Monday, August 31, 2015

Jesus Commands ALL Followers To Preach The Good News

For the gospel reading at Mass on the weekend of September 5th and 6th, we can describe what happened with this three-part summary: 1) Jesus performed a spectacular miracle. 2) He then instructed the witnesses not to tell anyone. 3) They ignored His command and told everyone about it.

In a different part of the Scriptures, at the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus gave us what is known as The Great Commission, telling all of His followers: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

We also can offer a three-part summary of this passage: 1) Jesus performed a spectacular miracle, the forgiveness of our sins and the offer of eternal life. (How much more spectacular can you get?) 2) He then instructed His followers to tell EVERYONE about it. 3) We ignore His command and don’t say a word to anyone.

Weird, huh? Why do we act like we’re in the group that was commanded NOT to say anything, rather than what we are, members of the group that was commanded to tell the message of Jesus to the whole world?

This reminds me of an article I read a few years ago about an elderly Jesuit missionary priest, who spent decades living with native people in the Amazon rain forest. On his retirement and return to the U.S., this missionary priest was proud to proclaim that he had not performed a single baptism in the four decades he lived with those native people. He explained that he chose not to “impose” Christian beliefs on the people, because, after all, they already had a long tradition of spiritual beliefs and practices, and who’s to say our views are any better than their views, etc.

When I read the article, my first thought was, “Wow. Apparently multi-cultural moral relativism is not unique to North America and Western Europe. It made its way to the remote jungle, too.”

My second thought was, “How sad. This guy devoted his adult life to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people who had never heard the Good News, and during all those decades he simply did not do it.”

This missionary priest was well-versed in the doctrine of modern relativism—all value systems are equal, and who’s to say one is better than another?—but he was not well-versed in the doctrine of Jesus Christ, as plainly taught by the Lord Himself in The Great Commission.

If I let my imagination run a bit wild, I can envision that elderly missionary priest, in the moment after his death, standing before the throne of God in Heaven. Jesus looks at the priest, shakes His head sadly, and says, “Dude, really? Four decades in the jungle and not a single baptism? Really?!” (Hey, it’s my imagination. In my imagination Jesus frequently says, “Dude” and “Really.”)

Maybe a missionary priest who performs zero baptisms in 40 years is a shocking example of how NOT to spread the Gospel, but are we much different? After all, the mission fields right here in Suburbia USA are ripe with folks who have never heard the Good News. In our increasingly secularized culture, we are surrounded on a daily basis by people who do not know that Jesus Christ freely offers Mankind the two most valuable things in the universe: true forgiveness of sins, and eternal life in Heaven.

In the gospel reading this week, when Jesus told the crowd NOT to spread the news of what He had done, that was a unique situation. In our day and age we are commanded to do the exact opposite; we are called to tell the world about Jesus. 

I don’t think Jesus reserves His exasperated, “Dude, really?” expression just for missionary priests. He’s just as likely to say that to us on Judgment Day, too. Dude, let’s make sure that does not happen. Really!

Friday, August 28, 2015

The ‘Wait, What?!’ of the Week, August 28, 2015

The University of Tennesee’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion just issued a document expressing concern that students will be offended by the use of traditional pronouns, such as he and she, him and her. Written by Donna Braquet, director of the school’s Pride Center, the document suggests people should use these “gender neutral” pronouns: ze, hir, zir, xe, xem, and xyr.

Wait, What?! Is this for real, or did the author of the document accidentally run a few sentences thru a Chinese translation software program?

No, this is indeed for real. Ms. Braquet explains that there are “people who do not identify within the gender binary.” (I wonder if it’s OK to call her “Ms.”? Oops, is it even OK to call her “her”?!)

Anyway, this begs the question: What exactly does “within the gender binary” even mean? Oh silly, haven’t you been paying attention? Caitlin Jenner? Facebook’s 56 different gender choices? “Within the gender binary” means the traditional two options of male or female. This is now known to some folks as “old-fashioned and oppressive,” while to other less progressive-minded folks the gender binary is known as “reality.” (Personally, I think “Within the Gender Binary” would make a great name for a rock band.)

Nonetheless, Ms. (or Ze or Zir or whatever) Braquet says that students may prefer something other than “the sex they were assigned at birth.” (“Assigned,” as if gender was something handed out to us by a bored Dept. of Motor Vehicle employee while we waited in line.) If these particular students are uncomfortable with traditional pronouns, the recently invented gender neutral pronouns must be used. But how to know which ones to use? Easy, Braquet offers this simple solution: “You can always politely ask, ‘Oh, nice to meet you (insert name). What pronouns should I use?’ It’s a perfectly fine question to ask.”

