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As a young college seminarian, I was out to dinner one night in the mid 1980’s with New York Auxiliary Bishop, Patrick Ahern. I questioned whether NY Governor Mario Cuomo was in a no-win position regarding abortion and his fight with Cardinal O’Connor. This wonderful old bishop walked me down the road of truth with grace and patience. His words about Cuomo apply equally to Kaine. So, Tim Kaine, here is a rebuke from beyond the grave of a true saint.

You are a hypocrite, and your every action in politics betrays your hypocrisy regarding abortion. All American citizens are free to work within our constitutional system to effect changes based upon their private beliefs. It matters not whether those beliefs arise from a religiously informed view, or the Natural Law embraced by our Founding Fathers.

As a governor, you have enjoyed a position most Americans could only dream of. You have been uniquely positioned to work from within the political establishment to effect change regarding abortion. What have you done?

Have you used the bully pulpit of the Governor to decry abortion?

Have you called for a Constitutional Amendment abolishing this barbarism that has claimed 60 million American lives, 20 million of whom were black?

How is it that you can be personally opposed to a procedure that tears a baby apart while alive, or scorches them with saline solution, and not seek to effect a change in our laws?

How can you be so personally opposed to abortion and remain so silent?

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Worse, how can you be so personally opposed and accept being the running mate for the most rabidly pro-abortion candidate in US history, save the current occupant of the White House?

In truth, you have done nothing to redeem your party, or yourself, to assuage the nation of the blood that flows like a river.

When you meet your God at the last, He will remind you of the words of St. James in chapter 2 of his New Testament letter:

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead… You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

 

And so it is with the faith of all such politicians who pay lip-service to their faith, while actively promoting the machinery of government that funds abortionists, funds abortion through Medicaid, forces churches to pay for abortion through health insurance, and worst of all…

Decries the other party for condemning abortion, accusing them of waging war on women. Where have you been, Governor?

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells us that the last words the damned will hear from Him are:

“For whenever you neglected to do this for the least of these, my brothers, you neglected to do it for me.”

If you will not hear it from your bishops, Governor Kaine, you had better heed the words of Jesus and James. No real Catholic can get away with such a vacuous argument on abortion.

A saintly bishop defeated that one thirty years ago.

 

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Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor

FILE -In this Oct. 1, 2010 file photo provided by the Supreme Court shows, from left, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Justice Elena Kagan in the Justices’ Conference Room prior to Justice Kagan’s Investiture Ceremony at the court in Washington. (AP Photo/Steve Petteway, Supreme Court, File)

 

If ever there were a law that so embodied the original argument in favor of abortion, it was the Texas law struck down today by the U.S. Supreme Court. If ever there were a mockery of all that the early proponents of abortion held dear, it was made by the united votes of the three women on the highest court in the land. Abortions, if made legal, were supposed to have been brought out of the back alley. Women would have practitioners who were physicians in good standing. They would have clean, sanitary clinics that abided by the public health standards required in all other surgical procedures.

That never happened.

Most Ob/Gyn’s regarded abortion practitioners as the lowest form of membership in their honorable profession, and hospitals by-and-large prohibited the practice, keeping the slaughter of babies beyond the purview of their services. A majority of abortionists have been washouts from other branches of medicine, whose operations came nowhere near the minimal standards required of  ambulatory surgical centers established in other fields of medicine. Not only are the minimal public health standards not required, but the minimal standards for STD testing and treatment have not been part of standard operating procedure.

Surgical procedures such as abortion, or even the insertion of an IUD can take a bacterium like Chlamydia and spread it to the inside of the uterus and fallopian tubes, setting up pelvic inflammatory disease, sterility, and chronic pelvic pain. Though some clinics now claim to do testing with the new rapid diagnostic tests, many do not, and almost none ever have before rapid testing was developed. That flies in the face of standards of care in other gynecologic surgery performed in hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers. With abortion, a woman can walk in off the street and be on her way in hours.

All too often, cases like Kermit Gosnell’s house of horrors are only a matter of degree, but not of kind. A “clinic” that does not test for Chlamydia, HPV, HIV and other STD’s, with treatment prior to surgery isn’t much of a clinic at all. It is even less so when the physician is neither an Ob/Gyn in good standing, or even an Ob/Gyn at all; let alone one with admitting privileges at a local hospital. Add to that recent laws in states like California that allow nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants to perform surgical abortions and one wonders, whatever became of the drive to imbue abortion with all of the medical standards and safeguards women deserve?

