Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Sad Day

I think most Americans on Friday went about their business with a sense of sadness in their hearts.  The horrible shooting in Aurora, Colorado, early that morning is beyond words.  Who can grasp the reality of sitting in a movie theatre, enjoying the film in one minute, and then, the next minute, a door crashes open, some sort of noxious gas begins to fill the room, and, before you know it, shots ring out.  This is but one example of the evil that lingers in some troubled hearts in this world.

What is the cause of this terrible tragedy?  I'm not sure anyone can say for certain.  This is far too complicated for simple explanations.  To say that it is mental illness seems too easy.  Obviously there is evil involved, but that, too, is not the complete answer.

The suspect taken into custody looks like anyone of us.  When you look at his picture, he doesn't look like he's lived on the fringe.  He was studying neuroscience.  Yet, somewhere in his sick mind, he decided to kill in a very dramatic fashion.

What has become of a society that once stood for family values and solid morals?  We have disintegrated into a culture of narcissistic pleasure seekers who get their thrills from extremes.  In one sense, however, what do we expect?  We are a society that legally sanctions the killing of the unborn.  A number of states permit assisted suicide.  A few states now allow what is called gay "marriage" with many others now seriously considering it. 

We have turned our backs on God, relying, not on His will, but our own flawed, feeble will.  We are slowly converting the government, the state, into our moral compass, leaving the precepts laid down by God behind.  We have lost our way and we have gone so far down that path that I fear we are at a point of no return.  Those of us who adhere to the teachings of Jesus Christ are ridiculed and ignored, being seen as irrelevant.  Our voices are drowned out by those who consider their moral depravities as "compassionate."  The resulting decay of the family is the result of all of this.  Without the family, the traditional family, individuals can more easily drift into dangerous thought patterns that often are acted upon simply because we have come to understand that we must accept everything in the name of diversity.

Prayer is our response to this tragedy.  Prayer is the most powerful thing anyone can do.  We need to bring a once great nation whose very existence was based upon principles set forth by a loving and merciful God.  Every society, every culture in history that has strayed from these principles have found their nations crumbling at the altar of secularism. 

Pray.  Pray for the repose of the souls called home to God in the early hours of this Friday.  Pray that a nation will turn its heart around and find its way back to the Will of the Father.  And pray for all those lost souls who are heading toward violent acts that someone may care enough to intervene before they strike.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Now that my mother's funeral has come and gone, I have had some time for some thought about the kind of woman she was.  Often we don't understand just how remarkable our parents are until they are gone.

Two days before she died, my mother was visited by a cousin, Tammy.  Tammy loved my mother very much along with her sister Cheryl.  Tammy would look after my mother whenever she was in the hospital.  Despite the struggles my mother was experiencing in these last hours of her life, she and Tammy had a good visit.  As Tammy was leaving, she asked my mother, "Mary Alice, are you ready to go?"  According to Tammy, my mother didn't skip a beat.  "Yes, I am," she answered.  "I don't want to to go, but I'm not scared."

These are words that say something significant about her character.  But more than that, those words serve as a memorial to the memory of my mother.

Hours before she would die, my mother was contemplating her departure.  If my mother was anything, she was a truthful person.  She would have never answered Tammy's question with anything but the truth.  Her answer reflects a great deal of courage and, especially, faith.

My mother's faith was strong but quiet.  She was not one to talk about it much, although over the last couple of years, she did bring up the subject with me from time to time.  When she moved into the nursing home that she called home until the last days of her life, one of the activities she participated in was a weekly Bible study.  Never before had I ever known her to do anything of this sort.

One evening about a year ago, she called me filled with an enthusiasm that couldn't be contained.  She told me all about something that they had discussed in that day's Bible study meeting.  She was filled with awe at what she had learned and was anxious to share it with me and anyone who might listen.  It was in this moment that I realized that she had a deep faith that yearned for nurturing.

In addition to the Bible study, she prayed a great deal.  She once related to me that when she couldn't sleep, she'd pull out her rosary even though it might be in the middle of the night, and pray.  She often mentioned that she talked to God all throughout the day.  She felt especially close to Mary, the Mother of God.  This was a lesson that she had learned from her mother, my grandmother.

