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Friday, December 11, 2015

Uncle Billy, Goodfellas and God's Sense of Humor...

Uncle Billy, Mr. Potter has the money!
Yes, I'll admit it.  I can be a little absent minded.

I've been known to forget my kids at school, or to pick them up at my parents' house on my way home from work then having to backtrack to get them after driving all the way home.  I have forgotten my reading glasses on days I'm scheduled to read at Mass. And, of course, my wife's all-time favorite; I forget to pay the bills on time.  You can say I'm the It's A Wonderful Life's Uncle Billy of the Espinosa clan.  Although, I think our firstborn has inherited my prowess, or lack thereof!

Every Friday, for the past couple of years, I am the scheduled lector at morning Mass at my parish.  I can honestly say, for the most part, I have been very reliable, even on Holidays.  However, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, I completely forgot I had to read!  I woke up and went to the computer and realized I wasn't where I was supposed to be about twenty minutes after I was supposed to be there!

That following Sunday, my son was serving as an altar boy at the evening Mass. We got there early, so that he would have plenty of time to get ready and, as I sat there praying, about five minutes before the liturgy was to begin, one of the Eucharistic Ministers comes up to where my family was sitting and says, "Father needs you to be the lector."

Say what?  I looked at my wife with a face of horror.  You know, the kind of look a father might get when his college-aged daughter tells him she has a boyfriend she wants him to meet, which, I can honestly say, I'm not looking forward to!

Despite being a lector every week, I have a phobia about reading in public. My mind and lips are not always synchronized when I get nervous.  Maybe, it's a childhood trauma from grammar school that I have suppressed deep in my psyche.

In fact, in order to read, especially at Sunday masses, I prepare extensively.  I read the readings several times.  I do tongue-loosening exercises, which humors my kids, since I drive to church with a pen across my mouth and over my tongue, as I repeat in a loud voice, "Red leather, yellow leather." And, as importantly, except on Friday mornings when I'm usually scrambling, I try to get to church early to pray.  And, pray I do!  I ask for the intercession of the Blessed Mother, St. Thomas More, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine of Hippo, St. John Paul II, Sts. Peter and Paul, St. John the Apostle, St. John Vianney, Venerable Fulton Sheen and I can go on for a while, so that I'm able to read the words as they are written, and do so with poise, passion and love and without stumbling, or stuttering please!  I'm telling you, it takes a lot of mental, physical and spiritual preparation!

Ain't no angels...
So, there I was, in a dress shirt and slacks, mind you.  I wasn't even wearing a coat and tie!  I had to rush into the sacristy to skim over the readings (I had to do both readings because no other lector showed up), the prayer of the faithful and the announcements before the start of Mass and had five minutes to do it! Funny, funny Mr. God.

I got through it, to the best of my abilities, later noticing I had two huge circles under each armpit, but then, as if that wasn't enough to fill the halls of heaven with cheer, laughter and high fives (like the characters of Goodfellas telling war stories sans the alcohol and foul language!), on the following Thursday, He did it again!

I had our parish's men's group meeting that night.  However, it was raining and I left work late so I decided to blow it off. The next day, of course, I was scheduled to read.  Well, if I didn't want to get wet the night before, that morning, it was like a monsoon; cats, dogs and possibly a couple Shetland ponies.  It was terrible. The Big Guy is a riot!  I wonder if having Robin Williams around has anything to do with it.

In any case, my wife says I forget because I'm not paying attention.  The problem is that even when I'm paying attention, I sometimes forget!  Yes, yes; Uncle Billy.  I should start tying ribbons around my fingers but, in his case, he forgot what the ribbons were for.  It really sucks to get old...                    

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Tebow, Chastity and Much Ado About Nothing...

The item that wasn't...
It was a short-lived relationship (if it had ever happened!).  The kind that kids have in grammar or high school; lasting about two months!  But, whether former Miss Universe Olivia Culpo and former NFL Quarterback Tim Tebow ever dated, rumors of their supposed breakup lit up social media and left fodder for tabloids and water cooler chatter across America.

Although, it was recently denied, the story that snowballed over Thanksgiving weekend was that Culpo dumped Tebow for refusing to compromise his values to wait until marriage before having sex.

Tabloids jumped all over it.  The New York Daily News ran an article headlined, "Tim Tebow still can't find the end zone as girlfriend Olivia Culpo breaks it off over lack of sex," which was followed by, "For once, it's not Tim Tebow who's having trouble scoring - it's his girlfriend."  Meanwhile, Us Weekly had it as, "Tim Tebow, Olivia Culpo Split Because of His Virginity Vow."

Soon bloggers and radio commentators were mocking the Heisman Trophy winner, who is regularly ridiculed for openly living his religious beliefs, and calling him a "sucker."  After all, they said, "Have you seen Culpo in a bathing suit?"

It was a story made in social media heaven (sort of like the Mets' Wilmer Flores trade that never happened, but with less tears and more moral consequences), for a culture obsessed with anything having to do with sex, especially when it involves other people, since it is the way that some justify their own moral behavior.  

Therefore, Tebow and many like him, including Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara (which was the subject of a previous blog), who are trying to live an abstinent lifestyle in a sex-crazed society, are often the targets of derision, since they represent a side of humanity that many people don't like; a side that says that unlike animals, we can control our hormones and libidos.

Let's face it, as a culture, we want to have it all.  We want to do whatever we want, when we want and without ristrictions; especially when it comes to sexual intimacy.  So, when someone else shows self-control and temperance, it ticks some people off because it means we have the capacity to do the same (if we really wanted to), and that's not a reality we want to face.  Hence, we want to watch the goody two shoes fail.  In fact, we root for them to fail.

Today, chastity is one of those subjects that makes many people feel uncomfortable and so it is mocked and lambasted.

Eduardo Verastegui and me...
Several months ago, actor/producer Eduardo Verastegui visited the TV station I work at, while promoting his latest film, Little Boy.

I highly respect Verastegui.  He wears his Catholic faith on his sleeve, rejects roles that conflict with his moral principals, and, after living a worldly life for most of his youth, has devoted himself to living chastely until marriage.

In his late 20's, Verastegui was a rising star in Hollywood.  He was once called the 'Brad Pitt' of Mexico.  However, after a successful telenovela career, starring in a Jennifer Lopez music video and posing for Calvin Klein, Verastegui had a profound reversion to the faith of his upbringing while preparing for his Hollywood movie debut Chasing Papi in 2002.  Since then, he has committed himself to living his faith to the best of his abilities, making movies with stories that he wants to share and speaking out against abortion.

After several co-workers and I posed for pictures with him, as he was walking out and a distance away, I heard a comment from a male colleague that bothered me.

