God’s Gamble?

 “God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. “God willed that man should be ‘left in the hand of his own counsel,’ so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him.” – CCC 1730

At the writing of this article President Trump has yet to decide on a replacement for retiring Justice of the Supreme Court Anthony Kennedy. One of the candidates, who is Catholic, has raised the concerns of some in the Senate that that candidate’s adherence to Catholic doctrine may lead to the overturn of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe vs Wade, which legalized abortion some forty-five years ago. The above reference is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It should allay any concerns that any Catholic candidate for the Supreme Court would be compelled by doctrine to seek to overturn any Supreme Court’s decision unless it were found to be unconstitutional. Further, it should bring clarity to the meaning of free will for Catholics.

God is love itself and through it created man. This is so because love by its nature must be given away. Yet, we know by experience that love can be  accepted or rejected. God could have made man as an automaton who would simply do His will without question. But, love requires a decision. And a decision often requires a sacrifice. For a “yes” to something means a “no” to something else. Without sacrifice love is meaningless. When a man buys an engagement ring for the woman he loves he chooses gold not tin. For gold is expensive and signifies sacrifice which shows the depth of his love for her. God expressed His love in fulfilling His promise to reconcile Himself to man. He did so through the Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection. If not for Mary’s acceptance of God’s will, there would be no Incarnation. If not for the rejection of Christ, there would be no Crucifixion. And without each exercise here of free will, one consent and one dissent, the Resurrection would not have happened nor the forgiveness of sins be accomplished.

Man possesses free will because God allowed it. Jesus often had disciples turn away from Him because they found some of what He said unpalatable. Yet, although what He proclaimed was for their own good, He never forced anyone to obey against their will. He did not chase after them nor alter His message to win anyone over. For that is the way God had intended. That is the way of truth. One is free to take it or leave it. Each one of us is free to do God’s will or our own. We can either stop at a red traffic light or not. Each has its own reward.

As a Catholic I understand that I can no more stand in the way of what I believe to be evil than I can in what I know to be good. For if a Catholic were to do so he then would not be in compliance with God’s will as documented in the Catechism; to allow all persons the freedom to choose. However, as a practicing Catholic, I can enlighten others to choose wisely according to God’s will in which they will find true peace. This is accomplished by how I think, what I say, how I act, and how I live. If I think, speak, act and live my faith virtuously then others may be encouraged to take up their cross and follow Him.

So, did God then gamble in giving man free will? No, of course not. He could have created us strictly instinctual as the other creatures whose actions are so governed. However, no love is valid unless it comes by way of prudent reason, sacrifice and one’s own accord. For no one is more charming to God than when he says yes to His will, while having the option to say no. God made us captains of our own souls and therefore of our own destinies. We can share that destiny with Him or apart from Him. In the end God simply verifies our use of free will through the second person of the Holy Trinity, Christ, in His saying: “I know you or I know you not.” Free will places neither praise nor blame on God. Either one falls squarely on our own shoulders.

 

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Old Glory

During the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key, from a ship off shore, witnessed the endless horrific night-long bombing on Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy. From his position he had no way to know what the outcome had been. As he woke up in the morning and his eyes witnessed the American flag soaring high in the air on top of the fort, he could not contain his happiness at the sight of American triumph and wrote, originally as a poem, The Star Spangled Banner – referring to the American flag he saw – on the back side of a letter he found in his pocket.

No institution by man is infallible. As any structure with age and lack of restorative attention loses its integrity, so too does a country. A house in time needs replacement of its roof, repair of worn walls and added support to its foundation. One may not relish the run-down condition of one’s home; yet one loves it enough to repair it. Defects in a home do not warrant its destruction. Nor should the fate of a country so be determined.

The Flag is not a symbol of what is wrong with our country, but rather is a symbol of what is right with it. What was witnessed at the Battle of Fort McHenry, can also be witnessed in any disaster, great challenge or atrocity that has and can befall our nation. At these times we see Americans stand up and step forward. For when things are at their worst we are at our best. Throughout past and recent events in history we have become accustomed to the courage and sacrifice that is the American spirit; those members of the police and fire departments who rush at the threat rather than from it; from military who risk life and limb to preserve the security, integrity and identity that is America, whether at home or abroad; and individual citizens who do not hesitate to come to the aid of a fellow countryman, despite the inherent danger to self. For this the Flag stands. Despite our differences-and they are deep and many-when the chips are down we come together, no matter what the cost may be.

