Falling and littleness

madonnaPope Francis fell.  His official spokesman says he is fine.  He went right ahead and finished celebrating Mass at Jasna Gora, a holy place of deep significance for Poles.

It is news when the Holy Father takes a tumble.  He doesn’t even need to be hurt.  A little slip and the media speculate – maybe he is ill – maybe he didn’t get enough rest – maybe his tailor forget to hem his cassock.

Maybe the media still don’t realize he wasn’t elected Pope based on athleticism.

And maybe he is thinking more about the littleness of God than where to place his next step.

I’m not physically present at World Youth Day.  Frankly, I’m past the point where I might be accused of being a youth.  So I watch on television and read what the Holy Father has to say.

He might have stumbled during the Masna Gora Mass, but only physically – not rhetorically.  He spoke about littleness, which isn’t something people usually think about when they think of God.

God is the almighty, King of Kings, ruler of the heavens and earth, the source of everything good.  But for our sake, he also can be little.

When the world needed mercy and forgiveness, God didn’t ride across the sky in a golden chariot, throwing down thunderbolts to cleanse us of evil.  Instead, he allowed himself to be born of Mary and enter our world as a little baby, innocent, weak, subject to the laws of nature.

He picked simple, weak human beings to join his mission:  fishermen, tax collectors, tent makers – even a former prostitute.  His was an army of the little people.  And I think the Holy Father is trying to help us understand why.

An almighty, celestial being is far beyond my comprehension.  I can’t rise to that level.  But God is to powerful and merciful that he can come to my level.  As we say when evangelizing, he meets people where they are.

We’re called to evangelize, not by gazing toward the start, but by reaching out – or down – to those in need of God’s boundless mercy.  We are called to be little, like God.

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Evidence that the end is near

endThis is the day of peace, the Friday between the end of the Republican convention and the start of next week’s Democrat convention.

If you watched the Republicans, you likely are torn between moments of hope and despair, wondering if there is no common sense left in this troubled world.  I predict the Democrats will produce similar emotions – I admit more on the despair side for me.

In the past months the terrorist attacks, shootings of apparently innocent souls and savage murders of police are too numerous to list.  I expect most news organizations now have a standard news story format something like:

DATELINE — ______ innocent people died today when _____ shot them to death in _____ . Police are withholding names until families are notified.  They are trying to determine if the shooter acted alone.  Democrats said it was a terrible act of violence and police are to blame.  Republicans said it was an attack by radical Islamic terrorists and ISIS must be bombed into the Stone Age.

Each day I hear people say that our country has never been so divided.  As someone with more than a passing interest in history, I point out the Civil War, Revolutionary War and Vietnam War as just a few times that were at least as divisive.

But yes, it is getting angry out there.

To these broad troubles, I add more narrow (but perhaps deeper) evidence of how distorted our culture has become:

  • A few nights ago I saw a television commercial for an upcoming program that openly used profanity taking the Lord’s name in vain. This wasn’t a movie in a theater or on a cable channel late at night.  It was a regular old channel in early evening.
  • Police in New Jersey recently responded to a call for help from an elementary school. They arrested a third grader for allegedly using a racial slur; he had referred to something at the school bake sale as a brownie.  The parents will send their child to a different school – unless state authorities decide they are unfit bigots.
  • Airport authorities are being sued by a traveler who was bloodied, bruised and arrested after a misunderstanding with TSA agents. She didn’t immediately comply with instructions and become confused when agents started yelling at her.  This wasn’t because she was planning a terror attack, but because she is partially deaf and has paralysis, and was on her way home from treatment for a brain tumor at St. Jude Hospital.

A return to decency and common sense wouldn’t solve every problem we face, but it would be a good start.

No, I don’t think the end is near.  But I do think we’re nearing the point of no return.

The weeping Catholic

photo-1442115597578-2d0fb2413734I usually try to find the humor in the events of the day, but of late there has been much to bring tears to the eyes of a laughing Catholic.

Rotten cops shoot innocent Blacks.  Black thugs shoot innocent cops.  At least that is what I see on the news.

Alleged solutions abound:

  • More gun laws.
  • More training for police.
  • More police in problem neighborhoods.
  • Hiring cops from the problem neighborhoods.
  • More aggressive prosecution of hate crimes.
  • More jobs for urban Black males.
  • Better schools.
  • Free college for all.

I watched a semi-moderated discussion on Fox News and the language reminded me of the nonsense I heard in the early 1970s on the campus of the University of Illinois, from which I earned a couple college degrees.  Oh…there was such passion and conviction.  There was such caring.  People really, really want everyone to hold hands and sing kum ba yah.  Why can’t we all just be friends?

Everything that is wrong is the fault of someone else.

The passionate demands pour forth:  The President should act.  Congress must act.  The states must act.  Maybe we need the United Nations to intervene.  And blah, blah, blah.

The racial strife and debate over gun control are tragic, but only symptoms of our greatest failure:  we have not taught our children well.

Ask a young person who George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were – and what they stood for.  Ask them to explain Martin Luther King Junior’s “I have a dream” speech.  Ask them why their ancestors fought – and many died – fighting evil during World War II.

They likely won’t know.

Ask a young person who Jesus Christ was – and is – let along Moses, David, Peter, Paul and John.

Ask why the US Constitution was written to keep the government out of your life, not consume you.

Ask whether they can recall at least five of the 10 commandments.

As you certainly suspect, I’m not confident about the responses these questions will generate.  It isn’t that young people are stupid; they are ignorant and we are to blame. We have not taught them right from wrong.  We have not passed on the faith of our fathers.

We have taught them that problems are solved by laws and regulations…we have not taught them the natural law.

Without the knowledge of right and wrong, the moral foundation to take virtuous action, we see the only way to solve problems to be the creation and enforcement of laws that make people behave.  This approach is doomed to fail and we’ve proved it.

My home, Chicago, has some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation – and has become America’s murder capital.

We have hate crime laws, but I have yet to understand why if someone kills me whether it matters how much they abhorred me at the time.

So I fear that we’ll have all sorts of new laws passed to show action and how much we really care.  They won’t make an iota of difference.

Half a century of ignoring, sometimes ridiculing the American Dream, making fun of the Christian faith and letting kids decide for themselves how much two plus two equals – all this silliness has left us with a serious problem.  Our culture is post moral.

It will take us half a century, courage and persistence to turn things around.  The sooner we get started, the fewer body bags we’ll need in homes, schools and city streets.