Category Archives: Ethics

Our Lady of Fatima at the United Nations –  by Deacon Marty McIndoe

The United Nations in New York City

On May 12th, the day before the 100th anniversary of the first apparitions at Fatima, my wife and I had the privilege of attending a special gathering at the United Nations in NYC entitled, THE CENTENARY OF FATIMA AND THE ENDURING RELEVANCE OF IT’S MESSAGE OF PEACE.   It was a most rewarding experience.  The Fatima apparitions have been the beginning of so many changes in the 20th century.  They began on May 13, 1917 just as Europe was immersed in WWI, a very devastating war and supposedly the “war to end all wars”.  It was also the year of the Bolshevik Revolution and the beginning of the Communist threats to the world.  The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three young shepherd children in a remote region of Portugal and gave a message of the need to turn to Jesus, do penance, and pray in order to keep further horrendous wars away.   Her message was filled with Hope and Love but also quite disturbing in showing the way the world was headed.   She was concerned with bringing Peace and Hope and Eternal Life to all of the peoples of the world by having them follow Jesus.

The conference itself looked at the message of Fatima and what had occurred since then.   There is still a great need for peace in our war torn world.  The threat of communism seems to be gone, but there are many other threats to world peace.   The conference had five speakers and lasted about two hours.   I would like to give a brief synopsis of what each speaker said.  There is no doubt that this 100 year old message from the Blessed Virgin Mary is still very relevant to us today.   All of the speakers were excellent in their content and in the emotional attachment to what they were saying.  Tears flowed from both men and women as they spoke.  I was impressed by the dedication of each speaker.

The Dais for the speakers.  The statue of Fatima is to the right.

Archbishop Bernadito C. Auza opened the conference and was the mediator.   He is the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.   His topic was “The Lessons of the Fatima Message of Peace for the Cause of Peace Today”.  The Archbishop recounted what had happened at Fatima and how it had led to many changes in the world.   He told the story of Pope John Paul II’s dedication to Fatima and how the Pope was very instrumental in the collapse of communism in Europe and in Communist Russia itself.   The Archbishop reflected the call for hope but also the need for continued conversion.   He was very pastoral in his tone, and appears to be an excellent representative of the Church to the United Nations.

Johnnette Benkovic was the second speaker.   Johnnette is the foundress and president of Women of Grace.   She is also an author and TV and radio host.   She is an excellent speaker and her topic was,   ‘Mary and the Dignity of Women’s role in a Culture of Peace”.   Johnnette did an excellent job of reminding us how women, who by their very nature are life giving and protecting, must work hard for peace.   She did say that women are not always fulfilling this role of working for peace and must step up to do so.   She definitely believes that women can be very instrumental in helping bring about peace.

The Statue of Our Lady of Fatima at the Dais.

Dr. Andrea Bartoli was the third speaker.   He is currently the Dean of the Seton Hall School of Diplomacy and International Relations.   His topic was “The Importance of Religious Leaders Serving as Examples of Peace, Tolerance, Solidarity and Justice”.   Dr. Bartoli shared several stories from his work in various nations to deal with the ravages of war.   He was quite emotional in sharing some of the things that happened to the people he was trying to help.   There was no doubt that this man is a man of faith and compassion who has worked hard to foster peace (he is an expert in conflict resolution) and to help those who suffer because of a lack of peace.   He challenged all, especially those who are religious leaders, to work hard for peace and to help those who are suffering from a lack of it.   His call was basically to be like Jesus.   We need more diplomats like him.

Dr. Maria Santos Pais was the fourth speaker.   She is the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children.   Her topic was, “Children as a Zone of Peace”.   Dr. Pais is from Portugal and it was apparent that she was well aware of the Fatima story.   She also seemed well aware of the terrible things that are happening to children throughout the world today.   Some of the statistics that she gave us were quite disturbing.   Dr. Pais was very clear in showing us that children are peacemakers, but unfortunately are often victims of the lack of peace.   She gave a very emotional talk.   Please pray for the children of the world.

The Shepherd Children of Fatima to whom Mary appeared.  Pope Francis proclaimed Francisco and Jacinta Marto Saints as he celebrated the 100th anniversary mass in Fatima.  Lucia only died in 2005 and her cause is pending.

Dr. Anna Halpine was the fifth and last speaker.   She is the Foundress and CEO of the World Youth Alliance.   Her topic was, ‘The Fatima Shepherd Children: the Role of Children in the Cause of Peace”.    Dr. Hapline did an excellent job of showing how these poor shepherd children responded so well to the call of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  She continued talking about children of the world living in such difficult situations.   Her talk was very complementary to the previous talk given by Dr. Pais.   The last two speakers helped us all to focus on those who suffer so much from a lack of peace, the children.  It is so sad to think that we have created a world where children suffer so much.

