Category Archives: Freedom of Religion

Today, April 24, 2016


A Ruined Augustinian Monastery in Cashel, Ireland Destroyed by Cromwell


It is a cool afternoon here by the river; a steady wind from the north has been blowing downstream since mid-afternoon yesterday, and I wonder why everything here isn’t somewhere on Cape Cod.  It’s a bit late in the day to be doing this, but when one has to be at Mass long before Mass begins because you need practice, well, things get put aside.  Now, the time seems to be good for this little exercise.  I’ve finished lunch, folded the wash, actually two washes, and conducted a fruitless search (again) for something I’ll need for a trip we are taking in June.

There’s only this, and, maybe, a nap.

Spring has made itself seen and felt around here with usual brightness of day, softness of showers and sound of courting birds for the past week or so.  We await the first tulips blooming in our little plot out back.  Yesterday afternoon I listened to a lonesome cardinal  in a nearby tree calling someone, anyone, in his cardinal world to come and make his life complete.  There were at least a dozen other cardinals in trees on both sides of the river with the same idea.  Poor guy, he sang his heart out, and got nothing for the effort.  He won’t give up, though.  I admired his persistence and his pluck, and hoped the best for him and his bachelor buddies.  There are no cardinal monasteries they can enter.  There’s no vocations to celibacy for them to follow.  Nature bound, they must find a mate and obey.  Nor can they will to do anything else, like deciding they identify as something, anything other than a lonesome male cardinal, or running away with the fellow one tree over.

Above them all yesterday, high against the clouds two hawks slid effortlessly down the wind and back again for at least twenty minutes.  Cloud coasters, sky surfers, catching the invisible air waves; I watched them and thought of angels and Icarus.

It’s too wind washed today though, both sky and nearby trees, for a lonely gang of cardinals or a lazy pair of hawks.

It’s quiet in this room.  All I hear is the clock on the wall, and all I see in the afternoon sunlight are the crab-apple branches shying from the wind and a chickadee or two  darting into the azalea bush before dashing to the feeder just outside the front door.

It was a century ago this day in Dublin when the Easter Rising against British Rule took place.  The “lads” all met a swift end in the Post Office, or a few days later against a wall.  I saw the marks the British bullets made and put my fingers into the holes.  It was Easter Sunday, a century ago.  My father was just “gone” three, with his mother and father in New York City, and I wonder what those two thought might be coming for their families home  if the British got their blood up over it all.  There was Dick Fanning, my grand-uncle who fled his mother’s house, and up and over hills to hide in Kilkenny.  And all I knew of him I first learned watching his sister pray for him when I was little.

But, then, perhaps the Sassenach invader couldn’t devote too much thought to it all, caught up as they were in the slaughterhouse across the channel in France, and a crumbling empire.

The only things I know about that day a century ago I learned in the songs we all sang when I was younger; songs of the long years of trying in the sad and often desperate tunes of wild colonial boys, rattling Thompson guns, orders from the captain to get ready quick and soon, the sad fields of Athenry and the hope behind it all; that Ireland once again a nation be.

It isn’t, yet, after eight hundred years.  They got most of it, to be sure, to call their own again.  And the rest?  Someday, God willing, the four green fields will together bloom.

What took place in Ireland then was preceded by a greater horror only a year before, the great murder of Christian Armenia by the Muslim Turks, the the decaying remains of the Ottoman Empire built on the corpse of Byzantium.  Until today I hadn’t known the two events were only a year separated, and I’m walking around wondering at the woe both people suffered; only for the Armenians much more horrible for its scope and swift brutality, I suppose, at the hands of the Turks than the long woe of Ireland under the British yoke.  It was thousands, perhaps a hundred or two thousand transported away from home by the British over a few centuries, and four million starved to death in the Great Hunger, while beef and pork and poultry and corn and all the great produce of the small green land went across the Irish Sea to feed the landlords, and the farmers ate grass and watched their wives and children die..

