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‘One Mell of a Hess’

24 Apr

 

It's time for Catholics to come in for a check-up.

Many Americans think we are going nowhere in a hurry. Others think we are going backwards. Others think we are doing just fine.

 Americans are suffering insecurity. We no longer feel safe.

Our world is rocked by violence, untruth and inhumanity. Terrorists run loose, unfettered. Their boldness is beyond imagination. They commit unspeakable atrocities.

We are in “one mell of a hess.”

For the sake of our families and of all people, government leaders must make the right decisions to defeat ISIS, tame Iran and put Putin in his place. They must decide better how we are taxed and our money spent. Our military must be strengthened instead of weakened.

The Real Problem

However, domestic and worldwide challenges to freedom and peace cannot be solved only by diplomacy and military strength. We have to go deeper.

In the midst of that terrible malaise of Americans, there is a growing sense of anger, frustration and disillusionment. Some people, perhaps too many, simply give up. They lose hope. They no longer believe they can make a difference. Some even stop looking for work. Some citizens think their only recourse is public demonstrations.

We are descendants of courageous immigrants who came to our land because America was the greatest nation on earth; because the United States of America offered personal freedom, the opportunity to find work, to become citizens. Here their children had a chance to become productive citizens.

Our forefathers saw no limits to the American dream. They knew they had to work for that dream—and they did.

Their faith in God energized them, activated their imagination, and fortified them with hope.

They had true faith in God, not just a mere nod to God.

They trusted God through thick and thin.

And Now?

We are plagued with the most deadly of all malaise—lack of belief, lack of faith.

Too many Americans perhaps believe that there is a God. But they no longer know their God—a God who loves so completely and tenderly, who became man and sacrificed himself for the salvation of all peoples, a God who sanctifies and strengthens his people.

As a nation, we must return to the God who gives us life, the God who inspired and was trusted by our Founding Fathers.

There you have it: Faith in God and commitment to our national heritage are the only answers to what plagues our nation.

Simplistic?

No.

It’s just that simple.

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Politics, Education and …

9 Apr

It's time for Catholics to come in for a check-up.

 

Do you sometimes feel we’re going nowhere fast? You are not alone.

 

Many years ago in Cajun land, a candidate for Police Juror (County Commissioner) knocked on our door soliciting our vote.

Let’s call him Bob.

“Bob,” I asked, “what’s your platform?”

He said, “My platform is to win.”

Honest enough answer, but I persisted, “Well, if you are elected, what will you do for the parish (county)?”

He said with great excitement, “I’m going to black top this road in front of your house.”

I nearly laughed, because, you see, work was already in progress to black top that road.

As I look at national elections, sadly I see the same sort of foolishness, but on a much grander scale. People seem to vote for candidates that will feather their nests in one way or another. There seems to be a pitiful lack of concern for who we are as Americans, our history, the strength of the U.S. Constitution and the need to have a strong nation for our sake and the sake of all peoples around the world.

Ignorance is not bliss. It never was and never will be. It is inexcusable that any high school graduate cannot tell you who was the first president of these United States or have any information or interest in the Civil War which tore our nation apart, or in the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

But the real problem is in the American family. Faith is the foundation for a strong family and then for a strong nation. We need to rediscover faith in God. Too many people think the universe revolves around them. Henri Nouwen, a popular 20th century writer, hit the nail on the head: People can say with conviction, “I exist.” He said that the moment you discover the truth that “God exists,” you can no longer see yourself as the center of all life. You discover your essence and grandeur in relating to this God who calls you into existence.

I am convinced that this is the fundamental reality that can save family life, education, government and politics.

That, dear reader, is the basis for any hope we may have for ourselves, our nation and our world.

 

The Audacity!

23 Feb

Dog Tags on Flag

Take  Back America!

What next? What other crazy government action might be in store for us? It seems we already have a surplus of government goof-ups.

But, this one takes the cake: The feds made a move toward invading the newsrooms of major media ostensibly to see how they operate, how they select news and decide what is newsworthy.

Apparently, this has been shelved (for the time being?). This idea is in direct violation of freedom of speech and the freedom of the press, both of which have kept America, so far, from the hands of would-be dictators.

