placed us.

Today, as you come forward in need of God’s healing touch, carry all those you know in need of healing, all those in need of forgiveness…carry them with you and lay them at the foot of the Cross.

Brothers and sisters, become healers, ambassadors of God’s love and forgiveness.

God’s peace…

Sunday, November 6, 2022

The President, the Economy, and Other Important Stuff

Let me begin by saying something that’s been apparent since President Biden took office on January 20, 2021. Everything our President knows about economics could be etched on the head of a pin with a jackhammer. Okay, that was a bit hyperbolic, but based on his political record during all those years as a senator from Delaware and as Barack Obama’s Vice President, Joe Biden really hasn’t learned very much. One suspects he’s been well-controlled by a team of handlers since he first ran for the U.S. Senate back in the early 1970s.

I’m not the only one who thinks ill of our President’s capabilities. Back in 2016, when Vice President Biden was competing for the Democrat nomination for President, his boss wasn’t too flattering about Joe’s abilities. An aide quoted Obama saying, “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f**k things up.” Crude but revealing. Obama isn’t alone among those who know Joe well. As Robert Gates, President Obama’s defense secretary, once put it, Biden has “been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” Judging by his actions during that past 20 months, Joe hasn’t changed. But yesterday, campaigning for a truly incompetent senatorial candidate in Pennsylvania, Obama and Biden stood on a stage hugging each other as Joe called those who disagreed with their far-left policies “idiots.”

But let me focus on the economy President Biden has given us. I’m not an economist. Although I took lots of economics courses in graduate school, they had little positive effect. I sat through courses in macroeconomics, microeconomics, and international economics. I even studied econometrics one quarter. I managed to get an A in that course, but I remember absolutely nothing, except that the professor was a bit creepy…but I won’t go into that. Heck, it was the early 70s, a time of ubiquitous creepiness. And yet, through it all, and with the help of a few books by Milton Friedman, Jude Wanniski, and Arthur Laffer, I actually learned a few things that have inexplicably remained in my aging brain. For example:

  • The Law of supply and demand actually works. Ignore it at your peril.
  • Inflation is caused by government and by no one else, because only government creates money. Inflation results from government printing too much money so it can spend lots of money. This leads to all that money chasing too few goods, so prices rise. But in a real sense inflation’s root cause is the demand by citizens for government largess. That’s right, folks, you and I are the real cause because too many of us love to receive “free money” from the government. The solution? Stop asking the government for expensive goodies, and instead tell the folks you elected to slow the increase in the quantity of money; that is, tell them to stop spending so much. After all, it’s not their money; it’s ours. And because the folks that create all that money always want more of it, they increase taxes, something that only makes things worse because it drives up the prices of goods and services. If you and I hope to see inflation drop, then, we must vote for politicians that intend to reduce spending and cut taxes. Nothing else will work.
  • Speaking of taxes, here’s another truth: If you tax something, you will ultimately get less of it. Taxation is a cost to both producer and consumer. Taxation, then, has a significant effect on the basic law of supply and demand. If the government taxes something, its cost is reflected in the prices paid at every level. Demand then decreases, affecting supply.
  • I’ve never been a believer in taxing businesses, for the simple reason that businesses really don’t pay taxes, at least, not as you and I do. I don’t mean they’re tax cheats, not at all. Like you and I, they write their checks to the U.S. Treasury. But if we take a close look at taxation, we’ll note the differences between businesses and individuals. When the government increases personal taxes, you and I can try to increase our income, but that’s not easy, at least not in the short term. Most often our only real alternative is to spend less by cutting back on our expenses, which has a negative effect on the economy. Businesses are different. If government increases their taxes, businesses look for ways to reduce production, equipment, and other variable costs, and seek means to increase sales. But they also take a hard look at their workforce. Cutting their workforce and expanding technology can be an effective means to lower costs. Increasing taxes on business, then, often leads to increased unemployment. But cost-cutting steps take time to implement, so businesses have only one other option: they raise prices, thereby passing on the increased cost of taxation to their customers. The result? Increased taxes on businesses are ultimately paid for by you and me because the stuff we buy costs more. Over-taxation of businesses and individuals, then, has both short- and long-term negative consequences.
  • Energy is a key driver of modern economies. Drastic changes in energy production or energy sources will cause major disruptions to the nation’s economy. This is especially true when we try to replace highly reliable energy sources with far less reliable alternative sources. Clueless politicians simply do not understand or ignore the hidden costs, the national security implications, and the additional infrastructure demands that arise when they make major policy changes on such critical issues as energy.
Now these truths are neither accepted nor understood by our President. In fact, President Biden seems to believe that prosperity comes not from the free-market economy but from the government. This, to use one of the President’s favorite terms, is pure idiocy. A government-run economy is simply socialism; and socialism, whenever and wherever it has been tried, has failed miserably. To believe in socialism, then, is to be historically ignorant. In truth, to be a socialist is to be remarkably stupid. Okay, that’s a bit harsh. Only the useful idiots recruited by the hard-core socialists are the stupid ones. The hard core, the true believers, are well aware that socialism in all its forms does not bring about the paradise they promise. Unlike the useful idiots, they know the truth; and the truth is that socialism will give those in charge near unlimited power. And power is what they seek. Back in 1962 one of my professors at Georgetown, referring to the problems that plagued Ancient Greek democracy, said something I’ve never forgotten: “Power is sweetest when it is wielded secretly.” Perhaps behind the scenes at the White House there are a few folks savoring the sweetness of the power they have managed to acquire.

