Friday, June 17, 2016


   This time it's Orlando, Florida.  One shooter, 49 dead, 58 wounded, some very seriously.

   Once again, like fast moving drivers on a highway, we stop for a while and come together to mourn the incident.  Flowers and candles are amassed.  Thoughts and prayers are offered.  Are they all really prayers, or are some just wishes?

   Soon, another news cycle will pop up on the social media--maybe something serious, maybe something silly.  We will go back to our highways, driving alone.  Back to driving too fast to see the scenery.  Too fast to see one another.  Nothing really will get done.

   Then, it will happen again.  Again, we will stop and come together for a while.  There will be more candles, more prayers/wishes.  And again we go back to our highways. And then, it will happen again...

   We have lost control of our society.  Something is missing.  Something good.  Something whole.  Something holy.  We've lost our sense of oneness.  And with it, we've lost our soul.  Our national motto, "From Many, One," which should unite us, is mocking us.  Obviously we don't want anything like Orlando to happen.  But simply not wanting it to happen is not good enough.  On the fast moving highway of democracy, there is no such thing as passive bystanders.  There is no such thing as living a good, peaceful, passive life, and expecting others to make things right, to keep us together.

   To make my point, let's take look at today's "others."

   Our House of Representatives held a moment of silence.  But in refusing to act, they mocked the God of unity and love before whom they stood in meaningless silence.  Thankfully, some representatives who still have a conscience walked out.

   I will refer to our Senate below.

   During the recent primary campaign, a candidate for President of the United States smiled and said nothing when he was introduced by a wildly ranting minister who waved the Bible around while screaming that homosexuals deserve to be killed.  The other day, two ministers celebrated the murder of gays and said, in the name of God, they all should be killed.

   Catholic clergy stand silently at prayer services for the Orlando dead while still teaching that homosexuals are intrinsically disoriented human beings.  This means that church leaders think there is something humanly wrong with them.

   Our angrily tearful President helplessly cries out for meaningful gun legislation to help alleviate this onslaught of death.

   Presidential candidate Donald Trump uses this horror to stir up in his followers a truly insane anger and hatred of foreigners and the entire Islamic religion.

   Our gun manufacturers produce weapons of war that are sold to ordinary citizens.  Mass murders, they report, are good for business.

   Reasonable members of the National Rifle Association passively stand by as their leaders pay homage to the dehumanized, Godless capitalism of maximum profit regardless of the cost to society.  Would responsible gun owners be capable of giving up their right to own a weapon of war, on behalf of the common good?

   Racism still holds a deadly grip on many American minds and hearts.

   Yes, we already know all this.  But then we ask, "Why do these mass killings happen so often only in America?  True, almost all of these murderers were psychotic and some were also politically radicalized.  But we've always had psychotic and radicalized people in America.

   I submit that one vitally important reason why psychotic and radicalized people feel free to act so hideously today is that they are being given social space to feel free to kill.  In many important ways we have lost our sense of community, of family, of oneness.  We have grown shallow, and therefore we have lost touch, not only with our collective mind but with our soul, from which arises our social sense of oneness and caring for one another.  We live in separate "bubbles," with our own sources of "news."  Our loss of oneness creates a social vacuum within which isolated and psychotic people can easily be propagandized and radicalized, and feel more free to act out their insane hatred.

   Today, a painting of the American family would show every member of the family--were it even possible to get them together--sitting around the table, each looking into their own I-phone.  Even with all the good we truly possess, in vitally important ways, we are not the United People of America.  We are the fragmented, out of touch, out of control, too passive, divided people of America.

   In Existential terms, today's America is a shipwreck.  We have crashed upon a rocky shore and are scattered all over the beach.  We can't put the pieces back together again.  Even if we tried, they would not fit together.  We have to understand that they never really did fit together.  We have to find a new plan, a new design, a new spirit, for our unity today.

  We need to rediscover our soul, and the Spirit of Oneness and Love who lives within our soul.

   What can we do?  Let's go back in history.  On June 6th, 1944, our troops landed at Normandy and were quickly scattered.  For a while they faced a crushing defeat.  But they had landed on that beach with a clear mission and united purpose and determination.  Being Americans, they began acting alone and in small groups on their own initiative.  In a few hard fought, heroic hours, they fought their way off the beach and won the day.  We need to rediscover that spirit of unity, purpose, initiative and determination for ourselves and our country today.

