Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Global Warming Is a Hoax

Deep down I have felt and believed for a number of years now that the ongoing global warming hysteria, much like the Darwinian theory of evolution, was a convenient, politically correct, money-driven and agenda-driven scientific hoax. Now my hunch has been confirmed by the compelling new research of a former U.S. government insider named John Casey, a retired NASA scientist and well-respected climate change expert. In his recently released book entitled Dark Winter, Casey debunks the entire global warming hypothesis using NASA weather and climate data that actually indicate a worldwide cooling trend in recent years, and he convincingly demonstrates that fluctuations in solar activity are the leading cause of global climate change. Furthermore, Casey’s book blows the lid off a disturbing conspiracy by corrupt U.S. government officials, corporate CEOs and global warming “experts” to discredit the truth of his findings while fostering the myth of a dramatic and irreversible increase in global temperatures fueled by increasing carbon emissions, also known as the “runaway greenhouse effect,” for their own profit to the tune of $22 billion a year.

Based on my own research in recent years, I have come to the conviction that man-made carbon dioxide emissions play only a minor role in affecting Earth's climate, while changes in solar activity and the sunspot cycle are in fact the leading cause of climate change over periods of decades and centuries. Furthermore, as an amateur weather and climate observer, it has dawned on me that the noticeable and undeniable slight warming trend we experienced in the first decade of this century reached its peak in 2010 and has been followed by an equally noticeable and undeniable, if perhaps a bit sharper, cooling trend over the last few years. Nor is mine an isolated observation: faced with extremely precise and reliable meteorological and climatological data from our network of highly advanced Earth-orbiting weather and climate satellites, many honest professional climate scientists around the world are now candidly acknowledging the “inconvenient truth” of a recent drop in average global temperatures (my apologies to Al Gore for stealing his favorite catchphrase) and openly challenging the once-sacrosanct global warming dogma. Casey’s research also confirms what I have intuitively come to realize and understand regarding the seemingly complex science of climate change.

Thanks to a thorough brainwashing by several decades’ worth of human-induced global warming nonsense at a time when the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere is the highest it has ever been, this unexpected phenomenon of global cooling has caught most of us completely off guard. There was a somewhat humorous news blurb in the March/April issue of the Crusade last year (a magazine of America Needs Fatima and the Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property) about global warming scientists in Antarctica who had gotten stuck in ice that was thicker than they had expected, delaying their return to the inhabited continents. Newsmax ran a story last summer about the first six months of 2014 being the coolest first half of a year for the U.S. so far this century, with recorded temperatures hovering just one-tenth of a degree above the twentieth-century average. Also last summer, a related Newsmax story mentioned the interesting fact that Death Valley, California, the hottest place in the country, was experiencing an unusually cool summer: in fact, on August 3, the high temperature there was only 87 degrees Fahrenheit, the lowest high for that date since 1915. And then there has been my personal experience of cooler weather here in the southern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Last summer was noticeably cooler than average, with high temperatures mainly in the upper 60s to middle 80s, and a few days in July with highs of just 60 to 65 degrees (mid 70s to mid 90s being more typical readings for midsummer), while we broke multiple record lows across the state this past winter, which was much colder than average for this area, and so far this spring has been the coolest since I have lived here, with the trees still 90 percent bare as of mid-April.

As Casey demonstrates in his book, NASA weather, climate and solar activity data show that while Earth did undergo a slight (.35 degree) warming trend from 1979 to 1998, our planet has been experiencing a general but unmistakable cooling trend since 1998; these trends parallel a general but unmistakable rise and decline in the solar sunspot cycle over the same period of time. According to Casey, the sun has recently entered a multi-decadal phase of reduced activity that astrophysicists call the solar minimum, which is characterized by an unusual scarcity of sunspots; the last such phase occurred in the late 1800s and early 1900s, resulting in severe winters around the world. Although the reasons for the intriguing link and how it works are still shrouded in mystery, it is nonetheless a well-established historical and scientific fact that, generally speaking, more sunspots always result in warmer weather for the Earth as a whole, while fewer sunspots always result in cooler weather. Based on this information, Casey predicts that worldwide temperatures will dip somewhat below their twentieth-century average for the next few decades as the current solar minimum runs its course.

