During my recent trips in Asia, I was struck by how many Catholic churches and seminaries existed in places like Yangon, Myanmar, and Da Nang, Vietnam. In Hong Kong, I happened upon a standing-room-only church service, and in Guangzhou, China, the Sacred Heart Cathedral has become a tourist stop for many Chinese.

After the 1949 takeover of China, the Communist Party outlawed religious groups and continued attacks during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, which included the destruction of numerous Buddhist temples and Christian churches.

The government still controls the land for religious buildings and constrains the leadership of congregations, particularly those with foreign ties. There have been significant religious crackdowns, such as that against the Dalai Lama and the Falun Gong movement. The Dalai Lama fled China in 1959 after Tibet came under the control of the central government. The case of the Falun Gong, who faced a concerted attack in 1999 and was later banned, is a bit more complicated. See https://www.pri.org/stories/2014-07-14/why-china-fears-falun-gong

In recent years, however, the Communist Party of China has become somewhat more tolerant of Christian churches. All told, an estimated 300 million Chinese, or 25 percent of the population, including about 30 million Christians, expressed a belief in some faith.

Officially, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is an atheistic state under its Communist government. According to 2010 estimates by the Pew Research Center, Buddhists constituted about 16 percent of the population, and around 8 percent of the Vietnamese were Christians who are mostly Catholic. It was a nice treat to stop by a large roadside shrine on Highway 1 between Da Nang and Hue.

In Myanmar, which has only recently cast aside five decades of socialist/Communist rule, more than 6 percent of the population follow Christianity. The Baptists have become particularly strong, although the Catholic Church has a seminary and large cathedral in the capital.

St. Mary’s Cathedral in Yangon, Myanmar

Just around the corner from my hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand, stood a Mormon meeting house. I’ve seen Mormons all over the world, but I guess I didn’t expect a site in northern Thailand.

According to the church’s website, the first Mormon missionary to Thailand arrived in 1854. The congregation in Chiang Mai got started in 1970. In 2009, the Mormons reported that they had 16,000 members in Thailand.

A sign for a Mormon meeting house in northern Thailand

After many trips through temples devoted to Buddhism, which remains the dominant faith in Asia, I had a greater understanding of the religion’s intentions, which, although still rather foreign to me, stress good works and conscientious, ethical living.

As the Dalai Lama, who has his own significant disputes with the Chinese government, wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal:

“Today the world faces a crisis related to lack of respect for spiritual principles and ethical values. Such virtues cannot be forced on society by legislation or by science, nor can fear inspire ethical conduct. Rather, people must have conviction in the worth of ethical principles so that they want to live ethically.”

Whatever the case, the embrace of religion among many people throughout Asia—whether Buddhist or Christian–gave me hope, particularly when the West has seen the role of faith drop precipitously over the past few decades.

This morning, Dr Starnes at Childrens’ Hospital of Los Angeles walked into the waiting room and told me that the repair done to my 2-month-old son’s heart was a success. He said he should be in great shape for years to come. I’ve documented my feelings about the medical system that has helped my son multiple times in his short life. They deserve blessings and have my complete gratitude.

The events that led to the operation this morning were a bit less mundane than a successful operation. You see, Jacob was lifeless on Sunday.

I was downstairs working in my office when my youngest daughter ran in and said that my wife needed me. I rushed upstairs to find her frantically trying to get Jacob to breath. He had just had a bath and was just getting dressed when she noticed he not only stopped crying but also stopped breathing. By the time I got upstairs, he was starting to turn purple.

We rushed downstairs. My oldest daughter called for an ambulance. It wasn’t going to be fast enough. I ran for the car followed by my wife. She drove as if she’d had EMT driver training, honking her way through intersections while being careful enough to keep us from getting into a collision. Meanwhile, I was with Jacob in the back seat. I checked his breath – nothing. I checked for a pulse – nothing. I reached into his throat and felt no obstructions. His body just stopped.

When I was 16-years-old, my nurse practitioner mother made me take a summer job working at a nursing home. She wanted me to appreciate life and see what it was like at twilight. I learned many valuable lessons as a CNA at two nursing homes in Oklahoma City. One lesson I had never had to apply was CPR. I remember vividly doing chest compressions on plastic figures, including several hours learning how to do it differently on infants. 27-years later, that training came into play.

For four minutes in the back of the vehicle, little Jacob was lifeless. His body was limp. His eyes showed no recognition, no movement. No life. Blow, count, blow, count, chest compression, count, chest compression, count. After the third round of CPR, the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard come painfully through his lips. It was subtle, so quiet I wasn’t sure at first if it was just a result of me pressing on his stomach. He let out a slight whimper. Then another. Then another.

