Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thinking of the Priests Who Touch My Life

This morning, as My Dear Wife and I were preparing to go and meet with Father John Pirt at our Parish of St, George, here in London, I was also reminded of other priests who have come into my thoughts lately.

Last week, Both MDW and I received a group email from our friend Father Jim Mockler.  It was only a note that his email address had changed, but was a small connection that resulted in us speaking of him for a few minutes, and remembering how he has touched our lives over the years.

I also received an email from Father Clement Agamba, the Ghanan priest who lives in Tucson, who was such a blessing to us and to the people of Our Lady of Fatima Parish when we were there.  He is now a blessing to the folks over at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish.  He told in his note of a friend who had passed away, and it was good to hear from him and that he is well.

In our morning prayers recently, Father Michael Prieur of St. Peter's Seminary came up in discussion, fondly of course, as all of us in attendance know him and love him.

Father Sam Johnston of Ridgetown, our retired priest friend, comes to mind often.  Though I have been unable to work on his blog for the past few weeks, his love of God and energy at 82 years of age is a blessing.

Of course, I am personally blessed to meet with Deacon George Sebok, a very dear friend most mornings, and share prayer time with him.

I have great admiration for these men, and for all the faithful priests and deacons who have touched our lives and continue to touch them.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in your love for these men I have mentioned and for all priests, deacons and religious, who have given their lives to love and serve you and to be a witness to us of the royal priesthood.

Sacred Heart of Jesus fill them and us with your blood.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Is The Eucharist That We Celebrate The Real Presence of Jesus Christ?

Conflicting Ideas

As a Roman Catholic, I believe that the Communion that we receive is the actual Presence of Jesus Christ in a most illogical form of His choosing, in the Eucharist that is consecrated and which we celebrate in the Mass.

If, in fact, one does believe that Christ is present in the Eucharist, then one must come to the Catholic Church, and not just come, but come running and leaping for joy that He is alive and present to us, and that He is real food for our souls, for our personal journey to the foot of the Cross.

I have researched the biblical basis of the Eucharist from the Catholic perspective.  In fact, for me as a Catholic Christian, it is conclusive.  However Father Tim Moyle, a Catholic priest in Mattawa Ontario, and graduate of St. Peter's Seminary here in London, Ontario, and I to a certain extent have been challenged about this and about the validity of Roman Catholicism as a religion by one of our Reformed brothers.  He is a student of scripture, believing that sola scriptura (basically if it ain't in scripture, it ain't - on matters of faith) sets the tone for our faith, and that tradition is of no value - quoting a particular scripture about tradition as his guide for that.  He is a retired Catholic, having found his faith outside the Church of his youth.

What he is is a blessing.  His knowledge of scripture challenges me, probably not Father Tim as much, to dig into commentaries and apologetics that I have available on my book shelves or find on the Internet.  In other words it is a healthy exercise. 

The Catholic Church is able to prove the Real Presence scripturally, and here is an example of a good commentary on it, that includes the nihil obstat and imprimatur from the Bishop of San Diego.

That does not satisfy our friend, as he comes back with his church's interpretation of those same verses, and is committed to believing what he has learned, as we are committed to what we have learned.

But, I realise that I do not have to convince him of the veracity of the Real Presence.  I only have to know in my heart that it is so.  So, I responded to some of the commentary with a personal revelation of this, a personal revelation that is not binding on any other person on the planet:
My faith in Jesus Christ as My Saviour and Lord is a heart felt belief, and His word is written on my heart, far better than I can absorb from the printed page. He has presented Himself to me in many ways over the years. There have been times that I have known He was present, that would be the tiniest part of the whole, and far too many when I did not.

But, He has appeared to me through miracles that have occurred in my life, including a miraculous healing from debilitating arthritis about 20 years ago.

But, one of the most amazing signs that I ever saw was a miraculous vision around the Eucharist and its consecration many years ago.

For a number of years, one of our diocesan priests was a close personal friend. He was the Director of Youth Ministry in its formative stages in our diocese, and lived within our parish boundary, not too far from my own home. He accompanied us on family vacations, and we enjoyed his fellowship. He said the mass with reverence for the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

On one particular Sunday, he was saying mass in our then parish (since closed - sad to say) of St. Joseph's. Behind him on the wall as he said mass, was a beautiful crucifix modeled after the very realistic one that Pope John Paul II used himself.

I had been contemplating whether I really thought that Christ was present in the Eucharist. I believed it in my head, but it had not yet taken up residence in my heart.

From where I was sitting in a particular pew, when he raised the Eucharist in the consecration, I had a most unusual vision. I saw the bread being consecrated dissolve into the corpus of Christ that was on the cross immediately behind him. I later asked if anyone else saw what I saw, and no one had, but from that moment on, my belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist moved from my head to my heart.

For me it is a matter of the heart, the same place in me where He resides, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

There is nothing more that I can add.
I believe it because I have seen it.  Happier still those who have not seen yet have believed.

Additionally, the Catholic Church does rely on tradition for guidance as to its beliefs, even though we can listen to our hearts.
When I have discussed scripture with Catholic priests of my acquaintance, they have been unanimous in describing the need to put sections of scripture into their proper context, where they were in society of the time, as well as from that what they might mean to us today, and further what verses and sections mean to us as an individual under the guidance of our Loving Creator at any particular time in our journey of faith.

That context is really important.  It is one thing for me in 2010 to read a section of scripture, and put my spin on it.  But, what did it mean to the people of Christ's time and those after Him who wrote the scriptures of the New Testament.

That is very telling.

What did the early Christians believe about this so called Real Presence of Christ in Eucharist?  Well, as I discovered at one particularly good site here was that until 500 AD, the writer could find no dissension from any credible source that the Eucharist was the Real Presence of Jesus Christ.  The writer's research is pretty extensive and I urge you to read it if you have personal doubts.

And finally, coming closer to home is there any other evidence of Christ actually being in the elements that are consecrated in the Mass?

Well, I have been aware for many years that there are approved miracles of the Eucharist that prove to the Church in physical form that He is there.  They are actually able to be found from the same site I referenced above at this page.

It makes for interesting reading, particularly if you suspend any personal thoughts and let the information be absorbed into your heart.  I invite you to follow the links above and decide for yourself what you believe.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in your love for all those who read this blog posting and its links.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, fill us all with Your Blood.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Practical Catholic Church Today

As I have aged and grown in my faith, and particularly with the circumstances that My Dear Wife and I find ourselves in from a health perspective, I have had to sit back and observe things.  Where previously, I could see things happening, and jump in with my own brand of "helping" - really scurrying around trying to help, I have been relegated to the sidelines in a certain sense.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  Coaches stand on the sidelines and provide their wisdom to the players who are on the field, and maybe that is the stage of life we find ourselves in, or maybe it is just a brief phase.

Regardless of how we got here, where we are at provides us with an opportunity to slow down and observe more carefully what is happening, and maybe the experience of our over 60 years toiling on the earth might have some value.

The Catholic Church in our London Ontario diocese, and throughout North America at least is having to adapt to changing conditions, not just little things, but major changes.  Here in our diocese, there is the particular phenomenon of the shrinking priesthood.  This is not about why that is happening, but how we as practical Catholics are responding to it, and how we might be able to respond better.

