By John Ruberry

Next week the fiftieth anniversary arrives of the release of the groundbreaking Sweetheart of the Rodeo album by the Byrds..

At the time, however, the collection was a commercial flop and it received mixed reviews.

Byrds leader and lead guitarist Roger McGuinn envisioned the band’s sixth album as an overview of the history of American music. McGuinn was not originally a rocker, he began his preforming career after graduating from Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music. But a new member, who was soon to depart, Gram Parsons, urged the band to record a country album. The result was arguably the first country rock album, at least by a major artist, one that also served as an inspiration for the alt-country and Americana genres.

“Eleven trips to the country” is how a radio ad described the work. And Sweetheart’s eleven songs are dominated by banjo, country fiddle, and pedal steel guitar. This was not your older sibling’s Byrds.

The album begins typically for the Byrds, with a Bob Dylan cover, “You Ain’t Going Nowhere.” Dylan’s primary career inspiration was Woody Guthrie and Sweetheart includes a version of his “Pretty Boy Floyd.”

Parsons’ two Sweetheart compositions–one was co-written by a former bandmate–“Hickory Wind” and “One Hundred Years from Now,” offer a contrast to listeners. The first is a traditional country tune. The second ironically is the Byrdsiest–sounding track on the album.

Sweetheart was recorded in the spring of 1968 in Nashville–after which things got interesting. The Byrds managed to score an appearance at the Grand Ole Opry, where these hippies were booed by the straight-laced audience. A deejay covering their concert mocked the band, which inspired McGuinn and Parsons to write a song, “Drug Store Truck Driving Man,” that appeared on the Byrds’ next album.

By that summer Parsons, who some say was not actually full-fledged member of the band but a contract player, quit the act. There are two versions of his departure. One was that he preferred to hang out in London with the Rolling Stones, or that Parsons left to protest the Byrds’ decision to perform in South Africa.

Parsons’ lead vocals on “The Christian Life”, “You Don’t Miss Your Water”, and “One Hundred Years from Now,” were replaced by McGuinn’s on the first two and with Chris Hillman’s along with McGuinn on the latter.

Since 2003 the Parsons leads have been available, but on Spotify only the original release versions play first–you have to scroll down to find Parsons voice up front on those tracks. McGuinn’s take on “The Christian Life” is a sardonic take of this Louvin Brothers song, found on the now infamous, because of its outlandish album artwork, Satan Is Real collection.

Recently McGuinn had this to say about Parsons vocals on that cut. “I was doing almost a satire on it. I was not a Christian at the time,” he remarked. “Back then, it was kind of tongue-in-cheek. I know the Louvin Brothers meant it when they wrote it and sang it. And Gram meant it. He was a little Baptist boy.”

After Sweetheart Hillman bailed on the Byrds and with Parsons formed the highly-influential Flying Burrito Brothers. After two brilliant country rock albums that sold even worse than Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Parsons was booted from the band because of his excessive drug use and overall unreliability. Parsons’ two seminal solo works, also poor sellers, showcased the talents of the then-virtually unknown Emmylou Harris.

Parsons died in 1973 from a drug overdose. The theft of his body and the makeshift cremation of his remains at what is now Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most bizarre tales you will ever hear.

McGuinn and Hillman, two of the three surviving original Byrds members, David Crosby is the third, are currently on a 50th anniversary tour celebrating the release of Sweetheart, which has already included a performance at the Grand Ole Opry.

As Aesop wrote in the Tortoise and the Hare, ‘Slow and steady wins the race.” As that is the case with Gram Parsons and Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Welcome to Liberal, Kansas

By John Ruberry

“You’re not of the body,” is what Dr. McCoy shouted at his Enterprise officers after being brainwashed in the ways of Landru in the Star Trek episode, The Return of the Archons

The most intolerant people I know are liberals, who I often refer to as leftists.

First a story:. Back in 2007 I visited Liberal, a small city in southwestern Kansas. The Sunflower State is one of the most least liberal states in America, so how did Liberal get its name? According to a Liberal visitors guidebook, a generous 19th century homesteader bucked the trend to charge passersby for water for their livestock. When learning that, it’s said that the travelers would reply, “That’s mighty liberal of you.”

Two nights ago Sarah Huckabee Sanders, President Trump’s press secretary, sat down with members of her family to have dinner at the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia.

Stephanie Wilkinson, the owner of the Red Hen pulled her aside–then asked Sanders to leave because she worked for the president.

In a 21st century way, that was mighty liberal of Wilkinson.

