Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Office of Readings
Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle
From a Sermon of St. John Chrysostom on St. John's Gospel

We have found the Messiah

After Andrew had stayed with Jesus and had learned much from him, he did not keep this treasure to himself, but hastened to share it with his brother. Notice what Andrew said to him: We have found the Messiah, that is to say, the Christ. Notice how his words reveal what he has learned in so short a time. They show the power of the master who has convinced them of this truth. They reveal the zeal and concern of men preoccupied with this question from the very beginning. Andrew’s words reveal a soul waiting with the utmost longing for the coming of the Messiah, looking forward to his appearing from heaven, rejoicing when he does appear, and hastening to announce so great an event to others. To support one another in the things of the spirit is the true sign of good will between brothers, of loving kinship and sincere affection.

Notice, too, how, even from the beginning, Peter is docile and receptive in spirit. He hastens to Jesus without delay. He brought him to Jesus, says the evangelist. But Peter must not be condemned for his readiness to accept Andrew’s word without much weighing of it. It is probable that his brother had given him, and many others, a careful account of the event; the evangelists, in the interest of brevity, regularly summarise a lengthy narrative. Saint John does not say that Peter believed immediately, but that he brought him to Jesus. Andrew was to hand him over to Jesus, to learn everything for himself. There was also another disciple present, and he hastened with them for the same purpose.

When John the Baptist said: This is the Lamb, and he baptizes in the Spirit, he left the deeper understanding of these things to be received from Christ. All the more so would Andrew act in the same way, since he did not think himself able to give a complete explanation. He brought his brother to the very source of light, and Peter was so joyful and eager that he would not delay even for a moment.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Making Christmas Come Alive
Fr. Roger J. Landry
December 24, 2004

In 1223, St. Francis of Assisi inaugurated a pious practice that in places today has become so common that many think that it always existed. This great saint, as he was traversing the rolling hills of central Italy one December to proclaim the Gospel, noticed that few of his countrymen were taking the mysteries of the faith seriously. Many were not even preparing for Christmas at all. Of those who were preparing to celebrate the Lord’s birth, they looked at it as an event tied exclusively to the past. The mysteries of the faith had become sterile. The central persons in the drama had become stale and lifeless, incapable even of stimulating his contemporaries’ imaginations — and therefore no longer capable of inspiring them to a greater relationship of mutual love with God in the present.

To counteract these tendencies, on Christmas Eve 1223 in the town of Greccio, Francis set up the first crèche in recorded history. He brought in live animals — an ox and an ass. There was a young baby and a young set of parents. There was plenty of hay and a manger. There was even the attempt — with hundreds of burning torches — to create the luminescence of a bright star. And Francis could not have been happier with the results. People came from all over to see the living nativity. Through all the sounds, sights and even smells, the people became convinced that Christmas was not just a cute story, but a real event, one that was not just PAST, but something which they were called to enter in time. Soon living crèches like this spread throughout Italy. The phenomenon soon extended into art, as artists started to paint nativity scenes with all the main characters dressed anachronistically in 13th century garb — to emphasize that Christmas is not just a past event, but, even more importantly, a PRESENT one, in which every believer is called to “go now to Bethlehem” and “pay [Christ] homage.” As St. Francis’ first biographer wrote, “The Child Jesus had been forgotten in the hearts of many; but, by the working of his grace, he was brought to life again through his servant Francis and stamped upon their fervent memory.”

All the crèches in our homes, the beautiful praesepio here in Church, the Christmas pageant with our children after the 5:30 Vigil Mass — all of these have the same purpose, to “bring the child Jesus to life again” so that he may be “stamped upon our fervent memory.” Just as in St. Francis’ time, the “Child Jesus has been forgotten in the hearts of many.” Notice I said in the HEARTS of many, and not the MINDS. The minds of multitudes still recall details of Christ’s birth. Their memories are full of the words of Christmas hymns learned long ago. But their hearts are cold. Their reflection on Christ Jesus in Bethlehem does not ignite their hearts on fire with greater love for him.

That’s why this Christmas, one of OUR contemporaries — whom I believe future generations will regard as a great saint, much like we regard St. Francis today — is trying to do FOR US what the poverello from Assisi did for his generation. He wants to try to “bring the Child Jesus to life again.” The means he proposes does not involve animals, or hay, or our best attempts to emulate a shining star. They involve something far more basic, something that we can often take for granted and treat as lifeless as a plaster statue of the baby Jesus. To help the Child Jesus come to life in us, Pope John Paul II has called us all to live an intensely Eucharistic Christmas.

He wants us to see the connection between Christmas and the Mass, promising us that if we do, our appreciation for both will increase tremendously. The structure of the Mass is meant to recapitulate the entire life of Jesus, from his incarnation and birth, to his death and resurrection. Have you ever wondered why we sing “Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth” at the beginning of every Sunday Mass (outside of penitential seasons)? When have we heard those words before? Those are the very words, of course, that the Angels used to announce the birth of Christ to the shepherds, which the Church proclaims at the Christmas Midnight Mass. At the beginning of every Mass, we’re called to reflect that the angels are announcing to us again “good news of great joy for all the people,” that Jesus, Emmanuel, is present. The same Jesus whom the shepherds went in haste to adore comes down on our altars through Christ’s own power working through his priests. The Gospel for Christmas Mass during the day climaxes with the expression, “The word took flesh and dwelled among us.” That of course is true for what happened 2000 years ago, but the Word-made-flesh continues to dwell among us in the Mass. In the Eucharist, Jesus remains God-with-us. Because of the Eucharist, the Church is the modern Bethlehem. The word Bethlehem means, in Hebrew, “house of bread,” and in each Mass Jesus, the “Living Bread come down from heaven” (Jn 6:51), comes down from heaven for us. The Baby Jesus took on a body so that he could give that body for us. He was placed in a manger, a trough from which animals were accustomed to eat, and that could not have been more appropriate considering that that very body placed in that manger was intended for us, his creatures, one day to eat.

