Thursday, January 26, 2023

Quote of the Day

"Men are capable of reciprocal comprehension because, far from being wholly separate islands of being, they communicate in the same truth. The greater their inner contact with the one reality which unites them, namely, the truth, the greater their capacity to meet on common ground. Dialogue without this interior obedient listening to the truth would be nothing more than a discussion among the deaf."

--Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI (1927--2022)

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Ice Storm

Eighteen years ago in January 2005, when I was almost nineteen years of age and living in west central Ohio with my parents and sister, a rare severe ice storm coated tree branches and other outdoor surfaces with one inch of ice accumulation, resulting in catastrophic damage and leaving us without electrical power or heat for 48 hours. The bizarre combination of spectacular beauty and terrible destruction inspired me to write the poem below, which was finally completed more than a year afterward and which offers an accurate description of the event. In subsequent months and years, I submitted it to various print and online publications, both Catholic and secular, but it has never been accepted for publication, perhaps due to its length (96 lines), or its changes of meter and lack of consistent rhyme. The style was greatly influenced by the epic classical poetry I studied in high school. Mild ice storms are a frequent occurrence this time of year in the mountains of western Virginia, where I have now lived for fourteen-plus years, and their beauty can be enjoyed without fear of danger except for occasional slippery road conditions. Please let me know what you think of this poem.

Ice Storm
by Justin Soutar
June 27, 2006

All through the dreary winter afternoon
A soft rain hammers steadily down.
A welcome respite from the piles of snow
Covering the ground some days ago.
Yet, we know this pleasant interlude
Will soon turn to snowy solitude;
And the clear drops of midwinter rain
Will yield to glistening powder again.
But suddenly—
A warning comes,
A dreadful chill
Pierces the wet air.
Raindrops clinging
To ground and branch.
Puddles turn hard.
The dismal clouds
Let fall their burden,
To weigh heavily
On the darkening land.
An eerie stillness
Now foreboding,
Nature trapped
Beneath layer upon layer.
As night falls,
The tree limbs’ icy burden
Grows too heavy
To sustain any longer.
The silence of darkness
Is suddenly broken.
C-c-crack! Just like that
A nearby branch snaps and
Crashes to earth,
Flinging a million chips of ice
Like shattered crystal,
Then stillness again.
Far in the distance,
Another bough cracks,
To be answered by another,
More and more crashes,
Each piercing the dark, frozen silence,
Over and over,
Finally a chorus
Of forest lords
Erupts in all directions,
Bowing to the ice.
Giant appendages
Torn from their stalks
Like candy canes
Bit by a child.
All through the night
The dirge wails on.
All through the following dingy day,
And through subsequent gloomy evening, slowly,
The chorus fades in a long decrescendo
Back into frozen stillness.
The next gray dawn arrives:
What a strange, yet beautiful sight!
Trees and earth all wrapped in ice,
All creation shrouded in white.
A million arches, like Romanesque churches:
Intact limbs, having withstood the onslaught,
Curving down with their heavy load
To touch the ground, at rest.
How strange that the clear liquid,
Sustaining all life,
Has morphed into bringer
Of damage and death.
So glorious to behold,
Yet a burden to nature;
A feast for the eyes,
Yet harm to the forest.
A million glistening white branches
envelop the white-coated ground,
Lying as conquered warriors
Beneath the towering staffs.
Fatal white magnificence
Blankets the earth,
A billion crystal jewels
Scattered everywhere.
Once more, the gray clouds turn somber
As night drops over the scene.
The ground remains frozen silent
And perpetually all motionless,
In ever-patient solidarity
With the damaged natives of the woods.
Up on high, a few starry diamonds
Begin to peek through the hugging clouds.
At the swift touch of a whistling breeze,
All of the radically injured trees
In their ice encasings creak and groan,
Limbs heave so painfully to and fro,
Anxiously awaiting liberation
From their long stiff-frozen condition.
Waiting till dawn for the earth to warm
And deliverance from tribulation.

