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Monday, March 28, 2011
Thank you...to 'Nobody'!
In the 1987 movie, “Suspect,” starring Cher and Dennis Quaid, Joe Mantegna plays an ambitious and zealous Washington D. C. prosecutor erroneously prosecuting a deaf/mute homeless man (played by Liam Neeson) in the alleged mugging and murder of a female file clerk. The prosecutor makes the case that in a city with so many very prominent people, a seemingly lowly file clerk with just a few bucks on her, and working late on a cold night and just trying to get back to her parked compact jalopy on a cold night to get home is in fact an important person, and as the prosecutor cites, “too important to forget.”
You don’t need to be in Washington D.C. to be surrounded by supposedly “prominent people.” They surround us in almost every community, and if not, then all over the TV, radio, Internet and in the press. They seem relatively inescapable, all these mammoths of importance, in whose shadow the rest of us meaningless schmucks seem to quietly evaporate. And as we know all too well, to put it mildly, some of these supposedly superior people aren’t quite at all what they’re cracked up to be in terms of character. But what really makes these coronated behemoths of prominence so prominent?
In the (1987) movie, “Wall Street,” a scrappy, blue collar machinist union steward, played by Martin Sheen, angrily admonishes his hoity, brash, up and coming stock broker son (played by real life son, Charlie Sheen), that he never judged a man by the size of his wallet. You could probably append to that moral, fame, as well.
I don’t like phony greeters and phony greetings. My voice mail welcomes me, as does my computer when I turn it on. It’s all fluff. I don’t like receiving a phony greeting from an inanimate object like it cares about me or even has the capacity to do so.
Likewise I bristle at being greeted by people whose job it is to greet me. I’m a big, strong fellow. I don’t need a doorman to open a door for me and feign my superiority. I resent being greeted by the person at Wal-Mart or the local DMV branch, who wishes me a good morning and might possibly even ask me how I’m doing today like he really cares. (Some day, I’ll stop and actually give him the whole laundry list as an answer!)
And forgive me, but greeters in church strike me as phony too. To call this stewardship is a stretch at best. If someone seeks stewardship, there are much more substantive things to do and that need being done. But I suppose it’s like chicken soup for a cold; it might not help, but it certainly can’t hurt either. I see no harm in it, but little to any real value either. If it is because it is your job (be it paid or unpaid), to robotically greet me as opposed to simply doing it because you truly wish to do so, then I’d much rather you save your breath and my time.
I guess I’m like my old man, a somewhat rugged, cantankerous and generally stoic, but also straight-shooting sort, who used to ridicule people for showing up and sending flowers at wakes and funerals. “Come see me and give me flowers when I’m alive, not dead!” the old man used to grumble. You would have had to know my father to appreciate the irony, as he was hardly the type of guy you would give flowers too anyway, but his point was characteristically sage, succinct, and crystal clear nonetheless.
My parish is one of those that has the cigar store Indians who redundantly offer the unsolicited good morning and open the door for people entering for Mass. But my parish also has a certain usher, also doing “stewardship” who takes the stewardship to higher plain beyond that which seems obligatory, minimal, and frankly, shallow, if not utterly plastic.
I don’t know her name. She is an elderly woman, who dresses both modestly and frugally. She has a consistently warm, gentle, and loving radiance about her. Clearly, you can see Jesus in her and in her gracious actions. When she passes the basket to each and every person who contributes, she quietly nods, smiles, and thanks them, as if they were donating to her. Sometimes, for younger folks and kids, she might also address them as “Dear,” “Sweetie,” “Honey,” etc. I don’t know this woman’s name. I know nothing about her, but her presence and actions both strike and inspire me every time I see her and I see her take her stewardship of ushering just one small, but very genuine step further. An I’m willing to bet that nobody ever asked her to do that. (With all due respect, and no offense intended, to all the very well-meaning "greeters" out there, see the difference?) Her simple, unsolicited and earnestly heartfelt gesture warms me every time she and I share that brief interaction, and I can’t help but think I am not the only so affected by her.