I have another story for you: In the 1980s, Republican governor Jim Thompson was having dinner at a restaurant in the Southwest Side Chicago district of Michael Madigan, a Democrat, who was then, as he is now, the speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives. The restaurateur called Madigan on the telephone and asked, “What do I do?” Madigan replied, “Give him first class treatment.”

That was mighty liberal of Madigan, in the 20th century way.

But in the present day liberals, make that leftists, not only can’t tolerate dissent, they can’t tolerate the very concept of contrary ideas. It devolves into blind delusional hatred, which was first identified by the late Charles Krauthammer in 2003 when he identified Bush Derangement Syndrome as “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency — nay — the very existence of George W. Bush.”

Bush Derangement Syndrome was a mild case of the sniffles among the libs compared to the raging fever that is Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Leftists gather their news from their preferred sources, such as the CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Huffington Post. They congregate in private Facebook groups where no conservatives are allowed. “Aha,” a liberal will scream out while reading my entry, “But don’t you wingnuts do the same thing, getting your news from Fox, the Wall Street Journal, and Breitbart? Don’t you have your own Facebook groups?”

Guilty as charged. But there’s a big difference with our side. The mainstream media leans to the left. Proof? Last week I was channel surfing and both ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel and NBC’s Jimmy Fallon, on their late night comedy shows, were simultaneously attacking Trump’s policies. Of course neither of them were funny.

When I was accompanying my mother, who has since passed away, for her chemotherapy treatments, we’d be subjected to the propaganda from the leftists on The View in the waiting room.

Sports reporting has become politicized. ESPN’s SportCenter dishes out liberalism, as do newspaper sports columnists Nancy Armour of USA Today and the Chicago Tribune’s David Haugh.

Those of us on the right can’t bury our heads in the sand even if we wanted to.

Curt Schilling, a conservative, was immediately fired from ESPN for sharing a Facebook post that was viewed as anti-transgender.

A 2016 poll discovered that liberal and Democrats are three-times more likely to unfriend someone on Facebook over politics as opposed to conservatives. I’ve had good friends I’ve known for years, including a former girlfriend, unfriend me on Facebook because I support Donald Trump and they don’t. I’ve never unfriended anyone on FB over politics. I’ve only blocked abusive people on Twitter–never once over their political views.

Which is why I was not surprised when I heard Sarah Huckabee Sanders walked into the alternative leftist universe of the Red Hen in Virginia, she was told to scram.

Sanders is not of the body. She is not a denizen of the liberal echo chamber.

Finally, I’ll end with a quote. When the 1992 Los Angeles riots raged Rodney King pleaded, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Sanders should have been given first class treatment at the Red Hen, just as any other patron there deserves.

Despite our political differences, Americans still have plenty in common.

Wait! I’m not done. Of course parallels are being drawn between the Sanders booting and the devout Christian Coloradans who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. They view same-sex weddings as a sin. Personally, I believe the bakers should have taken the order with a love-the-sinner-but-hate-the-sin approach.

But our constitution offers religious protections, that are still not completely determined, even after the US Supreme Court ruled in Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Chicago’s “holiday tree” in 2011

By John Ruberry

The War on Christmas, the secular-progressives’ assault on Christmas and yes, religion, is fading away. And Christmas is winning.

In today’s video message to our military, some of whom of course belong to faiths other than Christianity, President Trump beamed, “I just want to wish everybody a very, very Merry Christmas, we say Merry Christmas, again, very, very proudly. Very very Merry Christmas.”

Nearly two years ago then-candidate Donald Trump mused, “When was the last time you saw ‘Merry Christmas?’ You don’t see it any more. They want to be politically correct. If I’m president, you’re going to see ‘Merry Christmas’ in department stores, believe me, believe me. You’re going to see it.”

And you know what, I’ve seen “Merry Christmas” in department stores this year. Yesterday at the end of the weekly meeting at my job my boss, who is Jewish, wished everyone “a very Merry Christmas.”

And I’m hearing more “Merry Christmases” this year than I’ve heard in years. Believe me. I figured this would happen, as I posted in this space on Christmas Day last year.

True, the counter-attack in the War on Christmas goes back at least five years, but Trump is the first prominent politician to embrace it, so the president is entitled to a victory dance as he rocks around the Christmas tree.

