Sep 2, 2006

Onward, Christian Soldiers!

My dad was a convert to Catholicism back in the 1930s who loved the song, Onward, Christian Soldiers! He taught it to us and we kids would march around the house singing this Protestant song, much to the dismay of my very Catholic mother. Actually, the words of the song did not offend against Catholicism, so mother held her peace.

Onward, Christian Soldiers! seems to exemplify militant Catholicism to which we are called by the sacrament of Confirmation. As defined in the Catholic Encyclopedia and Baltimore Catechism, Confirmation is a sacrament in which the Holy Ghost is given to those who are already baptized in order to make them strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ.

In Scripture, several references refer to being a good soldier for Christ. For example Paul says to:
11 Put you on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil. 12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. 13 Therefore take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect...16 In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. 17 And take unto you the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God). (Ephesians 6)

Labour as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (Timothy II 2:3)

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. (Timothy II 4:7)
Fr. John Hardon, S.J., repeats the traditional definition of the Communion of Saints as consisting of three levels:
the Church Militant on earth, the Church Suffering in purgatory, and the Church Triumphant in heaven. After the last day, there will be only the Church Triumphant in heavenly glory.
However, the new Catholic Catechism issued in 1992 obscures the definition of the Communion of Saints by referring to those alive in this world as "pilgrims on earth." No. 962 states
We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers" (Paul VI, CPG § 30).
Onward, Christian Soldiers! was published in 1865 by the Anglican clergyman and prolific writer, Sabine Baring-Gould, who prepared it for a group of schoolchildren who were to march to the next village. Baring-Gould is thought to be the man who inspired Pygmalion, a story later made into My Fair Lady. He fell in love with a simple mill girl and sent her away to be educated for two years before he married her. The couple were married for 48 years and had 15 children.

Here are the words to Onward, Christian Soldiers:

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see His banners go!

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.

At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
Brothers lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.


Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.


What the saints established that I hold for true.
What the saints believèd, that I believe too.
Long as earth endureth, men the faith will hold,
Kingdoms, nations, empires, in destruction rolled.


Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.


Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King,
This through countless ages men and angels sing.


Internet Pornography in the Schools

Mrs. M, my friend in the 'nut-house' (that what she calls her nursing home!), called a few minutes ago to tell me about an extended discussion she had with the room janitor. They discussed whether pornography could be accessed by students on public school computers, and the young man said, "yes." She then called a friend who said that internet pornography at public schools was not filtered. Moreover, a substitute teacher in a nearby public school was found to have pornography on his school computer and nothing was done.

Mrs. M. is going to call the public school office on Tuesday morning and also will call the local TV stations. She's brave and determined--and I wish people who were healthy were determined to do as much as Mrs. M does from a shared phone in nursing home.

You see, Mrs. M has a son who is in prison for a long time because he plead guilty to pedophilia. She knows when he comes out, he will be forever labeled a child molester and people won't want to live near him. Mrs. M believes her son's downfall was pornography.

Sep 1, 2006

The Last Steps of a Ladder to Heaven

Tomorrow is the First Saturday of September and we will honor the Blessed Virgin Mary. My Grandma had a special love of Mary and would say five rosaries each day until the day she died (almost 100 years after she was born). When things would go wrong, I always heard her exclaim, "Mary, Help me!" (in her native European language).

One time Grandma told me this story of an intense dream she had when she was young. In her dream, she was climbing a ladder to heaven. Others were climbing their own ladders--some with more strength than others, and some were falling to the ground only to begin again.

The climbing was very hard, especially as Grandma reached higher and higher in the sky. Several times, she had to stop because she had no strength to continue, but then she would resume climbing again. Finally, she could see heaven and God waiting for her, but as she climbed closer, her strength totally gave out. Not only was she unable to take another step upward, she felt her grip on the ladder slipping.

As she realized all of her prior efforts to climb to heaven were going to be for nought, suddenly a hand reached down and gently pulled her the rest of the way into heaven. She looked up and saw the face of Mary, the Mother of God.

Aug 31, 2006

Catholic Military Personnel -- New Data

Two young grandsons visited the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs this summer and were very, very impressed with the marching cadets and drums. The parachuting exhibition also helped to inspire them to ask how old they have to be to enter the Academy. Their parents answered '18' and said that they needed very good grades to be selected.

Since the boys' question, I've been curious about the percentage of Catholics in active military service. The recruiting site for Catholic chaplains states that:
40% of those in the Navy, 28% in the Air Force, and 25% in the Army are Catholic, currently, there are a little more than 140 priests in the Navy, 90 in the Air Force, and 105 in the Army.
The active military force is 1.4 million, including 366 thousand in the Navy, 178 thousand in the Marines, 359 thousand in the Air Force, and 512 thousand in the Army. If 40% of the Navy and Marines are Catholic, then there are 218 thousand Catholic sailors and Marines for 140 priests--approximately one priest for every 1,550 active duty personnel. If 28% of the Air Force is Catholic, then there are 101 thousand active duty military for 90 chaplains--approximately one priest for every 1,120 active duty military. If 25% of the 512 thousand Army members are Catholic, then there are 128 thousand Catholic soldiers for 105 chaplains--approximately 1,220 soldiers for each chaplain.