This connection between Christmas and the Eucharist is depicted very strongly in one of my favorite paintings, which is found in a tiny chapel in Providence, Rhode Island, where my priest confessor lives. Behind the tabernacle, there is a beautiful painting of the nativity, with Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds and the animals. But there’s one noticeable difference about this nativity scene. In the focal point of the whole painting, to which all of the adoring eyes point, there is not a manger or a painting of a child Jesus, but rather, there’s the TABERNACLE of the altar — the real one, not a painted image — where Jesus is truly substantially present. The effect is unforgettable. The same Son of God who was worshipped in the stable is worshipped there still. The only difference is that the veil of Christ’s divinity is no longer humble human flesh but the even humbler external appearances of bread and wine. Making that one change in Christ’s veil, we could sing about Jesus in the Eucharist what we chant about him in swaddling clothes:

Christ, by highest heav’n adored; Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold him come, offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in [hosts] the Godhead see; Hail th’incarnate Deity,

Jesus, our Emmanuel, is pleased to dwell with us as one of us. But we know that not all of us are as pleased as he is. We recall that when Christ came into the world the first time, some people had room for him, some people did not. Mary and Joseph had room for him and gave their whole lives over to him and his mission. The Shepherds had room for him, left all their flocks behind and, in the middle of the night, ran to adore him. The Magi had room for him, and studied the heavens to discern a sign of his presence. When they discovered one in the star, they traveled for weeks, over hundreds of miles, to come to adore him, giving him the best gifts they had. But others did not have room for him. The inn-keepers had no room for their creator — or even to give shelter to a woman nine month’s pregnant. King Herod had no room for him, and in fact tried to have him killed. The scholars of the law had no room, not even enough curiosity to make the six mile journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to verify whether the wise men’s story was true. The vast majority of people in Jesus’ time, in Jesus’ land, simply did not accept him when he, the long-awaited Messiah, at last came. That’s why St. John will say in the Gospel for the Mass on Christmas day, “he came unto his own, but his own people did not receive him.”

In the Eucharist, we have a chance to get it right, or to get it wrong. Jesus in the Eucharist comes to his own, hoping that his own will receive him. We were made his own through baptism, much as the Jews were God’s own through circumcisions. The question is whether we’ll receive him with love, or whether we’ll — for one bad reason or another — not make room for him. I’ve always thought one of the reasons Jesus came as a baby is because we know from human experience that when we truly receive a baby, our whole lives change. Our sleeping patterns change. Our independence changes. Our bank accounts shrink. Our responsibility grows. If we truly receive Jesus, our sleeping patterns will change, as we’ll make time for prayer and make time for Mass. Our independence will change, as we become more dependent on him and allow others to become more dependent on us. Our bank accounts will shrink, as we start working more for him and for his kingdom and less for us. Our responsibility will grow, as we stop passing the buck for passing on the faith to others and ourselves become like those shepherds who returned from the encounter with Christ “glorifying and praising God.” Every year at Christmas Jesus comes to us almost as an orphan left on our doorstep and we either take him in, adopt him, allow him to grow with us and change us and our priorities, or we leave him outside. Jesus was born so that we might be reborn. The celebration each year of his birth is meant to lead us to a rebirth of faith.

Pope John Paul II teaches us that the way to enter most fully now into the mystery of Christ’s incarnation is through the Eucharist. He urges us to model our “Eucharistic amazement” on Mary’s Christmas awe. “Is not the enraptured gaze of Mary as she contemplated the face of the newborn Christ and cradled him in her arms that unparalleled model of love which should inspire us every time we receive Eucharistic communion?” Just as Mary’s life was centered on Christ Jesus and she made his mission her mission, so our lives are supposed to be centered on the same Christ Jesus, making him in the Eucharist the “source and summit” of everything we do and are. If we would have journeyed on foot to Bethlehem 2000 years ago to adore Christ in the manger, the Pope is calling us to journey a short distance by car to adore him here. If we would have had room for him if he came knocking on our door, then we’re called to make room for him here, and make room for him every week, and if we can, every day. This is the way Christ will come alive again in our lives. This is the way he will be stamped upon our fervent memory. This is the way he will be remembered in our hearts.

Jesus is now knocking on the doors of our hearts with the hands of a little baby. As he said in the last book of the Bible: “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” As he fulfills those words literally in the Eucharist, we finish with the prayer Christians have lifted up for centuries:

O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

Our Whole Life Should Be An ‘Advent’
Pope John Paul II
The Holy Father's Address at the General Audience on December 18, 2002

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. In this season of Advent, the invitation of the Prophet Isaiah accompanies us: “Say to those who are fearful of heart. Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God ... will come and save you” (Is 35,4). It becomes more urgent as Christmas approaches, enriched with the exhortation to prepare our hearts to welcome the Messiah. The one awaited by the people will certainly come and his salvation will be for all.

On the Holy Night, we will again recall his birth in Bethlehem, in a certain sense, we will relive the feelings of the shepherds, their joy and their wonder. With Mary and Joseph we will contemplate the glory of the Word made flesh for our redemption. We will pray that all men may accept the new life that the Son of Man brought into the world by assuming our human nature.

Advent: get ready for final coming

2. The liturgy of Advent, filled with constant allusions to the joyful expectation of the Messiah, helps us to understand the fullness of the value and meaning of the mystery of Christmas. It is not just about commemorating the historical event, which occurred some 2,000 years ago in a little village of Judea. Instead, we must understand that our whole life should be an “advent”, in vigilant expectation of Christ’s final coming. To prepare our hearts to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the Creed, will come one day to judge the living and the dead, we must learn to recognize his presence in the events of daily life. Advent is then a period of intense training that directs us decisively to the One who has already come, who will come and who continuously comes.

Mystery of the Incarnation

3. With these sentiments, the Church prepares to contemplate in ecstasy, in a week, the mystery of the Incarnation. The Gospel recounts the conception and birth of Jesus, and reports the many providential circumstances that preceded and surrounded such a miraculous event: the angel’s annunciation to Mary, the birth of John the Baptist, the choir of angels in Bethlehem, the arrival of the Magi from the East, St Joseph’s visions. These are all signs and witnesses that highlight the divinity of this Child. In Bethlehem is born Emmanuel, God-with-us.