But for centuries the Armenian people, the first Christian nation, suffered slavery and worse at the hands of their Muslim overlords until the effort to do away with them completely began with the arrest and imprisonment of several hundred scholars, and spread with enslavement, rape, crucifixions, death marches and slaughter.  Spread in a word with all of the honored cruel methods of population control used for so long in the Middle East.

Not much has changed.  It happens today.

Today is the feast of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, a town in Germany.  He became a martyr in Switzerland where he had gone to preach.  He once wrote: “What is it that today makes true followers of Christ cast luxuries aside, leave pleasures behind, and endure difficulties and pain? It is living faith that expresses itself through love.”

Think of him when next you hear of some Christian being castigated for telling the truth about their faith, for “casting aside” the luxury of silence before error, or worse being martyred for being a Christian.

The Fields of Athenry is a song about a young man sent away from his family because he tried to feed them: The Fields of Athenry 

This is a song from Armenia.  I don’t know the words, but you can guess, and I do not think you’ll be wrong:  Armenian Song


What Did Jesus Do!!!???

A friend sent me a kind of poster today and suggested that I may share it with whomever I wish to share it with.  It says:

Jesus regularly ate dinner with thieves and prostitutes but you’re telling me it’s against your religion to bake a cake for a gay person?

I do not understand the point of the poster.  I also do not think that thieves and prostitutes were the regular dinner companions of Our Lord.  But, I quibble.

In any event, I wrote the following letter to my friend whichhas been edited for this appearance:

Dear M,

I have been told by others that the man who introduced me years ago to the lady I would marry is a homosexual.  We have been friends a long time.  And the subject of his sexual attraction, or mine, never entered in any way into our friendship.  As far as I know, he has lived a celibate life. I would bake him a cake, but he is an excellent cook. He is also an expert gardener, and an accomplished, self taught, artist. He is a deeply spiritual fellow, too.

Another friend, one of the strongest and fiercest men I have ever known, I was told was a homosexual, too. He died young; from alcohol and drug abuse. He had a troubled childhood, but no more troubled than anyone I knew in my neighborhood. The only difference between him and my other friend was, as I learned much much later in my life, he was actively homosexual.

There was another friend of my youth who, when we were in our mid-teens, suggested that we engage in a common homosexual practice together. I declined, politely but definitely too. This person really never had anything to do with me after, and soon disappeared from the neighborhood.

I wrote a little essay about that incident, and one or two other similar incidents, which was published in a local on-line journal. For the next several weeks I was labelled a homophobe and my cruelty and hatefulness analyzed and criticised by many people, none of whom had the slightest idea who I was. I was amazed and amused. But, I concluded that their motivation was hate and their purpose was to silence me, and anyone who thought as I did, or dared discuss similar experiences.

I have been groped by homosexuals, and propositioned; not often, but it has happened. Thankfully, that no longer happens…at least not in the last twenty years; the last one to do so was a Catholic priest. I regularly pray for him.

I do not know where you may have conceived the idea that I think it against my religion to bake a homosexual a cake. I have had homosexuals in my home as guests on many occasions, and cake has often been among the things available to eat; sometimes, even, cake that I baked.

In addition, like Jesus I have eaten dinner with thieves and prostitutes. I have dined, too, with capitalists and bankers and tax collectors and attorneys and soldiers. And, since I have been a cook from time to time, baked a cake for not a few of them.

Now, I know that the little thing above is something designed in opposition to the recent law passed in Indiana. It is, as are most things of its type, a silly simplification of the argument against the law. Besides its silliness, it gets it wrong, completely, and like the folks who hatefully labelled me, misrepresents thereby the reason and purpose of the law, and, I think purposefully and maliciously so.

