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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Saints Peter and Paul

I wasn't assigned to preach today. Father John, our parochial vicar, had that honor; and he delivered a wonderful homily on this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. But I thought a few of my readers might like to revisit a homily I preached on this date five years ago. Here this link:

Homily: Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul (2011)
God's peace...

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Happy Birthday, Mom

Today is my mother's birthday. The daughter of Irish immigrants, Martha Catherine (Cavanaugh) McCarthy was born 107 years ago on June 28, 1909 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. She died on March 12, 1977 at the age of 67.

Interestingly, on Mom's birth certificate her name was entered simply as Martha Cavanaugh, with no middle name; and yet on her baptismal certificate she was given the name Catherine Martha Cavanaugh. Since she was always called Martha, I had assumed this was her first name and Catherine was her middle name. Now I'm not so sure.

Thinking about my mom today brought to mind others in her family: her sisters Margaret, Rose, Mae, and Lu, and her brother, Bill. These weren't Mom's only siblings, but the others died young, long before I was born; and so I never knew them. It also reminded me that I know so little about my ancestors. 

Martha & John McCarthy-1930s
I never knew my maternal grandparents. Mom's mother, Julia, died when Mom was still a young girl of about 10, and her father, Thomas Cavanaugh, died within a few years of my folks' marriage in 1935, years before my birth in 1944. I suspect I would have liked my grandfather because my father thought highly of him and always spoke kindly of him. I know almost nothing about my grandmother, since my Mom rarely mentioned her and my father never knew her. But her name is also the source of some confusion. On Mom's baptismal certificate, my grandmother's maiden name is listed as "Julia Soye", which my mother always claimed was Scottish. But on Mom's birth certificate, the last name is spelled "Soier", which to me seems rather French. Which is correct? I have no idea.

According to that same birth certificate, both of my grandparents were born in Ireland, but no city or county is given, just the country. Perhaps my son, Ethan, who has been doing a bit of genealogical digging can uncover some of the hidden Irish roots of our family tree.

Mom - RN
Mom was the youngest in her large family. According to Mom's birth certificate, her mother had nine children, although I can account for only eight. She had several children from a previous marriage that ended with her first husband's death. His last name was Dorley, but I know nothing more about him. My grandmother then married Thomas Cavanaugh, seven years her junior, with whom she had several more children, Mom being the last. Like many families of that era, the death of a spouse and the need to remarry created stepmothers, stepfathers, half-brothers, and half-sisters, all thrown together into a complex family mix. If my recollection is correct, this "second family" was all girls, while the first included both girls and boys. I could have the numbers wrong, though, since Mom seldom differentiated between sisters and half-sisters and infant death was far more prevalent in those days. Indeed, I'm certain that one of the boys in that first family, whose name I never knew, died in infancy. The other boy, my uncle, Bill Dorley, was a Navy veteran of World War One and a life-long bachelor. Uncle Bill was quite the character, and as a youngster I was especially impressed by his 1954 Cadillac Eldorado convertible. It's remarkable, isn't it? -- the things we remember. I was quite fond of this uncle of mine and was saddened when he died in 1959.

After my grandmother's untimely death, my grandfather, Tom Cavanaugh, remarried. All in the family agreed that this second wife, Bridey, was a less than pleasant stepmother. I can recall my father speaking about her only guardedly when my brother and I were present. I got the impression that she was very unkind to my mother who was still quite young when her father married Bridey. I'm pretty certain that as a young boy I met her at least once, but the meeting was apparently unremarkable; however I do remember accompanying my parents to her funeral in Bridgeport.
Mom and her sister, Edna (c. 1920)
Mom's closest sibling was her sister, Edna, who died while still in her early teens. As I recall, the cause of death was rheumatic fever (perhaps scarlet fever) but I might well be wrong. The two girls, however, were very close and Edna's death affected Mom deeply. The above photo was taken not too long before Edna became ill. Mom once told me that her sister's illness influenced her decision to become a nurse. And it was during her time as a nurse that Mom met Dad. The rest is history.

