Breaking News!

From the Wall Street Journal:

Amid controversy over “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson’s remarks about gays and blacks to GQ magazine, A+E Networks issued a new statement late Friday afternoon that said after consulting advocacy groups and the Robertson family, the network decided to resume filming the show this spring with the reality star.

How about that!  The network has listened to it’s Christian viewers (and others who love their right to express themselves) and reinstated Phil Robertson.  This is a major victory for those of us who believe in Jesus Christ and are sick and tired of seeing Christian values pushed aside.

But, not to worry, there will be another assault on Christianity from another quarter before long.  Let’s all pray that those of us who were upset about Phil-Gate will continue to stand up for our Lord and Savior, and for anyone who is denied the right to express their religious views.

 

Jesse Jackson Weighs In on Phil Robertson

No surprise here, Jesse Jackson has decided to add his two cents worth on Phil-Gate, the controversy surround comments that Phil Robertson made in a recent interview with GQ Magazine.  Unlike the Robertson interview, I haven’t been able to locate a complete transcript of what Jackson said, but based on numerous media reports, he said

“These statements uttered by Robertson are more offensive than the bus driver in Montgomery, Alabama, more than 59 years ago.  At least the bus driver, who ordered Rosa Parks to surrender her seat to a white person, was following state law. Robertson’s statements were uttered freely and openly without cover of the law, within a context of what he seemed to believe was ‘white privilege.”

I think if I had been fighting for civil rights in the 50s and 60s, Jackson’s comments would be highly offensive.  The bus driver who ordered Rosa Parks to give up her seat was a major villain of the movement.  To say that what Robertson said was “more offensive” must make many African Americans blanch.  It almost seems that Jackson is defending the bus driver.

To review, here’s exactly what Phil said about racism in his interview,

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

Now, I’ve been down this road repeatedly with commenters on this blog and elsewhere and I’m still trying to figure out what’s offensive about this statement.  Did he say that blacks weren’t the victims of discrimination?  No.  Did he say racism didn’t exist?  No  What he said was that he never saw it with his own eyes.

Again, not to be redundant, I grew up in an all white suburb of Saint Louis in the 50s and 60s.  I didn’t go to school with a black person until I went to college.  Did I know that there was discrimination?  Of course I did.  Did I see it for myself?  No, I did not.  And I have to admit, at the fear of Reverend Jackson’s wrath, that the few African Americans I did come in contact with seemed to be happy.  I know most of them were God-fearing people.

In fact, while I was in college, I worked in a department store as a manager trainee.  We had a black janitor who was one of the happiest human beings I’ve ever known.  Mostly because of his great disposition, the decision was made to make him a suit salesman.  Nobody who had ever worked in that men’s department had ever sold as many suits as this guy did.  I was his boss and he made twice as much as I did!  It’s no wonder he never saw himself as a victim.

Could it be, in that ancient age before we all became entitled to everything, that blacks (and all lower-income people) put their faith in God and didn’t go around feeling sorry for themselves?  Maybe they chose not to be unhappy, based on their faith in a merciful God.

Phil was out in the field picking cotton right along with the African Americans.  He calls himself “white trash”.  Could it be that he considered the blacks as his equals, maybe even superiors?  Seems reasonable to me.

Keep in mind that this short paragraph is the only reference to race in the entire GQ interview.  I seriously doubt that Jackson has read it.  God knows there are enough misquotes floating around, both on the Internet and on the mainstream media, to make him think he doesn’t have to read it.  Besides, it seems like no matter what stupid thing JJ says, he always gets a pass because the media are afraid of him.

I just can’t believe that he would call Phil Robertson worse that Rosa Parks’ bus driver with so little to back up his claim.  Phil and his sons may be bearded, long-haired, duck hunting, rednecks, but no one has produced the slightest thread of evidence that any of them are racists.  In fact, Willy and Korie have an adopted son, Willy Jr.(Phil’s grandson) who is black.  Doesn’t sound racist to me.

Maybe for once in his life, Double J should get the facts before he goes off on a rant.  It seems to me that he’s a lot more racist than Phil Robertson.

Follow up:  Today I had lunch at Cracker Barrel.  You may recall that CB pulled their Duck Dynasty merchandise off the shelves then apologized and put it back.  Today there wasn’t a sign of any DD merchandise in the store.  What happened?  They put it back on the shelves and their customers removed it, one item at a time.