As history has shown, no country lasts, nor Flag waves, forever. It will not be the aggression alone of some foreign enemy that brings about the downfall of a country but instead the indifference of countrymen and corruption of its leaders. For power, not respected and left unbridled, corrupts the best of altruistic intentions. That sad day of reckoning will be realized when the flag lowered at dusk does not rise with the next dawn. May we pray that “Old Glory” will be the exception and not the rule to such a tragic end as history pens its final page.

Love is made manifest in many ways. Love of country is but one, which is only preceded by love of neighbor and that of God; Who is love itself. Yet love of country is an important one, for a nation fashioned on a foundation of love secures the way for other phases of love. No one truly understands the importance of country except in the context of love. For country, as love itself, is never more appreciated than when it has been lost.

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Measuring Up

The following bible passage by the Apostle Paul regarding love is from 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7. We will consider it from two perspectives.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The first perspective in Christ:

Christ is patient; Christ is kind; Christ is not envious or boastful or arrogant  or rude. Christ does not insist on His own way; Christ is not irritable or resentful; Christ does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Christ bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The second perspective in you:

 “I” am patient; “I” am kind; “I” am not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. “I” do not insist on my own way; “I” am not irritable or resentful; “I” do not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoice in the truth. “I” bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.

One season the high school volleyball team that I coached failed for the first time in 17 years to qualify for the state tournament. We were quite capable of doing so. However, as we progressed through the season we had taken losses we should not have. As we were nearing the likelihood that mathematically we would be eliminated from post season play a few colleagues asked me why I did not pick up a game or two with teams that we could defeat so as to gain the number of wins needed to qualify. My response was that if we played to our potential we would have qualified on that merit. We either measure up or we do not.

From the first perspective Love and Christ, as we can see, are synonymous. Love and Christ are one in the same. But, what of us? I can honestly say that throughout my life and as well today; Love, Christ and I have not been consistently synonymous. And only by love will He know us. We must ask ourselves: Are we in His likeness in love? Do we measure up? In all truth, by our human nature, we can never measure up completely. But we surly can get as near as any human can by striving to implement those attributes of love as is depicted in the passage above.

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A Father’s Day Tribute

“But the Common Man does not in the least want to found a sect. He is much more likely, for instance, to want to found a family.” – G.K. Chesterton

Anthony Malizia, was born on September 14, 1911 in Settefrati, Italy. Settefrati, is located in the mountains of the Province of Frosinone; in the Italian region Lazio, about 120km east of Rome and about 40km east of Frozinone.

My father emigrated, from Italy, to the United States, as a young man – entering the country, by way of Ellis Island, N.Y. He was sponsored by a cousin, and fulfilled his dream by becoming  a U.S. citizen. His name is one of so many, who shared that common dream, that is forever engraved, on “The American Immigrant Wall Of Honor,” at Ellis Island in New York Harbor.

In 1940, he would marry my mother, Antoinette, who was, herself, a resident of New York City. They would move to, and live in, Connecticut, raising three boys; I being the youngest.

Prior to marriage, my father was a Civilian Conservation Corps laborer. He worked on projects located in Idaho and Texas. He wanted to enlist, to serve in World War II, but was discouraged in doing so, because my mother was pregnant with their first child. He was disappointed, knowing that his childhood friend and cousin was going and he could not.

For most of his working years, my dad worked the night shift, as a pressman, for Conde’ Nast – a magazine publishing company, which was located close to our home. So close, that he was able to walk to work. I can remember seeing him leave at about 5PM each day; with his lunch bag tucked under his arm. When he returned from work, at about 2AM, we would, of course, be asleep. He would grab a snack, that my mom had left for him from dinner, then would look in on his boys before he went to bed. He had a habit of gently picking our heads off our pillows and turning the pillow over. Then he would lower our heads onto the fresh underside. We never asked why he did that. But, on a cold winter night, it got your attention.

I was a young avid TV viewer, and had a used TV set in my bedroom. The reason being, I wasn’t able to use stairs as readily, or as often, as my brothers; to watch the main family TV, in the living room. The convenience of having a TV in one’s bedroom was that, whenever one chose, it could be tuned on. My dad was suspicious that I might be staying up too late watching TV. Before he returned from work, I would turn off the set and feign sleep. But, he wasn’t easily deceived. With one eye open, I’d see him slip into my room, and put his hand on the set, to check if it was still warm. So he accomplished his goal of getting me to sleep earlier, without saying a word. Because, I’d now turn it off much earlier to be certain that the old “Philco” would be cool to his touch. It is a wise boy, who can avoid being disciplined. A clever guy; my dad.

