Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dietary Guidelines or Executive Overreach?

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has submitted their 572 page report to the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture.  This report provides recommendations for the final dietary guidelines which are issued by these two departments every five years.

There are two proposed changes in this report that caught my eye.  First, dietary cholesterol will no longer be a big concern.  Well. Considering for how long cholesterol has been consistently pronounced the heart disease bad guy, this is really earth shattering and very good news to those of us who have long enjoyed eggs! If there is evidence to support this change, as I assume there is, when are doctors going to stop prescribing statin drugs

Incredibly, the committee has also included "sustainability" in their guidelines.  As Tennille Tracy wrote in a Wall Street Journal article on 2/20/2015, "The committee recommended that Americans eat less red and processed meat, and excluded lean meat from a list of foods that make up a healthy diet.  While lean meat is firmly endorsed in the current guidelines, the panel explained that researchers don't yet have a standard definition for what qualifies as lean meat.  It did acknowledge in a footnote that lean meat could have a role in a good diet."

Well, if lean meat can have a role in a good diet then why is it not listed under healthy food?  It is not listed because the committee has decided that eating red meat is not a sustainable dietary option.  this is about environmentalism, not health.  They also recommend that only seafood that is not threatened be eaten as part of a healthy diet.

What bothers me is what seems like dishonesty here.  The dietary guidelines are supposed to reflect the latest research on what constitutes healthy eating.  Environmental sustainability is an entirely different subject and should not be included.  To tell us what is healthy to eat by applying criteria that have nothing to do with what food is good for us, the committee is expanding their focus and not truly giving us what they say they are giving us.

Dietary guidelines are one thing.  Sustaining our environment is another.  I would prefer that they not pretend that the latter is a factor in the former.  Seems as though the committee is trying to expand its power to make recommendations.  Dietary guidelines should refer only to diet and how it effects an individual's health.  Anything else is an overreach.

But setting the honesty and overreach question aside, there are some who would argue that what the committee is calling for in the name of sustainability is not even very good science.

Agricultural economist Jayson Lusk has argued that the committee has not considered everything they might on the question of sustainability.  You can view the entire discussion here.

Have an opinion on this subject?

The public is encouraged to provide written comments through April 8.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Giuliani's Remarks on Obama and Whether or Not He Loves America

Rudy Giuliani recently said, in a speech at a GOP event, that he did not believe that President Obama loves America.

I don't know if President Obama loves America either.  There is certainly a lot of evidence to suggest that he does not.

Giuliani has been just raked over the coals for this remark.  Perhaps it hit a little too close to home?  I would render a guess that perhaps half of America thinks that the President does not love his country.  He rarely says anything positive about it.  He disregards the Constitution on a regular basis.  He criticizes our history.  He said at the outset that he wanted to "remake America."  As some have said, who wants to remake something that they love?

So Giuliani wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal op-ed page explaining his remarks.  He said he did not mean to judge the president's heart.  Fair enough.  He went on to explain his concerns....
I hope and pray that President Obama can rise to the occasion and underscore America’s greatness as our history and values merit. If he does so, I will be the first to applaud him. But I can only be disheartened when I hear him claim, as he did last August, that our response to 9/11 betrayed the ideals of this country. When he interjected that “we tortured some folks,” he undermined those who managed successfully to protect us from further attack.
And to say, as the president has, that American exceptionalism is no more exceptional than the exceptionalism of any other country in the world, does not suggest a becoming and endearing modesty, but rather a stark lack of moral clarity.
I applaud Giuliani for his honesty.  It's about time someone said out loud what so many of us have been thinking for years now.

Friday, February 20, 2015

I read the Wall Street Journal every day, at least the Opinion Page.  I read it not because I am particularly interested in financial matters.  I read it because all of the articles are well written and well researched.  I learn a lot from these pages.