So it should come as no surprise to hear what her answer to Tammy's bold question was.  My mother loved life and lived it to the fullest.  She did everything with great zest and nothing was ever done half way.  Her faith was the same way.  Yet, until the end of her life, because she chose to share some of it with me, I had never known.  Her phrase "I'm not scared" was rooted in her belief and knowledge that when she died she would enter into the presence of God and be admitted into His presence for all eternity.  Her affirmation that she had no fear of dying wasn't some bold statement to show her courage.  It was a beautiful and unique affirmation of her faith.

These words, spoken as she faced the last few hours of her life, will serve for me as a monument to her long and well-lived life.  It will be a reminder to me that I need to live in dignity and integrity, developing and maintaining my faith every day since I do not know when I will be called home.  

No, my mom did not want to leave us.  She loved us and the world in which she lived.  But she understood with the eyes of faith that even though we must part, we would one day be reunited in the presence of God for all eternity.  As a result, we also should not be scared.  There can be no greater monument to the memory of this remarkable woman whom I had the privilege of calling "mom" all these years.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


When you are in the midst of sadness brought about by the death of a loved one, God has unique ways of showing compassion and kindness through the acts of everyday life.

With the loss of my mother earlier this week, there has been a certain sadness within me that comes with the parting of the ways between parent and child.  In my case, it has not been a devastating sadness simply because her passing was not unexpected.  She was elderly and in very frail health for quite some time.  She had run her race and it was time to go home.

Tonight, we were reminded that life continues even though a loved one has passed, life continues on in the form of thee little girls who are the very definition of living.

Aliyah, a soon to be ten year old, is curiosity itself.  Filled with wonder for the world in which she lives, she communes as easily with bugs in a little plastic container as she does with human beings.  She wouldn't harm one of God's creatures for anything and takes the passing of a squirrel as a personal loss.  In addition, Aliyah consumes books and all reading material in the same fashion as a connoisseur of fine wine.  She doesn't just read the words on a page, she savors them, finds the little nuances of the story, and takes them into her heart.  She is a true artist of the English language at this tender age.

Kierah, nearly six years old, is sweetness of life.  She smiles and this grandpa's heart melts away.  She will enthrall you with stories of her favorite characters from the "Little Mermaid" or spellbind you with tales of the every day activities of one of her favorite dolls.  She is the epitome of what a child should be.  Her insight to life is plain and simple, love those around you as much as you can and all will be well.

Then there is the baby of the household, Noe.  Noe is independence wrapped up in twenty months of life.  Always on the go, this little engine is the very embodiment of independence.  Twenty months going on twenty years, nothing stops her.  This little dynamo will rearrange chairs if the seating chart doesn't suit her.  She chatters away as she goes about her business with non-stop energy that leaves most adults breathless.

Most of all, however, an evening such as this, reminds us that God's comfort comes in the form of family.  The unconditional love that abounds will see you through anything if you but allow it to do so.  When you are together, you know that no one, living or dead, is left out.  My late mom would have reveled in this evening.  She would have smiled from ear to ear and laugh countless times at the antics of these three precious reminders of God's gift of life to us.  She would have talked about it for days and how she thought everybody had a good time and how wonderful her great-granddaughters were.

In the midst of this amazingly clear, moonlit spring evening, I had the feeling that my mother was right there with us on the walk in the shadow of the rising moon.  She was on the floor with the girls exploring the world of childhood characters that reflect the innocence of a child's view of life.  And she would have delighted in the chatter of a family living life to its fullest and cherishing each and every moment, fully aware that this life is but a fragile journey to the next permanent and glorious existence that she now enjoys!

To Josh and Melissa, thank you for creating a family whose foundations are firmly planted in love and mutual respect for each other.  You are what parenthood is all about, the self-sacrificing, self-giving, selfless love that is indeed eternal.  Grandma would have loved to have been a part of this special gathering.  And I firmly believe that she was!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Passing In The Night

A woman died in the middle of the night.  This is nothing extraordinary.  It happens all the time.  But this passing was personal, for the woman in question was my mother.

