Preserve, protect and defend

June 1972 I took the oath of enlistment when I volunteered for service in the United States Naval Reserve. The words if you’re unfamiliar are, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;…” My enlistment ended in 1978 when I received an honorable discharge. Later as a public school teacher I had to do the same and recently as a trustee of our two county public library system I had to affirm that I would uphold the Constitution.

Today I witnessed lawmakers and our president seeking to overturn the will of the American people who overwhelmingly elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to presidency and vice-presidency. Today insurrectionists stormed the US Capitol and threaten the well being of the capitol police and members of congress. One of the people involved was mortally wounded. I wonder if those lawmakers and the insurrectionists have ever read the U. S. Constitution. The lawmakers took approximately the same oath as I did. Did they mean it?

Ironically the current president and many of his followers have made a big deal about law and order. Not much evidence of respect for law and order today. These same folks got upset when athletes knelt at the time of the National Anthem. Today one of the insurrectionists tore down the United States flag from the U.S. Capitol and raised a campaign banner of the president. Apparently their patriotism was fraudulent. We have heard a lot about fraud in this election and we witnessed that fraud today. It was on display for all the world to see. American exceptionalism died today. Our republic is under siege by forces of evil who are hell bent on destroying us.

I hope that order will be restored and that our republic will survive this insurrection and that we will grow as a country. E pluribus unum.

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The wisdom to know the difference

Earlier today I saw a post that rang true. In 2008 we elected a black man to be president of the United States. The specter of a black man as the leader of the free world was so terrible to those who are intent on white supremacy that they spent eight years attempting to discredit him. Equally terrifying to these folks is that people of color will soon be the predominant group in the United States.

In many areas of the country that is already the case. The United States was founded by white men who slaughtered indigenous people, enslaved Africans and kept women subjugated while using religion to justify it. There has been an evolution of consciousness since the 1790’s. We stopped slaughtering indigenous people in the nineteenth century although we put them on ghettos we call reservations. We ended chattel slavery in 1863 and passed the 14th Amendment to the Constitution in 1868. We followed that with Jim Crow and one hundred more years of terror for people of color. Nonetheless consciousness continued to evolve. We passed landmark civil rights and voting rights in the 1960’s.

All of this progress has been countered with reactionary movements which live on to this day. Consciousness will continue to evolve despite the efforts of some to put the genie back in the bottle. I may not live to see the change but eventually our democracy will evolve to the land of the free.

On January 20 2021 a woman of color will be sworn in as Vice President of the United States. We’re long overdue for a women at the top and especially a woman of color. This fact is what mostly animates the angry white men in our halls of government. They’re actually frightened that America is living out the promise of our ideals.

Democracy isn’t easy. It never was nor will it be.

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I am not a free agent

God among His other functions must be a tireless activity working towards an end. Everything He calls into being works toward that end, I myself with the rest. I am not a purposeless bit of jetsam flung out on the ocean of time to be tossed about helplessly. God couldn’t so will an existence. It would not be in keeping with His economy to have any entity wasted. As Our Lord puts it, the sparrow cannot fall without Him; without Him the lilies are not decked; the knowledge possessed by His infinite intelligence is so minute that the very hairs of the head are numbered. My life, my work, myself—all are as much a necessary part of His design as the thread the weaver weaves into the pattern in a carpet. In other words, I am not a free agent. I am His agent. Not only am I responsible to him, but He is responsible for me. His responsibility for me will be seen as soon as I give up being responsible for myself.”

— The Conquest of Fear by Basil King

I was in a meeting earlier today where I was reminded of this quote. “The Conquest of Fear” by Basil King was published nearly one hundred years ago but the wisdom distilled in its pages is timeless. King’s thoughts are very liberating and have been insightful in my life. I am grateful to the man who first shared this book with me over thirty-five years ago.

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Original Blessing

“I saw that God never began to love us. … We have always been in God’s foreknowledge, known and loved from without beginning. … We were made for love.—Julian of Norwich

TO SAY WE HAVE BEEN “loved from without beginning” is to speak of original blessing rather than original sin. Julian breaks with Augustine and others who have preached about an original sin, and she sides with all those who know we have been loved before the beginning. Do you agree with Julian that we were made for love? How are we doing? What levels and kinds of love have you tasted? What do you still have to learn about love?”

— Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations by Matthew Fox
https://a.co/eMJbAOZ

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Remembering Theo

Yesterday marked the two year anniversary of the birth of our third grandchild. Theo Joseph was the light in an otherwise dark year that marked by the sudden death of his grandfather Joseph Driessler due to cancer. But then Theo died in his mother’s womb and the family was devastated. Seeing those you love ravaged with grief is not easy. I can remember joining the family members in the birthing room and looking at little Theo lying still in his crib wrapped in a blanket. His cherubic face will be with me as long as I live.

Remarkably Mandi and Devin have chosen to remember Theo Joseph in a number of unique ways. They joined other parents as members of the Star Legacy Foundation. They kept his footprints and and created a beautiful ornament of remembrance that hangs on their tree at Christmas. Loss of loved ones is never easy but rather than run from it they have embraced their loss and in the process have helped others to do the same.

In November 1963 my sister Mary Patricia was born. She lived only a couple of days. My Mom and Dad said she looked like me. We have no pictures nor other mementos of Mary’s time with us. A headstone marks her burial in the cemetery in a plot next to my father. A few weeks ago Devin asked me when Mary was born and I didn’t know. I called my sister who told me that Mary was born on November 15, 1963. Thanks to the example of Devin and Mandi I’ll be remembering Mary Patricia in a new way and especially on her birthday.