Today there is a piece written by Michael B. Mukasey and David Rivkin Jr. called "Another Obama Collision With the Constitution."  It addresses the issue of Obama's request for Congress to pass an AUMF, Authorization to Use Military Force.  The president does not need authorization to use force.  He doesn't need it constitutionally and he doesn't need it because the AUMFs of 2001 and 2002 are still in effect.  I wish I could give you a link to the entire article, but it seems you need on online subscription.  If you would like to see the beginning of the article and an offer to buy the online subscription you can find it here.

The authors argue that despite it's lack of necessity it is still generally a good idea for Congress to pass an AUMF because it  buttresses the president's authority.  They present the case, however, that "President Obama's proposal is fundamentally flawed," because it bans "enduring offensive ground operations" and expires in three years.

In other words, it ties the president's hands.  It limits his ability to use force. I find myself rather frequently asking what President Obama's motivations are.  Perhaps I am wrong, but in this case it seems to me that he is hoping to blame his unwillingness to use military force on Congress.  If Congress passes the AUMF that Obama has proposed, then he can blame Congress for his unwillingness to use ground troops to fight ISIS.  If Congress does not pass it, he can say that Congress did not authorize him to use military force.  Such a move would be dishonest, of course, because the 2001 and 2002 authorizations are still in effect, but somehow I don't think that will stop the president from saying so.

As Mukasey and Rivkin put it:
It is bad enough that legislation to tie a president's hands is being proposed by a president.  That it is proposed by this president, who has been so willing to exceed his constitutional authority in domestic affairs--by rewriting immigration laws, antinarcotics laws, ObamaCare and so on--underscores the administrations cynicism and its disdain for the Constitution.
They conclude "No AUMF is better than one that is constitutional flawed."

I would add that no AUMF is better than one proposed by a president for cowardly and clearly political reasons.

IT'S SO COLD!!!!!!

We are experiencing subzero, bitterly cold temperatures in Michigan.  It's the kind of cold that burns your nose as you breathe.  Exposed skin will start to tingle in seconds.  And snow makes that scritch-scritch sound as you walk on it.  Those who have lived in cold climates will know what I mean.  It's the sound of very, very, dry snow.

Even indoors everything is dry.  We have a piano that needs to be taken care of and the hygrometer showed dangerously low humidity this morning.  I turned up the fan on our humidifier and boiled a pot of water on the stove.  Yes, even boiling water on the stove does help.  I bring it to a hard boil and then turn it off. The steam that results goes right into the air.

What's good about such weather?  Bathrooms stay cleaner longer because they are drier, for one rather insignificant thing.

The severity of the cold reminds us of our vulnerability and fragility as humans.  May this realization help us to lean more on God.  And may it fill us with concern and compassion for the homeless, whose very lives are in danger in this weather.

But the best part about this drastic weather is the hope of Spring.  We are more than halfway through February and, as the saying goes, March will come in like a lion and go out like a lamb.  In Michigan, March can still be a cold month.  But there will be a day here and there that warms up a little.  It may go into the 40 degree range and, for us, that feels like Spring.  That is the weather when children want to dispense with their coats!

And when our thermometers hit the 50s or 60s range, nearly everyone is smiling.  There is almost a euphoria.  We want to plant flowers.  (But we don't dare yet without special precautions because frost is possible in April and even in May.)  The Farmer's Market will start selling those beautiful winter pansies which can actually freeze solid and still come back if you put them in the sun.  I love to buy one for my porch.  It's such a delightful splash of color against what has been a dreary, monochromatic backdrop for many months.

But the winter weather itself also has its own beauty.  There is the drama of the large snowfall, the blowing whiteouts, the blizzard conditions.  If you don't have to go anywhere, it can be strangely lovely.  And the snow itself is strikingly pretty in the sun.  Sometimes it sparkles like diamonds and reflects so much light that sunglasses are helpful.

Still, as is nearly everyone in Michigan, I am very much looking forward to the Spring. :-)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Administration's Plan for Countering Violent Extremism-- John Kerry's Opinion Piece and My Reaction

John Kerry has written an opinion piece that appears in today's Wall Street Journal.  In my opinion, it is an embarrassment.  You can read the whole piece here.