In our parish of St. George, we have a new church that was built 10 years ago, which is a drastic improvement over the old building that preceded it.  Until this week, we have been blessed to have two priests on staff at the parish.  It is a large parish, and is also a pretty well to do parish.  The part of our city that the parish is located in is a growth area of London, what used to be the outlying town of Byron when I was a kid, and it was way out of town back then.  Now it is part of an explosion of new housing, and not starter homes.  The people in our parish are mostly prosperous in the view of the world. 

Our pastor, Father John Pirt is a good man, an excellent preacher, and one who brings the sacraments to us with reverence, and devotion.  That is truly a charism that he has.  Even though he has had an assistant in Fr, Francis Jeyaseelan, C. R., he has been busy - run off his feet might be a better description.  Suddenly, after this week we will find ourselves with only one parish priest, as Fr. Francis, and two young priests from the Congregation of the Rosarians in Sri Lanka, from whence Fr. Francis came himself, will be taking over the diocesan Marian Shrine in Merlin, Ontario, and forming a small community themselves to minister to all who come to the shrine.  Though this itself is a marvelous work of God, it leaves a void in our parish.

Where Father John was somewhat beleaguered before, I am concerned that he will move to a state of overwhelmed.

The parish model, at least in our diocese, is that the Parish Council, elected by the members of the Parish to serve the parish, actually serve at the behest of the parish priest.  The priest is in most of our parishes large and in charge.  This is a long standing model, but tends to break down now, with the diminishing number of priestly vocations.  Here in London, we have had parishes twinned so that one priest could look after two or more congregations, and have seen many parishes shuttered as well.

But, God is good and He always will be.  He will meet all of our needs through His riches and glory.

Recently, Father John has had to make some choices for the parish, in light of the changing situation.  As a result some noses are out of joint, with good reason, at least from their perspectives.  There will no doubt be frustrations and irritants going forward.

As I have said previously, a few of us gather in the morning to pray the Divine Office for each of us, our families, the world we inhabit and our parish.  As a couple of the recent decisions impacted two of our group, they brought their frustrations to prayer for a couple of mornings this past week.  One morning was just praying and venting.  But, by the second morning, I believe the Lord gave us the answer that we need for our day to day lives.

Father John is our pastor.  His position of authority in our parish comes from the Bishop, who derives his authority from the Pope, and ultimately from God.  Of course, if we don't like what he says or does, we are free to wander off to another parish, to a different denomination, or go and sulk in our own corners.  But, that is a self defeating approach.  It is better to address our own anxieties directly, and so we concluded the following:
We love our pastor, regardless of what decisions he feels he has to make.
Recognising that he, like all of us, has a limit to what he can do, we will also do our best to draw alongside him and offer ourselves to assist him in any way that he allows us to.
But, most of all, we will support him with our prayers, asking God in these trying times to grant him the wisdom to shepherd this parish to the best of his abilities, and the courage and strength to do that which he discerns is the path he must follow.
We will leave the rest of it in God's hands.
This is by no means an easy time to be a Catholic priest, and it is time that the people in the pews, you and I, step up.  In the past we could get away with sitting in the pews for mass, and go about our week, but it was not really a spiritually health strategy for that time, and is definitely not one now.  We must grow in our faith, and in our prayer lives for the good of the Catholic Church, and for our own salvation.

Those of us who go to mass receive the Body and Blood of Our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ, through the consecrating of the Eucharist at the hands of our holy priests.  This is a blessing of immense and untold worth.  It is the essence of the Catholic faith, and draws us into the salvation that Jesus came to give us.

But, if our priests are no longer able to bring this gift to us as "alter christus", who will?  We must do what is in our power, and prayer is always in our power, to lift our priests up, to give them strength, to love them for giving of themselves in service to others.

Show your pastor that you appreciate his sacrifice.  Pray for him, and encourage him in his work.

Friday, June 25, 2010

I Am a Catholic Christian

I was a cradle Catholic, or at least I was raised as a Catholic from my birth.  However, I took a sabbatical leave, as it were for about 10 years, in my rebellious twenties, until one day, as I stood in my kitchen with my wife, we both heard the voice of God speaking 3 words to us: "Go to Church."  Since life was very trying at the time, we eagerly obeyed that voice that we knew was His.

Since then, unlike most Catholic Christians I have been catechised, to a large extent by my involvement in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which led me to study scripture and to read about and understand Catholic Apologetics.  Unlike our Protestant brothers and sisters, a large percentage of whom live with their bibles tucked under their arms and/or embedded into their minds, we tend to get our faith hits from attending mass if we so choose, not from falling in love with God, in His Holy Trinity.

This is not as it should be.  Our faith, Our Catholic Faith, is far too rich to be left to chance.  It is a beautiful heritage that our fallen away family both inside the Church and dear believers outside the Church are missing, and we, if we do not open ourselves up to God in our lives on a minnute by minute basis, are missing as well.

I have been engaged in a dialogue of sorts with a fundamentalist Reformed Christian brother from Williams Lake BC, who was raised in the Catholic Church, but was catechised after experiencing the presence of Jesus in his life, and left the Church.  He is very knowledgeable about the bible, and believes that it is important to share his faith with others.

I admire that in him, and his unwavering faith.

However, he has taken it upon himself to share the good news under the moniker Small Town Guy, with Father Tim Moyle over at the Where the Rubber Hits the Road blog.  My understanding of what I have read of his comment postings is that he feels compelled to save us from the Whore of Babylon, or as he abbreviates it, the RCC - that would be the Roman Catholic Church.

He does so by quoting bible scriptures, which he knows well, but does so ad nauseum, so where I want to know about him and his faith, so I can understand him, I get more scripture.  I really do want to know the real him.  I am fascinated by his faith journey.

When not quoting scripture, he references Loraine Boettner, a well known, long since deceased, Protestant apologist, who took it upon himself to write categorical denunciation of the Catholic Church.  I must say that all of the criticisms of the teachings of the Catholic Church are well researched (to a point), and well reasonsed, in the context in which they are written, except that they start from a bias.  When you know the answer to the question you are writing about before you start to write, you frame your answer accordingly, and this is how it is with Protestant apologetics.

When Luther effected the schism in the Catholic Church, centuries back, the protesters threw out the baby with the bath water.  I had planned to write that Luther executed the schism, and that would have been incorrect.  It is my opinion, one that I think I can well support, that the Catholic Church was complicit directly and indirectly in this schism, and must carry a great deal of the burden for grieving God's Holy Spirit at that particular time, and since then.

Those who began the protest against certain aspects of the Catholic Church, many of them worthy of heart felt protest, ignored the rich historic legacy and tradition of faith that had animated the early Church, in part because so little of it was evident in the Church of the time.  Yet, it is the relationship that the Apostles, and His mother had with Jesus that formed the basis of the teachings of the early Church, and indeed formed the basis for the discernment of what scriptures were to form the Bible.

We Catholics bear much of the responsibility for the separation that exists among Christians, and we Catholics must do all that we can to heal this division.  It is not just the job of Pope Benedict, though he is worthy of the task, and well suited to do his part. 

We must know our Church, her teachings, her devotions, but above all we must know Him who died to set us free from sin and death, and His Holy Spirit, who wants to teach us all things that are worthy of Knowledge and fill us with the Wisdom we need for our day to day journey to the foot of the Cross.

If we can present the truth, the Catholic truth, as cogently and as well researched as our separated brethren, then we can walk arm in arm to meet Jesus.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

For You Fathers Out There

Happy Father's Day from Magnificat

Dear Friends,

We wish all of our fathers a grace-filled Father's Day!