Perfectly fine question? Yeah, I can see those conversations going smoothly. “Oh, nice to meet you, Frank. What pronouns should I use?”

“Pronouns? Whattaya mean?”

“You know. What gender do you identify with? He? She? Zir? Ze?”

“Uh, are you having a stroke? Should I call 9-1-1?”

There’s an old Chinese proverb: “May you live in interesting times.” Well, we certainly live in interesting times nowadays, don’t we? Of course, insanity and absurdity are often considered interesting. I think the Chinese proverb was written by a guy (or possibly a gal) named Xem Zir Ze (or possibly Yu Kiddn Mi?).

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Stop Maligning Contractors

There is a segment of our society that is constantly being maligned, and I think it’s high time we stop it. No, I don’t mean politicians. They are constantly being maligned — and rightfully so! If anything, we need to increase our malignations toward those people who look us square in the eye and lie, especially now that we’re heading into a presidential election year. Complaining about politicians is the only way we regular folks can keep our sanity. It’s a defense mechanism, kind of like “laughing to keep from crying.”

Anyway, speaking about people who “look us square in the eye and lie” brings us back to today’s topic: contractors. Contractors are constantly being maligned, and a common malignuous claim is that contractors look you square in the eye and lie. But this is not true. For a statement to be a lie, the person uttering the statement has to know at the time that it is false. (For example: “I have no intention of raising taxes next year.”)

With a contractor, when he looked you in the eye and said, “I have to finish up a job in Litchfield tomorrow morning, but I’ll be back here by noon to install your new toilet,” he absolutely, 100-percent believed what he said was true. It’s not his fault unforeseen complications occurred at the Litchfield job. How was he to know that when he tightened the screw on a new faucet handle it would cause a pipe to crack under the sink, which spewed water all over the place, and when he raced down to the basement to shut off the water, the valve handle would snap right off in his hand, and then the plumbing supply house would be all out of the required replacement part, which forced him to drive to Waterbury, but his van got a flat tire in Thomaston? How would the poor guy ever expect something like that to happen, other than the fact similar situations occur on virtually every job?

So the bottom line is, he is unable to get to your house by noon, and you have to go the rest of the day, and as it turns out another two weeks, without a toilet. Hey, stuff happens. By the way, if this ever happens to you, when you visit the nearby Dunkin Donuts five times each day for an entire fortnight to use their facilities, at least buy something once in a while. Otherwise, take it from me, the folks behind the counter begin to lose their mirthful demeanor.

This unfortunate scenario is the exact reason why contractors should be admired rather than malignated: they risk their financial security every single day despite overwhelming uncertainty. You think it’s easy being a contractor? You think they’re all getting rich? Think again. What if you quoted a price for a job, and calculated it would take 10 hours to complete, but when it was finally done, it instead required 25 hours and you ended up losing money on the project (along with leaving a couple people waiting extra days for their new toilet)?

Personally, I hate uncertainty. I prefer a steady paycheck each week. I’d be unable to sleep if I knew that despite working hard every day I still might not get paid if a few unforeseen problems occur. Frankly, I don’t know how those guys do it. 

So let’s stop maligning contractors. (Hey, surprise! I used the word correctly for a change.) Contractors are the backbone of our entire economy. And if one of them could stop by and install my new toilet sometime this month, the folks at Dunkin Donuts and I would be very grateful.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Only 4 more months till Christmas!

Just a heads up: only 4 more months until Christmas! Yes, it’s hot and muggy outside right now, and the kiddies are going back to school. But if you haven’t noticed, time flies, and before you know it Christmas decorations will be in the stores (October) and then we’ll hear non-stop Christmas carols on the radio (November) and finally the big day itself will arrive. 

Also, to make us feel better, the AP reported yesterday that the Farmers’ Almanac just published their prediction for this upcoming winter. They say in the Northeast U.S. it will very similar to last winter, that is, much colder than usual and much more snow that usual. Oh goodie! I can hardly wait. “It’s the most wonderful time, of the year!”

Monday, August 24, 2015

But Mass Is So Repetitive and Boring!

The other day a friend said to me, “Hey Bill, how come you go to Mass every single week? Mass is the same old thing every time. I can’t believe you waste your time going through the same repetitive, boring ritual every single Sunday.”

I replied, “Well, I don’t. Sometimes I go to Vigil Mass on Saturday.”

He rolled his eyes and said, “You know what I mean. You go to Mass every weekend, and it’s the same old thing every time.”

I paused for a moment and said a quick prayer to St. Shecky, the patron saint of smart-aleck comebacks, and then said to my friend, “Let me ask you something. Why do you eat every day? Why do you sleep every night? Why do you do your laundry every week?”