In the liturgy of these days, the Church offers us three outstanding “guides” to show us the proper attitude to assume in going to meet the divine “guest” of humanity.

Three wonderful persons to guide us into the promised land

4. First of all, Isaiah, the prophet of consolation and hope. He proclaims a true and proper Gospel for the people of Israel, enslaved in Babylon, and urges them to remain vigilant in prayer, to recognize “the signs” of the coming of the Messiah.

Then there is John the Baptist, the precursor of the Messiah, who is presented as a “voice crying in the wilderness”, preaching “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (cf. Mk 1,4). It is the only condition for recognizing the Messiah already present in the world.

Finally, Mary, who in this novena of preparation for Christmas, guides us towards Bethlehem. Mary is the Woman of the “yes” who, contrary to Eve, makes the plan of God her own without reservation. Thus she becomes a clear light for our steps and the highest model for our inspiration.

Dear brothers and sisters, may we allow the Virgin to accompany us on our way towards the Lord who comes, remaining “vigilant in prayer and rejoicing in praise”.

I wish everyone a proper preparation for the coming celebration of Christmas.

This is a Christmas Tree

It is not a Hanukkah bush, it is not an Allah plant, it is not a Holiday hedge.

It is a Christmas tree.

Say it: Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas ...

Office of Readings
Tuesday of the First Week of Advent
From a Sermon by St. Gregory Nazianzen

The very Son of God, older than the ages, the invisible, the incomprehensible, the incorporeal, the beginning of beginning, the light of light, the fountain of life and immortality, the image of the archetype, the immovable seal, the perfect likeness, the definition and word of the Father: he it is who comes to his own image and takes our nature for the good of our nature, and unites himself to an intelligent soul for the good of my soul, to purify like by like. He takes to himself all that is human, except for sin.

He who makes rich is made poor; he takes on the poverty of my flesh, that I may gain the riches of his divinity. He who is full is made empty; he is emptied for a brief space of his glory, that I may share in his fullness. What is this wealth of goodness? What is this mystery that surrounds me? I received the likeness of God, but failed to keep it. He takes on my flesh, to bring salvation to the image, immortality to the flesh. He enters into a second union with us, a union far more wonderful than the first.

Holiness had to be brought to man by the humanity assumed by one who was God, so that God might overcome the tyrant by force and so deliver us and lead us back to himself through the mediation of his Son. The Son arranged this for the honor of the Father, to whom the Son is clearly obedient in all things.

The Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep, came in search of the straying sheep to the mountains and hills on which you used to offer sacrifice. When he found it, he took it on the shoulders that bore the wood of the cross, and led it back to the life of heaven.

Christ, the light of all lights, follows John, the lamp that goes before him. The Word of God follows the voice in the wilderness; the bridegroom follows the bridegroom's friend, who prepares a worthy people for the Lord by cleansing them by water in preparation for the Spirit.

We need God to take our flesh and die, that we might live. We have died with him, that we may be purified. We have risen again with him, because we have died with him. We have been glorified with him, because we have risen again with him.

Monday, November 28, 2005

What is Advent?
(from Catholic Culture (

Christmas is here! Or is it? Before the end of October one sees the signs of Christmas everywhere. But by the time December 25 arrives, most people are "Christmased" out — too many parties, rich foods and stretched budgets. We Catholics don't need to draw our drapes and twiddle our thumbs while the rest of society is celebrating Christmas in advance. Instead, we can celebrate two seasons: Advent and Christmas.

The Church begins a new Liturgical Year on the First Sunday of Advent (November 27th). During the subsequent four weeks, she prepares with mounting expectation for the coming of Christ in a spirit of waiting, conversion and hope.

Focus on the Liturgy

There are always four Sundays in Advent, though not necessarily four full weeks. The liturgical color of the season is violet or purple, except on the Third Sunday of Advent, called Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday, when optional rose vestments may be worn. The Gloria is not recited during Advent liturgies, but the Alleluia is retained.

The prophesies of Isaiah are read often during the Advent season, but all of the readings of Advent focus on the key figures of the Old and New Testaments who were prepared and chosen by God to make the Incarnation possible: the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John the Baptist, St. Joseph, Sts. Elizabeth and Zechariah. The expectancy heightens from December 17 to December 24 when the Liturgy resounds with the seven magnificent Messianic titles of the O Antiphons.

History of Advent

In 490, Bishop Perpetuus of Tours officially declared Advent a penitential season in the Frankish Church of Western Europe, ordering a fast on three days of every week from November 11 till Christmas. This forty days' fast, similar to Lent, was originally called Quadragesima Sancti Martini (Forty Days' Fast of Saint Martin's).

By contrast, the Advent season of the Roman liturgy, developing a century after that of the Frankish Church, was a non-penitential, festive and joyful time of preparation for Christmas. By the thirteenth century a compromise was reached, which combined the fasting and penitential character of the Gallic observance with the Mass texts and shorter four-week cycle of the Roman Advent liturgy. The liturgy of Advent remained substantially unaltered until Vatican II mandated a few minor changes to more clearly delineate the spirit of the Lenten and Advent seasons.

Customs of Advent

The first Sunday of Advent is a good time for each family member to choose a secret "Christkindl" or Christ Child for whom he or she will perform little acts of love — such as a prayer, a small gift, a sacrifice, a note or a piece of candy — throughout Advent.

Another such Advent practice is that of having an empty crib or manger, which each family member will soften with straw earned by a sacrifice, a prayer or a work of mercy. After Christmas, the family will gather before the Infant Savior, in his now-padded crib, for their evening prayers or for Scripture reading.

When employing new Advent customs within your domestic church it is important to remember that they are only aids, not goals in themselves. With joyful hope and anticipation, then, let us prepare for the coming of the Son of God, praying with the Church: Come, Lord Jesus, do not delay!