May the Lord bless them abundantly on this joyful day - and always.

We would like to share with you the following blessing that you might like to pray as you gather on this special occasion:
God our Father,
in your wisdom and love you made all things.

Bless these men,

that they may be strengthened as Christian fathers.

Let the example of their faith and love shine forth.

Grant that we, their sons and daughters,

may honor them always

with a spirit of profound respect.

Grant this through Christ our Lord.

Asking God's blessing for you and your dear ones, especially all fathers, we assure you of our prayers, and thank you for being a faithful member of the Magnificat family.

Sincerely in Christ,


Friday, June 18, 2010

Fathers - God Bless You and Keep You And Me

It is Tough Work Being a Father.  Even harder to be a Dad.

This video was embedded over at Fallible Blogma today.  There are a couple of others there that are interesting as well.

Many times, too many times really, I have failed in my life to be the father depicted in this video, and my children have suffered for it.  Consequently, they have made choices in their lives that resemble some of my worst ones.  But, they are growing into fine young women despite my failures, in some small part I hope because of the man I am continuing to grow to be, rather then just the man I was.

As we celebrate Father's Day, it is important for us fathers to remember and pray for those who have made us fathers.

The 10 Martyrs of Shiraz

The Story of Mona, the Angel of Shiraz

Some time ago, I was linked to this posting which originates from here, bu Don Sharpe at Sharpe Stick.  I held this back until today, which marks the 27th anniversary of the martyrdom of Mona and 9 others.  They were executed during the Khomeini regime for holding to their Baha'i faith.  I am certain in my heart that Our Gracious Lord received all 10 of them into His loving arms upon their death.  Here is the original article:
I’d like to write about Mona Mahmudnizhad because she was more than a victim of oppression—she faced hatred with love, hardship with perseverance, and death with astonishing courage. Read her story, ponder her example, and see if she doesn't change your perspective on the possibilities inherent in humanity.
So many times when you think about people being tortured and killed for religious beliefs, it’s hard to picture the person, the young girl behind the story.

It was under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini, who had set out to rid their country and their revolution of the Baha’i community, the largest religious minority in Iran.

Mona, a 16 yrs old high school girl, was one of ten Baha’i women who were imprisoned in the fall of 1982.The Charge against them: Teaching Children’s Classes on the Baha’i Faith to Baha’i children – the equivalent of Sunday school in the west.

They endured months of abuse, interrogation and torture as the Islamic judges and their revolutionary guards attempted to force them to deny their religion. In Her last interrogation this is what Mona said to the Judge :
"Although I was born in a Baha'i family, according to Baha'i principles, we have to search for the truth ourselves rather than imitate our family's ideas and that is exactly what I have done. You have many of our Baha'i books here and you could read them and find this out for yourself. They never insisted on my becoming a Baha'i or accepting their ideas. If Your Honor insists that I recant my Faith, I should assure you that I will never do that and that I am ready to be executed."

The Judge was shocked at that point and looked at her angrily, saying, "You are just a child. How could you possibly know the real meaning of the word Faith? " Mona replied, "What more proof do you need than that I was dragged out of school and put in jail and now, for many months, have endured all these interrogations for the sake of my religion. What else but my Faith could give me the strength and power to stand here in front of you and answer your Questions."

Because of her youth and conspicuous innocence she became, in a sense, a symbol of their group in prison. She was lashed on the soles of her feet with a cable and forced to walk on bleeding feet, yet she never wavered in her faith.

On the eve of June 18, 1983, under cover of darkness, they were driven in a bus to a polo field on the outskirts of Shiraz where a gallows had been set up. The bus driver who took them there reported that they seemed to be in good spirits, singing on the way and prepared to meet their fate.
In a final effort to break their wills, the authorities hanged the women one by one as the others were forced to watch. Mona asked to be the final victim executed so that she could pray for the strength of each one who was hanged before her.

When her turn came, she kissed the rope and put the noose around her own necks, and said a prayer for the Happiness and Prosperity of all mankind and bid farewell to this mortal world. Before she died, Mona said, “What makes me happy is that I see that we have been chosen by God to be strong.”

The families of the women learned of the hangings of their loved ones the next morning, June 19. Mona's mother and her sister finally succeeded, after great difficulty, in getting permission to see the bodies. Mrs. Mahmudnizhad (Mona’s mom) who had been their companion until the last few days, kissed each woman on the cheek and then said, "I wish the whole world could see through my eyes how these dead bodies testify to the love of the Blessed Beauty (Baha’u’llah)."

Taraneh (Mona’s sister) later recounted: "It was a bitter day and for the last time, without having a thick glass in between, I kissed the beautiful and tranquil face of my dear sister and said goodbye to her. With all my heart, I was hoping that once more she would open her eyes and smile. But I know that now, forever, she is observing us with an everlasting smile and, if I shed any tears it would only upset her. So, my dear Mona, because of you and the love that you have for Baha'u'llah and for humanity, I laugh to let the people know why you sacrificed your life and why all those dear ones gave their sweet lives in His path."

The names and ages of the other women who were hanged with Mona are:
Mrs. Nusrat Yalda'i, 54 years old,
Mrs. 'Izzat Janami Ishraqi, 50 years old,
Miss Roya Ishraqi, 23 and daughter of 'Izzat,
Mrs. Tahirih Siyavushi, 32 years old,
Miss Zarrin Muqimi, 28 years old,
Miss Shirin Dalvand, 25 years old,
Miss Akhtar Sabit, 19 or early 20's,
Miss Simin Sabiri, early 20's,
Miss Mahshid Nirumand, 28 years old,
Please go to to see their pictures and read a short biography.(Click on the pictures, The first one is MONA
 God Bless You dear women, and may God have mercy on the souls of those who hated you so much as to kill you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

10 Things We Could Do If We Didn’t Love Porn So Much

Matthew Warner at Fallible Blogma

This young Catholic man makes a lot of sense.  At least he would, if we were not so turned on to pornography.  But, maybe there is a reason here to look at it differently, and to step away from those things that excite us, while destroying out souls.  Here is his latest missive.  Sounds pretty spot on to me.
I did some quick calculations:

There are about 25.5 million teenagers in the USA (ages 13-19). On average, each one spends 87 hours per year looking for or at pornography online. That means U.S. teens spend about 2.2 billion man-hours on pornography per year.

There are about 230 million adults in the USA (ages 20 and up). On average, each one spends 40 hours (extrapolating from the Brits) looking at pornography. That means US adults spend an estimated 9.2 billion man-hours on pornography per year.

So, all together, US adults and teens spend 11.4 billion man-hours per year on internet pornography alone.

We also spend over $13.3 billion on pornography in the United States every year. And that number is even a few years old.

Here area few other things we could do with that same time and money:

With that same amount of time (man-hours) we could…
Build the Empire State building…1,628 times.

Visit every single one of the 1.5 million U.S. nursing home residents, every single day of the year, for 20 hours a day…and still have free time left over.

Visit every single one of the 2 million prisoners in the United States, every single day, two people at a time, for 8 hours.

Have every single person (310 million) in the U.S. spend an extra 36 hours in prayer.

Spend 3 extra hours per week with each and every one of the 75 million teens and children in the United States.