I have no doubt that Christ ate with homosexuals while here on earth. We know for a fact that he was in contact with adulterers. And we have evidence that He convinced at least one adulteress to reform, too. Perhaps, in those possible meals with homosexuals, he convinced one or more of them to reform their way.  But, what the Savior’s dinner company has to do with a law designed to support the free exercise of religion puzzles me, very much. I do not attend any celebrations of so-called “Gay Pride” for reasons which have to do as much with my faith as with good taste, decorum and decency. I suspect that Our Lord might not either, though I do not come across any posters similar to the one above questioning our motives for not standing in the crowd waving rainbow flags while half clad, or unclad homosexuals parade by, pridefully, while suggesting that because Christ ate and drank with sinners we should watch homosexuals parade.

Indeed, I can envision a time, given the way things have been “progressing” when attendance at such bizarre and barbaric displays will be mandatory. Such things are what this law seeks to protect us from; and I think it a great sadness that we need a law between a God given right enshrined in our founding document as the first right and those who would forbid its free exercise. I thank you for the invitation to share this document, but I honestly do not know anyone who I think would welcome or benefit by it.


PS: In no way did I mean to criticize or demean the priest I mentioned above. I still attended his Masses, still received the sacraments from him. He still heard my confessions and gave me absolution for my sins, and I prayed then for him as I do now. I like what St. Thomas More said: “Pray for me, and I will pray for thee, that we may merrily meet in heaven.” I see no reason why we should not. Perhaps, if that were the case, universally, people might respect the faith and religious beliefs of other people and not demand of them things which would cause them to violate them. I think Jesus would like that.

The New Dhimmitude

A Reflection on an Article by R.R. Reno

“When people talk about religion in America they almost always mean
Christianity. The desire of many on the left to restrict religious freedom
reflects their commitment to limiting the influence of Christianity over
American society, especially in the area of sexual morality, which has
become a preoccupation of contemporary liberalism.

Today elite institutions can be relied upon to provide anto-christian
propaganda. Steven Pinker and Stephen Greenblatt at Harvard publish books
that show how Christianity pretty much ruined, and ruins, everything, as
Christopher Hitchens put it so bluntly. The major presses put out books by
scholars like Elaine Pagels at Princeton that argue that Christianity is for
the most part an invention of power hungry bishops who suppressed the
genuine diversity and spiritual richness of early followers of Jesus.
Journalists like Garry Wills reprocess and reassemble this sort of
scholarship to show that Christianity is a tissue of lies. They can count
on the New York Times to praise their books.

We can dispute the accuracy of these works, and generally there’s a great
deal to be criticized on scholarly grounds. This is necessary, but unlikely
to be effective in altering the influence of someone like Greenblatt, whose
recent book The Swerve was panned by scholars but nevertheless received the
National Book Award for nonfiction. That’s not surprising, because he and
others serve an important ideological purpose. Many liberals today want
Christianity to be discredited, because Christianity and Christians are in
the way. This is clearest in fights over abortion and gay marriage, but we
can see it elsewhere.

We’re in the way of medical research unrestricted by moral concerns about
the use of fetal tissue. We’re in the way of new reproductive technologies
and genetic experimentation. We’re in the way of doctor-assisted suicide.
In other words, we’re in the way of liquifying traditional moral limits so
that they can be reconstructed to accord with the desires and needs of the
powerful people who don’t like being hindered.”
R.R. Reno, “The New Dhimmitude”, First Things, April, 2013, p.5

How come I took the time to type this and then send it to you? Well, I was
struck by Reno’s mention of this guy Garry Wills, who has only recently
risen above the horizon for me. He was once in a Jesuit seminary. When I
was a kid he would have been called a “failed priest”. He was recently
praised, and his ideas and writing applauded in all the right places, and
among all the “smart” people; the ones for whom the inside of a church is
most likely only viewed when it has become the venue for a nice evening of
music, and then praised for its acoustics. But others too have been
generous in their praise of the man, and see merit in his ideas, and hope
for a better day which they are sure will come if things were just a little
bit easier; only just a little bit, after all.