This sculpture is in the United Nations plaza.

In review, the conference was very much like the original message of Fatima.   It is disturbing in pointing out what mankind has done by war and by a lack of peace.   It also pointed out that we must work hard to accomplish peace.   There is hope, but we must actively seek it and work for it.   The message of Our Lady is very appropriate today.   We must seek Jesus, pray and do penance and work hard for peace.   Having this conference take place at the United Nations was quite encouraging.  The Statue of Fatima was brought there for this conference and then brought over to the Church of the Holy Family nearby.   This is the second visit of this statue to the United Nations.   It first came to the UN in 1952.  The Blessed Virgin Mary is most definitely the Queen of Peace.   May peace come forth to this world and may all peoples receive the gift of heavenly peace.  I end with the prayer that Mary taught at Fatima; O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy. Amen…

The Statue at Holy Family Church near the United Nations

 

Forgiveness, a Truly Miraculous gift by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Detective Steven McDonald and his son, NYPD Officer Conor McDonald.

               In a previous post I talked about miraculous healings that have occurred in the scriptures and throughout history in to this present day.  I even shared some that I personally witnessed; but what about the person that doesn’t seem to receive a miraculous healing?   Does that mean that God has ignored him or her or that God is not at work?   First of all I think that God is at work in all things.  Secondly, what we see as a lack of healing, or lack of a miracle, is just another way that God has chosen to work.  Often the real miracles are those that are not apparent.  I would like to give you an example of this in the Life of Detective Steven McDonald of the New York Police Department.

               On July 12, 1986, New York Police Officer Steven McDonald went in to Central Park with Sergeant Peter King as part of their normal, everyday duties.  They were on alert for petty crimes as well as looking for clues to a recent string of bicycle thefts in that area.  They saw a group of suspicious looking teens who began to run as soon as they saw the police.  The police officers chased them, Steven McDonald going in one direction, and his partner in another direction.

               Steven McDonald stopped several of the boys to question them.  He tells us that he spotted a bulge in the sock of one of the youngest boys and believed it to be a gun.  He bent over to examine it and a tall 15 year old boy came and pointed a gun at the police officer’s head.  Officer McDonald said that he then heard a deafening explosion, saw a muzzle flash and felt the bullet strike him just above his right eye.   He immediately fell flat and the boy shot him a second time hitting him in the throat.  Then, while still lying on the ground, the boy shot him a third time.  Officer McDonald recalled, “I was in pain; I was numb; I knew I was dying, and I didn’t want to die. It was terrifying.  My partner was yelling into his police radio: “Ten Thirteen Central! Ten Thirteen!” and when I heard that code, I knew I was in a very bad way. Then I closed my eyes…”

               When the first officers to respond arrived on the scene, they found Sergeant King on the ground, covered in Steven’s blood, cradling him in his arms.  Sergeant King was crying. They knew that every second counted so they carried Steven into the back of their vehicle and rushed him to Harlem’s Metropolitan Hospital, twenty blocks away.  There the medical staff saw the severity of the shooting and worked hard to stabilize him.  They did not expect him to live.  The Chief Surgeon told the Police Commissioner, “He’s not going to make it. Call the family. Tell them to come say goodbye.”   But Steven’s will to live stood firm.  His survival is a miracle itself, but his injuries left him completely paralyzed from the neck down.  He couldn’t even breathe on his own.

                 Officer McDonald had been married just eight months to his 23 year old wife, Patti Ann.  She was three months pregnant.  Together they would have to face the unbelievable changes that being paralyzed causes.  Not quite fair for a young married couple.  It would be very easy for them both to be filled with self pity, hatred and spite.  But these two practicing Catholics decided to choose another course.  At Detective Steven McDonald’s funeral, 30 years after his attack, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that Steven McDonald inspired New York City by choosing a spiritual journey over self-pity and spite.  He inspired not only NYC, but the world.  To me, Steven McDonald exemplifies how God can work, even in the worst of situations.  I know it was a miracle that he survived, but there was no miracle to bring him healing of his paralysis.  Perhaps the biggest miracle is what Steven did with his life.

               About six months after being brutally assaulted with gunfire by Shavod “Budda” Jones, Officer Steven McDonald made a statement, through his wife, saying, “I forgive him and hope he can find peace and purpose in his life”.  This defined the rest of McDonald’s life.  Jones was sentenced to ten years in prison for attempted murder.  McDonald said, “Strangely we became friends. It began with my writing to him. At first he didn’t answer my letters, but then he wrote back. Then one night a year or two later, he called my home from prison and apologized to my wife, my son, and me. We accepted his apology, and I told him I hoped he and I could work together in the future. I hoped that one day we might travel around the country together sharing how this act of violence had changed both our lives, and how it had given us an understanding of what is most important in life.”  However, three days after his release from jail, Jones died in a motorcycle accident.  That hope was never realized, but McDonald continued his crusade for forgiveness and peace.