Watching and listening to our President, one senses there is a cadre of true believers who secretly run the show and set policy. Ideologically they obviously reside among the far left and have had no difficulty moving “moderate Joe” in their direction. They seem to have been less successful controlling our Commander-in-Chief during his public outings, hence the repeated gaffes and embarrassing senior moments. Even discounting his age, I think I can confidently predict that Joe Biden will be a one-term President.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Vets - Vietnam Era

In the photo below JFK, President and combat veteran, was speaking to our USNA Class of 1967 during our Plebe Summer on August 1, 1963. We had reported to the Academy just a few weeks earlier on June 26, thus beginning our four-year grind as Midshipmen. This was, of course, a necessary prelude to the careers that many would follow. Sadly, President Kennedy died just a few months later in Dallas. 

Normally I don’t do this, but a Naval Academy classmate, Bruce Wright, posted the following on FaceBook today, so I decided to share it. It pretty much sums up what many of us experienced back in 1967 and in the years that followed. It’s a bit “stream-of-consciousness” but tells the story well. 
We left home as teenagers or in our early twenties for an unknown adventure. We loved our country enough to defend it and protect it with our own lives. We said goodbye to friends and family and everything we knew. We learned the basics and then we scattered in the wind to the far corners of the Earth. We found new friends and a new family. We became brothers and sisters regardless of color, race, or creed. We had plenty of good times, and plenty of bad times. We didn’t get enough sleep. We smoked and drank too much. We picked up both good and bad habits. We worked hard and played harder. We didn’t earn a great wage. We experienced the happiness of mail call and the sadness of missing important events. We didn’t know when, or even if, we were ever going to see home again. We grew up fast, and yet somehow, we never grew up at all. We fought for our freedom, as well as the freedom of others. 

Some of us saw actual combat, and some of us didn’t. Some of us saw the world, and some of us didn’t. Some of us dealt with physical warfare, most of us dealt with psychological warfare. We have seen and experienced and dealt with things that we can’t fully describe or explain, as not all of our sacrifices were physical. We participated in time-honored ceremonies and rituals with each other, strengthening our bonds and camaraderie. We counted on each other to get our job done and sometimes to survive it at all. We have dealt with victory and tragedy. We have celebrated and mourned. We lost a few along the way. When our adventure was over, some of us went back home, some of us started somewhere new, and some of us never came home at all. We have told amazing and hilarious stories of our exploits and adventures. 
A bunch of us: Navy and Marine helicopter pilots
We share an unspoken bond with each other, that most people don’t experience, and few will understand. We speak highly of our own branch of service and poke fun at the other branches. We know, however, that, if needed, we will be there for our brothers and sisters and stand together as one, in a heartbeat. Being a Veteran is something that had to be earned, and it can never be taken away. It has no monetary value, but at the same time, it is a priceless gift. People see a Veteran and they thank them for their service. When we see each other, we give that little upwards head nod, or a slight smile, knowing that we have shared and experienced things that most people have not. 

So, from myself to the rest of the veterans out there, I commend and thank you for all that you have done and sacrificed for your country. Try to remember the good times and make peace with the bad times. Share your stories. But most importantly, stand tall and proud, for you have earned the right to be called a Veteran. I’m a VETERAN! If you are a Veteran, please Stand Tall and Proud.
And let me add just a thought: to all the veterans who read Bruce’s words, be thankful that God gave you the opportunity to serve others. You and I survived, but that was God’s doing, not ours. But through it all, we were willing to do as Jesus reminded us: Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” [Jn 15:13]. When you come right down to it, that’s what we were all willing to do. Blessings and God’s Peace.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Snippets of Sad News

Every so often, as I scan the daily news, I’m reminded of how much sadness there is in the world. Some of it is expected; for example, the death of a celebrity who has lived a long life. It’s saddest perhaps for family and close friends left behind, and I suppose for loyal, diehard fans, but for most of us it’s just another story touched with nostalgia, one that also reminds us of our own mortality. Other sad stories make us scratch our heads in wonder, as we try to fathom the motives that lead people to do strange and seemingly inexplicable things. I like to understand the motives of others, but today, although motives are often veiled, we can sense the presence of real evil. And some stories are sad for only a few, while others publicly celebrate the same news. 

