In a 1978 segment of Saturday Night Live, Co-anchor Jane Curtin welcomed a new member to our Update team, the former All-Star second baseman for the New York Mets, Chico Escuela. Chico, a Dominican ballplayer, deftly played by Garret Morris has a thick Dominican accent and speaks very little English. He starts by saying Thank you, berry, berry much. … Base-ball … been berry, berry good to me. … Thank you, Hane. …
I can easily second Chico appreciation of how good baseball has been. Especially for a young boy trying hard to get a focus on life and his place in it.
In 1950 my father took me to see John Wayne in The Sands of Iwo Jima in 1950.
Even at age seven, though I found war movies exciting, my concept of hero was reserved more for the baseball diamond than any tale of sanguinary combat.
The Brooklyn Dodgers were the darling underdogs of the 1950s. While they won a number of pennants, they always lost to the Yankees in the World Series — until 1955.
While all the Dodgers were heroes that year, to my adolescent mind, the quiet Kentuckian at shortstop, Pee Wee Reese represented to me everything a hero should be.
He was the team’s leader and he played the game with the same grace and dignity that my contemporaries in St. Louis must have seen in Stan The Man Musial.
These were the players that writer, Roger Kahn called the Boys of Summer. To me they were my men for all seasons.
When Reese was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1984, I was there to honor him.
As a player I calculate that I only had 50 at bats, which might be considered a part of an organized baseball game. Most of my experience was playing with a few friends but hardly ever in a game with two nine-man teams.
My success rate for those games was 12-50, for an even .280 mark, mediocre at best. I could run and I was a fearful but determined player at 3rd base, my favorite position. I had one bunt single and only two extra base hits. One year I did steal 7/8 bases. A perfect throw nailed me at third base.
Two derivatives came from my baseball participation. During my 8th Grade team in 1957, we had a single man coach us and I use the word coach loosely. I don’t remember any practices or teaching. He basically kept order and assigned who would play where. One night before a game, he called me and asked ME if I would take over the team for the next game. I was only 13 years old! The first thing I did was recruit my neighbor who was a year below me in our school and therefore eligible to play. Gerry lived just down the block and if I had a best friend while I was growing up, he was it. I knocked out his two front teeth during a roller hockey game years later.
With Gerry on the mound and me at shortstop we prevailed 5-3 and I had my first victory as a manager.
I spent most of my adolescent years in the country, staying with my maiden Aunt Mal as we called her. With my country friend a Jewish boy from the Bronx, named Stevie Gardos I played all kinds of ball. One year we organized a team to play the older boys from Coolidge Trail. They had such intimidating names as Butch, Whitey, Spider and his younger brother Hoss. Two of their Jewish players were known as Big Beak and Little Beak, names than not even Roger Kahn could have conjured.
We played four games and we did win one of them. That was the game I recruited another pitcher. This fellow was a lanky Italian who had played freshman ball at LaSalle HS not too far from my Xavier HS.
Little did I know that these childhood experiences had prepared me for coaching my two sons and well over a 100 young boys in a modestly competitive league, the Ladue Baseball League, which I served with pride for 13 years. I once calculated my composite record as 110-48 and I can still remember many of the losses.
Several years prior to Pee Wee’s induction (1973-74) I taught what is arguably the first accredited Baseball History course in the Midwest at then Maryville College in Suburban St. Louis. James Cool Papa Bell, a player from the old Negro Leagues who later enshrined in Cooperstown was my guest speaker.
My first choice had been the aforementioned Roger Kahn but I never heard from him until the following year when he was in town promoting his BOS. While it was too late for him to speak we did have a wonderful leisurely dinner before I drove him to the radio station for his interview. The class also warranted an invitation from NBC’s Today Show. I spent an exciting 3 and half minutes with Gene Shalit on May 9, 1974.
Local sportswriter, Bob Broeg who is honored in the Cooperstown Hall of Fame in the writers’ wing started calling me the professor of Baseball. I turned it around so that the sobriquet has been part of my identity ever since. It is part of who I am. I treasure that name and have used it ever since in my e-mail ID and on my vanity license plates. I officially registered it as a service mark over 30 years ago.
It was at Pee Wee’s induction that I got the idea for the St. Louis Browns Fan Club, an organization that is still going strong, despite the demise of most of its players, who now number a mere 19 out of 795 men who wore the uniform from 1902-53. It is truly a dying franchise since it is the only team name that has been stricken from the modern history of baseball, save the short-lived Seattle Pilots who moved to Milwaukee in 1970 after just one season.
On August 17, 2015 the St. Louis Cardinals honored my fan club with a night at Busch Stadium. We had 200 people buy tickets. Our Cardinals’ host, Brian Finch regaled us with an informative history of the Browns. This was quite a big step since the relation between the two teams was never that good when they were rivals for the affections of the St. Louis public.
The owner of the Cardinals, William DeWitt II has a very strong interest in the Browns. His father owned them when he was a little boy. It was his small uniform that they used to clothe the most famous pinch-hitter in baseball history, the 3’7” Eddie Gaedel who had one major league at bat. As Casey Stengel used to say, you could look it up.
While my participation in the game has waned as I have grown older, my passion for the game is still vibrant. When Walter O’Malley broke a 13-year old boy’s heart with his move of the Dodgers to the Gold Coast for the 1958 season I longed for a team like them.
While the New York Mets probably have broken my aging heart more times than the Dodgers ever did and no player can compare to Pee Wee, save maybe Tommy Terriffic, I feel strongly that God is in His Heaven and all is right with my world.
This past month’s experiences with the Kansas City Royals underscored that my ability to feel and experience the thrill and abject pain of a bitter and devastating defeat at the hands and bats of a superior team has not lessened in any way. Though it hurt badly, I do not want to lose the inner ability to feel because it is part of what makes us human. Baseball brings it out every April and October.