Copyright © 2006 Justin D. Soutar. All rights reserved.

Quote of the Day

"Common sense is something that's all too lacking in government and politics these days. Too often, we're bogged down by the mental gymnastics of partisanship, the heavy weight of hands that do too much finger pointing, and a media culture that stokes controversy instead of collaboration. But in a Commonwealth that was founded for the people, by the people, we must change course. With courage and conviction, we can--and will--restore common sense to governing."

--Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, State of the Commonwealth Address, January 11, 2023

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Reflection for the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God


"To begin the year by recalling God’s goodness in the maternal face of Mary, in the maternal face of the Church, in the faces of our own mothers, protects us from the corrosive disease of being 'spiritual orphans'. It is the sense of being orphaned that the soul experiences when it feels motherless and lacking the tenderness of God, when the sense of belonging to a family, a people, a land, to our God, grows dim. This sense of being orphaned lodges in a narcissistic heart capable of looking only to itself and its own interests. It grows when what we forget that life is a gift we have received – and owe to others – a gift we are called to share in this common home."

--Pope Francis, Homily, January 1, 2017

Friday, December 23, 2022

Reflection for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

"Augustus' instruction regarding the registration, for tax purposes, of all the citizens of the ecumene leads Joseph, together with Mary, his betrothed, to Bethlehem, the city of David, and thus it helps to bring to fulfillment the promise of the prophet Micah that the shepherd of Israel would be born in that city. The Emperor unwittingly contributes to the realization of the prophecy: the history of the Roman Empire is interwoven with the history of the salvation that God established with Israel. The history of God's election, hitherto confined to Israel, enters the wider world, it enters world history. God, who is the God of Israel and of all peoples, shows himself to be the true guiding force behind all history."

--Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: Part Three: The Infancy Narratives (Image, 2012), pp. 64-65

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Quote of the Day

"He [God] does not come in extraordinary events, but in everyday things; He manifests Himself in everyday things. He is there, in our daily work, in a chance encounter, in the face of someone in need, even when we face days that seem grey and monotonous, it is right there that we find the Lord, who calls to us, speaks to us and inspires our actions."

--Pope Francis, Angelus Address, November 27, 2022

Friday, November 25, 2022

Quote of the Day

"Vigilance means first of all openness to the good, to the truth, to God, in the midst of an often meaningless world and in the midst of the power of evil. It means that man tries with all his strength and with great sobriety to do what is right; it means that he lives, not according to his own wishes, but according to the signpost of faith."

--Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth--Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (Ignatius Press, 2011), pp. 287-288

Monday, October 31, 2022

Election Watch 2022: A Decisive Turning Point?

by Justin Soutar

Every two years, the people of the United States have the opportunity to decide who will represent them in Congress by casting their ballots for various candidates for the Senate and the House of Representatives in the November general election. This year, as in previous years and as required by the U.S. Constitution, thirty-four Senate seats and all 435 House seats are up for grabs. Additionally, several states are holding gubernatorial and/or legislative elections this year, offering their residents the chance to determine who their next governor and/or state legislators will be. Finally, many states also have ballot propositions, allowing their inhabitants to direct state policy on a wide range of issues through a simple majority vote.

This year's midterm elections, so called because they fall in the middle of a presidential term, have a special significance because they are the first to be held following the momentous Supreme Court decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women's Health Organization this past June that overturned the Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. With abortion on demand no longer the law of the land nationwide, it's up to voters in each state to choose representatives who will either protect the inalienable right to life of innocent unborn children in that state in accordance with the Creator's natural law and the U.S. Constitution, or allow the abortion cartel led by Planned Parenthood to continue its gruesome butchery of hundreds of tiny babies a day for profit under such euphemisms as "women's health" and "women's reproductive rights". Pro-life and pro-abortion ballot initiatives in several states also await voter decision.

