Tuesday, September 27, 2016

History Makes Demands

Among the many gifts received from my father is the fruit of his deliberate effort to make me a student of history beginning in my early childhood. Just before my 7th birthday he planned a family vacation in Washington, DC. My sister was just 5 years old. We flew to D.C., stayed in a hotel on Embassy Row, saw every monument and historic site in and around the city and we walked, and walked, and walked. It is amazing how much of that trip I remember in detail – the Declaration of Independence under glass, the very cramped box at Ford’s Theater in which Lincoln was assassinated, the awesomeness of his famed Memorial, and precision of the guard change at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

At home we watched Walter Cronkite reporting the news every evening and what we heard was discussed at the dinner table. And there were books all around, especially American history and historical novels. Once off to college I very naturally became a history major.

All of this is reported so as to establish my ‘creds’ as a life-long student of history. It is that background that brings me to urging everyone to vote in the election facing our country. It also gives me the courage to forcefully ask outright that votes be cast for Senator Hillary Clinton. I have never before directly requested support for a specific candidate. But this election is so horrifyingly different, has so distorted democratic values, so distracted the ‘better angels of our nature’, so annihilated standards of civility and human respect, and so buried the real requirements of the office of president that, as a student of history, I find I am obligated to speak out.

In the past I have written about why so many are angry and afraid. I do not blame them for being so. Elected representatives of both political parties have for so long protected and promoted the top 10% in the financial picture of our country and now the inevitable gaps in wealth, services, benefits, education, employment and housing have become intolerable; a grave danger not only to individuals and families but also to the future of our democracy.

Just as the greedy and powerful have in their avarice become myopic about the consequences of their policies; those suffering are myopic about the consequences of their support for a candidate so unsuited for the office of President of the United States. They have become deaf and blind to actions and words that in the past would have caused any political party to send him packing after recognize him as dangerous excess baggage. These considerations seem to matter no longer. Truly we have been reduced to the lowest common denominator. Students of history remember that President Harry Truman fired Douglas MacArthur, a five-star general, for disrespecting the office of the presidency.

As for Senator Clinton, I recognize her short comings; see the dangers inherent in the degree to which she has formed relationships with the high and mighty in all sectors national and international and I worry about errors in judgment. However, these concerns are tempered by the mouthy irresponsible and ignorant nature of her opponent as well as the cranked up scrutiny to which all women aspiring to positions of power are subjected in our society.  It still seems that men can get away with almost anything but women are dissected under a microscope. Free for discussion is the tone of her voice, color of her hair, practices as a mother, choices made in a long and at times troubled marriage, as well as her attire. And then there are the complaints about emotional reticence. Wonder how all the former male presidents would score if subjected to this contest?

It troubles me that it seems easy to ignore a life-long dedication to service, persistent effort consistently applied, creation of a huge tool box of experience acquired as attorney, First Lady, senator, and Secretary of State. Her curriculum vitae should be envied and valued; particularly so in the troubled, on the verge of self-destruction, world in which we live.

We know virtually nothing about Donald Trump’s financial holdings and machinations. We have not been told how he will separate himself from the ongoing management of his business interests if elected. He has thoroughly revealed himself to be a non-reader. He has no record of public service as a volunteer, philanthropist, or elected official. He is a one-man show, surrounding himself with people he thinks he can trust. These are largely family members who we might consider tied to him only because they know on which side their bread is buttered. In the first presidential debate he unabashedly admitted that he uses every loophole in in the law favoring the wealthy to reduce his taxes and cheat those to whom he owes money.

History has reveal that the elections of such leaders can destroy democracies and countries as well as unleashing of terrible hardship, suffering, death and even genocide. Check out any documentary account of the time of Hitler and the Third Reich for affirmation of this assertion.

So get out there and vote. Urge family members and co-workers to vote. And, by all means, even where a vote has never been cast for the Democratic candidate, cast your vote this year for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Too much is at stake. The study of history reveals this necessity.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Coincidental Feast?
Blessed Maria Celeste on 9/11

Today marks the first celebration of the feast day of Blessed Maria Celeste Crostarosa, foundress of the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer, the Redemptoristine contemplative nuns. This otherwise obscure 18th century native of Naples, Italy is being honored today all over the world in the monasteries of the order she began in 1731.

Death mask of Blessed Maria Celeste Crostarosa
1696 - 1755
It was not until my pastor began his homily at Mass this morning that I thought about the coincidence of Maria Celeste's feast and the memorial of the tragedy of 9/11, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City in 2001. For Americans, at least, this significant day will always merge remembering her with remembrance of  an horrific event, lost lives, and sorrowing survivors. Our fine priest focused on the question, "Where was God in all of this?" He emphasized God's presence in the generosity, bravery, service, community, cooperation and all good things and people we witnessed on that day and the days that followed to this time. He said that these were the presence of God and pointed to love as the response God invites us to have in the face of such horror - a turning away from vengeance, violence, prejudice and rejection of human beings.

Those who know Blessed Celeste's story will know that she endured more than her share of being misunderstood and rejected; of exile and pilgrimage to find her place. She also wrote a great deal leaving us an inspiring heritage of her spirituality. The image of her used here is my favorite because it is so real. Some in the order speak of her as Mother Celeste. I think of her as Madre Celeste or, even better, Mama Celeste, a wise and mature Italian woman who has been through her share of sorrow. She is a wisdom figure constantly pointing to her salvation; an extremely intimate relationship with Jesus, our Savior. In her writings I did not find a directive for severe personal penances or rigidity in community life. Her constant directive is for LOVE; love for Jesus and love for one another. What better antidote for the horror of the 9/11 tragedy? This is what my pastor was emphasizing. Was the Holy Spirit at work in the coincidence of these memorials?

Blessed Maria Celeste painted a picture of a precious hidden garden which she said was the image of the human soul. God wants to enter that garden and spend intimate time with the soul who generously opens the gate of the heart. Sharing her own experience of the interior garden she reported what Jesus told her, "If they ask you who I am, tell them I am PURE LOVE." It is this PURE LOVE which is our finest offering on this day of remembrance.