Mom continues to speak to me, to guide me even now forty years after her death. T. S. Eliot said it pretty well...

And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.

Happy Birthday, Mom. Thank you for your goodness and for all you did for me and Diane. We love you and miss you.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Just Obeying (Politically Correct) Orders

“But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.” - John Adams
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” - John Adams


I spent a good portion of my life wearing the uniform of the United States Navy: four years as a Midshipman at the U. S. Naval Academy; 12 years as a regular Navy officer; and then 15 years as an officer in the Naval Reserve. It wasn't always a bed of roses, but I wouldn't trade a minute of it for anything else. As you might expect, out of this experience I developed tremendous respect for those who serve our country and willingly risk their lives so we can enjoy the freedoms enumerated by our Constitution. And keep in mind, when they enlist, it is that Constitution the members of our military swear to "support and defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic...[and] bear true faith and allegiance to the same." In that same oath of allegiance the enlisted service member also agrees to obey the orders of the President and superior officers, but always "according to the regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice." Commissioned officers take a similar oath, in which they too swear to "support and defend the Constitution." In other words, the Constitution and the law demand first allegiance, the orders of people second. As John Adams reminded his countrymen we are “a government of laws, and not of men.” (Click here to read the oaths administered to enlisted service members and military officers.)

This is why I am more than disturbed by the rapidly spreading plague of political correctness that has infected our military in recent years. Not only is this infection destroying morale, it is also destroying readiness, something about which we should all be worried. Every segment of the military is being restructured by the social engineers of the left who could not care less about the role of the military as guardians of our national security. Achieving their ideological ends trumps everything else, including our survival as a free nation. Indeed, freedom and that pesky Constitution are abhorrent to them because these are the most obvious barriers to their plans. 

The military is, of course, an easy target for a Commander-in-Chief who can order his compliant service secretaries, chiefs of staff, and other senior officers to obey his commands. It began during the Clinton presidency but has been rapidly advanced by the current administration's social engineers determined to transform a military manned by warriors into an army committed to radical cultural change. Feminism, LGBT radicalism, multiculturalism, enforced atheism, sensitivity training, and a host of other touchy-feely theories have been dumped into a cauldron of weirdness from which the troops are required to feed. Although every service has been infected, the Army has perhaps suffered the most. Of one thing you can be sure: the Army that Norman Schwarzkopf led to rapid victory in 1991 no longer exists.

Sometimes this political correctness is so bizarre it's hard to believe. For example, at Arizona State University, Army ROTC male cadets were allegedly pressured by leadership to walk around in high heels to "raise awareness of sexual violence against women." I suspect it did nothing but humiliate the cadets and destroy what little morale they might have had.

And just this past week we saw the video of retired Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Oscar Rodriguez, who had been asked to speak during the flag-folding ceremony at the retirement of another master sergeant. When Rodriguez mentioned God in his comments he was physically dragged from the retirement ceremony by several enlisted members of the command who were following the orders of their commanding officer, Lt. Col. Michael Sovitsky. And this is especially disturbing because retirement ceremonies are very personal affairs and what is said during the flag-folding is up to the retiree, not the Air Force. Oh, yes, when you read those oaths of office you'll notice the last four words in each: "So help me God." Don't you just love the hypocrisy inherent in political correctness?

I've included a video about Oscar Rodriguez below.

These are not isolated incidents but just two of thousands of similar events in which the PC is forced down the throats of our military. But perhaps my greatest concern is the silence of our senior officer corps, a cowardly bunch concerned more with their perks and retirement than with the nation's security and the welfare of their troops. Their excuse? "Oh, I can do more by working quietly behind the scenes doing what I can to obstruct the most egregious changes." This is, of course, garbage because they have done absolutely nothing. "By their fruits you will know them." 

Perhaps what we need is the mass resignation of a few dozen flag officers. That just might wake up the nation.

Pray for the United States of America and pray for all who serve our country in the military.

Brexit: the "Leaves" Win!