He said, “Um, I don’t do laundry. Ever since I put a new red shirt in with white stuff, and turned everything pink, my wife won’t let me near the washing machine.”

Now it was my turn to roll my eyes and say, “You know what I mean.” I continued, “Why do you do those boring repetitive things over and over again?”

He said, “Well, with food, I need to nourish my body, or else I’ll die. With sleep, I need to rest and recharge my batteries, or else I’ll, um, I’m not sure what’ll happen if I never sleep, but I’m sure it’s not good. And with laundry, that’s obvious. You don’t want me walking around with dirty, smelly clothes, do you?”

“You mean dirtier and smellier than what you usually wear?” I asked. (By the way, I forgot to mention this conversation took place on a weekend, the time when we guys often relax our hygiene standards—by which I mean we pretty much have NO hygiene standards and will put on any article of clothing that does not have visible mold colonies chewing through the fabric.)

Getting a bit more serious, I said, “What you just said are the exact same reasons why I go to Mass each week. I need to get spiritually nourished on a regular basis, or else my soul will starve. I need to rest and recharge my mind, and get away from all the electronic noise once in a while. I need to clean myself of all the selfish thoughts and nasty attitudes that build up during the week. That’s why I go to Mass: to keep my soul and spirit healthy and clean.”

My friend thought about this for a minute. Finally he said, “I guess that makes sense—for you. But for me, Mass is so boring. I don’t feel nourished or cleansed or any of that stuff. That’s why I hardly ever go anymore.”

“I totally understand,” I said. “There was a time years ago when I felt the same way. But that was before I discovered a really important celebrity was in attendance at Mass.”

“Celebrity?” he said. “Around here? Who do you mean, the mayor? That wacky weatherman on TV?”

“No,” I said. “I mean the Creator of the Universe. Jesus Christ Himself is really present in the Eucharist at every Mass.”

“Wait, you don’t really believe that stuff they taught us in 3rd grade catechism class, do you?” he asked.

“Why shouldn’t I?” I replied. “Jesus taught it, St. Paul repeated it, and the Church has proclaimed it for 2,000 years. He is truly present in a special, supernatural way. And it only happens at Mass.” Then I took a deep breath and said quietly, “Why don’t you join me at Vigil Mass today? It starts in an hour.” 

My friend looked at me and sighed. “OK, why not?” he said. Then he tilted his head, lifted his arm, and sniffed. He looked up and said, “But first I’d better put on a clean shirt.”

Friday, August 21, 2015

The ‘Wait, What?!’ of the Week, August 21, 2015

The recently signed nuclear deal with Iran has been very controversial. President Obama insists the deal will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, while critics, including Israel, say the deal insures that Iran will get a bomb sooner. (And the fact the leaders of Iran repeatedly insist that they want to wipe Israel off the map makes the folks in the Promised Land, shall we say, a bit nervous.) All along, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has insisted that the deal will allow U.N. officials to inspect Iranian nuclear and military sites, guaranteeing that Iran cannot cheat on the deal.

Just this week, however, it was revealed that a secret side deal between the U.N. and Iran will allow certain Iranian sites to be inspected by … Iranian officials.

Wait, What?! The guys we don’t trust are the SAME guys who will be doing the inspections? Hmm, that’s sure to end well. Imagine that I’m a suspect in a bank robbery and the police come to my house. I tell them to wait on the front porch while I check to see if there’s any bank money in the house. A few minutes later I return and say, “Nope, I didn’t see any bank money here anywhere.” As they turn to leave, the cops say, “Thanks for your help, sir. Sorry to trouble you. Have a good night.”

(Another analogy I saw online: This agreement is “like letting an athlete suspended for drugs send in his own urine sample.” I suspect there will be about a million of these snarky analogies once the cyber world realizes what this agreement is all about.) 

When I first read the article explaining that Iran gets to inspect Iran to make sure Iran is not violating what Iran agreed to do, I thought it was a parody news website. Nope, it was the real news. Sometimes you just can’t make this stuff up.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

‘Attitude of Gratitude’ observation for Thursday morning

I am grateful that it has been hazy, hot, and humid all this week. Actually, I’m really not THAT grateful, but I’m trying to minimize the complaining by reminding myself how bitterly cold and snowy it was last winter. Mid-90s and oppressively muggy is kind of annoying, but minus-10 with blowing snow, and listening to my boiler run non-stop all night while it struggles to keep the indoor temp above 60, is definitely worse. 