Go figure. This is the same government that pushed through Obamacare without the bill being read by lawmakers. We can still hear Pelosi saying, “We have to pass it so we’ll know what’s in it.”

What’s in it? If I read correctly, here are three gems that should shock your socks off.

  • Carte blanche for the feds to go into your bank accounts, and even withdraw funds.
  • The government can access your health care records.
  • People 76 years of age and older are not treated for cancer unless it’s a previous condition.

The audacity!

I’m not playing politics when I say it is time to take back our country and subject our government to the will of the people.

One major obstacle to that desired goal is the American public: Apparently too many of our younger people are ignorant of our history and the glory and power of the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.

To too large a degree, we’ve lost five critical elements to sustain a free society—responsibility for oneself, the importance of the ballot, a sense of community, concern for our neighbor, and, the courage to take a public stand against evil, even if you have to stand alone.

I am convinced that only one thing can save this nation—and that is a religious revival, a rediscovery of God and his wisdom expressed so freely in the Sacred Scriptures and the lived experience of his people.

When I read a certain Scripture, I can’t help but think of our once great nation, our nation that was a world leader instead of a foggy reflection of what it used to be. We can substitute the U.S. in place of Israel:

          But my people did not listen to my words;

                    Israel did not obey me.

          So I gave them over to their stubbornness of heart;

                    they followed their own designs.

          But even now if my people would listen,

                    if Israel would walk in my paths,

          In a moment I would subdue their foes,

                    against their enemies unleash my hand.

          Ps 81:12-15

We do not pray for the death of our enemies. We do pray for peace—and for conversion of heart for ourselves and all people.

How’s this for an action plan?

  • Renew our relationship with God and other believers;
  • Worship God with sincere hearts;
  • Embrace his Word in the Bible;
  • Steep ourselves in the graces offered through his Church;
  • Unleash our tongues in public praise of God and our witness of what he has done in our lives, and,
  • Tell Washington bureaucrats, of whatever party, office or function, that we are taking our country back.

What do you think?

Synthesis May Work

10 Jan

Dog Tags on Flag

Just how do we fix what needs fixing in these United States of America? For example, we hear a lot about the problems of our economy and unemployment—and it seems that the poor have become a pawn in our political brawl.

What is the answer?

There are those who think a more socialistic approach to the economy is the answer. However, a spiritually impoverished socialism is surely not the answer—and the “gospel of hope” we hear from big government advocates is shattered by their attack on religious liberty and disregard for traditional moral values.

Nor is a spiritually impoverished capitalism the answer. All we need to do is recall the birthing pangs of unions as laborers fought for fair wages and safe working conditions. Now, sadly, people seem to discern that Big Union is as dangerous as Big Government, especially when it seems that unions work for their own enrichment regardless of how their agenda affects others.

Human beings are products of their environment. We often feel lost in all the turmoil and confusion plaguing us today.  But, think of the poor and disenfranchised. They are especially powerless to influence the formation of social values and policies which affect them and all citizens of a community or nation.

So, it seems to me that a spiritually impoverished Big Whatever is far from what we need to get our nation back on track.

A Voice of Reason and Hope

Pope Francis has courageously confronted the social ills and religious callousness in both the world and in our own Catholic Church. His “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”) pulls no punches as he acknowledges the obvious failures of Church hierarchy and the faithful to embrace totally the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He urges us to begin to listen, really listen, and to learn from the poor. He holds that making the poor an intimate and effective part of our society and our government, and our Church, is central to what it means to be Christian.

The pope is critical of a capitalistic vision with the sole goal of making money. He states that when the haves have it all, part of what they have belongs to the poor. He does not advocate a Robin Hood approach—rob the rich to give to the poor. He insists that part of society’s responsibility to the poor is to enhance employment opportunities with just wages.

He calls for a balanced understanding of who we are as fellow humans, all creatures of the same God, all loved by God and created to live in love and peace. He wants to see those with financial power working to free people from poverty and powerlessness.

In spite of shrill talking heads on TV and radio, he does not say that capitalism is intrinsically bad. He does not condemn private ownership of property or the right of entrepreneurs to enjoy the fruit of their genius (or maybe luck).

Pope Francis does insist that each person, regardless of race, economic and social status, has a sacred obligation to the common good. This common good includes a sacred duty to assist the poor to rise above their limitations and to achieve self-determination.