With that same amount of money we could…

Provide, prepare and serve 7 billion school lunches. That’s enough to feed over 38 million students every school day of the year.

Pay for 1.9 million four-year college degrees.

Build 190,000 Habitat for Humanity homes…in Orange County, CA. Or we could build 7.25 million of them in India.

Give $13.3 million to one thousand different charities each.

Feed 1 billion people a meal…70 times.

And this says nothing of all of the other negative side effects that would be avoided if we could give up our porn – the loss of sanctifying grace being chief among them.

How many marriages are stressed by it? How many families broken? How many addictions formed? How many marital unions defiled, nullified and deeply scarred? How many abusers made callous to the dignity of the human person? How many brains are re-wired to objectify rather than dignify? How many innocents are spoiled?

How many problems would be improved or solved if we could only give up our porn? What a waste.

Revisiting the HRC's from a Commentor

Thank you Brian for your thoughts

I recently received comments to an older post, but really to a series of posts that I made about the Human Rights Commissions her in Canada, both provincially and federally.  We agree on many things, and don't on a few.  Brian agrees that the system currently is producing less than optimal results, but belives that something is needed to properly deal with the real racism that does go on in our Canadian society.

I think we all would agree that prejudice is not a good reason for acting, and should be remedied.  But, "how" is the question.  My answer is to try and build up the small faith of people to help them become better people, who would find racism and purely discriminatory behaviour to be unacceptable.

But, we all discriminate in making the day to day choices that we make, and there has to be some balance between what really is bad behaviour, and the day to day choices that individuals make for their own families, friends, and their own enlightened self interest.

Thank you for your reply. I can appreciate that you have moved past this issue so will no belabour the point. To be honest when I first replied I did not even think to check the date it was written. For this I apologize.

As for being from the HRC, I am not. I can appreciate your scepticism as I did read one of your posts about how someone from the Justice Department was looking into your site for several hours. That is unfortunate that you cannot put forth your views without being viewed as an enemy of the state. And I honestly do believe that there are many from the HRC who would love to have your head.

I think you do have a very good understanding of the HRC, from everything I have read. Definitely a more thorough understanding than I can claim. I do think that you may possibly be slightly jaded by your personal experiences with the failings (really an outright abuse) perpetrated by the HRC.

I cannot fault you or anyone for that. You have every right to look into their decisions and handling of cases with a critical eye. It is good that the HRC is held in check to some degree....even if it is only by oversight from the citizens and not kept in check by the government itself.

The case of your principal friend really is shocking and ridiculous! The treated of the Reverend from Alberta, regardless of my strong personal opposition to his views, was an outright affront to free speech. Plain and simple. I do not want to live in a country where we cannot state our opinions. You really are not exaggerating by saying that your principal friend was a victim of the HRC. In that case, it appears that they were the only ones victimized. Which is shameful!

I could not imagine how terrible it was for your friend to have gone through such a travesty of justice. To be publicly chastised for being discriminatory against minorities is a stain against your friends character that even the truth cannot wash away.

I must also agree with your comment regarding being guilty of being white. As a white male I too see reverse discrimination in everything from hiring practices to being more susceptible to bogus claims of discrimination. Your right. If I was to fire a minority because they were horrible at their job it is far too easy for me to be painted as a racist rather than admitting the truth that the person was just horrible at their job. That is a fact and is a form of discrimination itself.

I think that perhaps we just may differ in how we approach or examine the issue of Human Rights. I feel that you are trying to bring to light the many miscarriages of justice that occur as a result of the HRC from an unchecked power and initiated by many unscrupulous people out for a quick buck at the expense of everyone else.

And this is to be commended. I do appreciate hearing about these cases. If not for your writings one might be inclined to view the HRC as sunshine and lollipops without realizing that it is not always this clear cut and in fact the HRC itself discriminates and victimizes people.

But because of my personal experiences I tend to examine the issue from the perspective of those who truly have been victims of real discrimination. I know it exists and am happy that there is some venue to hold those responsibly accountable. But I cannot say with any certainty that the HRC is definitely the right approach to deal with such issues. It certainly has major short comings which your posts brings to light.

Finally, your call for commonsense to prevail is a good one. Your principal friend was the victim of people acting without commonsense. You frequently say, something to the affect that, once the HRC has a target and tastes blood in the water they are ravenous sharks with tunnel vision set solely on destroying their target. This is unfortunate, unfair and unacceptable.

So we can agree that the HRC has major problems and that unethical people abuse the system and victimizes
innocent people in the process. However, I am still glad that there is an avenue to hold those individuals accountable who do actually discriminate and to protect those who really are victims of discrimination. Which I have personally seen. But perhaps the problems with the HRC are so deep rooted and intertwined within the culture of the HRC as to be beyond repair.

But whether or not it is the HRC or a new organization is developed to protect the Rights of ALL Canadians, I hope we can agree that there is a need to ensure that everyone’s Human Rights are respected EQUALLY, not placing one groups over that of another.

So in conclusion, thank you for your posts on this topic. They have brought many issues to light and helped me examine my own views on the HRC and Human Rights. While I don’t always agree. They are always interesting, well written and informative.
So a sincere Thank You.

Worshipping Statues - Do Catholics Do That?

Patrick Madrid

Patrick Madrid is a pretty well known Catholic apologist.  He has his own blog linked above at his name.  Here is an excerpt from a piece he wrote about Catholics and statues that goes deeper than our fundamentalist brethren normally go, when they accuse Catholics of worshipping statuary. 

Frankly, I find the fundy position ridiculous itself, but here  in totality is a good answer for your fundy friends when they charge you with idolatry.  Mr. Madrid quotes the bible appropriately, and even provides links to the Catholic Catechism.  If, of course your bible references don't mollify our brethren, I don't expect that the Catholic Catechism is going to do it.  Good luck to you.
WHEN I ARRIVED ONE EVENING at a suburban Chicago parish to conduct an apologetics seminar, I noticed a life-sized statue of Our Lady of Fatima on the rectory lawn. Kneeling before that statue were three smaller statues of Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta – the children to whom Our Lady appeared. Their statues were kneeling in prayer, heads bowed before the larger statue.
Turning to my colleague in the car, I joked, ―What a great religion Catholicism is! Not only can we worship statues, but our statues can worship statues.‖ We chuckled at the absurdity of the thought.

When I mentioned this incident during the seminar, the Catholics in the audience laughed at the notion of statues worshipping statues and the nonsense of humans worshipping statues, but some of the Protestants in attendance weren’t laughing. They looked puzzled. The reason, as I discovered during the Q&A session, was that some of them actually believed that Catholics do worship statues.

The disapproval many Protestants have toward Catholic religious statues and images is fueled by a suspicion that Catholics engage in idolatry by worshipping those statues. This concern is far more widespread than you might think. Most object to religious statues on biblical grounds.
The rest is at the link above and also in this online PDF file here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

God Is So Good

Sometimes I have Missed God's Beauty

OK, OFTEN I have missed God's beauty.  Mea culpa.

5 years ago next month, My Dear Wife and I moved into the house we currently occupy. We found a bucolic setting about 5 minutes from downtown London, Ontario in a suburb called Oakridge Acres.  It is the first "subdivision" that was built in the London area and our home is about 55 years old.

Although we have really enjoyed it, and it provided a great location for my 2 youngest daughters who were still in high school at the time, I had missed something of its pastoral charm until last evening.