Saint Stephen

Today, December 26, is the feast of Saint Stephen.  Stephen was one of the first deacons (Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 6).  He is the patron saint of Catholic deacons.  He was also the first martyr.

You’re probably familiar with the song, “Good King Wenceslas“.  “Good King Wenceslas  looked down, on the feast of Stephen.”  The song continues on to tell us that the King went out to help a poor man who was gathering firewood on the King’s property.  Instead of running him off, the King went out and helped the man.  That’s one of the reasons he was called “Good King Wenceslas”.  There was another Czech King Wenceslas, but he was anything but good.

It’s good to recall that the writer of the song thought it was important to mention that this happened on Stephen’s feast day.  It’s also important to remember that the story took place on the day after Christmas.

Happy feast of Stephen!

Christmas 2013

This is the homily I gave on Christmas Eve at Saint John Nepomuk Chapel.  For those not familiar, Saint John’s is an historic church in South Saint Louis.  The church was founded by Bohemian immigrants in the 19th Century.

 

veselé Vánoce!  ‘null-ig hun-a dit’!  Merry Christmas!  That’s Czech because of who you are, Irish because of who I am, and American because of who we all are.  However you say it, I want to wish all of you the very Merriest Christmas ever.

 

What a thrill it is to stand up here in front of such a large crowd.  Imagine that once-upon-a-time the church was filled like this all the time.  But, while the crowds here may not be as big as they once were, we’re still here and that’s a mighty blessing from God.  Beginning next week, we’ll be celebrating our 160th anniversary of worshipping our God at the corner of Lafayette and 11th street.

 

Frankly there are a lot of people who would have bet that we’d never make it, but here we are.  Since 1854 we’ve survived the Civil War, two world wars, a tornado, urban flight, and two interstate highways.  Generations of Bohemian immigrants built this church and today a melting pot of ethnic heritages, including an Irish deacon, are keeping it going.

 

Obviously we have a lot of visitors here this evening and we thank you for being here.  I know it’s an annual tradition for many of you to come home to Saint John Nepomuk to celebrate this greatest of all nights.  Vitame Vas!  Welcome!  Please keep us in your prayers the other fifty-one weeks of the year.  Of course, you’re welcome to come back any time.  In fact, we have a lot of exciting things planned for 2014 and we hope you can join us again for some special celebrations.

 

Christmas is a time when we all look back.  We look back to that night 2,000 years ago when Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem to give birth to a very special child; a child the angel promised Joseph who would save His people from their sins.

 

Many of us look back and remember loved ones who have gone on to the next life.  We can’t help but think about our parents and grand parents who were with us in Christmases past but who aren’t physically with us today.  But we know, because of what that special Child promised us, that they’re with us in spirit and they live on in our memories.

 

As a relative newcomer to Saint John’s, I often think about the thousands of members of our church family who have gone before us.  Sometimes, when no one else is around, I like to come here and pray, and to think about all those people who built this chapel, not once, but twice.  I think about the sacrifices they made so that they, and we, would have this beautiful place to worship.

 

As Catholics we share in a two-fold mission.  We want to get to heaven.  That’s what Jesus wants for us.  He wants us to be with Him for eternity.  But our greatest mission isn’t just to get to heaven.  Our greatest mission is to take others with us.  We’re called to share our faith with others.  Our predecessors here at Saint John’s did that by making sure we’d have a beautiful place to worship.  Many of them gave everything they had.

 

When the cyclone destroyed their church in 1896, many of them quit their jobs so they could give their time to rebuilding.  And these weren’t wealthy people.  But they had their priorities, and their first priority was to rebuild God’s house.  Of course they did it for themselves, but they also did it for us.  Let’s never forget that!

 

If you’re visiting us this afternoon, I’ve placed index cards in each pew.  Please take a moment to put your name, address, and email address on one of them and place it in the collection basket.  We’ll put you on the mailing list to keep you up-to-date on our Jubilee events.  You can help us keep the memories of those great people alive.