This author trembles at the thought that the fate of many hundreds of thousands, even millions, of innocent unborn children hangs in the balance. The sacred right to life of an entire class of human beings should not be protected in some states and denied in others based on the whims of a majority vote. Rather, the right to life of ALL human beings at every stage of existence should be legally protected throughout the nation. Until that day comes, it's the duty of every American of goodwill to vote pro-life. As Pope Saint John Paul II declared during his 1995 visit to the U.S: "When the unborn child... is declared to be beyond the protection of society, not only are America’s deepest traditions radically undermined and endangered, but a moral blight is brought upon society... The right to life is the first of all rights. It is the foundation of democratic liberties and the keystone of the edifice of civil society." (Emphasis in original text)

Many months of simmering dissatisfaction with illegitimate "President" Joe Biden and a Democratic-led Congress's foolish and destructive policies on a broad spectrum of issues including inflation, taxes, college debt, the runaway national debt, ObamaCare, education, energy, election integrity, gun violence, illegal immigration, military weakness, and foreign policy, combined with razor-thin Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, render a Republican takeover of both chambers very likely, even with the certainty of Democratic voter fraud in at least a few of the key close races. 

During the past ten years, Democratic henchmen have perfected the art of voter fraud to steal close elections from Republican candidates. In 2012, as revealed by Judicial Watch and the American Civil Rights Union, they amassed roughly four million fraudulent votes in 24 states to ensure Barack Obama's reelection as president and defeat Republican challenger and actual winner Mitt Romney. In 2020, as recounted in the documentary films 2000 Mules and Rigged, they took advantage of the chaos created by unprecedented changes in state election laws due to the coronavirus threat to secure as many as seven million illegal ballots for presidential candidate Joe Biden, guaranteeing his "victory" while depriving incumbent President Donald Trump of the second consecutive term that was rightfully his. Meanwhile, Democratic elites poured sufficient advertising dollars into traditionally Republican western states such as Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada to pull them at least temporarily into their column.

The big question is to what extent Democratic voter fraud will influence the outcome of the November elections. This depends on many factors, one of which is the number of truly close races. The closer the race, the easier it is to alter the final vote tally. Many pre-election polls are inaccurately biased in favor of Democrats, which can help to achieve their desired outcome in two ways: they discourage some potential Republican voters, and they can be neatly matched with tainted results as evidence of their "legitimacy." Judicial Watch has done much good work in recent years to clean up dirty state voter rolls and ensure compliance with state and federal election laws. However, there is still much work to be done to restore and protect the integrity of our elections. For one thing, only an adult, legal U.S. citizens with a valid form of ID who is registered to vote by the required deadline in the district where he or she lives should be allowed to cast a ballot in any state.

These "midterm" elections take place in a nation that is deeply divided on basic values and principles; where mob riots in major cities have raged with impunity, unchecked by weakened and "de-funded" police forces; where those who publicly defend the right to life, traditional marriage, religious liberty, and America's greatness are smeared, harassed, censored, spied on, and sued as hate-filled bigots; where the minds of civilian and military students are being poisoned with indecent sex education, illogical gender ideology and anti-American critical race theory; where Catholic churches are vandalized and burned by pro-abortion domestic terrorists; where our rightful president-in-exile is "investigated" on fake charges, while the numerous real scandals and conflicts of interest involving the illegitimate "president" and his family are quietly ignored; and where corrupt special interest groups and Big Tech are bringing their full money, power, media, and propaganda resources to bear to swing the impending election results in their favor.

It's also a nation where, in spite of all this, tens of millions of good, ordinary, common-sense citizens are doing their best to earn a living, pay their bills, raise their families, educate their children, worship the Lord, serve their country, and help those in need. These Americans want and need lower inflation and lower taxes; less national debt; patient-centered health care; a truthful, decent, patriotic, and transparent public education system; domestically produced energy; secure borders; a strong national defense; informed and sensible foreign policy; free and fair elections; gun ownership; religious freedom; traditional marriage; and fewer abortions. If this silent majority turns out in force across the country to vote its values in this general election, as seems likely, Republicans will win in a dramatic landslide reminiscent of 2010 and 2014.