               The New York City Police Department kept McDonald on their roster in a special position.  He was eventually promoted to the rank of Detective.  Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association called McDonald “a true American hero.”   At his funeral Lynch said, “Steven McDonald was the most courageous and forgiving man I have ever known.  Despite the tremendous pain in his life, both physical and emotional, his concern for his fellow police officers and for the people of New York City never wavered. Since that fateful day in 1986, Steven dedicated his life to fighting hate and encouraging forgiveness through his actions. He was a powerful force for all that is good and is an inspiration to all of us. His, was a life well lived. We join his family, a true New York City police family, his friends and fellow officers in prayer and mourning the loss of a truly special man.”

               The influence of Detective McDonald was felt not only in New York, but worldwide.   He took his message of forgiveness and peace to Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Israel.  He met with world leaders such as Pope John Paul II and Nelson Mandela.  He spoke at two Republican National Conventions.  He was interviewed by Barbara Walters on TV and attended many civil and religious functions in his area.  I was fortunate to see and hear him and can attest to the fact that he was a man of deep faith, and love of God and His people.  He was a die-hard hockey fan of the New York Rangers.  His relationship over the years with them has been a source of real blessing to so many.  The Rangers named an award in his honor.

               About six months after the shooting, Steven’s son Conor was born.  Conor followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and great-grandfather in becoming a NYC Police Officer.  I have a good friend who is a NYC Police Officer who worked with Conor and praised him for being such a good person and good Police Officer.  A family of faith and desire to serve keeps bringing forth good men.  In an article by Johann Christoph Arnold, he states,

                              “When visiting Steven in his Long Island home (since meeting in 1997, we have become close friends), I am often struck by the extent of his incapacitation. Life in a wheelchair is hard enough for an elderly person to accept, but to be plucked out of an active, fun-loving life in your prime is devastating. Add to that a tracheotomy to breathe through and total dependence on a nurse and other caregivers, and life can seem pretty confining at times. Steven is matter-of fact about this:

                              “There’s nothing easy about being paralyzed. I have not been able to hold my wife in my  arms for two decades. Conor is now a young man, and I’ve never been able to have a catch with him. It’s frustrating – difficult – ugly – at times.”

                              So why did he forgive? Again, he himself says it best:

                              “I forgave Shavod because I believe the only thing worse than receiving a bullet in my spine would have been to nurture revenge in my heart. Such an attitude would have extended my injury to my soul, hurting my wife, son, and others even more. It’s bad enough that the physical effects are permanent, but at least I can choose to prevent spiritual injury.”

                             ” When I was a very young kid, Dr. King came to my town in New York. My mother went to hear him speak, and she was very impressed by what she heard. I hope you can be inspired by his words too. Dr. King said that there’s some good in the worst of us, and some evil in the best of us, and that when we learn this, we’ll be more loving and forgiving. He also said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it’s a permanent attitude.”  In other words, it is something you have to work for. Just like you have to work to keep your body fit and your mind alert, you’ve got to work on your heart too. Forgiving is not just a one-time decision. You’ve got to live forgiveness, every day.”

               This is a lesson that the world needs to take in.  Steven McDonald spoke and lived out that lesson.  Sure, it was a miracle that he lived through the gunshots and it would have been a great miracle if he could have been freed from his paralysis, but to me the greatest miracle is what Steven did for so many other people working through his disabilities.  His faith and desire to spread the message of forgiveness and peace resounds throughout the world.

               Detective Stephen King, New York City Police Officer, husband, father, devout Catholic and ambassador of forgiveness and peace died of a heart attack on January 10, 2017 in his Long Island home.  His life continues to touch many.

              

 

 

              

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness by Deacon Marty McIndoe

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               Our country began with our Declaration of Independence which states the well known phrase, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  It goes on to say that governments are instituted to protect those rights.  I think it is time for all of us to see how well our government is doing in protecting these rights.

               The United States of America has maintained a strong Army, Navy and Air force (and related services) to try to keep its citizens safe from foreign aggression.  It has done a pretty good job of this, but there have been some instances where it just was not enough.  Our 9/11 attack as well as subsequent terrorist attacks have shown this.  Still, we responded to these attacks by strengthening our intelligence services and our military.  There have been some indications that recently our military has been weakened by financial cuts and political decisions.  We must be careful to keep our military strong as we do face a definite threat from foreign governments and ideologies.  To protect our way of life in America is a primary function of our government.  I personally salute all those who have served us in our military and have not only kept our country free, but have also helped free other countries.  We should be very proud of their service.  War and fighting is an absolutely terrible thing, but unfortunately has sometimes been necessary.  I pray that some day we may all live together in Peace, but that seems so far away.

