Can I get an AMEN?

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What is your favorite movie and why?

It was a question posed to a room full of fairly devout Catholics.  So it generated answers like:  “The Passion of the Christ.”  “Therese.”  “Ben Hur.”  “Chariots of Fire.”

My answer (the correct answer, obviously:  “The Blues Brothers.”

Why?

Let me list the substantive and compelling reasons:

  1. Jake gets out of jail and he and his brother go to visit the nun who helped raise them in boarding school – The Penguin. Rather devoted of them, don’t you think?
  2. They find out the school will close if it can’t raise money to pay its property taxes.
  3. They set out to put their old band together and have a big concert to raise the money, which they actually do.
  4. Their justification for wreaking mayhem in the process? “We’re on a mission from God.”
  5. They destroy the most police cars ever destroyed in a single movie chase scene.
  6. The drive through an indoor shopping mall without hurting anyone.
  7. It is a Chicago movie and that is where I live.
  8. The music is glorious.
  9. Virtually everyone in the movie is someone I’d like to sit down with and share stories over a cup of coffee.
  10. It makes you simultaneously laugh and cry.

I could go on, but I believe I’m made my point.

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Liars and cheats

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I have never lacked reasons to participate in the sacrament of reconciliation.  I am a fallen man, a sinner.

But I can honestly say that I never cheated on a test in school, copied someone else’s homework or turned in a paper someone else wrote and claimed it was my work.

Many folks can’t make that claim.  And now there is a professional service for liars and cheaters.

I’m not going to tell you the name or give you a link to the organization’s website.  I went there so you don’t have to after hearing the company’s owner interviewed on the radio.

This nameless, amoral woman explained that her service hires people to do online homework and take exams for college students who don’t have time to do the work.  She justifies this by explaining that she serves people who could do the work, but are too busy.

I have a problem with this, first because it is absolutely dishonest.  If a college (online or otherwise) is giving credits to people who don’t do the work, what value are the credits?  What value is a degree?  What value are the people getting the degrees?

Have we become so morally corrupt that we don’t see the difference between having the ability to do something and actually doing it?

I’m reminded of a discussion in a college philosophy class long ago.  We were studying logic and the professor was citing popular phrases she believed were not logical.

“That rock singer is terrible – I could do better,” was one she mentioned.  And she went on to say that the singer might be terrible, and an individual might be a better singer, but it really didn’t matter unless the better singer actually was up there performing.  “I could sing that song better” means nothing unless you actually do.

During Ms Amoral’s radio interview, the rather perplexed host asked whether she would hire as expert test-takers for her company any of the people who had used service.

“Of course not,” she replied.  “We need real experts.”

That’s a little like selling a car you don’t think is safe enough to drive yourself.

I’m trying to sort out in my own mind whether this company or its customers are more reprehensible.  So far it is a tie.

Getting to the truth

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There has been much consternation in the news of late about, well, lying.

A major news anchor gloriously embellished on some experiences he had in a war zone.  A potential presidential candidate said her plane landed under attack, which turned out to be false.  A president promised that his healthcare law would not increase costs nor force anyone to leave their doctor…everyone knows how that turned out.

I could go on, but you get the idea.  So, when I was in Rome earlier this week on a secret mission for the CIA and MI6, I stopped by the Vatican to see Pope Francis and get his take on this whole dishonesty issue.  He was worried, but didn’t have a real answer beyond convincing people to tell the truth.

Frank is a busy guy, so I only planned to stay a couple hours, but seeing as how we’re best bros, it ended up a long chat over mate and dinner in his apartment.  I think everyone knows that he makes a mean pesto sauce.  He insisted on doing all the cooking, so I agree to do the dishes.  Benedict helped and was thoughtful enough to bring dessert.

It was quite an evening shared by close colleagues, except for the few minutes when I had to run over to the square to help the Swiss Guards subdue a hoard of ISIS assassins.  Thank goodness I was wearing my Kevlar undies; bullets were whizzing by my ears and I had to step in front of a couple elderly Cardinals and take six bullets to save them.

