Thursday, May 30, 2013

Of wails and walls and woeful weary women



That's what she was doing.


Sitting on the front steps of St. John's Cathedral at East Ninth and Superior.


And it wasn't crying.


It was wailing.


Plaintiff, forlorn, and loud.


Wailing has a slower tempo than crying.


It requires deep breaths between the extended notes held long so the sadness of the tone can envelop you.


And yet the world ignored her.


I was heading west on Rockwell when I encountered the scene.


The Cathedral porch was a beehive of activity.


Runners from the annual Rite-Aid Marathon, like ants at a picnic, were everywhere.


Churchgoers went in and out  the front door.


In essence, humanity all about.


But weirdly, no one seemed to notice.


They absorbed themselves in their own objectives.


They acted like they didn't hear the wailing.


The truth is though, it was impossible not to hear.


What makes us ignore those obviously in distress?


Is it fear?


Maybe she was psychotic.


Perhaps even dangerous.


But I don't think that's it.


I think we don't like getting involved.


We prefer to help those in need clean style.


We like to write a check or drop cash into a basket that circulates around the room.


You don't get your hands dirty that way.


People in need are complicated.




Bad teeth.


Frequently, bad hygiene.


Ignore them and let organizations do our work.


Ebeneezer once asked, "Don't we have debtors prisons?"


Now, folks, I was at the Cathedral to meet my daughter, the athlete marathoner.


But, fool that I am, I asked Madame Wail what troubled her.


First, I had to calm her down.


Deep, slow breaths.


Finally,  the mournful moans subsided.


And then out tumbled the story.


She'd had a seizure in the  rear pews of the church and a confused policeman had ejected her from the historic structure.


The politician in me took over as I negotiated for her reentry into the beautiful house of worship.


A friend was called to give her a lift home.


The crisis was over.


I gave her my card and told her to call if I could be of further service.


She thanked me, tears in her eyes.


I think those tears represented aloneness.


She obviously suffered from maladies mostly mental.


Drug addiction wouldn't surprise me either.


But in the heart of the busiest corner of a major American metropolis in broad daylight, no one heard her cries.


Her wailing.


Her vocal SOS that pierced the morning air.


God help the invisible people.


And God help those who refuse to see them.


Or hear them.


Jump into a mess.


Take a risk and involve yourself in someone else's drama, for a change.


The modern mind has walled off the inclinations of the human heart.


But within you, your heart beats to the slow, melancholy pace of a wail.


Satisfy your heart, not your logic.


And follow that wail.


It will lead to your opportunity to help a suffering soul.


And maybe save yours in the bargain.



Thursday, May 23, 2013

Scraping by while the paint chips fly in the inner city

Utilitarian philosophy.


We live it today in modern society.


What does utilitarianism stand for?


It means anything goes if it will lead to some benefit.


Even if the innocent suffer.


So the recent revelations out of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore are no surprise.


Here's what happened.


Researchers wanted to determine the health effects of different levels of lead paint removal in inner-city homes.


The test subjects?


Small children.


Some homes had no paint removal.


Some had all the dangerous lead paint taken out.


And some houses were given a midrange level scraping off of Sherwin-Williams lead special.


Unfortunately, Goldilocks "just right" home caused her to suffer brain damage.


Lead paint will do that to kids.


Now, Goldilocks' parents have sued.


And well they should.


Knowingly exposing youngsters to the harmful lead chemical is inexcusable.


But the scientists wanted a definitive study that could prove useful to them.


Even if toddlers served as  guinea pigs.


Sorry, Billy, you landed in group A.


I guess it's just not your lucky day.


You'll be breathing and chewing Sunset Blue paint with  high lead content.


The  cells inside your cranium will be irreparably  compromised by the millions.


Jimmy across the street?


In his house, Fate (and Johns Hopkins) let him drink from the unleaded pump.


A Maryland Judge stated that "researchers intended that  the children be the canaries in the mines but never clearly told the parents."


This is reminiscent of the Tuskegee case study, which began in the 1930's.


In that scandal, poor black men infected with syphilis were denied penicillin to help accumulate statistical information.


President Clinton offered a solemn apology to Tuskegee survivors and concluded "Shame on America."