Something about this warm, sweet, loveable old soul reminds me of the parable of the poor widow who gave her last two coins to the temple, and Jesus remarked that while those richer and more ostentatious than her sanctimoniously gave the little extra of the vast surplus they could afford, the poor old widow humbly, quietly, instinctively and faithfully gave all she had left. Several biblical passages also tell us that the rich and famous here are exalted here, yet will be humbled come Judgment Day, and visa versa with the poor and humble.
Likewise, those who cling to save their life here will lose it, while those who look toward the next life will reap so much more. The Bible also teaches us that what some of us here on earth consider “wise” is actually folly in God’s eyes, and more often than not, even sinful. We are also called to be the “light” to illuminate the earth and “the salt” to season it. The Bible also teaches that we should not seek praise for doing what is right, for such is what is expected of us. The Beatitudes tell us that “The meek will inherit the earth.”
That little old lady in my church is a monumental pillar to absolute nothingness. She’s nobody important. In fact, she’s simply a nobody - here. It is said that angels often secretly walk among us and do good works. I can’t help but think that this humble little old lady is an angel, and the secret status of that angel is really no secret, at least for those willing to look instead of just see, and to listen instead of just hear, despite and beyond all the earthly noise, grandeur, shallow distractions and fleeting pleasures.
There is inherent beauty in these angels among us who the world arrogantly and foolishly deems “nobodies,” and our lives are better for their presence, and for their good works. And if you haven’t yet noticed, then start doing so today.
I believe it was St. Therese (“The Little Flower”) who, unable to do much of anything else, incessantly prayed for others while seriously ill and confined to bed. (As someone once taught me in my younger days, “When you don’t know what to do….DO SOMETHING!“) Indeed, when we are weak is when we are strong. And when we are “nobody” then we are truly “somebody,” especially in God’s eyes.
And to that angelic “nobody” in my parish, I simply say, “No, Ma’am….Thank YOU!”
“Humility is the mother of salvation.” (St. Bernard)
Connecticut Catholic Corner Contributor
Saturday, March 26, 2011
America's Golden Calf
""These are your gods, O Israel, that have led you out of the land of Egypt." -- Ex 32:4
"and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people." -- Matt. 24:11
If recent events have not conclusively proven that the American people made a grievous error in 2008 when they elected Barack Hussein Obama President of the United States, nothing ever will. In situation after situation in which leadership was called for, Obama presented us instead with indifference and indecision. Our current misadventures in Libya are only the latest example of this. We saw it just last year when a British Petroleum oil platform ruptured, spilling countless tons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. We saw it again just recently with the uprising in Egypt that ended up in the deposing of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. Now we're seeing it again in Libya, where Obama first declared (Libyan dictator Muammar) Khadafi must go, then flip-flopped on that objective, and now refuses to call that which fits every definition of war a war, calling it instead a "kinetic military action." In each situation, where nearly every previous president would have stepped forward and taken decisive action, Obama has instead sat on his hands, dithered and procrastinated, and, when he finally decided to act, offered up too little too late.
Yet he has been anything but indecisive when it comes to his own personal agenda of stripping the American people of their freedom and moving the United States from an economy of free-market capitalism to one of communism. He wasted no time in exercising government power grabs, from the banking and insurance industries, to the automotive industry, and finally, to health care, which by itself accounts for one-sixth of the total economy. The laughingly mislabeled Affordable Health Care Act was railroaded through Congress by an extremely partisan Democrat majority, when poll after poll bore out that the majority of Americans opposed such a program. This act, called Obamacare by its many critics, is still being treated as law of the land by the Obama Administration despite having been ruled unconstitutional by two federal judges, and having been legally challenged by the attorneys-general of 21 additional states. And his blueprint for realizing all this? It's a book by a fellow "community organizer," a man named Saul Alinsky, entitled Rules For Radicals, which, among other things, was dedicated to the World's First Rebel, Lucifer -- Satan -- The Devil -- and is Obama's personal bible.