Unlike some Americans I'd hesitated to express my opinion in advance of yesterday's historic Brexit vote in the UK. A few of my British friends indicated they strongly resented our president's instructing the British people how they should vote (to stay in the EU) and then threatening to place the UK at the "back of the queue" when it comes to trade agreements. And so, although I was a leave supporter, I thought it best to keep my opinion to myself. But now that the results are in and the people of the United Kingdom have decided to leave the European Union, I can happily say, "Congratulations, Brits!"

Queen Elizabeth II may be the presumed constitutional sovereign of the UK, but yesterday the people openly declared their true sovereignty. By their vote they rejected the authoritarian rule of distant, non-elected bureaucrats and reclaimed both their independence from the EU and the freedom to govern themselves.

The markets, of course, will undergo a short-term panic because Wall Street and its overseas equivalents are populated largely by hand-wringing wimps. Too many of these lovers of the Obama/Clinton style of big government-big business cronyism would rather live in an authoritarian world of imaginary stability than in the messy, less predictable world where freedom reigns. And lest you think that I am overly partisan, many in the Republican establishment are just as committed to perpetuating this cronyism.

The vote in the UK mirrors the support among US voters for both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, two men whose campaigns have focused largely on criticizing the existing political establishment. Their criticism may come from very different ideological directions, but the support both have received reveals a high level of dissatisfaction among the electorate. 

Sanders, of course, gathered the support of the Woodstockian sentimentalists of my generation, but I'm pretty sure many of Sanders' youthful followers haven't a clue when it comes to socialism. Their political ignorance, abetted by a Marxist-friendly educational establishment, may have led them to enter the Sanders' camp, but I suspect many are more strongly anti-establishment than pro-socialist. How many will support Clinton, an entrenched establishmentarian, how many will support Donald Trump, and how many will simply stay home and play video games? Trust me, even the pollsters can't answer these questions.

Unlike Obama and Clinton, Trump is on the winning side in the Brexit vote. Whether this has an impact on his presidential prospects remains to be seen, but I think he should pay attention to the successful "leave" campaign led by former London mayor, Boris Johnson, who focused on the economy and the nuts and bolts of EU authoritarianism. We'll see if Mr. Trump can make this kind of transition.

How did the ancient Chinese curse go? May you live in interesting times.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Ghost Stories

I have a confession to make -- a minor confession, but a confession nonetheless. I like ghost stories. When I mentioned this to an acquaintance the other day, he winced and said, "You're kidding! You're a Christian. You're a deacon. You can't possibly believe in ghosts."

His reaction and his failure to understand what I had just told him are symptomatic of the difficulties associated with communication these days. This failure -- on his part, not mine -- forced me to clarify what should have required no clarification:
"I never said I believed in ghosts. I said only that I like ghost stories."
One can like science fiction stories about alien beings from another galaxy and still believe, as I believe, that no such creatures exist. As a child I often read stories about animals that possessed some very human qualities. I thoroughly enjoyed Peter Rabbit and Charlotte's Web and The Jungle Book and yet, even as a child, I knew that rabbits and spiders and jungle creatures were all incapable of conversing with other animals in English or behaving rationally. But these stories were wonderful tales that taught lessons about how to live life well.

I won't bore you with the rest of our conversation which became increasingly tedious as we sparred over the meanings of words and he struggled to accept that I could suspend my disbelief and enjoy something he considered unbelievable. But then he was educated as a mechanical engineer, so perhaps this explains his attitude.

Actually, I probably shouldn't have used the words, "ghost stories," since the stories I most enjoy aren't always about encounters with the more traditional ghosts. "Supernatural stories" might be a better term. Such stories sometimes include ghostly manifestations, but not always. Their real attraction? They force the reader to consider the possibility of realities beyond the material (natural) world. Indeed, such realities are actually at the very heart of our Christian faith which demands our acceptance of the existence of the supernatural.