Many of those who write books, folks like Pagels and Greenblatt, would have
been called what they are years ago too, heretics, and not scholars, they
and their works condemned. Certainly, what Reno mentions, here, as being
the reason for their ascendancy may strike some who read this as being just
a little paranoid. I mean who, really is in favor of creating human animal
chimerae? They would be the fools who rush in where angels fear to tread,
the “useful idiots” Vladimir Ilyich loved so much.

Who is in favor of such wild and dangerous science, such crazy
experimentation with the human race? Very crudely, Hitler’s Third Reich
was, and millions thought nothing of it. They were filthy Jews, Poles,
Russians, Gypsies, subhumans all whose sacrifice in the name of science was
merely the moral equivalent of mixing reagents for a chemical reaction; if
morality is a term that applies to anything the Nazis did except in the
negative. Today, I could probably produce a rather impressive list of
“scientists” who are embarked on the same Mengelean madness, and of their
supporters in the wide world from a short Google search. We know how many
millions just “love” reproductive rights. We have a president who probably
has a vigil light before a picture of Margaret Sanger on his bedroom wall.
Is he not powerful? And, has he not been more than ready to show in his
actions that Christianity, and particularly the Catholic Church, is “in the
way” ?

Reno’s is a piece of prophecy, a sort of warning of what is coming. And, it
doesn’t look good. He ends on a hopeful note, in a minor key, a paragraph
or two about a faithful remnant which he precedes by thise ominous words:
“…I think many powerful forces in America would like to impose a soft but
real dhimmitude upon religious people, especially Christians, that severely
limits the public influence of religion. To some degree, they want to do so
by legal means. But the larger project involves cultural intimidation.”

“Church? Oh, yes, ” she said,  “I went to church a couple of months ago, when Tony and Tina got married. It was a scream! You should really see it. Very campy.”

(This appeared in a slightly altered form on the Facebook page of The Christian Book Corner.  Visit them for great discounts on good books and other things.)

The One Percenters

(or)  The Recent Bold Deeds of The Most Busy and Industrious Band of True Believers and Followers of the Religion Of Peace

Not too long ago someone sought to prove a point, that being that most followers of Islam are nice folks who just want to get along, that not every Muslim was an Islamist … a PC word used now in lieu of the word Terrorist, which is fast becoming a word not to be used in polite society…..  After all one cannot call a billion people terrorists.  I mean some of them are crazy, some of them dribbling idiots, some kings, some murderous dictators, some rabid preachers and even more rabid politicians, some oil billionaires, and someone needs to stay home and cook.

They mentioned the results of a years long poll, worldwide in scope, by the Gallup folks and sponsored by a bunch of pro-Muslim organizations here in the Untied States…if fast fading memory serves.  The poll concluded that only 1% of Muslims were interested in converting the world by any means, fair or foul, into a seamless garment of burka clad women and bearded men with four wives apiece and 70 virgins waiting them in paradise.

This conclusion was reached, one may speculate, from analysis of data gathered from the usual statistically accurate survey of 1,00o some odd folks…perhaps in every country where there are one thousand Muslims, but who knows.

Only 1%?

It is  only too easy to adopt the term One Percenters from the Occupy Everything crowd of anarchists and use it to denote this extremely busy band of murderers, bombers, arsonists, rapists, enslavers, “occupiers”, whiners, thugs and criminals who do not worship any god I can recognize…and the governments and vast numbers of angry maniacs who support them anywhere one or two of them are gathered, it seems, in their prophet’s name, peace be upon him.

You doubt??

Read on then, here.

This thing comes out every month.  One would think, from the way our Main Stream media is addicted to feeding its slobbering audience with stories of gore and guts, that they would jump at the chance to cover things like these assorted acts of horror, mayhem, intimidation and crime all committed by a mere, but extremely busy, one percent of the worshipers of something or other.  But, no.  The fact is they hate Christianity more.  And they hate anyone who is a believing Christian.  Did you ever wonder why?