The great civil war for America's heart and soul has been raging for decades. The results of next week's elections will serve as a clear indicator of which side in this war--Judeo-Christian or radically secularist--has the upper hand at the moment. History will judge whether or not this particular battle marks a decisive turning point in the lengthy culture war. Continued prayer and fasting for the conversion of hearts and minds is needed to strengthen and reunite the nation on her traditional foundation of religion and morality. Only an America that trusts in God and respects inalienable human rights will successfully rise to the domestic and international challenges that she will face in the decades to come.

Copyright © 2022 Justin D. Soutar.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Quote of the Day

"Prayer is an indispensable aid for spiritual discernment, especially when it involves the affective dimension, enabling us to address God with simplicity and familiarity, as one would speak to a friend. It is knowing how to go beyond thoughts, to enter into intimacy with the Lord, with an affectionate spontaneity. The secret of the lives of the saints is familiarity and confidence with God, which grows in them and makes it ever easier to recognize what is pleasing to Him. True prayer is familiarity with and confidence in God."

--Pope Francis, General Audience, September 28, 2022

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Quote of the Day

"When the unborn child – the 'stranger in the womb' – is declared to be beyond the protection of society, not only are America’s deepest traditions radically undermined and endangered, but a moral blight is brought upon society. I am also thinking of threats to the elderly, the severely handicapped and all those who do not seem to have any social usefulness. When innocent human beings are declared inconvenient or burdensome, and thus unworthy of legal and social protection, grievous damage is done to the moral foundations of the democratic community. The right to life is the first of all rights. It is the foundation of democratic liberties and the keystone of the edifice of civil society."

--Pope Saint John Paul II, Homily, October 5, 1995

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Quote of the Day

"As is our custom, Vespers were said in the late afternoon, and a special thanksgiving was offered to God for giving us renewed hope through the many signs of land he has provided. I now believe that the light I saw earlier was a sign from God and that it was truly the first positive indication of land."

--Christopher Columbus, Diary, October 11, 1492

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Quote of the Day

"The Church faces a particularly difficult task in her efforts to preach the word of God in all cultures in which the faithful are constantly challenged by consumerism and a pleasure-seeking mentality, where utility, productivity and hedonism are exalted while God and his law are forgotten. In these situation where ideas and behavior directly contradict the truth about God and about humanity itself, the Church's witness must be unpopular. She must take a clear stand on the word of God and proclaim the whole Gospel message with great confidence in the Holy Spirit."

--Pope Saint John Paul II, Homily, September 16, 1987

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Quote of the Day

"The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators."

--The Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 4

Monday, September 5, 2022

Quote of the Day

"I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing - direct murder by the mother herself. And we read in the Scripture, for God says very clearly: Even if a mother could forget her child - I will not forget you - I have carved you in the palm of my hand. We are carved in the palm of His hand, so close to Him. That unborn child has been carved in the hand of God."

--Saint Teresa of Calcutta (1910--1997), Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, 1979

Friday, August 19, 2022

Quote of the Day

"One can know the whole Bible, one can know all the liturgical rubrics, one can know all the theology, but from knowing, loving is not automatic: loving has another way, intelligence is needed but also something more… True worship does not exist if it is not translated into service to one’s neighbor."

--Pope Francis, General Audience, April 27, 2016

Monday, July 4, 2022

The Natural Law Basis for Dobbs and Eliminating Legalized Abortion

by Justin Soutar

Like many other Americans of good will, during the past ten days I've been offering prayers of thanksgiving for the historic Supreme Court decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women's Health Organization that overturned the Court's terrible 1973 ruling in Roe vs. Wade. At the same time, I've been offering prayers of petition for the continued growth and spread of a culture of respect for life throughout our land.