 

In know, that’s a bit of a long infomercial, but let’s get down to business.  We’re here tonight to celebrate the miraculous birth of our Lord and Savior.  We all know the story.  God came to earth to live as a man and to die for our sins so that we could be saved.  Just think about that!  He’s God.  He created the universe.  He had all the power and all the glory yet he chose to become one of us.  What kind of God would do that?  The answer is a God who is all about love.  He created us, but He wasn’t one of us.  He knew that the best way to reach us was to walk among us.  He would come down from heaven to take us back with Him.

 

But why did He think it was necessary to come as a tiny baby?  Why did He have to humble Himself to be born in a stable, to live among us, then to die a horrible death at the hands of His enemies?  He could have come on a golden chariot with an army of angels.  He could have come in the glory that He deserved.  After all, that’s what the Jewish people expected.  That’s what they still expect.  And they’re right!  He will come in glory when He returns.  But, as they say, God works in mysterious ways.  In His wisdom He chose to be born of a woman just like you and me.

 

We have free will.  That’s part of the deal.  He wants us to love Him because we want to, not because we have to.  To paraphrase Father Thomas Merton, one of the great Catholic writers of the twentieth century, God never gives us the whole answer.  If He did, we’d have no choice but to believe him.  That would be the end of free will.  He just gives us part of the answer, leaving us to fill in the blanks.  We fill in those blanks with something called “faith”.  Faith is when we believe in something that can’t be proven.  For centuries philosophers have tried to “prove” the existence of God and failed.  A + B = C is a human concept.  It’s just math.  But A plus something that we have to accept on faith equals C is a divine concept.

 

 

Jesus was a miracle worker.  Tonight we celebrate the miracle of His birth.  He was born of a woman without the help of a human father.  He continued to work miracles up to and including His rising from the dead.  He still works miracles today.

 

And so, we come together today, in this beautiful church to celebrate His birth.  We listen to the music, we hear His words, and we thank Him for loving us enough to become one of us.  Salvation isn’t just for the rich and famous.  It’s for everyone, including you and me.

 

Ironically, the days leading up to Christmas can be the most hectic and frustrating days of the year.  We’re bombarded with commercials for stuff that we just have to have.  We have cards to send, parties to go to, and a long to-do list of things that just have to be done.  Hurry, hurry, hurry.  Now, at least for one day, that’s all behind us.  Silent night, holy night is more than just a song lyric.  It’s what it’s all about.

 

My friend, Father Bruce Forman, leads a group called the “Young Catholic Musicians”.  Each year they put on a Christmas concert of music and narration on the birth of Christ.  It includes my favorite lines about Christmas.  Because of the census, Bethlehem was filled with people.  Some of them were very important businessmen, politicians, and Jewish leaders.  With all those VIPs in town, why did God chose to announce the birth of His Son to shepherds, the lowliest members of society?  The answer is simple and profound.  “God speaks to those who sit quietly and listen.”

 

That’s my wish for you on this Christmas Eve.  I pray that you’ll take time out to just sit quietly and listen to God.

veselé Vánoce!  ‘null-ig hun-a dit’!  Merry Christmas!

 

 

More on Phil Robertson

Thanks for all the excellent comments on my previous post.  Phil-gate has started a lot of wonderful conversations all over the Internet and in other places.  (You may recall an old-time method of communication where two or more people actually sit in the same room and TALK TO EACH OTHER.  That’s happening too.)  As I said yesterday, this isn’t about Phil Robertson and it’s not about A & E.  It’s about public discussion of religious issues. Some commenters here and elsewhere have cried “foul” wondering why A & E isn’t protected by the same free speech rights as Phil Robertson.  They most definitely are.  The cable cops have not shown up at their headquarters with a warrant for anyone’s arrest.  Yes indeed, they are perfectly within their rights to suspend or even terminate Phil for violating their company policy. But here’s the thing, you and I have a right to demand that our media sources uphold a certain standard.  Obviously for millions of us that standard includes allowing their employees to express their religious views.  If the network wants our business then they should give us what we want.  If they don’t want our business, that’s ok too.  There are a lot of other channels. It’s worth mentioning that an A & E representative was present at the GQ interview.  As part of the ABC/Disney conglomerate, the network definitely could have applied pressure on the magazine to filter Phil’s comments.  They did not.  Hmmmmm. I would like to comment on a comment made by Chaz Peters on my earlier post.