Blogger outside of Chicago’s Trump Tower

Closer to home, for me that is, comes this Christmas triumph. In 2011 for the first time there was a “holiday tree” at Chicago’s Daley Plaza. Rahm Emanuel is Chicago’s first Jewish mayor–and he’s also the city’s first secular-progressive one. And it was in his first year in office when the concept of a Chicago Christmas was axed. But this year it’s a Christmas tree again. I’m not sure when the switchback occurred, but it’s ironic to note that a couple of weeks ago the embattled mayor declared Chicago a “Trump-free zone.”

An hour ago, subbing for the usual host on This Week With George Stephanopoulos, Jonathan Karl wished viewers “a Merry Christmas” at the end of the show.

And from Morton Grove, Illinois I will do the same this Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas to you!

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

As far as pilgrimages go, my annual trip to the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro Massachusetts was not an epic journey.  It involved a five minute walk then an hour long bus ride on a luxury motor coach.  On the way we stopped at Wright’s Chicken Farm, which I most highly recommend.  They serve all you can eat chicken and french fries.  Both are outrageously good.

If you’re planning on visiting, I would recommend taking a bus trip.  The shrine is hard to find and the traffic is very bad this time of year.   For those who want to drive there, arrive early and use a good GPS device.  The traffic into the parking lot usually starts to build around 3 pm so I would try to arrive before then.  By 5 pm the traffic is bumper to bumper for miles each time I visited, which was always the Saturday two weeks before Christmas.

There is plenty to do if you arrive early.  They have a nativity museum with over 2000 nativity sets from around the world. The grounds are very peaceful with Christmas music playing over church bells.  At 3 pm they usually have an Christmas concert in the church followed by a mass at 4 pm.

At about 10 minutes to 5 there is a candlelight procession to the large outside manger where a brief prayer service is held.   At exactly 5 pm the lights are turned on.  That is an amazing sight.  This year they have over a half million lights spread over a large area.  The pictures I’m posting only show a very small fraction of the entire display.  It is well worth the trip.

Merry Christmas everyone !!!

Only a clever Human can make a joke about virtue

The Screwtape letters

We interrupt our coverage of Al Franken to talk about…comedy.

If there has been one staple of modern humor from our cultural “betters” it’s been the willingness to belittle and berate Christianity. Over the decades we have seen stand up comics, TV and movies gleefully make Christianity the butt of jokes and insults galore. Nor has Christ himself been immune from bad jokes on Family guy to Jesus as a mythical figure on Southpark in a way that would have been unthinkable just 60 years ago. All of this is protected of course by the 1st Amendment in the same way that my critique of them is and while I am all in favor of rebuking such humor I would not dream of forbidding it.

Now I’m a big fan of comedy from the Three Stooges to Monty Python to Blackadder and I even admire the folks at South Park because they at least are willing to hit everyone equally (They are practically the only folks to hit Islam in the way they’ve hit Christianity) but as a person who has always insisted that the proof that God has a sense of humor is his creation of man it got me thinking. “Can one portray or reference Christ in a humorous non blasphemous way and still be funny?

I thought about it for a while and could only think of three instances over the last 40 years that meet this bill. They now follow in reverse order with the best job of not insulting Christianity, not perverting Christ message and still being funny. Here are are

#3 Mel Brooks The meaning of Life, the private dinner

It’s 33 AD and Mel Brooks is Comicus a “stand up philosopher” who with his friends have escaped execution in Rome and fled to Judea. On their arrival they get employment at an in where Comicus on his first day is assigned to serve at a private party.

Best exchange

Jesus: Yea Yea so you say, but one who sits among us has already betrayed us this night.
Various Disciples: Who? Who? Who Who could it be?
Comicus: [Pointing] Judas! [Judas jumps startled] Would you like a beverage try the Mulled Wine it’s terrific!

Now one might object to the “Jesus!” “What?” exchange but it’s such a mild thing that it doesn’t take away from the Humor or the comedy.

#2 Monty Python The Life of Brian Arms for an ex-leper 1979

Brian and his mother have just left a stoning and pass by several lepers begging along with one ex-leper

Best exchange

Brian: Who cured you?
Ex-Leper: Jesus did, sir. I was hopping along, minding my own business, all of a sudden, up he comes, cures me! One minute I’m a leper with a trade, next minute my livelihood’s gone. Not so much as a by-your-leave! “You’re cured, mate.” Bloody do-gooder.

The quick banter and physical humor of Michael Palin as the ex-leper is great but it’s the writing that makes this work. Jesus doesn’t appear in this sequence at all but the character of the ex-leper is not only funny, but biblical as you might recall from Luke 17 where Jesus cures 10 lepers and one of them comes back in thanks and Jesus exclaims in verse 17 and 18

“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”

I can’t speak for the other eight but as far as the Monty Python crowd is concerned one is wishing he still had a better begging selling point than being an ex-leper.

