The Aug. 3rd mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, took the lives of 22 people and left 24 others injured. The very next day, a gunman fired on people enjoying themselves in the Oregon Historic District of Dayton, Ohio. He killed nine people and injured 27 others. In light of the mass shooting at the July 28th California Gilroy Garlic Festival, the May 31st Virginia Beach shooting, and the April 29th shooting at the University of North Carolina, the almost instantaneous succession of the El Paso and Dayton shootings has caused many Americans to question whether our country is getting more and more violent. And rightly so!
On Aug. 7, almost immediately after U.S. immigration authorities conducted a surprise raid on undocumented workers in several Mississippi factories, the image of a tearful Magdalena Gomez Gregorio was flashed before our eyes. This 11-year-old girl stood before the media, the nation and the world, sobbing and crying. She had been separated from her parents. The scene was broadcasted by a local television station and then picked up nationally.
In the immediate wake of the August 12, 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA, a wave of image-destroying activism swept the nation. The impulse to erase the shame of slavery led to the cathartic attempt to edit history. The University of Texas in Austin removed from its campus the images of Robert E. Lee and Albert Sidney Johnston, two Confederate generals as well as the Confederate cabinet member John Reagan. Duke University also removed a Robert E. Lee statue from its campus chapel.
At seven o’clock in the evening on August 18, 1996, Fr. Alejandro Pezet was celebrating Mass in the commercial center of Buenos Aires. After he finished distributing Holy Communion, a woman came up to tell him that she had found a discarded Host on a candleholder at the back of the church. Fr. Alejandro took the defiled Host and placed it in a container of water in the tabernacle.
Palermo, Sicily is at the very southern end of Italy. For millennia, Palermo has stood as the crossroads of civilizations. Traders, sailors, and invaders have landed on her shores and stayed. In this ancient city on the edge of Europe, baroque churches compete with open air markets to attract attention. Worth the visit is Palermo’s Palatine Chapel. It was built by Norman kings in the 12th century and houses some of the world’s most beautiful mosaics.
Divisions in America go deeper and wider than state lines. Ethnicity, housing, income, race, faith, abortion, euthanasia, and, with increased rancor, politics: all these separate us one from the other. A fractured government. Politicians constantly belittling and embarrassing one another, intent to destroy the political careers of each other. A surfeit of disdain against organized religion. Schools failing to educate our inner-city poor. Streets strewn with the homeless and the addict. Many people rightly recognize that something is fundamentally awry with our society.
The Alka-Seltzer’s “Spicy Meatball” commercial first aired on television in 1969. It became an instant classic. A middle-aged man sat at the kitchen table. His wife stood beside him waiting to hear him compliment the spaghetti and meatballs she had just served him. The actor took a bite of one meatball and then messed up his line. He did it again and again. He just could not get out the sentence “Mamma mia, that’s a spicy meatball.” His accent was off; the words jumbled. Yet, take after take, he ate another meatball. Finally, the commercial ended with someone saying, “Sometimes you eat more than you should. And when it’s spicy besides — mamma mia, do you need Alka-Seltzer!”
On May 15, Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama signed the most comprehensive anti-abortion bill in the United States. Most likely, the bill will make its way to the Supreme Court. It was specifically crafted to challenge the federal government’s protection of abortion under Roe v. Wade.
Ariana Grande. Steve Colbert. Michael Phelps. Vincent van Gogh. Lincoln. Emily Dickinson. Barbra Streisand. Marcus Morris. Donny Osmond. Paula Deen. All these famous individuals and many more have admitted that they suffer anxiety. Singers. Sports figures. Performers. Political figures. Writers. TV hosts and chefs. No profession is exempt. Even famous biblical figures coped with anxiety. Both Jonah and Job are classic examples of the struggle against anxiety and depression.
From the third century come our earliest representations of the Mother of Jesus. One image is found on the walls of the Catacombs of St. Priscilla in Rome. Mary is holding the child Jesus and nursing him. Another image is found on a sarcophagus in the Vatican. It depicts the three Magi adoring Jesus held in the arms of Mary. When Christians, therefore, began to represent Mary in art, they always portrayed her with her son. The child and the mother together.
Somalia. Kashmir. Darfur. Myanmar. South Sudan. Syria. Afghanistan. Iraq. The list of wars and conflicts can go on and on. At the present moment, there are about 40 active conflicts around the world. At any one moment, there are people in 15 different places fighting. Some for their independence and freedom. Others for the right to their own resources. Willing to take up arms and die, they are fighting for their ideals and beliefs.
On June 3, 2003, Bill Wasik, a senior editor at Harper’s magazine, orchestrated the first flash mob at New York’s Macy’s department store. Soon after, flash mobs erupted in the Hyatt, in a shoe boutique in Soho and then in Central Park. People appeared, suddenly assembled together, performed a dance with lively music and then dispersed into the crowd.
The sealed tomb is broken open.
“Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep… For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life” (1 Cor 15:20). At death, our life is changed, not ended.
On Jan. 18, a video of Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann went viral. He was at the Lincoln Memorial standing face to face with a Native American man during the March to Life in Washington, D.C. On the basis of that picture, a frenzy of condemnations from reporters, commentators and politicians were heaped upon this student, accusing him of prejudice and hatred. Misinformation and lies spread like wild fire. Finally, when the facts were uncovered, the high school student was exonerated of any wrong-doing, even though much wrong had been done to him and his family. It was a rush to judgment.
On March 25, 2019, both the New Jersey Senate and Assembly passed the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act. This means that, just as in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Washington, D.C., physicians can now help someone kill themselves. Legally! Doctors now become dealers in death. So contrary to the Hippocratic Oath that states “I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing. Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course.”
On March 14, 2019, the New Jersey Senate passed bill S477 to remove the state’s statute of limitations in cases of child sexual abuse. On March 25, 2019, the New Jersey State Assembly also passed the bill. The measure allows lawsuits to be filed against individuals and institutions, be they public, private, for-profit and non-profit, no matter how much time has passed. The effects of such a law will be far-reaching.
A few years ago, Paul Croituru and his young son went out treasure hunting near their native village in Romania. To their surprise, they discovered ancient Greek currency dating back 2,350 years to the time of King Philip II. The 300 silver coins turned out to be counterfeit. The father and son now hold the distinction of having discovered the oldest counterfeit money known thus far.
In February 1915, only six months after the beginning of World War I,
Lancet, a British medical journal, used for the first time the expression “shell shock.” This newly coined expression was used to describe the feeling of helplessness that soldiers felt after exposure to constant bombardment. The term was new, but not the reality. After every war, soldiers return from combat, suffering “shell shock.”
Perched on Mount Moriah where God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem. Centuries later, Herod rebuilt and expanded it. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus lavishes praise on its beauty. “…The building wanted nothing that could astound either mind or eye. For, being covered on all sides with massive plates of gold, the sun was no sooner up than it radiated so fiery a flash that persons straining to look at it were compelled to avert their eyes, as from the solar rays. … all that was not overlaid with gold was of the purest white” (Ant. 15.391-395).
In the DNA of the American soul is a rugged individualism. We differ from our European friends whose history stretches centuries into the past and whose close borders touch one another. Our country is relatively young and vast. Our predecessors who first tamed the wilderness and planted cities from the Atlantic to the Pacific had to grapple with a vast expanse of land. They were self-reliant, creative, energetic and purpose-driven.