From the calculations above, the total number of Catholics in the active Armed Forces of the U.S. is approximately 447 thousand out of 1.4 million--32 percent. How does this figure compare with the percentage of Catholics in the U.S.?, which specializes in statistical data on religions in the world, says the U.S. has 61 million baptized Catholics for 26% of the population. Obviously, if the military services of the U.S. are composed of 32% Catholics, then Catholic military personnel are contributing more than their fair share--especially in the Navy and Marines.

[It should be noted that military chaplains serve more than just the active military force described above. Catholic chaplains are stated to serve a total of
1.4 million Catholics, including spouses and other family members, and other personnel.]

Aug 30, 2006

Actions in a Crisis--United Flight 93

I've often been fascinated by stories of people who exceed what is normal. Sometimes, a person wants to meet the high expectations of others and performs exceptionally well. Alternatively, excessively high expectations may lead a person to say, "What's the use" and fail to try. The most interesting situation is when persons perform great feats of bravery, strength, or endurance in a challenging crisis.
A very long time ago as a seven-year old, I used to walk over a mile home from Catholic grade school. The road led up and down over the hilly terrain above the Missouri River, finally ending up by a roadside creek. One afternoon, I decided to leave the road and take a short cut across our pasture. Bad choice! The milk cow that we had at time was not friendly. Once she saw me, she charged and I ran toward a fence on the upper edge of a deep ditch along the road. The ditch was filled with weeds and debris, and that was where I landed after jumping the fence.
Later when the cow was elsewhere, I went back to the fence to see how high it was. Amazingly, the top of the barb wire fence was above my waist. I remember setting up a rope to practice jumping the same height--and at that age I couldn't do it again. Conclusion: I could do very difficult things only when I had to.
On my first real job, I worked with a Chinese man who had immigrated to this country. He told me the Japanese bombed China during World War II, and thousands of Chinese took refuge in a large cave. Most of the people in the cave, except a few at the entrance, died because of inadequate oxygen. My co-worker also told of the lack of food during those times. I asked him how people survived in those terribly difficult situations and whether soft Americans would ever be able to withstand such suffering. His response was that any people who want to survive will endure whatever suffering is necessary and make extraordinary efforts to survive.
Now, the REAL story
Thomas Burnett, a passenger on United Flight 93 that crashed on 9-11, is an excellent example of how a strong person can become a hero in a crisis. His wife has published a book, Fighting Back: Living Life Beyond Ourselves, that tells the story of how her husband prepared for and responded to his moment in time. Deena Burnett writes about her four cell phone conversations with her husband during the hijacking, which culminated with her husband's assurance that he was "going to do something" to thwart the hijackers.
A year before 9-11 Jim Burnett told his wife he'd been attending Mass daily to try to understand a message from God that had "something to do with the White House." He told her he hadn't figured it out, "but I know it will impact a great number of people," she wrote in her book, "She writes "God must have had a good chuckle that day, because my response was, 'He wants you to run for president.'"

Tom Burnett died in the crash of the United Airlines flight in rural Pennsylvania. The plane went down 20 minutes short of the hijackers' presumed target, either the U.S. Capitol or the White House. His wife has established a foundation under his name.

Aug 29, 2006

A Good Day with Grandkids

We drove back to the rental house late this afternoon, my 6-year old grandson and I, while the other kids drove with their mother and the dad followed in a third vehicle. The picture we saw along the road seemed from an old Master's painting--many cows grazing in a green pasture with heads pointed west toward the setting sun. It was slightly cool with clear weather cirrus in the west providing various sunset colors. God had painted the entire landscape in a early evening hue that reminded me of my childhood. It's been a good day...

This morning, the three home-schooled kids and I joined their parents to work on finishing their house. After nine months, the new house is almost finished. So what do you give kids of 13, 10, and 6 to do? Today, they cleaned sinks, tubs, and showers into which a lot of carpentry dust and chips had fallen. They picked up trash and discarded brick pieces. Most importantly, they installed 13 doorknobs--plus they reversed a doorknob that the carpenter had installed backwards!

The kids remarkably improved on the time it took to install each doorknob. The oldest was responsible for installing the strike plate in the door jam. First, mark the centers of the two holes through the strike plate with a sharp point. Second, drill the holes using a battery-powered drill. Third, screw the strike plate to the door jam. The latch and latch plate were also installed by the oldest, using much the same process.

The 9-year old and I installed the two knobs in each door. She became quite adept at this, and we were going a lot faster after about 7 or 8 doorknobs. We came back to the rental house at noon, and the kids rested in the early afternoon. We returned about 4:00 PM and finished the last three doorknobs. I told the parents tonight that the two oldest kids were probably experienced enough to install the two remaining doorknobs by themselves. [Although I'll probably work with them tomorrow to finish this job.]