 #1  Mad TV 1998  Movie Trailer  Terminator 3  The Greatest Action Story Ever Told

Arnold returns as the Terminator is sent back in time to protect one of the most figures in history however the man he is trying to protect is not willing to dodge his destiny.

This is a complete winner. The production value of this skit very high for a TV show, it’s well written but most importantly there is not a single part of this skit that isn’t hilarious from the Terminator’s encounter with the wise men in Bethlehem, to the final line (“Don’t worry, he’ll be back.”) said to a wailing woman as Jesus carries his cross. Even more amazingly there is not a single scene that either mocks the Christian message nor perverts the message and mission of Jesus.

This is best illustrated by the best exchange and funniest scene Arnold/Terminator breaks into the last Supper repeatedly killing Judas while an increasingly frustrated Jesus keeps healing him while trying to explain that it’s necessary for it to happen for the salvation of the human race. The entire exchange is classic but his bit in the middle is just incredible

Jesus: Stop! Stop Killing Judas!
The Terminator: But he’s going to betray you.
Jesus: I know! Look look I’ve got a lot on my mind right now and you’re really starting to stress me out Ok? OK!

Not only is it absolutely hilarious but it fits in so perfectly with the scriptural anguish that Jesus is going through My soul is sorrowful even to death.” MT 26:38, MK 14:34 ” He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.)” Luke 22:44 that it even becomes poignant reminder of what Christ went through spiritually to save man, in the same what that the Passion of the Christ on a much grander scale illustrated what he went though physically.

This is a pretty long list for a period of 40 years but as Lewis said through screwtape it takes a really clever person to make a joke about virtue and our culture and despite the high opinion people of today have for themselves, as a culture we are not as clever as we once were.

But if you can think of a skit or scene that fits the bill that I might have missed, feel free to include it is comments.

Drug cartels have a full panoply of false gods.

The best-known in the wide-ranging and impressive array is Our Lady of the Assassins, made famous by a popular novel that was later made into a movie. She’s also known as Santa Muerte, a grim reaper figure which even turned up in Breaking Bad,

The most recent is The Infant Huachicolero, essentially a baby Jesus with a jerry can, an image promoted by gangs in Puebla, Mexico. Huachicoleros illegally tap oil pipelines, stealing fuel for cheap resale – a business which, according to the BBC, has become Mexico’s second-biggest organized crime after drug trafficking.

A Google search for religious imagery and drug cartels yields almost 250,000 results, among them Know Your Narco Saints: The Religious Iconography of the Drug Trade

Some of these figures are true “Narco-Saints,” forthright patrons of illegal acts. Others are simply saints that narcos pray to, holy figures asked to intercede in unholy doings. Even Jesus and Mary are not considered beyond the pale.

It’s hardly surprising that cartels would be willing to exploit this tradition of the Catholic Church for their purposes. For instance, San Ramon Nonato (Saint Raymond Nonnatus), patron saint

of the the secrecy of the confessional, of priests keeping their mouths shut. In narco culture, that secrecy is extended to more secular arenas. Namely, police interview rooms and witnesses boxes at the courthouse. “If you get arrested you’re gonna pray to this saint hoping that your witness or whoever is gonna testify against you will be silent and keep the secret of your dirty deed,” says Garza. Petitioners sometimes offer padlocks at San Ramon’s altar, or place tape across his mouth.

How better to broadcast the message “keep your mouth shut”?

Juliette points out for the need to fill the space of your soul, and she quotes Mark Steyn’s essay, The Triumph of Amoral Will, (emphasis added)

A republic requires virtue, and the decline of virtue is accompanied necessarily by the decline of the concept of evil, and its substitution by exculpatory analysis of the “motives” of evil. A more useful conversation would be on what it takes to remove the most basic societal inhibition – including the instinctive revulsion that would prevent most of us from taking the lives of strangers, including in this case eighteen-month-old babies.

Like at the cartels,

That inhibition is weaker in the dar al-Islam, because of Islam’s institutional contempt for “the other” (unbelievers) but also because of the rewards promised in the afterlife. Thus, violence is sanctioned by paradise. That is the precise inversion of our society, and yet the weakening of inhibition seems to be proceeding here, too.

“One should not underestimate the effectiveness of cultural pressures,” Steyn states. Whether in dar-al-Islam or narcostates or anywhere, when the culture eliminates virtue, a republic cannot sustain itself.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

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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