But the Hopkins paint study occurred in the 1990's.


I'm not surprised.


As I said, we are utilitarian America.


We tell women that their unborn child's death is acceptable in the name of convenience.


Need some stem cells?


No problem: we'll kill a few more pre-borns.


Tired of visiting your comatose wife in the hospital?


Don't worry: pulling the plug is okay in the USA.


For those of you sitting on the sidelines as the future of civilization is determined right before your eyes, I have a message.


If you do nothing, the utilitarians will find your demise useful for some reason.


And as they drag your apathetic keister away because they need your liver, remember.


You've been warned.


Now, get going.


The cause of true justice is calling to all of you.


Google "John's Hopkins Paint Study"  and read about our future.


Then work today to change tomorrow's history.


Stand with brave souls who pray silently at an abortion clinic sidewalk (


Vote for candidates who won't compromise on issues where negotiating means the loss of human life.


And speak up in every setting where people are listening.


Even at the cost of your popularity or social standing.


Little kids in poor neighborhoods are worth it.


Innocent babies in the womb are worth it.


And so is America.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Opposing the sin but defending the rights of the sinner

President Obama wrote a book called "The Audacity of Hope."


In  this bestseller, the President describes his view of those on the pro-life side of the abortion issue.


He says that they should never be vilified because their beliefs are deeply held and based on a legitimate moral position.


He disagrees with that position, but understands it as a deeply held belief  not designed to take rights away from other citizens.


Which leads me to a discussion  with a very dear friend of mine.


This  gentleman has accepted his son's  announcement a few years ago that he was a homosexual.


The  dad asked me to write about his son's  struggle to express his love for another man in a society that makes it difficult.


Difficult because the legal rights that attach to marriage are often lacking in states that do not recognize gay marriage.


He referred to his son's need to access private medical information of his partner in a way that is equal to  husband and wife in a heterosexual marriage.


I told my friend that he was right about that.


He  asked me if I'd be willing to say that in this column.


I am.


Even though I do not endorse the gay lifestyle, I do endorse amending our laws to create a civil union status.


This  means the following: rights enjoyed in a marriage by a man and woman should be available to those bonded together in this civil union.


I do not want to change the definition of the word "marriage".


I want children to hear that word and know that it stands for a special relationship designed by the creator for the betterment of mankind.


Promotion of the gay lifestyle will lead  to the collapse of the family unit.


So why do I accept civil unions?


It's kind of a libertarian philosophy.


The Declaration of Independence embraces the concept that all Americans should be permitted to engage in the pursuit of happiness.


Single sex relationships do not  lead to true happiness. It's biblical.


But you should have the right to make that decision  yourself.


I will of course never change my position on abortion because the right to exist is the very most basic.


Abortion takes that right away from our most defenseless citizens at the bloody hands of the  abortion doctor.


Our creator gave us free will.


Our society should emulate that gift when it can do so without hurting others.


My friend, I know you love your son.


And so do I.


He is one of God's children.


Hate the sin but love the sinner.


In this crazy confusing world, we sometimes must express God's love by extending freedom in areas that make us feel very uncomfortable.


Today I feel very uncomfortable.


Nonetheless, if what you need to do to follow your heart doesn't hurt anyone else outside of your relationship, I cannot endorse laws that stand in your way.


Long live the traditional definition of marriage.


And here's to the  establishment of civil union statutes.



Thursday, May 9, 2013

Courage against carnage in short supply

A familiar schoolyard scene  features a bully who can tell that some grade school hotshot is a paper tiger.


Full of hot air.


The hotshot tells the bully not to cross the line in the dirt he has just scratched  into the ground with  a stick.


The  bully steps over the line.


The hotshot responds by drawing another line.


Which the bully immediately crosses over.


The classmates watch the pitiful scene as it's apparent that the hotshot talks a good game but can't back it up.


He's actually a coward who is not prepared to fight.


The bully has won without even throwing a punch.


Hotshot slinks away.




The classmates wonder who is ever going to stand up to the bully.


Sound familiar?


Bashar al-Assad, the two bit dictator in Syria, has been shooting men, women, and children in his homeland by the thousands for the last two years.


