Friday, July 31, 2015

The ‘Wait, What?!’ of the Week, July 31, 2015

Katie Hopkins is a columnist for the British tabloid newspaper The Sun. She’s also a celebrity who’s appeared on numerous TV shows in the U.K. Recently, during an interview, Ms. Hopkins expressed her concern about over-population. When asked for a solution to this problem, Hopkins said, “Easy. Euthanasia vans – just like ice-cream vans – that would come to your home. It would all be perfectly charming. They might even have a nice little tune they’d play. I mean this genuinely. I’m super-keen on euthanasia vans.

Wait. What?! Euthanasia vans?! She must be kidding, right? After all, she’s known for saying outrageous things, so she must have been pulling the leg of the interviewer, right? Nope, she was dead serious (pun intended). Ms. Hopkins went on to explain, “It’s ridiculous to be living in a country where we can put dogs to sleep but not people.”

Oh. My. God. The scary thing is, there are many more folks who feel the exact same way, both in Western Europe and here in the U.S. But on the other hand, what do you expect when the popular culture rejects God and Judeo-Christian values? As Dostoevsky wrote, “If there is no God, all things are permissible.” If we tell ourselves that God is not real, then we get to define for ourselves what’s right and what’s wrong.

Over the past four decades we’ve snuffed out the lives of over 60 million innocent babies in the U.S. – and used the Owellian labels of “choice” and “reproductive health.” If we can do that without losing sleep, then it won't take much to persuade people that old folks, who have already lived a long time, really ought to get out of the way and stop using up scarce resources. 

I once wrote a column and predicted that in a few decades I would take my last breath inside a “Kevorkian Klinic,” at the hands of a thoroughly secular young government doctor. It never dawned on me that the killing Klinic might go mobile, and come looking for me. The next time I hear an ice cream truck coming down the street with its bells chiming, I probably won't think the words Ms. Hopkins used: "charming" and "super-keen." I’ll probably cringe and lock my doors.

Ice cream van

Jack Kevorkian's death van

Nazi gas van

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

House Plans Are Upside-Downsize

During the last few years we’ve talked about selling our house and “downsizing,” a fancy term that really means, “I am so sick of cleaning and fixing and painting this large building!!” Recently we’ve moved from the discussion stage to the “let’s implement a plan” stage. At first I thought the “plan” would be simple: call a real estate agent, sell the place, and then use the proceeds to buy a smaller house or condo.

But then I was informed that there’s an entire process required to prepare the house to be sold. Prepare the house? Hmm, does that mean we talk gently to the house, and assure it that it’s nothing personal, and tell it we’re not leaving because of anything the house said, and we’ll really miss it when we’re gone, and we’re sure the house will make friends with someone new, and stuff like that?

Nope. Some of my friends set me straight. The process of “preparing the house” is not an emotional thing, it’s a physical thing, with lots of cleaning and fixing and painting.
When I heard this, my knees buckled. “Oh, that certainly sounds like an emotional thing to me,” I muttered, “because I feel emotionally crushed right about now.”

Let me see if I’ve got this straight. We want to sell our house and downsize because all the cleaning and fixing and painting is getting to be too much for us. But in order to do it, we have to “prepare the house” for sale, which involves doing a decade’s worth of cleaning and fixing and painting, all within a three-month period? That doesn’t sound quite right. And it doesn’t sound very stress-free either. I’d better make sure my life insurance is paid up.

There must be someone out there who will offer a decent price for our home — just as it is. It’s not like it’s falling apart. It’s in pretty good shape. Maybe we’ll have to settle for a few bucks less than if we did tons of work on the place, but at least I’ll still be alive to move into our next home.

Speaking of the next home, while we’re trying to get our current house ready for sale, we also need to start looking for a new smaller place. Frankly, if it were up to me, I’d be happy if we bought a used Chevy van, put an air mattress in the back, and parked it under a bridge down by the river. However, I suspect no one else is quite as frugal or adventurous as I am (which is to say, lazy), so we’ll probably narrow our search and look only for a dwelling that has a foundation rather than a chassis.

We’re having the house vs. condo debate, too. I kind of like the idea of never having to bother again with lawn mowing, hedge trimming, and snow blowing. But I’m not so keen on the possibility of having neighbors on the other side of a thin wall who enjoy liquor-fueled shouting matches at 2 a.m., or condo associations that keep jacking up the monthly fees as if Governor Malloy were in charge. 

