Wednesday, July 1, 2015

40th High School Reunion! So Soon?

My 40th high school reunion is in a couple weeks. How can that be? The year 1975 wasn’t all that long ago. Let me do the math: 2015 minus 1975 equals — oh wow, it IS 40 years. I guess time flies when you’re having fun. Or at least it flies when you’re not paying attention.

I’m trying to complete the official reunion “questionnaire.” They want to know what I’ve been doing for the last four decades. Frankly, I’d also like to know what I’ve been doing for the last four decades. Again, that “not paying attention” thing rears its ugly head.

The “Facts & Figures” section is fairly clear-cut. College degree(s), if any. Marriage(s), if any. Children and grandchildren. States or foreign countries lived in. Social Security and bank account numbers. Huh? Oh, my mistake. That was the Internet scam email I received the other day. (But I sure fooled them. Instead of giving them my SS and bank account numbers, I gave them my WIFE’S account numbers. So there!)

The next section is “Memories.” What do you remember most about high school? It was so long ago I don’t remember much, except the multiple concussions I received playing football. That could explain the “not paying attention” aspect of the last four decades.

The final section is a bit trickier: “Milestones & Achievements.” Hmm, do I tell the truth, which is pretty boring? Or do I treat this reunion questionnaire as if it’s Facebook?  (Or as I like to call that social media phenomenon: “Look-at-me!-Look-at-me!-Look-at-me-dammit!-book.”)

It is rather convenient that we now live in an era where the truth is whatever we claim it is. So, for example, when I describe personal milestones, claiming that my humor column is syndicated in 500 newspapers is pretty much the same thing as wishing it appeared in more than the current two newspapers, right? And claiming that my suspense novel is being made into a Hollywood movie is pretty much the same thing as hoping that one day Steven Spielberg appears at my front door and says, “Bill, I’ve just GOT to have the rights to your book! Name your price!” It could happen. I mean, Spielberg might be one of the nine people who purchased the book on Kindle.

Maybe I’ll just go with the plain truth: marrying my high school sweetheart in 1982 brought tears to my eyes. Then I cried a couple years later when our first daughter was born. I also cried when that miraculous event caused me to become an ex-atheist. A little later I cried when the ball went through Buckner’s legs. The next year I cried when our second daughter was born. Then I went through a fairly stable period emotionally, but broke down again when Foulke got the last out and the Red Sox finally won the World Series. And just a couple months ago I cried when we made our last mortgage payment.

My most interesting achievement, however, cannot be captured on a questionnaire. I will be attending the 40th reunion party with a genuine trophy wife on my arm. You know what I mean: the kind of gorgeous woman who causes everyone to whisper, “Wow, he must be rich!”

In this instance, my trophy wife also happens to be the high school sweetheart I married in ‘82. But amazingly, while the rest of us look like we are definitely in our late 50s, my darling bride and mother of our kids looks like she’s about 35, tops. 

It should be a fun evening. I know I’ll cry. I just hope I pay attention.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

‘How Come You Catholics Ignore Jesus’ Words and Call Men “Father”?’

“How come you Catholics call men ‘father,’ in direction violation of Jesus’ command: ‘Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven’? This is just another example of Catholics following man-made traditions and ignoring the Word of God. That’s why you’re not real Christians!”

*     *     *

Wow, have you ever been confronted with these questions by a friend or co-worker or, most zealous of all, a family member who USED to be Catholic? How do you respond? Is it really true that we Catholics violate a direct command from the Lord when we call our priests “father”?

Well, it is a fact that in Matthew 23:9 Jesus said, “Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.” And it is a fact that non-Catholics have been citing this verse for centuries to claim that Catholics blatantly violate Jesus’ command by calling priests “father.”

But is this what Jesus really meant? To fully understand Jesus’ “call no one…father” statement, we have to read carefully the first half of this passage. Jesus’ main objective was to highlight the attitude of pride and superiority held by the scribes and Pharisees. The key statement here occurs in verses 5 and 6. Describing the selfish motivation of the religious leaders of His day, Jesus said, “All their works are performed to be seen….They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’” 

Jesus was telling His followers to be humble. We know this by the last verse of the passage: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” He was describing the Pharisees’ obsession with titles of honor—Rabbi, Teacher, Father, Master—and warning His disciples to avoid that type of sinful pride and arrogance.