Office of Readings
Monday of the First Week of Advent
From a Pastoral Letter by St. Charles Borromeo

Beloved, now is the acceptable time spoken of by the Spirit, the day of salvation, peace and reconciliation: the great season of Advent. This is the time eagerly awaited by the patriarchs and prophets, the time that holy Simeon rejoiced at last to see. This is the season that the Church has always celebrated with special solemnity. We too should always observe it with faith and love, offering praise and thanksgiving to the Father for the mercy and love he has shown us in this mystery. In his infinite love for us, though we were sinners, he sent his only Son to free us from the tyranny of Satan, to summon us to heaven, to welcome us into its innermost recesses, to show us truth itself, to train us in right conduct, to plant within us the seeds of virtue, to enrich us with the treasures of his grace, and to make us children of God and heirs of eternal life.

Each year, as the Church recalls this mystery, she urges us to renew the memory of the great love God has shown us. This holy season teaches us that Christ’s coming was not only for the benefit of his contemporaries; his power has still to be communicated to us all. We shall share his power, if, through holy faith and the sacraments, we willingly accept the grace Christ earned for us, and live by that grace and in obedience to Christ.

The Church asks us to understand that Christ, who came once in the flesh, is prepared to come again. When we remove all obstacles to his presence he will come, at any hour and moment, to dwell spiritually in our hearts, bringing with him the riches of his grace.

In her concern for our salvation, our loving mother the Church uses this holy season to teach us through hymns, canticles and other forms of expression, of voice or ritual, used by the Holy Spirit. She shows us how grateful we should be for so great a blessing, and how to gain its benefit: our hearts should be as much prepared for the coming of Christ as if he were still to come into this world. The same lesson is given us for our imitation by the words and example of the holy men of the Old Testament.

An Awesome Cardinal

Believe me, I had nooo problem with Cardinal Ratizinger being elected pope. However, I have to confess, I was rooting for my favorite Cardinal, Francis Arinze. In case you're wondering why, check out this interview with him from Inside the Vatican that I came across while visiting Summa Mammas (great blog, check it out). (And I love that accent of his -- I can't help smiling as I "hear" him answer the interviewer. :-)

An excerpt:

ITV: Recently, an issue that has been given a lot of attention are the moral obligations of Catholics during election times. Is it a duty of them to vote for pro-life politicians, and should those Catholic pro-choice politicians be given communion?

ARINZE: You are asking me if a politician says, "I vote for abortion, and I will continue to ask for abortion." Then you ask should he be given holy communion. So, you are really saying, this politician says, "I vote for the killing of unborn children." Because we call things by their names. And he calls that pro-choice.

Suppose somebody voted for the killing of all the members of the House of Representatives, "for all of you being killed. I call that pro-choice. Moreover, I am going to receive Holy Communion next Sunday." Then you ask me, should he be given communion. My reply, "Do you really need a cardinal from the Vatican to answer that question?" Can a child having made his First Communion not answer that question? Is it really so complicated? [my emphasis] The child will give the correct answer immediately, unless he is conditioned by political correctness. It is a pity, cardinals have to be asked such questions.

If a person has a way of life which is against the major Commandments, and makes a boast of it, then the person is in a state which is publicly sinful. It is he who has disqualified himself, not the priest or the bishop. He should not go to communion, until his life should be in line with the Gospel.

Add it to Your Christmas List

John Paul the Great:
Remembering a Spiritual Father

Author: Peggy Noonan

As the leader of the Catholic Church, the oldest continuing institution in the Western world, Pope John Paul II has shown himself to be a giant in every sphere he touches-personal, theological, political, ecumenical. In an age fairly rich with heroes, Pope John Paul II is truly the great man of the past century-a man who personally confronted all that century's tragedies, from Nazism to communism. And now, in old age, he wrestles with materialism, "the culture of death," and scandals that could, on his leaving, tear the Church in two.

This pope is also a paradoxical figure-an intellectual animated by confidence and joy, a poet and playwright, a supporter of freedom who decries its abuse, a tough political gamesman, and a mystic convinced that the bullet that nearly killed him was directed away from his heart by the hand of the Mother of God.

Here, bestselling author Peggy Noonan brings her sharp observations, acute sensibility, warmth, and wit to the life of this pope and shows the personal effect his journey has had upon her and millions of others throughout the world. Written with heart and depth, this book is a brilliant celebration of a man whose life teaches us perhaps the greatest lesson of all: how to live.

The Littlest Fireman

The 26-year-old mother stared down at her son who was dying of terminal leukemia. Although her heart was filled with sadness, she also had a strong feeling of determination. Like any parent she wanted her son to grow up and fulfill all his dreams. Now that was no longer possible. The leukemia would see to that.

But she still wanted her son’s dreams to come true. She took her son’s hand and asked, “Billy, did you ever think about what you wanted to be once you grew up? Did you ever dream and wish what you would do with your life?”

“Mommy, I always wanted to be a fireman when I grew up.” Mom smiled back and said, “Let’s see if we can make your wish come true.”

Later that day she went to her local fire department in Phoenix, Arizona, where she met Fireman Bob, who had a heart as big as Phoenix. She explained her son’s final wish and asked if it might be possible to give her six year old son a ride around the block on a fire engine. Fireman Bob said, “Look, we can do better than that. If you’ll have your son ready at seven o’clock Wednesday morning, we’ll make him an honorary fireman for the whole day. He can come down to the fire station, eat with us, go out on all the fire calls, the whole nine yards! “And if you’ll give us his sizes, we’ll get a real fire uniform for him, with a real fire hat — not a toy one — with the emblem of the Phoenix Fire Department on it, a yellow slicker like we wear and rubber boots. They’re all manufactured right here in Phoenix, so we can get them fast.”

Three days later Fireman Bob picked up Billy, dressed him in his fire uniform and escorted him from his hospital bed to the waiting hook and ladder truck. Billy got to sit on the back of the truck and help steer it back to the fire station. He was in heaven. There were three fire calls in Phoenix that day and Billy got to go out on all three calls. He rode in the different fire engines, the paramedic’s van, and even the fire chief’s car. He was also videotaped for the local news program. Having his dream come true, with all the love and attention that was lavished upon him, so deeply touched Billy that he lived three months longer than any doctor thought possible.