He starts with a nod to the role of military reaction to wanton violence.  Then he goes on to say, "But military force alone won't achieve victory.  In the long term, this war will be won only by deploying a broader, far more creative arsenal."

So, in the long term, there is a creative solution?  I'm waiting for the suggestion that we might discern what this arsenal is by making collages.

He goes on..."A safer and more prosperous future requires us to recognize that violent extremism can't be justified by resorting to religion."  This future you speak of, Mr. Kerry, requires us to recognize this principle?  We have already recognized it as a country.  In fact, our nation is founded on the recognition that all must be able to practice religion freely.  There is nothing for Americans to recognize here.

He elaborates, "A safer and more prosperous future also requires us not to be distracted by divisions grounded in hatred or bias."   So... we have a problem of distraction due to our bias??  We do, Mr. Secretary?  It's our problem?

He continues, "There is no room in this fight for sectarian division.  There is no room for Islamophobia or anti-Semitism."  I was not aware that this so-called Islamophobia was causing violent terrorism.  Is that really a part of the problem?  And no room for anti-Semitism?  Someone should tell that to ISIS.  There is no room for their hatred of Jews.  What on Earth is the Secretary of State talking about??  And, since you have not mentioned Christians, Mr. Secretary, shall we assume that there is room for hatred of Christians?

In regards to the summit at the White House and State Department, Kerry says that they will "expand the global conversation..."  Oh, good, because we really have a problem of limited conversation.  "...and, more important, adopt an action agenda that identifies, shares, and utilizes best practices in preventing and countering violent extremism."

In other words, this administration does not know what to do, refuses to be decisive, and will instead wait for a summit  to decide what's going on and what should be done about it.

Mr. Kerry goes on, "Success requires showing the world the power of peaceful communities instead of extremist violence."  It does?  You mean we just need to give peace a chance?  Seriously, Mr. Kerry?

Apparently the cause of terrorism is the lack of good governance, according to Kerry.  We must identify the "zones of greatest vulnerability," and "target our resources to meet the specific needs of those places."  They need job training, he says, and a vision of human dignity.

While it may be helpful to identify the causes of terrorism.  (Note they don't use the word terrorism-- it's violent extremism.  Not sure why.)  We have a problem that needs to be dealt with in the here and now.

Is the problem that John Kerry and Barack Obama do not want to admit that evil exists?  Sometimes evil must be recognized for what it is.  ISIS and all terrorists are acting against good, against God, against peace.  They are serving evil.  They are wrapped in hatred and no vision of peace, no jobs program, no ongoing conversation is going to change that.

This is what happens when the children of the sixties ascend to public office.  Wish there were adults in charge.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Remember That You Are Dust...

From Magnificat, the Meditation of the Day by Venerable Thomas A Kempis:
It is there you show me to myself-- what I am, what I have been, and what I am coming to; for I am nothing and I did not know it.  Left to myself, I am nothing but total weakness.  But if you look upon me for an instant, I am at once made strong and filled with new joy.  Great wonder it is that I, who of my own weight always sink to the depths, am so suddenly lifted up, and so graciously embraced by you.
This paragraph really spoke to me.  In recent years the Lord has shown me how profoundly weak and dependent on him I am.  I am dust, yes.  But in Him, I can do all things.  Blessed be God.

May this Lent bear much spiritual fruit for us all!

Monday, February 16, 2015

George Washington's Birthday.

Did you know that the name of the holiday we celebrate on the third Monday in February is George Washington's Birthday?  This in spite of the fact that George Washington's actual birthday is February 22.  In 1971, Congress, always acting in the people's best interest (tongue in cheek), passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act to give workers more three day weekends.  Yes, they really did that.  This act effected George Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Veteran's Day.