I must confess that saying grace before meals was never a common practice for me as a child or even while my wife and I raised our three children. Grace was something reserved for Christmas, Easter and family celebrations at home. My failure to make it a habit has resulted in some embarrassing moments. When breaking bread with the tallest deacon in the St. Louis Archdiocese, the late Hall of Fame basketball player, Ed Macauley some years ago, I had a mouthful of tuna salad when Easy Ed lowered his head and started to pray.
Another time at lunch my oldest child, Mark surprised me when he bowed his head just as I started to bite into my tuna sandwich. It was not quite the old adage of the son being father to the man but it did strike home. His wife is a convert and she has always impressed me with her moving extemporaneous prayers before our family gatherings. The few times I dared to emulate her resulted in nothing better than the perfunctory Bless us O Lord… As an aside It has taken years of extemporaneous practice for me to final reach a stage where I think I am in Patti’s league.
While saying grace is a small thing in the overall religious scope of things, I am proud of my son and my daughter-in-law for setting me such a good example. While the Biblical story of the Publican and Pharisee warn against making little things the center of our faith, in this case the exact opposite ring true. My father used to lecture me on not being wasteful, whether it was two minutes of electricity or throwing away perfectly good scrap paper. He also said if I took care of the cents the dollars will take care of themselves. If more Catholics took care of the little acts of devotion like saying grace and saying the rosary I doubt we would have to worry so much about following the Church teachings on some more serious subjects like abortion, euthanasia or embryonic stem cell research.
On her deathbed St. Therese of Lisieux worried that the other members of her order would grieve too much over her death. She believed that everything is grace, one’s death. She instructed her caregivers to treat her dying as a gift from God, that is another moment of grace in their lives. A Catholic columnist echoed her sentiments when he asked, why stop with grace before meals? He suggested that we say grace before every activity that we perform and take advantage of an unlimited number of opportunities for opening our hearts and maybe those of others to the Divine Will of God.
This is a profound idea that reminded me of my orientation for the Catholic Lay Extension Volunteers in 1965 at Barat College in Chicago. One day we attended a lecture by Sister Charles Borromeo. She taught us about the 8th Sacrament. Consistent with Church teaching, she defined a sacrament as a visible sign instituted by Christ to give grace. She said that the 8th sacrament was the human person and it was the only sacrament that everyone in the world could receive, no matter if they were Catholic.
As far out as that may sound, after all it was the 60s, she made an interesting point. I believe she anticipated the columnist who advised seeing everything as an opportunity for grace. This revolutionary idea can literally sanctify every moment of our lives. It can also force us to focus on how our actions and our words affect other people. No action or word is ever neutral. They either push us closer to our divine destination or lead us away from God.
There is also such a thing as satanic grace. We can lead others astray by scandal or by enabling them to rationalize their bad behavior. That is why it is so important that Catholics stand up for the truth of the faith at all times. All this should leave us with the new challenge to bless us oh Lord before all our daily activities, not just a tuna salad lunch. Then everything we do and everyone we meet will be another gift of grace from God.
I have to chuckle every time my fellow Catholics pray for world peace. It reminds me of an irreverent bumper sticker I saw years ago that encouraged us to pray for whirled peas. While praying for universal peace is a noble gesture, the thought of actually achieving real world peace on this deeply flawed earth is a fruitless exercise in self-delusion.
Peace on earth will never be possible because of what philosopher Emanuel Kant called the crooked timber of humanity. Wars, violence and other human evils are a regrettable but undeniable part of the human condition. Like the poor, wars will always be with us. To pretend that we can eliminate them is foolhardy and a sign of the materialistic disease of the spirit that has infected our culture.
Fantasies are fine for football leagues or poetry recitals but in the real world, utopian goals can only serve to distract us from our eternal destiny. In chasing such windmills of the heart as peace on earth, many of us have lost our moral equilibrium.
On the way to Sunday Mass, I often remark about how religious all the runners, bikers and other exercise fanatics are with their physical regimens. They are out there every Sunday and on many weekdays in all kinds of hot and inclement weather. What dedication they show for maintaining their sleek bodies. I can’t help wondering if they pay as much attention to their souls.
Our country is a sick society–morally sick amid a cornucopia of boredom, violence and material excess. We are restless and unhappy with the state of our society yet we can’t understand why. We have developed a propensity for ignoring the spiritual causes of our maladies that have given rise to a victimhood philosophy that has sapped the very strength of the American spirit, giving rise to a litany of social and moral pathologies such as pornography, infidelity, homosexual marriage, abortion and euthanasia. In other words we are knee-deep in a culture of death and the faucet is wide open.
To offset the emptiness in our souls we have vainly attempted to fill it with a culture awash in a flood of sex, exercise, weight reduction programs, jogging, marathons and spa visits to the extent that our lean bodies, which have become our personal idols, stand it stark contrast to our empty souls! This painfully evokes strong Biblical images of whiten sepulchers filled with dead man’s bones. Too many of us have substituted neuroses and psychoses for our venial and mortal sins. We often try to medicate away our feelings of inner conflict.
This is just one facet of the imbalance or the lost of moral homeostasis that our society has created. Just watch television or attend the local Cineplex. It is difficult not to see the nihilism perpetuated in the anti-heroes of the silver screen or on the average sitcom each evening on TV.
I used to read all of Robert Ludlum’s novels many years ago until I noticed that his characters and vapid plots always seemed to meld into a seamless garment of emptiness and despair. His protagonists, more energetic but less philosophical than Hemingway’s existentialist code hero, recognized no other power than their own physical skills or mental acumen. Ludlum’s heroes, especially the long-lived Jason Bourne, had no religious or moral faith. In that he reflected the barren spirituality of our own times. The current and ever-popular Lee Child’s protagonist, the infamous Jack Reacher is cut from the same amoral whole cloth.
Before the advent of the shrink’s couch and confessional TV, like Mother Oprah, philosophers stressed the need for keeping equilibrium between the spirit and the body. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, whose TV show Life Is Worth Living used to be more popular than Mr. Television himself, Milton Berle’s show in the 1950s, warned that peace of soul was the only way to rid society of many of its psychological afflictions.