We got to the emergency room. They were waiting for us. My daughter had canceled the ambulance and told them to expect a man with no pants, shoes, or socks running in with her baby brother. They acted quickly and admirably. Within ten minutes the whimpers were replaced by full-throated cries. We answered several questions, got his old doctors connected with his ER doctors, and after about half-an-hour they got me to put on some hospital socks and thin hospital cloth pants.

We’re now at our third hospital in five days. Along the way, the CPR story has made its rounds. That really isn’t the story, though. I know. I was there.

Nothing in my hands or breath brought my son back to from the brink. In God’s plan, Jacob had more to do. How he reached down and made Jacob breath and made his heart beat again is beyond me. It could have been the jolt of a memory to cover his nose and mouth with mine rather than just the mouth as is done with adult CPR. It could have been a driver in a hurry who had a feeling he needed to slow down before entering an intersection that my wife was crossing. It could have been God protecting Jacob’s body from harm I could have brought to him by pushing too hard during compressions.

I don’t know what brought my son back to life. All I know is that it was the will of God. I am humbled and grateful for this blessing that I do not deserve.

She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.” Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, “Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.” –Matthew 9:21-22

Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak. -1 Kings 19:11-13

Sometimes, it’s important to listen to that “light silent sound” and recognize it for what it is.

This has been kind of a crazy time at work for me recently. Between a recent acquisition and new management for my division, there’s been a lot of organizational changes, but until recently it didn’t look like it would affect me that much. I did not consider that a good thing, because I have been hoping for a change. I have a really great situation at work that allows me to spend time with my family and pays me well enough, so I wasn’t really looking to move, but when you spend 10 years working on the same thing, anyone could get bored.

So, I’ve literally written on my review for the last several years that I hoped we could find someone to take over “Project X” so that I could have more time to explore new opportunities with our customers. With the old management in place over those years, nothing ever really happened, so I was kind of stuck. But then, my boss and I met with the new GM a few weeks ago and he has reorganized the group and put me in a new role that looks like it’s going to be great.

Why do I mention all this? Because this is where that “light silent sound” came in. The meeting I described came in the midst of a tradeshow I was at, which is kind of like the violent wind and the earthquake. There was simply too much going on for me to recognize this gift for what it was.

And then, after I got back from the tradeshow, I went on a Catholic mission trip with my daughter and our parish Youth Group. For a five days, I spent my mornings going to daily Mass with the kids, and about 200 others from across the country, then rebuilding a deck for a senior citizen during the day, and then music, dancing, fun and, later, reflection in the evenings.

On one of those evenings, we ended the night with Eucharistic Adoration. It was during my meditation with the Blessed Sacrament that it suddenly occurred to me that God had answered my prayer. The whole reorganization at work has given me the opportunity to explore new paths in my career while still keeping the same family-friendly aspects of my job which, as I said, I’d been hoping for literally for years. The other thought that occurred to me is that, since this opportunity is a gift from God, I’d better not waste it.

There were other answered prayers that week, too. After the first day of wrestling with the deck, I prayed for the wisdom to know how to complete the project that, quite honestly, hadn’t gone as well as I had planned to that point. My prayer was answered when the camp director assigned another dad to help me on the project. Rather than receiving the wisdom directly, it came in the form of another more-experienced carpenter and together we got the project completed, and I learned a few things along the way. Prayers get answered, but not always in the way you expect.

Before I close, I’d just like to give a shout out to Catholic Heart WorkCamp the organization that ran the Mission Trip. They do nearly 100 week-long sessions throughout the US and internationally each summer, giving thousands of teens the opportunity to serve, connect with and love others. I was blessed to be able to share this week with my daughter, other teens and adults from our parish and even our new pastor came along for the week. I cannot say enough good things about the program and encourage you all to look into it for yourselves for next year.

God bless,
Tech Knight

I’m not old enough to remember Vatican II.  As I grew up, I sometimes heard people talk about a “Latin Mass,” but I never attended one until well after I graduated college.  That’s when I started teaching Catechism at our local church, and in order to make sure I could answer 9th grader questions, I researched a lot before each class.

I found a cool mixture of tradition and reverence at the Tridentine Mass.  I grew up with the Novus Ordo, but I attend both the Tridentine Mass and Novus Ordo, depending on what makes the most sense for my family at the time.  I’ve even gone to Eastern Rite churches when I travel.  To me, the Mass was always about the miracle: the transubstantiation of bread into the Body of Christ.