The battle is not between Islam and the rest of the world.

The battle is the same one it has always been; the one between Good and Evil.

A Letter to a Friend

Someone recently communicated with me urging on me their understanding of this pas de deux between Holy Mother Church and Uncle Sugar’s current mob in DC over whether or not it would be right and just, proper and helpful toward salvation for the latter organization to insist that the former one knuckle under and forget all this drama about rights of conscience and freedom of religion, and concentrate simply of ponying up the money simple folks need for recently defined simple medical procedures, medications and/or apparatuses.  He took the road more traveled.  Below I try to tell him why I will not.

Have I made it simple enough for him?

Dear “N”,

It is simple, actually.  Pay attention, here.

Let us say that you  have a little business, and the business has three employees.  Let us say further that the government has recently passed a law that anyone who is an employer (you) has to buy health insurance for their employee(s).  That would be the fellow working for you, Billy Bucketbellie.  Still further, let us say that the law requiring you to buy that insurance also states that cosmetic plastic surgery (Nips and Tucks, botox in the butt, nose jobs, etc., even such things as multiple piercings and outlandish tattoos in strange places) are legitimate treatments for legitimate medical problems for the purposes of this new law (We will call the whole thing Reconstructive Health, which term was born as the twin of the Supreme Court decision granting to everyone everywhere their Reconstructive Rights), such that if someone has a skinny butt or a droopy neck and they don’t want it, they have every right to get it taken care of.  And let us say that such Reconstructive Health procedures will be provided absolutely cost free  under the new government ordered and employer paid for health plans that you, thee employer now must get for your employee(s).  There will be no charge to anyone at any time if they want to avail themselves of Reconstructive Health treatments or devices (push up bras are covered…even for men) including no co-pay at the providers office.

It is odd this, is it not?  I mean heart disease, cancer, diabetes and bee sting allergies will all require at least co-payments, but  Reconstructive Health  is provided absolutely cost free.  But, the  Reconstructive Health industry, by the way, is known to have a very strong lobby, and Congress, all of Washington DC is filled with a lot of pierced and tattooed people and people who know them.  Anyway, I continue.

Let us say that you and your family are  True Believers , and what you are true believers of is the  Church of the Original Form .  You believe that the body you were born into the world with is the one God wanted you to have; that since God is all knowing and all good, in His Divine Wisdom he gave you the one body in all eternity that most perfectly fits His image in you and for you, and is a reflection of His Mighty Power and Love to all the world.  Let us say that.  Finally let us say that one of the most sacred doctrines and dogmas of the COF and its believers is that because of this belief in the originality and uniqueness of one’s body it is a grievous sin and an offense against one’s deeply held beliefs actually to alter it in any way through surgical or other means, unless in the course of treatment for a disease or a serious accident.  Furthermore, it is also a serious sin to participate knowingly in someone else’s willing resort to any  Reconstructive Health Procedure.  Your conscience tells you that you cannot participate in this government mandated insurance program as it it presently constructed.  To do so would involve you directly in grave sin.

While you would feel sorry that your employee Mr. Bucketbellie had an operation to remove his wattle, and you would pray for his soul, you cannot in however small a way, join him in that decision, and you consider it a violation of your Constitutional right freely to practice your religion without the interference of government now to be required to provide the insurance which will allow him so to do.

No one anywhere is saying that the Bucketbellie’s of the nation may not pierce, cut,and color themselves as they wish.  They are simply saying that the government should not force them to provide insurance for those poor fools to do so.

I’ll make it more simple, if I can.  Perhaps you don’t smoke, you never smoked and you don’t like to breath second hand smoke. Let us put you back in that business again, and suppose that you have hired Bob Rawthroat, a chain smoker who goes through six packs a day (God help him).  Now comes the government with another plan to save the tobacco growers of the country from ruin and poverty.  You must contribute half the cost of Bob’s half carton of coffin nails each day.