I suppose my first exposure to the genre was Henry James' The Turn of the Screw which I read in high school. I found it a less than satisfying read because it left me questioning either the reality of the ghosts or the sanity of the main character or both. I still haven't made up my mind. In any event, the novel failed to whet my appetite for more of the same.

About ten years later a friend, who was emptying his shelves of unwanted books, gave me a cardboard box filled with early 20th-century novels. Among them was All Hallows' Eve, a novel by Charles Williams (1886-1945). The gift of this book began my enchantment with the genre and effected a major change in my reading habits.

Charles Williams
I knew of Charles Williams because of his relationship with both J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. All three were longtime members of the Inklings, that literary club of friends who met in Oxford pubs to discuss their works and common interests. Although I had read much of both Tolkien and Lewis and owned a book of Williams' poetry, I had read none of Williams' novels. I soon discovered he had written seven, and like All Hallows' Eve, all are supernatural thrillers. 

Williams, an Anglican, wrote his novels during the 1930s. He died in 1945 at the age of 59. I believe the novels were out of print for some years, but then, starting in the 1970s, Eerdmans, the Christian publishing house, reprinted all seven. Once I had read that first book, I was hooked and had to read the rest. All seven novels are still available. Here's a list, with Amazon links:
Shadows of Ecstacy

War in Heaven

Many Dimensions

The Place of the Lion

The Greater Trumps

All Hallows' Eve

Descent into Hell
Although the novels include occasional encounters with the dead, the books are really concerned with salvation and the battle waged between the forces of good and evil. Williams' Christianity comes through loud and strong. If you're interested in digging more deeply into these seven novels I suggest reading Thomas Howard's wonderful little book, published in 1983, The Novels of Charles Williams.

To learn more about the author himself, visit the website of The Charles Williams Society, an organization devoted to promoting "the study and appreciation of the life and writings" of this author and theologian.

Another author who dabbled in supernatural thrillers is Russell Kirk (1918-1994), a convert to Catholicism in his middle age. Known mostly for his scholarly works on political philosophy, especially his classics, The Conservative Mind and The Roots of American Order,  Kirk also enjoyed writing spooky tales.

Russell Kirk
Although Kirk wrote several novels in the genre, I especially enjoy his short stories. In 2004 Eerdmanns came through once again and published a wonderful collection of Kirk's stories under the title, Ancestral Shadows. Its subtitle is "An Anthology of Ghostly Tales" and so it is.

Of Kirk's novels, my favorite is Lord of the Hollow Dark, a captivating tale set in an evil-infested mansion in Scotland and populated with a remarkable cast of characters. It's a difficult book to find at a reasonable price, so if you want a copy, I recommend doing what I did and search the used book stores and websites. Kirk's first novel, Old House of Fear, is another exciting gothic tale, also set in Scotland, and the novel that received the greatest critical acclaim.

Like that of Williams, Kirk's fiction clearly reveals his Christian beliefs and focuses on salvation and the presence of evil in the world. I only wish he had written more.

If you're interested in learning more about this remarkable man, visit the website devoted to his life and work: The Russell Kirk Center.

Gene Wolfe
And then there's Gene Wolfe (b. 1931), a prolific writer of science fiction and supernatural tales whose Catholic faith has certainly influenced his work. Wolfe is also among the best writers of fiction alive today. Best known for his science fiction, he has also written a number of wonderful novels that I'll carelessly lump under the heading of supernatural thrillers. I've listed a few of my favorites:

Peace (1975). Perhaps my favorite of Wolfe's novels, Peace is a powerful story of a not very pleasant old man who possesses a miraculous imagination that can alter reality.
Pandora by Holly Hollander (1990).  Murder, mystery, and infidelity in a Chicago suburb with a modern-day Pandora's Box thrown in to spice up the plot. It is a story narrated by a clever teenage girl whose wealthy family is at the center of the novel's strange events. It also includes a detective who seems to know more about the small town than than any stranger should.
Pirate Freedom (2007). A remarkable, thoughtful and beautifully written tale of a contemporary priest who finds himself transported back to the distant past and into the life of a pirate captain on the Spanish Main. Sounds weird, and it is, but it works.
An Evil Guest (2008). A strangely wonderful story set in the distant future but with an atmosphere reminiscent of the not so distant past. Like all of Wolfe's stories, it's full of surprises that both delight and horrify.
I've read a lot of Wolfe over the years and I suppose the best way to describe his work is to say that I have never been disappointed. Here's a link to an interesting article about Wolfe published in April 2015 in the New Yorker: "Sci-Fi's Difficult Genius."