The Dobbs decision is a credit to the fine legal minds and devout Catholicism of Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Writing for the majority, Alito is absolutely correct that the reasoning underpinning Roe was egregiously flawed, and that there is no "right to abortion" in the U.S. Constitution. These five justices performed their sworn duty before God to the American people by strictly interpreting the Constitution according to its original text, meaning, and intent with regard to abortion law. That is exactly what all Supreme Court justices are supposed to do in every legal case, regardless of the issue. They are not supposed to "legislate from the bench," twisting the Constitution's original meaning to impose a contemporary ideological viewpoint on the entire nation, as they did in Roe and have unfortunately done many times since then on other important issues.

So what does Catholicism have to do with the majority's ruling in Dobbs? Two things. First, the Catholic Church teaches that there is no conflict between faith and reason, properly understood and applied, because both come from God and are sources of objective truth. When taken seriously in its totality, when believed and practiced as intended, Catholicism not only encourages faith in God (religion) and love of God and neighbor (morality), but also good critical thinking, coherent logical reasoning, and sound judgment. This is why the Catholic Church founded the modern university system in Europe in the High Middle Ages, and it is a major reason why these five justices earned great legal reputations and were appointed to the highest court in the United States.

Secondly, as Catholic League president Bill Donohue pointed out in his excellent book Why Catholicism Matters (2012), the foundation of inalienable human rights originating from the Creator on which our Declaration of Independence and Constitution were built was given to the world by the Catholic Church. While some of her members have notoriously violated her teachings in these areas, the Church has steadfastly maintained the sacredness of human life and the immorality of abortion since ancient times and has developed her doctrine on ordered liberty in the course of centuries. Our nation's Founders inherited the timeless natural law principle of inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness primarily from Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Robert Bellarmine, and they explicitly constructed a new nation on this principle written by the Creator into the fabric of human nature.

The idea of objective and universal moral truths of divine origin existing outside of ourselves and to which we must humbly submit is anathema to the morally relativistic and radically secularist thinking that has poisoned our society with a hedonistic "culture of death" in recent years. As a result of Roe vs. Wade, during the past fifty years, more than sixty million innocent unborn children (potential citizens) of the United States have been brutally denied the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that were theoretically guaranteed to them by the Constitution for the sake of convenience. Simultaneously, the number of violent crimes against born human beings in this country has increased dramatically, and several states have legalized euthanasia. This should come as no surprise. Saint Teresa of Calcutta declared truthfully that abortion is the greatest destroyer of peace because if a woman can kill her unborn child, there is nothing to stop anyone else from killing whomever they wish to kill.

But the reality of inalienable human rights exists in all times and places, whether it is fully acknowledged and respected or not. The grave evil of African-American slavery was both legal and common throughout much of the United States for more than eighty years, and the alleged "right" to own slaves was even upheld for a time by the Supreme Court in Dred Scott vs. Sanford. Someday, the citizens of this country will rightly look back with utter horror at the Roe vs. Wade regime, viewing abortion the same way we view slavery today: How could this civilized nation founded on the principle of "liberty and justice for all" have tolerated such a grave injustice against so many millions of her own people for so many years?

I was disappointed but not surprised that Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the pro-Roe minority in the Dobbs case. Appointed to the High Court by President George W. Bush in 2005, Roberts was a faithful Catholic with apparently stellar conservative credentials. Just seven years later in 2012, however, Roberts was the deciding vote upholding the Affordable Care Act in United States vs. ObamaCare. He is an example of the unfortunate trend among many justices and judges in the United States in recent decades pointed out by Robert Bork in Slouching Towards Gomorrah (1996): when conservative lawyers are placed in U.S. courts, they often become less conservative.

The Supreme Court was right to return the issue of abortion to us, the people and our elected representatives. Unfortunately, while many states will now vote to restrict abortion or to outlaw it altogether, some will keep it legal with few if any restrictions. The monumental challenge now facing the pro-life movement in the United States is to sufficiently educate and mobilize the public and elected representatives to eradicate the evil of legalized abortion from all fifty states, either state by state or through Congressional legislation. President Ronald Reagan foresaw the latter method in his famous "Evil Empire" speech of 1983, declaring, "Human life legislation ending this tragedy [abortion on demand] will someday pass the Congress, and you and I must not rest until it does."." 