And if I remember correctly from Physics class, my pipes will not freeze when it’s 90-something degrees outside. There, I feel better already.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Can’t Comprehend Getting Old

When I was a teenager, there were two things I could not comprehend. (Well, actually there were about a billion things I could not, and still cannot, comprehend. But for now I’m just focusing on two particular items.)

When I was young, I could not comprehend that my parents, or any of my middle-aged relatives, were once young. They would show me a black-and-white photo of, say, my Uncle Mickey in uniform during World War II, and I would exclaim, “Nah, that sort of looks like him, but he was never skinny and young. Can’t be him.” Or they’d show me a photo of my father when he was in elementary school, and it would make my head spin. That can’t be my dad, I reasoned, because surely when he was born, he was already age 40 and had five kids and had perfected “The Look™,” that penetrating glare that caused all our muscles to freeze as we were consumed by guilt — and always appropriate guilt, because he somehow instinctively knew when we were up to no good.

If I thought about it logically back then, I would have acknowledged that all people were born as infants, then grew into youngsters, then teens, then adults, then middle-agers, and then, finally, geezers. It’s just that my brain couldn’t quite fathom the possibility that any of my older relatives actually went through that process. My being unable to comprehend that middle-aged people were once young was a bit odd, but not really debilitating. It simply caused my relatives to shake their heads and say, “Just goes to show that someone can get decent grades in school and still have no more common sense than a turnip.”

However, the other thing I could not comprehend as a young person has proven to be a significant problem. Back when I was in my teens and 20s, I could not for the life of me envision that I would ever become old. Again, if I looked at it logically, I would have understood that people do not remain young forever. But I couldn’t grasp the idea that it would ever happened to me. It was just some kind of weird mental block.

During the past four decades various people have told me — once or twice or a million times — that I need to put money into a pension account for my retirement. I understood what a pension was, and I understood what retirement was (it’s what my parents and aunts and uncles did), and I even could do the math and calculate how much money over how many years needed to be socked away to achieve the desired result at retirement age. But I kept putting it off because deep down I really didn’t think it applied to me.

Then one day when I was 34 years old, I went to bed. The very next morning I woke up and discovered I was 58. Holy moly, how did that happen? 

So here I am: half my hair has turned gray, and the other half has turned loose. My prostate is the size of grapefruit. My most frequent comment these days is, “Huh? Whudja say?” And I make sure we leave events early so I can drive home during daylight hours, because once the sun goes down I turn into Stevie Wonder behind the wheel. Somehow, the unfathomable happened. Despite a prodigious amount of denial on my part, the incomprehensible nonetheless occurred: I stopped being young, and now I’m on the threshold of full-fledged geezerhood. And my pension fund will allow me to retire comfortably — for exactly 7-1/2 months. I wish someone had warned me.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Is the Pope’s Encyclical a Lot of Cold Air?

I am grateful that my full-time job is in the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning industry. There, I said it. Pope Francis is going to be so upset with me. If you haven’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 sizable amount of energy. But just think what the world would be like if we stopped using air-conditioning. Confined to sweltering hospitals, more people would die rather than recover. More elderly people would succumb during heat waves. Nursing homes would be uninhabitable, as would major cities in southern climates. (I refer to cities that have ALWAYS been hot, not just during the “global warming” of recent decades, when the planet’s average temperature increased a degree or so.)

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, thousands—if not millions—of people would die of food poisoning or starvation.

I hate to say this, but it seems to me Pope Francis has received some inaccurate advice on this topic. When mankind learned to harness nature’s condensation-evaporation 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. Does the pope think flush toilets and clean drinking water are “harmful habits of consumption,” too?

The Book of Genesis says, “God created man in his image.” A big part of that image is creativity. We imitate and honor God when we employ our creative skills. Discovering and utilizing new technologies—technologies that improve and save lives—is not a squandering of natural resources.

If the pope was referring to the fact many air-conditioning systems make buildings too cold and waste energy in the process, well, that is a legitimate concern. There are many systems out there, especially older systems, that have poor controls and run at full speed all the time. On muggy days, instead of making the interior space of a building a pleasant 76 degrees, these systems turn the rooms into meat lockers. This is indeed a waste of resources, not to mention quite uncomfortable. The solution here is to invest in newer technology with smarter controls, which can achieve the desired temperature while using less energy.

It’s kind of ironic the pope criticizes air-conditioning at the exact same time the Carrier Corporation is donating an expensive, sophisticated climate-control system for the Sistine Chapel, which is needed to keep Michelangelo’s priceless artwork from being ruined. The cover story of the June, 2015, issue of the ASHRAE Journal discusses this project in detail. (ASHRAE, by the way, is the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-conditioning Engineers, and I’m proud to say I was the President of the Connecticut Chapter in 2007.)