In short, all the hard scientific data and my own rather limited observations indicate that our planet has now entered a cooling down phase, in blatant contradiction and defiance of the shrill claims of global warming alarmists. So much for the wild-eyed predictions of a catastrophic increase in global temperatures that will do away with polar ice and submerge the Florida peninsula if we don’t act now to drastically reduce our carbon emissions. Such claims can now be safely relegated to the dustbin of scientific history alongside Ptolemy’s epicycles, Martian canals, and spontaneous generation. Human-induced global warming having now been exposed for the hoax that it is, it would be wise to begin making preparations for the next few decades of cooler weather.

Copyright © 2015 Justin D. Soutar. All rights reserved.

P.S. My appetite for a truthful alternative to the global warming nonsense having now been whetted, I eagerly look forward to reading Casey’s book cover to cover. Stay tuned for my review of Dark Winter. In the meantime, additional interesting facts about the author, the compelling scientific basis for his claims, and the conspiracy by certain government officials, corporate CEOs and global warming “experts” to discredit the truth of his findings can be found here:

Monday, April 13, 2015

Quote of the Day

"Faced with the tragic events of human history we can feel crushed at times, asking ourselves, 'Why?' Humanity’s evil can appear in the world like an abyss, a great void: empty of love, empty of goodness, empty of life.  And so we ask: how can we fill this abyss?  For us it is impossible; only God can fill this emptiness that evil brings to our hearts and to human history.  It is Jesus, God made man, who died on the Cross and who fills the abyss of sin with the depth of his mercy."

--Pope Francis

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Easter Reflection

Women at the Empty Tomb, Fra Angelico (ca. 1440)
 "Easter is the feast of the new creation. Jesus is risen and dies no more. He has opened the door to a new life, one that no longer knows illness and death. He has taken mankind up into God himself. 'Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God', Saint Paul says in the First Letter to the Corinthians (15:50). On the subject of Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection, the Church writer Tertullian in the third century was bold enough to write: 'Rest assured, flesh and blood, through Christ you have gained your place in heaven and in the Kingdom of God' (CCL II, 994). A new dimension has opened up for mankind. Creation has become greater and broader. Easter Day ushers in a new creation....

"Jesus rises from the grave. Life is stronger than death. Good is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Truth is stronger than lies. The darkness of the previous days is driven away the moment Jesus rises from the grave and himself becomes God’s pure light. But this applies not only to him, not only to the darkness of those days. With the resurrection of Jesus, light itself is created anew. He draws all of us after him into the new light of the resurrection and he conquers all darkness. He is God’s new day, new for all of us."

--Benedict XVI, Homily at Easter Vigil, April 7, 2012

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Reflection for Holy Thursday

Today is Holy Thursday, the sacred day on which we commemorate Jesus' institution of the Holy Eucharist and the priesthood and give thanks to our loving God for the abundant graces he so generously showers upon us through these two sacraments of the Church. Today, April 2, also marks the tenth anniversary of the passing of Saint John Paul II. In the Gospel reading for tonight's Mass of the Lord's Supper, it says of Jesus, "having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (Jn 13:1). These words can be fittingly applied to John Paul II as well. He was such a Christ-like pope who generously gave of himself and spent himself for the good of the Church and the world. He was truly a loving father to all of us who loved us right to the very end--and now he is in Heaven praying and interceding for us.

In honor of this holy day and this great champion of our faith, I would like to offer for reflection a brief passage from one of his final written works, the book Rise, Let Us Be on our Way (Warner Books, 2004), which offers a beautiful and intensely personal teaching on the vocation, ministry, and responsibilities of a Catholic bishop. This wonderful book, written from the heart of a man of deep faith, courageous hope, and fatherly love, offers an unforgettable glimpse into the soul of John Paul II. Marked by the profound spiritual intensity, penetrating theological vision, and untiring pastoral solicitude for which he was so well known, it is a  lost treasure that deserves to be rediscovered. The following passage is taken from pages 215--216:

"When 'His hour' had come, Jesus said to those who were with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, to Peter, James, and John, his closest disciples: 'Rise, let us be on our way' (Mark 14:42). Not only must He 'be on his way' to fulfill His Father's will: they too must go with Him.