The answer to that question, and the key to today’s decision reside in the arguments between the justices over the effects of the Texas law. Since the passage of the law, half of Texas’ 41 abortion clinics closed, unable to meet the demands of maintaining a safe facility including having physicians with admitting privileges at local hospitals.

“Undue Burden” is the catch-phrase of the day.

If permitted to stand, the fear was that the law would force the closure of ten more clinics, leaving an area of Texas the size of California without abortion services. Allow that to sink in for a moment.

If abortion clinics in Texas were required to have physicians competent enough to have admitting privileges, and run surgical clinics held to the same standards as all other ambulatory surgical centers, a land mass the size of California would have no abortion providers. If that doesn’t define “back-alley,” then what does?

Today, all three women on the court said, in effect, that the back alley is better than nothing at all.

Today, all three women on the court passed the opportunity to fight for the vision of “reproductive freedom” espoused in 1973.

Today, all three women on the court demonstrated that the lust for killing babies outweighs the safety of the women driven to such acts of desperation.

Today, not one of the three women on the court said that we can do better, that women deserve better.

It was another blow against women today, an act of betrayal by the women on the highest court in the land, who more than anyone else ought to be using their perch to demand real justice, real care, and authentic dignity for women.

As chemical abortions take deeper root, and as hospitals increasingly absorb the lucrative business from the closing of local clinics, the issue of the Texas law will shrink in importance; but the abandonment of women by all three women on the highest court in the land will live and grow in infamy. It will be seen by future generations for what it truly is.

The real War on Women.

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Two radically different strains of Americans emerged over the weekend in response to the Cincinnati Zoo killing a gorilla in order to save the life of a four year-old boy who tumbled into his enclosure. After viewing videos of the gorilla dragging the boy haplessly through the water at great speed, and climbing with the child, some people cannot imagine why a decision to kill the animal was made. Others cannot fathom where the first group comes from.

It all depends on one’s definition of endangered animal.

There were two in that enclosure.

Enter the debate over which endangered animal gets priority. If one goes strictly according to the numbers, then the life of the child was expendable. Many outraged animal rights activists commented on the seven billion people on the planet and the disappearing gorilla population. In their perspective, zoological justice needed to be balanced on the back of a toddler. To the rest of the world, such a perspective is utterly unfathomable. In truth, both sides find the other’s repellent. But the Cincinnati Zoo episode is merely a looking glass into the broader anthropological meltdown that has been underway for the better part of a century.

Enter Jesus.

The Catholic Church has a 2,000 year history of refining an authentic anthropology based upon God’s revelation to us regarding who and what we are in the created order. St. Paul tells us in the first chapter of his letter to the Colossians:

13He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 
14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 
15He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; 
16for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. 
17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 
18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent.
19For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, 
20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 
21And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 
22he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, 
23 provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

They key to understanding here is the observation by Paul that, “In Him, all things hold together.”

Every stunning departure from the moral norms that have governed decent human behavior can be traced to errors in Christian anthropology, and to a rejection of Christ’s sovereignty over our lives. When we collectively look in the mirror, what is it that we see? What is it that we are not seeing, and why?

Consider the breathtaking devaluation of human dignity through the eugenics movement, two world wars, communism/socialism, unrestrained capitalism, segregation, global abortions since 1960 passing the 2 BILLION mark, contraception, sterilization, surrogate motherhood, IVF, cloning of human/animal chimeras, euthanasia and physicians committing outright murder, the LGBT agenda that now is pressing for no distinctions between men and women, and on and on…

There is nothing sudden about the radical anthropological disintegration all about us. It has been a century in the making. St. Paul was right. In Him all things hold together, but the opposite is also necessarily true.

Apart from Him, all things disintegrate.