Still, some people will insist, “But Jesus said, ‘Call no one…father.’ And if He said it, then we gotta do it, and since you Catholics DON’T do it, you’re not Christians!” This is taking a very literalist approach to Scripture, which can cause a lot of confusion when Jesus used symbolic language or exaggerations to make a point. For example, in Matthew 5:29-30, Jesus said, “If you eye causes you to sin, gouge it out.…If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.”

If it is true that we are supposed to take each word Jesus said literally, and if it is true ALL people have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), then every church ought to be filled with people facing a difficult dilemma: they are blind because they gouged their eyes out, but they can’t hold their white canes very well because they have no hands. I think you get my point.

Let’s take a closer look at this so-called divine command that no one should ever use the word “father” to describe another human being. In Acts 7:2, St. Stephen said, “Brothers and fathers, listen to me!” Oops, was Stephen violating Jesus’ command?

In 1 John 2:13, St. John wrote, “I write to you, fathers, because you have known him…” Oops, was John violating Jesus’ command?

In his first letter to the Corinthians (4:15), St. Paul wrote, “In Christ Jesus I became your father through the Gospel.” Oops, was Paul violating Jesus’ command?

In Matthew 15:4, Jesus Himself said, “Honor your father and mother.” Oops, was Jesus violating His own command?

From these verses in the Bible it is clear that Jesus was not offering a sweeping command that no one shall ever use the word “father” when referring to a man. Otherwise, all of these great saints in Scripture (plus the Lord Himself) were in violation of that command.

It’s perfectly OK to call a Catholic priest “father.” Just as St. Paul called himself the spiritual “father” of the Corinthians, we Catholics call our priests “father” because they nurture the spiritual life of the flock by preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments. 

Oh, and one last thing, in case you’re not sure: Catholics definitely ARE real Christians.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Is gay marriage really about persecuting the Church?

Below are the words of Catholic blogger Patrick Archbold, who posted these comments soon after the Supreme Court decision legalized gay marriage in all 50 states. Mr. Archbold is well-known in Catholic cyber-circles for being somewhat pessimistic. However, many of the things he’s written over the years, which seemed a bit over the top at the time, have proven to be true.

So what do you think? Is he correct when he claims gay marriage was never about gays getting married, but about persecuting the Church? Will the Church lose its tax-exempt status and be prohibited from preaching the Gospel? Will Christians end up in jail for not agreeing with the gay agenda?

I’m just offering Mr. Archbold’s thoughts here for your consideration:

It is one thing to know the enemy is coming and try to prepare for it. But that doesn't make the moment when they come over the hill any easier.

Today, they came over the hill.

In a 5-4 ruling, "Gay Marriage" has been imposed nationwide. 

But "gay marriage" has never been about gays getting married, it is now and always has been about persecuting the Church. Not that they have this ruling, the persecution against Catholic and Christian organizations will begin in earnest. Institutions will lose their tax-exempt status, they will lose grants, they will be denied contracts, they will be denied building permits, and they will be denied speech. And all that is just the beginning.

Hell hath been unleashed today and they will attack us with all their fury.

This moment has been a long time in the making and now it is here. The persecution begins in earnest now.

Christians in the United States will soon go to jail for no other reason than they believe and speak the truth as revealed by Jesus Christ and his Church.

This has never just been a political battle, it has always truly been a battle with principalities and powers.

This is the natural end of a supernatural battle in which we lost the faith and now must pay the price.

But I assure you, what will result from this persecution is not what our enemies expect. The Church will triumph as a result of this coming persecution and they will never see it coming.

We have been asked to have faith, take up our crosses, and make our way to the resurrection.

May God have mercy on us all.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The ‘Wait, What?!’ of the Week, June 26, 2015

Here are a few phrases you’ve probably heard before: “America is the land of opportunity,” “America is a melting pot,” and, “There is only one race, the human race.” These phrases are fairly innocuous, right? They express ideas that have been held by many folks for many years. But according to the people who run the University of California higher education system, these phrases are actually “micro-aggressions” that could leave students feeling discriminated against, and therefore should never be uttered by professors, according to a new faculty training guide.