A few presidential candidates, such as Michael Huckabee and Dr. Benjamin Carson seem to be saying the same thing. Bishop Sheen constantly admonished Americans for standing outside the psychiatrist’s’ office when they should be kneeling inside the confessional.
Life in America has become so busy and so demanding that it is too easy to lose sight of our ultimate goal. Like Ludlum’s characters, too many of us never stop to contemplate the question all men and women must ultimately confront — the universal eschatology of what happens at death?
Gen. John Black Jack Pershing underscored this nearly forgotten reality when he challenged his troops, as they embarked from the New Jersey piers in 1918 en route to the war in Europe to consider the three possible outcomes of their service — Heaven, Hell or Hoboken.
Yoga has always fascinated me though I am not certain what possessed me to take some lessons. Quite possible it could be just another thing I had never tried and wanted to before I became too old to do so—maybe a bucket list entry.
I knew very little about it except that it had something to do with Hinduism, breathing and quiet time. Its advocates always looked graceful and even mysterious in performing all their various positions and exercises. That should have dissuaded me from even thinking about it.
I have been taking Yoga for well over a year. I knew I did not want to take a class with a sorority of women, not because of their sex but because I knew I would not be able to keep up with them because of my age and a minor case of rigor mortis.
I am amazed how women can bend and twist into positions that would delight a contortionist. But that’s natural for them. Anyone whose body is designed to give birth to a football-sized being can do Yoga in her sleep.
So I arranged for private lessons at the local Yoga and Pilates studio. Its primitive conditions disqualify it from ever calling itself a spa. First of all there is no separate locker facilities for men and women.
I wonder what the gender equality mavens would say about that. In fact there isn’t a facility for either of us. When I change into something more suitable I have to use the only restroom in the place.
When I first entered the Y&P, it reminded me of some of the very narrow Italian restaurants in New York City that seem to be a block long and a doorway wide. The room appears even smaller when filled with a receptionist desk, and two lines of Pilate’s machines. Students use these to stretch and sometimes inflict self-damage. I quickly learned to prefer the touch of the live instructor.
For my instructor they paired me with Valerie, a lithe and deceptively strong and shapely woman with beautiful silver hair and an infectious smile that betrayed a nurturing soul. She was exactly what this old dog or is it down dog needed! From the first moment she twisted and bent me, I think we had a kind of mentor/disciple simpatico.
I think she had been an occupational therapist or had worked in a pretzel factory before she heeded her true calling in life. Val is as equally at home discussing the mysticism of Franciscan Father Richard Rohr, as she is the Biblical imperative of the fictitious Lisbeth Salander.
To make things even more private we have virtually all of our sessions up in the Loft, a semi-private, unenclosed though elevated section of the restaurant I mean studio where they hide their worst students, mostly the men. I was happy for the privacy venue because Yoga has an intimacy to it, not unlike massage therapy, except in Yoga you usually have clothes on.
I have read about some people who actually do all the Yoga positions in the Nude. I mean being free, natural and uninhibited is fine but they have to admit that some of their positions lend themselves to full exposure of every appendage, crack and crevice the human body has. Perhaps this variation is the direct result of what my daughter takes—Hot Yoga, where they turn the thermostat up to 750 Fahrenheit.
Personally Yoga is one thing I want as much support and protection as I can get. In fact after working out in shorts and a tee the first two times, I decided to adopt the attire that most of the women used. They all seemed so comfortable and moved so easily in their tights. Surprisingly most of the ladies wore just black tights.
Maybe it had something to do with evolution or body consciousness. But as a male I feel compelled to dress in more colorful plumage though I am well past my mating game years.
So a shopping I did go! O. K. my first two pair were black. But the third one was a beautiful royal blue Under Armour pair of tights in a snakeskin design. They are so cool!! To date they are still my favorite.
It seems that my exercise wardrobe is not complete until I have one for nearly every day of the week. What followed was a silver snakeskin tight, a camo black and blue pattern, and a tasteful-done plain navy blue that can be worn for more formal affairs like weddings and funerals. I am into tights so deeply that when I see a well-rounded woman in colorful tights, I am tempted to ask her is where she bought them.
For my 72nd birthday my only daughter told her mother that she had a surprise for me. But neither of them would tell me. Come the night of my party, I approached said daughter and asked her what my surprise was.
She would not answer. Is it a pony? She shook her head! A motorboat–I always wanted a motorboat! No! How about a new car. I really need a new car. Same answer. Some fur-lined tights? No answer.
Well I just decided to end the mystery and open the box. Staring me in the face was my first Yoga outfit, replete with matching shirt and jacket…a Yoga ensemble! No fur but that wasn’t really necessary…too itchy… No pony, motorboat or car keys. Four choices not bad!
And what cool tights they are…a medium dark green with a lime border. I don’t do well with greens and blues since I was diagnosed with traditional white male bl/gr color blindness a few years ago, which was 45 years after my wife told me I was color-blinded. It is not official until the doctor says so! I have worn them a few times already and noticed that they seem to exaggerate my manhood a little more than any the others. Maybe that’s why they are fast becoming my favorites.
Up until my birthday, I guess my silver tights were the sexiest. I had just seen an old Richard Gere movie, Breathless, which displayed more of his naked body than it did any nascent acting ability. This way before he started playing, fully clothed, brooding, angry and intellectual roles.
The movie was really terrible but what sold it for me were his frequent dialogues and personality exposures while reading comic books about the Silver Surfer, one of the lesser known action heroes.
When he would finish one he would do this Elvis-like gyrations of his hips, with his finger pointed, collar up and eyes cast down that was liken to John Travolta’s manly walk near the end of the movie Pulp Fiction. Not only was it very manly, it was an energizing tonic to an old man like me, wearing silver tights in public.