Loved this article. On a side note you mentioned that Robertson’s stance on homosexuality is in alignment with the Catholic Church. Sadly, according to statements from the newest Pope and the conclusions of the Third Vatican Council, the catholic church has changed its official position on that matter. In fact they appear to declare that God has changed His opinion as well. It might be nice if you wrote on this matter as I see it as of far greater concern world-wide than the Duck Dynasty controversy.

This is a misunderstanding perpetrated by the same media that are saying Phil is a racist and a homophobe.  The Pope has actually said nothing of the kind.  What he has said corresponds to the ancient teaching going all the way back to Christ.  “Hate the sin.  Love the sinner.”  Being homosexual is not a sin.  Performing homosexual acts is.  We, as Christians, are not called to judge others even though most of us do it and even think we’re very good at it.  Logically then homosexual men and women are called to be celibate.  Of course our “modern” society laughs at such an old-fashioned notion.  Doesn’t it say in the Bible, or the US Constitution, or the Magna Carta, or somewhere that we all have the right to sexual satisfaction? Sorry but no.  In fact, Scripture tells us that a celibate life is the most excellent life of all.  But why would we expect society to believe that when they either don’t believe anything in the Bible or choose to believe just the parts that suit them? No, Church teaching hasn’t changed.  God’s opinion hasn’t changed.  And, unfortunately, the media’s ability to twist and spin a public figure’s words to fit their story hasn’t changed either.

The media are counting on us to forget this story in a short time.  They hope that Christmas and New Years and other news stories will push Phil-gate out of our consciousness.  Please don’t let that happen.  Stay informed.  Make your feelings known at every opportunity.  I’ve been wondering for years what it would take for Christians to be fed up enough to take some action.  Maybe the time is now.

4th Sunday of Advent

(This is my homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent)

Today  is the fourth Sunday of Advent.  All the candles on the Advent wreath have been lit.  Now, it’s time to take the wreath down and decorate the church for Christmas.  Father and I will hang up the purple vestments until the first week of March when Lent will begin.

 

For the past three weekends we’ve been hearing about John the Baptist and his ministry of preparing the way of the Lord.  Remember Jesus called John the greatest man ever born of a woman.  But He promised us that the least person in heaven would be greater even than John.  We have hope because that includes you and me.

 

But today the Gospel takes a different tone.  There’s no mention of John.  Today’s story is about Mary and Joseph.  It’s a critical story because it gives us some insight into what these two people had to do to fulfill their part in salvation history.

 

The angel of the Lord has visited Mary and told her that she would bear a son.  In Friday’s  Gospel reading from Luke the angel tells Mary, “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”  As we all know, Mary told the angel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”

 

Now, Mary was engaged to Joseph.  When Joseph realized that Mary was pregnant his first impulse was to “divorce her quietly.”  Remember, things were much different in Mary and Joseph’s world than they are today.  In our world unmarried mothers are not scorned.  They’re not ashamed of their situation and some even brag about it.  Famous people, especially members of the Hollywood crowd go on talk shows and talk openly about their pregnancies.  They are proud of what they’ve done and don’t seem the least bit concerned about their sinfulness.  But for about the first 1,900 years of the Christian era, being an unwed mom wasn’t something to be celebrated.  It was the cause of great shame and embarrassment.

 

So, it’s not hard to understand how Joseph felt.  Mary had brought shame on herself and on him.  Guys, put yourself in his place.  What would you have done?  Matthew tells us that Joseph was a “righteous man”.  He was “unwilling to expose her to shame.”  I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would have been as gracious as Joseph.

 

But the angel appears to him in a dream and explains what’s going on.  Mary has conceived through the Holy Spirit.  Her son will save His people from their sins.

 

The experts tell us that Mary was young, probably a teenager.  Joseph was older.  Imagine what his friends and family must have said.  “It serves your right, Joseph.  You decide to marry this young girl and she turns up pregnant.  What did you expect?”  Think about the gossip.  But, he ignored the taunts of his so-called friends and did what the angel told him to do.  I’m sure he spent a lot of time in prayer.

 

So here we have two ordinary people who’ve been asked to make huge sacrifices so that the prophet Isaiah’s words would be fulfilled:  “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means God is with us.”