Well, we started working our “downsizing” plan earlier this month. Every weekend this summer we are spending time doing extra cleaning and fixing and painting. Hopefully by the fall the house will be prepared enough to put on the market. At the same time we’ll start checking out small one-story homes and condos for sale. But if things start to get too stressful, I might stop by the Chevy dealer and look at used vans. I hear there’s a nice quiet spot to park it down by the river.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Church is in Trouble – Part 2

A couple weeks ago I discussed the situation here in the Hartford Archdiocese and in my local parish. In a nutshell, we are struggling. Mass attendance has plummeted in recent decades, and as a result, donations also have plummeted. Which means many parishes and other Catholic operations are in real danger of shutting down.

Because the situation is so dire, I said our only response is to rejoice. And not surprisingly, I received a fair amount of feedback, asking whether I’ve lost my mind, or started drinking again, or both.

Well, I’m still sober, thank God, and regarding the whereabouts of my mind, that’s always up for debate. But the reason I said we must rejoice is because the Catholic Church is the only institution on earth that has been given a divine guarantee of success. (A guarantee, by the way, which has never been given to the United States of America. With the national debt approaching $20 trillion and the populace becoming more and more self-centered, irresponsible, and violent, how long do you really think this nation can survive? Just sayin’.)

When Jesus founded the Church 2,000 years ago, He specifically said “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” This means the Church cannot fail; it cannot collapse; it cannot and will not disappear from the face of the earth. Jesus promised that He will never let that happen.

So, I said this fact should give us confidence and help us to stay optimistic even when Mass attendance and parish finances are gloomy. However, if I gave the impression that everything is peachy keen and there’s no pain and heartache as a result of the current situation in the Church, then I apologize. I was in no way trying to say we can dismiss our problems as trivial, and simply sit back complacently and wait for Mass attendance to swell right before our eyes.

The fact of the matter is: there is plenty of pain and heartache as a result of our current situation. Much of the heartache comes when historic parishes flounder financially and then finally shut their doors for good. It’s no fun when the church built by your great-grandfather’s generation—the place where all your loved ones over the years have been married and buried—is shut down, sold off, and turned into, say, a community rec center owned by the city.

The real pain and heartache, though, is not financial; it’s spiritual. On any given weekend here in the Hartford Archdiocese, Mass attendance is 250,000 people FEWER than in 1967. This is a quarter-million people who have drifted away from Jesus’ Church. This is a quarter-million people who no longer receive Christ in the Eucharist. This is a quarter-million precious souls whose eternal fate is now in jeopardy.

After all, why does the Catholic Church even exist? That’s simple: to make saints and get souls into Heaven for all eternity. Those who decide they’ll somehow make it to Heaven while ignoring Jesus’ Church and the grace-giving sacraments He instituted, are taking a big gamble, a gamble with eternal consequences.

So yes, even though Jesus promised that the Church will be victorious, He never said there would be no casualties. The current situation is indeed grim. To be blunt about it, the present state of affairs in our Church is causing countless precious souls to end up in Hell. This fact is quite sobering.

Despite all this, we still can and should rejoice. First, we should rejoice because the Lord promised that His Church ultimately will flourish, and that’s very comforting knowledge. Second, we should rejoice because confidence and optimism are traits that will attract people to the Church once again. I mean, who wants to return to a place where the parishioners are a bunch of hand-wringing sad-sacks? 

We can rejoice—while at the same time knowing that victory will be won only after a long and grueling struggle.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

‘Attitude of Gratitude’ observation for Sunday morning

I am grateful that Jesus Christ is really present – body, blood, soul and divinity – in the Eucharist at Mass. That’s it. I don’t really want to say anything else. It’s a blessing of cosmic proportions, and I am grateful.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The ‘Wait, What?!’ of the Week, July 24, 2015

The senior director of medical services at Planned Parenthood was recently caught on video eating a salad and drinking wine while matter-of-factly describing the best way to crush babies during an abortion in order to harvest intact hearts and lungs and livers—all to maximize profits when those body parts are sold. In the wake of this startling video, the president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, apologized for the doctor’s tone.

Wait. What?! It was the TONE that was wrong in the video? Dismembering babies was not the problem? Harvesting organs from infants was not the problem? Selling those organs for profit was not the problem? Violating federal law was not the problem? Being a modern day Dr. Mengele was not the problem? The problem was the TONE? Sheesh.

As blogger Matt Archbold notes: “The only ‘tone’ that might work is maybe weeping and gnashing of teeth while begging for forgiveness from God, but I don't think that's what Richards meant, do you?”