Barack Obama has shown himself to be more than just a non-Party communist, more than just a "community organizer," which was his background before being elected to the United States Senate, and later to the Presidency of the United States. He is, in a word, America's Golden Calf. From the days of Obama-Mania, just two years ago, he was presented as the New Messiah, The Anointed One, or, simply, The One. He was supposed to unite a divided country, end all discord in the Middle East, capture and bring Osama bin Laden to justice, and make America prosperous once more. Instead, bin Laden remains at large, the Middle East is in unprecedented upheaval, and the United States is now more politically polarized than in any time previous since the Civil War. And we are now trillions of dollars in debt.
Yet all this in fact has been foretold in Scripture. In Exodus 32, the Bible relates how Aaron, the brother of Moses, fashioned a representation of a calf made out of the melted-down gold and jewelry of the Israelites, and presented it to the Israelites as their God. Jesus Christ himself warned of false Christs who would arise and lead their followers astray (Matt. 24).
Does Barack Obama fit into such categorization? Consider the following:
Upon hearing Obama speak, one listener remarked, "That, sir, is the voice of God, the voice of God!" It was soon afterward learned that Obama made all his speeches with the aid of a Teleprompter, and was virtually helpless without it.
Commentator Chris Matthews reported having felt "a thrill run up his leg" upon hearing Obama speak. Has this ever been publicly said by anyone about any other American president?
A teacher in a New Jersey township forced her students to sing hymns of praise to Barack Obama. Another teacher had his students repeat after him the words, "I am an Obama Scholar."
Throughout all this, to be fair, Obama himself never expressly asked for deification. But, just as noteworthy, he never refuted any of it either, as any president before him surely would have.
And what have we seen in the meantime of that president who was supposed to change and reform the world with his physical presence alone, so his minions would have had us believe?
We have seen a president who stands helplessly by as events unfold before him, rather than stepping in and taking charge. We have seen a president who continually presents the United States of America in the worst possible light, jetting around the world apologizing for the very things that have made America great, bowing to foreign dictators, and wasting our tax dollars with ineffective government programs (Obamacare, the Stimulus, "Cash For Clunkers"). We have seen a president who pays more attention to basketball than to foreign policy, who cold-shoulders our longtime allies (Israel and Great Britain), and plays golf while his country crumbles all around him.
We have, to sum it all up, seen the most inexperienced, unprepared, unfit and unworthy President of the United States ever to hold the office prove to us on almost a daily basis that he is in fact all of that. As previously noted, Obama never expressly asked to be deified, but neither did he say or do a thing to discourage such treatment. On the contrary, he seemed, at every turn, to encourage it.
He is not a God. He does not have superhuman powers. He is only one man among multitudes of the same, and, as he continually proves, a most fallible one at that. What does Jesus say about such people, in Gospel after Gospel and parable after parable?
"He who exalts himself shall be humbled."
Will Obama himself, or those who even now continue to worship at his altar, ever finally learn this?
Connecticut Catholic Corner Contributor
**image from PublicDomainPictures**
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Notre Dame Church Lenten Mission
Coming to Notre Dame Parish in Durham, Connecticut is Fr. Kaz Chwalek, MIC. Fr. Kaz will be giving several presentations on The Divine Mercy, hearing confessions and celebrating mass with Fr. Lipton (Temporary Administrator for Notre Dame Parish).