Try a Bit of Synthesis

For the sake of our nation and our positive influence in the world community, and for some semblance of sanity, let’s try a bit of synthesis:

  • In our efforts to help the poor, let’s develop a true appreciation of their human dignity and their need to achieve self-determination, find jobs and have an effective voice in society.
  • We need to expand our limited understanding of “helping the poor,” to include those imprisoned in “psychological poverty,” a hopelessness that they will never, ever be able to escape their pain and despair.
  • Let’s set aside the tendency for self-aggrandizement and face the truth about who we are and what we do.
  • We must synthesize what our Constitution says about no “establishment of religion” with its guarantee of religious liberty; we need to acknowledge God as creator and embrace again, as a nation, the fact that religious values and truth enhance social progress for all people.

I have a voice—and so do you!

Racism

20 Jul

Spirit4_Vivid

As the old Cursillo song goes, “All in color and so must all love be,

in every bright color, to make our hearts shine.”

At the outset, let me state clearly that I refuse to use the terms Polish-American, French-American, African-American, German-American or any other hyphenated-American.  We are American or we are not. It’s time to come together in peace and harmony.

A bit of persona history

Back in the 1950s and into the Searing Sixties, I was up to my ears in the fight for civil rights for all U.S. citizens.

That was back in the Lafayette, La. diocese – and the Catholic paper was The Southwest Louisiana Register.

I wrote passionately about the injustices to black Americans. One of my efforts was a 32-week series called “Register Social Studies” in which I outlined the disparity in income, education and general well-being of whites compared with those who, regrettably, are now called African-Americans. The series was used by the Office of Economic Opportunity to help organize the War on Poverty in Louisiana. The Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada gave the series the coveted award for “Best Campaign in the Public Interest.”

In a court case in Lafayette, I testified against the district attorney and for the Southern Consumer’s Cooperative – a movement among black farmers to use “strength in numbers” to achieve fair prices for their produce.

However, not everyone was impressed.

  • Some of our states’ rights and segregationist friends dubbed our Catholic paper The Congo Chronicle.
  • A number of Old Timers in the priesthood did their best to ostracize the paper and anyone connected with it.
  • I received a death threat for my troubles – but, as you can see, I’m still here. (By the way, when I came to The Florida Catholic in 1969, the paper strongly supported farm workers – and, here in Florida I received more threats.)
  • I think some of my relatives were about to have me committed.

We’re not brothers

After the Civil Rights bill became law, two or three of us white lay people met with a black priest who was strongly supportive of our efforts on behalf of black Americans. In that session, I mentioned something like, “Well, Father, you and I are brothers.”

He drew back, looked me right in the eye and said evenly and emphatically, “We are not brothers. You’re white and I’m black.”

I was stunned and deeply hurt.

I would again go to bat for the civil rights of black Americans – if it were necessary.

Discrimination has diminished

However, contrary to the strident voices of such “leaders” as Al Sharpton and the somewhat color-blind NAACP, ACLU, and the Congressional Black Caucus, white discrimination against black people has diminished markedly.

  • White people helped put Barrack Obama in the White House – twice.
  • White people have voted for black governors, state legislators and U.S. congressmen and senators.
  • In the Catholic Church, we have black priests, some as pastors, in predominately white parishes.
  • Our schools are integrated – and much is left to be done in equality of education across the board.
  • I perceive that a growing number of professionals are persons of color.

Do we still have racial discrimination and hatred in our nation? Of course – and not all whites who discriminate against or hate blacks are members of the Klan. And not all blacks who hate or distrust whites are members of quasi-military groups preaching discord and violence.

I grieve over the death of young Trayvon Martin. However, I find it unconscionable that his death has become a springboard for condemnation of our justice system and what appears to be a general distrust of all whites.

I find utterly regrettable and harmful the national angry reaction over the Zimmerman-Martin verdict in Sanford, Fla. and the silence or reaction of so-called black leaders when blacks rape and/or kill white people.

Racism has two colors

Racism? Yes. And many white people are guilty. But if you listen to their rhetoric and study the sometimes subtle bias, the charge falls also to Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the NAACP, ACLU, and several high level black politicians in Washington, D.C.

