Sunday, April 26, 2009


I am usually not a sentimental man by nature. I never have been. But lately, for whatever reason, I have been thinking a lot about my mother. In thinking, I have come to some rather surprising (to me) conclusions.

Nearly everyone who is asked will say that their mother is a remarkable person. It goes with the territory I suppose. But I can truly say that my mother is remarkable person based upon her life and the way she has lived it. That is not to say that my mother is some sort of saint. She isn't and she would be the first one to admit it! However, throughout her life she has been consistently consistent.

Her attitude has always been one of her strong suits. She has been through some very difficult times in her 82 years. She grew up in the depression but was lucky enough to have a father (my grandfather) who always had work. Yet, she was not unaware of the plight of others. She saw friends and neighbors who struggled mightily just to feed their families. She remembers a frugal father who, while he saved everything he could for fear that one day he would be without work, saw to it that she wanted for nothing within reason. Most of all, he showered with a very special kind of fatherly love that has bound the two together for years even up to now.

Her mother (my grandmother) was a woman of enormous kindness and compassion. Her heart ached for those who suffered and struggled through life even though in her latter years she struggled daily with debilitating pain. She taught my mother to have a loving heart with dignity and integrity. There was an unmistakable bond of love between the two of them that became more and more apparent toward the end of my grandmother's life.

My mother has lived longer than both of her parents and in recent years has suffered from failing health. For years she swam daily. She often went out to eat with her friends and then did some shopping. She enjoyed an active life. Even blindness that set on due to macular degeneration did not stop her. She finally stopped driving probably much later than she should have but the thought of giving up her independence bothered her considerably.

As she grew older, her legs began betraying her. She had a harder and harder time getting around. While this may have sidelined other people, it didn't my mother! She adopted a walker and swallowed her pride by riding the mechanized carts at places like Wal-Mart. Then came her heart attack. It was a dark March morning a few years ago when I got a phone call in my office from her. She did not sound like herself at all. She sounded tired and weak. But what struck me most is that she sounded scared. She had every reason to be scared since at the very moment we were talking, she was having a major heart attack. One of the main arteries leading into the heart had become completely blocked. At the moment of our phone conversation she was dying. Yet, despite everything, her attitude remained positive and I am sure that is what got her through those very troubling days.

All this time she was living alone in an apartment. Then another brush with death and this one would usher in a life-changing event. Because she was unable to see and because she was unable to take care of herself because of her sight, she overdosed accidentally on the potent blood thinner she was taking to keep her healthy. She nearly bled to death as a result. She was in the ICU for a few days and the hospital for the rest of the time. During that time she came to the conclusion that she could no longer live alone and so moved into an assisted care facility. While it is not a nursing home, the staff does look in on the residents from time to time just to see how they're doing. They also distribute medication thus safeguarding against an accident like the one that nearly claimed my mother's life.

Now, in her older years, she has reached a level of happiness that she deserves so much. The most traumatic thing that happened to her was her divorce from my father. She loved him very much. It wounded her more deeply than she will ever admit. Despite the hurt and deep disappointment, she moved forward with her life. In an era where a single parent was very rare, she went to work to support me. She found time for me despite her work schedule. She sacrificed mightily for me so that I would want for nothing. Did we have all the money in the world? Not even close! Yet, there was always the comfort and security of the love of my mother.

I don't know how she did it. She never mentioned how difficult it was being a single parent and it must have been more difficult than most of us could imagine since it was not accepted as the way it is today. She had to be lonely. She had to wonder why things happened the way they did but not once did she ever mention even a hint of her heartbreak. She simply moved forward with her head held high into an uncertain future.

Most of all, my mother's life has been guided by her faith. She learned her faith, as did I, in large part from my grandmother. She was a lady who prayed daily. She was not afraid to tell you of her faith but did not feel compelled to tell anyone within earshot of her beliefs. My mother inherited that faith. She talks very little about her belief in God, but she comes from a generation who doesn't do a whole lot of talking about such things, they just live it! This is the only way that she could have gotten through the trials in her life. She prays often and one of the biggest disappointments in her life right now is her inability to go to Mass regularly. Yet, she continues on, speaking with God day in and day out as others might talk to a friend.

My mother has sacrificed for me all of my life. She has loved me when no one else did or dared to. She believed in me when every other person in my life found it impossible to do so. She stood by me with a mother's unfailing love and that is what brought me up from the depths of my darkness. It was the love of God and His eternal compassion made manifest through her. I owe much to her and as each day passes by, I find myself admiring and loving her even more.