Mary Alice King was, in so many ways, an ordinary woman, but in so many other ways, there was nothing ordinary about her.

It is somewhat of a miracle that she lived for eighty-five years.  She started out life in the small Midwestern town of Pekin, Illinois.  She was born in the middle of winter on January 28, nearly two months premature, along with a twin brother, Robert.  He was slightly over two pounds at birth; she was slightly under two.  In an era in which modern technology had yet to develop the kinds of remarkable machinery and techniques to sustain the life of a premature child so small, my mother's first days were spent in the slightly heated oven with a small bowl of water to keep she and her brother comfortable.

Both babies were fed from an eye dropper and both struggled mightily to live.  However, shortly after the first day of February, little Robert suffered a seizure and died in my grandmothers arms.  But my mother, apparently a very independent and strong-willed person from the very start, continued on.  She survived those early beginnings, of course, and went on to become a remarkably strong woman.

There are so many things that could be said at a time like this.  So many stories could be told about her like how much she loved to swim, how much music played a part in her life, how she had the ability to laugh at herself, never really taking herself too seriously.  She was a woman of great faith that I did not discover until the final years of her life, praying the rosary several times a day.  But the one thing that was most remarkable about her was her amazing strength.

My mother was a fiercely independent woman.  She faced life on her own terms.  She was, in many ways, a woman ahead of her time, although she would have never thought of herself in that way. She loved music and at an early age learned how to play the piano and other instruments.  There is a story that she used to tell about herself that is typical of the way she could laugh at herself.  As a little girl, she learned the piano.  The requisite recital came along and she proudly seated herself at the keyboard.  She began playing the tune and things were going just fine.  Her proud parents beamed in the audience.  However, when she neared the end of the piece, she forgot how to wrap it up!  She did not remember how it ended.  So, she simply began playing it over from the start.  When the audience realized this, they began to chuckle.  Her mother, my grandmother, was mortified.  She stepped up on the stage and quickly extracted my mother from the embarrassing moment.  As my mother told this story, she laughed and laughed.

She learned to swim at early age and it became a lifelong passion for her.  She became a lifeguard as a teenager and kept her certification up well into her 70's.  After she retired from the insurance company that she had worked for for over thirty years, she swam daily at her local YWCA.  She became such a regular, that the management asked her if she would like to teach young children how to swim..  My mother had never taught anyone formally anything.  But, like everything else she did in life, she agreed to do it and threw herself headlong into her new career.

She taught children from every background and age.  Some even had physical problems, but that didn't stop her.  She reveled in her new role and touched the lives of many, many children.  Four days a week, for some four to six hours each day, you could find her at the pool, teaching kids how to have fun in the water safely.  Finally, in her seventies, she decided that she was getting too old for this because she found herself getting tired more easily.  While she quit teaching, she continued to swim, this time for fun, on a nearly daily basis.

The greatest physical challenge of her life came in her later years.  A number of years ago, she began noticing that her vision didn't seem quite the way it should have been.  Once she described what was happening to her.  She felt like there was a smudge on her glasses that she couldn't wipe away.  This continued on for some months, growing worse with time.  Finally, she decided to have it checked out and was diagnosed with macular degeneration.  She was going blind.

But my mother, in typical fashion, was determined not to have something as insignificant as blindness hold her back.  She continued on with much difficulty.  She was a proud, independent woman, but the encroaching darkness began to rob her of that independence.  Slowly, but surely, the things she used to do on her own, things that were simple, ordinary tasks that were once easy, now became difficult.  Yet, she accepted very little help even though she could have used it.  Remarkably, she continued to drive, finally deciding that this wasn't too good of an idea when, on one dark, rainy evening, she found herself driving up on a sidewalk not far from home.  This is one of the only times I have ever seen my mother frightened.  One of the hardest things she had to do in the final years of her life was to give up driving.  Fortunately, however, she had a host of friends who pitched in and helped her with great generosity.