The Conde’ Nast, where my father worked, would close in the years ahead; leaving him unemployed. He was troubled by the loss of income. So he would work landscape jobs with my uncle, while interviewing for a new job with local companies. After returning from one interview, he told me that the person interviewing him, seemed as though he was just going through the motions; not leaving my father with a good feeling. When the interview was over, as  my father was leaving, he told the gentleman conducting the interview: “I know, as soon as I leave, you are going to through my application in the trash basket.” One of the very duties he was applying for. The next day as my dad was working a landscaping job, the phone rang. When I answered it, the person calling, informed me that dad was hired, and gave me the pay rate and when he was  to begin. When dad returned, I gave him the news. His was so happy and relieved that he began to dance. I can only liken what I witnessed, to the scene in the movie; “The Treasure Of Sierra Madre,” when John Huston danced for joy, after he and his associates discovered gold. As regards his interview, my dad was not one to mince words. He called things as he saw them , and in this instance, it seemed the right call. And that job, at that time; was like striking gold.

Summer’s were great fun. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we were never in want. My favorite summer events were the outdoor movie and Playland; an amusement park in Rye, New York. When we attended Playland, dad would carry me onto most of the rides. The effects of polio made it difficult for me to get onto the rides without aid. We’d usually have a group following us. Because, sooner or later, other patrons would catch on to the fact, that the ride attendees were giving us a longer ride; seeing  how difficult it was for me to access.

Drive-in movies, for those who recall them, would start at dusk, and often would offer double features. Each Wednesday was “Buck Night.” That’s when you could load up the family car, with the whole family, all for $1.00. My mom and dad would switch to the back seat, leaving the front for me and my brother. Their motive was easily understood, when by the second feature, we would have to increase the speaker volume, to overcome the sound of snoring. Of course, on the return home, I’d be the one who had fallen asleep, and my dad would carry me to bed, with my head slumped on his shoulder, and brace covered legs, dangling in front of him.

While living in our neighborhood, I would watch my friends having a catch with their dads. I asked my dad if he’d catch with me. Now, if I missed the ball, he was doing double duty; as he would have to chase down the ball, that I couldn’t retrieve. Also, my dad’s native game was bocce not baseball. So he would deliver his throw, not like a pitch to home plate, but rather, like throwing the pallino ball, to begin the bocce game. This is just one example, of many, proving that he would do all he could(if he thought it beneficial to our growth), to help me, or my brothers, achieve the things we thought important; no matter how foreign it was to him.

I believe all kids see their fathers as heroes. On one occasion, it became clear to me. We were picnicking at Candlewood Lake, in Ct. While we were having lunch by the lake, some other visitors headed into the water, to scuba dive; laden with goggles, flippers, wet suits and oxygen tanks. It was a sunny, but rather raw day. Within minutes, the calm had changed to panic. One of the divers, was thrashing about, and screaming for help. He was hanging on to his fellow diver, who in a frenzy, was pulling him under. Two observers dove in and were able to gather both to shore. However, all were having trouble, freeing the panicked diver  from his gear. My dad rushed over and was able to free the diver from his tank and wet suit. He then, wrapped blankets around the man, now uncontrollably shaking from the cold and fear. Dad then helped him out to a car, that was waiting to take him to a nearby hospital. As I watched my dad walk by, with the fortunate, yet exhausted diver, a feeling came over me; I was proud. Dad would later credit his ability to quickly extricate the diver from his equipment, to the daily experience gained in helping me put on and remove my leg braces.

When dad passed away from cancer, on January 16, 1969, the outpouring of love was overwhelming. So many were in attendance at his wake and funeral mass, that it was standing room only. My father never walked on the moon(although, due to his fun-loving nature, I’m sure, in his youth, he howled at it, at one time or another), nor was he a CEO for a Fortune 500 company. Yet, as a husband, family member, friend and father, he possessed that rare quality, compelled by his love, that one did not witness enough of then, nor does one today; You could count on him.

Of all the men that God could have given, as a father, to me and my brothers-He gave us him. My dad was equal in interest, discipline and love. He was a complete dad to each of us. He understood our individual attributes, gifts and dreams. He encouraged and supported us each, in the pursuit of goals, that reflected our innate unique purposes.

For being a man who understood the importance of his station within the family unit – and by sacrificing for that which he saw as his primary responsibility and purpose – he has well-earned the title: “Father.”

Happy Father’s Day, Dad; Be at peace.