"He says he's celibate and doesn't succumb to carnal pleasures.  He's probably gay.  In fact, you watch," he told another co-worker, "He probably says he doesn't have sex with women and then it will come out that he is having sex with men but will say it doesn't count."

"What a waste," exclaimed another male colleague, and a woman agreed with him, "What a waste!"

It is a sad indictment on the state of our culture when righteousness and virtue have become, not objects of admiration, but of ridicule and disdain.

It reminded me of the headlines in New York several years ago, when Mets' catcher Mike Piazza was accused of being homosexual, and had to publicly defend himself in the media, because after returning to his Catholic faith, following years of waywardness, he wasn't out gallivanting with the guys or seen with women about town.

As attractive as Culpo may be, and she is very attractive, as a father of two young impressionable girls, who I am already preparing by telling them that most guys are after one thing and will tell them anything they want to hear to get it, I would rather have my girls date a Tim Tebow or an Eduardo Verastegui then a "player."  I think most dads would agree.

As for the women of today who have no qualms about making it easy for the players (or the wannabe players), or take on the male role of pursuers of sexual encounters, Fulton Sheen once said, "The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women."

Hopefully, Culpo, whose last name ironically translates to "blame" in Spanish, and just came off a two-year relationship with Nick Jonas, who once promised chastity until marriage, but apparently gave in, is not in the level of women that the tabloids are making her to be.

As a matter of fact, TMZ set the record straight, stating the couple met at church and, while Tebow may have been smitten with the actress/model, it never went beyond several get-togethers with friends.  They actually never dated...

Monday, November 30, 2015

Tis the Season for Catholic Merriness...

"Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There's always laughter and good red wine.
At least I've always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!"

- Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), is considered among the greatest of English authors, poets and men of letters of his time, along with H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw and G.K. Chesterton. The son of a wealthy French lawyer and an English mother, Belloc was born in France.  His family was forced to flee to England due to war.  He became a naturalized British subject in 1902 and served as a member of Parliament several years later.  His deep-seeded Catholic faith heavily influenced much of his works, which included children's stories, poetry, books and essays on everything from faith, love, morality and humor to warfare, history and politics.  His Catholicism was uncompromising and he was known for his debating skills. Belloc was a friend and collaborator of Chesterton, another Catholic writing giant.  Their collaboration was coined by Shaw as "Chesterbelloc."      

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Celebrity Priest, Pride and Prejudice...

Alberto Cutie...
In 2009, Fr. Alberto Cutie was a rising star within the Catholic Church.  He was a young, articulate, charismatic and good-looking priest, whose warm and charming personality made him popular among the young and old alike.

Having hosted an Oprah-style TV show, that reached millions in the United States, Canada and Spain, he was a media favorite; the go-to guy for anything having to do with Catholic Christianity.

He was making speaking and emceeing engagements, rubbing elbows with celebrities and the movers and shakers of South Florida and had amassed a faithful and loyal following.

In his day job, he was also the pastor of a growing parish in Miami Beach, the President and General Director of Miami's Catholic radio station and was a published author.  In effect, whether intentionally or not, he had become a "celebrity priest," despite the oxymoron.

Moreover, he was a staunch defender and promoter of Catholic orthodoxy.

Although, still young, his future was bright and a bishopric in some distant future would not have been out of the question.

Then came the fall.  Like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, he ate from the forbidden fruit; getting caught in compromising photos with a woman on the beach.

It was a scandal of seismic proportions that made national and international headlines on the heels of the priest sex scandal that had rocked the Church leadership to its core.

Soon more photos and videos surfaced, showing the priest frolicking late into the night at South Beach bars and restaurants with his love interest, Ruhama Buni Canellis, as the Church hierarchy scrambled frantically to figure out how to deal with this public relations nightmare.  The once shooting star came crashing down hard.

And, then, it got worse.

Instead of opting out, as many had done before him (albeit most of lesser notoriety than Cutie), and gracefully stepping down from his ordained vocation to get married and continue to practice his faith as a layman, like a husband who cheats on his wife and then blames her for doing it, he doubled down and went on the offensive against the Church.

Breaking away...
He denounced the Church's discipline of priestly celibacy and, in a carefully orchestrated media event, apropos for a man who apparently relished the public limelight, he publicly and defiantly joined the Episcopal Church, saying afterwards that he would continue to serve as a priest for Christ in the Anglican fold, and a month later marrying Canellis.  (It is ironic, or maybe not so, that he would choose the U.S. arm of the Church of England, since it was a faith started by a man, King Henry VIII, who also wanted to make his own rules when it came to marriage!)

In any event, today, almost seven years later, Alberto Cutie is now an Episcopalian priest and Rector, serving a small parish, St. Benedict's (named after a Roman Catholic monk known for his "rules" for spiritual balance and moderation), which is several miles north from St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church, where he once pastored. But, more than that, he is a husband and father.  And, despite the distance from his past, the wounds from his life in the Catholic Church, where he was raised and formed, apparently haven't completely healed.

Cutie was recently featured in a series of reports on the local TV station I work at and, even though he was visibly happy as a priest and family man, claiming he was living the "abundant life," his prejudice and antagonism against the Church, he once strongly defended, was evident.

Aside from blasting Pope Francis for visiting Fidel Castro and calling Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski a liar, he compared the Catholic Church with Cuba's repressive government, "People make decisions. My parents left Cuba because they couldn't live in a communist dictatorship.  And, I was living in a spiritual dictatorship because that is what the Catholic Church is; a spiritual dictatorship, where they tell you, it has to be done like this or you're out."  He added, "I have many friends and love many people in the Catholic Church but I lived within a dictatorship, where there was no freedom to do things that are part of humanity."

To me, it's ironic (There's that word again!).  Nobody, not the Pope, not the Church, not anyone, forces or coerces a man to become a priest. He does so because he feels a calling by God and responds under his own free will.

It takes about nine or ten years to discern a vocation to the priesthood (4 years of college followed by 5-6 years of seminary), where the men have to ask themselves over and over again in prayer, if this is really what God wants for them and whether they are willing to make the sacrifice and commitment it takes for the rest of their life.  Many are called but few are chosen.  Some leave along the way.

So, I wonder, at what point did it become a dictatorship for Cutie?  Was it in the third year of seminary? Was it during the fifth year? Was it after ordination, or two, five or ten years into the priesthood?

The family guy...
He was a Catholic priest for almost fourteen years!  Couldn't he have figured it out somewhere along, let's just say, in the first five to ten years or so, that the priesthood and all that it required, was not for him?  But, I guess, it's easy for me to throw stones from the outside.  Maybe, and I don't mean this as a jab, he was too caught up in his own celebrity to want to step down.

Anyhow, now, or actually sometime before he left, he decided to change the Church.