 

Joseph, being a “righteous man” and a devout Jew, surely was familiar with Isaiah’s prophesy.  Surely he and Mary spent a lot of time talking about what was about to happen.  Maybe they both had planned on having a big family.  Maybe Joseph had big plans for his carpentry business.  If they were engaged, they must have spent a lot of time talking about what their lives would be like as a married couple.  But all that changed in an instant.  And today we thank God that they were willing to give all that up for the greater glory of God.  If either one of them had said no 2,000 years ago, our lives would be very different today.  By agreeing to God’s plan they set things in motion that would change the world forever.

 

You and I also play a part in God’s plan.  Even though we will probably never be recognized by the world, every time we say yes to God’s plan, we start a chain-of-events that changes the world.

 

Is there anyone here who’s never seen It’s a Wonderful Life?  It was on TV last night.  George Bailey was given a wonderful gift.  He gets to see what his world would have been like if he’d never been born.  Of course it’s fiction, but it’s definitely a story that should make us think.  What would our world be like if we’d never been born?  What little things have we done that have changed other people’s lives?  Chances are, like George, we have no idea.  God does great things through ordinary people and things.

 

If you’ve been following the news this week, you know about Phil Robertson.  He’s been attacked for stating his Christian beliefs.  And the whole thing has had some remarkable results.  There’s a Facebook page called “Bring Back Phil Robertson”.  In just two days it’s received more than a million “likes”.  Americans are standing up for their faith (and Phil’s) in amazing numbers.  God is working a miracle with something as simple as a duck call.  It’s a beautiful thing to happen just a week before Christmas.

 

My recent blog post on Phil-gate has had more hits than all my previous posts put together.

 

I could stand up here all day and talk about things that have happened in my life that can only be explained by God’s intervention.  He put the right person in the right place at the right time to give me something that I needed.  Maybe it was something they said.  Maybe it was something they did.  But, God’s hand was in it.  I know all of you could do the same.

 

So, as we prepare to celebrate the greatest event in the history of mankind, it’s good to reflect on today’s story.  Two ordinary people from a very small town said yes to God and changed everything.  That’s what Christmas is about.  That’s what our Catholic faith is all about.  Christmas is a time when we focus on a great miracle.  But miracles happen every day.  We may be the catalyst for a miracle and never even know it.  Thank you Mary and Joseph for saying “yes”.

 

 

Why Phil Robertson is the Most Dangerous Man in America

philThe headline reads: “A&E declares war on ‘Duck Dynasty’s’ Christian values.”  It seems the patriarch of the Robertson family made some “offensive” comments in an interview with GQ Magazine.  Before we go any further, mull that over for a moment.  A camo-wearing, bearded, red-kneck duck hunter being interviewed in a magazine called “Gentlemen’s Quarterly”?  Is the world as we know it coming to an end.  I’d say it is, but I digress.

For the uninitiated, Duck Dynasty is the saga of the Robertson family of West Monroe, LA.  The patriarch of the family, Phil, invented a duck call that sounds very much like a real duck.  (Several ducks actually.)  This duck call has made the family and their company, Duck Commander, very successful.  Phil’s son Willy has parlayed the success of Duck Commander and the unique lifestyle of the family into quite an empire, including the hugely successful TV show.

In spite of their newfound wealth, the Robertson men continue to do the things that they’ve always done, primarily hunting and fishing and making duck calls. The hook is that these multimillionaires still look and dress like red necks (their words, not mine) and wear very long hair and beards..  It doesn’t hurt that each of the sons has married a beautiful “yuppy” woman.  There’s also the mom, Miss Kay, and Uncle Si, the family philosopher.  They are unabashedly Christian.  Phil is a reformed drunk and womanizer who found Jesus and doesn’t hesitate to talk and preach about it.  In fact, Phil and all of his sons are ordained ministers.  There’s the rub.

At the end of each show the family gathers around the dinner table and joins in prayer before the meal, something that must make the A & E executives cringe.  They’ve tried to get Phil and company to forego the end of the show prayer with no success.

So, here’s the deal.  Duck Dynasty is the most-watched cable reality show ever.  A & E (and the Robertsons) are making a ton of money.  Clearly the network is between a rock and a hard spot.  They love the money but they hate it that the family is so blatantly Christian.  Most of their attempts at censorship have failed.  They’ve gone so far as to “bleep” non-profane language just to give the impression that the family swears from time to time.  It just ain’t so and it’s a pretty cheesy trick to play on their biggest cash cow.  What to do?  What to do?