One night all of his vital signs began to drop dramatically and the head nurse, who believed in the hospice concept that no one should die alone, began to call the family members to the hospital. Then she remembered the day Billy had spent as a fireman, so she called the Fire Chief and asked if it would be possible to send a fireman in uniform to the hospital to be with Billy as he made his transition. The chief replied, “We can do better than that. We’ll be there in five minutes. Will you please do me a favor? When you hear the sirens screaming and see the lights flashing, will you announce over the PA system that there is not a fire? It’s just the fire department coming to see one of its finest members one more time. And will you open the window to his room?

About five minutes later a hook and ladder truck arrived at the hospital, extended its ladder up to Billy’s third floor open window and 16 firefighters climbed up the ladder into Billy’s room. With his mother’s permission, they hugged him and held him and told him how much they loved him. With his dying breath, Billy looked up at the fire chief and said, “Chief, am I really a fireman now?” “ Billy, you are,” the chief said. With those words, Billy smiled and closed his eyes one last time.

Christmas Moratorium

Like you (hopefully), I was really steamed about the hypocrisy and bias of the liberal media while reading Mona Charen's column (see post below).

However, while getting ready to post it, I had a follow-on thought. We can only spend so much time reading about how polluted our culture is, the liberal bias of the media, the venomous politics in Washington, etc., etc. without it starting to take a toll on us.

We're now entering Advent, preparing ourselves for Christmas -- the birth of Jesus. So, I want to spend the next couple of weeks focusing on positive and uplifting things. Accordingly, I am going to take a moratorium on politics through Christmas. I will be looking for and posting positive stories, especially stories with a Christian theme and message.

I hope you will enjoy these stories and excuse my passing over political stories for a couple of weeks. I commend you all to the care of the Mother of God, the protection of St. Michael, and the intercession of St. Joseph.

Fairness? Balance? the Truth? -- "It's Not My Job"

Check out this great column by the always terrific Mona Charen (who, by the way, has one of my all-time favorite books titles -- "Useful Idiots").

An excerpt:
"[T]he Marines had repaired an old Ferris wheel. The motor was dead, but when two Marines pushed and pulled by hand they could get the thing turning to give rides to the children of the Iraqi employees. They did so for hours on end. A photographer from a large American media company watched impassively. "Why don't you take a picture of this?" demanded one Marine. The photographer snorted, "That's not my job." "

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Kerry Elected!

I know Halloween was a month ago, but here's a scary story.

John Kerry Elected ... Jury Foreman

The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 23, 2005; 9:15 AM

BOSTON -- Sen. John Kerry's public profile and prosecutorial past didn't spare him from performing that most mundane of civic responsibilities -- jury duty.

Kerry was not only chosen this week to sit on a jury in Suffolk Superior Court, but also was elected foreman.

© 2005 The Associated Press

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

"Eight Minutes is an Excellent Response Time"
(unless you were killed in 5)

Here is a tragic story from the Chicago SunTimes of a woman who was killed by her boyfriend while her children were in the next room.

Her 12-year old daughter called 911 twice and, yes, the police got there in a hurry. Unfortunately, not quite soon enough to save the woman's life.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Ready to Start Homeschooling?

From The Wanderer:

In a ruling that is bound to send shock waves across the United States, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled on November 2 that parents have “no fundamental right . . . to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children, either independent of their right to direct the upbringing and education of their children or encompassed by it.

“We also hold,” the federal court judges ruled in Fields v. Palmdale School District, “that parents have no due process or privacy rights to override the determinations of public schools as to the information to which their children will be exposed while enrolled as students.”

One legal expert contacted by The Wanderer immediately after the ruling came down said, “This is another Kelo case, because it demonstrates the overreach of government power over families the way Kelo affirmed government power over family homes.

“Just as the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo that a private shopping mall magnate can seize grandma’s house, so now the Ninth Circuit is saying that a public school bureaucrat can overrule community values regarding intimate matters.”

Carrie Gordon Earll, senior policy analyst for Focus on the Family Action, called the decision, in the case, “perhaps the most abhorrent example of judicial tyranny in American history.”

“Anyone who wonders why pro-family organizations like ours have been so concerned about activist courts only has to look at this case,” Earll said. “The Ninth Circuit did more than rule against parents who were upset that their elementary-school-aged children were being asked explicit questions about sex in class. They told all parents they have no right to protest what public schools tell their children.

“What the court did here is declare parenthood unconstitutional,” Earll said. “It’s long been the liberal view that it takes a village to raise a child — but never before have the ‘villagers’ been elevated, as a matter of law, above mothers and fathers.”

The court’s ruling clearly represents a “usurpation” of parental rights, as the Catholic Church understands them, and as articulated by the Church since Pope Pius XI, and reaffirmed by Vatican II and numerous times by Pope John Paul II, especially in Familiaris Consortio and in The Truth & Meaning of Human Sexuality, particularly n. 43.

But the Ninth Circuit Court’s opinion is consistent with a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions of recent years, which have steadily eroded parents’ rights, as the late constitutional attorney William Bentley Ball explained in his book, Mere Creatures of the State? Education, Religion, and the Courts.

Ball argued, persuasively, that the trend of recent Supreme Court decisions was to restrict parental rights by arguing, essentially, that the need of the state for “well-educated” citizens trumps parents’ rights to raise their children according to the tenets of their religion.

Are We Sheep? Lemmings? Wildebeast? or Americans?
(you only get one choice)

Here is a thought-provoking article by Mark Helperin that I saw on the Claremont Institute web site:

Herd Animals

By Mark Helprin
Posted October 19, 2005

Why does the Left so often abstain from defending not only American interests but, after September 11th, the United States itself? During the Cold War, one could always suspect that democratic socialists lusted in their hearts for Leninism, and might have given themselves over had the balance of power shifted eastward. This was at least a plausible explanation for their opposition to virtually any measure of Western defense, and their perpetual horror of anti-Communism. But no force, it would seem, should be capable of transforming even a lifetime of socialist ardor into sympathy for absolutist mullahs, 10th-century tribal warriors, decapitators, and circumcisors of women.