"That invitation, 'Rise, let us be on our way,' is addressed particularly to us bishops, His chosen friends. Even if these words indicate a time of trial, great effort, and a painful cross, we must not allow ourselves to give way to fear. They are also words of peace and joy, the fruit of faith. On another occasion, to the same three disciples, Jesus said: 'Rise, and do not be afraid!' (Matt. 17:7). God's love does not impose burdens on us that we cannot carry, nor make demands of us that we cannot fulfill. For whatever He asks of us, He provides the help that is needed.

"I say this from the place to which the love of Christ Our Savior has led me, asking of me that I should leave my native land so as to bring forth fruit elsewhere through his grace--fruit that will last (John 15:16). Echoing the words of our Lord and Master, I, too, say to each one of you, dear brothers in the episcopate: 'Rise, let us be on our way!' Let us go forth full of trust in Christ. He will accompany us as we journey toward the goal that He alone knows."

A blessed Triduum and Easter to everyone!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Quote of the Day

"Humility is above all God’s way: God humbles himself to walk with his people, to put up with their infidelity. This is clear when we read the Book of Exodus. How humiliating for the Lord to hear all that grumbling, all those complaints against Moses, but ultimately against him, their Father, who brought them out of slavery and was leading them on the journey through the desert to the land of freedom.

"This week, Holy Week, which leads us to Easter, we will take this path of Jesus’ own humiliation. Only in this way will this week be “holy” for us too!"

--Pope Francis

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Reflection for Palm Sunday

Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, Pietro Lorenzetti (1320)
"The ultimate goal of Jesus' 'ascent' [to Jerusalem] is his self-offering on the Cross, which supplants the old sacrifices; it is the ascent that the Letter to the Hebrews describes as going up, not to a sanctuary made by human hands, but to heaven itself, into the presence of God (9:24). This ascent into God's presence leads via the Cross--it is the ascent toward 'loving to the end' (cf. Jn 13:1), which is the real mountain of God."

--Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth--Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (Ignatius Press, 2011), p. 2

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Boehner the Traitor

(This article originally appeared on the Intellectual Conservative March 16, 2015 at http://intellectualconservative.com/boehner-the-traitor/ )

House Speaker John Boehner is a traitor to the U.S. Constitution and the American people.

By agreeing to fund ObamaCare as well as President Obama’s Executive Amnesty for illegal immigrants—and by shamefully attacking his Tea Party Republican colleagues who refuse to go along with such travesties—Speaker Boehner has demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has abandoned all pretense of being a Tea Party leader (if he ever was in the first place) and that he is now simply part of the corrupt Washington, D.C. political establishment.

Like any well-trained politician, Speaker Boehner talks a great game right before and after an election. But when the time comes to get down to business and actually start delivering on his campaign promises—which would naturally entail a nasty, all-out confrontation with the Obama administration—Boehner instead shows his true colors as a remarkably compliant Obama lackey, a politically correct Republican In Name Only whose chief function is to guard and protect the disastrous, hated, and ultimately unsustainable Washington status quo.

Instead of courageously standing up to President Obama and his Democratic cronies and putting a stop to their malicious and unconstitutional Big Government agenda as he pledged to do and as he ought to do, Boehner simply rolls over and gives our corrupt and lawless Chief Executive exactly what he wants, when he wants it, no questions asked and no strings attached. Furthermore, he seems determined to blackmail as many of his Tea Party colleagues as possible into abandoning their principles, turning their backs on their constituents, and jumping aboard the establishment bandwagon.

At the ballot box last November, we the American people made it unmistakably clear that we are fed up with the moral, fiscal and legal insanity known as “business as usual” in Washington. We elected the largest number of Republican senators and representatives to Congress in seventy years. There are now more Republicans in Congress than before most of us were born, including more Tea Party Republicans than ever before. By overwhelmingly embracing Republican and Tea Party candidates, we the voters sent a powerful message to our elected representatives that we want them to reject President Obama’s radically secularist, unconstitutional, Big-Government socialist agenda and start getting our country back on track in accord with the vision of the Founders.

As Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner’s official role is to represent the American people in that house of Congress and to promote policies that will advance the best interests of this country as a whole. He should be leading the charge against President Obama’s bullying tactics, holding him accountable for his egregious abuses of power. He should be rallying his Republican colleagues to defund and repeal ObamaCare without delay. Instead, Boehner is doing just the opposite: enabling the sinister establishment agenda to progress essentially unhindered, allowing the president’s impeachable offenses to slide as if they never occurred, and bullying his principled colleagues—true statesmen and women, true servants of the people—who rightly refuse to submit to this madness.

In short, Speaker Boehner has become the Obama administration’s Trojan horse in the House. He is a creature of the corrupt Washington establishment; a convenient pawn of the major corporate interests and lobby groups that make the establishment go round. His job is to keep the House functioning effectively under establishment control—i.e., to ensure that it does not throw up any serious roadblocks that would halt the progress of President Obama’s agenda.

Millions of Americans are rightly disappointed and angry with Speaker Boehner’s recent actions, which make a mockery of the true leadership our country so desperately needs at this critical time. Boehner has betrayed the trust of his constituents, ignored the U.S. Constitution, and acted in a manner totally unworthy of an honorable elected representative. For these reasons, he should no longer serve as Speaker of the House.

Make no mistake: Boehner must be held accountable for his immoral and corrupt behavior. We the people did not give Republicans full control of Congress just to have a single establishment loser effectively nullify that control. We must make it clear to Mr. Boehner that his unjust bullying tactics on behalf of President Obama will not be tolerated—that he must either change course or lose his job as Speaker of the House. And if he refuses to change course, we must then demand that our elected representatives replace this establishment career politician with a principled Tea Party leader who will stand up to the reckless Obama administration and facilitate good government on behalf of the American people.

Our country has had enough of Speaker Boehner and his unfortunate policy of subservience and appeasement to President Obama. It’s time to put a true leader in his place.

Copyright © 2015 Justin D. Soutar.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Quote of the Day

"Lent is a favorable time for letting Christ serve us so that we in turn may become more like him. This happens whenever we hear the word of God and receive the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. There we become what we receive: the Body of Christ. In this body there is no room for the indifference which so often seems to possess our hearts. For whoever is of Christ, belongs to one body, and in him we cannot be indifferent to one another. 'If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy' (1 Cor 12:26)."

--Pope Francis

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Saint Who Was Stolen Twice

Today is the feast of Saint Patrick (c. 381--456), the legendary Apostle of Ireland and one of the world's best-known Catholic saints. He is right up there with Saint Nicolas in terms of the traditional legends and folklore surrounding his life, the permanence of his impact on Christian culture, and the ubiquity of his popularity among the general public. In fact, as with Saint Nicolas, the legends and culture that have grown up around Saint Patrick sometimes tend to obscure the actual historical facts of his life.

Patrick was not native to Ireland, nor was he even of Irish ancestry. He was born to Scottish parents in pagan Britain, which was part of the declining Roman Empire. At the age of sixteen, he was captured by Irish pirates and sold into slavery in predominantly pagan Ireland, where he worked as a shepherd in captivity for six years. During this period, he underwent a profound change of life and converted to Christianity. He escaped back to Britain, where he heard God calling him to bring the true faith to the Irish people. He was ordained a priest and consecrated a bishop, and then returned to Ireland as a missionary. So we can really say that the Irish stole Patrick twice--first they stole his freedom, and then they stole his heart.