Now we’re back to the GQ interview.  The Interwebs have been going crazy today, both pro and con on Phil’s comments.  As usual, it’s obvious that the critics haven’t bothered to read the interview.  You should.

There are two basic things that have the anti-Christian crowd in an uproar.  First are his comments on homosexuality.  The writer asked him “What, in your mind, is sinful?”

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

Notice carefully that he said “homosexual behavior”.  Phil is a fundamentalist Christian but his view is right in line with the Catholic position on the subject.  Hate the sin.  Love the sinner.  BTW, the quote is from 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10.  Look it up.  One interesting comment on another web site was that Phil doesn’t speak for all Christians.  Clearly he only speaks for those who believe the Bible.

He also said,

“We’re Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on television.  You put in your article that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off. We ought to just be repentant, turn to God, and let’s get on with it, and everything will turn around.”

Really, Phil?  How does he get away with such hateful comments?

Another group that has it’s panties in a knot is the NAACP.  They say Phil is racist.  Here’s what he said about growing up in pre-civil-rights-era Louisiana.

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

Again, look at the words.  Where is he saying anything about being anti-black.  He’s reporting what he saw and what he lived.  I see no denial that there were racial problems in those days, just that they didn’t exist in his world.  I grew up in the 60s in an all-white suburb of Saint Louis.  The only African-Americans I ever came in contact with were bus drivers, cab drivers, an occasional waiter or a janitor.  Like Phil, the blacks that I knew were always extremely happy.  I’m sure they felt the effects of discrimination but I never saw it either.  In a letter to A & E, the NAACP wrote in part, “”As you may know, Phil attacked both African Americans and LGBT people in a recent GQ interview.  Sorry guys, nice try but it just isn’t true.  Just who is the “bigot” anyway?  Does the NAACP have a problem with white Christians?

So that’s the crux of the controversy.  A cable TV network that features such epic shows as Storage Wars , Storage Wars New York and Storage Wars Texas ( where people try to make money on the misfortune of others who can’t pay the rent on their storage lockers), Bonnie and Clyde (which glorifies ruthless bank robbers), Rodeo Girls (insert joke here), and several series on house flippers, gets in bed with a family of fundamentalist duck hunters and now they’re concerned about the message that the Robertsons are sending?  They should thank God (if they believed in Him) for sending them a show with some moral values.  But obviously these country bumpkins are too smart for them.  A & E can’t figure out why Americans love the Robertsons, they can’t make them go away because of their 17 MILLION viewers and the millions of dollars that they put in the till, and they can’t censor their show because we already know who they are.  That’s why 17 million of us watch.

I notice, too, that in spite of their issues with Phil, the A & E website still contains eight pages of Duck Dynasty merchandise including an $8,500 Duck Dynasty Segway and an $800.00 camo recliner chair.

So we get back to the original question:  Why is Phil Robertson the most dangerous man in America?  First of all, he’s a man of conviction.  He knows what he believes and he’s not afraid to say it.  This is a rare quality in America today and most sensible people will respect him for it even if they don’t agree with everything he says.

Second, he has God on his side.  His scripture quotes are accurate.  He and his family and company represent values that are fading away in our society.  Deep down I believe most of us wish we could return to the more simple life and that includes praise and worship of the One who gave us everything.  If God is for us, who can be against us?

Third, and most dangerous of all, he doesn’t care what you and I think.  He’s made his millions.  He and the family are set for life.  If the TV show goes away, he’ll just keep making duck calls, preaching the Gospel, and hunting his beloved acreage.  His devotion to God and family is real, born of a lifestyle that was full of sin.  He found Jesus and all he really wants is for us to find Him too.

And finally, at least for now, he has a big megaphone.  The TV show has given him a huge audience.  Thousands of people come to hear him and his sons preach the Gospel all over the country.  His church in West Monroe is full to overflowing every Sunday.  With or (hopefully) without the “Arts and Entertainment Network”, he will continue to be a force to be reckoned with.  The current controversy will just increase his fame and his influence.  A Facebook page, Bring Back Phil Robertson, started today, already has 638,000 “likes”.  The A & E page, which has been up for five years has 580,000 likes.  Imagine that!