Sadly, I feel alone in thinking this way.  A storm brews inside the Catholic Church.  On one side are the so-called “traditionalists,” who treat the Novus Ordo as heresy.  The other side has the “progressives,” who believe the Church needs to modernize for the 21st century.

I get caught in the middle of this storm.  My in-laws never attended my wedding because I wasn’t “Catholic enough” (read: attends the Novus Ordo).  I bristle when people complain about “rad trads,” and then tell me they are OK with artificial birth control and abortion.  It’s aggravating, and unfortunately I have few friends that I pleasantly converse with about my Catholic faith.

But this whole debate is really a fallacy, because being Catholic has absolutely nothing to do with what language the Mass is said in.  I’ve met wonderful people on both sides of this debate, and it greatly bothers me that people spend their time vilifying others with all the evil that already exists in the world.

For so-called traditionalists (or “rad trads,” or whatever other silly titles they have), your blanket judgement of people that attend a Mass in vernacular is ridiculous.  Jesus didn’t give us a rigid Mass structure, he gave us guidance and the Church built a Mass, which has evolved over time, even before the Tridentine Mass came into existence.  So don’t lecture me how you are the original Mass, unless you want to roll back to saying the Mass in Aramaic.

For so-called progressives, I’m even more dismayed.  So little is expected of us as Catholics: weekly Mass, regular Confession, follow basic Church teachings, pray regularly and teach your kids about the faith.  When you consider that in many places you can’t attend Church without risk of death, these requirements are a small price to pay for salvation.  Yet over the past month here at my local church I’ve seen:

  • A bulletin announcement for parents picking up kids from Catechism, asking them to please attend Mass with their kids.
  • A lasy in front of me at Mass constantly checking Facebook on her phone during Mass.
  • People regularly showing up late to Mass and leaving early (get an alarm clock perhaps?).
  • Folks coming into the pew in front of me while I’m praying and talking loudly.
  • People shaming a mother for bringing her kids to Mass when they make one tiny peep of noise…sadly, the same loud people that interrupted my prayer earlier.

And I’m not trying to call out my local Church, because I’ve seen similar things elsewhere.

For both sides, you all are being played by an atheist-minded media hell-bent on tearing the Church apart from the inside.  This media gleefully alters quotes from Pope Francis to get people riled up.  It dramatizes Church business like the Synod of Bishops on the Family.  I think I spend more time proving that what the media says is wrong to people than I do talking about how much I love the Church.

And that is the problem.  We’ve become so focused on hating each other we often forget that the Church is supposed to bring people together, to help us overcome the daily temptation to sin, and to be our supernatural support structure.  We’re so busy arguing about who is better that we forget to see the good in others.  We’ve been corrupted by the world around us, rather than changing the world for the better.

I encourage you to change the status quo.  If you’ve never attended a Tridentine Mass, find one and go.  Same for Novus Ordo.  Talk to those Catholics after Mass.  Volunteer to teach Catechism and build young adults who are strong in their faith and knowledge of the Church.  Turn off your phone and pray peacefully on Sunday.  Set a good example, not just at Church, but whenever you walk out into the world.

Be that light to the world that Jesus wanted us to be.


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“How do you even function?”

I get asked that question a lot these days.  After I got back from a week long work trip (my first time out since Rebecca died), some people were shocked that I’d even consider leaving home.  To go to work, travel and in general try to function at a previously normal level is apparently so…not normal?

Viewed one way, Rebecca’s death was the latest in a string of crappy events in my life.  Before that, my wife had a crappy pregnancy, including finding out about a heart defect and having a doctor essentially recommend we abort her based on a crummy medical test.  Even before that, I had a crappy job in Hawaii, my dog died while I was on island, and my master’s degree almost didn’t happen due to the government’s continuing resolution.  Hawaii was not paradise for me.  I had plenty to be depressed about.

But I don’t view my life as a string of unfortunate events.  While I don’t ignore the hard stuff, I certainly don’t let it control me.  I think about what I learned from it and move forward.  More importantly, I look for the good things that happened, and if you look, there is plenty to be happy about.

It worries me that I’m apparently the exception to the rule.  I worry that we’ve become a clinically depressed society, where we simply medicate our problems away or worse, insist that we live our day to day life unable to maintain a consistently positive view on our future.  I worry that our young people get told to seek happiness in free sex, material goods, a college education, or a variety of other fleeting escapes, and then are shocked when they are truly not happy.  I worry that the depression causes people to damage themselves in long term ways.