Wait. What?! Yes, you heard right. The University of California has warned all professors to avoid these and other equally benign phrases, because the phrases can be interpreted by some students as “denying the significance of a person of color’s racial/ethnic experience,” and even worse, can be interpreted as a demand that certain students “assimilate to the dominant culture.”

Tim Groseclose used to be a professor at UCLA, but now teaches at George Mason University in Virginia. Groseclose says, “I don’t think the University of California realizes how crazy it’s become.” Noting that one of the forbidden phrases is, “When I look at you, I don’t see color,” Groseclose observes, “According to that document, Martin Luther King, Jr. would be guilty of micro-aggressions.”

I was going to try to come up with some smart-aleck comments, but this situation is so pathetic, I’m just not in the mood. So instead I’ll cite one of my favorite authors, Dr. Peter Kreeft, who said that no idea is too ridiculous that some Ph.D. somewhere won’t embrace it. Looks like a whole slew of Ph.D.’s on the Left Coast have embraced this ridiculous idea. Can I claim that political correctness run amuck is a micro-agression towards me? I mean, honestly, this idiocy truly offends me. No, unfortunately I’m not a member of an approved gender, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, political party, or socio-economic class, so my feeling don’t count. 

At this rate, the phrase, “America is the land of opportunity,” soon will not be allowed—not because it’s offensive, but because it no longer will be true.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

‘Attitude of Gratitude’ observation for Thursday morning

I am grateful that I work in the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning industry. There, I said it. Pope Francis is going to be so upset with me. If you hadn’t heard, the pope’s recent encyclical on the environment claims that air-conditioning is one of the world’s “harmful habits of consumption.”

Yes, air-conditioning requires energy, a lot of energy. But just think what the world would be like if we stopped using air-conditioning. More people would die rather than recover in sweltering hospitals. The elderly would succumb more frequently during heat waves. Nursing homes would be uninhabitable, as would major cities in southern climates.

And air-conditioning is the same technology that brings us refrigeration. Without refrigeration, modern medicine could not exist. Without refrigeration, food could not be transported safely across the country. Without refrigeration, countless thousands—if not millions—of people would die of food poisoning or starvation.

No, I’m sorry to say it, but Pope Francis has gotten some terrible advice on this topic. When mankind learned to harness the refrigeration cycle a little more than a century ago, it was a GOOD thing. Unlike some technological advancements that have been harmful and destructive, the development of air-conditioning and refrigeration has improved the lives of countless millions of people. In fact, it has SAVED the lives of countless millions of people.

Michelle Malkin offers further observations on this issue, including the ironic fact that the Carrier Corporation is in the process of designing and donating an expensive, sophisticated air-conditioning system for the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, which is needed to keep Michelangelo’s priceless artwork from being ruined. Read it at:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Treadmills Are Too Dangerous

There was a front page newspaper story a few weeks ago about treadmills. No, I don’t mean the emotional lament type of “treadmill,” as in, “My job is so tedious, it’s like I’m stuck on a treadmill.” Or the Elton John song about Marilyn Monroe: “They set you on a treadmill, and they made you change your name.”

I’m referring to the treadmill type of treadmill, the exercise machine with a moving platform, on which you walk, jog, or run. And when I say “on which you walk, jog, or run,” I definitely mean YOU. Personally, I avoid treadmills like the plague. (On the other hand, how many people actually seek out the plague? What a weird figure of speech.) I already do enough walking — around parking lots trying to remember where I parked my car — enough jogging — to the front door of Dunkin Donuts so I get in line ahead of the two other people merely sauntering toward the entrance — and enough running — up the sidewalk of the highway rest area facility and then into the men’s room, because I didn’t stop at the last rest area 24 miles ago, temporarily deluded into thinking I still possessed a young man’s bladder.

So, regarding the idea of purposely stepping onto a machine so it can force me to huff and puff for 45 minutes, forget it. But many people swear by treadmills (and I suspect many people swear AT treadmills). Reportedly, it’s a great way to get a good workout without having to go outside for a run, especially in these parts where it seems the earth is covered in snow and ice for at least 14 months out of every year. Even during those brief periods when the weather actually is nice, the odds are good some motorist will be distracted by his cell phone and turn an unsuspecting jogger into a new hood ornament.