It would make no sense. And yet as the immense plumes of smoke and dust still were rising in strength from the ruins of the World Trade Center, and not a single shot had been fired or a single soldier sacrificed in what was to become the War on Terrorism, the worldwide Left mobilized instantaneously to assert that such a war—the particulars and extent of which it could not know—would be unjust.

It is true that since then many opponents and proponents of the war, despite being not even decimally aware of pertinent facts or relations, have managed to enlarge their unexamined notions into either complex and disconnected conspiracy theories involving oil, or manic crusader-atavistic visions of remaking the Arab and Muslim worlds, and that the dust from these ignorant armies as they debate with the finesse of English football hooligans rises into a plume of its own. But, like a mammoth perfectly preserved in ice and uncomplicated by subsequent infections, the Left’s purely reflexive impulses immediately following September 11 are worthy of attention.

Most remarkable is the initial and continuing indifference both to those who perished and to the country itself as it came under attack. On a political level, the Left could summon no indignation after assaults upon America’s capital, defense headquarters, civil aviation, embassies, warships, and chief city, any one of which would be a classic and unambiguous casus belli, while in strange contrast it seemed to regard the mere presence of Americans in Saudi Arabia, the trade in oil, and the Arab world’s exposure to American popular culture as unpardonable aggressions.

Irrationality on a political level from these quarters has never been a shock. On a personal level, however, the predominant response of the intellectual Left was a mystery. It was as if the thousands of crushed and incinerated men, women, and children—those who threw themselves into a quarter-mile abyss rather than have the flesh seared off their bones as they stood in the wind at glassless walls, the small children who died in terror after watching hysterical fanatics slit the throats of screaming stewardesses, and so on, for there are almost three thousand stories—simply did not exist. How does one explain such an egregious absence of sympathy (much less assertions that “they” deserved it, or that it was a work of art) among endlessly self-proclaiming empathetics whose stock in trade is to milk compassion even from the Rock of Gibraltar? This is a real rather than a rhetorical question, because it is significant of a great division.

The nature of one’s reaction to aggression against one’s country will often be determined by whether one sees the polity primarily as individuals who must struggle with the imperfection of being bound into a collective, or as a collective that must overcome the circumstantial imperfection that it comprises individuals. For wildebeest thundering across a plain in Africa, it takes a village. The herd defends itself by sacrificing a minuscule proportion of its number and moving on. If the herd were to turn upon the jackals preying upon it, the jackals would be pulverized almost instantly. Nonetheless, if the price for the escape of ten thousand is the sacrifice of only a few, that is how it is done when the collective is paramount.

But animals like bears, tigers, and lions, that wander individually or in small groups, know that their survival depends upon how they fight, and their willingness to fight is so well understood that they are seldom attacked, whereas to a predator a herd in flight is a living contradiction of the maxim that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Mankind is not a genetic set piece, divided into lone wolves and lemmings, but rather the division is a reflection of habituation to the collective—indeed, worship of it—as opposed to a habitual resistance to it. Capitulation and appeasement may sometimes be merely subcategories of a controlling impulse that produces both. When the Left bends to America’s enemies it may not be a result of cowardice or betrayal, but of loyalty to the omelette so single-minded that it precludes consideration of the eggs.

At times, of course, the collective should take precedence. It is a matter of finding the appropriate balance for impulses that contend eternally because man was created as an individual and yet there is more than one of him. And, depending upon the wind, one must occasionally tack to port even if one’s preference is to tack to starboard. But by its hostility to virtually every part of the War on Terrorism, and its continuing assertion that in this war almost every step America has taken is an unnecessary and wasteful overreaction, the Left implicitly makes the argument that the dead of September 11 represent only one one-hundred-thousandth of the American population, and that although intelligent people understand the implications of this, the impatient jingoes who “control” the country do not.

After all, a herd of 100,000 wildebeest would neither miss just one of its number, nor even pause to reflect. But where the Left in all its wisdom gravely miscalculates is that the dead of September 11th were not wildebeest, and neither are we. That is why America, for all its failings and sins, has not gone down, and will not go down, on bended knee.

Mark Helprin, whose books include A Soldier of the Great War and Winter’s Tale, is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute. He is a graduate of the Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies, has served in the Israeli infantry and Air Force, and was an advisor on defense and foreign relations to Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole.

Copyright © 2005, The Claremont Institute.
"I Was For War in Iraq Before I Was Against It"

Ever wonder where John Kerry learned to be a prevaricating, two-faced, flip-flopper? He probably learned it during his years as a Senator, but he may have also spent some time with Bill Clinton.

This past weekend "Bubba" had the gall to tell an audience that, despite the fact that he actually launched attacks on Iraq, he was against our taking out Sadaam. What a blowhard.

Here is an excerpt; the whole article can be read at Opinion Journal:
"Back when he was running for President, in 1992, Mr. Clinton promised an Administration that would "not coddle tyrants, from Baghdad to Beijing." As President, he launched military strikes against Iraq in 1993, following Saddam's attempted assassination of former President Bush in Kuwait; in 1996, and in 1998, following Saddam's ouster of U.N. weapons inspectors."

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Dems Have an Iraq Strategy!
(photo from David Lunde via Michelle Malkin)
As Suppressed by the MSM

Here is an interesting perspective from the war on terror -- the woman terrorist who was captured in Jordan last week has been revealing just how effective our military has been in eliminating terrorists. Human Events is covering this, but this kind of information is being ignored or suppressed by the MSM.
Useful Idiots

Our gutless, cut-and-run "leaders" in Congress are (hopefully) unwittingly abetting our terrorists enemies. It doesn't take a PhD in history to learn that in Vietnam the Communists were only successful to the extent they were able to erode support for the war back in the U.S. They were helped enormously in this task by Walter Cronkite and the rest of the media.