We had two things that worked quite well to break depression: a strong faith and strong personal connections.  But it isn’t cool to have faith anymore (unless it’s the kind that doesn’t have all those pesky rules), and our Facebook and smart phone culture is breaking down our personal connections.  Those solid connections kept us steady during the storms in our lives.  Now, instead, we drift through life, blown around by whatever the latest whim or fancy is.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  We can turn back to the foundation that made us strong before.  Over this past weekend, I stopped checking my Facebook status and started calling people I hadn’t talked to in months.  You know those conversations you have where both parties don’t want to stop?  I had a bunch of those.  It made me look forward to the future.

Happiness isn’t going to find you.  It’s going to require you to find it.


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Col Klink:   No it’s not possible, General Mulendorf
Gestapo Captain Borman: With his arm around your shoulders.  
Col Klink: Yes we were friends
Gestapo Captain Borman: Close Friends, and very possibly associated in za plot to assassinate the Führer
Col Klink: I hardly knew the man, went to school together ten years, saw each other every day but what’s that?
Gestapo Captain Borman: You were also best man at his wedding
Col Klink:  Oh, Well I had nothing else to do that afternoon.

Hogan’s Heroes: The Big Picture 1970

In yesterday’s post on the Montreal Anti-Semitic Imam story I pointed out that the press in their writing seemed to miss that the outrage of the Muslim Community to invited guest Jordanian cleric Sheikh Muhammad bin Musa Al Nasr didn’t materialize until after the rest of the world saw the translation of his words in English months after he was invited, spoke and the words put online in arabic. Today’s piece touches on a more subtle but even more telling bit from the story is this quote from Imam Ziad Asali of the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects, presumably someone who knows a thing or two about his religion on the verse sited by the Jordanian Sheikh as reported by the CBC.

The hadith is one of more than 100,000 that are written in many books, some of which are considered authentic, while others are not, said Asali.

Now if your goal is to minimize the role of Islam as understood by Muslims you would do what the CBC did and move directly on, but if you were a reporter interesting is finding the truth, then Imam’s Asali’s quote leads to a rather obvious question:

Is the Hadith and the quote within it considered “Authentic” by Muslims?

Well to answer the question one would need to know what a Hadith is, which one this is and where it came from.

The encyclopedia Britannica defines a Hadith as:

Hadith, Arabic Ḥadīth (“News” or “Story”), also spelled Hadīt , record of the traditions or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, revered and received as a major source of religious law and moral guidance, second only to the authority of the Qurʾān, the holy book of Islam. It might be defined as the biography of Muhammad perpetuated by the long memory of his community for their exemplification and obedience. The development of Hadith is a vital element during the first three centuries of Islamic history, and its study provides a broad index to the mind and ethos of Islam.

 

Hmmmm it would seem to me then that being a “major source of religious law and moral guidance” and “second only to the authority of the Qurʾān,” a Hadith is not something to be taken lightly and dismissed in the cavalier fashion. One would think Imam Asali would know this.

But even if this is true about Hadith’s in general, the question still remains, is this Hadith a valid one?

The Hadith in question is titled: The Book of Miscellaneous ahadith of Significant Values which in addition to the offending quote has gems such as:

وعنه رضي الله عنه أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال‏:‏ ‏ “‏يتبع الدجال من يهود أصبهان سبعون ألفا عليهم الطيالسة‏”‏ ‏(‏‏(‏رواه مسلم‏)‏‏)‏‏.‏

or in English

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Dajjal (the Antichrist) will be followed by seventy thousand Jews of Isfahan and will be dressed in robes of green coloured satin.”

So the question now on the floor would be: Is The Book of Miscellaneous ahadith of Significant Values an authentic book from a credible source?

Well a quick net search answers that question. It comes from a fellow by the name of Imam Al Nawawi. Here is some background:

Al-Imām Muhy al-Dīn Abū Zakariyyā Yahyā ibn Sharaf al-Nawawī, born in the village of Nawa on the Horan Plain of southern Syria in 631 H. He was the imām of the later Shāfiʿī School, the scholar of his time in knowledge, piety, and abstinence, a hadīth master (hāfiẓ), biographer, lexicologist, and Sufi.

So this is a guy who was an early Islamic scholar but we need more than that.  What kind of guy is he, is he a well known scholar credible scholar of Islam?:

His Character

The scholars, elite of his society, and the public greatly respected Imam Nawawi on account of his piety, learning, and excellent character. He dressed and ate simply and humbly. Devout scholars do not care about attaining worldly possessions, they give preference to religious and academic pursuits, and the dissemination and propagation of faith. They experience more heavenly delight and joy in such activities than those who seek satisfaction in luxurious life styles. He was God-fearing who had high ambitions and aims in the dissemination and propagation of faith.