   To use an old expression, we must develop a new mindset, a new zeitgeist, a new "spirit of the times," a spirit of oneness and united purpose.  To use a more current expression, we must "change the conversation" from our present negative one to a positive one of spiritual growth, development and evolution, in service and love.  "Thy Kingdom come...on earth..."       

   As always, we begin with little things.  We can write to our legislators and put pressure on them.  Yes, too many have sold out to the billionaires who guarantee them reelection, but we can goad their consciences.  A soul-sick Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, where school children and teachers were murdered, filibustered for almost 15 hours on behalf of a modicum of gun control.  He may actually have changed some minds and hearts, at least a little. 

  We can support "Network," the lobby that's run by the now famous,"Nuns on the Bus."  We can politely and adamantly refuse to take part in prejudicial conversations.  When we are with friends and neighbors, we can speak positively and respectfully of people of other races and religions.  We can say, "Hello" to Muslims we see at our food markets and make a fuss over their children.

   Like Senator Murphy, we must take the sickness in our soul and turn it into positive, just anger and loving, humble prophetic action on behalf of our basic American freedom:  the freedom not just to be who we are alone, but to work together in good will with other Americans of all ethnic backgrounds and religions, to build one nation of justice, peace and love.

   For the sake of our heart and soul, and for our country, let's get off the beach we're stranded on.



Saturday, June 4, 2016


   Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has now said that he will vote for Donald Trump for President of the United States.  Mr. Ryan is a Catholic.  How does his decision match up with his Catholic faith?  My answer is, "Not at all!"  In fact, "Tragically not at all!"

   Our Catholic faith is for real.  While we don't impose our faith on anyone, our faith requires us to live it out, to "give it flesh and blood" in today's society and culture.  For example, as a Catholic, Mr. Ryan is supposed to be able to discern what is politically best for our country in terms of the Spiritual Disciplines, e.g., order, peace, truth, humility, love, etc.,* and in terms of a special option for the sick, poor, vulnerable and outcast.  As a Catholic he should know that the greatness of our country is measured not on how rich some Americans are but on how well we care for the least among us.

   Yet, he has chosen to vote for Mr. Trump, who has clearly shown himself to be tragically lacking any ability to foster a society marked by the spiritual disciplines and by true social justice.  In fact, Mr. Trump openly attacks the vulnerable and outcast.  

   In all his public appearances, he shows himself to be lacking any kind of self-discipline, but presents himself as a severely narcissistic man who centers his every thought and feeling on himself.  For example, without giving any sign of understanding questions put to him, he says simply, "I will fix it!"  In sum, he shows no actual understanding or appreciation of the many deeply pressing challenges that fact America and the world today. 

   Any fact check will show that Mr. Trump lies with a regularity that would be monotonous if it were not so dangerous.

   This is the man that Mr. Ryan just said he will vote for.  His "reason" is that he believes this totally self-centered man will help the Republican party legislate its policies that will in turn help Americans in the areas of jobs, income parity, security, etc.  For two reasons, Mr. Ryan's explanation would be laughable if it were not so sad.  From a Catholic point of view, many of  the Republican party's policies favor the rich at the expense of middle and lower class Americans, and so will not solve many of today's problems.  And Mr. Trump has clearly shown that he won't help the Republican party because he is incapable of reaching outside himself to help anyone.

   The depth of the problem that Mr. Ryan has brought upon himself (and the country) goes beyond morality.  His coldly inhuman, "Ayn Rand" influenced political views, along with Mr. Trump's narcissism, are expressions of a deeply spiritual problem.  This problem requires that both men look into their basic humanity--into their human spirit that gives them life and meaning.

   As a Catholic, Mr. Ryan is given the ability to look into his spirit and to discern God's presence and intentions within himself.  And he is called and responsible to prophetically work to correct any humanly harmful ideas and policies that he--or Mr. Trump--may hold or put forth.  Instead he has chosen to contradict his Catholic faith and narrow his sights to a  gain for his political party, to the detriment of our country.  

   Mr. Ryan had the opportunity to be a big spiritual hero.  Most unhappily for himself and for our country, he chose to be small.  

* See the full list of the Spiritual Disciplines in this blog.