There are only a few other men that I see when I go to the Y&P. If my mother were alive and I told her I was going to the Y&P she would ask me to pick up a loaf of bread and a bottle of milk. Most of these other guys seem to be a few years older than me. They usually wear regular clothes or maybe long ugly shorts.
They look very uncomfortable to me. One works with Val just before me. I was up on the landing leading to the loft because someone else was up there, doing my stretching, bending and twisting to the virtual enjoyment of not a one among the gaggle of women sweating and grimacing below me. So I could watch him and the women of course.
I later told her that she should suggest he get some tights or something better suited for Yoga. She told me that she had no interest in seeing this 77-year-old Harvard brain surgeon in tights. Of all her male students and maybe a few females, she said I was the only one who could pull it off. Surely she did not mean the tights because they can be difficult and even dangerous to remove.
In fact one time I almost took her words literally. After she has finished cleaning and sanitizing the mats we have used, Valerie lets me change up in the Loft after my session. Funny I noticed all the other students, men included seem to have to clean up after themselves with handy spray bottles, filled with bleach, disinfectant, and antibiotics. Only once has she asked me to do that. I think I will add pampering to nurturing.
I have a modest way of stripping while there are a half-dozen women just below me, mostly of sight. I sit on my shirt and then in one swift movement I yang them off, underarmoured shorts and all…only this time they got caught around my ankles and I almost fell to the floor.
If I had hurt myself, unable to move and started screaming, a room full of women would have quickly come to my rescue and found me, lying on the carpet with my modesty around my ankles. A fantasy or nightmare?
Another time I noticed that the doctor was limping a lot. I asked Valerie if he had that limp when he first came in. That’s relevant because the one downside to Yoga is the pain. I know the adage—no pain, no gain.
If that is true I must be far ahead of the pack because Val works me so hard and so thoroughly that there is not one muscle, bone, nor hank of hair that has ever escaped her physically demanding routines. At times her level of exercise rivals that of a medieval rack, chain and rope…even when she is being easy on me.
I should be flattered that she has encouraged me to push the cart of my limitations to the edge of the cliff. I can tell that is true by how much more flexible my limbs have become. I can get into some positions that should be unnatural for a man. My feet can get cozy with parts of my body that had not touched since the womb.
Surprisingly I can do some of the basic positions with aplomb and maybe if I dare say finesse if not grace, such as the up and down dog, the plank, forward fold, cat, cow and table top to name but a few.
One time when Valerie was trying to get me to separate my legs from my torso, with out the benefit of any horses, she told me to imagine I was at the gynecologist’s office. Now when I was first married I took my wife there several times but I never ventured past the waiting room. I told Val that if she introduced stirrups, I was out of there. Come to think of it we have used a Pilate that does resemble stirrups.
When at last we are nearly the end of the hour, Valerie brings me down from my lazy man’s high with a gentle neck massage, soft and relaxing words of peace and harmony until she tells me to wiggle my toes and my feet and roll slowly to one side. We both sit up with our legs in the Lotus position, hands folded upwards and say a short prayer. Since we are both Catholic it becomes a celebration of God’s gift of life rather than any Buddhist incantation. Then a hug and maybe a quick peck and we are finished for the week.
Why do I call it Polish Yoga? Many years ago someone told me the story of a man, named Joe Yamikoski standing in the street and hitting himself in the head with a hammer. When asked why, he said because it feels so good when I stop!
Every Latin student had to read Caesar’s Gallic Wars in sophomore year of high school. In English the translation succinctly began: all Gaul is divided into three parts—Gallia Celtica, Belgica and Aquitania.
Today the United States has become divided into just two different sets of diametrically opposed camps of revolutionary ideas. The first began in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago and the other arguably goes back to a fruit tree in the first Garden.
Virtually all ideas of revolutionary change have sprung from their wellspring. We use mainly easy terms, such as left and right or possibly liberal and conservative. Even they have their own derivatives, such as Marxism, Communism, Progressivism, traditionalism and so on.
Like, dramas they are all just variations on a theme
Since the Biblical Fall of Man the world has been caught in a maelstrom of revolutionary fervor that has bifurcated the pages of history into a brace of conflicting ideas that have set the world on fire.
These intellectual wars have assumed many new skins, pigmentation and hues over the centuries. The early Christians found their nascent faith under attack from the religion’s first notable heresy, Gnosticism, an elitist faith that assigned special privilege to the chosen few whose intuitive knowledge would rule the world.
This early conflict evolved into a formidable conflict that St. Augustine called the City of God versus the City of Man. In today’s parlance this plays as traditionalism vs. relativity.
In the 18th century the French Revolution attempted to remake the world and with it change the moral nature of mankind. This was the most revolutionary idea to come down the path since Jesus Christ instituted a new religion that promised, not an earthly paradise but a future life with the Triune God in a kingdom with many mansions.
This pie in the sky was repulsive to the intellectuals of the French coffeehouses and the soirées that proclaimed a new world of Liberty, Fraternity and Equality. The French Revolution gave life and sustenance to a squad of imitation revolutions in Russia, Asia and Africa.
The heirs to this thinking later conceptualized their dogma into Marxism, Socialism, Liberalism and Progressivism all of which attempted to create a utopian paradise that promised more a new Eden, a veritable garden of earthly delights. As quickly as inchoate utopias cropped up, they were dashed on the rocks of reality.
In the United States it was the brilliant socialist, Robert Croly, whose book, The Promise of American Life, published in 1907, created a reliable paradigm that has propelled progressives in this country into the driver’s seat amid a declining Christendom.
His new thought turned American thinking on its head and led to the breakdown of a 1000 years of Western Civilization.
To effect this Croly melded the Big Government philosophy of Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, designed specifically to establish American capitalism with the agrarian philosophy of Thomas Jefferson that despised government of any kind and sought to sustain the farming class.
By turning this part of the American giveness on its head, Croly succeeded in establishing a historic paradigm where a political elite used the power of big government to help and entitle millions of the poor and indigent.