For the next thirty years, Patrick labored unceasingly, often amid great difficulties, to establish the Catholic Church in his adopted country by preaching and teaching, baptizing, ordaining priests and bishops, and founding churches. He was a man of deep faith, profound humility, constant prayer, and great penance to whom God gave the gift of working miracles. According to Fr. Albert J. Hebert, whose research is confined to reliable sources, Saint Patrick raised thirty-three people from the dead during his lifetime. By the time of his death, more than half of Ireland was Catholic. The scope of his monumental achievement is still remarkable today. Saint Patrick built some 700 churches, ordained 5,000 priests, and consecrated 350 bishops. He laid the foundation for Irish Catholicism so well that Ireland has remained a Catholic country for some 1,600 years--more than a millennium and a half. Although today the Emerald Isle is under attack by the forces of radical secularism, pockets of devout Irish Catholics ensure that the true faith will continue to live on in this great country for the foreseeable future.

Saint Patrick was truly one of the greatest missionaries in the history of the Church. It is plainly obvious that Divine Providence raised him up at that particular time and place to convert Ireland to the Catholic faith. A great saint like this should make us all proud to be Catholic. Yet he is just one of the best known of hundreds and hundreds of saints throughout the 2,000-year history of the Church. It is worth taking time to read at least part of the saint's own autobiography, the Confession of Saint Patrick, which has survived to our own day and which offers an unforgettable glimpse into the soul of this great man. I have just been blessed to stumble upon this forgotten classic of ancient Christian literature, which deserves to be rediscovered.

Saint Patrick, pray for us!

A happy Saint Patrick's Day to everyone!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Step in the Right Direction

The plight of Christians in the Middle East is finally getting the world's attention, thanks in large part to the diplomatic efforts of the Holy See. Yesterday, on March 13, 2015, the United Nations headquarters in Geneva issued a Joint Statement entitled, "Supporting the Human Rights of Christians and Other Communities, Particularly in the Middle East." The statement was drafted by representatives of the Holy See, Lebanon, and Russia and has been signed by the representatives of forty-six other countries, mostly in Europe but also in North and South America, one or two in Asia and Africa, and one in the Middle East (Iraq). This statement is a hopeful sign that the political will among world leaders to stop the barbaric terrorist aggression and persecution of innocent Christians and resolve the terrible humanitarian crisis afflicting the Middle East is beginning to develop and gain momentum. Much more than a UN joint statement is needed to accomplish this, of course, but nonetheless such an official communique  indicates a trend in the right direction.

This statement candidly acknowledges the facts of the situation. It correctly points out that the Middle East is the birthplace of some of the world's great religions, and acknowledges the positive contributions of these religions to human culture and society in the region. It maintains that Christians of the Middle East have the right to practice their faith and unequivocally condemns the horrible violence being perpetrated against them and their church buildings by ISIS and al-Qaeda. And it calls upon the international community to support the deeply rooted historical presence of all ethnic and religious communities in the Middle East.

How this will be accomplished is another question, but as the old saying goes, "Where there's a will, there's a way." I believe strongly that the international community, including our country which is largely responsible for the current situation in the Middle East, should work together through the UN to find ways to resolve it for the good of everyone. Let's keep world leaders in our prayers, that they collaborate in taking morally sound and effective measures to halt the violence and restore some measure of stability to the Middle East. And, of course, let's keep praying for the embattled and weary Christians of the Middle East.

Here is the text of the statement entitled "Supporting the Human Rights of Christians and Other Communities, Particularly in the Middle East":

The Middle East is living in a situation of instability and conflict that recently have been aggravated. The consequences are disastrous for the entire population of the region. The existence of many religious communities is seriously threatened. Christians are now especially affected. These days even their survival is in question.

Efforts to build a better future for all are frustrated. We witness a situation where violence, religious and ethnic hatred, fundamentalist radicalism, extremism, intolerance, exclusion, destruction of the social fabric of whole societies and communities are becoming the features of a non-viable political and social model, endangering the very existence of many communities, the Christian community in particular.

Millions of people have been either displaced or forced to leave their ancestral lands. Those who stay in conflict zones or areas controlled by terrorist groups live under the permanent threat of human rights violations, repression and abuses. Both communities and individuals fall victim to barbaric acts of violence: they are deprived of homes, driven from their native lands, sold into slavery, killed, beheaded and burnt alive. Dozens of Christian churches, and ancient shrines of all religions have been destroyed. The situation of Christians in the Middle East, a land on which they are living for centuries and have the right to remain, raises deep concerns. There are more and more reasons to fear seriously for the future of the Christian communities that have more than two thousand years of existence in this region, where Christianity has its full place, and began its long history. The positive contributions of Christians in the different countries and societies of the Middle East are well known and creative.