I began this lengthy piece by saying that she is remarkable woman and she most certainly is. I hope that we have her around for a good long time so that we can all share in her wisdom and experience and learn more about life than from any other source. She has three great-grandchildren. May they come to know this remarkable woman as I have in their lives!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Susan Boyle & the Beauty of God

Recently a phenomenon has developed over an unlikely source. The video that has fostered this phenomena is available on You Tube and has had over thirty million hits as of this writing. Great Britain's version of American Idol, Britain's Got Talent, was not only entertained but wowed by a very ordinary looking middle aged woman. When she came on stage you could hear the audience snickering because of her appearance. She was obviously not young. Nicely dressed, she still looked rather frumpy. As Simon Cowell asked her a few questions, you could still hear the giggles coming from the audience. As a matter of fact, the camera actually caught some audience members rolling their eyes in disbelief preparing themselves, no doubt, for yet another performance from a misguided "singer" who thought they really had talent. When Simon asked her what she was going to sing, she replied "I Had A Dream" a ballad from "Les Miserables." At this point even the judges rolled their eyes and braced themselves for what was about to follow.

The audience impatiently waited. The judges leaned back in their chairs as if to say that they knew what was coming their way. The music started, Susan took a breath, and began. From the first note out of her mouth Susan Boyle sounded like an angel. Her voice, powerful yet filled with passion, turned out the difficult piece with ease that brought tears to some of the audience. The stunned crowd jumped to its feet as the song progressed and the judges simply stared in complete unbelief. Susan Boyle could have easily performed the piece on Broadway in the musical! She was flawless in her rendition. Her voice pierced the cynicism of all who watched and touched the ears of everyone in the room. It was simply remarkably amazing. And what a lesson for us all!

Susan Boyle has been singing since age 12. She has never emerged from the shadows until now because she had never had the chance to perform in a venue such as the one the show afforded her at this very moment. However, through the years, she had worked hard to develop her abundant talent. Still , she had never received any kind of recognition. One has to think one of the main reasons for this is her appearance. She is not slim, youthful, or "sexy" as defined by today's standards. She is common and ordinary appearing as most of us are. Yet, hidden behind this ordinary veneer was this remarkable God-given talent. Her performance was a tribute to her talent and hard work and determination. But it was so much more.

Susan Boyle, like so many of us, has a remarkable ability that God has seen fit to instill within us. Yet, it so often goes unnoticed because of what we seem to be looking for outside of ourselves. Susan Boyle's talent is a reflection of the beauty and magnificence of God. She bears the marks of the beauty of her creation within her ability to sing and move hearts. Once she began, no one noticed how plain appearing she is. She suddenly took on a beauty that was, up to that moment in time, unseen. But when the beauty poured forth from her soul as the song began, the beauty of God shone through bright and clear. Few people may have recognized it as such but that does not make it any less truthful. Susan Boyle is a reflection of God's beauty and loving care of His children.

Now most of us do not have the same stunning talent as Susan Boyle but we do all have certain talents and abilities that are remarkable in their own right that reflect the beauty of God in our lives. The mother who gently tucks her little ones to bed at night in such a way so as to instill a sense of peace and security in her offspring is yet another aspect of the beauty of God. The father who softly cuddles his daughter in his arms after a disappointment at school so the sense of rejection she may be experiencing melts away into his heart is an aspect of the beauty of God. The willingness of the nursing home worker, woefully underpaid, who pauses for an extra moment in between changing bed pans and linens to listen to a memory or two of a lonely widower who lost his wife of fifty-plus years is the softness of the beauty of God.

If we think hard enough, I am sure that we could all come up with our own examples. The point to all of this is, is that we all reflect the beauty of God in our own ways. We must always keep this in mind in dealing with even the most impossible people. They, too, have this reflection! In a world filled with self-centeredness and sarcasm, it was so refreshing to see someone like Susan Boyle take center stage and serve as a reminder to us of the abounding beauty of God in humanity. Revel in it and rejoice in it. It will keep things in perspective!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The "Missing Sign" Is a Sign!

"When President Obama gave his economics speech at Georgetown University on Tuesday, several folks noticed something was missing. That "something" was an ancient monogram -- the letters IHS -- that symbolizes the name of Jesus. It was missing from a wooden archway above the dais in Gaston Hall where the president delivered his 45-minute speech." (Washington Post, April 15, 2009)

If ever there were proof needed of the Obama administration's intentions of erasing Christianity from the public mind, then the Washington Post has just provided it. When the president appeared at the prestigious Georgetown University, the White House "requested" that the institution cover all signs that formed a backdrop for the president. So, in an amazing display of spineless behavior, the university complied.

The big surprise here is not the fact that the administration requested that the university remove the signage. No, the big surprise is that the university capitulated! One has to wonder just how Catholic Georgetown is. What is even more surprising is that the sign (IHS, Greek for the name of Jesus) was covered up during one of the holiest weeks of the year to Christians, Easter Week.