Now I enjoy a three day weekend as much as anyone else.  But when you have a holiday named George Washington's Birthday and we know that George Washington's birthday is February 22, does it really make sense to change it to the third Monday?  Almost seems dishonest.  Anyway, that's Congress.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that Abraham Lincoln's birthday is February 12 and the third Monday in February is usually between February 12 and February 22.  Thus the holiday, George Washington's birthday, has morphed into something called President's day. But, let it be known, the federal holiday is still officially called George Washington's birthday.

There.  Got that off my chest. :-)

George Washington is rightly called the Father of Our Country as indeed he is.  I just finished reading his first inaugural address and I'm all teary eyed.  What an amazing man.  What an incredible leader.

 Mount Vernon

Views from Mount Vernon, George Washington's home

Much of what I am about to write about George Washington is from the Mount Vernon website and www.history. com. Mount Vernon is, of course, the home of George Washington and is a fascinating place to visit.  The Mount Vernon website provides a wealth of information about our first president.

Washington was a Virginia gentleman and a successful farmer and businessman.  He was one of the largest land holders in the U.S. at that time owning 8,000 acres at Mount Vernon and 50,000 acres elsewhere. He knew first hand the effect of British taxes on the colonists and supported independence from Great Britain very early on.  As a Virginia delegate to the First Continental Congress, Washington was elected Commander in Chief of the Continental Army and eventually led it to victory.

Washington was a valiant commander in chief. states "George Washington exhibited great steadiness and courage in battle and was frequently near the front lines during his many battles.  At the Battle of Monongahela in 1755, Washington had two horses shot out from underneath him and his coat was pierced by four musket balls.  At Kip's Bay and the Battle of Princeton, Washington risked his own life when rushing to the front lines to rally his flagging troops."

In 1787 he was asked to attend the Constitutional Convention and was elected its president.  He was the first to sign the Constitution.

Washington did not want to be president.  He wanted to return to Mt. Vernon to his family and farming but instead bowed to public pressure.  He won the election very easily.  John Adams, who came in second, became vice president.  At that time there wasn't a popular vote for president.  Only the Electoral College voted for president.  George Washington was elected unanimously twice, the only U.S. president to ever have this distinction.  At the time the United States consisted of 11 states with a population of 4 million people. (Today the U.S. population is 318 million.)

Washington D.C. had not been built so Washington never lived in the White House, although he was very involved in its design as well as in the design of the U.S. Capital.  As president Washington lived in New York and Philadelphia.

According to the Mount Vernon website, at the age of 28, George Washington was 6 ft. 2 inches tall, weighed 174 pounds, and was known as energetic and an excellent dancer. "Dancing was an important part of the social fabric of 18th century life.  And as Washington's social stature began to rise, the number of balls, cotillions, parties, and dances he was invited to also rose considerably. Young Washington, blessed with an athletic frame, quickly came to love dancing and there are many accounts of his dancing throughout the night with an array of female guests."

Did he have wooden false teeth as some have said?  He did not, but he was plagued with many teeth problems and he did have dentures eventually. has some very interesting information about George Washington's teeth problems.  You will feel great sympathy for Washington and deep gratitude for modern dentistry.

Yes, he owned slaves, a topic the New York Times today, as we celebrate Washington's birthday, so tastelessly decided to detail in an op-ed piece.  But he did have some reservations about slavery and ultimately was the only slave owning president to provide for freedom for all of his slaves in his will.

Under President Washington, the United States became a country, not only by winning independence from England, but also by instituting many of the structures that are a part of the fabric of our country even today.  He signed the Judiciary Act of 1789, establishing a six member Supreme Court and the position of Attorney General, and authorizing the creation of a Department of Foreign Affairs (later to be called the State Department), and a Secretary of State.

He signed the Coinage Act of 1792 that established the dollar as our currency.

He authorized the construction of six frigates, the start of the U.S. Navy, with the Naval Act of 1794.

And Washington is said to have read the Bible and prayed every day, on his knees.  From Washington's first inaugural address:
Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station; it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their United Government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most Governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me I trust in thinking, that there are none under the influence of which, the proceedings of a new and free Government can more auspiciously commence.
In other words, from the very start, George Washington acknowledged that God had blessed the Unites States of America and that we ought to be piously and humbly grateful, not only for the formation of our country but for all the blessings that came about thereafter.