A disgusting disregard for human life.


President Obama has criticized this behavior.


And then done nothing.


Some  aid to refugees here and there but as far as the gruesome slaughter?




Then two weeks ago reports surfaced from British and Israeli intelligence that Assad had used chemical weapons against his own people.


Obama was outraged.


His outraged mystified me because as bad as chemical weapons are, the child in his mother's arms  is just as dead from the machine gun bullets as he  would be from poison gas.


Was he outraged because now more modern tools are used to destroy families?


Anyway, after the outrage over the use of chemicals, Obama again did what he always does.




The classmates, that is,  I mean, the rest of the world, is watching and snickering behind the back of the hotshot.


There was a time when the figure  of the bald eagle on the presidential seal was a symbol of brave resolve.


When a president drew a line, there were consequences for crossing it.


World powers trembled at the "big stick" Teddy Roosevelt wielded.


But this president has become an international laughing  stock because his threats are meaningless.


Worse than that, he projects false hope to the downtrodden living in bombed out hovels in Syria.


America, the last great hope for civilization, is fast becoming irrelevant on the world stage.


Yes, our president can travel to Europe and be feted as the first truly progressive in the White House.


But while he spreads caviar on fancy crackers in Paris, many wonder if he will ever wake up to realize he is squandering away our historic role as the moral conscience of mankind.


Harry Truman made a tough call to drop the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


But he did it to save the world from heinous acts of violence despite the use of raw power it required.


Mr. President, do something.


A little boy somewhere in  the darkness in Damascus prays for a hero to stand up  to the bully.


Make America heroic again.


It is our legacy.


God bless America.



Thursday, May 2, 2013

Hello? Anybody paying attention in the pews?

Writing this column  requires  a new idea every seven days.


On top of that I have to develop that idea into something worthwhile in the neighborhood of 500 words.


This frequently feels like a pretty intimidating challenge.


Then I think of the priest or minister.


At least once a week, he must present sterling thoughts.


To a frequently impatient audience.


Hoping to send them home  inspired.


Surveys taken on a regular basis over the last several years indicate that Americans list public speaking as their number one fear.


Think about that.


Jerry Seinfeld once joked that the survey results mean that at a funeral, you'd rather be the guy in the box than the guy giving the eulogy.


That's a lot of pressure to be faced by men of the cloth on at least a weekly basis.


According to the book of John, Jesus told St. Peter to "feed my sheep".


That's why our clergymen painstakingly prepare to ensure that homily really hits home for members of his captive audience.


The lyrics of "Eleanor Rigby" convey some of the loneliness that  must be experienced by those that wear the Roman collar.


"Father McKenzie, writing the  words of a sermon that no one will hear."


Perhaps no one will hear the sermon because no one will attend the funeral of Eleanor Rigby.


But nonetheless, Father McKenzie toils away to prepare the message for what may be a nonexistent congregation.


Are you a non-existent congregation?


Physically present but mentally AWOL?


Do  you pay attention when father  ascends the pulpit?


Do you understand the solemn commitment  he's made in preparing those few minutes of talking time on Sunday morning?


Most of these men  deliberate long and hard to find the phrasing and substance to usher you into a world of understanding God's word.


The least you can do is listen closely  and considerately.


Please don't use this as your chance to catch up on the announcements in the bulletin.




Don't plan out the rest of your day in your mind.




It's pretty hard to feed the sheep when the sheep ignore the meal offered.


Let me mention one other shining example which, by the grace of God, is  typical of priestly dedication.


Over at St. Casimir's  on Neff road, Father Joseph Bacevice pastors.


He celebrates the 7:30 AM service Monday through Friday.


I've been counting the number of attendees, and it rarely exceeds 18 people.


Despite this, father  has a thoughtful sermon prepared for each of these sparsely attended masses.


He's not winging it.


I appreciate that.



No matter how small the congregation or how obvious the moral found in the readings, the sermon is a chance to do something very important.


It's a chance to touch hearts.


And  for the sake of touching only one heart, all that grueling preparation is worth it.



That's why I ask you to listen.


There are times when you need to be quiet and absorb.


Maybe that one heart he touches will be yours.