The pope’s encyclical on the environment offers some thought-provoking statements about mankind’s God-given role as stewards of this planet. There are many things in the encyclical we should honestly take to heart, especially on a personal level. Although the pope’s call for larger and more powerful government to impose restrictions on people’s lives made my libertarian sensibilities cringe a bit. 

People often ask, “What would Jesus do?” I believe if Jesus walked the earth today, on a steamy summer day, He would say, “Wow, it’s hot out! Close the windows and crank up the AC!”

"Is it cold in here?"

Friday, August 14, 2015

The ‘Wait, What?!’ of the Week, August 14, 2015

The New York Times recently ran and editorial commending an animal-rights group, which recorded undercover video of animal mistreatment in a food processing plant. Here is the concluding paragraph of the editorial: “In a country that lavishes love and legal protections on house pets, factory-farmed animals are left out in the cold, exempt from almost all animal-cruelty laws. As a result they suffer torture and other mistreatment to a degree that is hard to imagine. The only way to make it stop is to ensure that Americans can see for themselves what goes on behind the factory doors.”

A couple weeks earlier, however, the New York Times denounced as “dishonest” and “deceptive” the undercover videos that show Planned Parenthood officials cavalierly discussing how they routinely alter abortion procedures to maximize the number of intact baby body parts to be sold.

Wait, What?! Undercover videos are good…if they embarrass people the Times doesn’t like. But undercover videos are bad…if they embarrass the Times’ political allies? Hmm, can anyone say “hypocritical”?

I’m sure we’ll soon be seeing a Times editorial that concludes with this paragraph: “In a country that lavishes love and legal protections on wanted babies, aborted babies are left out in the cold, exempt from almost all human-cruelty laws. As a result they suffer torture and other mistreatment to a degree that is hard to imagine. The only way to make it stop is to ensure that Americans can see for themselves what goes on behind Planned Parenthood’s doors.” 

Yes, that editorial should be appearing in the Times any day now.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Exclusive Interview with Bugs Bunny

(Appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)

There was a major Hollywood milestone a couple weeks ago. It was Bugs Bunny’s 75th birthday. On July 27, 1940, the wascally wabbit made his first ever appearance in a Warner Brother’s cartoon, titled “A Wild Hare.”

Now, 75 years later, the Oscar-winning rabbit is retired and living in a condo in Naples, Florida. Since I am a powerful and influential member of the media, I was able to set up a private lunch meeting with Bugs recently to discuss his historic career.

We sat in a quiet booth toward the rear of a family restaurant. I ordered a club sandwich, and everyone in the restaurant knew what Bugs ordered as soon as the waiter brought our meals. In his high-pitched voice, with that unmistakable New York accent, Bugs broke into song: “Carrots are divine, you get a dozen for a dime, it’s maaaa-gic!”

Some of the other senior citizens in the restaurant smiled and waved. They’d recognize that famous voice anywhere. However, many of the teens and younger children looked up from their phones, shrugged in confusion, and then dove back into their little hand-held electronic universe.

“See?” Bugs said to me. “The old timers remember me, but the younger generation doesn’t have a clue.”

I asked him why he retired so abruptly and left Hollywood behind. “I didn’t leave them,” he replied, “they left me. Have you seen the new animation, with that computer-generated malarkey? It’s awful! Pixar, schmixar! Computers are the worst thing that ever happened to the movie business — not counting Adam Sandler, of course. He’s a putz.”

“So Bugs, how do you spend your days here in Florida?” I asked.

He replied, “What’s up, doc?”

I smiled and said, “Thank you. I was hoping you would offer your signature phrase for me.”

He rolled his eyes and said, “What a maroon. That wasn’t for you. That’s how I spend my time. I say, ‘What’s up, doc?’ to real doctors at least twice a day. My full time job nowadays is to go to medical appointments and get prescriptions. Look at this,” he said, as he lifted up one of his feet, which was at least 30 inches long. “I go to three different podiatrists! I’m tellin’ ya, kid, don’t get old.”

“Do you miss the folks you used to work with?” I asked.

Bugs nodded slowly and smiled. “Dose were good times. Elmer Fudd was a dear friend. Too bad he died in that tragic accident. As it turned out, there actually was ‘one buwwet weft.’

“And Yosemite Sam was a real sweetheart. Did you know his real name was Percival Feldman? And he played the cello? That whole rip-roaring, shoot ‘em up persona was just an act.

“One guy I don’t miss is the duck,” he said.

“You mean Daffy Duck?” I asked.

“Right. He was just as annoying off camera as he was on camera. One of my most famous lines, ‘Of course you know this means war!’ was actually an ad lib. One day during filming I just wanted to strangle that SOB. I hear they finally had to lock him away in a funny farm. Gee, who saw dat coming?!”