His Works and Death

Imam Nawawi had a very short life (44 years) but even during this short period, he wrote a large number of books on various subjects. Nearly every work is a masterpiece and a treasure of knowledge. Hundreds of thousands of people have benefited from these works.

Some of the prestigious works of Imam Nawawi, apart from the compilation of the “40 Hadith” (al-Arbaʿīn) include:

Riyāḍ al-Ṣāliḥīn
Commentary on Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī
Commentary on Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim (Al-Minhāj fi Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim)
Sharḥ Sunan Abī Dāwūd
Mukhtaṣar Al-Tirmidhī
Kitāb al-Rawḍah
Kitāb al-Adhkār
Al-Taqrīb fī ʿIlm al-Ḥadīth wa al-Irshād fīhi
Al-Tibyān
Bustān al-ʿĀrifīn
After spending 28 years in scholarly pursuits away from home, Imam Nawawi returned to his hometown. Soon after his arrival in Nawā, he fell ill and died. His works are of everlasting value. May Allah bless him.

Emphasis mine.  That seems like a guy whose work is credible, but are they still sought after today?  Here is Kitaabun.com a site that sells Islamic books and items offering his works

The famous 5th Century Hijri, Ahadith compilation by Imam Al-Nawawi, The ahadith are predominantly from Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim (Other ahadith are from the reliable Books such as Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and Muwatta Imam Malik),
Considered by Many as the Most Important Book after the Qur’an Simply because it is a Summary of authentic Traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W).

1900 Ahadith compiled over 372 Chapters and 19 Sections which can be generalised as follows:
The Book of Good Manners – The Book about the Etiquette of Eating – The Book of Dress -The Book of the Etiquette of Sleeping, Lying and Sitting, etc.- The book of Greetings – The Book of Visiting the Sick – The Book of Etiquette of Traveling – The Book of Virtues – The Book of I’tikaf – The Book of Hajj – The Book of Jihad – The Book of Knowledge – The Book of Praise and Gratitude to Allah – The Book of Supplicating Allah to Exalt the Mention of Allah’s Messenger (phuh) – The Book of the Remembrance of Allah – The Book of Du’a (Supplications) – The Book of the Prohibited Actions – The Book of Miscellaneous Ahadith of Significant values – The Book of Forgiveness

About Imam al-Nawawi (d. 676/1277)

Imam Yahya ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi was Born in the village of Nawa in Southern Syria, Imam Nawawi spent most of his life in Damascus where he lived in a simple manner, devoted to Allah, engaging single-mindedly in worship, study, writing and teaching various Islamic sciences. .
Although best known for his works in hadith, Yahya ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi (d. 676/1277) was also the Imam of the later Shafi’i school of Jurisprudence, and widely acknowledged as the intellectual heir to Imam Shafi’i. He was a renowned scholar and jurist who dedicated his life to the pursuit of Islamic learning.

emphasis mine. You can see a screen shot here it case it mysteriously disappears tomorrow, but if so you can always go to Amazon.com and find not only his books

but scholarly commentaries on them

Now I don’t claim to be an Islamic scholar, but all this tells me that Imam Al Nawawi is a significant scholar in the History of Islam and that his Hadiths are considered authentic.

So lets get back to his original statement about the Hadith in question from Imam Ziad Asali of the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects

The hadith is one of more than 100,000 that are written in many books, some of which are considered authentic, while others are not, said Asali.

The statement is factually true, this is one of more that 100,000 Hadith, there are many books of them and some of those books are considered authentic and some are not.

However the Books of Miscellaneous Ahadith of Significant values isn’t just one of many books. It’s a historically significant book written by reputable and respected early scholar of Islam that is without a doubt considered authentic by Muslims to this day.

Now it’s of course theoretically  possible that all of these facts that I was able to discover in an hour or two on the net about Imam Al Nawawi and his place in Islamic Scholarship, and the Hadith The Book of Miscellaneous Ahadith of Significant Values are completely unknown to Imam Ziad Asali of the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects, but I suspect not. I suspect instead that he rightly assumed that the CBC had no interest in clarifying this question, and he was right.

Alas for Iman Asali, I don’t work for the CBC.


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Olimometer 2.52

If you are not in the position to kick in your funds we’ll always accept your prayers.