May God continue to provide for and bless these United States of America.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Saint Valentine's Day

From I learned the following interesting tidbit about Saint Valentine.

St. Valentine was a Priest, martyred in 269 at Rome and was buried on the Flaminian Way. He is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, young people. He is represented in pictures with birds and roses.  

Read more about Saint Valentine here on

Bee keepers? Plague? Fainting?  The rest I kind of understand.

Happy Saint Valentine's Day to everyone!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The President's Speech at the National Prayer Breakfast-- What Was That All About??

The president’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast had me scratching my head for a whole lot of reasons.  It wasn’t just the initial gushing over the Dalai Lama, that emblem of 70s' hippy fascination with Buddhism.  No, I could excuse that.  After all, many religions were represented at the breakfast and perhaps there was an adult reason the president thought he merited individual recognition.

The president spoke a lot of “the degree to which we’ve seen professions of faith used both as an instrument of great good, but also twisted and misused in the name of evil.”   I’m wondering why the president thought this point was important to make at the Prayer Breakfast.   Seems an odd direction to take.  Charles Krauthammer described the speech as a “combinationof the banal and the repulsive.”
The banal is the adolescent who discovers that well, man is fallen, and many religions have abused their faith and used it as a weapon.  This is what you discover when you’re 12, or 17, and what you discuss in the Columbia dorm room.  He’s now bringing it to the world as a kind of revelation, and he does it two days after the world is still in shock by the video of the burning alive of the Jordanian pilot as a way of saying hey, what about Joan of Arc? I mean this is so distasteful.
Yes, it was distasteful all right, and also rather bizarre.  The point that religion has been used for evil was a major theme of his speech. The president talked of religion being used as a weapon, citing as examples victims in Pakistan, Paris, and the terrorizing of religious minorities like the Yezidis.   Curiously, in the past he has claimed that ISIS is not Islamic.  If it’s not Islamic, are these really examples?

Then there is the oft-mentioned religious minority, the Yezidis.  God bless and protect them.  They have been persecuted for decades.  Tens of thousands have had to flee their homes.  But the Christians in Iraq are a minority too, and hundreds of thousands of them have had to flee.  There were a few decades ago 1.4 million Christians in Iraq.  Now there are 300,000.  There used to be 300 Christian churches in Iraq.  Now there are 52.  Some churches are reported to now serve as dungeons and torture chambers for ISIS.  Others have been completely destroyed, including one in Mosul that was 1800 years old.  Artifacts from these churches are then sold on the black market.  And yet when the president mentions ISIS persecution of minorities he frequently says, “especially the Yezidis.”

The Yezidis are an ancient religion, an offshoot of Zoroastrianism, who believe in one god.  They also honor an angel who defied God and they believe that hell no longer exists.  I know of only one angel who defied God and those who call themselves “spiritual but not religious” these days frequently deny that there could be a place like Hell.  The attention and sympathy given to the Yezidis by this administration coupled with the lack of attention to persecuted Christians certainly raises questions.  I’ll leave it to those knowledgeable about spiritual warfare to draw their own conclusions.

The president says that human atrocities are “so often perpetrated in the name of religion.”  Was he trying to say that the cause of terrorist acts is religion?  Would he blame terrorism on religion at the National Prayer Breakfast?  He goes on to say that “lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”  What??