Just then a very foul odor wafted by. As I cringed, Bugs laughed and said, “Ain’t I a stinker? I’m seeing two different gastroenterologists. I’ve got all kinds of stomach problems these days.”

All too quickly our meeting was over. As we got up to leave, I thanked Bugs profusely for his time, and then I said with a smile, “Don’t forget to take that left turn at Albuquerque!” 
He shook his head and muttered, “Don’t think it hasn’t been a little slice of heaven — cuz it hasn’t!”

Monday, August 10, 2015

Be of Good Cheer

One of my favorite passages from Scripture is John 16:33. Jesus says to His disciples, “In this world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer. For I have overcome the world.”

This is such an important lesson for us. First, Jesus reminds us of an undeniable truth: life is hard. You’d be surprised how many people truly believe that life is supposed to be all lollipops and rainbows, without a care in the world. Well, Jesus didn’t think so, and He used a pretty powerful word, “tribulation.”

If you were too busy watching YouTube videos of frolicking kittens while eating Haagen-Dazs straight from the carton, maybe you haven’t noticed that our world is a mess today. Even within the Catholic Church there is plenty of upheaval. A large number of Catholics are quite upset these days, convinced the pope is a Marxist who wants to turn the Church into a left-wing, hippie commune. Many other Catholics also are upset, and can’t understand why the pope refuses to embrace abortion, same-sex marriage, and the ordination of women. These folks fear the Church is becoming a bastion of right-wing intolerance. And then there’s another group of Catholics, kind of stuck in the middle, who just want to go to Mass in peace and take a little break from all the angry political rants that seem to permeate our society nowadays.

Outside the Church, in the secular culture, things are even more chaotic: terrorism, hatred, fraud, dishonesty, violence, crumbling infrastructure, greed, unemployment, frayed nerves, crushing debt, illness, substance abuse, loneliness, fear, despair, and death. (Other than these things, our world is pretty peachy, huh?)

So when we read Jesus’ first statement, “In this world you will have tribulation,” anyone who is paying attention will reply, “Oh man, you got that right, Lord!”

Then, after correctly diagnosing our painful situation here on earth, Jesus offers His second statement: “But be of good cheer.”

This causes many people to pause and say, “Um…hey Lord, you must be kidding, right? The world is a mess, full of heartache and suffering, and you want us to paste a silly grin on our face and act like everything is fine? Nothing personal, Lord, but maybe you’ve been standing out in the sun a little too long.”

On the surface, it is kind of odd. Jesus seemingly is saying: Life stinks, so be happy! Maybe He wants us to ignore our troubles by watching YouTube videos of frolicking kittens and eating Haagen-Dazs straight from the carton.

The first two statements by Jesus only make sense in light of His third statement. After telling us that our lives will be filled with struggles and our response should be joyful optimism, Jesus tells us how that is possible: “For I have overcome the world.”

You see, Christ has conquered sin and death. When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the price for our sin. When He rose three days later, He conquered death once and for all. And then He promised that if we put our faith in Him, we can have eternal life in Heaven. 

If we cling to Jesus—with the same intensity that a shipwreck victim clings to a floating piece of wood—we can handle all the trials and tribulations of life. We can even reach a point where we once again notice and embrace all the good aspects of life. (Yes, there are some, if you look closely enough.) We truly can be filled with good cheer. But it’s only possible when we realize that Jesus has overcome the world. And it makes the Haagen-Dazs taste even better.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

‘Attitude of Gratitude’ observation for Sunday morning

I am grateful for community theater. It’s truly amazing that so many talented people would invest so much time and effort to put on a dazzling show—and receive zero in financial compensation in return.

We saw a production of “Man of La Mancha” last night in a delightful open-air theater. And it was a gorgeous cool and dry summer night, too!

The music was fabulous; the singing and acting talent were first-rate; and the plot of the show was, well…if you’ve ever seen it, you know the “La Mancha” storyline is about as weird as it gets. But because of the music, it still was a powerful and moving experience. The singers/actors on stage and musicians in the orchestra have so much talent! 

I am very grateful the missus and I had to chance to attend. And I’m very grateful so many talented people choose to share their gifts with others, even though they don’t get paid.

Thursday, August 6, 2015


Eight years ago I wrote a controversial op-ed piece, which was published on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. The point of the piece was two-fold: first, to remind people that second-guessing, Monday-morning-quarterbacking is a staple of political discourse in our country; no matter what decision is made, someone is going to question it after the fact and claim the alternative would’ve been much better. And second, to get folks, especially pacifists, to ponder whether it truly would’ve been more humane to avoid using the bombs.

