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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...