If the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution mean anything, the inalienable right to life of American unborn children cannot be protected in some states and left unprotected in others per the differing whims of majority vote, court ruling, state law, or executive order. As a matter of basic justice, it must be legally guaranteed throughout the nation. Given the controversial nature of the issue, this won't happen without a fight. As we fought a Civil War for the just cause of eliminating legalized slavery, we may well have to fight another for the just cause of eliminating legalized abortion. Our national transformation from a culture of death to a culture of life will not happen overnight, and prayer and fasting will play a critical role in its success. The closing lyrics of our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," come to mind:

O thus be it ever, when free men shall stand 

Between their loved homes and the war's desolation.  

Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n-rescued land 

Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Copyright © 2022 Justin D. Soutar. All right reserved.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Reflection on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi

"People expected that in the messianic age the miracle of the manna would be repeated. The Messiah, so they believed, would prove his identity in that everyone would have enough to eat and bread would once more come down from heaven.

"Jesus' intention is to transfer this manna miracle onto a different plane. And to do it with the Eucharist. With the bread in which he gives himself, and in which accordingly the multiplication of loaves takes place henceforth throughout history, down to our own day. He can, in a certain sense, be shared with others to an infinite extent.

"In this sharing of bread, Jesus is making an advance with this renewed manna miracle, in that he repeats the old manna but also leads to a quite different, shall we say more humble, and at the same time more demanding, form. In its profundity this is a far greater miracle. And also in that bread does not just fall down from heaven; but sharing human togetherness, mutual giving--things that do not just fall down from heaven--are also made part of it."

--Benedict XVI, God and the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald (Ignatius Press, 2002), pp. 246-247

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Reflection for the Feast of the Visitation

"In fact, to proclaim means to exalt a reality for its greatness, for its beauty … Mary exalts the greatness of the Lord, praises Him, saying that He is really great. In life, it is important to look for big things, otherwise you get lost, behind so many little things. Mary shows us that if we want our life to be happy, God must be placed first, because He alone is great. How many times, instead, we live pursuing things of little importance: prejudices, rancor, rivalry, envy, illusions, superfluous material goods … How much pettiness in life! We know this is the case. Maria today invites us to look up to the “great things” that the Lord has done in her. In us too, in each of us, the Lord does many great things. We must recognize and rejoice, proclaiming God, for these great things."

--Pope Francis, Angelus Address, August 15, 2019

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Quote of the Day

"Christ is the Morning Star, who, when the night of this world is past, gives to his saints the promise of the light of life, and opens everlasting day."

--Saint Bede the Venerable (673--735)

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Reflection for Holy Week

"We have to admit that the author of the Letter is clearly not referring exclusively to the night in Gethsemane, but has in mind the whole of Jesus' via dolorosa right up to the crucifixion... John speaks of Jesus' tears at the death of Lazarus, and this in the context of his being 'troubled' in spirit--for which, as we have seen, John uses the word that was to reappear in the 'Palm Sunday' passage corresponding to the Mount of Olives tradition.

"Each time, it is a question of Jesus' encounter with the powers of death, whose ultimate depths he as the Holy One of God can sense in their full horror. The Letter to the Hebrews views the whole of Jesus' Passion--from the Mount of Olives to the last cry from the Cross--as thoroughly permeated by prayer, one long impassioned plea to God for life in the face of the power of death.

"If the Letter to the Hebrews treats the entire Passion as a prayer in which Jesus wrestles with God the Father and at the same time with human nature, it also sheds new light on the theological depth of the Mount of Olives prayer. For these cries and pleas are seen as Jesus' way of exercising his high priesthood. It is through his cries, his tears, and his prayers that Jesus does what the high priestis meant to do: he holds up to God the anguish of human existence. He brings man before God."

--Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth--Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (Ignatius Press, 2011), pp. 163-164