In the 20th century these ideas assumed the shape and form a full-fledged war of two distinct cultures. On the one side was the traditional thinking of Western Civilization with its profound respect for law, marriage, sexual morality, the family and private property.
The left countered with a relativistic morass of moral relativism that produced a moral and spiritual chaos of spirit that will impact the United States for generations to come.
Barack Obama was the first Democratic president to push the envelope of checks and balances off the table of reality to accelerate this transformation.
As president Obama has played his part as a country disorganizer like a virtuoso. He has religiously followed the primary rules of his posthumous mentor, Saul Alinsky’s in giving power, not to the Princes but to the poor.
In seven very dangerous years he has stabilized the abortion industry as a veritable American institution. He has promoted gay culture to the extent that homosexuals have a veto power over the free practice of property rights and religious freedom.
He has brought more social democracy to America and with it, higher taxes, draconian relegations, a decline in the private economy and investment, the transfer of millions of jobs to public unions and billions to crony supporters.
Law enforcement has declined to the extent that policemen are afraid to do their jobs for fear of Justice Department prosecutions. Public safety has mirrored this with a huge increase of murders in all major metropolitan areas as gangs, many composed of illegal immigrants, roam with impunity.
Under Obama the left way of thinking has won several battles on several cultural fronts. As hard as valiant traditionalists have fought the battle, the left has too many willing accomplices in academia, the mainstream media and every level of government that it feels a kinship in as George Armstrong Custer was in South Dakota.
Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United States has also underscored how vast the transformation of American culture has come. His attacks on capitalism and free trade, as well as his calls for economic equality in an unequal world, not only world betrays a vast ignorance of how prosperity is created but smacks more of Karl than it does Jesus.
Despite his bromides about taking care of the planet, his acceptance of the unsubstantiated and an agenda-driven theory of made-man climate change.
In doing so the pope has put his papal power and moral authority in league with a legion of population control fanatics, abortionists, euthanasia promoters and death panel advocates, putting the pope’s beloved poor at greater risk.
Noted economist, Thomas Sowell points out how little the pope understands the root causes and solutions for poverty. In the 1980s the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, published a document, entitled Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy. This document has worked at cross-purposes with the traditional teachings of the Church and the prosperity and culture of the United States.
The specifics of the Pastoral Letter reflect far more of the secular Enlightenment of the 18th century than they do Catholic traditions. Archbishop Weakland admitted that such an Enlightenment figure as Thomas Paine is now coming back through a strange channel.
Perhaps some of the Cardinals and bishops are unaware that Paine rejected the teachings of any church that I know of, including the Church of Rome. To base social or moral principles on the philosophy of the 18th-century Enlightenment and then call the result Catholic teachings is disingenuous and unworthy of any Catholic prelate.
This set of secular ideas does nothing to predispose the traditional faithful to the sermons, admonitions and teachings of Pope Francis. It anything it further divided the Catholic Church.
The Ideological left in the Vatican blithely throw around the phrase the poor, blaming poverty on what other people are doing to or for the poor. According to Dr. Sowell it is not poverty, but prosperity, that needs explaining.
Consider which has a better track record of helping the less fortunate — fighting for a bigger slice of the economic pie, or producing a bigger pie? In 1900, only 3 percent of American homes had electric lights but more than 99 percent had them before the end of the century.
Infant mortality rates were 165 per thousand in 1900 and 7 per thousand by 1997. A scholar specializing in the study of Latin America said that the official poverty level in the United States is the upper middle class in Mexico.
The much maligned market economy of the United States has done far more for the poor than the ideology of the left.
Poverty is a natural given but prosperity requires many things — none of which is equally distributed around the world or even within a given society.
Geographic settings are radically different, both among nations and within nations—especially climate factors. So are demographic differences, with some nations and groups having a median age over 40 and others having a median age under 20.
Pope Francis’ own native Argentina was once among the leading economies of the world, before it was ruined by the kind of ideological notions of social democracy he is now promoting around the world.
This means that some groups have several times as much adult work experience as others. Cultures are also radically different in many ways, especially in the way they approach work, development, education and personal responsibility.
As economic historian David S. Landes said, The world has never been a level playing field.
No one can make that a reality. But they can do is turn the world into an armed camp or a one world dictatorship that will splintered apart before the ink on any agreement has dried.
This is all the result of the loss of the Garden–or what David Hume called the twisted timber of mankind.
The new millennium began with the devastating and psychologically damaging attacks on 9/11, followed by a decade of lost and confusing wars on terror, amidst the general decline of American cultural life. This has given many cause to revisit our fundamental religious beliefs with a new urgency.
Years ago Robert Fulghum wrote a best seller entitled, Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten. I can top him easily! His book reminded me of the third question in my first-grade religion book, the sorely missed Baltimore Catechism. Succinctly, it asked Why did God make me? This may be an elementary question but it is one pregnant with deep philosophical and theological mysteries that have sparked bitter debates, wars and persecutions for two millennia.
The answer my 6-year-old mind was given was To know, love and serve Him in this life and be happy with Him in the next life. It is a simple yet profound thought that provokes serious soul-searching into the meaning and direction of one’s life. If we really believe it, everything else we do, crave, strive for, lust after or sell our souls for to paraphrase St. Thomas Aquinas on his 14th-century deathbed, is cotton candy.
I wonder how many of the 50 Catholic 6-year olds that learned this basic question with me in 1949 still believe its inherent wisdom. Given the intellectual and moral drift of this past half century, I fear not too many. American cultural life has suffered a regression that has warped our very institutions, such as our Constitution, political process, the sacrament of marriage and even the meaning of the English language.
Thanks to the putative rigidity of some religious strictures and a long-range decline in organized religion and its devotions and practices, the left has made measured progress in the unfinished business of the French Revolution’s subversion and relegation of all religious values to the ashcan of history.