Anyway, I don’t think I’m quite the callous, psychotic, war-monger that many claimed after the piece appeared in the paper. It was simply an exercise in “What if…?” 

Today, on the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, I’d like to reprint that essay:


By Bill Dunn

It is August 6th once again. This year, just like every year, there will be somber memorial services for the countless lives needlessly snuffed out. Also, just like every year, there will be expressions of outrage at the callous and cruel actions of the U.S. government during the final days of World War II.

As all students of history know, August 6th is a sad date. For it was on August 6, 1947—just three months after World War II ended—that the stunning news leaked out: the U.S. military possessed a weapon that could have ended the war much sooner.

For almost two full years President Harry Truman and top generals kept secret the fact that American scientists had developed the atomic bomb. While the nation’s leaders hid this information from the public, the gruesome Invasion of Japan continued month after deadly month.

Historians still argue about what the exact results would have been if atomic bombs had been used against Japan when they were first available in the summer of 1945. Some historians speculate the war would have ended by the spring of 1946, a full year before fighting actually ended. A small number of rather optimistic historians claim that if atomic explosions occurred in two or three key cities, the Japanese military would have surrendered within days. Oh, wouldn’t that have been a joyous outcome?

The majority of historians believe if the atomic bombs had been used, the war would have come to a close by the end of 1945. Most importantly, virtually all historians agree that the deadly Invasion of Japan would not have been necessary if Truman had only given the OK to use the atom bombs.

Just think how different the world would be today if Truman had shown some backbone. For starters, the name “Harry” would not be synonymous with the word “wimp,” as it has been now for six decades. And his memorable high-pitched, nasally plea, “But nuclear weapons are just so horrific!” would not have entered the popular lexicon—along with Neville Chamberlain’s, “Peace in our time!”—as one of the all-time milquetoast statements in history.

Also, Mr. Truman would have been spared the humiliating impeachment proceedings that took place during the first half of 1948. Although the Senate ultimately did not vote to remove him from office, Truman’s political career was effectively ruined, paving the way for President Thomas Dewey’s landslide victory in November of that year.

Of course, the greatest impact of Truman’s decision—or rather, his inability to make a decision—is the huge number of precious lives needlessly lost. The Invasion of Japan was simply the bloodiest and most costly military operation in all of human history. General Dwight Eisenhower, who was killed in a kamikaze raid in January 1946, said before his death, “The Invasion of Japan makes the D-Day invasion at Normandy seem like a weekend picnic.”

The American losses were staggering: 260,000 killed and over 700,000 wounded. But the Japanese losses during that campaign truly boggle the mind: an estimated 2.8 million killed and at least 5 million wounded. This does not include the vast number of Japanese who died from famine and disease in the years after the war, as the thoroughly shattered nation struggled to rebuild, a process not fully completed even to this day.

In comparison, if the atomic bombs had been employed, experts agree that the worst-case scenario would have been approximately 200,000 Japanese killed immediately, with another 100,000 dead from the effects of radiation, and virtually no American losses.

As the New York Times pointed out in a famous editorial at the time, an editorial faithfully reprinted each August 6th as a reminder to the world: “Cutting away a cancerous tumor is not without pain or cost, but it is much preferred to the alternative: the patient’s death.”

This year, just like every year, there will be candlelight services around the world on August 6th. There will be heartfelt mourning for those who never had the chance to live full and productive lives. There will be condemnation of the cruel and insensitive actions by the U.S. government. And there will be, just like every year, a vow never to let indecision or a lack of courage be the cause of needless death and destruction ever again. If nothing else, the memory of that fateful day, August 6th, reminds us that the world cannot long survive without courage.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Old Ad Evokes Old Patriotism

An old television commercial back in the mid-1970s described things that are quintessentially American: “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet.” I guess that’s true, as long as we ignore the fact that baseball was derived from the British game “rounders”; hot dogs were invented by Germans; the name Chevrolet is French; and apple pie — well, I’m not sure about the exact origins, but I suppose people in other parts of the world were baking apple pies long before Columbus ran aground on a continent he wasn’t even looking for.

That just shows how much America truly is a melting pot — or as Archie Bunker used to say, “smelting pot.” (But please be careful. The University of California system recently warned all professors to avoid using the term “melting pot,” which is now considered a “micro-aggression,” something that may cause especially delicate students to wet themselves. No, I’m not kidding. No clue why, but it’s true. Look it up.)

Now, of course, the whole purpose of that old commercial was to sell automobiles. A cynic might say the ad should’ve said, “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and faulty ignition switches.” Or, “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and government bailouts.” But I’m not a cynic. (Yeah, right. Even I’m not buying that line.)