Wanna do that?  I don’t.  While I have no employees yet, I do own a small business and I will not participate in any plan that requires me to pay for something I consider it would be a violation of my conscience so to do.  The bargain I had with this Republic guarantees me the right to do that.  It has broken faith with me, and that is not only wrong, it’s downright despicably wrong, and the people responsible for it are as a former teacher of mine was wont to say, cruds and worms, cruddy worms, for so doing.  I do not like them and applaud the decision of anyone not to obey the law.  It is a treacherous thing to do to a citizen, and makes me wonder if a government can commit the crime of treason against its own citizens.

Yours In Patriotic Duty,


A Woman Said

What follows was part of a discussion on a well known “social media site”.  I copied it because I thought it said a lot about a great divide in our country, the one between two kinds of people, two generations, two different world views, two different cultures.  It was occasioned by the appearance of a cartoon showing the President of these Untied States wearing the clerical robes of a pope.  It was s satirical cartoon designed for strong reactions, and it got them.  People objected to the artist’s robing Obama as the Catholic Pontiff, commented on his support for abortion and his refusal to recognize the conscience rights of Catholics.  Someone, a young woman, wrote:

I find it disturbing, but I’m mostly offended by the commentary it represents. I don’t like Obama, but I don’t find him to be any more “tyrannical” or arrogant than any other President we’ve had. Calling him a Communist really just illuminates one’s complete misunderstanding of communism, and the equation of abortion with the Holocaust as well as the implication that requiring insurance to cover birth control is equal to abortion, just pisses me off.

And someone replied that while the Holocaust had destroyed a mere 6 million, the death toll from abortion was much higher than that.  They wanted to know why such a thing as that comparison “pissed her off”.  The lady said:

Because those Jews weren’t unborn fetuses whose existence required the cooperation of women whose bodies they’d be inhabiting, stressing, straining and whose lives they’d be massively impacting irreparably as a result…. I think people have a right to liberty and pursuit of happiness. I don’t think carrying unwanted pregnancies to term is part of either of those things.

This occasioned a criticism of the lady’s position on abortion and contraception as rights guaranteed by the Constitution and legitimate medical procedures necessary for good reproductive healthShe took issue:

Yeah… I disagree. People have a right to want to get off with a partner without getting pregnant as a result, and they also have a right to end pregnancies. You see – there’s a part of anyone’s moral compass that may say “well, in the event of rape – or in the event of medical complications – or in the event of abuse – or in the event of an accident…” well guess what – I don’t think the government should be sitting in a woman’s doctor’s office with her… and I don’t consider myself or anyone else an appropriate judge of when it’s “okay” and it’s not to abort an unwanted fetus – so in the interest of liberty, I’m going to excuse myself and the government acting on my behalf, and anyone else I have the power to excuse, of the right to decide when that woman may exercise her physical autonomy. She is a free being – if she chooses to allow a fetus to grow inside her, if she chooses to remove it – that’s entirely none of anybody else’s business. The moral consequences are hers alone, whatever they may be….  I think people have a right to liberty and pursuit of happiness. I don’t think carrying unwanted pregnancies to term is part of either of those things.

As for the requirement that private employer’s insurance policies cover contraception – I could go on at length about the necessity of hormonal birth control for many women (such as myself) for entirely NON-birth control related reasons (if I don’t take it, I get terrible cysts due to my endometriosis – cysts that may very well prevent me from getting pregnant in the future when I choose to) – but also that I don’t think an employer, whether or not it’s the Catholic church, should be making the medical decisions of its employees. Removing one area of coverage allows others to be chipped away at – and employers and insurance companies may find it in their interest to lower premiums by not covering many routine and/or necessary procedures they chose not to agree with for whatever reason.