How dare the White House make such a request! Even more, how dare the university cave t the secular wishes of an administration who is openly hostile to the sanctity of life and the traditions held dear by Christians. Perhaps this will serve as a reality check. We must stand up as Christians or the government will surely see to it that the Christian faith will be pushed into the far recesses of society and labeled irrelevant.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Gay Marriage In New York?

The governor of New York, David Patterson, is preparing legislation to legalize gay marriage within the state. This action is contrary to what the citizens of New York recently told pollsters. In the poll, 59% of the population rejected the notion of legalizing these "unions." Even a majority of democrats oppose the move. Why, then, is the governor pushing this kind of legislation down the throats of New Yorkers?

It is a sign of the times that we have to even define what marriage is! Now, when we refer to marriage, we have to nearly always parenthetically add "between a man and a woman." It used to be a foregone conclusion that marriage was just this. We live in changing times and this is one change that we simply cannot afford.

Marriage is the basis of the family. It is the bedrock of society. No other social unit is more important. The expressed purpose of marriage is procreation. Procreation can only take place between a man and a woman. In the cases of in vitro fertilization, the fertilized egg is still the result of the union of male sperm and a female ovum! So, no matter where the egg comes from and no matter into whom it is implanted, the fact it that it started out as a union between male and female!

Marriage is a sacrament between a man and a woman. Anything else that is called a marriage is not. Whether someone agrees with this definition or not is irrelevant. Truth is truth! God intended for the institution of marriage to be the union of a man and a woman. This society, in its rush to revel in diversion, has forced an unnatural union upon us. We, as Americans, are so anxious to accept everyone and everything that we are willing to turn our very foundations upside down. If the legislation passes in New York, it will not be long that gay marriage will be legalized in many other states throughout the Union. There is a certain beauty in the union of a man and wife that reflects nearly perfectly the love that God has for all of us. This beauty is specific to marriage and cannot be found in the union of woman and woman or man and man! If we redefine the most basic foundation of society, how long will it be before that foundation crumbles and society comes tumbling down with it?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

President Obama & Notre Dame

A lot of press has been given recently to the upcoming commencement ceremonies to be held at Notre Dame University in May. Why? Because President Obama, a noted pro-choice supporter, has been invited to give the commencement address as well as receive an honorary doctorate degree. This has outraged many pro-life Catholics because of the President's record on abortion as the Chief Executive, US Senator, and Illinois State Senator. They are calling for the rescinding of the invitation for to have Obama speak at the university would be an abomination.

I do see their point. The president has not been coy about the subject. He has always been in the open about his very liberal support of abortion or as the pro-choice supporters now see to call it more often, women's health care issues. The fact that the president has, throughout his career, supported and promoted abortion is an indisputable fact. For a Catholic institution such as Notre Dame to invite a pro-choice advocate such as the president is completely contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. So the question arises, should ND disinvite the President of the United States?

It may come as a surprise to those of you who know me to find out that I say let the president come to the university! Let him speak at the commencement exercises. The polarization in this country has become unbearable! But beyond that, we must look to Jesus as our model. Jesus never avoided those who shared differing viewpoints and ideas from him. He ate with tax collectors who were seen as the scourge of the earth by good practicing Jews. He dined with members of the Sanhedrin, teaching them through parables and example. When Mary Magdalene, a known prostitute, approached him and bathed his feet in her repentant tears, Jesus did not push her away like some disease. Rather, he accepted her for who she was, a wounded person who sought healing. The woman caught in adultery was told by the Master to "go and sin no more." He did not reject her.

Those of us who believe in the sanctity of life at every stage must follow in Christ's footsteps. We must not for a minute give in to the other side's viewpoint or pressure but we must seek out dialogue so that they, like the sinners Jesus ate with, can experience the love of God for his littlest ones and come to see the abomination abortion is. There are many who may say that this approach is naive and will never work. While it may take time to change anything regarding abortion, nothing will be accomplished if we remain in two camps slinging disparaging remarks at one another, failing to see each other as we are. . .children of God. Let the president speak and pray that the Word of God made flesh will one day penetrate his heart to see the error of his ways! God's love sometimes takes time and we cannot lose faith or patience in the will of the Father.

Friday, April 10, 2009

"Good" Friday?

Today, we have commemorated the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ. We remember his enormous sufferings at the hands of the Roman executioners while at the same time recalling that while they were the vehicle for his death, our sinfulness is the real cause. Jesus suffered enormously from his brutal scourging to the crowning with thorns and, finally culminating in his crucifixion. His death came slow and painfully. Why, then, do we call this day Good Friday?

Without this day, our salvation could not have been won! God willed that his Son give his very life in reparation for our sins. Jesus, even though he knew the kind of death he was to endure, accepted and followed the will of the Father completely so that we might have eternal life. No one in history before or since has ever made this kind of sacrifice for mankind. Good Friday thus becomes the gateway to eternity. We must remember, however, that Good Friday is not complete without the Resurrection on Easter. We cannot have one without the other. The suffering must come before the joy but when the joy comes, it will be Divine.