               Our government also must protect the Life and Liberty of its citizens from people inside of our borders.  It is unfortunate, but very true, that we need protection on the home front.  We have numerous Law Enforcement Agencies to protect us from crime.  This crime can be life threatening and liberty threatening.  Our Police and related services have a difficult job and need our support.  The work that they do puts their own lives at risk, but they do that to protect us.  The vast majority of the time, they do an excellent job and should be commended.  Our government, at all of its levels, should be very supportive of our Law Enforcement Agencies.

               Our liberty is very important to us.  We are known as the Home of the Free and our personal liberties are among the best in the world.  Yes, we do have laws that sometimes seem to hinder our liberty, but it is important for governments to pass laws that help to protect us.  Some people still complain about speed limit laws and seat belt laws, but they save many lives.  Government has the difficult job of deciding what laws are necessary to protect the majority, and what laws are just too restrictive on our freedoms.  At the heart of these laws, the government must see how they affect the three unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.  Thomas Jefferson said, “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.”

               Presently there is one nationwide “law” that I believe is at odds with what Thomas Jefferson said and with the three unalienable rights, especially the right of Life.  The most important right is the right to Life.  Without that, there is nothing.  Somehow we have allowed our country to legalize the killing of unborn children.  Right now we average about 2,000 abortions per day.  Our government is supposed to protect its citizens, especially those who cannot protect themselves.  We have allowed a society to exist where mothers can kill their sons and daughters simply because having them would be an inconvenience to them.   This is so wrong.  Not only that, it seems that the primary agent in all of this, Planned Parenthood, is targeting “undesirables” such as black and poor and immigrant peoples.   Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, is quoted as saying, “Birth control must lead ultimately to a cleaner race.” (April 1932 Birth Control Review) and “We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population” (Women, Morality and Birth Control – New York Publishing Co. 1922).  Our country should be so much better than that.  Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, said, “The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb”.  This was based on a NYC Dept of Health report showing that 60% of all pregnancies of black women end in abortion.  It looks like Margaret Sanger is getting what she wanted.

               There has always been the argument that woman should have the right to choose because it is their body.  However, what about the right to live of the baby inside the womb?  That baby has no one to speak for her or him.  It is the government’s responsibility to protect that life.  Another argument is that the government should allow free access to abortions because if it doesn’t, women will find someone to perform it that is not skilled.  To me, that is a poor argument.  We don’t legalize things to make it easier because people will do it anyway.  The mass killing of babies in this country is truly an abomination and must be stopped.

               We have also been a country where we acknowledge the Freedom to practice our Faith.  Recently the government has been forcing some church organizations to do things that are not allowed in their faith.  This too is so wrong.   Let’s hope that our government stance changes to reflect what our founding fathers set up in this country.  It is sad to see that God has been taken out of our schools, courts and government meetings.  It is time to bring Him back.

               I think that there are so many people that feel that our country is headed in the wrong direction on so many levels.  I do think that is true, but I also see our country as something really great.  We do need to return to some of the values that we have had in the past.  Let all of us work for this and pray for this.  God Bless America.

 

An Election Editorial by Catholic Girl Blogging

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It’s funny what a strange dream can lead to.

Last night I had a dream that I was standing in a pitch black room.  The only light came from two glowing red lines, one in front of me and the other behind me.  Faint white smoke plumed from the red line in front of me, indicating its heat.  Out of the darkness, someone approached me from behind and began to chuckle in my ear.
I woke up trembling to my alarm.

The minute I logged on to Facebook, I was hit with posts about Trump and Hilary; the Clinton campaign emails about Catholics being backwards, Trump’s disgusting words about women and so on.
Not a day goes by without the election being on my mind.  November 8th once felt like a far-off event, but now it’s drawing nearer, getting closer each day like a hungry spider slowly crawling to its cocooned prey.
While I waited in the drive thru on my lunch break, I found myself pondering the dream.  As I replayed it in my head, a strange thought crept in:
“You have no choice, my dear.  You must choose.”

I silently murmured to myself, “And what if I don’t choose?”
At that moment, I had a mental image of the red lines turning into ropes and a trapdoor that had been under my feet the whole time opening.
I snapped out of it when I heard, “Welcome to Jack-n-the-Box!  May I take your order?” With a shaky voice, I ordered my food.