In 2005, she suffered a major hear attack.  She woke up on a Sunday morning, not feeling right.  She showered as she prepared for church and felt like her chest was terribly congested.  But, she passed it off as the early symptoms of the flu.  She went about her business throughout the day, feeling worse with each passing moment.  By Monday morning, the congestion in her chest had grown into a crushing sensation.  She could barely move out of her recliner due to shortness of breath.  She called her friend to come and take her to the hospital.  However, she was too weak to get to the car and so an ambulance was called.  It was discovered that one of the main blood vessels of the heart had been completely blocked.  It was amazing that she didn't die then.  With remarkable determination, she came back, never as strong as she was before the attack, but not slowed down much by any means.

In the last seven years, we watched as declining health began to take its toll.  She moved into an assisted care facility and after a period of adjustment, she to love the community and made many friends.  Her health continued to decline.  Finally, she came to a point where she could no longer take care of herself adequately.   The time that she had never wanted to come had arrived; moving into a nursing home.  Her health failed on numerous occasions and every time she rallied against all odds.  Until the latest event.

One week ago she was hospitalized because of shortness of breath.  She could not breathe without assistance.  She spent the last week of her life tied to a bi-pap machine, gasping for air every time it was removed.  She was miserable, yet she told us that she was going to get better and no one doubted that very much since she had defied the odds so many other times.  However, the shortness of breath and the strain that it put on her heart was too much and in the early morning hours of May 31, 2012, her heart gave out.

So now my mother is, at long last, at rest.  No more struggling to breathe.  No more depending on others to take care of her physical needs.  No more darkness of sight.  She has come into the Light and I am sure she is now using her musical talents to praise God along with the choirs of angels and heavenly host.

There is an emptiness in my heart but that emptiness is eclipsed by gratitude and love.  Like so many others, I never fully appreciated my mother until the last few years.  I had never seen her as the woman of strength and courage that she was.  She gave me many gifts, among them a sense of independence and determination.  She loved her family.  Her grandchildren meant everything to her.  In her last years, she took great joy in watching her great grandchildren grow.  She loved their visits and proudly displayed their pictures in her room at the nursing home.

Mary Alice King, my mother, will be missed.  She has gone to a place of peace and joy and no longer suffers the infirmities of a failing body.  The lessons she taught are invaluable.  But the thing she left us with was an incredible sense of love.  She was not demonstrative in her love, but you knew she loved.

I spent a few hours of what turned out to be the last day of her life with her.  She was miserable, constantly trying to adjust the mask to make it more comfortable.  The last thing I saw her eat was, fittingly, chocolate ice cream.  She had a sweet tooth as big as the Grand Canyon.  As the afternoon wore on, she grew more and more fatigued.  Finally, it was time to leave.  I kissed her good-bye and told her that I loved her.  I told her that I would talk to her later and as I started to leave, she said to me, "Tell Joan (my wife) hello and that I love her."  That was typical.  And these were the last words we ever exchanged.

My world will not be the same without my mother.  But her influence and love will never fade.  I am sad, but I am also grateful that she lived such a full life and now, she is with God at peace and in joy.  She was truly a remarkable woman.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

College Contraception

I thought I had seen everything until yesterday when Nancy Pelosi, that well-known Catholic theologian, held hearings regarding how much of a financial burden that securing contraceptives for this nation's college co-eds represents.  A young female witness from Georgetown University, testified that it was putting undue financial strains on her because her contraceptives were not free.  She bemoaned how unfair this was and that it made life really difficult.  Of course, Ms. Pelosi, bemoaned right along with her.  Obviously, the congresswoman and the co-ed agreed with the assessment that this was pure discrimination against women.  A co-ed does have the right to sleep with anyone she pleases at any time she pleases and we need to pay for her birth control so we don't have more abortions because, as everyone knows, we don't want that!

How much more do we have to sit through such bilge?  How much more are we expected to lend a sympathetic ear to America's co-eds who experience financial hardships because their budgets are stretched by the need to purchase birth control?  Since when was contraception a right?  Since when are we supposed to pay for birth control for someone else so they can participate in carnal delights as often as they like without one shred of responsibility?  How about abstinence?  Has anyone considered that as the only 100% foolproof way of avoiding the conception of that unwanted human being?