There is grave sadness in the hearts of the penitents on this day. True believers understand that it is we who nailed Jesus to the cross. It is we who spit upon him and propelled the cruel whip into his back. It is our sinfulness that pressed the ugly, stinging thorns into his head. And it is we who pierced his side only to be washed clean by his very blood. But because he followed his Father's will completely, we can claim joy as well. For those who do not believe, it is a near impossible task to understand how we can truly say this and mean it, bringing it to life in our daily existence.

On this day, a dark day according to the world, we Christians experience the light of Christ's love. It is a light that burns through the darkness of sin and eternal damnation, bringing us to the very gates of heaven. We now anxiously await the moment the gigantic stone is rolled away from the entrance of that new tomb allowing for the risen Christ to come forth in a glorified body. With that act, our joy will be complete and the sting of death will be no more!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


As we await the postponed arrival of spring, thoughts automatically turn to the new life of spring. Even though the flowers are in bloom and the trees are coming alive with their blossoms, we are reminded that winter does not give up easily. Snow flew yesterday (Monday) morning and it looked more like a few days before Christmas rather than just a few days shy of Easter. Despite all the cold temperatures and snow nature is struggling to come to life. We all know it will succeed once again and in that there is comfort.

Human life is a lot like nature. We are all conceived in the form of a tiny, microscopic embryo incapable of surviving on its own. Yet, it is human life nonetheless! One day, this precious life will take its place in the world, assuming an identity just as we did at one time. It is a glorious process that truly reflects the great grace and magnificence of a mighty God. Just as we all are filled with wonder at the return of spring, so, too, are most of us filled with the wonder of the beginnings of life.

The sanctity of life is not a political issue, although it has been summarily turned into one. It is a human issue. The life we have been given are every bit as precious at the spring life we see emerging from the long winter. Because we are created in the image of God, human life is more precious than any other life form in existence. As I watched a morning talk show today I was struck by something. The individuals on the show were talking about the Democratic and Republican parties and their positions on abortion. As the banter went on, it struck me that even these high-minded politicians were degrading life by treating it as some sort of entity to be bargained over. There is no bargaining over the issue of when human life begins. Whether or not you believe it begins at conception or birth or somewhere in between, the irrefutable truth is that life begins at conception.

Vice President Biden recently claimed that the question of when life begins is really an individual choice. This is a statement of a spineless politician unwilling to speak the truth out of fear of alienating a voting block of people. Mr. Biden, a self-professed practicing Catholic, cannot be serious. When life begins is not determined by what the individual thinks! That is absurd. A human being is a human being at the moment of conception on whether we agree with that or not or whether science reaches a consensus on the subject or not. If Mr. Biden were truly a practicing Catholic he would know that the Church has always maintained that life begins at conception, no questions asked or entertained. It is time for a reality check among the more liberal politicians in this country. The truth is the truth regardless of whether we agree with it or not. This seems to be a reality that politicians simply do not like!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Lenten Thoughts

We are nearing the end of Lent, that special time of the year that we turn internally in an attempt to discover just where we are on our journey to God and just how close we really are to him. It is a time of introspection and repentance. It is a time to turn our hearts to the Father who created us with the joy and the hope that Easter promises. We acknowledge our sinfulness, but know that through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus our eternal salvation is won. We look into our hearts to discover those barriers that we have constructed that so often interfere with our relationship with God.

Lent has always been a meaningful time of year for me because I am reminded daily to reflect on who I am in God's eyes and what I need to do to draw nearer to him. It is during this time of the year that I meditate more deeply and faithfully on the Passion of Christ. Every time I meditate on this loving, saving work, I discover yet another aspect of the most selfless act in the history of the world that somehow affects me deeply. I have learned to look into the suffering face of the Savior with the realization that his suffering was due to my sinfulness. It is in this moment that I become determined to repent of those things that have become sinful habits. I vow to do them no more knowing that I will need the Savior's help if I am to succeed.

These are not depressing moments by any means. I believe in Christ and know that his crucifixion and death were not an end but a beginning for his glorious resurrection was ushered in by this supreme act of love. I may have to suffer as a result of my sinfulness but hope is always mine because my salvation was not won by his death alone. Salvation is won by his death and resurrection and in this fact lay the hope of mankind.

And so, in this time of Lent, I not only am saddened by my sinful human nature, but I am heartened by the Divine nature that overcame the human to elevate us all. I look forward, with great anticipation, to the celebration of Easter when new life and the promises of God are once again renewed and fulfilled. We are fortunate indeed to be Christians for we all have the unique gifts of hope and joy not only at this time of year but throughout the rest of the calendar.