Just like the frightening dream, our country is locked airtight in the devil’s bind; we currently have two disordered candidates with their personal character being questionable at best and repulsive at worst.  The way I see it, this political bind was years in the making and our nation fell headfirst into this trap long ago.

I’m probably going to sound like a Republican old man living in a red state when I say this, but truth is still truth no matter who is telling it.  Out of my way, Donald, this Independent female blogger from bluest of blue California is about to tell it like it is.
We have kicked God out of America; out of our schools, out of our media, even out of our homes.  We have rejected the values our Lord holds dear.  Our nation allows unborn babies to be slaughtered for any reason, continues to redefine marriage and mocks morality.  You know something is wrong with a country where a rapist can serve only six months in the county jail for violating an unconscious woman.

Mother Teresa once said, “Find your own Calcutta.”  No need for me to look far, Mama T, because I’m living in it.  We may not have people literally dying on the side of the road, but we are a nation of homeless people, splintered families and abandoned veterans.  America may be rich in resources, but we are poor in principles.  We are a prosperous but hopeless land, thinking we can make it on our own and without the God who bestowed upon us our freedoms in the first place.

Of course the devil would take advantage of this.  He has done so little by little, convincing us to remove God from the public square in small doses.  What started as snowball removals, such as attempting to take God off the dollar bill and then successfully removing Him out of our schools, has avalanched to where we have became a nation under God in name only.  People are more divided than ever before.  We no longer see each other as children of God, but rather as enemies if we disagree with one another.
How else do you think two people whose personal values are not rooted in Christ have been able to run for the highest office in the land?

So here we are, trapped in a ditch of our own making, being forced to choose between two candidates nobody wants to elect.  We have come to a crossroads regarding what we want our nation to be and we have no idea where to go from here.  Can our divided culture be healed?  Can the damage that has been done be reversed?  Can this damning bind be undone?

In all honesty, I don’t know.  I really wish I could tell you that all will be well, but everything depends on individual Americans, and based on the way things are now, I don’t think a revolution of compassion is on the horizon any time soon.

What I do know is that society will change once we change our hearts.  We as a nation must open our hearts in order to change them.  Jesus is a savior, but He is also a gentleman and will never force Himself on any person or any country.  If we are not willing to turn to Him, then He will let us hit rock bottom if that is what it takes to open our eyes.

I say this a lot on the Catholic Girl Bloggin’ FB page and I’ll say it here: The best thing you can do is just strive to be a better person in your every day life.  Instead of getting into a shouting match with a friend over a political issue, stop and try to remember how much you value their friendship and then try to find common ground with them.  Hold open doors, call a family member and tell them you love them, smile at a passing stranger, help someone carry their things, find volunteer work or a charity event to participate in.  The list of ways you can exercise kindness is endless.

I know, this seems like a cop out, but it actually isn’t when you really think about it. Kindness means going outward instead of turning inward, which is something many Americans have done.  Once you look beyond yourself and see the struggles of others, you begin to wonder what you can do to serve them.  It was selfishness and pride that got our country in this mess, so maybe humility and mercy can be the stepping stones towards a new tomorrow.  You won’t fix this country in a day, but you can change the outlook of one person’s day and maybe, just maybe, that person will go on to help another and a gradual chain reaction will begin.

Any time you are a positive force in your family, at your job, within your neighborhood or wherever you are, you are doing the will of God.  It is written in John 13:35, “This is how all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

In the dark torrential sea of political discord, you have the opportunity to be the calm island where weary travelers seek refuge.  America is in a big mess, but you have the power to have an impact in your own humble way.

“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.”
–Saint Francis of Assisi

“Modern prophets say that our economics have failed us.  No!  It is not our economics which have failed; it is man who has failed-man who has forgotten God.  Hence no manner of economic or political readjustment can possibly save our civilization; we can be saved only by a renovation of the inner man, only by a purging of our hearts and souls; for only by seeking first the Kingdom of God and His Justice will all these other things be added unto us.”
–Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Our Lady Undoer of Knots, pray for us.

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Bio:
Catholic Girl Bloggin’ is a twentysomething California gal who started the blog in June of 2015. She writes movie reviews, saints biographies and frequently shares quotes from her heroes, Padre Pio and Mother Teresa. You can check out Catholic Girl Bloggin’ at
http://catholicgirlbloggin.net/

A Lesson at the Library by A.J. Avila

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One of the more exciting things about having children is introducing them to the wonders of the world. Watching them make discoveries for the very first time often shows us what we’ve lost growing up.

For example, I wanted some more reading material, so my husband and I stopped by our local public library with our firstborn, who was all of two years old. Sure that watching Mommy browse the shelves in the adult section was far too tedious for a toddler, I suggested my husband take our daughter into the children’s room. Our library boasts three large aquariums there, vibrant with colorful tropical fish. Certainly she would find that more entertaining.