The real enemy is hopelessness – a hopelessness born of ignorance and an engrained sense of being victims, the latter promoted by some leaders whose income may well depend on continued strife between cultural and racial differences. The battle has to be fought in the “hood” and the “slums” and the “backwoods” as well as on Main Street U.S.A.

In the troubled areas of our cities, a major problem is lack of personal responsibility. Men get women pregnant and go away. This is totally irresponsible as well as unconscionable. This breakdown of personal, moral discipline is at the core of most of America’s problems.

This is where a lot of our corrective efforts should be targeted. If we do not build up the moral character of people and strengthen family life we are lost.

Conditions are not what they were back in the 1950s and 1960s. We’ve made progress.

Let’s build on that progress – and not tear it down.

Evil is for Real

4 Jun

32751-9-23-10

Shades and a remote — trying to ignore your fears and problems. But as Pope Leo XIII wrote in Rerum Novarum (1891): Nothing is more valuable than to look upon the world as it really is and to look elsewhere for the solace to its problems.

Abraham Lincoln was known for his moral strength. He once said, “Every effect must have its cause. The past is the cause of the present, and the present will be the cause of the future.”

No doubt about it. Good produces good and evil produces evil.

There are people who think nothing of killing and maiming others or corrupting the morals of young people. They make sex slaves out of helpless young people. They destroy families by pushing drugs – and holding out as good and normal sinful values and practices.

The erosion of traditional social standards is at once evidence of evil and one of the most dangerous allies of evil. We have come to expect (and perhaps accept) corporate corruption, unfairness in the workplace, sexism, oppression of the weak, sexual immorality, violence and racism.

People retreat into themselves, so overwhelmed with bad news that they think all will go away if they just ignore it. Or, in this disconnect with reality, they begin to think that all the troubles in their neighborhood and world seem ordinary, par for the course.

So psychologically disabled, these people are unable to work against the forces of evil.

Too few good people are willing to speak out for justice, decency, chastity, the stability of marriage and family, and honesty in all human relations – including the political arena.

Edmund Burke, an Irish political philosopher, Whig politician and statesman from the 18th century, once said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Burke also wrote in a 1791 letter:

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites, in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity, in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption, in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.

Perhaps we’re in the blame game – it’s my neighbor’s fault that we don’t speak; it’s the government’s fault that we are in such a financial crisis; the entertainment industry is to blame for the decay of sexual morality and family life.

Indeed, they all play a role in the decadence that is spreading in our society. However, what might you have done to irritate your neighbor? How do you manage your own finances and the power of your vote? What movies and television programs do you watch – and what is the moral level of your favorite music? Do you use your buying power to send a message to corporations who promote unhealthy social trends?

As Pogo says, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

And here is a warning from our Lord:

I know your works. I know that you are neither cold nor hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. … Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me. … Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit is saying (Rev 3:15-17, 20, 23).

And the Lord promises:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (Mt 7:7).

Random Thoughts in Prayer

27 Aug

Faith in God is far from superstition! Stand solid and trust in the Lord! Read on!

 Why do the nations protest and the peoples grumble in vain? Kings on earth rise up and princes plot together against the Lord and his anointed:

“Let us break their shackles and cast off their chains!”  Ps 2:1-2

This seems to be the attitude of secular powers – the attitude that believers are shackled and chained and enslaved to quaint or even dangerous superstitions. I am reminded of something I wrote many years ago and it seems to be a good response to those who would set us “free.”

A man who is free in a circumstance of freedom may not be truly free. He may be only a creature of circumstance. But a man who is free in a circumstance of “unfreedom” is truly a man – a free man.

 The remaining survivors of the house of Judah shall strike root below and bear fruit above. For out of Jerusalem shall come a remnant, and from Mount Zion, survivors. The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this.  Is 37:31-32

For many years this idea of a remnant has surfaced among Christians who see rampant wickedness in the world. They expressed trust in God’s word that, in his zeal, God will save a remnant which will remain faithful and begin again to bear fruit for his kingdom – more believers and workers in his vineyard.

It seems this position was a bit prophetic. Many Christians seem to be so in name only: Truth is what you want it to be – you can pick and choose from the Scriptures and Tradition only those things which cause you the least discomfort – and challenge!

Pray for the Church, for true disciples who will profess faith publicly, prophetically and effectively.