Behind our house is a 5 acre park called Kelly Park, and we have the benefit of enjoying the woods there, from our back yard gazebo or tent on our deck, or from the view out our picture windows in the family room.  It is a thing of beauty for each of the four seasons.

Although we are well inside the city boundaries, we have been graced with considerable interesting wildlife.  We attract many birds to our feeders, including an Eastern Towhee this year for the first time.  For 4 of the 5 years that we have been here, we (I, really) battled with some very acrobatic squirrels who found new ways to get to the bird feeders.  Every time, I would figure out how to prevent the squirrels, particularly Super Squirrel, a talented grey squirrel, from getting to the feeders, they would come up with a new angle.  But, last year we went to a figurative shootout, and I was able to prevail with my superior brain power, and a stroke of luck, which has held through this Spring.  If they beat me again this year, I am contemplating a literal shootout - just kidding.  I like the battle of wits, nit wits versus half wits.

Last year, we were the landlords for a mother duck, a regular fixture in the neighbourhood, along with her mate, who decided to build her nest behind our air conditioner at the front of our house.  She sat on her eggs until they hatched, and we marvelled at her and her new young chicks.  The next morning it dawned on me that she would be heading for water first chance she got.  I checked and she was still there, so I had my breakfast.  When I went to check on her again, she had flown the coop literally, though it was probably a waddle, as her charges were not yet airborn.  I hopped on my bike and headed for the river, about 1/4 mile away, figuring that I might get the opportunity to direct traffic for her to guide her across Riverside Drive.  Big brave hero saves duck and young family.  But, it was not to be, as I could not find her, having looked high and low.

What I had failed to do, was check out my next door neighbour's pool.  A day or two later, my neighbour, Andy told me a tale of coming to the rescue of a mother duck and her brood who had hopped into his pool, but had no way out on their own.  His skimmer had come in handy as a rescue aid, and so mother and children were set free to find a more suitable swimming area.

Last year also, a family of skunks made our yard into their playground and nap spot.  Our motion triggered lights came on at all hours of the night as they and the raccoons, did their thing, and some of our favourite flowering plants were bent down to the ground, having provided comfortable rest spots for them.  The little stinkers do not seem to be here this year, having moved on to other locales, I guess.

The raccoon was an inquisitive fellow, and set off the motion lights time and again, as he found a snack in the sugar water that we had out for the hummingbirds.  Any night that I forgot to bring the humminbird feeder in, our buddy was quick to empty it.  One particular evening, I came out to the deck to get the feeder a moment too late, and we had a stare down.  Raccoon 1, me 0.

We also have had a cute little chipmunk for the last couple of years, who likes to get the seeds below the bird feeders, and scampers around on the rocks and gardens looking for food.  It is cute to watch him watch us, as we sit in our gazebo over a beverage, while he does his thing.  He pops up onto his hind legs to get a good view of the action.

This year, we have had a few other visitors.  A mother robin decided to build a nest over our front porch light.  After she produced three youngsters, they left, so I removed the nest.  Recently, she returned and rebuilt the nest, and seems to be sitting on another set of eggs.

But, last night was the coup de grace, as opposed to the cut the grass, and it is this that made me look back and see how blessed we have been.

I was sitting in the family room, and something in the yard caught my eye.  What was unusual was that what caught my eye was actually at eye level with where I was sitting.  Being the bright old fellow that I am, in non time flat, I realised that it was a deer - in our back yard.  We had seen a mother and a fawn in the woods behind the house last year, so it was not a complete surprise, but it sure was surprising none the less.

As My Dear Wife was out for the evening, I wanted to memorialise this siting, and went looking for the camera.  Cameras are never where you expect them to be, if you are in a hurry to find them.  They have mysteriously moved to a secret spot, known only to the camera.  But, I found it after a little mystery, and snuck out onto the back deck to take a few pics.

Here are a couple of samples of the young lady in the yard, and by the shed, as she was about to hop the fence back into our neighbours yard, from whence she had come.

All in all, these opportunites to enjoy nature are wonderful gifts of God's grace to us.


Australia's Got Talent 2007 Winner Bonnie Anderson

12 year old Gospel singer.

Monday, June 14, 2010

There is Evolution

Going Back to Basics

A recent reader of many of my older posts asked me some serious questions these last few days.  However, as I said to him that ship has sailed, and I am no longer in a position to properly address his concerns, thought they are valid.  But, here is the best that I can do

When I started this blog back in May 2009, I did so because I was aware of two particular cases before the Ontario Human Rights Commission, involving a personal friend of mine, where justice was not being served.  In fact, justice was being mocked in the interests of multi-culturalism, and some kind of hierarchical set of human rights that were being made up on the spot.  I started to research cases that I came across, when I found comments somewhere, or read something in the main stream media.  Where many commentators made their statements based on what others had written or on an overview, I chose to explore cases in detail, as there was, in fact, plenty of detail available.

I met Ezra Levant and Cathy Shaidle, two of the noisy prophets who rail against the establishment of the commissions and tribunals, who had the courage to speak out for the real victims of our Canadian attempt to melt us all into some kind of sick homogeneous blob.

I uncovered perfidious attack on common sense after PA on CS.  Nothing seemed sacred when some wounded loon took his hurt feelings to one of the provincial human rights commissions/tribunals or to the Canadian HRC.  In Ontario, the Ontario HRC successfully got the transit systems in every city in the province to implement call outs at all stops, on all routes, because one blind man had filed a complaint.  This cost the taxpayers of the cities humdreds of thousands of dollars for no real gain in service quality.  Because I have been dealing with a brain injury for the last several years, and am susceptible to extraneous noises, I contemplated filing my own human rights claim, but figured that I could cope, imagining the chaos I could have created.  Maybe I still should, hmmm!!

I did become aware that there was, as I noted above a hierarchy of rights that, though not officially documented, was pretty obvious as decisions were reported, and case victories for the little guy were marketed in the media.  It, of course, did not matter that many of the little guys who were victorious had never been "injured" in the first place, other than their foolish pride.

I particularly followed the case of the former Reverend Stephen Boissoin of Red Deer, Alberta.  It was perfidy at its finest, and in fact, is still not finally settled, if you can believe it.  For a letter to the Editor of the weekly rag in Red Deer in 2002, about the gay friendly school curriculum and teaching practices in the local schools, with the exclusion of the traditional Christian viewpoint, he has been punished by "trial" after "trial", and waiting for decisions, while spending hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting to clear his own good name.  I wrote tirelessly about his appeals and original case, spoke with him on the phone, and met him in person.  I noted that when I met him he did not have horns on his head, and had a deep love for all youth, gay or straight, and desired only to help them learn about his best friend, Jesus, and how to survive in this world.  His own personal story would curl your hair.  Since I don't have that much, it just crimped mine.

In my postings my Catholic Christian faith started to surface.  And one particular day, during an exchange with Stephen Boissoin, he told me to make my faith a bigger part of my blog, and let it be my ministry to others.

That started me on a path to where I am now, on the way to God knows where.  I discovered as I prayed about what I was to write, and sought to do God's will, that there were signs for me to move in different directions.  I was losing my objectivity as I dug deeper, and I was becoming an edgy person.  The key sign was that My Dear Wife was none too pleased with what I was doing.

I came to the realisation that the negativity of the HRCs was like a vortex to me, and was slowly sucking me in to itself.  But, how is one to see evil and not be shy to attempt to stop it?