"I don't think I am anyone to tell the Catholic Church what or what not to do.  I don't think that is my role or feel any responsibility whatsoever.  But, I feel shame that every single day, I get a call, a text or email from a priest telling me, 'Albert, I'm desperate'." (Meaning that they have fallen in love and are in a similar dilemma, which is the title of Cutie's tell-all book on the saga).  "When people stop giving money and get tired of giving money, then the Church will feel forced to make changes; when the laity rises up and demands that they want a priest, who is just like them, with a wife and a family and can share his life with them, when that happens, the Church will have to change."

Let's face it, blame is a natural human instinct based on pride that started from the very beginning of time.  When God asked Adam what he had done, he quickly pointed at Eve, "The woman whom you put here with me (In other words God's fault too!)- she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it."  And, Eve blamed the serpent, "The snake tricked me."

At its core, Cutie's story demonstrates the nature of humanity.  Left to our own devices, we can always find justification and reason for our actions and can convince ourselves that it's OK because God forgives us, since it's really not as bad as what other people are doing.

The problem is that the more we rationalize and justify our sin, the more we separate ourselves from reality and the easier it is to fool ourselves into believing it's alright to go farther from the Truth, which is the reason Christ established and left a Church; to safeguard the Truth.

In Cutie's case, truth, in his new "more democratic" faith, as he called it, is apparently determine by the church elders.  When asked if he believed in homosexual "marriages," the priest answered, "We here in our parish don't do it because the church leadership, which is comprised of the laity, have asked me not to do it and, out of respect to them, I adhere to it.  In my personal opinion, God does not discriminate against anyone and we still have to break those barriers; not just here but in all churches."

The series finished with the reporter asking Cutie if he was a rebel,  "I am not a rebel.  I just want to be free."

"Freedom," however, as Abraham Lincoln once said, "is not the ability to do what we want but what we ought."

I have nothing against Alberto Cutie the man.  He is still greatly loved and respected by many.  I'm glad he is now living the "abundant life" and he has a beautiful family.  In fact, I often pray for his return to the Church (as a layman).

Nevertheless, like every man, woman, priest, pope or bishop through the annals of time, and I'm sure he would agree, he is a sinner.  And, when we separate ourselves, through sin, from the Truth that Christ left the Church, we may end up making our own...

Friday, October 30, 2015

John Boehner, Faith and the Holy Spirit...

A moving experience...
It took former House Speaker, John Boehner, a devout Catholic, about twenty years to get a Pope to speak before Congress, and one day after making it happen, in what was an emotional encounter with Pope Francis at the Capitol, the Ohio Representative decided to step down as both the Speaker of the House and U.S. Congressman, a position he had held since 1991.

On his way out, before fellow Roman Catholic Paul Ryan was sworn in as his replacement, his office posted this message by Boehner on what may have moved him to make his decision...

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Watching Baseball with My Daughter Between Viagra Ads...

Golden arm and locks... 
This has been a banner week at the Espinosa household.  Win or lose on Thursday, the Mets made the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and my family, with the exception of my independent thinking 11-year-old middle daughter, who likes the home team, has jumped on the Mets' bandwagon.  And, I am reveling in it.

This has been a calculated and longstanding effort on my part. In fact, it started when my oldest daughter was still in my wife's belly.  I used to recite the Mets lineup (back then) to her almost every night.  I figured if other parents play Beethoven to their unborn children, I can recite the Amazin's starting lineup; maybe that's why she's always done so well in school!

It continued through the years with the arrival of our second daughter and son; Mets baseball talk around the house, even when nobody seemed to care, games playing on TV, spring training visits, hats, shirts, autographed photos and baseballs, etc.

Slowly but surely, it began paying off.  Today, my 14-year-old daughter is wearing Mets' gear to Spirit Week at school and has a developed a crush on rookie pitcher, Steven Matz, which I don't discourage, since what are the chances she's actually going to meet the guy before she outgrows the crush?  Meanwhile, my son is a huge Matt Harvey fan.  Not that he doesn't like Yoenis Cespedes, David Wright, Curtis Granderson, Jeurys Familia and Noah Syndegaard any less.

In any case, last Friday night was a special night.  For the first time, since before my son was born, the Mets were in a playoff game.  We ordered pizza.  My wife and I had wine (I know, metrosexual of me, but my wife has me trying to cut down on beer; meaning the beer belly!). And, we huddled around the TV to watch the start of the game.  However, the West Coast start (9:30p EST) discouraged my wife and the little ones to stick around.  After having dinner and watching the first few innings, they bolted for their rooms.

But, my teenage daughter stayed up with me.  Ah, the good life.  Me and my girl just sitting on the couch watching Mets ace, Jacob deGrom, and his long locks of hair, face off against three-time National League Cy Young winner and 2014 NL Most Valuable Player, Clayton Kershaw, with a glass of wine (me) and having Chocolate Mint ice cream (Don't tell my wife).  Life couldn't get any better.

That is until I started noticing a disturbing trend.

Every time there was a commercial break, a beautiful woman in a football jersey came on talking about Viagra and erectile dysfunction, opening a ceiling-to-floor length curtain, with all sorts of subliminal meaning, and an announcer telling viewers to ask their doctor if their heart is healthy enough for sex.

I was aghast!  I started changing the channel every time I saw the Viagra woman with the football in her hand but it got ridiculous.  When it wasn't Viagra, it was Cialis, another erectile dysfunction drug.

It came to a point, where it was obvious I was turning the channel and, as the night dragged on, and I started getting sleepy (and my reactions got slower to change the remote), we got a good dose of masculine impotence issues.  It was embarrassing.  My poor girl!

Apparently, I wasn't the only one complaining.  St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, Adam Wainwright (Yes, the same Adam Wainwright who struck out Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran with the their bats on their shoulders and the winning run on base the last time the Mets made the playoffs), tweeted:

What have we come to as a culture?  In the old days, it was beer and cars they would target at men. Now, it's about keeping an erection?  On a nationally televised game with millions of boys, staying up with their dads to watch, especially in the West Coast, where the game was three hours earlier?

Here I am trying to promote chastity to my kids.  I send them to Catholic school to reinforce the message and the culture undermines it at every turn, by selling sex, even in the most wholesome of sports; America's game!  I was upset.

I realized most kids may have gone to bed in the East Coast but I'm sure many were watching, including my daughter.

As a matter of fact, at one point, when the Mets loaded the bases and David Wright was coming up to hit, I dozed off (Don't judge me.  I wake up early!) and must have snored because my daughter asked, "Are you awake?"  I said, "No," and just as my vision cleared from my slumber, Wright hit a line drive up the middle, driving in two runs.  Thank you, for waking me up!

At the end of the night, the Mets won 3 to 1, my daughter and I gave each other a high five and went to bed, having spent a great night of bonding watching our favorite team, me having a glass of wine (or two) and watching a plethora of Viagra commercials.