I figured I had hit it on the nose when about fifteen minutes later, she came back into the main section of the library, bobbing with excitement. “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!” she squealed, grabbing my hand. “Come see!”

Her tiny hand cradled in mine, I allowed her to usher me into the children’s room, but to my surprise, she dragged me past the fish tanks and to the shelves of Easy Readers. “Look!” she cried, pointing. “They have books here!”

Books? At the library? Who would have thought?

Smiling at her enthusiasm, I suggested we examine them. What a wonderful idea! As we pulled title after title off the shelf, I sat back on my heels, enjoying her delight at opening them and exploring the wonders inside.

Then I came up with an even better idea. “Let’s take some of these home with us!”

Immediately her grin transformed into horror. Definitely not the reaction I was expecting. Puzzled, I racked my brain for the reason. Slowly it dawned on me that she thought taking the books would be stealing. Even worse, she thought her own mother would be complicit in such a terrible crime.

I explained that we wouldn’t be keeping the books. We would take them for a while, then bring them back.

That, apparently, was even worse somehow. Her lower lip trembled, and I could see she was on the verge of tears.

My pleas that this is what a public library is all about fell on deaf ears. I even offered to ask the librarians at the desk if it was okay to borrow some of the books.

“No, Mommy,” she choked. “Don’t!”

Well, I certainly didn’t want her very first trip to a library to be such a negative experience. “Okay,” I said softly. “Let’s put the books back.”

Only doing that placated her suffering.

In Romans 2:15 St. Paul declares that the law is written on our hearts. Apparently, it’s written so well even a two-year-old can see it.

Yet . . . how many of us are so horrified at sin as my toddler was that day? Do we become so inured to evil, so callous, that we don’t see the heinousness of it as we once did? It’s there every day, in our newspapers and on our television screens, yet don’t we just go on sipping our coffee as if nothing has happened?

Maybe Jesus hit it on the nose more than we realize when He told us we need to be born again and become like little children.

Maybe one of the reasons is so we can recapture seeing the world, and the evil in it, the way we once did.

 

Find A.J. Avila at Reflections on My Catholic Journey – https://reflections911.wordpress.com/author/ajavilanovels/

A.J. Avila lives in San Bernardino with her husband. She is the author of three Christian novels: Rain from Heaven, Nearer the Dawn, and Amaranth, which are available on Amazon Kindle with all net profits going to charity. (You can learn a bit about those by reading the synopses on Amazon.)

Freedom and Obligation – by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, adapted by Deacon Marty McIndoe

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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas delivered the 2016 Commencement Address at Hillsdale College this year.   I feel that he had a lot of great things to say for our current generation.  As a matter of fact, his statements are great for all generations.   Personally, I am very disappointed in many of the directions that this country and this culture are taking.  Justice Thomas is too, and shed some light on some of our difficulties and made recommendations to overcome them.  The link to his full address on the Hillsdale College website is given below if you wish to read the whole thing.   I have taken excerpts of some of the most important parts for this article.  For God and Country.

This has been a most difficult term at the Court. The difficulty is underscored by the sudden and tragic passing of my colleague and friend, Justice Antonin Scalia. I think it is fitting to say a few words about him. Many will focus on his intellect and his legal prowess. I do not demur on either count. But there is so much more than that. When I think of Justice Scalia, I think of the good man who I could instinctively trust during my first days on the Court. He was, in the tradition of the South of my youth, a man of his word, a man of character. Over the almost 25 years that we were together on the Court, I think we made it a better place for each other. I know that he did for me. He was kind to me when it mattered most. He is, and will be, sorely missed.

As the years since I attended college edge toward a half century, I feel a bit out of place talking with college students or recent graduates. So much has changed since I left college in 1971. Things that were considered firm have long since lost their vitality, and much that seemed inconceivable is now firmly or universally established. Hallmarks of my youth, such as patriotism and religion, seem more like outliers, if not afterthoughts. So in a sense, I feel woefully out of place speaking at commencement ceremonies. My words will perhaps seem somewhat vintage in character rather than current or up-to-date. In that context, I admit to being unapologetically Catholic, unapologetically patriotic, and unapologetically a constitutionalist.

In my youth, we had a small farm. I am convinced that the time I spent there had much to do with my firm resolve never to farm again. Work seemed to spring eternal, like the weeds that consumed so much of our time and efforts. One of the messages constantly conveyed in those days was our obligation to take care of the land and to use it to produce food for ourselves and for others. If there was to be independence, self-sufficiency, or freedom, then we first had to understand, accept, and discharge our responsibilities. The latter were the necessary (but not always sufficient) antecedents or precursors of the former. The only guarantee was that if you did not discharge your responsibilities, there could be no independence, no self-sufficiency, and no freedom.