Well, I have chosen to deal with the evil of the HRCs and the evil that I see around us, since it has the same source, through prayer, and through trying to write about things that elevate, not drag down.  The human rights commissions are about punishment and victimization.  The punishment is real, the victimization may be fictitious.

I am in love with the triune God, represented by the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

There is no doubt in my mind that people act inhumanely towards each other.  Frankly, the origin of the HRCs might have been about justice at one time.

We, as people discriminate.  Most of our discrimination is not malicious nor harmful except occasionally to the feelings of a person or group of persons.  We discriminate when we select a spouse from among the many people available.  We discriminate when we select a course of studies over other available options.  Coaches discriminate against athletes who they think will not contribute to the success of their teams, and employers discrminate against people that they feel do not warrant the salary that they are being paid for the corporate rewards that that salary should derive.

This is not to diminish malicious discrimination that occurs to certain ethnic groups, and others as well, but we have laws on the books to deal with these things, and human rights commissions staffed with left wing brain dead spewers of the company line on today's codes of discrimination are not doing a very good job of looking after my human rights, I can tell you.

But, Jesus does look after me.  He does not do the things that will make every day I spend here on earth a picnic.  No, he watches over me, and the better in tune with Him I am, the better able I am to, with His guidance, weather the storms that come my way.

The answer to the inequities of human rights as they are presented in our country, is Jesus.  Whatever the question is, Jesus is the answer.  He, unlike our HRCs does not change from day to day.  Tomorrow, He will be what He was yesterday, and what He is today.  And what He is, is boundless love, not what we call love, where every day is Christmas.  No His boundless love includes the pain and suffering of Good Friday, but also the Resurrected Glory of Easter, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost.

He is the only answer I know that properly addresses man's inhumanity to man.

So, thank you Brian for your questions and for taking me back to my roots.

It's not the number of breaths we take

But the Moments that Take Our Breath Away

In the 2009 Australia's Got Talent show, a young Filipino immigrant to Australia wowed the judges, as he is likely to wow you with his version of Somehwere Over the Rainbow.

Give a listen won't you?

Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty

That is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know

These words come from "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by Keats, but beauty is elusive.  What is it actually?  I am not sure, but this is beautiful.

Here is the final performance of the 2007 Britain's Got Talent show, where Paul Potts sang a beautiful opera.

Keats might not be your cup of tea, or your metaphor for God dispensing his gifts to his children, but you must admit this is beautiful.

Troy Polamalu - Christian Athlete

Man of Steel, Man of Substance

H/t Deacon's Bench

Those of us who follow professional football, even peripherally, are likely familliar with the long haired defensive back of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Troy Polamalu.  He is a beast on the field, highly skilled and a joy to watch for his intensity.

But, there is much more to the man that his football skills.  He is a gentle and quiet man of faith.  In the video below he speaks with passion, but with a very calm gentle spirit that speaks well of him as a follower of Jesus Christ.

He is of Samoan descent, and his name was not really Polamalu, but until 2007 was legally Aumau.  His choice of last name is a tribute to his mother's family who raised him. 

What do you think a big tough football player would have as his hobbies?  Would you have guessed playing the paino, gardening and making furniture?

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in your love for Troy Polamalu and his family.  Sacred Heart of Jesus fill them with your blood.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

America's Got Talent 2010 - Taylor Matthews

Taylor is an 18 year old, nervous musician, and a pretty good kid.  Here is his AGT 2010 audition.

A new take on Somewhere over the Rainbow.

This young man is going to get better, as he gets over his nervousness.

As he says: "shakin' like a dog."

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Flame Throwing Punk Rock Bag Piper

The Bad Piper

I have never been a big fan of the bag pipes, though I have been able to enjoy them in context.

But, this is different.  Here is Cam McAzie's web site.  By the way, do you think that this might be a made up name too.  Just sayin'

Awesome is the only word I know to describe this performance on Australia's Got Talent.

A Woman Doesn't Have a "Right to Choose"

Thoughtcrime of the Day

Over at Orwell's Picnic, Hilary Jane Margaret White has this to say about the Pro-Choice sloganeering.  Pur your thinking caps on dear readers, and have at it.  Go Hilary!!

because there is no such thing. 

Here's a new series.

Pro-Life 101: abortion slogans debunked.

"She had not a thought in her head that was not a slogan, and there was no imbecility, absolutely none, that she was not capable of swallowing if the Party handed it out to her."
Orwell, 1984.

For a brief time a few years ago, I gave talks to students in Catholic schools about the life issues. It was fun, sometimes. One of the things I did was to ask them to tell me what they heard in the media or wherever, about abortion. What is the first, the very first thing that pops into people's heads when they hear about abortion in the news or in movies or TV? 

It was always interesting to see that, like everyone else, they had heard all the slogans and more or less accepted them, but never actually thought about what they meant. Very often, the kids would have their eyes opened after we had taken a closer look. I think it helped them think more clearly about other things too. 

The first one they invariably came up with was the old "right to choose" chestnut, which while being the most pervasive, is probably the easiest one to knock down. 

I used to explain this to students: it's simple grammar. You don't even have to get into discussing rights or medicine or law. The slogan itself doesn't make sense grammatically. 

"Choose" is a transitive verb, which (...I then invariably had to explain...) means it requires an object. There are two kinds of verbs; transitive and intransitive. 

You can't just "choose" in the same way you can just run, or work or cook. You have to choose a particular thing. There has to be an object. You choose a career. You choose a husband. You choose a colour for your bathroom. You choose things all the time. But you don't, and can't, just choose. 

So whether you have a "right" to choose something, depends entirely upon what the thing, the missing object of the slogan, is. 

The sloganeers were pretty clever with this one because it sounds good. Of course you have a right to choose which university to attend. You have a right to vote (unfortunately). You have all kinds of natural rights to choose things. What the Newspeakers have done with this slogan, by knocking the object off the sentence, is to imply that anyone who opposes them is trying to take all rights of choice away from women. 

Gramatically, "A woman has a right to choose," means that she has a right to choose absolutely anything. It is a statement of total solipsistic license and as such, is more or less the operating principle of The New Society we, or I should say our parents and grandparents, launched in the 1960s. 

This little manifesto of the New World came from the website of an artist and more or less sums up the whole package:
The “right to choose’ means women control our own bodies. We will decide to have a baby or not–even if we’re young, single, or poor! To really “choose” we need abortion services, health care, and child care! Many states have Parental Notification laws. They try to stop teens from having abortions by making us tell our parents first. What’s up with that? Teen sex is healthy and natural. We need birth control and safe sex information. We demand health care and child care for teen moms. Abortion must be safe, legal, and affordable for women of all ages. Fight to keep abortion legal! Not all women think abortion is cool for themselves, but all women have the right to make their own choice.

Do your own thing, man. Groovy.

And more to the point, shout down, bully, and silence anyone who tries to tell you different. 

We have been so programmed in the last 50 years to think only of our rights and freedoms (licenses) that the idea of someone opposing the total liberty to do anything and everything one wants all the time is utterly anathema. In the all-or-nothing new world any restriction on any action is an affront. Anyone making a such a suggestion must simply be beyond the realm of rationality and can be instantly dismissed as either a crank with severe mental problems or as an evil megalomaniac bent on destroying everyone's fun. 

I recommended to the kids that any time they heard anyone repeating this slogan they should ask "choose what?"