It is time that we stand up and call out the fools of our leadership and society.  What a woman does in the privacy of her own home or dorm room is strictly up to her.  But don't invite us into the room with forcing us to pay for her birth control.  We have to put a stop to this entitlement thinking.  Birth control is not a right and don't even try to tell me that I can say this because I am a man and don't have to worry about the consequences!  That argument simply does not wash.

The sad thing is that the way things are going what with Obama and his administration forcing religious institutions to pay for the provision of contraceptives, we will one day soon have to supply them free to anyone and everyone.  Of course, they are not free.  We, the people, are the ones who will paying for them.  What if I don't agree with the morals of any college student-male or female-who chooses to sleep with whomever and whenever?  Should I still be forced to pay for their birth control?  I think not!  These views may be seen as old fashioned and judgemental.  My response to that is, "So what!"  There is something to be said about old fashioned values and adhering to some sort of moral standard that retains the dignity of the human being.  Maybe our college students should worry more about the next paper due or the next presentation that needs further preparation than where their next free batch of contraception will come from!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Absurdly Absurd!

When President Obama asserted that Jesus Christ would back him on his push to tax the wealthy more by quoting Luke 12: 48, he reached a new low in the mixing of religion and politics.  The verse reads, "Of everyone to whom much is given, much will be required."

Here, Jesus is speaking of the individual.  All of us have been given gifts and talents that we are to use for the betterment of mankind and for the bringing of the Kingdom of Heaven closer to us.  Christ was not speaking about governments.  He was not saying that the government has the right to take more from those who are more privileged monetarily speaking.  That is absurd.  That notion, that the wealthy owe it to the rest who have less and, in many cases, far less, is simply not just.  It is not fair for the government to take more money away from the individual who has worked very hard all their life and has achieved a measure of success and give it to those who have not had the same good fortunes.  Jesus would not approve of such a thing because this action is not just and it was justice that Christ came to renew.

Obama and his administration always remind us about the separation of church and state.  Where is that idea here, Mr. President?  Are you now claiming that God has given the green light to tax those whom He has greatly blessed just because it, in your mind it is fair?  And how did this president, a chief executive who has seldom been to church during the course of his administration, come to hear the word of God and interpret it this way to suit his own agenda?

It also seems strange that the president would make an appearance at a prayer breakfast only days after the Catholic bishops of the United States began standing up against the administration's policy regarding contraceptive services.  How stupid does this man think we are?  Is it not clearly evident that the president is politicizing the Word of God?  I know he is far from the first politician to do so.  This practice has a long and not so proud history.  But this president, especially, seems to have crossed the line into absurdity with this assertion.  If you believe that the tax hike on the rich is fair and just and the right thing to do, Mr. President, then just say so and let it be at that.  Don't claim the Redeemer would approve of this based on a verse from the Gospel, a verse that has no application to the government confiscating more money from the private sector to give to the government to spend in ways that no one really knows.  I guess the president is in favor of separation of church and state only when it benefits him but is more than in favor when he can make a pronouncement of colossal ignorance such as this!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Angry Catholic

Christianity is under attack in this country.  This is no secret.  And the one church that seems to be bearing the brunt of this attack is the Roman Catholic Church.

In the last several years, a very few members of the Catholic clergy have been proven guilty of the most heinous of crimes--sexual abuse of children.  These priests and the bishops who covered for them are the lowest of the low and all should be prosecuted for their crimes.  They have darkened the reputation of a Church that has done an enormous amount of good throughout the ages.  Perhaps these scandals are the justification of the attacks that are now being carried out.  I am not certain.  But what I am certain of is this: it is time for Catholics who love their faith and the Church that brings that faith to them to stand up for the faith and cry foul no matter who the culprit is.

The most egregious perpetrator is the Federal Government of the United States of America.  Namely, President Barack Obama and his administration.  Recently, his administration announced that the church and all those religiously affiliated institutions must, within a year, provide ALL contraceptive services up to and including abortion.  There are to be no exceptions.