The terrorists in Iraq know this. They can't come close to matching up with our soldiers on the battlefield, but they are hopeful that this generation's useful idiots (the MSM and Congress) can erode support to the point where we'll pull out of Iraq and they'll win by forfeit. Congressional calls for a withdrawl timetable can only help the terrorists. They'll know all they have to do is hold on till that date and they win.

For more, check out this editorial from today's WSJ in Opinion An excerpt:
"There are many lessons of the Vietnam War, but two of the biggest are these: Don't fight wars you don't intend to win, and while American troops can't be defeated, American politicians can be. Like General Giap, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his fellow terrorists understand the second lesson very well, and so his strategy has always been not to capture Baghdad but to inflict casualties in a way that breaks the will of American elites. He'll only be encouraged by this week's show of Beltway duck and cover."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

"Beauty, truth and goodness really do exist; what we choose in life matters; suffering has meaning; sacrifice for the right things makes a difference; heaven is real; and God, our reason for joy and hope, loves us eternally."

Narnia tales remind us of eternal Christian truths

10/26/2005 5:43:00 PM
By Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Denver Catholic Register

As every parent and teacher knows, some of the best learning never takes place in a classroom. We learn most deeply from the example of others and from personal experience. But we’re also shaped by the stories that touch our hearts and fire our imaginations.

No one understood this better than the great British Catholic scholar, J.R.R. Tolkien. In writing the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Tolkien single-handedly created the modern fantasy universe. Millions of young people have grown up reading about the elves, hobbits, orcs and wraiths of Middle Earth. But for all its impossible creatures, the trilogy is also profoundly “true” in its portrait of good and evil, sin and virtue, and the importance of human heroism in defeating wickedness.

As a committed Catholic, Tolkien wove the Christian story into the fabric of Middle Earth. It’s no accident that Frodo and Sam finally destroy the power of Sauron, the Dark Lord, on a date that just happens to be March 25 - the great feast of the Annunciation on the Church calendar; the day God took on human flesh. Tolkien did that deliberately. In fact, the “Lord of the Rings” is filled with scores of similar Christian clues and metaphors.

Tolkien’s Anglican friend and fellow scholar, C.S. Lewis, did the same. One of the greatest Christian apologists of the 20th century, Lewis is remembered for classics like “Mere Christianity,” “The Abolition of Man,” “Surprised by Joy,” “The Screwtape Letters,” “The Problem of Pain” and “The Great Divorce.” But maybe his best work was his storytelling for young people.

In writing his seven-book “Chronicles of Narnia,” Lewis created a fantastic saga of dwarves, witches, trolls and centaurs, much like Tolkien. And again like Tolkien, Lewis’ Great Lion - Aslan - is unmistakably a figure of Jesus Christ. As for Aslan’s father, the Emperor Across the Sea: Well, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to infer Who that might be.

Over the years, I’ve known dozens of people who’ve gone back to the Narnia tales again and again to enjoy them as adults. Even today, half a century after Lewis published the last of the Chronicles, they remain bestsellers. The reason is simple. The Chronicles remind us that beauty, truth and goodness really do exist; that what we choose in life matters; that suffering has meaning; that sacrifice for the right things makes a difference; that heaven is real; and that God, our reason for joy and hope, loves us eternally.

It’s no accident then that many filmmakers have tried to bring these stories to the screen. Until now, all have failed. Part of the problem has been technical: before computers, the means for creating believable fantasy worlds didn’t exist. But the other, less obvious, problem has been content. What makes the Chronicles so powerful - their Christian worldview - is also what makes some people in an aggressively secular age very uneasy. What we read, watch and listen to can change us. And the Chronicles have changed the hearts of a great many people - in the right direction.

In making his “Lord of the Rings” movies, director Peter Jackson largely succeeded in adapting Tolkien for a general audience without destroying the Christian moral heart of the saga. On Dec. 9, we’ll see if the same good fortune smiles on the Chronicles. On Dec. 9, Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media will release “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” the first of the Narnia tales. I haven’t seen it and therefore can’t endorse it, but if the film version stays true to the novel, the movie trailers and the filmmakers’ own stated intentions, it will be very well worth seeing.

Whatever the value of the film, though, now is a great time to read the Chronicles if you haven't, and reread them if you did as a child. We're shaped by the stories that touch our hearts and fire our imaginations. And Lewis, like Tolkien, wrote to shape us with the story of God's love.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Can't Get Enough Sowell

Thomas Sowell is one of my favorite authors and columnists; he is a natural resource and treasure. One of the best things that could happen to this country would be for each high school student in America to be required to read him, particularly 'Basic Economics'. Not only would they learn more about economics than most college Economics majors; more importantly, they would learn common sense and clear thinking.

Here is a great recent Sowell column:

'Us' or 'Them'?
By Thomas Sowell

Oct 25, 2005

A reader recently sent me an e-mail about a woman he had met and fallen for. Apparently the attraction was mutual -- until one fateful day the subject of the environment came up.

She was absolutely opposed to any drilling for oil in Alaska, on grounds of what harm she said it would do to the environment.

He argued that, since oil was going to be drilled for somewhere in the world anyway, was it not better to drill where there were environmental laws to provide at least some kinds of safeguards, rather than in countries where there were none?

That was the end of a beautiful relationship.

Environmentalist true believers don’t think in terms of trade-offs and cost-benefit analysis. There are things that are sacred to them. Trying to get them to compromise on those things would be like trying to convince a Moslem to eat pork, if it was only twice a week.

Compromise and tolerance are not the hallmarks of true believers. What they believe in goes to the heart of what they are. As far as true believers are concerned, you are either one of Us or one of Them.

The man apparently thought that it was just a question of which policy would produce which results. But many issues that look on the surface like they are just about which alternative would best serve the general public are really about being one of Us or one of Them -- and this woman was not about to become one of Them.

Many crusades of the political left have been misunderstood by people who do not understand that these crusades are about establishing the identity and the superiority of the crusaders.