Kids can do a lot when you spend a little time working with them and praising them. Most importantly, they will take great pride in their work if it is reasonably challenging like installing a door knob. Kids that build things never become vandals, because they know the effort required to make something. Rather, they will have a great disgust for people who tear things up.

Last week, another grandson of age 7 asked to help me and he was given about 1 1/2 hour of work to earn a fair amount of money. I told him after he had scrubbed the tub and sink, and did some other things that he was probably the best 7-year old worker I had ever seen. Several days later, he asked me if I really meant that he was the best 7-year old worker, and I truthfully said, yes. My compliment was genuine and he knows it.

His mother remembers with pride the day when she was about ten years old and hoed corn for over eight hours and earned just as much as her two older siblings that day. Personally, I became quite worried because I thought she was going to be gone for only a few hours because she was so young. I guess the farmer neighbor in the Missouri River bottoms thought all of the kids were doing a good job, so he didn't bring the three of them home until supper. She says that day is a very good memory, and it will last as long as my memory of picking 26 pint boxes of black raspberries when I was ten.

If you've noticed my new sidebar, there is a picture of a tiny little girl talking with her hands to a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The caption says "Teach your children to pray," the first thing to teach a child.

The second thing to teach a child is, "Teach your child to work." When I find a suitable picture, this recomendation also will be added to the sidebar. The third thing will be to "Teach your child to help others." We'll get to that one in a later post.

Aug 28, 2006

Fire in the Crown -- Time for Regrowth

Compare the past forty years in the Church to a blazing forest fire that lasts only a few weeks, at most. Yellowstone's summer-long fire in 1988 is an exception. Yellowstone's former policy was to suppress all fires; unfortunately this created favorable conditions for huge infernos.

When an inferno reaches tree crowns in the upper reaches of the canopy, even trees hundreds of years old will die. How long does it take for new trees to germinate and grow so that you can see their green color again? Only a few years, yet when I visited Yellowstone two years ago (16 years after the fire), the new trees were less than 10 feet high. How long does it take to get marketable timber in a well-managed forest? Usually 40 to 80 years; less for some specialty woods. How long does it take to restore the really valuable old-growth trees--hundreds of years.

The fire in the Church reached the tree crowns. The old trees died in the terrible blaze, but even though dead, they still stand--yet without branches and no longer providing habitat for birds and animals, nor do they produce new offspring.

Certain religious orders are examples of the old-growth trees which have burned, but there are others. Do we see a small amount of green again? Yes, mostly in the Latin Mass communities. How long will it take to get marketable timber in large quantities--probably at least 80 years.

Aug 27, 2006

Missouri Stem Cells

Michael Cook, the Australian editor of MercatorNet, sees the importance of the Missouri Stem Cell Initiative to be voted on November 7. He is convinced that the decision that Missouri voters make will have far-reaching effects upon public health, science and law.

NFP Courses and My Apology

KCPriest at Sacerdos in Aeternum asked a question of his readers back on July 14 about teaching NFP to engaged persons and what constitutes "grave necessity." His short post received 66 comments, some of which seemed excessively argumentative. KCPriest stated in his post that he fully intends to post again on the subject of NFP.

I wrote a post saying some of the discussion at KCPriest's blog was overdone when compared to China's policy of one-child families. I received a comment recently that correctly asked:
You can't mean to imply that everyone should have just ignored the good Father's request for dialogue on the subject?
I attempted to answer that comment, but still feel my response was not very good. Well, I'm backtracking, and apologizing, too, to all the persons who argued from their heart and soul on a very important issue for Catholic families.

Why? Because of the last comment shown above and especially because of reading "NFP courses: Asking questions can be helpful," a new article by John F. Kippley in the August/September issue of Homiletic & Pastoral Review. I hope all parties participating in the original post by KCPriest read this article that emphasizes NFP instruction must respect the norms of modesty and encourage chastity. The article asks priests
Do you want your engaged couples to attend a course that seeks to elicit a decision for marital chastity and Christian discipleship or a course that seeks to be only an anatomy-physiology course on human reproduction?
Kippley and his wife founded the Couple to Couple League for NFP in 1971 and they have recently formed NFP International to continue their work internationally, especially in Eastern Europe. They now have concerns about some of the NFP courses being taught, especially the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). FAM is stated to teach women how to monitor their fertility so they can use sinful contraceptive behaviors only during the fertile time.

Kippley states:
Catholic priests who want to promote and teach marital chastity through NFP instruction need to be aware of significant difference in NFP programs...Common sins [to avoid pregnancy in the fertile period] need to be is clear that dioceses and NFP programs have to be more clear and explicit about the moral use of NFP.
In particular, Kippley says that priests who recommend NFP courses should ask questions of those persons teaching NFP.

With regard to comments on a prior article in HPR by Fr. Chad Ripperger, FSSP, on "Immodesty unrecognized--the problems with teaching NFP." Kippley says that
Fr. Ripperger is right: bishops, priests, deacons, and marriage preparation personnel may be sending engaged couples to NFP instructions in which the norms of modesty are ignored.
In the future, I expect to see and welcome more dialogue on "serious" vs. "grave" reasons to practice NFP.