Here are just a few stories that popped up on my iPad today, stories that generated sadness among some and other emotions in the hearts and minds of others.

Catholic Voters in Swing States. Here’s a story that generated sadness among some of my Catholic friends who reside on the political left. In a poll conducted by the Trafalgar Group in mid-October, Catholics in the key swing states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Ohio, and Pennsylvania overwhelmingly rejected President Biden. The president’s average disapproval rating among Catholics in these states was 62.2%, while his approval rating was a mere 35.4%. For Democrats, who must ride his coattails even though they’d prefer to ride almost anything else, this news was especially troubling. I called one of my more liberal pals to get his reaction, and he simply asked, “Don’t they realize the president is a devout Catholic?” Perhaps, I suggested, he might want to listen to the American bishops who have come out strongly against the president for his rejection of almost the entire range of Catholic moral teaching. Maybe the results of this poll show us that many Catholics have listened to and agree with our bishops. I must admit, the news didn’t sadden me.

The Funeral of a Parishioner. Late this morning I assisted our pastor at the funeral of a parishioner, a woman named Carol Buyarski. It was a beautiful funeral Mass, attended by a large gathering of family and friends. There’s always an element of sadness when a loved one dies, the sadness of grief and separation, but never a sadness resulting from death itself. As Christians we believe our lives here on earth are simply the beginning. As T. S. Eliot once wrote, “In my end is my beginning,” a phrase I believe he borrowed from Mary, Queen of Scots. But whatever it’s source, it’s a wonderful phrase because it’s true. For the faithful, the end of this life is merely the beginning of something wonderfully eternal, a life in the Presence of God. As St. Paul reminds us: "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” [1 Cor 2:9]. And so, at the funeral I found myself listening to others talk about Carol, this good woman who brought so much good and joy and peace to the lives of others. I thought how good it was that she had lived her 78 years well. But then I recalled that she and I were both born on September 13, 1944, a remarkable coincidence. Of course, I don’t believe in coincidence. Anyway, this brought to mind something my mother said to me years ago. I was probably 8 or 9 years old and we were attending the Irish wake of a relative, one of those older relatives whom I really didn’t know well. Looking at the old man lying peacefully in his casket, I turned to my mom and asked “What did he die of?” Her response meant little to me at the time, but I never forgot it. “Oh, I suppose he just died of old age.” You guessed it, he was 78. Now that’s sad.

Jerry Lee Lewis Dies Today at 87. Okay, I know, you don’t have to remind me, Jerry Lee Lewis was by no means a paragon of virtue. I believe he was married seven times and one of those marriages, his third, was to a cousin who was, as I recall, all of 13 years old. And throughout it all, drugs, booze, and infidelity were a major part of his life. Yes, indeed, Jerry Lee was a sinner, and a very public one. But if you’re a fan of true 50’s rock ‘n roll, you know full well you loved Jerry Lee’s music. Maybe I should say you loved his entire performance, something that was outrageously unique and virtually unrepeatable. At the age of maybe fifteen I managed to attend a “show” (that’s what we called concerts back then) that included Jerry Lee Lewis. It was a rollicking, absolutely amazing show. No one could imagine — I certainly couldn’t — that anyone could give us that kind of brash, wild and crazy experience. Everyone in the theater was on their feet, totally involved in the music, as Jerry Lee sang and pounded out “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” followed by “Great Balls of Fire.” He had managed to blend Gospel, rockabilly, Country-Western and ended up giving us the purist form of rock ‘n roll. Later in life he redefined himself as a Country-Western star. As for his lifestyle, yes, he was a sinner, but unlike most celebrities he admitted it. One thing you can say about Jerry Lee Lewis: he was no hypocrite. He also believed in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and I hope spent some repenting time with his Lord during his last days. As Sr. Francis Jane, O.P. once told our eighth-grade class, “If you get there, you might be surprised whom you will meet in heaven.” I am saddened at Jerry Lee Lewis’ death because he will no longer play that piano as no one else ever has. May he Rest In Peace.