Someone took issue with her position:

You need not go on at length about the necessity of hormonal treatments for many women. I am relying only on my memory, and anecdotes from a woman (my first mother-in-law, may she rest in peace) who worked for one of the doctors who developed such medications here, but I seem to recall that he and his colleagues were concerned to develop medications for those conditions…and to regulate the menstrual cycles of their patients who were having trouble conceiving. I got the distinct impression that this one doctor, at least, was dismayed at what has been made of his work, since. That is merely an impression, though.

That said, it would be heartless of me to seek to bar someone who needed an effective treatment from getting it, and I would think the same of anyone else who held that view, that they were heartless. However, I would give odds that the number of therapeutic uses to which those medications are put is far outweighed by the number of women who use them for what is thought by most of the world to be their only use. You and I do not agree that people have a” right to get off with a partner without getting pregnant as a result”, especially if the exercise of that “right” requires me…or any other person, or organization….whose religion and deeply held belief consider such a thing morally reprehensible. More than that, I am not alone in thinking that requiring persons who so believe to pay for the means to do so in however small a part is equally reprehensible. In such a case, my constitutional right to the free practice of my religion trumped the other” right” you champion so eloquently…until January 20.

Let me make myself clear, here. There is no right that I know to health care of any kind either enumerated in the constitution or to be found in the shadows of those rights enumerated…except for abortion from 1973, a procedure which I and many others consider homicide, now made legal and claimed as a right, and simply because it is performed by doctors in clinics and hospitals also recognized as a “therapeutic” procedure…an Orwellian mangling of language if ever there was one.

Finally, I’ll risk being possibly incorrect on your position about Obamacare, but I think I will be safe in concluding that whatever it is, your position and mine on the so called “mandate” and its subsequent amendment meet with your approval. If I am wrong you may chalk it up to my leaping to that conclusion from your assertion of a right to mutual getting off without the risk/threat of pregnancy.  Even though the exercise of that right requires the use of some forms of contraception for a perversion of their original purpose.

Time and space do not permit an exploration of why I would reject as immoral such things. Time and space do not allow, either, for a discussion which I think needs being had in this country about responsibilities and duties rather than rights; concepts which would seem to me to rule out such things as mutual getting off without the risk of pregnancy. Suffice to say the arguments would be framed within natural law principles, which I suppose you know well and reject. And, now, I retire.

And that is the way it rests.  Silence reigns, and no one is satisfied with anyone else.

Bringing the Heat!

In The Game, a really good pitcher is the kind of guy who has speed and whose best pitch, a hot fastball, “moves” while it burns through the air and makes a solid “WHUMP” in the catcher’s mitt.  That kind of pitcher “brings the heat”.  That kind of pitcher leaves even the best hitters standing in the box with their bats on their shoulders looking sad as the umpire punches down the third strike in a row; or they unwind after another futile attempt to make any kind of contact with an irresistible force.  That kind of pitcher leads his team to victory.

The newspaper article talks about the priest’s working class accent.  He’s from Lowell.  It also mentions that he went to Harvard.  Perhaps one is supposed to think that working class accents at Harvard are reserved for the groundskeepers.

The article is all about how Father Landry “brings the heat” in his sermons about contraception.  It calls him a “traditionalist” and goes on to say he is “eager to share his opinions with his flock.”  (And, oh, Mr. Times Reporter, with anyone else who’s listening.)

I’m puzzled about the use of that word “opinion”, because nothing I read in the article indicates to me that Father Landry is doing anything other than telling the truth about what the Catholic Church teaches.  He is, then, eager to share the facts with his flock.  And, it also appears that they haven’t heard much about the facts for a long, long time.

You will read, and you may know from your own experience, that Father Landry might be considered not exactly an exception, but something of an anomaly.  So was St. John the Baptist.  I don’t see him losing his head…any time soon.  In any case St. John didn’t much care for his head if it wasn’t being put to good use.  So, too, I suspect the same of Fr. Landry.  Would there were more of him, and more like another priest I came across in New York a couple of weeks ago.