On a positive note, I guess, after a night full of erectile dysfunction ads, she shouldn't be getting any funky thoughts of mom and dad in the bedroom...



Friday, October 9, 2015

Fox Analyst: I'm Becoming Catholic...

Leap of faith...
Fox Political Analyst Kirsten Powers announced she was converting to the Catholic faith during The Five on Friday.

In her final thoughts, as the show was ending, the Democratic Contributor, who once worked for the Clinton Administration, said, "I have a little news. Tomorrow night at 7 o'clock, I'm becoming Catholic."

"Oh my God that's fantastic," Kimberly Guilfoyle blurted out as she gave Powers a high five, along with fellow host, Eric Bolling, "A Republican is next," Guilfoyle continued, as they laughed.

"I don't know about that," Powers answered, "But, for ten years I have been an Evangelical.  About ten years ago, I came to faith and it's been a wonderful journey.  And, I'm looking forward to the next step."

"God bless you," Guilfoyle offered, as she did the sign of the cross and the show ended.

For Powers, it has truly been a journey.  She was brought up in an Episcopalian household but somewhere along the line became an Atheist, until meeting a man a decade ago, who led her to Christianity.

In an article on her conversion, she wrote of the moment it all became real, "I'll never forget standing outside that apartment on the Upper East Side and saying to myself, 'It's true.  It's completely true.' The world looked entirely different, like a veil had been lifted off it.  I had not an iota of doubt.  I was filled with indescribable joy."

Since then, it appears, her search has continued.

It takes courage to profess your faith on national television, especially coming from where Powers comes from.  Furthermore, conversion in the Catholic Church is not something taken lightly.  It is usually preceded by a six-month (or more) discernment process, where a candidate is introduced to every aspect of Church teaching to make sure there is a sincere commitment and desire to be part of the Church.  The fact that she endured, and made it public, says a lot about her passion for the faith.

Welcome home Kirsten Powers.  May the Lord continue to work in your heart and draw you closer to Him each and every day, and, as you receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist on a regular basis, you are transformed...

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Mark Wahlberg's Public Confession to the Pope...

"That right there was truly the voice of an angel.  But then he whispered in my ear that he loved the movie, Ted.  I told him that was not appropriate for a boy of his age.  Holy Father, please forgive me. I've always hoped that the good Lord has a sense of humor when it comes and pertains to many of the movies that I've made."

Mark Wahlberg's unscripted and earnest confession to Pope Francis (and the world), that left everyone chuckling, after his brief exchange with 14-year-old Bobby Hill at Festival of Families in Philadelphia, was a vivid reminder of the struggle Christians face trying to reconcile sin and faith.

In an article on National Catholic Register, Sussie Lloyd writes:  
"He gave the world a momentary glimpse into his conscience, a Catholic conscience.
Walhberg showed that even when sin is paying off, even in the midst of it, we're not entirely fooled.  All of us have our attachments to wrong things that we justify to ourselves, but we know that these things don't stand up in the light of our faith.  And it matters." 
Marky Mark, as he was once known, has come a long way.  I blogged about him several years ago. Despite his rough edges (like most of us), Wahlberg takes his faith seriously and, in that brief moment of levity, as Lloyd pointed out, his humility shed light on a truth we all live with...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Jeb Bush on how the Catholic Faith Changed His Life...

It's rare in today's politically divisive environment to find a politician, who openly professes his faith and is not afraid of living it, especially when it conflicts with the popular culture.

It's easy in politics to keep religious views personal, considering we are constantly hearing about the “separation of church and state,” regardless of whether the Founding Fathers failed to mention it in the Constitution or whether the gist of Thomas Jefferson’s use of the phrase was meant to say that the government would never infringe on religious expression or conscience.      

It was fifty-five-years ago this month (September 1960) that Catholic presidential candidate, John F. Kennedy, who was raising concerns because of his religion, made a promise to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, a group of Protestant ministers, which said, “I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affairs,” and that he would never be influenced by his faith in determining public policy, setting the precedent by which every presidential candidate since has followed. 

So, it was refreshing, when a friend sent me an article published this morning on CNN’s web page, to see that former Florida Governor, GOP Presidential Candidate and current parishioner at our church in Coral Gables, Jeb Bush, was proclaiming his faith proudly.

On the eve of Pope Francis' visit to the United States, which will include stops in Washington, New York and Philadelphia, Bush writes about how the Catholic faith changed his life
"After I lost my first campaign for governor of Florida in 1994, I took stock of my life and my beliefs, and I decided to fully embrace the faith that had been guiding my family and me for many years. I attended Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults classes. I gained a deeper appreciation for the sacraments of the church and the grace they impart. I studied Catholic Church doctrine, and how it is renewed in every age. The more I learned, the more I appreciated the rich history of the church and its teachings, and my heart was changed by God's hand.
In the 20 years since my conversion, the church has given me the faith and hope to cope with life's many challenges." 
He continues: 
"I have witnessed the power of God, through his church, to touch lives and transform the world -- both on the world stage and in my own heart. The church has grounded me and my beliefs in a deep way of thinking about mercy, penance and the dignity and potential of every life, young and old, rich and poor, born and not yet born.
The power of that Catholic faith can be seen today, not only in the crowds that will greet Pope Francis in the coming days, but in the millions of men and women who heal the sick, comfort the lonely, work for peace and feed the hungry. It is a faith that touches heart and mind, and it brings comfort to all who listen to its message of hope. And it is a faith that I am proud to call my own."

Not long ago, one of our parish priests told me that Mr. Bush asked for a private meeting with our church's three priests to have them explain Pope Francis' latest encyclical, Laudato Si, which has been hailed by some but criticized by others, including many Catholics.

Regardless of where one stands politically, to me, that shows a man who takes his faith seriously; whose faith is part of who he is and not a private social group he belongs to.  It also demonstrates a strong desire to lead by his convictions and not be influenced by opinion polls or the popular culture...

Monday, September 21, 2015

As We Pray in the Rosary...

Showing God's Mercy...
"Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of Thy Mercy."

I know to many of my Cuban friends and family, who, like me, have lived and experienced life in exile; the separation of family, from our homeland, the loss of relatives who died without us being there, or were imprisoned or executed or died trying to flee the repressive regime, it may be difficult, if not abhorring, to understand.  But, Jesus did not come to liberate His people from the oppression and enslavement of the Romans but from sin and death.

God forgives the unforgivable, if they repent.  And, since none of us can judge another man's heart, I'm hoping Fidel Castro does repent and is forgiven in the end...

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Love, Death and a Mother's Pain...

Remember death...
In The Passion of the Christ, there is a beautiful and heart-wrenching scene where, after witnessing the brutal scourging and unjust trial of her son, Mary sees Jesus falling as He carries the Cross.  The images flash back to what appears to be a distant memory of a time when Jesus fell as a child and started crying.  Mary was there to pick Him up and comfort him in her arms.