Orwell taught us that slogans work not by giving information but by taking it away. A slogan is not an expression of an idea but a noise meant, with a certain amount of training, to elicit a powerful emotional response either of outrage or shame. A response strong enough to overwhelm rational thought. A person who opposes the sloganeer is supposed to be cowed with shame at his opposition, as many people were who did not agree with the legalisation of abortion.

Believe it or not, I have heard a lot of pro-life people (or perhaps simply people who are generally afraid of rocking the boat in either direction,) say "How can we oppose women's rights?" This is the response of shame that prompts the weasel position, "I don't like abortion but I wouldn't impose my opinion on anyone else." (This, btw, leads directly to the Stockholm Syndrome Pro-lifer of which I have written extensively elsewhere. It turns you into a turncoat, but more on that later.)

An effective slogan is not meant to arouse discussion, but to squash it. It is not meant to be analysed or discussed. It is meant for one thing alone: to whip up a mob. And on abortion, (as well as so many other things) the mob won.

Life is What Happens When You Are Busy Making Other Plans

A Long Journey Home - Thomas Lardner- RIP

Robert Moynihan writes the Inside the Vatican magazine.  Pretty much every week, I and other subscribers to his "Newsflash" report get an email of things that have happened in his journey of faith, usually around the Vatican.  I honestly did not notice that nothing came for a while, as I had other things that were keeping me occupied.  So, when this report and story arrived, I set down to read it immediately.

It is an example of what happens in your life if you desire God's will to be done, and if you are prepared to be an instrument of that happening.  People pop out of the woodwork, and unusual things happen.  Here in Mr. Moynihan's words is something important that happened over the last while.
An Unexpected Phone Call