This week the Pontifical Academy of Sciences hosted a workshop called “Biological Extinction: How to Save the Natural World on Which We Depend.”  If you read the declaration on the workshop, or look at the workshop agenda, or read any of the articles linked on the Vatican’s website, it doesn’t seem controversial at all, and fits nicely with the role of the Church around the world.

And then…fake news!

The Pope has urged us to have fewer children! claims Life Site News.

I’m not buying it, for a lot of reasons:

  1. There is NO direct quote from the Pope.  Couldn’t find it in the article, couldn’t find it on Vatican.va.
  2. It doesn’t jive with what he’s said earlier: Large Families are a gift to society.
  3. It doesn’t fit with the narrative of the workshop, which was focused on economic inequality, maintaining biodiversity and proper use of the Earth’s resources.

Nothing actually written by the workshop seemed out of line with the Catholic Church.  If someone would like to comment and prove otherwise, please be my guest, I will gladly post again admitting I missed something.

The Pope needs to realize he has a fake news problem, and it’s hurting his Church.  For reference, see the contrast between the media’s portrayal of Pope Benedict’s comments on homosexuality and Pope Francis’ comments.  Despite saying almost the same thing, Benedict’s were largely ignored, while Francis’ comments were seen as changing fundamental Church doctrine.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The media is using fake news to rip apart the Catholic Church from the inside.  By misquoting Pope Francis, it makes traditional-thinking Catholics think he’s extremely liberal, and it reinforces their wrong belief that Vatican II should be completely rejected.  For Catholics who grew up after the 1960s, the media’s portrayal makes it look like it’s OK to accept ideas that are actually heretical (and ideas they have been pushing for some time now).  For those of us in the middle, who like tradition but also try to understand the spirit of the Catechism, we get marginalized by both sides, and the media simply tries to overwhelm us with volume to silence our voices.

It’s nasty.  As a military planner, this is the sort of thing I would want to do to my adversaries.  The media are using fake news to tear down the Catholic Church in a way that could cause almost all persons to turn away from teaching and towards what makes us comfortable.  We would do well to reject it and focus on understanding our Catechism and why we believe what we believe.


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This last week I asked everyone to pray for Rebecca, my youngest daughter. She had gone in for open heart surgery on Wednesday to repair an Atrial Septal Defect. The surgery was fairly routine (at least, as far as open heart surgery is concerned), and considering that Yale New-Haven was performing the surgery, we couldn’t have had a better team. But as you know from that same post, she wasn’t recovering well.

On Monday, I went to work, only to get called back to the hospital. My wife and I arrived and consulted with the surgeons, who said Rebecca had gone into heart block, where the heart doesn’t pump well and blood flow is sluggish. They wanted to install a temporary pacemaker so that her heart would keep working, and the surgeons were very hopeful that she would heal out of it. We agreed, and they wheeled her down to surgery.

Thirty minutes later, the nurse came up and said we needed to go downstairs. We were rushed to surgery, where the doctor came in and said Rebecca had gone into cardiac arrest after anethesia. He asked if I wanted to continue compressions or put her on bypass. Either way, she had a high chance of death. I told him “You walk into that room and make the best damn medical decision, and I’ll stand by you.”

Rebecca’s heart recovered on its own. Pacing wires were placed. The Code Blue paging stopped. We went back to recovery, and the local priest came in and performed an emergency Confirmation. The surgeon told us she was critical, but stable. We cleared our Tuesday schedule and drove home, an hour away from Yale, scared, but confident that things would work out.

We pulled into our driveway and called the hospital. They told us to come back. We made it back at 10 pm. I walked in and the heart rate monitor was reading zero. The doctor had his stethoscope on Rebecca’s chest, looked at me, and shook his head.  I clutched her tiny hand, desperately hoping she would squeeze, but that movement never came.  I spent the next hours cradling Rebecca in my arms and crying.

Everyone was in shock. We had the best team of pediatric heart surgeons, cardiologists, NICU and PICU nurses that you could assemble in America.  Rebecca had been recovering.  Her echocardiograms had all been good.  The pacing wires had been firing.  Everything should have worked.  It was like the A Team of cardiology teams was on her side.  They simply don’t lose people, certainly not kids like Rebecca.  But as the head surgeon later told us, “One minute she was fine, the next she was in arrest and would not come back.”

The next few days made me wonder, “Why?”  I’m used to death.  As a Naval officer, I know that I willingly place my life on the line for others.  I work with other members that do the same thing.  I’m OK with that. But Rebecca?  She was just a 7 month old kid.  She spent too much time hooked up to tubes and wires.  She didn’t deserve that.  Honestly, as a Catholic, it depressed me.  It didn’t seem fair.