First of all, as an aside, let’s not forget that the Crusades were wars fought in response to Muslim aggression against Christian territory.  There were atrocities, to be sure, but it was not a case of Christians beating up on innocent Muslims.  As to the Spanish Inquisition, there is no question that it was not a pretty period of Catholic history.   But many of the assumptions about the Inquisition are wildly exaggerated and some are just plain false.  Robert P. Lockwood of Catholic Answers addressed this.
The Spanish Inquisition contains all the elements of a classic Catholic urban legend.  A distorted historical understanding shared by Catholics and non-Catholics alike makes a useful club against any position taken by the Church today in a public arena.  Any Catholic apologist or spokesperson for a Catholic position in contemporary culture knows this.  It is virtually impossible to engage in any discussion without someone raising the Spanish Inquisition to score effective, if irrelevant, debating points.
But let’s grant that the Crusades and the Inquisition were examples of religion being used for evil ends, even if they are also striking examples of ignorant and frequently used anti-Catholic rhetoric.  Why was the president talking about these events of hundreds of years ago at the National Prayer Breakfast?  He goes on to say, “So this is not unique to one group or one religion.  There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency, that can pervert and distort our faith…I believe there are a few principles that can guide us…..And, first, we should start with some basic humility.  I believe that the starting point of faith is some doubt—not being so full of yourself and so confident that you are right and that God speaks only to us, and doesn’t speak to others, that God only cares about us and doesn’t care about others, that somehow we alone are in possession of the truth.”

At this point, I have to say that the president has revealed his true cards.  His arguments have completed a caricature of the anti-Christian rhetoric of the New Age unbeliever.  When Christians claim that the Church is good, this unbeliever will bring up the Crusades and the Inquisition.  They mock the belief held by Christians, and believers of any other faith as well, that their religion contains the fullness of the truth.  They paint this belief as pride and arrogance.  They then distort the notion of an absolute truth and claim that it means that God does not care about others.  They declare that all religions teach the truth, ignoring the fact that religions contradict each other in their doctrines and that no serious believer in any religion holds this to be true.

This is a childish point of view and might be laughable if it had not been put forth by the President of the United States at the National Prayer Breakfast.  It is even more alarming that it was presented as part of a discussion that included terrorism and the actions of the unbelievably barbaric ISIS.  The president’s words not only had the effect of belittling Christianity.  They also seemed to minimize the threat to the United States and all civilized countries posed by radical Islamism.  Is this really the time to be saying in response to the burning alive of a caged Jordanian pilot that, well, Christians have committed atrocities too.

He went on to make the claim that  “we will constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom—freedom of religion—the right to practice our faith as we choose….”  This is jaw dropping from a president who has done more to prevent the free exercise of religion than any other president in our history.  But that could be the topic of another entire essay.  The HHS mandate and treatment of military chaplains immediately come to mind.

God bless our president and guide him.  He is a pacifist.  He does not understand that sometimes military might can be used justly to defend the dignity and the lives of persecuted people.  He does not understand faith. He is relying on dated and inaccurate stereotypes.  He just does not know what the leader of the free world ought to do in response to terrorism.  He seems to have his head in the sand, ignoring  the reality of Islamism and clinging to long held prejudices about Christians.  In doing so the president is endangering all Americans and all people of the free world. 

Obama mentions the word humble or humility five times in this speech.  May he himself have the humility to come before God and plead for wisdom and guidance.  He sorely needs it.  We must pray for him as well.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Saint Scholastica!!

I love Saint Scholastica.  Today is her feast day and she is my daughter Mary's Confirmation saint.  Therefore, we needed to stop at Bear Claw Coffee on the way to school today to get Mary a treat on her patron's feast day.  for more information on Saint Scholastica's life, check out this little video.

When I was in Rome three years ago with my family I was delighted to find in St. Paul's Outside the Walls the wonderful Felice Baini statue of Saint Scholastica depicted at the top of this post.  I quickly went over to Mary and excitedly told her, "Come see this!"which resulted in the picture below.

Saint Scholastica was the twin sister of Saint Benedict, depicted below in this statue by Felippo Gnaccarini which flanks the statue of Saint Scholastica at St. Paul's.

Saint Scholastic is the patron saint against storms which makes her a most appropriate patron for my daughter Mary who was, once upon a time, terrified of thunder storms.  Saint Scholastica was visiting her brother Benedict with whom she was very close.  As the day came to an end, Saint Scholastica begged her brother to stay the night so they could spend more time together.  Benedict refused, needing to get back to his monastery.  Saint Scholastica is then said to have put her head upon the table and prayed.  A thunderstorm so severe then developed that Saint Benedict was forced to spend the night.  That was their last visit together as Saint Scholastica died three days later.  Saint Benedict had a vision of her soul rising to heaven.