I was standing inside St. Anne's gate when I got the phone call. It was Monday, May 24, the day after Pentecost, at about four o'clock in the afternoon.
I had just posted a "newsflash" -- the one prior to this one -- then gone to the Vatican for a meeting. In my mind, all I wanted was to get back to my desk and write. I felt I had so much to say... And that is why I wrote at the end "to be continued" -- because I had clearly in my mind all that I intended to say about what I had seen and heard in those previous days.
I had been traveling with a group of Russians, including Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, from Turin, where we saw to the Holy Shroud, to Rome. In Rome, we had venerated the bones of St. Peter (we were actually permitted to touch the small case in the crypt which contains the bones) and we had celebrated an Orthodox liturgy, just after dawn one morning, by Peter's tomb. And we had attended an historic Russian music concert, with Pope Benedict XVI, on the evening of May 20.
So much had happened, so many interesting conversations and insights, that I knew I would have material for many newsflashes. "I might even have a book," I thought. So I wrote, "to be continued."
But things turned out differently than I expected. I did not write anything at all, until today. And even what I write here is only a tiny part of what I have just experienced
In late April, prior to setting out on the trip through Italy with the Russians, I had called a number of friends in America to ask them if they would like to join me, as guests of the Russians accompanying Hilarion, for a few days in Italy in mid-May.
And everyone had turned me down. One was busy with one thing, one with another
Then, as I looked through my phone list, I came across the name of someone I didn't know very well, a man I had met two years earlier in Milan at the Hertz rental car desk: Thomas Lardner.
In Milan, Lardner, a big American from Dallas, Texas, noticed that my colleague, Deborah Tomlinson, was wearing around her neck a miraculous medal and a brown scapular
"Isn't that a scapular?" Tom asked. "I haven't seen one of those since I was a boy." 
And as we were fourth or fifth in line, and the line was taking forever, we struck up a conversation.
That was how it began.
"Yes, it is," she said. "And this is a miraculous medal..." 
Tom had been raised Catholic, but had drifted away from the Church, he told us. And, over the years, after marrying his wife Ann, from virtually nothing, he had made a fortune, tens of millions of dollars, he told us, in investments and real estate. He was 65 and retired
"And what do you do?" he asked me.
I explained that I was the founder and editor of a magazine about Vatican and Church affairs called "Inside the Vatican." He seemed intrigued.
"Send me a copy," he said.
So we talked, and at the end of our conversation, he asked Deborah to pray for his sons,
Eric and Colin. "I'm worried about them," he said. Deborah promised she would pray a novena. "And come visit me sometime in Dallas," Tom said, giving us his business card. "I'll take you out to lunch."
Some months later, in February 2009, after I was invited to Dallas to deliver a talk, we had lunch. We talked of many things -- of the Church, of the humanity and divinity of Christ, of human religions, of the soul, of language, of injustice in this world, and of how to make the world a little less unjust, a little more hope-filled.
And so, in late April, when I looked through my list of contacts, I came finally to Tom Lardner's name, and, on a whim, called him.
I asked if he remembered me, and he said, "Sure." And I asked if he would like to visit Rome and attend a concert and sit a few feet from the Pope. "I can't guarantee you'll meet the Pope, but I have several tickets to sit quite near him," I told him
"Sign me up," Tom said. "It sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime. What could compare with kissing the Pope's ring?
"I can't promise you'll be able to kiss his ring!" I interrupted him.
"That's ok," Tom said. "Just to be there will be enough."
So everyone else I had asked had said "No," but Tom had said "Yes," immediately, without hesitation.
Tom, his wife Ann, and his son Eric joined me in Rome in the middle of May.
Together with the Russians, we went to the tomb of St. Peter.
Together we went to the Pauline and the Sistine Chapel in the heart of the Vatican
We stood together before the frescoes of Michelangelo. "In this one room, Michelangelo summed up the whole history of the universe," I said to Tom. "From the creation, and the fall, and the hope of salvation -- the sybils and prophets -- to the end of the world: the Last Judgment."
"What do you think we will be judged by?" Tom asked.
"By what we have done, I suppose," I said. "By how much we have loved." 
Tom gazed for a long time upon the face of Christ with his hand raised in judgment.
Repeatedly in those days, Tom asked me if he would have a chance to kiss the Pope's ring. "That would be the experience of a lifetime," he said.
I asked the Russian organizers what might be possible.
On the night before the concert, the Russians told me my own name would be inserted among the 30 people, including Sophia Loren and her family and a number of Russian benefactors of the Russian Orthodox Church, who would greet the Pope and kiss his ring.
I asked if I could yield my place to Tom, but they said no, the protocol could not be changed at the last minute.
So at the concert on May 20, there was Tom, the fallen-away Catholic from Dallas, seated a few feet from the Pope, and there was I, greeting the Pope, and wishing I could have exchanged my place with Tom. I felt a little guilty that I had not been able to fulfill his dream for him.
We went to the post-concert reception, with Sophia Loren and Metropolitan Hilarion and Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi and Prince Hugo Windisch-Graetz and several Russian oligarchs, and Tom had a great time.
He was thoroughly happy with the trip, his travel agent told me later. "He told me, 'There I was, in between the Pope and Sophia Loren!'" she said. 
The next day, Tom visited the Tivoli gardens with Ann, Eric, and my son, Christopher, and he told me that evening that it was one of the best days of his life. The weather was perfect, not too hot, there was a slight breeze, and the gardens seemed magical. "It was as if we were on the edge of heaven," Eric, his son, later told me.
That night, Tom had a few drinks too many -- "More wine!" was his watchword at every dinner; dining with him was like dining with a character out of Chesterton -- and he got in an argument with his son Eric, who said it was unseemly for him to drink so much.
The next morning, Tom told Eric that he was sorry, and that he would try to amend his ways. Eric, who had business in America, left for the US later that day.
Then Tom and Ann went on down to Positano, a little town on the Amalfi coast, one of the prettiest little towns in the world, and I wondered when we might meet again.
I went to the Pentecost Mass on Sunday, May 23, and the next day went in to the Vatican to get the pictures from the concert at the Osservatore Romano office.
That's when I got the phone call
Tom had died in his sleep of a heart attack in Positano.
Death in Positano 
"I don't know what to do," Ann said. "I don't speak any Italian."
"I will be there in five or six hours," I said. "I'll rent a car and drive down."
And so I drove down to Positano that Monday evening. The sky was an angry purple, but the sun was trying to break through, and I saw a rainbow over the autostrade outside of Rome. (Photo of the rainbow over the highway.)
I took the wrong exit on the way to Sorrento -- I asked for a Garmin global positioning navigator at the rental car place, but they didn't have one, so I drove by guesswork, and by calling Deborah in America ("I'm at Exit 32, should I take it or the next one?"). 
I ended up off the highway at 10 pm, driving through Pompei and other little towns tucked into the plain between Vesuvius and Naples.
I decided just to go straight until I came to another highway. I drove through seemingly endless dark streets until I came to... an absolute dead end. Nothing but a wall in front of me.
I asked directions, and after a second right and a third left, I was back on the road to the coast.
The Amalfi coast road is tortuous, twisting, splendid and dangerous at once. It took me more than an hour to go 15 miles. And I drove right past Positano. I didn't see the sign for the town. I came to Prioria and called Deborah in America. "I seem to be lost," I said. "I can't find Positano. I'm in Prioria." "Go back," she said, looking at a map on her computer screen. "You drove past it."
I drove back. There was a tiny sign, and a one-way street down the hill, it looked like a driveway. Down I went, and I found the Hotel Sirenuse.
Ann was there. She was with two Americans who had helped her during the afternoon. But they had also advised her to sign over a power of attorney to handle the problems associated with getting Tom's body out of Italy and home to Dallas.
Eric called me from America at 4 in the morning. "Mom has apparently signed a power of attorney which is preventing the American consulate from proceeding on Dad's case," he said. "Can you help us in the morning to straighten this out?"
The next morning, the doctor came to ascertain that Tom had not died of plague, and the undertakers arrived from Naples, sent by the US consulate.
I asked Ann if she had signed a power of attorney the previous day. "No, I don't think so," she said. She seemed still in shock.
"Check your purse," I said. She pulled out some papers. One of them was a power of attorney for a Rome lawyer.
"I guess I did sign it," she said.
"Eric says we have to rescind that," I said.
"Ok, what do I do?" she asked.
After talking with Eric again (it was now 3 am or later in Dallas, and he was exhausted too) and with the US Consulate officer in charge of the case, who was very helpful, we dictated a note rescinding the prior day's power of attorney, and faxed and emailed it to the US Consulate in Naples. That cleared the way for matters to proceed.
"I want to have his ring," Ann said. "I don't want it to be stolen. We have matching wedding rings."
I asked the hotel manager if we could view the corpse.
"Yes," the manager said. "He's still in the bedroom where he died. He died in his sleep about 2 pm. When the wife called me frantically a few minutes later, I went down and looked at the body. He was lying on his side. His top side was all white and cold, and his bottom side was all red. His heart had simply stopped beating, and the blood had pooled on the lower half of his body."
We went into room #62, where Tom had died. The bed was still unmade.
There, in a transportable coffin too short and narrow for his powerful body, at the foot of the bed, lay Tom. He was still wearing his wedding ring. They had placed a refrigeration unit over the coffin so that the corpse would not quickly decompose.
Tom's shoes were on the floor; otherwise everything else had been moved out of the room. "Can we take the shoes?" Ann asked. I picked up his shoes and put them in her bag
The undertakers came, they loaded the coffin into a hearse. We followed the hearse all the way along the coast road to the Bay of Naples, then into Naples itself. Motorbikes sliced recklessly around us. 
They pulled up in front of a little church dedicated to Mary, and said the body would be kept there until the next day. It seemed strange, so I called the US Consulate to make sure it was legitimate; they said it was ok.
And so we left Tom. 
I spoke to Eric on the phone. "Colin is thinking of flying over to bring Mom home," he said.
"No," I said, "there's no point. I will bring her home. Don't worry. I promise you, I'll bring your mother home safely. 
I drove back up from Rome to Naples. At one point I started to nod off, and in that state between waking and sleeping I asked Ann if the hearse was still in front of us. "You had better pull over and rest for a bit," she said to me. I had been babbling.
I pulled over and slept right there in the front seat for half an hour, and she went into a cafe for a cappucino.
We had long conversations on that drive. It was one of those drives which seems predestined. I had a mission which I had taken on myself, or Eric had given to me, which was to get her home safely, and to receive a defined mission is a great gift in this life, for which I remain grateful.
There was much to discuss. What to do, and what Tom's life had been, what it had meant. I heard his whole life story. I was on a journey outside of time and space, the journey of a widow home to her sons.
"Tom and Colin hadn't spoken for months," Ann said. "But the last day in Positano, Tom told me he didn't want to go on to Paris, a city he really loved, but only to go back to Dallas and talk to Colin and make up with him. And so he called our travel agent and changed our tickets. We were going to stay two more days in Positano, and then fly directly home.
We took rooms that night in a hotel near the airport. The Lardner boys bought me a first-class ticket to travel with their mother.
The next day, I returned the rental car, then we went through check-in and control lanes together. I checked Tom's luggage as my own. Then an 11-hour flight.
In Chicago, the flight to Dallas was delayed for several hours. Ann was exhausted.
We made up a list of all that needed to be done: the legal, financial, emotional, and spiritual matters that needed attention. There would have to be a funeral Mass, though Tom had not been a member of a particular parish for many years. I said I would try to help. In the end, the Mass was held, in the cathedral church of the city.
Finally, we arrived in Dallas. I met Colin. I hugged Eric, whom I had come to know in Rome. And they hugged their mother, and wept.
Thomas Lardner spent the last days of his life in Rome and Positano. He spent the last days of his life trying to be near the Pope, and near the tomb of Peter. He spent the last days of his life thinking about the last things. And he reconciled with one son, and was intending to seek reconciliation with a second son. 
I had intended to write about different matters, about new developments in Catholic-Orthodox relations. And now we have a murdered priest in Turkey, and the Pope has been to Cyprus, and Cardinal Pell may not be coming to Rome to take over the Congregation for Bishops, and much more that I should write about.
But I am writing about Thomas Lardner.
For what is the meaning and value of the Pope's words, of they do not apply to real people, like you, and me, and Tom? 
In his Pentecost sermon, the Pope said, "On one hand, we want to be with Jesus, follow him closely, and, on the other hand, we are afraid of the consequences that this brings with it... We always need to hear the Lord Jesus tell us what he often repeated to his friends: 'Be not afraid.' Like Simon Peter and the others we must allow his presence and his grace to transform our heart, which is always subject to human weakness...
"So it is worthwhile to let ourselves be touched by the fire of the Holy Spirit! The suffering that it causes us is necessary for our transformation. It is the reality of the cross: It is not for nothing that in the language of Jesus 'fire' is above all a representation of the cross, without which Christianity does not exist."