Most Americans are essentially seekers, looking for that spiritual lift that will help them get through the dark nights of doubt, fear and insecurity that plague mostly everyone. Without the support of religion and a moral compass, they are left to flounder aimlessly on a beach of doubt and despair. Unfortunately millions of Americans have chosen the winding, lazy road of shallow thinking and empty spirituality to fill the existential void the decline of religion has created.
In search of an inner holiness they have substituted a New Age spirituality for the black-and-white honesty of the Baltimore Catechism. Their refrain of I’m OK, you’re OK is nothing more than a jargon of psychobabble that provides nothing more than the warm and fuzzy feeling of thinking oneself a good person for helping the poor build a house or two.
Too many pride themselves on these good feelings while ignoring a slough of sordid personal behaviors that would make a Marine blush.
A real commitment to the Catholic faith and a mature belief in the afterlife has seemingly descended into the dark void of society’s self-consciousness. This trend is arguably in league with the world’s pagan forbears, who made gods out of the sun, rivers and anything in nature that they feared or respected. In doing so they have lost sight of their reasons for being born.
We have forgotten the Baltimore Catechism because few teach it any more. The sad fact is that without the longstanding anchor the catechism once provided, it is just too easy for people to float adrift with nothing more than their own petty selves to cling to.
Having lost or discarded the basic metaphysical knowledge in the third question of the catechism, too many Catholics have no clue why their lives don’t seem to make any sense. Unless the Church returns to that vital third question in the Baltimore Catechism, there will be little hope for any real progress in human rights and the end of futile wars.
German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche made quite a stir in the late 19th century when he informed the world, God is dead! Most people have misunderstood what he meant. He wasn’t saying that God had lived then died. Nietzsche meant that He was irrelevant. In his sophisticated world of progressive thinking, no one of any education, intelligence or cultural breeding believed in God any more, so He was as good as dead.
A parallel situation evolved during the late 20th century. One of the essential teachings of the Catholic Church is that each individual has been blessed with an immortal soul that was created in the image and likeness of God.
America’s cultural elite has focused its new militancy on completing the work of Satanic disciples, such as Nietzsche by dedicating themselves to the final destruction of all the superstitious remnants of Christian belief. Their latest target has been the destruction of belief in the human soul.
To accomplish their final victory, atheistic scientists had to conjure a way to kill the soul. According to their approach all man’s emotions, feelings and morality were mere sense impressions, which is the spontaneous result of biochemical changes.
This new strategy first became apparent in 1996 when Forbes magazine published Thomas Wolfe’s essay, Sorry but your soul just died. His article defined the boundaries for the final battle by focusing on brain imaging, the new technology that watches the human brain as it functions in real-time.
While brain imaging was invented for diagnostic reasons, Wolfe underscored its importance for broaching metaphysical and eschatological issues, such as the complex mysteries of personhood, the self, the soul and free will. He envisioned that neuroscience would have an enormous impact on how people viewed life, death and other human beings.
He predicted that this new science was on the threshold of a unified theory that will have an impact as powerful as that of Darwinism 100 years ago.
The debate over man’s soul dates back to 17th century French philosopher Rene Descartes’ dictum Cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am). Traditionalists have always regarded his maxim as indicative of man’s dual nature of body and soul.
This gave rise to the ghost in the machine fallacy, the notion that there is a spiritual self somewhere inside the brain that directs and interprets its operations. Wolfe’s article challenged this idea, stating that neuroscience proved there is not even any one place in the human brain where consciousness or self-consciousness is located.
According to Wolfe, science and pharmacology have replaced religious faith and devotion by altering the chemistry of the brain, which also dulled the moral sense. Echoing Nietzsche, Wolfe predicted that the next generation would believe the soul, the last refuge of values, is dead because educated people no longer believe it exists. Wolfe believes that the soul for the next generation will occupy the same intellectual realm as witches and warlocks.
It is also clear that the death of the soul movement is symptomatic of a larger scheme. Cryogenics, the freezing of the dead so that medical science can later resurrect them, is a part of transhumanism, a utopian attempt to establish man’s earthly immortality.
To fill the void created by the alleged death of the soul, these modern Doctor Frankensteins have sacralized the earth and made man’s body the object of immortalization. So while they believe man does not have an eternal soul, his body through scientific discovery and manipulation can eventually achieve earthly immortality.
This effectively flips Christianity on its head. It is another and maybe more dangerous attempt to replace an eternal God with an eternal man, who is the fulfillment of the serpent’s promise of you shall be like gods, in the Garden of Eden.
How important is it for us to understand and oppose this new attack? If science can eliminate the immortal soul, then Christ’s death, Resurrection and our entire Catholic faith are all in vain.
Cartoonist Gary Larson’s Far Side once portrayed a herd of deer gathered around one of their number with an unfortunate bull’s eye on his chest. Another deer remarked that’s a bummer of a birthmark! Faithful Catholics are like that deer. They have an indelible bull’s eye over their hearts because of their assent to Jesus Christ and the teachings of his Church. This should come of no surprise. In all four Gospels, Jesus warned his disciples of the coming persecution.
As a grim reminder of the ultimate price of being Catholic, one need only read about the countless 1000s of martyrs who have shed their blood for their faith over the centuries. The recent rise of the bloody Islamic State throughout the world and the judicial approval of homosexual marriage and its dangerous implications for religious freedom of worship and practice have once again put Catholics in the left’s crosshairs.
This is nothing new! American History has been tainted with an anti-Catholicism that predates its Constitution. Catholic bigotry’s random appearance has found favor among a loose federation of Bible Protestants, freethinkers and atheists beholden to the anti-clericalism of the French Revolution. Its influence has permeated the so-called American Mind. This thinking has degenerated under President Obama to a way of thinking that may be easily characterized as practical atheism.
The arguments against Catholic Orthodoxy throughout history and even into the present have remained fairly consistent. Penn State Professor Philip Jenkins’ book The New Anti-Catholicism provides an overview of this history.
His exposition and analysis of the usual arguments utilized in this frontal assault on the Catholic Church, such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the other past black legends is honest and comprehensive. The very mention of the Crusades, the Inquisition and any other of these historical distortions often creates a Pavlovian response of distrust in the public and even in many indifferent Catholics.