One could think that Saint Scholastica was rather insistent at having her own way in praying that her brother would not be able to leave.  Yet, she was motivated surely by a deep love for her twin and perhaps also a word of knowledge that her own death was coming soon and this could be her last chance to spend time with her beloved Benedict on Earth.  What a blessing that her prayer was answered and their final visit extended.  God is good.  All the time.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Fractured Grammar

Perhaps it is just my linguistics training, but I find myself increasingly annoyed by the fracturing of grammar rules that seems to be the newest trend in signage and advertising.

At my gym a sign next to the wipes for cleaning the machines says “We like clean.”  Not we like cleanliness, or we like our machines clean.  Just “We like clean.”  The word “clean” is an adjective.  It is not something you can like.  You can only like nouns.  That is how the English language works.

The Heinz ketchup bottle in my refrigerator says, “HOW DO YOU HAPPY?”  I read it and thought what??  You don’t do happy.  Happy is an adjective.  It’s something you are, not something you do.  The back of the bottle explains, “Tell us about when you’re happiest…” 

It could be argued that these are examples of the decline in effective usage of the English language.  It’s sloppy, lazy English.  Maybe.  But this assault on grammar rules is intentional.  The writers know they are violating the rules of English grammar.  It used to be that a grammar error, intentional or otherwise, was considered unprofessional.  No one would put a grammar error into print.

Now, it seems to be the new trendy, edgy thing to do.  It bothers me.  As it comes to be more and more commonplace, it may even lead to a degradation of the English language and a less effective and accurate communication.  Those who see it now may realize it’s grammatically incorrect.  The next generation may not.

But I think what bothers me even more is that it feels as though it may be the latest reverberation of our culture’s rejection of absolutes.   I will decide for myself what is right and wrong.  I will decide what my gender is.  I will decide what is right for me and no one else will guide me, not even a supreme being who just might know a little more than I do.

Has this arrogance even extended to English grammar?  I will use an adjective where I should use a noun because it’s easier and people can guess what I’m really saying.  I will decide how to communicate and with what words.  It makes no difference if I’m violating grammar rules.  I’m in charge.  I will decide.

As the culture has degraded, perhaps the language will follow.  In many ways, as a country, we no longer understand the difference between right and wrong.   As we have turned our backs on God we have drifted morally in random directions, like a ship without a rudder.

We know so little.  If only we could imagine the smallest fraction of the wisdom of God and how much we could gain by surrendering to His rules, His guidelines, His commandments, His love….

Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Pro-life Position and the Death Penalty