Fortunately, I got back to Frank’s apartment just as Bennie was slicing up the Bavarian torte.

Truth be told, the two Popes asked me to stay over and said I could stay in the Papal apartment – vacant these days, you know.  But I had to turn them down.  You see, I had a late meeting at a bar with Daniel Craig, who is my MI6 contact.  I know, he plays James Bond in the movies – but that is just a clever cover.  He really is a secret agent, or was until I published this.

Danny and I had a lot to discuss, what with the meeting the next morning with Vladimir…but that is another story.

The final crusade?

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President Obama reminded Americans this week that while the murdering Islamists are beheading children, raping women and burning people alive, we can’t get on our high horse.  After all, there were the crusades.

Please.  We are long past (800 years past) the point where we should be trying to compare current atrocities to anything that occurred during the crusades.

I’m outraged by the mayhem occurring in the Middle East.  And there is absolutely no reason for me to temper that concern because of something that happened hundreds of years ago.  A past wrong doesn’t diminish a current atrocity.

In the middle of the last century, America fought a rather bloody war with Germany and Japan.  Both those countries clearly had lost their moral compass and engaged in despicable acts.  But 70 years later, Americans are buying Japanese cars and computers.  Germany is an important ally.  I even like the German soccer team.

But those crusaders?  Bad guys.  Ill-tempered.  Violent.  Murdering Franks.  They were so awful that I can never hold any other murdering butcher to account.

Nuts.

But just to give this a little important context…the crusades were a defensive action to confront Muslim armed invasion.  In that sense, I guess you can draw a comparison to what is happening today – except we can’t seem to get today’s crusade off the ground.  Perhaps we’ve seen our last crusade.

Safe jewelry

A safe piece of jewelry, often worn by Catholics.
A safe piece of jewelry, often worn by Catholics.

I’m writing these lines as a special service to school administrators (most of the public-school variety) who have shown a deep fear of jewelry.

This came to my attention earlier this week when a nine-year-old boy was suspended from his Texas school for saying he could make a classmate disappear by using his “Mount Doom” ring.

The Mount Doom ring he had in his possession was a replica of the one used in the Hobbit movies.  Thus, it really couldn’t make anyone disappear.  In fact, it is important to note that the “real” Mount Doom ring in the movies didn’t really make anyone disappear either.  IT WAS JUST A MOVIE; THE RING DOESN’T REALLY EXIST.

But I’m sure the kid has learned his lesson and will never again threaten to do something with a replica ring that the original can’t do, the original being a creation of the imagination.

What worries me is that there are lots of kids going to school every day with a chain around their neck.  And on the chain is a cross.  And on the cross is the figure of the crucified Christ.

So I want to assure school administrators that the little figure isn’t really a crucified person, but just a molded piece of metal.  Of course, unlike the situation with the ring, there was a real person who was crucified, so the little figure on the chain isn’t a representation of a figment of someone’s imagination – it is based on reality.

Now to get to the important part…If a child shows his little cross with figure to a classmate, he isn’t threatening to crucify him.  He isn’t hoping he will be crucified.  He likely is saying something like:

  • This is my crucifix.
  • Catholics wear these to remind us of our faith.
  • My parents got me this for my confirmation.
  • You should see the cool one my mom wears.
This is a rosary ring, not typically worn on Mount Doom.
This is a rosary ring, not typically worn on Mount Doom.

Perhaps complicating this situation is the practice of many devoted Catholic to wearing a “rosary ring.”  I have one of these, which is a simple metal ring with 10 bumps, one for each “Hail Mary” in a decade of the rosary, which to school administrators can be defined as a non-threatening devotional prayer.  My ring also has a little cross so I know when I’ve completed 10 Hail Marys.  The little cross can’t be used as a weapon or make anyone disappear.  In fact, the rosary ring itself can’t make anyone disappear, nor pretend to as with the Mount Doom ring.

As I said at the outset, I offer these thoughts in the hope that school administrators will not be threatened by Catholic students.  But in all fairness, I don’t think the Mount Doom folks represent much threat either.