What we need is more “dangerous” men and women like Phil Robertson in this world.

The Robertson Family Christmas Album

The Robertson Family Christmas Album

 

 

 

 

 

2nd Sunday of Advent–Pope Francis on the Joy of the Gospel

Recently our Holy Father, Pope Francis, issued a document called Evangelii Gaudium, or the Joy of the Gospel.  It’s fairly long, almost 70 pages, and frankly, I’ve only read about 2/3 of it, but I’m getting there.  As usual, the media is trying to spin it as something that it isn’t.  In the past week our president has quoted from it and several conservative commentators, including Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly have attacked it; an interesting turn of events to be sure.  Our local paper, the Saint Louis Post Dispatch even joined in the fun.

 

But, of the 70 pages the Pope has written, the critics have focused on just a few paragraphs on the subject of economics.  As Catholics, you and I are called to follow the Pope’s guidance in matters of faith and morals.  Francis is a brilliant theologian, but he’s not an economist and I don’t think he’s trying to be one.  I don’t believe, as some would suggest, that he’s condemning capitalism in favor or socialism.  What he’s written reflects the current problems of the poor.  The idea that we should help the poor, to share what we’ve been given with those in need, isn’t a new idea.  It’s what Jesus told us 2,000 years ago.

 

The problem with our society today isn’t one of economic systems, it’s a problem of greed and corruption in governments and in business.  He writes, Business is a vocation, and a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life; this will enable them truly to serve the common good by striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all.”

I think most business leaders are basically good people.  Sadly, there are some who aren’t.  The real issue isn’t that making a profit is bad.  The issue is what do we do with that profit?  Do we buy bigger houses and better cars, or do we share it with those in need?  Is it really a problem with our capitalist system, or is it a problem of minds and hearts?

 

He also writes, “Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good.”  Again, we have the greatest political system in the world, but I’m afraid that too many of our politicians don’t see their jobs as a vocation, but as a way to line their own pockets.  As Francis says, “no government can act without regard for shared responsibility.”

 

What I believe the Holy Father is saying in this lengthy document is that we must help the poor.  Other than a few paragraphs, his focus is on the Gospel, not on politics or economics.

 

In the second reading today, Paul writes to the Romans, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you for the glory of God”  Our call is to work together for the Glory of God.

 

In Matthew’s Gospel John the Baptist tells the Pharisees and Sadducees to “produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.”  And he warns them that “every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

So, what does all this mean for you and me.  We’re not business tycoons.  We’re not politicians.  We’re just average people doing our best to get through this life and to make our ways to heaven.  But are we really just average?  John says that Jesus will baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire.”  That’s pretty strong.  For most of us it’s been a long time since our baptism.  But the great thing about baptism is that it’s forever.  We have just as much Holy Spirit and fire in us today as we did on our baptism day.  It never leave us, but maybe our fire isn’t burning as brightly as it once was.  It may just be embers but it’s still there, waiting for us to fan the flames.

 

The title of Francis’ document is “The Joy of the Gospel.”  In the third paragraph he gives us a very profound prayer, “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you.  I need you.  Save me once again.  Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.”  Think about that.  Why are we here at mass. We’re here to renew our covenant with Him.  We do need Him, much more than He need us.  If the fire of our baptism needs to be rekindled, the mass is the place to find the fuel.  Maybe we take the Eucharist for granted.  Maybe it’s just something we do because we’ve always done it.  Let’s make this season of Advent a time of renewal.  In a few minutes we’ll receive Christ into our own bodies through the sacrament of the Eucharist.  What a great gift!  That’s what keeps our fire going.  If it’s not burning as brightly as it once was, it’s not the Father’s fault.  It’s not Jesus’ fault.  It’s not the Holy Spirit’s fault.  God gives us the fuel, it’s up to us to use it properly.

 

The joy of the Gospel!  There is no greater gift!  Praise God!

Let’s say the Holy Father’s prayer together:

 

“Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you.  I need you.  Save me once again.  Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.”  Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (3)

 

 

 

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

Merry ChristmasAlright, it’s time for my annual rant.  When are Christians, who happen to be a majority in the United States, going to stand up and defend the faith.  Here we are, getting ready for the birth of Christ, you know, the guy who let Himself be crucified to save us from our sins.  There has never been a greater sacrifice, yet we’re allowing non-Christians deny us our celebration of this greatest day.