Why is there so little agreement among pro-lifers and those who oppose the death penalty?
My godson did an Eagle Scout project at the local prison in Missouri where he lives.  As part of the project he became acquainted with an inmate on death row.  The man had committed a heinous crime.  My godson’s father, interested in writing about the death penalty, developed a relationship with this man and visited him on a regular basis.
Eventually, the dreaded day approached and my godson and his family became increasingly distraught at the thought that this man, whom they knew, would be put to death.  We started praying that the sentence would be commuted to life in prison.
I posted a prayer request on Facebook asking for prayers that the sentence would be reduced to life imprisonment and that this man's life would be spared.  I did not think the post controversial since the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that while Church teaching does not exclude recourse to the death penalty if that is the only way to protect the public, it also says that non- lethal means are preferable and that cases where there is a necessity for the death penalty are very rare, if not nonexistent.
 2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent.
Many people joined me in prayer for this man’s life.  But there were also people who clearly objected, based on the gravity of his crime and the fact that the Church’s teaching on the death penalty is clearly nuanced.  Well, OK.  But does that mean we should not pray that a man’s life be spared, thus giving him more time for repentance, given that he was never going to leave prison and the public was in no danger from his ongoing incarceration?
I would argue that those who are pro-life ought to also oppose the death penalty and vice versa.  A human life is a human life.  One might consider the pro-life cause more worthy of action because of the horrendous number of deaths that have occurred from abortion.  Still, public safety, at least in the United States, does not require that prisoners be executed and therefore respect for life, in my mind, mandates a preference for mandatory life imprisonment over execution.
Some of my friends who are more politically left than I were pleased that as a pro-life citizen, I would also write in defense of the life of someone facing execution.  I found myself wondering why these two groups, those who oppose the death penalty and those who oppose legal abortion, are rarely seen working together.
Now, I know there are pro-lifers who will rightly point out that there are some cases where the death penalty is morally allowed and there are NO cases where abortion is allowed.  Abortion is always and unequivocally gravely immoral.  Fair enough. The Cathechism is very clear on the subject of abortion.
2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:
You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.
God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.
But should we not also oppose the death penalty in this country where a mandatory life sentence can certainly protect the safety of the public?  Is the life of someone who has committed a horrible crime not still a life that is sacred in the eyes of God?  I think most pro-lifers would say yes.  Even the life of a person convicted of a monstrous crime ought to be respected.  Is it inconsistent with the pro-life position to defend the unborn but not to oppose the execution of criminals?
Clearly, the two issues are not exactly the same.  Yes, they both involve respect for human life.  But the fifty-six million lives lost since Roe v Wade were entirely innocent lives.  Since 1976, 1,398 people have been executed.  I believe that those people should not have been executed and that that was wrong.  Wrong because life is sacred, and wrong because it is estimated that 1 in 7 people on death row are falsely accused!  But is it an "abmominable crime" in the same category as abortion?  I would say no. The sheer number of lives lost through abortion beg for a response. Fifty-six million!!!   This is a horrible injustice.  There is blood all over our land. The fact that these lives were utterly innocent human beings naturally evokes in people the desire for their protection.  
I would also say that those who oppose the death penalty but consider themselves “pro-choice” are holding a logically inconsistent position.  If it should be illegal to execute criminals why should it not be illegal to kill the innocent, defenseless human being in the mother’s womb?  
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Leelo to the Zoo- A CHildren's Book

Gaetane Montreuil has written a sweet children's book about a little angel who lives in a kingdom in the sky.  Leelo had visited a little boy on Earth named Marco and had positively effected his life. Marco longs for Leelo's return.

The second in a series of books, this is the story of Leelo's return to visit Marco.

While perhaps theologically confusing to Catholic children, this book could be taken simply as the fanciful tale that it is.  Its bold and colorful illustrations and talking animals will appeal to many.  And all will appreciate its valuable lessons of kindness to children and to animals.

Illustrated by Simon Goodway and published by Clink Street, this book can be found at Amazon or other retailers for $14.99.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Things Are Not Always As They Appear

My daughter and son-in-law joined a local gym.  Now the rest of our family has too.

It's been great.  I've gotten a lot of exercise and I'm motivated to keep going.  It's important.

It's also been nice to be at a gym where the rest of the family belongs.  Sometimes we're there at the same time and, even though we are often exercising in different sections, I love seeing members of my family across the room.

This gym has a second floor track that winds around the classrooms, the cardio area, and the weights section.  I was walking the track one day as my son and son-in-law were involved in other activities.  Zach, my son-in-law, is very athletic.  A rugby player for many years, he is accustomed to body building work and often lifts weights.  As I came down the stairs from the track, I saw Zach finish lifting a large barbell.  I paused briefly on the landing and called to him, "Very impressive, " as I continued down the stairs.

A man next to Zach looked over at him and said with an eyebrow raised, no doubt, "Did you just get a cat call?"

Zach told me later.  I nearly died.  It NEVER occurred to me that no one there knows he's my son-in-law!!  Sheesh.  Gotta keep my mouth shut.  :-/

Things are not always as they appear!!  Another good life lesson.