While in New York recently for the marriage of two lovely people, my wife and I attended Mass in Freeport, LI, on Sunday February 12.  Oddly enough that day was the 74th anniversary of my parents’ wedding.  I remembered both of them and the newlyweds in my prayers when we were commended to do so during the Prayers of the Faithful, that part of the Mass when we as a body petition God on behalf of the church and the world.  But my attention was a bit distracted from my purpose by the first general petition that the lector read in a clear voice, and the people answered with a kind of intentional force:

That all Catholics, in union with Pope Benedict XVI and our Bishops, will continue to speak out whenever governments fail to secure our inalienable rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, WE PRAY:  (It is here on this page in the same form as it appears on the page from which it a was read at Mass.  No, not read, proclaimed, if it can be said one proclaims a prayer.)

I’ll add the others, now, more calmly:

That Catholics in the United States will stand up for their faith and their right to exercise it, despite recent attempts by the President to suppress that right, WE PRAY:

For Catholics who suffer persecution because of our beliefs about Marriage, human sexuality, the Unborn Child, and the Terminally Ill, WE PRAY:

In thanksgiving for the members of our Armed Forces and for an end to war, WE PRAY:

In thanksgiving for everyone who takes care of the sick, especially our Priest-chaplains, Nurses, Doctors and everyone who will participate in this year’s Catholic Ministries Appeal, WE PRAY:

That through the Intercession of St. Valentine, the gift of conjugal love will be shared only between a man and a woman and only in Marriage, WE PRAY:

For the sick, especially (N), and for thoses who have died, especially (NN) and for the intention of this Mass (____), WE PRAY:

By the time this exhortation ended I was on the point of raising my hands and shouting a mighty “AMEN!“.  But, I didn’t.  You know what?  I’m sorry I didn’t.

Only rarely have I heard the Holy Father prayed for by name in our churches.  He is simply The Holy Father, the Pope, some guy far away with a title.  And the prayer response is muttered and mumbled, something to be gotten through, like waiting for the bus.  Never have I heard the President referred to as an oppressor of Catholics.  Never have I heard a prayer asking God’s intercession on behalf of Catholics suffering persecution; especially for their beliefs about Marriage, human sexuality, the Unborn Child and the Terminally Ill.  And never, while praying for those who help the sick ( praying in the normal way we pray…indefinitely, anonymously, blandly, indeterminately) never have I ever heard a prayer in thanksgiving for “the priest -chaplains”.  Never have I heard “Us”, we Catholics, mentioned in a Prayer of the faithful.  It is always some bland pronominal word or phrase; people of faith, the poor and humble of the earth, Christian peoples  or those deprived of freedom of worship.  Sounds good, means nothing.  I have never heard a prayer of the faithful like this one.  Simply, never.

I decided that I would take home a copy of the Prayer of the Faithful while wondering if it would ever be voiced in any church I knew.  So, after Mass was over I went into the Sacristy and met the pastor, a young looking slim man of medium height, Father Douglas Arcoleo.  He greeted me with a smile and showed real delight when i told him I was from New Hampshire.

“You have Bishop Libasci, now.  He’s a great man,” he said.  The he told me to meet him over at the rectory and he would give us a copy of the Prayers of the Faithful.  Soon we were inside, and soon enough after that he appeared with the the sheet that’s on the desk in front of me.  I don’t know whether or not I should frame it.

We spoke for a few minutes more and then began to leave.  “Wait,” he said.  “I will bless you.”  We knelt together there in the little room while he did just that, and wished us a safe journey home to New Hampshire, and Bishop Peter Libasci. If Father Arcoleo is any indication of the kind of men coming out of that diocese, our new Bishop will have a great fast ball.

The game is about to get interesting, I think.