There are others, but Williams, Kirk and Wolfe are my favorites. And as I said to my friend, "I like ghost stories," even the ones that aren't about ghosts.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Homily: 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Readings: Zec 12:10-11;13:1 ;Ps 63; Gal 3:26-29; Lk 9:18-24
Have you noticed, Jesus asked a lot of questions? Now, when you and I ask a question, we’re usually looking for an answer. We want to know something we didn’t know before. But Jesus asked questions not to inform Himself, but to inform the person being questioned.

Remember that remarkable scene when the friends of a paralytic lowered him through the roof, hoping Jesus would heal him [Mk 2:1-12]. Jesus responds by saying,  
“Child, your sins are forgiven” [Mk 2:5].
Now this really bothered a group of scribes who witnessed the scene and they whispered among themselves, accusing Jesus of blasphemy. So He simply asked them:

“Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? [Mk 2:8]
Jesus knew the answer, but He wanted the scribes to think about what they were doing, to examine their own consciences.

And then there’s that scene in John’s Gospel when almost all of His disciples left Him because they couldn’t accept His teaching on the Eucharist [Jn 6:60-71]. Jesus turned to the Apostles and asked,
“Do you also want to leave?” [Jn 6:67]
Peter responded, and with a question of his own:
“Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" [Jn 6:68].
Yes, Jesus asked a lot of questions, and in today’s passage from Luke, He did it again.

The brief dialogue with the apostles took place at Caesarea Philippi – which was a very pagan place. Nearby were temples devoted to the Syrian god, Baal, and to the Greek god, Pan, the god of the wild, of desolate places. And Herod’s son, Phillip the Tetrarch, built a temple there celebrating the divinity of the Roman emperor, Augustus…hence the name, Caesarea Philippi – Caesar and Philip.
Ruins of Pagan Shrine: Caesarea Philippi
And so, in this pagan setting, surrounded by false gods made by men in their own image and likeness, Jesus confronted the twelve and asked them:
“Who do the crowds say that I am?” [Lk 9:18]
Such a simple, non-threatening question – just tell me what folks are saying. Take a poll, sample public opinion, try a focus group, let me know what the man or woman in the street thinks about me. Today he probably would have said, “Have you Googled my name? What popped up?”

Oh, yes, a lot popped up…lots of things.  And so they told Him. After all, they had no stake in it. They were only passing along the opinions of others. Jesus, of course, knew the answer, for He too had heard the crowds. He knew full well what the people said about Him: He is a prophet, John the Baptist or Elijah or Jeremiah, returned from the dead. And this is exactly what the Apostles told Him.

But, again, Jesus didn’t ask the question to hear what He already knew. No, He wanted the Apostles to question themselves, because their answer would determine their future. Once they came to a firm understanding of Jesus’ real identity, and once they accept the truth of that answer, their lives will change forever. And so Jesus led them into the future and asked them:
“But who do you say that I am?” [Lk 9:20]
Again Peter showed the way. Peter, the de facto leader of the twelve, the boaster who hid his weakness behind a façade of bluster, the disciple who would shed tears of shame in the face of his threefold denial – yes, it’s this Peter who answered by saying:
“The Christ of God” [Lk 9:20].
In Matthew’s Gospel his words are more expressive:
“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” [Mt 16:16].
Yes, the Holy Spirit speaks through Peter: You are the promised One, the One sent by God. This is tacitly confirmed by Jesus when He told them to keep quiet about it.
Jesus with Peter and the Apostles at Caesarea Philippi
But then He went on to tell them what would happen to Him: He, the long-awaited Messiah, would be rejected by those who await Him. The One sent by God would suffer greatly and be killed. As Zechariah prophesied in our first reading:

"...they shall look on him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him” [Zec 12:10].
But He also gave them a glimpse of hope: on the third day He would be raised. Of course the disciples understood nothing of this. The very thought of a murdered Messiah simply didn’t compute.