Jenkins explains that the Crusades were a reaction to the Muslim invasion of Europe. Massacres and bloody brutality characterized all religious warfare during the medieval times. He argues that to single out the Catholic examples of this brutality is unfair and intellectually dishonest. The Inquisition accounted for the execution of no more than 6,000 people over a period of 300 years. Secular governments have been responsible for far more murders than any pope.
Black legends are old accounts of historical distortions, such as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs that falsely depicted the Catholic Church as a den of anti-Semitism, racism, and mythological accounts of Spanish colonial greed and savagery.
These blatant misrepresentations of Catholic history have become popular fallacies that have been used periodically to discredit and denigrate the Church. Author Daniel Goldhagen’s virulent attacks on Pope Pius XII and the Church are a modern example of the depth of vilification used against the Church and its leaders.
Cultural acceptance of Catholics has come at an enormous cost. Membership in mainstream America often required Catholics to distance themselves from the moral principles of their faith. In his comprehensive study, Catholics, and American Culture, Jesuit Mark S. Massa traced the deep-seated need of America Catholics to belong to the American social order.
The 1960 presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy illustrated a changing paradigm. Throughout his campaign, Kennedy danced a secular jig around the religious question. He finally admitted that his Church’s teachings would never prevent him from doing his duty for the American people as if there was some inherent conflict. His stance was a far cry from that of St. Thomas More who lost his head in 1535 for his refusal to bow to King Henry VIII’s blasphemous demands.
In the 21st century Catholicism has been Americanized to the point that religion is a private concern something akin to a devout hobby that should have no influence on how one behaves in the public arena. Kennedy’s religious indifferentism has served as a model for a legion of Catholic politicians who have shamefully defended a woman’s right to kill her unborn child.
This cultural attitude has filtered down to the pews where many Catholics have become complacent or acedic in their practice and defense of their faith. Catholics are fully admitted to the cultural mainstream, only to the extent they accept and approve the cultural and moral decline that has characterized the progress of the modern era.
The cultural acquiescence of so many Catholics today underscores the fact that this threat has been much more subtle than anything Catholics had ever experienced. The new approach revolves around the Kulturkampf and the Catholic faith’s consistent opposition to the pathological evils of abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, and pornography.
Father Massa’s last book, Anti-Catholicism in America: The Last Acceptable Prejudice deftly exposes the roots of this new wave of anti-Catholic prejudice that has permeated the social fabric. Attacking Catholics and their Church is an acceptable prejudice because the ruling elite, especially the media, all shares the same distrust and animus toward Catholics.
The Church is especially hated because of its allegiance to a foreign pontiff whose approach to life is hierarchical and anti-feminist. This puts the Church and its followers at odds with the growing religious tendencies of the American democratic faith.
Establishment Protestant leaders have always feared Catholic power because of its numerical strength and devotion to community moral principles that run counter to the existential individualism of the country’s’ religious heritage.
In many ways this attack on Catholicism is just an extension of the Marxist plan to subvert and destroy the Church. Liberals and secularist humanists have used their influence, especially in the media and Hollywood to demonize the Church for every scandal or flaw in its public edifice.
Birthmark Catholics needs to put on the moral and intellectual armor of the Church militant and fight the left in every corner of the cultural arena and the public square. They have a divine mandate to insure that the gates of Hell do not prevail against the Church in their own backyard.
The Prince and the Pauper is a novel by Mark Twain, which was first published in 1881 in Canada, a year before its American debut. Set in 1547 it tells the story of two English boys, a pauper named Tom who lived with an abusive father and Prince Edward, son of King Henry VIII.
Through a series of plot manipulations the boys switch identities for a temporary period of time. This literary device has serious allegorical overtones and has been a standard in literature ever since.
How surprising it is that the respective historical legacies of such disparate figures, such as Niccolo Machiavelli and Saul Alinsky have come to be intertwined in an intergenerational relationship that has had lasting consequences for American society.
Just look what their acolytes in the Democratic Party have done to the United States in the person of Barack Obama and the still potentially dangerous Hillary Clinton.
Machiavelli was born in 1469. According to historian Jacques Barzun, even his name evokes visions of fiendish conduct. It has evolved to mean a cynical approach to government. This disdain revolves around his seminal work, The Prince, written in 1513.
16th century Florence was the cultural hub of the Italian peninsula. Yet Italy was a miasma of violence-ridden principalities where the people lived in constant fear and trembling. Assassinations, murders, and pillaging were daily occurrences. Machiavelli thought it was time for a new prince, who would establish peace and order.
Machiavelli was disturbed because most people lived according to the immorality of the day, even though they espoused Christian principles. He believed that since the Italians of his day were morally weak, cowards, or poor, traditional rules had to be altered.
According to Arthur Hippler, writing in the Wanderer, Machiavelli was the first Western thinker to promote the idea that moral evil is necessary for political good or as we paraphrase it the ends justify the means!
It has been almost five centuries since Machiavelli’s death in 1527. According to Barzun, Machiavelli’s legacy has lived on in the minds and hearts of scholars and deep thinkers, such as John Adams, philosophers, Charles Montesquieu, and David Hume, as well as Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. They all believed that the state should be neutral on moral issues.
It is obvious that his spirit has deeply influenced the minds of many current American leaders, who employ the same antinomian rationale that has led the Supreme Court to render its historic decisions on abortion and homosexual rights that have rent the fabric of American civilization.
Saul Alinsky main importance was that he adapted Machiavellian tactics to his own brand of social justice. He was a superb social organizer, who believed in the power of numbers. Grass roots organization and community organizers were the open door through which he hoped to accumulate power for his disciples, the legions of poor people he witnessed every day.
Like his Italian forbear, Alinsky was not a utopian visionary. He believed that the organizer should be a neutral agent, a kind of ideological agnostic, seeking no particular outcome and advancing no philosophy, other the gaining of power.