Our dignity comes from God Himself, which is why it isn’t enough to merely be, “spiritual,” as is the fashion. One must be religious and faithful to a body of moral teaching because our human dignity needs to be safeguarded, and those safeguards make behavioral demands on us, often in the realm of personal sacrifice. It was this mess that Pope John Paul II saw clearly and set out to address in what would become one of the most incredible canons ever contributed by a single individual in the Church. In his first Encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, John Paul addresses humanity’s self-perception issue, and offers the remedy to the distorted self-understanding in one paragraph:

Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. This, as has already been said, is why Christ the Redeemer “fully reveals man to himself”. If we may use the expression, this is the human dimension of the mystery of the Redemption. In this dimension man finds again the greatness, dignity and value that belong to his humanity. In the mystery of the Redemption man becomes newly “expressed” and, in a way, is newly created. He is newly created! “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”64. The man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly-and not just in accordance with immediate, partial, often superficial, and even illusory standards and measures of his being-he must with his unrest, uncertainty and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ. He must, so to speak, enter into him with all his own self, he must “appropriate” and assimilate the whole of the reality of the Incarnation and Redemption in order to find himself. If this profound process takes place within him, he then bears fruit not only of adoration of God but also of deep wonder at himself. How precious must man be in the eyes of the Creator, if he “gained so great a Redeemer”65, and if God “gave his only Son “in order that man “should not perish but have eternal life”66.

 

So there is the remedy for a broken world. Christ the Redeemer fully reveals man to himself.

So many among us look in the mirror each day and see a visage of something far less human, or wondrous, or noble, or lovable than what actually stands before the mirror. This weekend the dignity of a human child was judged to be less than that of an adult gorilla, and by so many people that it became a national debate on the very weekend meant to honor the sacrifices made by humans for other humans.

It’s what happens when Christian faith, and its attendant anthropology, is chased from the public square. The civilization that held together in Christ disintegrates. It is past time for the Christian churches of this nation to reassert our primacy of place in the public square, and to bring the good news to those who look in the mirror with shame.

Civilization hangs in the balance.

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When Jesus asked his Apostles, “Who do men say that I am?” He got some interesting replies. When He asked who the Apostles thought He was, only Peter nailed the right answer. I have often thought about Judas in that moment. What was Judas thinking?

When Peter nailed the correct answer, Jesus made it clear that the Father was the one who slipped him the correct response. From that moment on, the Apostles all knew who Jesus said that He was.

The Christ. The Son of the Living God.

Judas was there for it all: The raising of people from the dead, the healing of the sick, walking on water, the loaves and fishes. He saw it all. He even went out on the missionary mission and preached and worked wonders in the name of Jesus. How, then, could he have betrayed Jesus? What was he thinking?

Did he think that Jesus didn’t know what he was up to? Did he think that Jesus would escape certain death as He had in the past when the people of His home town wanted to throw Him from a cliff? Was Judas trying to scam a few pieces of silver? Or did Judas have the blackest heart in the history of the world?

When Jesus begged from the cross for the Father to forgive His executioners, for they knew not what they were doing, did that cover Judas, who saw it all, who walked with Jesus, who was chosen?

It is ominous that Jesus said at the Last Supper, “…but woe to that man by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed. It were better for him, if that man had not been born.”

But that did not stop Saint Teresa of Avila from praying that Judas might be saved. Perhaps Teresa was on to something.

It seems from the Gospel narratives that the Apostles didn’t grasp the crucifixion right away, nor the resurrection. Peter stood somewhat befuddled in the empty tomb. Then there was the bewilderment by the two on the Road to Emmaus, and Jesus’ gentle admonishment at how slow they were to understand all that the prophets had foretold. Even then, they only recognized Him in the Eucharist, in the breaking of the bread.

So, what exactly is Judas’ villainy in all of this? What did he know, and did he really grasp what it was that he was doing?

I ask because I reflect on my own sins, the ones that have been every bit as responsible for putting Jesus on that cross as Judas was: The sins that were committed with sufficient reflection and full consent of the will. The mortal sins. Are these not a betrayal too, of the baptismal vows, of the past firm purposes of amendment, of graces received and squandered?

When we stood during Sunday’s Gospel and chanted the part of the crowd, “Crucify Him,” it was more than a parish play. It is in fact what all of our sins have screamed aloud.

I think Teresa saw this when she looked at her own past sinfulness. That’s why she could pray for the salvation of Judas. In truth, I have never been entirely comfortable with Judas as the villain of the story in Holy Week. I see a weak and tragic man. But then I see 10 other Apostles as weak and tragic as they headed for the tall grass as Jesus was executed. Only John remained. And I see my own weaknesses, my own sins that nailed Jesus to the cross.