But there’s more…because discipleship has consequences. Jesus led them into their own future, for they must follow Him, take the same path, a path that leads to the Cross. It’s here He introduces the great paradox of Christian life: that we will save our lives, only if we’re willing to risk losing our lives. And if we do, God will raise us just as He raised up His Son on the third day.

Jesus wasn’t looking for a quick one-liner answer to His question. He was looking for an answer that lasts a lifetime. It wasn’t a question just for those first disciples, for Peter and that small band of followers; for Jesus turns to us as well…to you and to me.
You there! Yes, you! "Who do you say that I am?"
Deep down we all know what He means, don’t we? Do I really have to take up those crosses – those hardships, those sorrows, those personal calamities, those people that conspire to make my life so difficult?

Yes, Jesus replies, if you would be my disciple. As Paul reminded us:
"For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” [Gal 3:27]
To be “clothed in Christ” is to accept the cost of discipleship, to accept His invitation to love, to love as Jesus loved when He took up His cross. This is what it means to be a cross-bearer who walks alongside Our Lord.

And so He continues to question us, “Who do you say that I am?”

The question just hangs in the air, doesn’t it? It won’t go away, brothers and sisters. We can try to ignore it, drown it out with the sounds of our lives…but it remains, waiting for an answer. Jesus doesn’t want opinions. He wants an answer:
“Who do you say that I am?”
There comes a time when we must answer this question, when, like Peter, we must make our own confession. You see, brothers and sisters, we are called to witness. We are called to spread the word about the Word…to let the world know our answer. And along with that answer comes a promise, the promise of eternal life beyond our imagining.

Jesus is here with us right now, present in this gathering as he always is — the walking, talking, living presence of God in our lives. We have already listened to Him as He spoke to us through His Word, and in a few moments, He’ll be present on this Altar. When we join together and process to communion, when we extend our hands, when we eat and drink, will we be able to give him our final answer?

No opinions, dear friends, just the testimony of our lives, just being the witness Jesus Christ calls each of us to be…as He asks us:
“Who do you say that I am?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Atrocity in Orlando

Early Sunday morning, not far from where we live here in central Florida, a young Muslim man murdered at least 49 people at an Orlando gay nightclub before being shot dead by law enforcement. The FBI quickly declared the murders an act of terrorism and indicated that the lone terrorist had possible connections with the Islamic State.  The FBI also revealed that this young man, a native-born American citizen of Afghan descent, had made two trips to Saudi Arabia in recent years and had been investigated several times for connections with terrorists and for threats of violence, but they had subsequently "closed the case." 

His beliefs, however, were nothing new and seem to have been formed years ago. His high school classmates report that on the morning of September 11, 2001, he openly celebrated the terrorist attacks. We have also learned that his ex-wife had to be rescued by her parents after only four months of marriage because he had beaten her so frequently she feared for her life. And it now seems his father, an Afghan living in the USA, actually ran for the presidency of Afghanistan. His father also hosted a California-based satellite TV show in which he regularly condemned the United States and strongly supported the Taliban. Indeed, despite this questionable background the Orlando terrorist was permitted to continue his employment with a major security firm that is a key subcontractor with the Department of Homeland Security and the Central Intelligence Agency. 

None of this apparently triggered any alarms within the local, state or federal law enforcement bureaucracies. As a security professional, he therefore had no problem legally purchasing the two weapons he used in the attack.