T.S. Eliot understood this more than half a century ago when he wrote: “Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”

In this case, the man thought he was asking the woman to accept a certain policy as the lesser of two evils, when in fact he was asking her to give up her sense of being one of the morally anointed.

This is not unique to our times or to environmentalists. Back during the 1930s, in the years leading up to World War II, one of the fashionable self-indulgences of the left in Britain was to argue that the British should disarm “as an example to others” in order to serve the interests of peace.

When economist Roy Harrod asked one of his friends whether she thought that disarming Britain would cause Hitler to disarm, her reply was: “Oh, Roy, have you lost all your idealism?”

In other words, it was not really about which policy would produce what results. It was about personal identification with lofty goals and kindred souls.

The ostensible goal of peace was window-dressing. Ultimately it was not a question whether arming or disarming Britain was more likely to deter Hitler. It was a question of which policy would best establish the moral superiority of the anointed and solidify their identification with one another.

”Peace” movements are not judged by the empirical test of how often they actually produce peace or how often their disarmament tempts an aggressor into war. It is not an empirical question. It is an article of faith and a badge of identity.

Yasser Arafat was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace -- not for actually producing peace but for being part of what was called “the peace process,” based on fashionable notions that were common bonds among members of what are called “peace movements.”

Meanwhile, nobody suggested awarding a Nobel Prize for peace to Ronald Reagan, just because he brought the nuclear dangers of a decades-long cold war to an end. He did it the opposite way from how members of “peace movements” thought it should be done.

Reagan beefed up the military and entered into an “arms race” that he knew would bankrupt the Soviet Union if they didn’t back off, even though arms races are anathema to members of “peace movements.” The fact that events proved him right was no excuse as far as members of “peace movements” were concerned. As far as they were concerned, he was not one of Us. He was one of Them.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

More From Claremont

As I mentioned below, I'm just sitting down with my first issue of the Claremont Review of Books. I had to jump up and post the quotes from Ronald Reagan's Fist Inaugural because they were so timely to what I've been fuming about all day.

This whole editorial, entitled Bush's Philosophy, is excellent (see quote below). The guys at Power Line laud this periodical with every (quarterly) issue. So far, so good.

You can check out the periodical online here, and subscribe here (it's only $15).
Compassionate conservatism is the President's self-proclaimed philosophy. ... But a compassionate government cannot be a limited one. Its swelling sympathy will overwhelm the levees of individualism and consent ("I feel your pain," whether you want me to or not); and its pity implies that for some unfortunate people, justice is not enough. This inherent indiscipline is why compassion used to be regarded as needing reason's regulation, and why in any event it was thought better suited to private, not public, life. Compassionate conservatism, therefore, means big government conservatism. And big government conservatism is no conservatism at all.
Remembering the Gipper

I got my first issue of the Claremont Review of Books this week and noted this very timely quote from Ronald Reagan's First Inaugural Address in the editorial:
In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we've been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.


We are a nation that has a government--not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government, which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.
More RINO News

House GOP Leaders Scuttle Budget-Cut Vote

Nov. 10, 7:07PM (ET)

WASHINGTON (AP) - House Republican leaders scuttled a vote Thursday on a $51 billion budget-cut package in the face of a revolt by moderate lawmakers over cuts to Medicaid, food stamp and student loan programs.


The decision by GOP leaders came despite a big concession to moderates Wednesday, when the leaders dropped provisions to open the Arctic National Refuge to oil and gas exploration, as well as a plan letting states lift a moratorium on oil drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

The entire piece is here.

Constitution Party National Platform

Here is the preamble to the platform of the Constitution Party. Check this out, it sounds like, well, it sounds a lot like our Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
(what a concept!)


The Constitution Party gratefully acknowledges the blessing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as Creator, Preserver and Ruler of the Universe and of these United States. We hereby appeal to Him for mercy, aid, comfort, guidance and the protection of His Providence as we work to restore and preserve these United States.

This great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been and are afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.

The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.

The Constitution of the United States provides that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." The Constitution Party supports the original intent of this language. Therefore, the Constitution Party calls on all those who love liberty and value their inherent rights to join with us in the pursuit of these goals and in the restoration of these founding principles.

The U.S. Constitution established a Republic rooted in Biblical law, administered by representatives who are constitutionally elected by the citizens. In such a Republic all Life, Liberty and Property are protected because law rules.

We affirm the principles of inherent individual rights upon which these United States of America were founded:

  • That each individual is endowed by his Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are the rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness;
  • That the freedom to own, use, exchange, control, protect, and freely dispose of property is a natural, necessary and inseparable extension of the individual's unalienable rights;
  • That the legitimate function of government is to secure these rights through the preservation of domestic tranquility, the maintenance of a strong national defense, and the promotion of equal justice for all;
  • That history makes clear that left unchecked, it is the nature of government to usurp the liberty of its citizens and eventually become a major violator of the people's rights; and
  • That, therefore, it is essential to bind government with the chains of the Constitution and carefully divide and jealously limit government powers to those assigned by the consent of the governed.

A Real Conservative Party

I am sick and tired of supporting a party that talks conservative but acts liberal. I got a note from my son Matt and he told me about the Constitution Party. From what I've read so far, they sound terrific (more to come on this).

Some of you will say, as I used to say myself, that it's better to (hold your nose) and vote Republican, because not to do so is to effectively throw away your vote. I no longer buy that theory. For way, way too long, the Republicans have relied on this thinking. That's why they tack conservative during the campaign, and shift back to their "moderate" (i.e., liberal) ways two weeks after the election.

I'm tired of being a sucker; tired of being taken for granted; tired of voting for candidates who talk the talk but don't walk the walk. From now on, I'm voting for candidates who will actually stand up for conservative principles.

I realize that these candidates have virtually no chance of being elected (at least not yet). But, that's ok. At least I'll be supporting true conservatives and I'll feel better for that if nothing else. And if Republicans lose support -- and elections -- because people like me refuse to support them anymore, that's just too bad because I am NOT going support these frauds anymore.

Check out the Constitution Party here.


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