Nor did Alinsky lose any sleep over doing dark deeds for the good of the have-nots. To him ethical standards had to be elastic enough to stretch with the times.
Unlike Machiavelli Alinsky did not want power for the rich and the well-connected. His goal was to turn Machiavelli on his head and usurp power for the poor and the downtrodden, thus upending the historical way that life had worked.
But Alinsky was not a doctrinaire cultural Marxist. He was more concerned with strategy. In his books Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals he created an amalgamation of ideas and plans adapted from the dusty pages of Marxist, Socialist, anarchist even Fascist texts.
In essence his thinking mirrored that of the Philosophes of the French Revolution in their deep abiding contempt for Christianity, the business world, private property, and the traditional American political process.
It is not surprising that Tom Paine, the voice of the revolution, was one of his heroes. He had no tolerance for compromise.
One of his early converts from the middle class was a former Goldwater Republican from Park Ridge Illinois. Alinsky saw great promise in the bespectacled college student from Wellesley College, Hillary Rodham.
The future Mrs. Clinton thought enough of Alinsky to write her senior thesis on his ideas and strategies, after working for him one summer. Unfortunately, the voting public will never know what she wrote.
According to the book, Hell to Pay, by Barbara Olson, a passenger on American Flight #77 that was crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11, as soon as Bill Clinton became president, Hillary’s thesis was put under lock and key at Wellesley.
In her 2003 best seller, Living History, Senator Clinton briefly acknowledges her intellectual debt to Alinsky. She took great pains to point out that she disagreed with his idea that one had to work from outside the establishment. Clinton prides herself on working from within an organization to reform it.
Alinsky has had no better acolyte than Barack Obama, who from his perch in the White House has put himself above all rules of law, moral and judicial. His tenure has worked to instill Alinsky’s Rules and Principles in health care, gun control, education and religion.
A former Alinsky community organizer, Obama has instituted a Marxist plan, the work of two Columbia University professors from the 1960s, the infamous Cloward-Piven Strategy whose intent is to purposely collapse the U.S. economy with huge deficits, an uncontrollable nation debt and a welfare system bursting with millions of new recipients, immigrants and mentally ill homeless people, essentially turning the United States into a Pauper Nation, at the mercy of its creditors and foreign enemies.
According to philosopher, Leo Strauss’ classic, Thoughts on Machiavelli, the Florentine was essentially a teacher of evil. This epithet should also apply to Alinsky. All Americans should be aware of what these teachers of evil taught and to whom they taught it.
This should surprise no one since Machiavelli was and atheist and Alinsky praised the first known radical, who rebelled against the establishment and did so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom. Who was the first radical? Why Lucifer himself!
While Clint Eastwood’s stark movie, Flags of our Fathers, portrayal of the deadly battle for Iwo Jima in World War II was virtually ignored by his Hollywood peers in 2007, it had a strong impact on the general public who revered the heroism that his portrayal of American troops displayed.
Despite its violence, the main thrust of Flags was the home-front struggles of the three survivors in dealing with the instant fame their heroic act brought. Drafted as spokesmen for war bond sales, they quickly adopted the creditable tag line that the real heroes of Iwo were those men who died there.
Based on the book of the same name Flags of our Fathers sparked many a debate on the meaning of hero.
In 1950 my father took me to see John Wayne in The Sands of Iwo Jima. Even at age seven, though I found war movies exciting, my concept of hero was reserved more for the baseball diamond than any tale of sanguinary combat.
The Brooklyn Dodgers were the darling underdogs of the 1950s. While they won a number of pennants (5) they always lost to the New York Yankees in the World Series — except in 1955.
While all the Dodgers were heroes that year, to my adolescent mind, the quiet Kentuckian at shortstop, Pee Wee Reese represented to me everything a hero should be.
He was the team’s leader, and he played the game with the same grace and dignity that my contemporaries in St. Louis must have seen in Stan The Man Musial. (He did not destroy my childhood ideals when I interviewed him in home late one July night in 1972.)
When Reese was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1984, I was there to honor him.
A number of years ago during an All Saints’ Day Mass the celebrant priest labored unsuccessfully for a proper analogy to underscore the Holy Day. During the course of his painful musings it dawned on me that when the Church canonizes a saint, it could be viewed as the Catholic equivalent of putting a baseball player in the Hall of Fame.
It was St. Paul who first recognized that faithful Christians could easily be analogized as athletes who had fought the good fight and finished the good race. An English professor at Holy Cross had used those same parallels during my freshman orientation in 1961.
In effect Catholic saints are our spiritual and moral athletes, who have successfully fought the good fight and run the good race. The Church was recognizing that they had played the game of life with the practiced skills of faith, hope and charity.
Their lives still serve as constant reminders that if we only have the athletic discipline of daily sacrifice and loving charity, we will someday break the ribbon of victory in eternity. Many saints also showed a kind of dangerous courage possessed by many athletes to stare death and evil in the face, ultimately paying the full price for their faith in God.
What Yogi Berra, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Mickey Mantle and Musial are to baseball fans, Sts. Joseph, Peter, John Paul II, Theresa, Catherine and Anthony are to Catholics. They are our heroes for all seasons.
After the passage of the Fetal Tissue Use Amendment, I learned that a friend had resigned his position with a prestigious law firm because it had represented one of the principal supporters of the pro-cloning amendment.
I was inspired by his heroic stand in a social atmosphere where apathy is the everyday choice of too many Catholics.
To the point of our mutual embarrassment, I told him he was my new hero.
Had he been familiar with Flags, I suspect, like the survivors of Iwo, he would have said the real heroes of the faith were those who had died for it.
Nonetheless, his principled stand on a culture war battlefield is morally as significant as that tiny volcanic island in the Pacific.
While most of us may never be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice, all of us have to suffer these daily small deaths to ourselves to prepare for, if not the Hall of Fame in the sky, at least for a seat in the stands.