In a broader context, we were obligated in our neighborhood to be good neighbors so that the neighborhood would thrive. Whether there was to be a clean, thriving neighborhood was directly connected to our efforts. So there was always, to our way of thinking, a connection between the things we valued most and our personal obligations or efforts. There could be no freedom without each of us discharging our responsibilities. When we heard the words duty, honor, and country, no more needed to be said. But that is a bygone era. Today, we rarely hear of our personal responsibilities in discussions of broad notions such as freedom or liberty. It is as though freedom and liberty exist wholly independent of anything we do, as if they are predestined.

It is all too commonly thought that we all deserve the same reward or the same status, notwithstanding the differences in our efforts or in our abilities. This is why we hear so often about what is deserved or who is entitled. By this way of thinking, the student who treats spring break like a seven-day bacchanalia is entitled to the same success as the conscientious classmate who works and studies while he plays. And isn’t this same sense of entitlement often applied today to freedom.  At the end of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin was asked what the gathering had accomplished. “A republic,” he replied, “if you can keep it.” Nearly a century later, in a two-minute speech at Gettysburg, President Lincoln spoke similarly. It is for the current generation, he said, to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

So many who have gone before us have done precisely that, dedicating their lives to preserving and enhancing our nation both in war and in peace, taking care that those who have given the last full measure of devotion have not done so in vain.

America’s Founders and many successive generations believed in natural rights. To establish a government based on the consent of the governed, as the Declaration of Independence makes clear, they gave up only that portion of their rights necessary to create a limited government of the kind needed to secure all of their rights. The Founders then structured that government so that it could not jeopardize the liberty that flowed from natural rights. Even though this liberty is inherent, it is not guaranteed. Indeed, the founding documents of our country are an assertion of this liberty against the King of England—arguably the most powerful man in the world at the time—at the risk of the Founders’ lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. Over the lifespan of our great country, many occasions have arisen that required this liberty, and the form of government that ensures it, to be defended if it was to survive.

At the risk of understating what is necessary to preserve liberty and our form of government, I think more and more that it depends on good citizens discharging their daily duties and obligations.  Having been a young graduate myself, I think it is hard enough to solve your own problems, which can sometimes seem to defy solution. And in addressing your own obligations and responsibilities in the right way, you actually do an important part on behalf of liberty and free government.

I often wondered why my grandparents remained such model citizens, even when our country’s failures were so obvious. In the arrogance of my early adult life, I challenged my grandfather and doubted America’s ideals. He bluntly asked: “So, where else would you live?” Though not a lettered man, he knew that our constitutional ideals remained our best hope, and that we should work to achieve them rather than undermine them. “Son,” he said, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” That is, don’t discard what is precious along with what is tainted.

Today, when it seems that grievance rather than responsibility is the main means of elevation, my grandfather’s beliefs may sound odd or discordant. But he and others like him at the time resolved to conduct themselves in a way consistent with America’s ideals. They were law-abiding, hardworking, and disciplined. They discharged their responsibilities to their families and neighbors as best they could. They taught us that despite unfair treatment, we were to be good citizens and good people. If we were to have a functioning neighborhood, we first had to be good neighbors. If we were to have a good city, state, and country, we first had to be good citizens. The same went for our school and our church. We were to keep in mind the corporal works of mercy and the great commandment: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Being wronged by others did not justify reciprocal conduct. Right was right, and two wrongs did not make a right. What we wanted to do did not define what was right—nor, I might add, did our capacious litany of wants define liberty. Rather, what was right defined what we were required to do and what we were permitted to do. It defined our duties and our responsibilities. Whether those duties meant cutting our neighbor’s lawn, visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, or going off to war as my brother did, we were to discharge them honorably.

As I admitted at the outset, I am of a different time. I knew no one, for example, who was surprised at President Kennedy’s famous exhortation in his 1961 Inaugural Address: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” That sentiment was as common as saying the Pledge of Allegiance or singing the National Anthem, as pervasive as shopping at Army-Navy surplus stores. Today there is much more focus on our rights and on what we are owed, and much less on our obligations and duties—unless, of course, it is about our duty to submit to some new proposed policy.

My grandfather often reminded us that if we didn’t work, we didn’t eat, and that if we didn’t plant, we couldn’t harvest. There is always a relationship between responsibilities and benefits. In agrarian societies, that is more obvious. As society becomes more complex and specialized, it is more difficult to discern. But it is equally true. If you continue to run up charges on your credit card, at some point you reach your credit limit. If you continue to make withdrawals from your savings account, you eventually deplete your funds. Likewise, if we continue to consume the benefits of a free society without replenishing or nourishing that society, we will eventually deplete that as well.  If we are content to let others do the  work of replenishing and defending liberty while we consume the benefits, we will someday run out of other people’s willingness to sacrifice—or even out of courageous people willing to make the sacrifice.