We are confident that governments, all civic and religious leaders in the Middle East, will join us in addressing this alarming situation by building together a culture of peaceful coexistence. In our globalized world, pluralism is an enrichment. The presence and the contributions of ethnic and religious communities reflect an ancient diversity and a common heritage. A future without the different communities in the Middle East will run a high risk of new forms of violence, exclusion, and the absence of peace and development.

We call upon the international community to support the deeply rooted historical presence of all ethnic and religious communities in the Middle East. Here world religions appeared, including Christianity. Now, they live a serious existential threat from the so-called "Islamic State" (Daesh) and Alqaida, and affiliated terrorist groups, which disrupts the life of all these communities, and creates the risk of complete disappearance for the Christians. This support will help the countries of the region to rebuild healthy plural societies and sound political systems, ensuring human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. Therefore we ask all States to reaffirm their commitment to respect the rights of everyone, in particular the right to freedom of religion, which is enshrined in the fundamental international human rights instruments.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

The states endorsing the Joint Statement on "Supporting the Human Rights of Christians and Other Communities, particularly in the Middle East" are: Russian Federation, Lebanon, Holy See, Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Congo, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Denmark, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Happy Second Anniversary, Pope Francis!

Today, March 13, marks the second anniversary of the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, as Pope Francis. Like millions of others, I will never forget that historic late winter day two years ago when, on the second day of the conclave to elect a successor to Benedict XVI, the College of Cardinals stunned the media and the world by quickly settling on one of their own who was not considered a likely candidate for the modern papacy: an older Jesuit cardinal from South America who could not speak English. Although many of us were initially unfamiliar with Bergoglio, he quickly won us over with his profound humility, his beautiful smile, his simple and direct style of preaching on any subject but especially on God's great mercy, his simplicity of life, and his love for the poor and the sick. The power of his authentic and courageous example of holiness in fidelity to the Gospel enables Pope Francis to transcend all barriers of language, race, religion, and culture in order to touch billions of human hearts with the love of Christ. Through word and example, he is recalling the Church to her roots and guiding her to more effectively carry out her mission of salvation in the third millennium. Through his unique personal style, Francis is building on and continuing the great reform efforts of the last several Popes since the Second Vatican Council. He wants a Church that is closer to the people, that knows their problems and can help resolve them. And he wants the light of Christ's merciful love and peace to illuminate and heal a dark and wounded world torn by selfishness, indifference, division, hostility, and conflict.

Time has certainly proven the wisdom and brilliance of the cardinals' choice in 2013, which was clearly inspired by the Holy Spirit. Pope Francis is a holy man, a great teacher, a talented communicator, and a genius, and we should thank God that he is leading our Church at the present time. God willing, his remarkable papacy will continue for at least several more years. Let us pray that the Lord will continue to bless him with the health, strength and graces necessary to carry out his mission of service to the Church and the world. And may we entrust him daily to the loving protection and watchful care of our Blessed Mother Mary and the Angels.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Quote of the Day

"It is within my power either to serve God or not to serve Him. Serving Him, I add to my own good and the good of the whole world. Not serving Him, I forfeit my own good and deprive the world of that good, which was in my power to create."  

--Leo Tolstoy (1828--1910)      

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Quote of the Day

"Lent is a time of renewal for the whole Church, for each community and every believer. Above all it is a "time of grace" (2Cor 6:2). God does not ask of us anything that he himself has not first given us. "We love because he first has loved us" (1Jn 4:19). He is not aloof from us. Each one of us has a place in his heart. He knows us by name, he cares for us and he seeks us out whenever we turn away from him."