Without a word being said, you could see in her eyes, through the agony and sorrow, that she longed for that chance to hold and console her son again.
There may be no greater anguish than that of a mother mourning the death of her child, maybe, more so in the case of Mary, who witnessed her son's barbaric and grotesque demise, as people taunted him and laughed.

Most of us, will never know that pain.  Yet, we may get glimpses of it whenever we lose a loved one.

A couple of weeks ago, a co-worker lost her 24-year-son.  The young man met his destiny on a local interstate one night.  He lost control of his vehicle, ran off the road and was ejected.  Rescuers told the family that he probably died on impact.  Thus, diminishing thoughts of possible suffering, even though, I'm sure, the wonder will always linger. 

It happened during the weekend and when we heard the news that following Monday, it was a shock to our entire staff.  I couldn't believe it and can't begin to imagine the jolt it was for his mother.     

Death, especially when it involves the young, is always difficult.  In the natural order of life, a child is not supposed to die before their parent.  As one speaker noted at the funeral service, when a spouse dies, the surviving partner is called a widow or widower. When a child loses their parents, they are called orphan.  But, when a parent loses a child, there is no word for it because no word will suffice.  

Yet, death is a stage that every living organism eventually must face, whether they are ready for it or not.

Most people prefer not to think of it but, as St. John Bosco once said, "Think of it or not, death is unavoidable."  Every breath we take is a gift from God, no matter who we are, what we have done, our age or health.

A couple of weeks ago, it was my co-worker's son.  Several weeks before, it was the 12-year-old son of another woman, who works in a different department at our network. The boy was diagnosed with Leukemia and five days later, he was dead.

It will take both mothers a long time to heal, if not completely, at least enough for them to move forward.    

For me, they are poignant reminders of how fleeting life really is.
Pieta by Bouguereau (1876)
There's a Latin phrase that comes to mind; Momento mori.  It means “Remember death.”

As morbid as the expression sound to some, it is actually quite joyous, if not liberating. Since, once we accept our own mortality, we can start living like it with the people we most love.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way, "Remembering our mortality helps us realize that we have only a limited time in which to bring our lives to fulfillment."  

Finding that fulfillment begins and ends with love.  As others have noted, no one on their sickbed says, "I didn't spend enough time at the office," "I wish I would have made more money," or "buy more stuff."  Instead, most people regret not spending enough time with their family, wasting time in strife instead of saying "I'm sorry," and failing to tell their loved ones how much they loved them.  
These are regrets that even surviving family members are often left to ponder after someone dies.  

In any case, it's a poor consolation to a mother who just lost her son; a son, who, at his tender age, may not have given much thought to his certain fate.  

Yet, as a woman of faith, my co-worker realizes that death is not the finale but the beginning.  It is the next chapter for our eternal soul.  And, just as Jesus was crucified, died and resurrected, we too can hope with confidence that our loved ones will be raised with Him after they are gone.    

As many of her friends and family walked by the open casket for a final farewell at the service before heading to the cemetery, I walked around the crowd to where my co-worker was standing, greeting some well-wishers, and when it was my turn, I hugged her tightly, as tears ran inconsolably down her cheeks.  As my voice cracked and my eyes watered, I told her to be strong and that I was certain her faith would carry her through this.

I also told her to look to Mary and ask for her prayers of intercession because, as a mother, who suffered and mourned the death of her son, she well understood her desperate yearning to hold her son again.  Mary shows us the way to grieve with grace.

Momento mori...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Because I'm Happy...

Happy Feet...

"If something can't satisfy your heart's longings, deep down and long range, after you test that thing by time and experience, then that thing is not real happiness."

-- Peter Kreeft, Jacob's Ladder.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

Cars, Planes and Prayers on Way to My Brother's Wedding...

"When things go wrong, you'll find they usually go on getting worse for some time; but when things start going right, they often go on getting better and better." -- CS Lewis

"Carlos, it says you leave at 3:40," my wife sounded the alarm, as she looked at a printout of our flight itinerary, while the kids and I sat down at a table in a cafe near our house.

"What?" I asked incredulously.  "We're supposed to leave at 4:55!"  She was obviously misreading it. She checked the night before and saw we were on the later flight.

"Yes.  It says 3:40!  You need to call."  Three-forty?  That was an hour away!  We had just ordered lunch and were about to grab a quick meal before heading to the airport in what, we thought, was plenty of time!

I felt a knot in my chest and a tingly sensation all over my body, as anxiety and panic began to set in.

"What's the number?" I asked hysterically, "Let's get the food to go!"  I added, as I went outside to make the call.

"Listen," I said frantically, when I finally got a live agent, "I was scheduled to leave with my three young children (I made a point of stressing the young part hoping for some sympathy) from Miami to Los Angeles at 4:55 pm and when I checked our itinerary today it said we were on a 3:40 pm flight. What's going on?"

"Let me check.  Do you have your reservation number?" the agent asked.  After giving him the information he needed, I heard a lot of typing on a computer pad and then silence. A few minutes later, I heard some more typing and more silence.

By then, my I was really tense.  "Hello.  Are you still there?"

"Yes.  It seems you may have been bumped up to an earlier flight."

The rest of the conversation was a blur.  To me, it sounded like I was talking to the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons.  I grabbed the lunch bags and led my family into our SUV to get to the airport as soon as we could.

The adventure begins...
And thus began a whirlwind of a day that started that Saturday morning at the crack of dawn (Ok., maybe more like 7) in Sanibel Beach to pack our car in the pouring rain (since we wanted to get home for our flight!) from our yearly family vacation.

We had driven two hours, picking up breakfast and our dog from the kennel on the way.  We unloaded the car and the kids and I repacked our bags to ensure we weren't forgetting anything, before loading it back into the car and heading to a nearby eatery for a bite on the way to catch our flight to Los Angeles.

We had a long day and night ahead, since we   were scheduled for a five-hour flight to L.A., an hour and a half layover and another two-plus-hours flight to Medford, Oregon and then had to drive a 1/2 or so to Ashland for my brother's wedding.  We were set to arrive at 11:00 PM, Pacific Coast time, or what was equivalent to 2:00 AM for us!  Little did we know that our day and night was about to get longer!

After a quick stop at our house, we rushed to the airport, which is about 10 minutes north of us.

When we arrived at the curb of American departures, it looked like a Chinese fire drill. Every door flung open at the same time and people started coming out in every direction, several bumping into each other in the process, as we scrambled to the back of the vehicle to get our carry-on bags.

My wife, who couldn't make the trip and was dropping us off, also got out, helping with the bags and kissing everyone goodbye, as we ran towards the ticket counter, where everything came to a sudden halt. There was a line about four or five persons deep in every direction!  I looked at my watch.  It was 3:00 o'clock and I was still hoping we could make the 3:40 PM flight.

Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be.  It took another twenty minutes to finally get to the counter and, by then, I was hoping they put us in the 4:55 PM flight.

As soon as we got to the agent, I told him our predicament.  I was heading to Ashland for a wedding with my three young kids.  I booked a flight on the 4:55 PM flight to Los Angeles but was apparently moved to the 3:40 PM flight without notice.  The agent started looking through the computer.  "You should have been notified," he said.  Really?  Brilliant!  It's too late now! 

"Listen, I was on a family vacation last week and never got a notification. Can you get us on the 4:55 flight?"  I was praying internally since getting in the car on the way to the airport and, as the agent went back to the computer, I asked my daughters to pray for the Blessed Mother's intercession as well.

"Unfortunately, it's overbooked.  Your best bet is to come back tomorrow and take the same flights."   I felt the Mr. Bill within me yell out, "Oh, noooo!"  But, before a sound came out of my mouth, the agent said, "Let me get the manager to see what we can do."  Yes, please, get the manager.  Get the pilot. Get the janitors that clean the plane.  Get anyone but get me to Ashland in time!  

Soon, it was the manager that was looking through the computer, as we told her what happened and time kept ticking.

She said, "We can get you on the 6:00 PM flight but you wouldn't make the connection to Medford and we have only one flight to Medford from Los Angeles.  You would be stuck there until our next flight tomorrow night!"

Are you kidding? My heart sank even further.  Mother Mary please!  I need your help here with the Big Guy.  Help us get to Ashland by tomorrow!  

"Is there any other way?  The wedding is tomorrow!" I pleaded.  (OK., so I fibbed a little.  It was actually the day after but we would miss the rehearsal dinner, not to mention Sunday Mass!  I had to get there by morning).

As the manager continued to search, I called my Dad, who was already in Ashland to give him the bad news.  We were not going to make it there by 11:00 as planned.  At this point, we didn't know what time we would be there.

I also called my wife to tell her what was happening.  "See if you can get somewhere else with a connection to Medford," she suggested.

"Is there any other city we can make a connection to Medford?  Portland, maybe?"  I remembered my parents having flown through Portland before.

Fun times...
After searching for a while she said, "This wouldn't be ideal with three kids but the best we can do to get you there by tomorrow is to have you fly to Phoenix on an 8 o'clock.  You would have an hour layover and then take a US Air flight to Portland, getting there by 1:30 AM local time, then you would take a 6:00 AM flight on Alaska Airlines to Medford, which would arrive at 7:00 AM tomorrow."

Three flights on three different airlines with three kids in tow?  What could possibly go wrong?  "We'll take it!" I happily exclaimed. Thank you, Jesus!  Thank you, Blessed Mother! I almost went into my dog's happy dance but managed to keep my composure.       

We walked through the TSA security check point and to our gate, which was about a mile away, or at least felt that way with our eight carry-on bags, two for each of us, although, I was carrying the brunt, mine and my son's, as my girls rolled their carry-on bags and the lunch bags, which we had yet to eat.

We had about three and a half hours to kill before boarding time, so when we got to the terminal, we finally ate.

One hour went by, two hours went by and then three.  We kept checking the departure time every so often.  Still on time.

However, we were approaching our boarding time and the flight ahead of us at the same gate was still there.  It was parked where our plane should have been a while ago to prep it for our flight.

More anxiety.  I knew we had a 58-minute layover in Phoenix for our connection to Portland, so time was limited.  We were told by the manager at the American ticket counter that if we missed the connection, we would have to wait for a morning flight from Phoenix to Portland and then take a later flight from Portland to Medford.

It would have thrown off the entire schedule!  We had Mass at 9:00 AM, since the next Mass in English was at 5:00 PM and the rehearsal was at 5:30 PM, followed by the rehearsal dinner.  My sister-in-law-to-be had already shot down my idea of attending the later Mass so my nerves were on edge.  Please, Lord, if it is in Your Will, let us make our flight." (I didn't want to force His Hand through prayers and have the flight crash!)    

We approached the counter and I asked what was happening.  "Our plane is ready to come to the gate but this flight is delayed.  We have to wait for the plane to move."

Boarding was supposed to be at 7:30 PM.  It was 7:20 PM and the other plane was still at our gate.  It finally moved about five minutes later but then it was our plane that was nowhere in sight! What's going on?  Time kept ticking.  It felt like forever and I kept looking at the departure time.  I knew it would take some time to get our plane ready before boarding.

When our plane finally arrived, I check the departure time and it had changed to 8:15 PM. Now, we had 49 minutes to make our connection but still nothing to be too concerned about.

I asked the male flight attendant who started walking around as we waited, "We have a connecting flight to Portland about 50 minutes after we arrive in Phoenix.  Can the 15 minutes be made up in flight?"

He looked at me and said, "Realistically, we will probably be leaving by 8:20 or 8:25 at the earliest. We can make up about 2 minutes per hour, so the most we can make up on a flight to Phoenix is about 8 minutes.  Then you have to calculate the distance it will take you to get to the connecting gate.  The airport in Phoenix is huge.  The terminals are far apart."  Gee, thanks for killing any false hope we had of making it!  Lord forgive me but his wife probably ran off with a pilot or something. 

I started recalculating.  If we left by 8:25 PM, that would give us 33 minutes to make our connection, which would be about the time the plane started boarding and, although the manager back at the American counter said US Air was nearby, after that uplifting conversation with the love-scorned flight attendant, who knew how far our gate was?  Concern was knocking at my door and I kept answering but no one was there!  Mother Mary, please help us get there in time!  Unbeknownst to me, my girls were praying too!

Must be in the front row...
Our plane finally made it to the gate and after some more waiting we started boarding.  We were assigned to row 31; the last one on the plane!  Well, at least, we were close to the bathroom!

By then, the kids were bouncing off the walls with excitement.  My 10-year-old daughter called the window seat.  My son sat next to her in the middle and my 14-year-old took the aisle seat.  I sat on the other side of the aisle.

We took off at about 8:30 PM, leaving us 28 minutes to make our connection.  It was time for more prayers.

Despite their enthusiasm, about 20 minutes into the flight, the kids were down for the count.  It had already been a long and stressful day and we still had a long night ahead so I tried to doze off as well.

The flight was smooth and I overheard another concerned passenger asking the flight attendant about making her connection to San Francisco.  "I have a connection to Portland at 10:55," I offered.  She said, "My connection is at 10:45."  Oh man, she's doomed!

As we started to descend and the pilot made an announcement that we were going to be landing shortly, I told the kids to get ready because we had to gather our bags in the overhead compartments and move as fast as we could.  The fact that we were in the last row was going to make it that much more challenging but we had to give it a shot.  Maybe, the Portland flight was delayed!