So we started planning a funeral.  And a wake.  And a reception.  We filled out forms.  We called people and sent emails.  And all of a sudden, I realized that I had missed the point.

Rebecca’s death wasn’t about her. It was about everyone else.

It was about the Yale New-Haven team.  The team of doctors, nurses and surgeons that saw us choose life, saw us pray over Rebecca, and watched her emergency Baptism and Confirmation.  Many of them didn’t share our beliefs on abortion and life.  Some of them do now.  Rebecca had tons of people from Yale that came to visit her even when she wasn’t in their ward or on their floor.  I spied on many a nurse and doctor playing with her and making faces to make her smile.  She touched their lives like no one else could.  Rebecca’s death was about that team.

It was about the Down Syndrome community.  It dawned on us when the Eastern Connecticut Down Syndrome group set up a Go Fund Me page that netted over 1,000 dollars in less than a day.  Rebecca was born with Down Syndrome, and the Down Syndrome community in the northeast mobilized to support us.  So many people that we had never met, or only met briefly, were praying for her.  It brought them together.  Rebecca’s death was about that community.

It was about my Navy command.  My Assistant Officer in Charge told my Sailors the next morning what had happened.  Almost immediately, my Sailors and their families began reaching out, asking what they could do to help.  They didn’t have to.  There are plenty of Navy resources, and often the going assumption is that Navy Officers have it all figured out.  But as one Sailor put it in a text message, “He’s our Officer in Charge, and he always helps us. I want to help him.”  Many of the Sailors had only ever seen Rebecca at the occasional family event, yet they wanted to help.  Our Navy team grew closer.  Rebecca’s death was about my Sailors and their families.

It was about people who lacked faith.  People we didn’t know were suddenly reaching out to my wife.  They said that Rebecca brought them to church and they were praying when they hadn’t done so in years.  A friend of my wife that is a very vocal atheist asked people openly on Facebook to pray for Rebecca.  No clauses in her request.  No “If you believe” or “keep her in your thoughts” disclaimers.  She made a genuine request for prayers.  Rebecca’s death was about her.

It was about our family.  I was honestly frightened about the thought of raising a kid that might live with me forever.  It made me do a lot of research and talk to people.  After meeting people from all walks of life who loved people with Down Syndrome, and seeing kids and adults with Down Syndrome do well in life (even swim the English Channel!), I realized that all life matters, even the ones that we view as disabled.  My kids learned to love Rebecca, despite her being very different from other babies.  Or perhaps, it was because she was so different that they cared even more.  Rebecca’s death was about us.

I realized that I made a mistake.  I focused on Rebecca’s pain.  I watched her cry when she was stuck with needles.  I watched her struggle to finish a bottle because her heart wasn’t strong enough to breast feed.  It made me sad, but what I didn’t realize was that she was changing everyone around her.  My focus on her pain blinded me to how she was an instrument to change those around her.

Many of us spend a large part of our adult lives influencing, or trying to influence, those around us.  We read books, we devise arguments, we make PowerPoint presentations, and we argue on Facebook.  And yet here I had a little girl, not even a year old, who came into my life and changed everyone around her, including people she never met.  Her broken heart was changing those with hardened hearts.

She did it without words, without slides, and without a social media account.

It truly was never about her.  It was always about us, about making us better.  And even though it took her death for me to realize it, I’m glad that I did.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” Matthew 18: 1-5


Rebecca will be buried on Tuesday, with a wake on Monday.  If you are in the Eastern Connecticut area, you are welcome to stop by.  Please follow the link for details.


This post represents the views of the author and does not represent the views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency.

The majority of things that come out of Washington DC do not require our assistance. President Trump lays down an order, Congress passes a law, or some agency puts out a regulation and the citizenry does what it can to comply. It sounds Draconian but it’s a system that works. Our participation in the republic is to vote in representatives, empowering them to keep order and hopefully assist us in prosperity.

Today’s rumors that Trump is about to take religious liberties onto his plate will, if true, require our actions. He will need our help. Defense of religious liberties has been a hot topic since before the country was even formed and will continue to be a hot topic long after we’ve left this world. That’s the nature of the most polarizing aspect of human existence.

For eight years, faith-minded Americans have witnessed a government that has positioned religious freedom as a form of discrimination. They say that a baker can’t practice her religion in her own private business and must bake whatever cakes people order. They say a wedding photographer must take pictures at an event even if her religion tells him it isn’t really a wedding. They say that religious organizations cannot express their political opinions because they’re a religious organization.