With love,

Your sons

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Slow Down

He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” – Matthew 22:37-40

A successful executive leaves a show room in his newly purchased Ferrari. Excitedly he drives about enjoying the his new vehicle on a most beautiful day. Suddenly there is a loud thud against the passenger side of the car. He comes to a screeching stop and immediately puts his car in reverse arriving at the point where the sound was first heard. He throws open his door and rushes to the passenger door. There he finds, lying on the side of the road, a brick that had done the damage. A young boy stands just beyond the brick. The executive, in a rage, grabs the boy and puts him up against the car and screams at him: “Why did you throw that brick at my car?!” Don’t you realize how expensive this is going to be to repair?! The boy now in tears responds: “Sir, I had no choice.” No matter what I did, no one would stop.” The executive shouts back: “Stop for what?! The boy, shaking with fear, points to the other side of the parked car just ahead. As the executive looks around the parked car he sees another boy lying at the edge of the curb with an overturned wheelchair next to him. The frightened boy, still quivering again said: “I had no choice, sir. My brother fell out of his wheelchair and I couldn’t get him back into it. He is too heavy for me to lift.” The executive stood quietly for a moment barely able to swallow from the lump that just formed in his throat. He then went over to the fallen boy, straightened up his wheelchair before lifting him on to it. He, then, took out a handkerchief and administered to the scrapes on the boy’s knees and elbows. Seeing that he was ok, the executive stepped away. The young boy, who had thrown the brick, thanked the executive and expressed his sorrow for throwing the brick. The executive stood silently as he watched the young boy pushing his brother’s wheelchair along the walkway until it turned out of sight. As a reminder of the event the executive never had the damage to the car repaired. – Fr. John Gatzak (ORTV- Homily)

We move so fast in this world each day that we often don’t hear the cries for help from our neighbors in distress. The executive’s act of charity was forced upon him. We are at times reminded of our duty to our neighbor in the most unlikely manner. His anger was quickly pacified as soon as he saw the urgency of the situation. The hurled brick was done not out of some jealously or spite but rather desperation. The young boy’s previous efforts to flag down other drivers had failed. The executive’s aid given both boys truly was an act of charity. Charity is nothing other than an act of love. And love demands hard things. Things of sacrifice. Opportunities to put others before ourselves. The love of a brother compelled the thrown brick. The unrepaired damage to the executive’s new car was a reminder that there are needs more important than our own. I’m sure the tossed brick and the decision not to repair the damage were both hard things to do. But, again, love demands such. I believe each in the end, in his own unique way, was all the better for it. He who received the charity and he who dispensed it. One’s faith is restored in humanity and other re-discovered his.

“Seeing the pain in someone’s eyes, or hearing the sadness or worry in his or her voice, how can we not care? How can we not be kind? – anonymous

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A Valuable Lesson

Charles Krauthammer is an American syndicated columnist, author, political commentator, and former physician whose weekly column was syndicated to more than 400 publications worldwide. In August 2017, he stopped writing his column and being a commentator on Fox News, due to his battle with cancer.

Within  the last few days Charles Krauthammer in a letter revealed that his battle with stomach cancer, in his words, “is over.” The aggressive cancer, initially thought to be responding to treatment had returned leaving Charles with but a few weeks to live.

Charles further writes in his farewell letter,  “I leave this life with no regrets.” It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.” The words “a wonderful life” reminds one of the film, starring James Stewart. In the climax George Bailey receives a note from his guardian angel stating: “No man is a failure who has friends.” And Charles affirms that such was a blessing of his life. Among his known friends were also those unknown to him. Those, like myself, who were avid followers reaped much from his brilliance, mastery of his craft and keen wit. His brilliance is confirmed in that he, unlike many of his profession, intended and was able to reach the common man.

Charles discusses in his most recent book, “Things That Matter,” the event that led to his paralysis. It occurred when he was a college student studying psychiatry. He dove into what be mistakenly believed to be the deep end of a pool causing trauma to his head and immediately losing all feeling from the neck down. As a result of this tragic life changing episode he told friends that he thought of death every day. Not an unexpected practice considering his situation. But his daily dwelling was not in the morbid sense. Rather it impelled him to live a life of one who has known, unlike most, that our time on earth is not an extended guarantee but only for the moment that we are in. That explains why he could write such a farewell letter that opened the reader to think him courageous; to face death with such calm.

Fear of God is the idea of living in respect, awe, and submission to Him. Essentially this means having a clear trust in God. No one knows what is in the heart of anyone, except for the individual and God. Whether a heart is ablaze in faith or in some far corner exists a smoldering ember sustained by hope. Which ever the case, there are those who may not inwardly possess a fear of God, yet have directed their lives as though they did. A person who has a fear of God, knowingly or not, need not be considered courageous in facing death as Charles. Rather, they appear to be a person who is assured. Charles, although strange to say, is now quite fortunate, for he has been given time to prepare for what lies before him. If he had been taken from life in the pool accident, as so many lives are cut short without warning, what preparation was possible? Those who have not the inclination as Charles to think of death each day are not making preparation. And sadly for many, past indiscretions stand before them as specters left unamended.