Yesterday Devin and Mandi had a family sledding and tubing event that marked the birth of Theo Joseph. Thanks for their wonderful example. Theo was truly a gift from God as his name implies and his memory will always be with us.

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THE RABBI’S GIFT

This is one of my favorite wisdom stories. We have the power to change the world we live in by looking for the messiah among us.

WISDOM STORIES TO LIVE BY

Once a great order, a decaying monastery had only five monks left. The order was dying. In the surrounding deep woods, there was a little hut that a Rabbi from a nearby town used from time to time.

The monks always knew the Rabbi was home when they saw the smoke from his fire rise above the treetops. As the Abbot agonized over the imminent death of his order, it occurred to him to ask the Rabbi if he could offer any advice that might save the monastery.
The Rabbi welcomed the Abbot at his hut. When the Abbot explained the reason for his visit, the Rabbi could only commiserate with him. “I know how it is,” he exclaimed. “The spirit has gone out of the people. It is the same in my town. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore.” So the Abbot and the Rabbi sat together…

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The Sheep and the Goats

Earlier today I came upon a quote from Matthew 25 which sums up the Jesus message.

“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

~Matthew 25:35

The Jesus message which is often overlooked is about relationships. Too often the emphasis is on his death on the cross. Many if not most Christians believe in the doctrine of ‘original sin.’ Jesus never talked about original sin in any of the Gospels nor is it mentioned per se in the New Testament. So much emphasis has been placed on original sin that the relationship message of Jesus is given short shrift. I recently participated in a class where the emphasis for many was on ‘the fall.’ You know the story I’m sure about how Eve gave Adam the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge and then it was all down hill from there.

The idea that people are damned because Eve gave Adam an apple in a metaphorical allusion in a mythological explanation of the creation story was always something I questioned. Why would a supreme being create a cosmos that was flawed in such a manner to exclude that same creation from fulfillment. It doesn’t make any sense. Nearly twenty years ago I heard about the theology of John Duns Scotus and later St. Bonaventure both of whom were inspired by their seraphic father St. Francis that posited an alternative. In short the reason for the incarnation was to demonstrate the creator’s love for creation. Jesus never excludes anyone from the banquet. In fact the more sinful you are the more welcome you are at the banquet. He welcomed prostitutes, tax collectors and other sinners. It was the church people who crucified him. His preaching was too scandalous for them. He upset the status quo with this radical message of relationship.

In Matthew 25 he articulates clearly that what you do for the least of your fellows is what earns you the reward of eternal life. Getting baptized, saying that you accept Jesus as your Lord and savior and then turning a blind eye to the injustices that surround us is not going to get you into the kingdom according to what is written in Matthew 25:31-46. That’s always been my favorite verse in the New Testament. The golden rule is the recipe for happiness in this life and the next.

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He has cast down the mighty

This magnificent image from Thomas Mainardi was shared on Fr. James Martin’s Instagram feed. It’s one of the most powerful depictions of the Mary I have ever seen. I carry a rosary with me everyday and pray it frequently. Maybe it’s all the heartache and crisis of this year. Maybe it’s because in the middle of this pandemic we had our own Madonna born in August. A beautiful granddaughter born amidst all the tumult and chaos of this year. In all the darkness there has been incredible light

 His mercy is from generation unto generations to them that fear Him.He has showed might in His arm: He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.He has cast down the mighty from their seat, and has exalted the humble.He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.

Ave Maria Gratia Plena Dominus Tecum!

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Unpacking the myth

Today a friend of mine shared a poignant post from John Pavlovitz’ blog which was written last week. It is the Myth of Pro-Life Christianity. The author’s eloquence is spot on. I’ve pondered much of what he said for the past 9 months as I’ve watched Americans die in record numbers while the national leadership dawdled.

“We are currently losing several thousand people here every single day and likely will for the coming months.

In less than a single year, more than 300,000 Americans will have died.

That’s 75,000 “Benghazis” for which these same people flagellated themselves and clutched their pearls and engaged in wild public histrionics, because American lives were supposedly important to them.

That’s 100 “9/11 attacks,” for which nineteen years later, they still proudly brandish their #NeverForget bumper stickers and annual social media eulogies and America First bravado—because unnecessary death moves them, apparently.” – John Pavlovitz


They stood by and did nothing while the country has been ravished by a pandemic which they denied. They mocked and degraded scientists and healthcare professionals when they knew of the deadliness of the virus. They blamed China for their own incompetence and complicity. I never believed any of these turds were pro-life. It was just a punch line for them. They’re against abortion and that’s a good cause but they don’t have any idea what it means to be pro-life.

I pray everyday that our lack of national leadership won’t do anymore harm. I pray for the victims, families affected, medical professionals on the front lines.

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Congratulations Joe Biden

I woke this morning to a tweet from Christopher White who shared that National Catholic Reporter had named President – elect Joe Biden as Newsmaker of the year.

Joe Biden has been an inspiration for me. He was slow and steady in this race. He was unflappable in a day and time when the country was in panic mode. His election has been a lodestar for democracy. Sixty-percent of Americans approve of the job he’s doing as President-Elect. Despite little cooperation from Republicans and intransigence from the White House he remains calm. That inner calm comes from the practice of his faith which includes a daily meditation of the rosary. May God bless Joe Biden as he tries to mend the fabric of our broken country.

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