All of these things are (hopefully) about to change under Trump’s administration. If they do, it’s up to us to support it appropriately.

This is a tricky subject. The cultural promotion of religious freedoms isn’t a black and white issue even though it probably should be. We’re going to have to make tough choices in the near future. One of the toughest is acceptance of other religions. The Judeo-Christian faiths are, in my humble opinion, the most accepting of the other religions. We need to take this up a notch if and when religious freedoms are taken up by the administration. True tolerance is accepting that everyone’s religion, even those with values that run contrary to our own, has an equal right in America. There are those who will say, “but we’re a Christian nation.” I agree, but part of being a Christian nation is accepting the commission to spread the Word of God. It doesn’t mean that we’re supposed to accept others of our faith and ignore or reject other faiths. It’s our right in the Constitution to share our faith and it’s a calling in the Bible to do the same.

When Trump makes his move, it will be first positioned by the left as an attack on LGBT rights. Then, it will be positioned as an attack on atheists. Then, the narrative will shift to this being about Christians only and that other religions aren’t going to be allowed to share in the same freedoms. All of these narratives are pre-packaged and easy to fight, but the President cannot fight them alone. Those of us, regardless of personal religious beliefs, who embrace the freedoms that the 1st Amendment grant us must be vocal in our defense. We must support all righteous decisions at all levels of government. Moreover, we must denounce all perversions of the 1st Amendment that attempt to use the freedoms against us. Yes, that’s going to be a thing at some point in the near future. Watch for it.

Between travel bans, walls, and a flurry of executive orders, it will be easy for religious freedoms to get lost in the sea of issues. It’s our duty as Americans, whether we’re religious or not, to defend the rights of individuals and organizations to freely practice their beliefs. This is the battleground that requires us all to take up spiritual arms. It’s time to stand up for what’s right.

The progressive war on Christmas has become one of the fundamental constants of the universe.  Here is one of the more egregious examples from this year’s annual battle to make sure all things religious are exiled from any property that may be considered public and the dreaded Merry Christmas is never uttered.

Indiana Town Removes Cross From Christmas Tree After ACLU Lawsuit

The mythical separation of church and state was once again used as a justification for vanquishing this cross, which was used for decades.  All it took was one complaint and the ACLU bullied the small town into submission with a lawsuit they could not possibly afford to fight.  Yes, the separation church and state is mythical.  It is a fairytale created by Justice Hugo Black when he wrote his decision for the 1947 Supreme Court case Everson versus Board of Education.  Justice Black claimed that the establishment clause of First Amendment prevented any government organization, at any level, from participating in any type religious activity because that clause built a wall of separation of church and state.  This ruling was a complete departure from the reality that existed in this country from the very instant of the ratification of the Bill of Rights right up until the instant he delivered this ruling.  It completely contradicts the transcripts from the writing of the Bill of Rights and the transcripts of the ratification debates in the States.  Here is what James Madison had to say during the debates when this clause was written:

Mr. Madison said, he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience.

It is quite clear from this quote, the Establishment Clause prevents the federal government from passing laws that would establish an official religion and it prevents the passage of laws that would force individuals to worship in a specific manner.  Rather than use the official transcripts, Justice Black based this sweeping new constitutional doctrine on a personal letter between Thomas Jefferson and the Danbury Baptist Church.  To add insult to injury, he completely distorted the actual text and meaning of that letter.

What makes the Everson ruling even more inaccurate; Justice Black completely disregarded the free exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment.  This clause specifically prevents the federal government from passing laws that would prevent individuals from freely exercising their religious beliefs.  Free exercise of religion is one of the most important god-given natural rights that every individual is endowed with.  Here is what George Mason had to say about free exercise of religion when he wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776.

That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity, towards each other.

The Virginia Declaration of Rights served as the model for the US Bill of Rights and George Mason played a prominent role in the writing of the US Constitution,

Justice Hugo Black completely massacred one more fundamental constitutional principle when he wrote the Everson ruling = The United States Bill of Rights only applies to the federal government.  It never applied to the States and it most certainly never applied to cities and towns.  That is abundantly clear from the transcripts of the State ratifying conventions for the Constitution when a Bill of Rights was demanded, from the transcripts in the House of Representatives and Senate when the Bill of Rights was written, and from the transcripts when the Bill of Rights was ratified by the States.  How can the establishment clause prevent a town from having a cross on a Christmas tree or any other type of religious display?  It cannot.  There is no constitutional basis or this lawsuit nor any similar lawsuit filed by the ACLU.