March 12 - 5 pm Vigil Mass
March 13 - 8 am and 10:30 am Masses
March 13 - 7 pm Divine Mercy Presentation (1 hour)
March 14 - 8 am Daily Mass
March 14 - 7 pm Divine Mercy Presentation (1 hour)
March 15 - 8 am Daily Mass
March 15 - 7 pm Divine Mercy Presentation (1 hour)
March 16 - 8 am Daily Mass
March 16 - 7 pm Divine Mercy Presentation (1 hour)
**Confession follows the 7 pm March 16 presentation
-Divine Mercy Introduction
-Celebrating the Feast of the Divine Mercy
-Divine Mercy Presence in the Liturgy
-Divine Mercy in the Gospel
-Meaning of Divine Mercy Picture
-Historical knowledge of St. Faustina
For more information call Notre Dame Parish (860)349-3050
or visit their website http://www.churchofnotredame.org/
Notre Dame Parish
272 Main Street
Durham, Ct 06422
For more information on Fr. Kaz Chwalek MIC: http://thedivinemercy.org/library/article.php?NID=3752&PLID=77
Divine Mercy Chaplet song lyrics:
I offer you the Body and Blood,
Soul and Divinity,
of Your Dearly Beloved Son,
Our Lord, Jesus Christ,
in atonement for our sins
and those of the whole world".
On the ten small beads of each decade, say:
"For the sake of His sorrowful Passion,
have mercy on us and on the whole world".
Conclude with (Say 3 Times):
Holy Mighty One,
Holy Immortal One,
have mercy on us
and on the whole world".
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Is The Westboro Baptist Church Wrong?
Photo from AirforceTimes.com ( Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press )
The US Supreme Court recently upheld the right of the Westboro Baptist Church to protest homosexuality at funerals of fallen military veterans, regardless of their sexual orientation. As much as this whole disturbing affair nauseates me, it is significant enough to warrant analysis.
The Westboro Baptist Church is not wrong in the message it preaches [opposing gay marriage], but rather, how it preaches it, which strikes me much akin to using a sledge hammer to relieve your friend of a fly that landed on his forehead.
The church members argue that the evil of rampant homosexuality in our nation, which has also now recently been given an increased approval by the Obama administration (no longer with just a wink and a nod by the previous “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy) in our military is the cause of increased evil in our society, including war.
Mother Teresa said, and I believe rightly so, that increased evil in our society is because of abortion. I would add homosexuality, overall promiscuity, and various other evils into that recipe for disaster as well, so with all due respect, perhaps both Westboro and Mother fell a little short in their explanations.
There are many theological reasons for suffering, including original sin, redemptive suffering, if not for ourselves, then for others, etc… The Bible, contrary to popular and erroneous belief, does not contain contradictions, but rather, paradoxes. Suffering, while seeming to be contrary to the will of a loving God, is also in place to bring about a better good for us, and thus, His glory.
Clearly the fallen veterans are not the cause of war, but rather, patriots who bravely sacrificed their lives because of it. Their honor should be preserved, and their already suffering families and loved ones should, morally speaking, if not constitutionally speaking, be allowed their peace and privacy to mourn and lovingly bury their dead, and again, regardless of their sexual orientation. After all, in a moral society, with rights come responsibilities, and a (well formed) conscience should compliment a constitution and correctly guide our actions based on the knowledge and understanding that what we “can” do is not always what we “should” do. One of the driving principles in my life has always been, “Your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose.”
I believe the evangelizing/protesting Westboro members are hanging their hats, at least partially, if not completely, on a passage from Ezekiel, Chapter 33, verses 7-10:
“So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them a warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘O, wicked man, you shall surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked man shall die in his inequity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, he shall die in his inequity, but you will have saved your life.”
Perhaps these will meaning, but over the top fellow flawed humans from Westboro might consider reflecting also on Matthew, Chapter 7, verses 1-6:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take that speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
As Christians, we are to judge evil in actions, not in people, the former being our duty, and the latter, God’s purview. Put another and more commonly evoked way for our part, “Hate the sin; love the sinner.” With regard specifically to homosexuality, in at least some cases before our sordid and deteriorating culture deemed it trendy and acceptable to those seeking only lustful experimentation and/or lifestyles, some immutability might be involved.
Prior to its later cowardly and rushed capitulation behind closed doors because of bullying, protests, infiltration and politicalization by radical gays in the early 70’s, the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a mental dysfunction or disorder in it’s then Diagnostic and Statistical Manual until 1973. This fact then requires us to consider # 1735 of the Catholic Catechism:
“Immutability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.”