I realize that, unlike the FBI investigators, we have the advantage of hindsight, but I can't help but wonder whether political correctness played a role in the lack of scrutiny this man received from both his employer and law enforcement. Did his immediate supervisors fear the backlash that might arise if they had disciplined or fired him because of the threats he had made to coworkers and others? Did he get a pass because he was a Muslim? After all, that's exactly what happened in the case of the Fort Hood terrorist, an Army psychiatrist who was investigated by the FBI for his terrorist connections and then went on to murder 13 innocent human beings. Lots of red flags that seem to have been overlooked.

My major concern, however, is that as a nation we apparently have not accepted the obvious fact that we are at war and have been since well before September 11, 2001. Equally disturbing, we seem unable to define the enemy. For example, just moments ago I  heard one supposed expert declare that we are engaged in a "war on terror." It would seem that few people recognize the stupidity of such a statement. Terror is not our enemy; rather, it is a means of waging war. One might as well say we are engaged in a war on strategic bombing or a war on anti-personnel mines. It makes absolutely no sense unless one's purpose is to obfuscate. It's not unlike the president blaming the Orlando atrocity on guns rather than on the Islamist terrorist who repeatedly pulled the trigger. At some point, if we hope to defeat our true enemies, we must be willing to identify them. Quite simply, we are at war with Islamic Jihadists, those Muslims who believe that Islam must wage war with the infidel nations -- i.e., the rest of the world -- and are more than willing to use terrorism to achieve this goal.

Of course, most Muslims just want to live their lives and have no desire to join the jihadists in their war against infidels like you and me. But a surprisingly large percentage of the world's Muslims accept much of what the jihadists preach. Islam's teaching on homosexuality is particularly relevant given what happened in Orlando where the terrorist chose as his target a nightclub catering to the LGBT community. By doing so he actually carried out the demands of sharia or Islamic law which calls for the death sentence for homosexuality. It's important to realize that many, if not most, of the world's Muslims believe that sharia should be the "law of the land" throughout the world. In many Muslim nations a majority believe the death penalty should be applied for such offenses as adultery, homosexuality, and apostasy. Indeed, in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and several other Muslim nations, homosexuals are regularly executed. Even here in the United States too many Muslim leaders preach the same. Ironically, just a few weeks ago, an imam speaking in Orlando stated that gays should be executed "out of compassion."  (See the video below.)

To see the eye-opening results of the Pew Research polling of Muslims worldwide on these and other issues, click here: Muslim Beliefs about Sharia.

Strangely, though, the notables of the political left are so blinded by political correctness they cannot accept even the most obvious truths. Yesterday I read that lawyers of the American Civil Liberties Union had declared, quite incredibly, that the "Christian Right" was responsible for the terrorist attack in Orlando because "they created this anti-queer climate." And, trust me, the ACLU includes the Catholic Church among the Christian Right because of its moral teaching on the homosexual lifestyle. The Church, of course, does not in any way condemn homosexuals, who like the rest of us are sinners for whom our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died. We don't condemn the sinner; we condemn the sin.

The left simply cannot bring itself to criticize Islam and instead attacks the soft target of Christianity knowing it has little to fear from Christians. I cannot recall having heard any Christian leader call for the killing of homosexuals, and to my knowledge no terrorist attacks have been perpetrated by Methodists, Episcopalians, Jewish rabbis, Benedictine monks, or the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Pray for the dear souls, God's children, who lost their lives in Orlando. Pray for those who mourn them. And pray for our nation as its citizens try to decide which adolescent to elect as our president.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Homily: Monday, 10th Week of Ordinary Time

Readings: 1 Kgs 17:1-6; Ps 121; Mt 5:1-12

When I was a boy in New York, the kids on our street would play stickball every summer evening. Now there was one neighbor, Mrs. Counts, whose yard happened to be right field. It was surrounded by a hedge, and the only break in the hedge was the gate that opened onto her front walk.

Now Mrs. Counts was very, very old, probably about sixty. And whenever a ball would go over the hedge, we’d open the gate and run into her yard to retrieve it. The gate squeaked, a noise that always brought her to the front door, from which she screamed at us for daring to hit a ball onto her lawn. We, of course, retaliated by taunting her and calling her names. It was not a good relationship.