This is an unprecedented move on behalf of the Federal Government.  It is the total denial of religious freedom. Catholics are being told that in a year's time they must provide services that the Church roundly condemns.  It forces good, dedicated professionals into positions of carrying out procedures that most, if not all, do not believe in and find abhorrent.  Under Obamacare, doctors, nurses, and other health care providers will have to provide contraceptive services regardless of what they believe or feel about them.

What happened to the precious separation of church and state that the liberal establishment parades about during the holidays when the annual assault on manger scenes depicting the birth of Christ plays out?  How can the government dictate these kind of terms to a religiously based organization?  We are told that it is only fair, that this will include all and provide a level playing field.  All of this is nothing but a well crafted propaganda scheme hidden behind the cloak of fairness to completely minimize an icon of an institution who has traditionally provided moral guidance to society.

It is time for Catholics in the pews to stand up and state in no uncertain terms that this is unacceptable.  It is time to call these tactics what they really are: a power grab designed to extinguish any societal influence the church and her teachings have left in society.

Obama lied when he assured Americans that abortion would not be covered under his insurance scam.  Certainly, it may not be spelled out in the pages of the massive document!  But it is there in the fine print.  Obama is determined to eliminate all barriers to this most abhorrent of societal crimes.  Cloaked under the guise of "women's reproductive health," this move to provide abortion and other abortifactents is a calculated move on the part of the President to bring secularism into full flower in American society.

A growing number of bishops throughout the country have stood up and voiced their vehement objections to this declaration.  Letters from the shepherds of the church have been written to their congregations and have been read from countless pulpits throughout the country.  They are insistent that this will not happen and that they will not abide by the administration's ruling.  They have told the laity that they cannot accomplish the blocking of this action on their own.  They have spelled out to the laity that it is their duty to contact their representatives, senators, and the president himself, vocalizing their objection to this move in no uncertain terms.

Catholic laity must rise!  We must make our voices heard.  This is an election year and your elected officials will listen with a little more interest because they want to keep their jobs.  We must make it crystal clear to them, in no uncertain terms, that if they allow this travesty to come about, the Catholic vote will most certainly turn against them.

We can no longer stand in the shadows and allow the bishops to do all the work.  Priests must step up in the pulpit and educate the laity as to what is going on even at the risk of a backlash in the form of diminishing offerings.  We all must become defenders of the faith if our faith means anything to us.  We can all talk a good game but we must now show that our words have teeth as shown by our actions.

This kind of action should not, however, be limited to Catholics.  All Christians are threatened by the Obama administration move.  We must all set aside our differences and work to see that this provision of Obamacare never sees the light of day.  We all believe in the same God and worship His Son who came to save the world from just such enslavement.  We must unite and stand down Obama and his bent towards silencing us.

Another incident just a few days ago also caught my attention.  In Rhode Island, a group of Catholic school girls were attending a pro-life rally at the state capitol.  Suddenly, wall street occupiers burst on to the scene and began chanting obscenities at the group.  One of the members of the occupiers climbed one of the capitol columns and dumped a box of condoms onto the girls.  Then, near the close of the event, when a priest tried to end the rally with a prayer, the occupiers surrounded the podium and began shouting again, preventing the priest from even uttering a prayer.

It seems that liberals always proclaim that they want diversity and inclusion.  They welcome all points of view and do not interfere with the rights of others.  This bunch proved them dead wrong.

Liberals do not like diversity unless that diversity happens to agree with their point of view.  They want freedom of speech and while they have every right to voice their opinion on the abortion issue, they simply do not have the right to prevent others from speaking out on their opposing views.  They do not have the right to assault someone with condoms.

Did you hear about this story?  Probably not because the main stream media has chosen not to utter one syllable of this news.  Instead, you have to rely on websites like Fox News and other websites who are not afraid to highlight this depraved act.  Had this been a Tea Party tactic, it would have been the lead story on each network newscast and rightly so.  But this was the actions of a group backed by President Obama and his administration and so they are granted the mantel of protection of the elite.

Religion in general, and Christianity in particular is under attack in this society.  It requires all of us who say we follow Jesus Christ to raise our voices as one and shout as loudly as we can, "No more!"  These are serious issues that effect every American and every American had better pay attention to what the government is attempting to do because, I promise, they will not stop with Christianity!