--Pope Francis 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Tribute to an American Catholic Hero

Today marks the 70th anniversary of Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, the most famous photograph in U.S. military history and one of the greatest photographs of all time. As is generally known, it was taken by Joseph Rosenthal, an Associated Press photographer, on February 23, 1945, during the Battle of Iwo Jima, a key turning point in World War II. The photo, which immediately drew widespread admiration and acclaim and won Rosenthal a Pulitzer Prize, depicts six Marine soldiers erecting a large American flag atop Mount Suribachi on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima in the western Pacific. I have been familiar with this stirring image since childhood, but only recently have I come to grasp its full significance thanks to James Bradley's epic masterpiece Flags of Our Fathers. Based on extensive interviews with dozens of war veterans and surviving relatives of the flagraisers, this accurate and classic historical work (which was also made into a movie of the same name) places the famous photo in its proper context by telling the true stories of the young men who raised the flag and providing the essential background details that led up to that dramatic moment. And James Bradley is an amazingly gifted storyteller.

Reading this engrossing book--which almost didn't get written, because the author's heroic father himself narrowly escaped death in battle and refused to discuss his wartime experiences with his family--has given me a whole new understanding of, and appreciation for, this unique photograph, which almost didn't get taken because someone else had already photographed the first flagraising two hours earlier and the press photographers, including Rosenthal, didn't know there was going to be a second and had to scramble to document it. And I might never have read the book had I not discovered it on a bookshelf during a casual browse at my local Goodwill thrift store last summer. I felt lucky. It was like finding a lost treasure. I wondered why anybody would get rid of a book like this. Once I opened it and began reading, it was hard to put down and stop thinking about. As a result of discovering and reading this book, I find myself in total agreement with G. K. Chesterton that "Everything has been saved from a wreck." (PLEASE NOTE: As can be expected with any frank discussion of U.S. military history, Flags of Our Fathers does contain some language and anecdotes that are less than edifying. However, these are detractions from an otherwise magnificent work that I heartily recommend to adult readers.)

Flags of Our Fathers is certainly a fitting tribute to the self-sacrificing heroism of our nation's Marines in World War II and to the religious and moral values that made America great. But in addition to that, it offers a compelling and beautiful witness to the power of our Catholic faith and its essential role in American life. The author's father, John Henry Bradley (1923--1994), the flagraiser in the middle of the photograph and the only one who lived to see his grandchildren, was a lifelong devout Catholic whose entire life was dedicated to the humble service of others. He never intended to be a Marine. He was a Navy medic who got transferred into Easy Company, the ironically named Marine contingent that stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima under heavy Japanese fire in February 1945. Americans suffered more casualties in the invasion and conquest of that tiny island than in any other battle of the entire war. During that fierce and grueling battle, John Bradley risked his life over and over again to tend wounded Marines. He was awarded a Navy Cross for his valor. In his humility, he kept that prestigious award hidden in a box in his closet for the remainder of his life and refused all interview requests from journalists. John Bradley was more than just an American hero. He was--and is--a true hero of the Catholic Church and a role model for Catholics of every race and nation. Because of that, I believe strongly that his cause for canonization should be introduced. And I hope and pray that his talented son James Bradley, who has been away from the Church for many years, will one day rediscover the priceless gift of the Catholic faith given to him by his saintly father.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Quote of the Day

"To return to the Lord 'with all your heart' (Joel 2:12) means to undertake the journey of a conversion that is not superficial and transitory, but a spiritual itinerary that concerns the most intimate place of our person. The heart, in fact, is the seat of our sentiments, the center in which our choices and our attitudes mature....

"This effort of conversion is not only a human work. Reconciliation between us and God is possible thanks to the mercy of the Father who, out of love for us, did not hesitate to sacrifice his Only-begotten Son. In fact, Christ, who was just and without sin, was made sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21) when on the cross he was burdened with our sins, and in this way rescued and justified us before God. 'In him' we can become just, in Him we can change, if we receive God’s grace and do not let the 'favorable moment' pass in vain (6:2).

"With this awareness, we begin our Lenten itinerary confident and joyful. May Mary Immaculate support our spiritual battle against sin, accompany us in this favorable moment, so that we can come to sing together the exultance of the victory in the Easter of Resurrection."

--Pope Francis