But if you think treadmills are a safe way to get a good workout, think again. The article in the newspaper — remember the newspaper article I mentioned in the first sentence, about 19 thought tangents ago? Well, don’t worry, I didn’t forget — explained that treadmill related injuries cause more than 24,000 emergency room visits per year.

Stop and think about that for a moment. Twenty-four-thousand! Every year! (I’m pretty sure it’s not the SAME 24,000 people each year, since a treadmill injury trip to the E.R. most likely would cause a person to try a safer exercise routine in the future, such as jogging blindfolded in the middle of I-84 during rush hour.)

Now, I’m not an expert on emergency room statistics, but in my family we reserve the E.R. for situations with broken bones, lots of blood, or concussions so severe you think you’re a former quarterback for the Chicago Bears. This means that far MORE than 24,000 people get injured each year on treadmills. If someone stumbles and falls off a treadmill, and only sprains an ankle, or scrapes a knee, or chips a tooth, he’ll limp around the house for a few days with an ice bag, but won’t become an official entry in the massive database of the federal government’s Office of Treadmill Death and Dismemberment, a sub-division of the department of Health and Human Services. 

If you ask me (and I know you didn’t actually ask me, but it’s time to wind up this rambling essay seemingly composed by a former quarterback for the Chicago Bears), treadmills are simply too dangerous. If you insist on exercising with a treadmill, please at least do this: never turn it on. Just stand on it and watch your favorite show on TV. The whole point is to be healthy, right?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Jesus Reversed the Curse

In our culture, we are often told that death is just a part of life, and that death is perfectly natural.

These statements are told to us by many wise modern philosophers, including animated cartoon characters from that old Disney movie The Lion King, who explain that we are all a part of the great circle of life, where each generation has to move aside and make way for the next generation.

Death is just a normal part of life, right? Well, tell that to Jairus, the man we read about in this weeks gospel, as his friends come to tell him, Your daughter has died; why trouble [Jesus] any longer?

Sure, just tell Jairus that death is perfectly natural. Sing the circle of life song for him. Oh well, a dead child? Youll get over it. Cmon Jairus, lets go have some lunch.

Well, I suspect we are constantly told this death is natural view to keep us from becoming despondent at the death of loved ones, and to keep us from being terrified by the thought of our own death. However, the idea that death is just a part of life is the farthest thing from Gods view. God did not create life just so it ultimately could wither away and die.

For the weekend of June 27/28, the first reading at Mass is from the Book of Wisdom in the Old Testament. We read: God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world.

This idea is also confirmed in St. Pauls letter to the Romans. Paul wrote that sin came into the world through one man (Adam), and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned (Romans 5:12). Death was not, and has never been, a part of Gods plan for mankind. Death is an abomination; it is an obscenity; it is a curse.

Death first came into the world, and corrupted Gods perfect creation, when Satan tempted Adam and Eve to sin. This gives us an idea of just how powerful and far-reaching sin truly is; it can send a shock wave throughout the entire natural order. Remember THAT the next time someone tries to tell you that sin is just an old-fashion concept. On the contrary, sin is real, and it screws up everything!

Up until about a decade ago, we Boston Red Sox fanatics had a rallying cry: Reverse the Curse! This referred to the so-called Curse of the Bambino, the idea that the late, great Babe Ruth had cursed the Red Sox never to win the World Series as punishment for trading him to the rival New York Yankees. At times, it certainly seemed as though this curse was real. It took 86 years, but the Sox finally reversed the curse in 2004. (No, I wasn't alive for ALL of those 86 yearsit only seemed that way.)

The reason Jesus came to earth was to reverse the cursethe curse of death. His sacrificial death on the cross once and for all paid the price for the entire worlds sins. And His rising from the grave three days later conquered death. What Satan had gleefully unleashed in the Garden of Eden, Jesus reversed on Calvary.

So even though we still have to deal with death on this side of eternity, death no longer has the final word. Jesus changed all that.

Death is still painful and horrific, and anyone who tries to cheer us up with that death is just a natural part of life nonsensewhether a well-meaning friend or a philosophical Disney cartoon charactershould be politely ignored. 

Death is painful, but it is no longer hopeless. Jesus changed all that. The curse has been reversed. Thank God!