.               As the years have moved swiftly by, I have often reflected on the important citizenship lessons of my life. For the most part, it was the unplanned array of small things. There was the kind gesture from a neighbor. There was my grandmother dividing our dinner because someone showed up unannounced. There was the stranger stopping to help us get our crops out of the field before a big storm. There were the nuns who believed in us and lived in our neighborhood. There was the librarian who brought books to Mass so that I would not be without reading on the farm. Small gestures such as these become large lessons about how to live our lives. We watched and learned what it means to be a good person, a good neighbor, a good citizen. Who will be watching you? And what will you be teaching them?

I implore you to take a few minutes to thank those who made it possible for you to come this far—your parents, your teachers, your pastor. These are the people who have shown you how to sacrifice for those you love, even when that sacrifice is not always appreciated. As you go through life, try to be a person whose actions teach others how to be better people and better citizens. Reach out to the shy person who is not so popular. Stand up for others when they’re being treated unfairly. Take the time to listen to the friend who’s having a difficult time. Do not hide your faith and your beliefs under a bushel basket, especially in this world that seems to have gone mad with political correctness. Treat others the way you would like to be treated if you stood in their shoes.

I have every faith that you will be a beacon of light for others to follow, like “a city on a hill [that] cannot be hidden.” May God bless each of you now and throughout your lives, and may God bless America.

 

Reprinted by permission from IMPRIMIS, a publication of Hillsdale College.

Link to Hillsdale College:  http://hillsdale.edu

 

 

 

 

Arbor Day and Our Catholic Faith by Deacon Marty McIndoe

JPIIOliveTreeThis Olive Tree was planted by St. Pope John Paul II in 2000 on Mt Nebo at the beginning of a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands.  This is where Moses looked over  in to the Promised Land. 

Happy National Arbor Day.  There are so many ways that we can find God.  So often people look at the beauty of nature and see God there.  We know that our God is the Creator and to be quite frank, he did a wonderful job of creating the world we live in.  Everywhere you look in nature you can find true beauty.  The poet Joyce Kilmer, in her poem, “Trees” declares the beauty of the tree and ends her poem with, “Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.”  Although man can make some beautiful structures, and some beautiful pictures and art, it all pales compares to what we find in God’s creation.

One of the most popular Saints in the Catholic Church is St. Francis of Assisi.  He is known for his love of God’s creation, plant and animal.  His songs of Praise of God always mention the beautiful pieces of creation.  He even sees the close link between our creation as a human and the creation of plants and animals.  To Francis, we are all brother and sister to one another.  He knew that there is a strong link between all the plants and animals.  Modern day scientists tell us that we need plants just to live.  They give off Oxygen and take in Carbon Dioxide while we take in Oxygen and give off Carbon Dioxide.  There is a real balance between all of the parts of creation.

The Catholic Church has seen this from even further back then St. Francis and has called for a special honoring of all of creation.  In modern times, Pope Paul VI, who had a deep love for the outdoors and for all of creation, decided to do something.  He knew that our modern society was helping to destroy the environment so in 1971 he published an apostolic letter entitled Octogesima Adveniens— “A Call to Action.” In the letter, he listed 11 new social problems that the Church should confront, including the environment.  He wrote, “Man is suddenly becoming aware that by an ill-considered exploitation of nature he risks destroying it and becoming in his turn the victim of this degradation.”  He even went on to address the United Nations Conference on the Environment in 1972.  In 1991 the Conference of American Bishops issued a pastoral letter arguing that environmental ethics are an integral part of Catholic teaching.

Pope John Paul II, a year after being elected Pope, named St. Francis of Assisi the patron saint of ecologists.   In 1990, he issued a statement where he warned that the Earth was in danger not just from a nuclear arms race, or regional conflicts, but also a “a lack of due respect for nature, by the plundering of natural resources and by a progressive decline in the quality of life.”   He added that things like “industrial waste, the burning of fossil fuels, unrestricted deforestation, and the use of certain types of herbicides, coolants and propellants” all contributed to the degradation of the environment.

Arbor Day began back in 1872 in Nebraska where over one million trees were planted.  Since then Arbor Day is to help remind us of the beauty of nature, as well as our responsibility to care for it.  As Catholics, we are supposed to do our share in caring for the environment.  Perhaps this year you might want to plant a tree, or better yet, plant an idea in others about the need to care for the beauty of God’s creation.