It was 10:30 Phoenix time.  The pilot asked to please allow the passengers making a connecting flight to exit first and, even though we were at the end of the plane, a lot of the passengers acquiesced to his request and allowed us by.

We walked out of the gate and quickly looked for our US Air information on the flight board.  My 14-year-old quickly saw it and we were off.

We had about 25 minutes left and we started booking as fast as we could.  The little ones were running ahead as we caught our first moving walkway (The kind that if you are not careful when it ends, you end up going head first into the ground or the rear end of the person in front of you!), then our second, then our third.  We kept seeing the sign for our gate but still had more walking to do.  We hit our fourth moving walkway and as we got off, we turned a corner and the gate was within sight.

The passengers were already boarding and it looked like the last section was in line.  I dropped the bags near a seat with the kids and rushed to the counter.  There was a guy in front of me that was having some sort of "issue" with his ticket and the elderly attendant was in a frenzy on her computer.

The line kept dwindling down, as the passengers went into the plane, while the elderly woman tried to solve whatever problem the guy was having.

Suddenly the plane was fully boarded and the attendant at the gate told the elderly woman, "I have to close the door.  The pilot wants to leave on time!"  I was sweating bullets.  Could we have come this close for not?  Finally, she gave him his boarding pass and he went in.

I handed her my tickets and told her we were traveling to a wedding in Ashland, Oregon and needed to get on that flight!  She said, "Don't worry.  We'll get you on."  I breathe a sigh of relief.  Yet, after more typing on the computer (I started hating those airport computers), she said, "I can't seem to find your older daughter in the system."  Say what?  What are you saying; she has to stay in Portland? Blessed Mother, are you still awake? 

"She is a minor correct?"  "Yes," I answered, "And she came with us from Miami!"  More typing. "Oh, here we go.  I don't know why they did it that way but here she is."

She started printing our boarding passes.  "The only problem is that we don't have four seats together so the best we can do put two of you together and then one and one right in back of each other.  But the single seats are both aisle seats, which are gold and you may be able to exchange one with whoever is in a middle seat next to either of you."

It was exactly what we did.  My son sat with my older daughter and about five rows behind them, I sat with my 10-year-old daughter.  Another two hour flight in stored but the pressure was off.  Our next flight was Sunday at 6:00.

Shortly after take off, my daughter cuddled up with my arm and fell asleep.  She was out for the entire flight.

When we got to Portland, it was 1:30 AM and the airport was practically deserted.  Most of the shops and restaurants were closed and cleaning crews were busy buffing the floors and clearing garbage cans.

We were starving and, to top it off, my feet were killing me.  I made the mistake of wearing flip-flops and all the air travel dried my feet.  Every step felt as if knives were going into my heels.

The straightest route to our terminal was closed, as all passengers were re-routed (probably) for security reasons.  Great!  More walking.  We had to go around the whole airport to find our way back to Alaska Airlines.

Fortunately, on the way, we found a convenience store open, where we bought some chips and soda and I got some moisturizing cream for my feet.  Hey, a guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do!

The kids were exhausted...
We had about four hours to kill so we found a group of empty seats and made ourselves comfortable.  The kids fell asleep right away. I, on the other hand, was still antsy.  Knowing there was "an issue" with my older daughter's ticket, I couldn't be comfortable until I had our boarding passes in hand.

As time ticked by, and the desolate airport was becoming more and more eerie,  my mind started getting the best of me.  Just how safe is this Portland Airport?  And, where the heck were the security guards, having chips and soda at the only open convenience store in the place?  In Miami, the airport is open all night and there are security guards and police everywhere.  Here, it was like a ghost town with the exception of a few scattered passengers sleeping in various corners.  What would keep a maniac from coming through the doors with a gun and robbing me, knowing I wouldn't resist with the kids asleep?  Not that I would resist if they were awake but... I got up and started pacing and looking for the possible maniac. No sight of him!

I finally called the airline hotline to see if there was a way to get the boarding passes by phone.  They found my reservation number but told me that I would have to see a ticket agent at the counter since they found the same "irregularity" with my daughter's ticket. God was definitely testing my trust in Him!
By 5:00 AM, people started arriving and lining up the Alaska Airlines counter and the computers for passengers to get their boarding passes finally turned on.  I started panicking since boarding was a half hour away and I still didn't have my boarding passes.  Yes, panic and prayer kept me company and awake all night!  I went up to an employee in the front of the two lines formed and said I had talked to the airline and they told me to see an agent at the counter.  He directed me towards the shorter line and I waited for my turn.

When it was finally my turn, the agent took my tickets and I told her what they had told me on the phone.  She asked herself out loud, "What did they do?" After searching for a little while, she finally found my daughter's information and cleared it up with a few more types on her computer pad.  My daughter was still sleeping with her siblings nearby.

Then she told me, "I see you are confirmed on the flight from Los Angeles to Miami but I don't have anything on you for the flight from Medford to L.A."  Gulp...  This is getting ridiculous. "You'll have to call American about your flight back."  Will this night ever end, please?

Our last flight of the day...
She handed me the four boarding passes and I went to wake up the kids.  We picked up our bags and went through the TSA checkpoint.  Luckily, the terminal was not that far away and soon we were having coffee at Starbucks, as we waited to board our propeller plane to Medford.

We boarded and departed on time.  It was actually the nicest plane we took; with plenty of leg room, leather chairs and free Starbucks coffee!

A driver was waiting for us in Medford and after a half-hour drive, we finally arrived at my brother's apartment building in Ashland, 24-hours, a two-hour car ride and 16-hours at airports across the country later, where my parents, my brother and his bride-to-be were waiting for us.

After having some coffee at the coffeehouse down the block, we drove to Mass.  We may have nodded off a few times during the liturgy but we were there.  Thank you Lord for getting us here safe and sound, despite the many challenges and for my private lesson on faith, love, hope and perseverance.

I'll save the return home story, where, among other things, we had to wait for an hour at the runway after arriving in Miami and were on the same flight as Christian Bale, and the entire Batman family, nanny and all, for another day...


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Get in the Fight!...

"Better fight against the light, if you won't fight against the darkness, but at least fight.  Care.  Fight for the wrong side if you can't fight for the right side, but don't stand on the sidelines and sneer at the game.  Have blood in your veins, not tepid water."

-- Peter Kreeft, from Jacob's Ladder.  Kreeft is a philosophy professor at Boston College and The King's College in New York.  He has authored over 75 books, is a husband (one wife), father of four, grandfather of five, and public speaker.  He was a Calvinist, who regarded the Catholic Church "with the upmost suspicion" but when asked by a professor to investigate the claims of the Church to be the one founded by Jesus Christ, he was persuaded by the writings of the early Christians.  He applied to the Church the C.S. Lewis trilemma on Jesus, either He was a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord (either the Church was "the most arrogant, blasphemous and wicked claim imaginable, if it is not true, or else that she is just what she claims to be.") and was convinced by the latter.  He converted in the late '90's, well after being established as one of the most respected Christian writers of modern times.