You know what’s almost as sad as the murder of infants? The fact that you probably didn’t even hear about this story, since the mainstream media has completely buried it. When it to comes to the secular sacrament of abortion, the media simply will not do negative stories. Also, it’s sad that ultimately nothing will change. Planned Butcherhood will continue to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax-payer money; politicians like President Obama and Hillary Clinton will continue to proclaim that Planned Butcherhood is a wonderful organization; and the organization’s founder, Margaret Sanger, will not be vilified for her disgustingly racist views. If only she had been a Confederate general. 

A question for Ms. Richards: if unborn babies are mere “clumps of cells,” how can you sell intact hearts and livers?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

‘Attitude of Gratitude’ observation for Thursday evening

I am grateful the national sales manager visiting me this week is not a zeke. Let me explain: In my engineering sales job, I often have application engineers and/or sales managers visit for a few days, and I set up meetings with my clients here in Connecticut. If I’ve never met one of these visitors before, I usually keep him away from my clients until I’m sure he won’t cause more harm than good, something that actually happened many years ago. (It’s a long story. Maybe I’ll write a column about it some day. For now let’s just say if you thought of the most annoying character you’ve ever seen on a TV sitcom, this guy was him times ten. He had an amazing gift for making people cringe.) 

Anyway, the fella visiting this week is new to us, and I didn’t have a chance to “test drive” him (um, that sound a little weird), so I had to set up meetings with my clients sight unseen. Well, it turns out Mr. Murphy is a friendly, funny Irish-Catholic from Detroit, and my clients loved him. So I am grateful it turned out OK. (And no, that's not a picture of him below.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Delightful Foreign Expressions

Regular readers of this column will not be surprised to learn that I am occasionally asked if English is my second language. I freely admit I am not a trained keyboard wizard, like everyone else whose work appears in this newspaper. When I was taking those engineering courses way back in college, the last thing on the professors’ minds was teaching us how to string together a bunch of words in a goodly manner. Proper grammar and word comprehendibility were not even on the radar screen. (But designing a functioning radar screen WAS on the radar screen.)

Even though I butcher the English language on a regular basis, it is not my second language; it is my ONLY language. This is too bad, especially since I stumbled across a delightful list of foreign words and phrases on the Mental Floss website. Wouldn’t it be great if we could incorporate some of these expressions into our everyday speech?

Mencolek – an Indonesian word that describes the old trick where you tap someone lightly on the opposite shoulder from behind to fool them. I’ve never heard this behavior described with a single word, but I have heard the person doing it described with a single word, which cannot be printed in this family newspaper.

Tartle – in Scotland this word means that panicky hesitation just before you have to introduce someone whose name you can’t quite remember. Maybe we could merge this word with an American phrase that sort of means the same thing and has the same “art” sound to it: Brain Tartle.

Seigneur-terraces – this French expression describes coffee shop dwellers who sit at tables a long time but spend little money. Hmm, this phrase seems too tame. I bet French waiters use completely different words if the dawdling, cheapskate patrons are American, none of which can be printed in this or any Parisian newspaper.

Shemomedjamo – this is a Georgian word. (I’m pretty sure it’s the Georgia over near Russia, not the other Georgia just north of Florida, where they also do not speak English.) This word describes the feeling you get when you’re really full, but your meal is just so delicious, you can’t stop eating it. The word literally means, “I accidentally ate the whole thing.” Hmm, when I get that same feeling, I really can’t include the concept of accidentally, since it’s quite deliberate.

Ya’arburnee – an Arabic expression, where a person declares that he hopes he will die before a loved one dies, because he could not stand to live without that loved one. It literally means, “May you bury me.” I assume it’s understood that the burying part should not occur immediately. That would be awkward.

By far the best expressions on the list are German. Here are a few:

Packesel – A packesel is the person who’s stuck carrying everyone else’s bags on a trip. Literally, it means a burro.

Backpfeifengesicht – I have no clue how to pronounce this, but in German it means: A face badly in need of a fist. Oh, those wacky and fun-loving Germans!

Kummerspeck – This word alone makes me want to learn German. (But first maybe I should learn English?) It describes excess weight gained from emotional overeating, and the literal translation is: grief bacon.

Grief bacon! What an awesome idea!

We could combine phrases here, in a trilingual expression of joy: “Ya’arburnee Shemomedjamo Kummerspeck!” This means: May you bury me, but not until I’ve accidentally eaten all the grief bacon! 

By the way, if it turns out these expressions are wrong and I’m actually swearing in many languages (incorrect information on the Internet? What a shock!), then I offer this heart-felt Norwegian expression: “Oops.” (Which, when translated to English, means, “Oops.”)