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Friday, June 26, 2015

Words of Wisdom from Pope Benedict...

"We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires."

-- Pope Benedict XVI, considered by many as the greatest theologian of our time and among the greatest theologians in Catholic Church history. Served as Roman Pontiff from 2005 to 2013, when he surprised the world by announcing his retirement as successor of St. Peter due to health reasons. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he served as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under St. Pope John Paul II from 1981 to 2005. A prolific author of over 60 books, three Encyclicals and three Apostolic Exhortations, he is currently living a life of prayer and meditation in the Vatican grounds, as the Pope Emeritus...

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Bruce Jenner, Heroism and Individuality Run Amok...

Earning Gold; a true American hero...
In the summer of 1976, aside from getting immersed in the Beatles and starting to run for the first time, influenced by two older cousins from Chicago, who were staying at our house (She, like any teenage girl, was into music and he, a football player, training for the upcoming high school season), I remember sitting in front of the television set in our family room with my parents, younger brother and cousins night-after-night, as we watched the Olympic games. It was the first time I had seen, or even been interested in, the international sporting event but I had older cousins who were fans, so I wanted to do whatever they did.

We were captivated by a 14-year-old Romanian gymnast named Nadia Comaneci.  We rooted against the Cuban national team, as all good Cuban exiles did at the time, including Sugar Ray Leonard's defeat of Cuba's top light welterweight boxer.  And, we cheered, most of all, for one of the greatest athletes that ever wore the red, white and blue, compete in arguably the greatest feat in Olympic sports history, the ten-event decathlon, and win.

Bruce Jenner unified the nation, at a time when it needed it most following Vietnam, Roe v. Wade, Watergate and internal political and social strife (not to mention the Cold War).

He had a chiseled face, broad shoulders and a Captain America smile. He represented everything that the United States, which was celebrating its bicentennial year, was at the time; young, strong and selfless; a true role model; a national hero.  That was then.

Today, Jenner has become a hero to some for another reason.  As most of the world knows, at the tender age of 65, after three failed marriages and having fathered six children, Jenner says he's no longer Bruce but Caitlyn, the woman he was always meant to be.  You can pot up The Crying Game theme song right about here.

In search of happiness...
He has become a symbol of the pursuit of happiness and individuality at all cost, regardless of who might get hurt, including his family and children, some of whom have publicly supported his very public announcement on prime-time television but others who have remained silent, eventual grandchildren, who will one day have to figure out why grandpa is a grandma and a new generation of kids, who will not remember him for what he did for his country but what he did for himself.

It's ironic, in a society where women are repeatedly told to love their bodies and accept themselves for who they are, as one of my wife's friends pointed out, Jenner is celebrated, praised and awarded honors for not accepting his.

Well, despite all the hoopla, fanfare and victory laps by the LGBT community, the Emperor is not wearing new clothes, he's naked!  And the crying girls mobbing North Korean Dictator Kim Jung Un, like infatuated teenagers meeting their idol, are shedding alligator tears (Or maybe got a whiff of his breath!).

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once wrote, "Only in truth does charity shine forth, only in truth can charity be authentically lived... Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality.  Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way.  In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love."

And, that may well be where we are as a culture; sentimentality, which may be why the divorce rate is where it is and children are growing up with no sense of objective morality, since everybody is different and what's true for you isn't necessarily true for me.  We can mold truth into what we want it to be just as we can mold God into what we want Him to be.

Despite not knowing the man, I can't help but feel a sense of affection for Jenner for what he accomplished on the field and the many memories he provided.  I realize his intentions appear to be sincere, however misguided I think they may be.  I hope he does find the happiness he seeks but I suspect that it'll take more than surgeries and hormones to find true fulfillment.

As I reflect on the story, the thought I'm left with is this; if that's how I feel about someone I never met, how must his children feel, and I'm not talking about what they may say in public but what they really feel.  As a father I cannot see myself breaking my children's heart even if it means breaking my own...

Friday, June 5, 2015

A Bittersweet Ending to the School Year (Again)...


That is how Sister Caridad, the barely 4-feet-tall Carmelite Sister and Principal of our children's school, described the feeling at our older daughter's graduation Mass.  And, so it is, at least for me.

My daughter's life at St. Theresa Catholic School, which has been her home away from home for the last ten years, where on the first day of Pre-K 4, I shed my first tear as her teacher talked to parents about what to expect (and I wasn't the only one, including the teacher herself!), and she had felt so loved, so safe and protected, had made life-long friendships, grown in her faith and shared in so many memories, laughs and tears along the way, has drawn to an end.  A chapter of her existence closing forever.

Yes, this is an exciting time.  Graduations usually are.  Proms, caps and gowns, diplomas, pomp and circumstance and a lot of fun and slacking off during the final weeks.  It's a time of celebration (three celebration meals in my daughter's case); as one chapter closes and another begins.  She will be going off to high school, where there will be many more friendships, memories, laughs and certainly a few tears.  Yet, the paradox is the hint of melancholy and nostalgia with a final farewell.

It's a familiar feeling.  In a blog I wrote in 2011, when my son was finishing his first year of school, I stated, "It’s funny how we, as humans, get attached to people, places and things. I guess it has to do with the fact that we were made for family; God’s family. Although we are just sojourners in this world and are made for our ultimate “home,” we have a natural inclination to seek “familiarity” with the people, places and things that make us feel like home." (Now, I'm quoting myself!)

You may think I'm being melodramatic (which wouldn't be that far off the mark!).  I know I still have two younger kids at St. Theresa but things will never be quite the same.  This is the last year that all three of them will be attending the same school together; that my wife will be rushing off with them in haste, screaming and yelling at the slackers left behind; that my parents pick them up from school together; or I, on a day off, can take them to eat frozen yogurt or gelato on our way home from school.  It's the little things (like yogurt or gelato) that really tug my heart!

The close to 90-year-old school was where, in Pre-K 4, my daughter was bitten in the chest by a 4-year-old admirer, and got into trouble for cutting her hair with a pair of scissors with a friend (that first year was a doozy!).  It was where she was watched over by her older cousins, who all attended the same school, and teachers, and later she watched over her siblings (already on the first day without her on Friday, the two little ones were lost in their own world, without their sister to call them into line, and I had to circle the parking lot twice!).  It was where she had her first girlhood crush, played on the girls' basketball and softball teams, and had been on the honor roll year after year, including the National Junior Honors Society.

Starting next school year, my kids will be on different schedules.  As my younger daughter goes into high school, probably following her sister's footsteps to an all-girl school, my older one will be going off to college.  And, when my son graduates, he will be going his separate way.    

So, it is definitely bittersweet.  As I wrote in the same 2011 blog, while I'm sure there will be plenty of excitement in our household about the upcoming summer vacation, and, later, the upcoming school year, I can't help feel a sense of somberness in my heart about the finality of a time gone by, which we will never again relive...