Thus, where applicable, gays may be given at least some latitude for their sins, but they should also seek treatment (as some have successfully done so) for their affliction, as well reconciliation and a mindset toward repentance as well. Those who choose homosexual behavior purely of a free will simply need to stop, confess, and repent.
For brevity sake, I will only refer to a longer passage, although I highly recommend its reading, namely, Mark, chapter 4, verses 3-21, in which Jesus teaches a parable about a sewer of seed and the various situations and subsequent explanations as to how the seed falls on the ground, and the ramifications for the results. But like on rocky soil, seed cannot be planted and expected to fully grow. Thus, to evangelize to a person with a clearly closed mind is not only more often than not a waste of time, but in some cases, such foolishly boorish, albeit well-intended action can even further drive someone away from any future hope of acceptance of God’s Word and will, and thus, perhaps even salvation itself.
So what conclusion can we draw from this debate? As much as I so often bristle at trendiness, I refer to the bracelets made popular a few years back that simply contained the letters, “W.W.J.D.?” The abbreviation stood for, “What Would Jesus Do?” and the bracelets were theoretically intended to model better behavior in the wearer of the bracelet, as based on the example of Jesus.
So what would Jesus possibly say regarding the whole Westboro debate? Again, we can refer back to the Gospels and review not just the words of Jesus, but His actions as well to find the answer. Clearly, Jesus evangelized, passionately and often, but He did not waste His time or energy on people who couldn’t be bothered with His message or dismissed it, and He taught the same evangelization technique to His traveling apostles in Matthew, Chapter 10, verses 11-15:
“And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it, and stay with him until you depart. As you enter the house, salute it. And if the house is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.”
While Jesus and His apostles did evangelize, they never beat anyone over the head with their messages. That is because God wants us to come to Him, but only by our free will, which He lovingly gave to us as a gift to be used, and not abused. Such is the difference between ‘freedom” and “license.” And that is also another reason in some cases for suffering: the abuse, or “license” of our God-given free will.
The gravely confused members of the Westboro Baptist Church apparently have not yet figured out, or simply don’t care about this stark difference in evangelization methods. And make no mistake about it, while their intentions are clearly good, their horrifically clouded judgment, as manifested by their all too frequent, and now ironically court sanctioned misguided actions, are wantonly cruel, purely evil and a grotesquely ugly, and impeding mutation of true Christianity.
And for so-called “Christians,” that’s just not “good” enough.
Catholic Teaching on Homosexuality:
Catechism #2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, 141 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." 142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.*emphasis added
Catechism #2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
Catechism #2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
Comments and thoughts by Julie...
Doug clearly you are a nicer person than I am by giving Westboro Baptist Church the benefit of the doubt that "their intentions are clearly good". While I agree that gay marriage is a sin in the eyes of God and the Holy Catholic Church, I do not agree that Westboro Baptist 'church' (and I used that term very lightly) is doing any of this out of any goodness.
I believe (and I do hope I am wrong) that the folks at Westboro are so filled with hate for people they wouldn't know Jesus' love if he walked up and hugged them. The most important thing Jesus taught was LOVE. LOVE is what changes people. Love is what gives hope to the hopeless. Love is what inspires people to do better and be better. Without love, you've got nothing. Who will even consider listening to the Word of God if the person talking to you is screaming you are 'going to hell' and 'God hates you'?
Compare the loving acts shown by Mother Teresa to the Westboro Baptist folks. We will "know them by their fruits" our Lord said. Mother Teresa spoke out against evil, but she did it in love and with respect for human beings. Westboro Baptist Church in my view fails miserably at that. I'll take Mother Teresa's fruits over Westboro any day. That said, I hope you are correct about them and that I am wrong. I just don't see their "goodness", all I see are 'fruits of hate'. I'd like to think and hope that all their protests come from a will to do good and please God...a desire to do the will of God... - I just don't see it I am sorry to say.
As always, thank you Doug for being a Connecticut Catholic Corner contributor! You bring wonderful thought provoking articles to the table and I truly appreciate that.