Check out his conversion story here.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Same Sex Marriage, Truth and My Cousin's Legacy...

In 1994, one of my closest cousins died.

Funny, smart, full of life; he was always the life of the party and center of attention. He was the kind of person who would welcome strangers and five minutes later was their best friend. Maybe, it was because, after having come from Cuba at a young age and moving to middle America (a suburb in Chicago), he always felt like a bit of an outsider, although there was probably more to it than that.

My cousin was extremely family oriented, which shaped the man he was.  There was never a family reunion without him being there making everyone laugh at his jokes, imitations and antics. Yet, despite his candor, openness and jovial exterior, there was a part of himself he did not share publicly. He was attracted to men.  It seemed that out of love and respect for the family, he preferred to keep that to himself.

When he got ill, his death came quickly.  Within a year he deteriorated and was reduced to a remnant of his old self, succumbing to his ailment at the tender age of 33.

I love my cousin.  I miss him dearly.  When I first saw the movie Philadelphia, I felt a sense of shame and remorse for not being there for him towards the end, not for any conscience reason, but because I was "too busy" living my life, too caught up in my own selfish lifestyle.  I still live with that regret today.

Now, while it's true that he never came out publicly to his family, although he did confide in a select few, to be honest, it wasn't necessarily a surprise to anyone.  We all live with secrets in life and some extend to family, where, at times, some are considered best kept that way.

Despite his personal desires, his love of children and family unity, may have made him realize the emptiness and meek prospects of his situation in the long run.  He always lived for the moment.

It's funny, I thought about my cousin recently after the Supreme Court decision last week and an openly homosexual friend (who is in his mid-to-late 50's) admitted to me and another friend, "You know, I sometimes wish I would have found a wife and had children.  Especially, now that my life is winding down.  I could never have adopted, as did... (He mentioned someone we know).  I'm too selfish and enjoy my freedom too much.  I love traveling, going out and partying but, it would have been nice to have had a wife and family of my own."

Last weekend at Mass, our freshly ordained parish priest, barely a month out of the seminary, said his honeymoon was over (almost as fast as it started) because he was going to speak out against something that, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll, 60 percent of Catholics agree with; Gay Marriage (Not that Truth is ever determined by popular vote or that the Catholics polled even go to Mass!).  He actually gave a disclaimer by giving out his email address for anyone that would object and wanted to discuss the issue further!

During his sermon, the novice priest quoted (in less graphic terms) from Chief Justice John Robert's dissent on the SCOTUS ruling:
"This universal definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman is no historical coincidence. Marriage did not come about as a result of a political movement, discovery, disease, war, religious doctrine, or any other moving force of world history—and certainly not as a result of a prehistoric decision to exclude gays and lesbians. It arose in the nature of things to meet a vital need: ensuring that children are conceived by a mother and father committed to raising them in the stable conditions of a lifelong relationship.
The premises supporting this concept of marriage are so fundamental that they rarely require articulation. The human race must procreate to survive. Procreation occurs through sexual relations between a man and a woman. When sexual relations result in the conception of a child, that child’s prospects are generally better if the mother and father stay together rather than going their separate ways. Therefore, for the good of children and society, sexual relations that can lead to procreation should occur only between a man and a woman committed to a lasting bond.
Society has recognized that bond as marriage. And by bestowing a respected status and material benefits on married couples, society encourages men and women to conduct sexual relations within marriage rather than without. As one prominent scholar put it, “Marriage is a socially arranged solution for the problem of getting people to stay together and care for children that the mere desire for children, and the sex that makes children possible, does not solve.”
The clergyman added, "The only thing he was missing was not mentioning that this is something given to us by God.  And, you see the problem, if we believe this is what marriage is, and this is what God has given to us as marriage, then you see the issue is that we can't change it.  We, as a Church, are keepers of the Truth... we can't change it, no matter the political, cultural or societal circumstances of the time."

"This is completely antithetical to the way our culture thinks today," he continued, "which is that truth shifts according to the circumstances, and how everybody feels at the time... In the past few weeks, there have been serious debates online on whether a white woman can call herself black, or if a man can call himself a woman.  The arguments for these things revolve around the fact that they really desire it to be so, so why not?  It would be discriminatory, or judgmental, to say otherwise. The Church would say, as much as you say that "you're black," the reality is, "you're white."  The Church would say, as much as you say it and desire it, and even change your appearance to look it, the reality is, "you're a man", not a woman.  You can see in this reality how we can easily take what has been marriage since the beginning of humanity, and take something that was never called marriage until a few years ago, and now call it marriage."

At my work, the SCOTUS decision was received with cheers, applause, high-fives and champagne bottles being uncorked.  We even got a statement from the company President hailing the decision by five of the Court's nine judges.

As everyone knows, social media exploded with celebratory comments and profile pictures turned into rainbows.  "Love wins!" many friends posted but I ask myself did it really?  Catholic author Chris Stefanick points out in his book, Absolute Relativism, "Love without truth - much like truth without love - is a unique form of cruelty."  

Even taking religion out of the equation, it's not hard to see what nature had in mind. Nobody can deny, as much as some may try, that our bodies proclaim the truth of our nature; certain parts designed to fit in certain others and when we fulfill that truth and give ourselves completely and openly to one another within marriage, we partake in the creation of life; in the survival and continuation of humanity and society (as Chief Justice Roberts pointed out).

I couldn't help but think of how fast we had moved from my cousin's death in the mid 90's, to sympathy and empathy, a worldwide cry to find a cure for AIDS, tolerance and acceptance, to support and an eventual move to redefine the most sacred and important institution within society, which is the foundation of the family.

While I'm sure many, including family members, would say that my cousin would be celebrating along with the culture, I can't help but wonder if that would be the case.  As giving and selfless as he lived his life, where he was willing to protect his family at the detriment of his own desires, would it be so strange to think he wouldn't?  I don't know.

In any case, I think another Catholic author, Brandon Vogt, said it best, in addressing those of us dejected by the Supreme Court decision, on where we go from here, "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than teachers.  Bear witness in your own marriage.  Holy marriages fuel a strong marriage culture. Commit right now to your spouse and to your kids that their vision of marriage will be shaped not by legislators, teachers, or activists but by YOUR marriage; by your heroic devotion, one-flesh union, and fidelity to that truth imprinted on your bodies and affirmed by God.  When asked the most pivotal question in this debate -- what is marriage? -- their answer should be clear: my mom and dad."

And, that is what I feel my cousin would want me to do...