To despise Judas for what he did is to make a distinction that is at once invidious and dangerous. Only Mary can make that distinction without it being invidious, because Mary is the only human (apart from her son who was both human and divine) who didn’t sin. It is dangerous to despise Judas, because such judgement takes one’s eye off of one’s own sinfulness and the need for Jesus’ sacrificial death to redeem those sins.

Perhaps we really don’t fully know what it is we do, even with sufficient reflection and full consent of the will. Perhaps Judas didn’t fully know either. Perhaps when he hanged himself from the torment and shame, when his body fell and split open, perhaps such an ignominious ending for an Apostle was punishment enough. Certainly Caiaphas and Pilate showed no such remorse.

Whatever Judas’ fate, it is enough this week to ask Jesus’ mercy and forgiveness for my own betrayals, and to follow Teresa’s example and offer up a prayer for the salvation of Judas. It is the Fatima prayer, is it not?

“O, my Jesus! Forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy Mercy!”

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In the wake of Pope Francis’ proposing contraception as a means of preventing microcephaly in the Zika virus epidemic, much is being made of his linking the modern day dilemma to the plight of nuns being raped in the Congo more than 55 years ago, and Pope Paul VI allegedly permitting the nuns to take contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. Of course, Francis missed some whopper pandemics ongoing globally as he held out contraceptives to the hispanics in his backyard, a matter I blogged on extensively over the weekend.

Canon lawyer Ed Peters addresses the high probability that Paul VI never issued such permission. His article is worth the read.

Assuming that Paul VI, or any other pope/bishop gave such permission in the 1960’s, we are in possession of hard medical data, and subsequent teaching from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) that would prevent any Pope from ever issuing such permission again.

To be clear, Humanae Vitae in 1968 put into succinct expression the constant 2,000 year teaching of the Church. It may be argued that this teaching applies to married couples and the marriage act that is frustrated and perverted by artificial contraception, and not to victims of rape who do not have an obligation to allow for the possibility of the transmission of life by the rapist. Only a monster would maintain that the Congo nuns needed to let nature take its course. So in the 1960’s when the pill was new, it seemed pretty obvious that its use in this circumstance would not be morally problematic.

That was then.

In the more than half-century since, we have learned quite a bit about the pill’s mechanisms of action. Different pills have different mechanisms. Broadly speaking, not all ovulation is prevented by the pill, and the uterine lining is thinned, making it generally inhospitable for a new embryo seeking implantation upon arrival from the Fallopian tube.

That spells abortion.

Progestin-only contraceptives increase by up to six-fold the incidence of ectopic pregnancy which is almost always lethal for the baby, and often lethal for the mother in the third world environs where Zika and other mosquito-transmitted endemic diseases lurk.

Then, there is the 2009 Dolle, et al. study on the effects of contraceptives on the rates of the most deadly form of breast cancer, Triple Negative breast cancer. In the study the age of first use of the pill was analyzed with stunning results on the rates of premenopausal Triple Negative breast cancer before the age of 45.

If a woman started the pill above the age of 22, her risk factor increased 250%

If a woman started the pill between ages 18-22, her risk factor increased 270%

If a woman started the pill below age 18, her risk factor increased 540%

So today we know that the pill causes breast cancer, ectopic pregnancy, and even the product inserts claim it may act as an abortifacient. It may well have induced cancer in all of those nulliparous women who as such are at increased risk of breast cancer. Add to that the 1974 CDF document, Declaration on Procured Abortion, and the following statement from paragraph 13:

“From a moral point of view this is certain: even if a doubt existed concerning whether the fruit of conception is already a human person, it is objectively a grave sin to dare to risk murder.”

Perhaps Paul VI permitted nuns to use oral contraceptives, which in no way for women religious is an offense against the marital act, as rape is a violent criminal act. But in light of what is now known, such a decision could never be made today for consecrated women being targeted for rape. It especially could never be made for married women in regions of endemic disease, not without eviscerating the 2,000 year teaching contained within Humanae Vitae.

True, your humble blogger is a medical microbiologist and not a moral theologian. But he was extensively educated in ethics and moral theology in undergraduate seminary studies and graduate seminary studies. The moral principles are clear. The epidemiology literature even moreso. The Church has various scientific pontifical commissions for advising the Holy Father and the Curia. It would be a good idea if Francis picked up the phone and had a few consultations with his commission members.