In the film, “Meet Joe Black,” Brad Pitt plays the role of death who has come to claim the life of a successful CEO, Anthony Hopkins. The character played by Hopkins is an honorable and caring man, not only for family but also those who share in his business; higher-ups and workers alike. At the end of the film when it is time for death to usher Hopkins from this world. Both reluctantly stand at the end of a bridge looking over all that will be left behind. The CEO tells death, “It’s hard to let go, isn’t it? Death answers in the affirmative. The CEO replies: “Well, that’s life.” The CEO then turns to death and continues the brief departing question and answer session: “Should I be afraid? Death responds: “Not a man like you.”

May we take a lesson from the life of Charles Krauthammer. Live life fully and with integrity, as though you possess a fear of God. One who does need not fear death.

 

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Identity, Integrity, Credibility

Identity – the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.

Integrity – moral uprightness.

Credibility – the quality of being convincing or believable. Trustworthy.

“And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.” – Acts 9:26

The conversion from Saul to Paul on the road to Damascus was received with great skepticism. One would find it near impossible to argue against that, for Saul was the most feared persecutor of the fledgling Christian Church, causing the death and imprisonment of many among its members. This one time persecutor now is the advocate for the target of that persecution? This drastic change was difficult to accept at the outset.

Jesus proclaims of  Paul: “He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name?” – Acts 9: 21

By fulfilling Jesus’ role for him, Paul once the persecutor is now the protector of the Church. Paul now risks his own life in proclaiming Jesus, the Son of God, rather than, as Saul, making saints of those martyred who did the same. He has won the confidence of those who were once skeptics as he bravely carries out his divinely mandated assignment. This new identity brings with it integrity. A life of vice is now one of virtue. He has earned credibility in the eyes of all who doubted. But it must be remembered; what is impossible for man, is not impossible for God.

So, too, is it with society. Tradition is the essence of a long existing society. Its culture is its identity. If that tradition reflects democracy, which supports by law the supremacy of the people, then we identify that society by that tradition. But when a tradition is no longer embraced because of challenging conflicted opinion and ideology, then opened is the opportunity for cultural changes and along with it its identity. Through the loss of identity, that for which a society was once known is know no more. And along with society’s loss of identity, so also is its integrity. No longer is credibility evident.

The United States was not conceived in socialism but in democracy. A society by which the common man and woman is empowered with a freedom of conscience along with other distinctive freedoms which its Constitution (creed) protects. This tradition of freedom is how America is known. Not only by those around the world, but by its citizens as well. When we no longer recognize ourselves by this criteria then we have lost our identity. And, as well, the integrity of our mission as a nation. Failing to hold our tradition as sacred promotes an environment by which foreign notions can infiltrate. And all that has been sacrificed by men and women over the generations, which has never been sacrificed except for the likes of freedom, will have been in vain. Again, no longer is credibility evident.

Credibility likewise is escaping the Catholic Church. When we no longer feel the lash of persecution from the world, of which we were so warned by our founder, Christ Jesus, the Son of the living God, then we are no better nor different from the world. Truth is WHAT IS. If infiltrating relative truth is allowed to distort WHAT IS, then the custodians entrusted with sustaining Church tradition as conduits of Christ are in great part responsible for the lost identity and integrity of the Church. And, again, no  longer is the institutional Church credible.

In any case, if an identity is recognized as an advocate of the common good, then its integrity must be maintained by the adherence to its tradition. The common good of mankind is achieved for men and women when they possess freedom of thought, conscience and decision. This can only be so in a society or religion that fosters a culture which allows one to make or break oneself ordered in an objective free, moral and just culture with no other blessing than that which comes from God. No man or woman can attain that kind of authority to righteously accomplish such. When stripped of their temporary power they are no better than those whom they lord-over. Only the authority of absolute perpetual objective power has that right. And that right only resides with God. A society or religion that turns its back on tradition and doctrine so alters its culture, and is ripe for a fitting end by its own doing; absent of identity, integrity and credibility.

The truly reliable evidence of identity, integrity and credibility is found in the person of Christ. For He went to the cross as He was so commissioned by God the Father. Never deterred  from that mission was He by the flesh, the world or the devil. Any nation, religion or person who so chooses to join their will to His will be so identified.

 

 

 

 

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