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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...