The Congo episode has been overtaken by the truth of God’s creation as revealed by science. That doesn’t increase tensions. Rather, it harmonizes medical science and the principles of moral theology on this matter.

Francis spoke very badly on this issue. While I share his concern for the poor, it is the poor who will suffer the most when International Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes International swoop down on these women, with Francis’ words on their lips. He needs to come up to speed on issues he finds distasteful or distracting from his primary agenda. But the plight of the poor at the hands of these international parasites is just as pressing as hunger and all the rest.

 

 

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Through the years I have done more than my fair share of writing about the abortion statistics in the Black community, of Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger and her Negro Project, and of New York City’s black abortion rate that has hovered at 55-60% of all black pregnancies. It is appalling that a population demographic representing 13% of the national population should have upward of 37% of the nation’s abortions. Some 20 million over the past 43 years.

Toward that end I have promoted the movie, Maafa 21, which documents the eugenic agenda afoot in this nation for well over a century. Five years ago I helped to organize in Harlem a rally with prominent members of the black pro-life leadership, as New York City was busy passing legislation meant to cripple our thin line of crisis pregnancy centers. In that fight I gave testimony to the City Council, making known the NYC Vital Statistics report which detailed the 60% abortion rate among blacks.

For six years I have made all of this known, and simultaneously fought the urge to ask the broader question, to address fully the hateful phenomenon afoot in Black America. It is a question that must be asked, and must be dealt with, if this scourge in the inner city is ever to be brought to heel.

Is what is happening simply and solely genocide, or are we witnessing a race-based version of assisted suicide?

That one question begs several more.

Are blacks perpetual victims? Are they really as susceptible to outside forces as some would have us believe? Where does genocide end and suicide begin?

In 1838, the future great emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, gave his famous address to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois. His words then, dealing with slavery and the nation’s future can and must be applied to the nation as a whole today, but should also be taken to heart by the black community and those who would portray them as hapless victims of an abortion juggernaut:

“Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.”

Lincoln was quite correct. As a nation of free men and free women, our destruction is inflicted from within. We tolerate not only the evil of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry, but err in portraying blacks as hapless victims.

They aren’t. No more than hispanics, asians or whites are hapless victims.

That isn’t to say that blacks aren’t especially targeted by this industry. They are. But they also consent, and so the abortion mills go where the business is good.

To be certain it is a many tentacled monster, and welfare, the destruction of the black family, etc… all play a role. But the time has come to address the issue of a suicidal impulse, of which abortion is only a part, albeit a vital part.

The great lesson of the Abolition Movement, of a civil war in which over 600,000 Americans lost their lives, of the Civil Rights Movement, is that Blacks are fully human.

Fully Human.

It is as patronizing and paternalistic to portray the black community as hapless victims as it was to suggest that slavery was a mercy for those not equipped to function in western civilization.

As Lincoln said 22 years before that great American tragedy,

If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.”

I have come to believe that it is less genocide and more suicide with black abortion.

God have mercy.

 

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“Gerry, show me a man who doesn’t practice gratitude and I’ll show you a man whose spiritual life is arid,” said Father Benedict Groeschel to me several years ago. He went on to say that Praise and Thanksgiving were the highest form of prayer, that a healthy psyche, a healthy spiritual life depended on the daily practice of these. It would be easy to say that they come easily when things are going well, and more difficult when things are going poorly, but looking within myself, I would be a liar if I said that this were true.

Jesus healed ten lepers one day, and only one returned to thank Him. He inquired if there were not nine others who were also healed. It’s easy to forget in the midst of triumph, of success, of great good fortune to stop and thank the One from whom it all flows. My proclivity to be one of the 90% who don’t return to say thank you occasioned that loving remonstration and correction from my spiritual director. So, I have learned through the years to thank God not only in times of joy, but also in times of sorrow. This year has held out ample opportunity from both.

In April, I lost my great scientific mentor, Dr. Anne Dranginis, to ovarian cancer having learned of her death several months later. Anne was not only a gifted scientist, she was the epitome of compassion, of all that is noble in humanity. She had a keen sense of justice, of fairness, of ethics and integrity, and moved through this world with an easy graciousness that was stunning to behold. She sustained me with her gracious good humor and wise counsel in some very dark and unproductive times during my research. I cannot imagine a world without her in it, and yet, for all of the sorrow, I cannot praise or thank God enough for her having graced my life as she did.