First, many  of the largest retailers refuse to recognize Christmas, even though they have no problem selling us tons of stuff.  Signs and ads proclaim “Happy Holidays”, “Seasons Greetings” and other politically correct nonsense while refusing to wish us a Merry Christmas.  Next we have the relatively new phenomenon of “Black Friday” creeping into Thanksgiving.

Of course, the government has joined in the fun by refusing to allow Christmas displays on public property, though that’s been kind of hit-and-miss.  Some places allow it.  Some don’t.  But the attack are getting more serious and at the same time more ridiculous.  Here are just two examples posted by Tod Starnes of Fox News.

Georgia School Confiscates Christmas Cards.  For years the teachers at Brooklet Elementary School have posted Christmas cards outside their classrooms…..until this year.  School administrators have removed the cards calling them “offensive”.  After all some of them contained the word “Christmas” and some featured Nativity scenes

Next, homeowners in Orange County, CA have been ordered to remove their outdoor Christmas lights.  One community is known for their light displays and draw visitors from great distances, similar to “Candy Cane Lane“, here in Saint Louis.  The county claims the lights are “an obstruction” and violate local ordinances.  Give me a break!

Abraham Lincoln once said that America wouldn’t be destroyed by outside forces, but from within.  Complacency is our greatest enemy.  Every little attack on our faith that goes unchallenged adds to the total religious persecution that we’re experiencing right here in the once God-fearing United States.  We need to wake up!  Don’t just accept anti-Christian persecution.  Don’t say, “Oh, it’s just one school.”  or “Hey, it’s just one neighborhood.”  Speak up.

When a store clerk says “happy holidays” smile and say, “Merry Christmas.”  Maybe you don’t like to make a fuss.  Maybe you don’t want to embarrass someone else (or yourself).

Tell it to the Guy hanging on the cross.

Monday of the First Week of Advent

Rosary...

Rosary… (Photo credit: miqul)

Here we are at the beginning of the 1st week of Advent.  Once again, the secular media and the retail industry are trying to get us into the “holiday” spirit, which means we should spend, spend, spend.  Don’t get me wrong.  I spent most of my adult life in the retail and/or wholesale business.  I understand the need for a company to make a profit.  Millions of jobs depend on companies staying in business and it’s no secret that the month of December is make it or break it time for most companies in the consumer products businesses.

In fact, the term “black Friday” (which I never did like) stems from the fact that most retailers (if they’re lucky) run at a break-even pace for the first eleven months of the year and only begin to make a profit (get “in the black”) on the day after Thanksgiving.  It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but it’s often true.  I have no problem with that.  In fact, my annual bonus in my previous life depended on lots of people buying lots of stuff in the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

But, here’s the thing.  You and I, as faithful Catholics, are called to spend the four weeks of Advent preparing ourselves for the coming of the Savior of the world.  It’s a time to pray and reflect on the meaning of Christ’s coming.  Sometimes it’s hard to focus on this critically important day in the history of the world when we’re overwhelmed with ads, and sales, and special events.  It’s just the 2nd Day of December and I’m already tired of all the hype.  If I see one more luxury car with a big red bow on top I may throw my shoe through the TV screen.  Enough!

Father John Mayer was the celebrant at our 4:30 mass this past Saturday.  In his homily he made an excellent suggestion.  He was speaking of the evening news, but I would suggest you try this whenever you’re sitting in front of the television.  When the commercials come on hit the mute button.  There are 44 minutes of actual programming in the typical prime time hour.  That means there are 16 minutes of commercials per hour.  If you were to spend those sixteen minutes talking to or reflecting on God every hour that you’re in front of the TV, how much better a person might you be by December 25?

How long does it take to pray the Rosary?  About 15 minutes?  How often are you praying the Rosary now?  See what I mean?  I know this blog isn’t going to change the world, but imagine  how the world would change if every Catholic in America prayed the Rosary once each day instead of watching commercials, every single day.  I’m just sayin’…….

Why not give it a try.  After all, you’ve probably heard all the commercials you really need to hear.