To us Mrs. Counts was more than a neighbor; she was the enemy. We neither liked nor loved her. She was a grumpy old woman, and we were nasty little brats.

Trivial events? Maybe. But through these events we all demonstrated a remarkable lack of charity. Of course, I’m pretty sure we children never made a connection between our judgment of Mrs. Counts and the Sermon on the Mount. Indeed it would be decades before I made that connection, this time in a Cape Cod neighborhood.

One summer afternoon a soccer ball flew over the fence into our yard and rolled onto a patch of Lilies of the Valley. In an instant our neighbor’s two grandsons jumped the fence and ran through the flowers, trampling as they went, to retrieve the ball. I stood there in the yard, watching them, and was about to let them have it, when suddenly I thought, Heavens! I’ve become Mrs. Counts. And so I waved at them. They waved back, jumped the fence, and were gone.

Yes, every so often, I do what is right in God’s eyes. Every so often I am slapped on one cheek and actually turn the other.

You see, brothers and sisters, we’re all called by Jesus, by the Gospel, by the Beatitudes, and every so often we experience the tension arising from our imperfect lives. The world tells us to ignore it, to fight anger with anger, violence with violence, evil with evil. But deep down we know that doing so is just a mask to cover our selfishness, to hide our self-righteousness. We want to win our battles, to shine; whereas Jesus instructs us to be meek, to be humble.

The world screams for revenge, but Jesus tells us to forget about man’s justice. Be merciful. Hunger and thirst for righteousness, for God’s justice, for holiness.

He tells us to love our neighbor, but then goes on to tell us to love our enemies too. Love your neighbor and love your enemy…who’s left? G. K. Chesterton, one of my heroes, wrote: "We are commanded to love our neighbors and our enemies; they are generally the same people." I, of course, thought of Mrs. Counts.

And that dual love of neighbor and enemy can be a bit of a challenge. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did as He spread His arms wide on the Cross and forgave.

Did evil triumph that day when the Son of God was crucified? No, mercy triumphed, and gave us a glimpse of God’s holiness [Jas 2:13].

Mercy triumphs!

"Take up your cross," Jesus tells us, "and follow me" [Mt 16:24]

My holiness is loving. It admits no hatred, although it might occasionally reprove [Mt 18:15].

I don’t seek revenge, and neither should you [Eph 4:31-32].

I forgive, and so should you...70 times 7 times [Mt 18:22].

"So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” [Mt 5:48].

But, Father, how can we be perfect? Perfection is what You are; imperfection is what we are. 

God knows that. The distance between us and God is infinite. He simply wants us to follow the Son’s example, for His perfection is our model. It’s not the perfection of God’s infinite power and wisdom, the unapproachable divine perfection that we seek. No, such perfection is always beyond us.

But still the command is there: Be perfect!  It’s the perfection of the Beatitudes to which we are called: to be poor in spirit; to hunger and thirst for righteousness; to seek meekness and purity of heart; to be merciful; to be peacemakers…for these are all attainable.

Jesus pleads with us: Come to me and I will give you an abundance of grace. I will help you on this remarkable journey of conversion [2 Cor 9:8]. Jesus became one of us, and in doing so shows us what is possible in our own lives.

Let’s use this moment today to tell the Father that we have indeed forgiven all those neighborly enemies who have offended us.

I forgave grumpy Mrs. Counts years ago. I pray only that she forgave me.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Pope Francis - Jubilee Mass for Deacons

This post is aimed primarily at my brother deacons who, like me, were unable to travel to Rome for the Jubilee for Deacons -- all part of the special Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Thousands of permanent deacons from around the globe did, however, manage to make the trip. Among the highlights was the Mass Pope Francis celebrated last Sunday, May 29, in St. Peter's Square for the Jubilee for Deacons. The Mass lasted about two hours, and I have included a video of the entire Mass below. I even recognized a few of my brother deacons from the USA in the video.

On Tuesday I posted some comments on the Holy Father's homily.