Two weeks after I learned of Anne’s death, Joseph became an Eagle Scout, and perhaps one of the most highly decorated in the nation at the age of 16. For the first time since he was diagnosed at age 4 with autism and a raft of other diagnoses, I could really, really believe that Joseph had turned the corner, that he can make his way in the world. Nothing was handed to him. Nothing. He set his sights on Eagle and let nothing deter him. Along the way he has developed a love of the younger scouts and looks after them as a big brother. They love him in return. He has done all that he has in scouting while also doing well in school, while developing into a fiercely competitive bowler who also received a $500 college scholarship from a family fund to recognize not his skill, but his sportsmanship in the game. He serves at the altar, dances Irish step and Street Tap, plays baseball (rather well!), coaches children’s bowling leagues, has joined a scouting unit that does archery and is becoming quite skilled.

Yes, God is at work in this boy. Last night, the manager of the Scout Shop at our local Boy Scout camp gave Joseph the phone number of a mother with a young son on the autism spectrum, and asked if he wouldn’t mind mentoring this boy who badly needs an understanding scouting mentor.

All of this is what my darkest days and nights, my worst fears as a father have melted into. How can I not thank God enough?

And then there is another Ann, my best friend from the years immediately after high school, whom I met at youth ministry meetings in her parents’ home. No romance or dating. We ran peer retreats together and grew up together under the umbrella of God’s grace. Separated for a few decades by a comedy of errors and life’s cross-currents, Ann found me again through this blog, and we reconnected a couple of years ago in the midst of her husband’s cancer. He was a great man and she turned a two-year prognosis into an eight year testament to the power of love. She cared for him right to the end this past August, a one-woman nursing home. The finest example of sacrificial love I have ever seen, and I’ve been blessed to see plenty.

As we have picked up anew a friendship so deeply and thoroughly formed by our faith when we were young, it has been remarkable to see that who we are is who we were, that God has been moving the chess pieces on the board all along, that we have become precisely the persons we aspired to become when we were trying to figure it all out so long ago. But that has come about through a combination of great success and great challenge, through joy and sorrow.

There have been several other old friendships rekindled this past year. In sharing all that has transpired, the template seems to be the same. We were all so very young, so filled with high ideal. We thought we had all the answers and life was held by us on a leash.

And then life happened.

Amazingly, we really did have all the answers. We had met and grown up in youth ministry, retreat ministry, campus ministry. We really did have all the answers, but none that we thought we had. In the tough times, we recalled the words of our great mentor, Father Luke McCann. As we’ve sat and shared our journeys through life the common refrain has been, “And then I remembered what Luke would always say…”

It was always a mixture of scripture, practical wisdom, and great humor.

It was wisdom beyond that of Solomon that we couldn’t grasp at the time, entered deep into our memories anyway. Marriages saved. Careers preserved. Souls set on fire. Love recalled and rekindled. All through the blessings of our youthful and faithful community in retreat and campus ministry.

There has been so much this past year, the highest highs and lowest lows, and all at once. Through it all, we bless and thank God for all of the good that we have and have had. The blessings do not always remain present in our lives. Friends sometimes drift apart and spouses return to their God. What remains is the effect of the blessing from God, its intended purpose.

We are forever changed. We learn the language of Heaven. We grow. We love. We laugh. We cry. We come to appreciate what is most important:

Faith, Hope, and Love.

Paul tells us the greatest of these is love.

On this Thanksgiving, I praise God for Regina and how she teaches me about love.

I praise him for all of my mentors through life, whom He has called back to Himself.

I praise Him for the children He has entrusted to my care, for how they have taught me about love, about fatherhood and through my fatherhood, about God’s fatherhood.

I praise Him for the many friends I have made and those who have come back into my life this past year, for all the love and richness they have brought me and my family.

I praise Him for the adversities which have strengthened me and refined my perspective.

I praise Him for our livelihood, our freedoms, our faith.

Father Benedict was quite correct those many years ago. The practice of gratitude is the cornerstone of a healthy psyche and spiritual life. It is perhaps best summed up in the Weekday IV Preface in the former Sacramentary

Father, all powerful and everliving God, we do well always and everywhere to give You thanks.

You have no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank You is itself Your gift. Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to Your greatness, but makes us grow in Your grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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