Cynicism aside, that old commercial did a brilliant job of striking a chord in the hearts of many people, evoking nostalgic thoughts of patriotic Americana. I’m not sure if the sale of Chevys increased, but I bet the commercial caused hot dog and apple pie sales to rise.

Earlier this summer, during the 4th of July weekend, I inadvertently embodied that old commercial. While grocery shopping with my wife, I walked by “Bill’s Table” and noticed they had apple pies on sale. You know what Bill’s Table is, right? It’s the table you walk past as you enter the supermarket that has fresh pastry, donuts, cakes, or pies for sale. They put it there especially for me (hence its name), as I’ve never once been able to walk past without grabbing an item or two or twelve. That’s the same reason the displays by the checkout lines are called “Bill’s Candy Racks.”

So, I bought an apple pie. Then later that day my friend Gerry called me and asked if I wanted to go to the Torrington Titans baseball game that evening. Of course I did. By the way, their season is just about over, as the players will be heading back to college soon. So get over to Fuessenich Park and catch a game. It’s the best six bucks you’ll ever spend. And kids age 10 and under get in for free!

While at the game we naturally ate hot dogs — although I’m sure a lot of the ingredients in the hot dogs were less than natural, which is why they tasted so good!

To complete the grand slam, we drove to and from the game in my Chevy Equinox. As a bonus, because it was the 4th of July weekend, I wore a hat with an American flag on it and sang along with “God Bless America” during the Seventh Inning Stretch. Wow, George M. Cohan would’ve been proud. (Get it? He was the “Yankee Doodle Boy”? Oh, never mind.)

Anyway, it was nice to embody some old nostalgic images of American culture. Too bad patriotism has fallen out of favor these days. The fashionable trend now is to bash America and everything our nation stands for. We have become so selfish and cynical, even worse than I tend to be. 

I suppose if a new commercial were produced, the quintessentially American items would be: “Facebook, lawsuits, Lipator, and micro-aggressions.” I definitely like the old stuff better.


Monday, August 3, 2015

‘How Come You Catholics Pray to Dead People?’

“How come you Catholics pray to dead people? The Bible clearly says in Leviticus 19:26 that being involved with séances and trying to communicate with the dead is strictly forbidden. And yet you Catholics constantly try to pray to the dead, especially with all those idolatrous statues of the saints. Prayer and worship is reserved for God alone, which means you Catholics are committing a vile sin. 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 Scripture by trying to communicate with dead people?

Well, there are a couple of things we need to clarify. First, some people define prayer narrowly, as being ONLY worship of God. But prayer is really spiritual communication. Of course, a lot of prayer is indeed worshipping God. However, sometimes our prayer is merely spiritual conversation, when we ask the saints in Heaven to intercede on our behalf. We never worship saints. We only ask them to pray for us.

The other important point to understand is that when we Catholics pray to the saints, we are not communicating with the dead; Scripture clearly says that they are alive! When Jesus was confronted by the Sadducees about whether there really was a resurrection, Jesus said, “…have you not read…in the passage about the bush, how God told him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead but of the living. You are greatly misled” (Mark 12:26-27).

Jesus was very clear: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—who physically died centuries earlier—are actually alive in the presence of God. The same is true for all the faithful saints who have physically died. Their souls and spirits are quite alive and in the presence of God.

More proof that this is true in found in the letter to the Hebrews. Immediately following a list of many famous saints of long ago, the author writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us…persevere in running the race that lies before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

The image here is an athletic stadium. Those of us on earth are fighting the good fight of faith, while the saints who went before us are in the stands, eating hot dogs (kosher, of course) and cheering us on.

Finally, we are commanded in the Bible to pray for one another, for example: Colossians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; and James 5:16. I know for a fact the same folks who are quick to accuse Catholics of committing sin by praying to the saints, do not hesitate to ask their friends and family to pray for them. Some of the prayer chains in Fundamentalist congregations are quite impressive. If someone gets into a car accident at midnight, by 1 a.m. word has spread and literally hundreds of people are out of bed and on their knees fervently praying for the injured person.

We Catholics simply include the saints in Heaven—that great cloud of witnesses—in our prayer requests and our prayer chains. Who better to ask for intercessory prayer than those who are continually in the Lord’s presence?

We sometimes say the Penitential Rite at Mass, which concludes: “…I ask the Blessed Mary, ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

Asking fellow believers to pray for us is quite biblical. Including the saints in Heaven in our requests also is biblical. So don’t ever shy away from asking the saints, especially the Blessed Virgin Mary, to intercede on behalf of you and your loved ones. 

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