Nepal, Baltimore, Man’s Insignificance, and the Good Shepherd

04/28/2015

Nepal.

Baltimore.

Deadly tornadoes in Fairdale and Rochelle, Illinois and Sand Spring, Oklahoma.

Christians beheaded. Jews targeted.

Truth and polite honesty assailed as hate.

Loved ones taking ill. Beloved friends and family suddenly ripped from our lives.IMAG0345

Even pets. How many of us have lost a beloved furry baby… dogs, cats, horses, livestock?

And this list merely scratches the surface.

This is how the first four months of 2015 begins…

… can you believe we are already four months into 2015? Twenty fifteen?? …

… this is how it is every day in our fallen world.

It’s no different today than it was two thousand years ago.

IMAG0202 NaturalIMAG0177 disasters continue to rip apart our tranquility. Such is the world we live in. Hateful human beings destroy without regard for others. Sometimes without regard for themselves.

Such is the world we live in.IMAG0206

Such is the world we have always lived in.

And nature relentlessly takes its course. None of us live forever, no matter how hard we try to prolong our existence, in spite of the zealous attempts of the safety nazis (sorry) to shield us from every risk. Our sweet pets are taken from us before we want to let go.

The clock ticks. Our mortal bodies decay.

This is our existence.

Why?

What good is it?

My sister, Stephanie, sent me a 3 minute, 29 second video about how insignificant our world is in relation to the vastness of the universe. Part of the title suggests that the video will make you question your entire existence.

I dunno… for me, it affirms and strengthens my faith.

Consider, for a moment, the vastness of the universe. Consider, as the video demonstrates, how small is our planet compared to the size of the other planets that orbit our sun, how small Earth is in relation to our sun, how small our sun is in relation to other stars, how vast our galaxy in relation to our solar system, how small our galaxy is in relation to other galaxies.

How enormous is the universe in which we live?

Yet the God of that Universe, His creation, begot His Son through a mere mortal human being, the Virgin Mary, the lifespan of His existence less than a blink of an eye in the grand time span in the life of the ever-expanding Universe.

To save us.

Why?

Who knows?

But He did! And for more than 2,000 years — again, no more than a blink of an eye in the grand time span in the life of the ever-expanding Universe — Jesus Christ has been attracting believers who know that He showed up here.

For us.

I watch that video and I think of the vastness of the universe, too. I ponder the likelihood of the existence of life elsewhere.

And I know that if life exists on another planet elsewhere in God’s ever-expanding Universe, He has appeared there in the form of His own image, to save them as well.

How can I make such a bold statement?

Because the God of the Universe is Love. Because the God of the Universe is Mercy. Because the God of the Universe is Truth.

By definition.

I watch that video and I think of the vastness of the universe. I compare the safety of our atmosphere-controlled world to that of a mother’s womb. Temperature regulated. Just perfect for the lifespan of our time there… or here. Not without dangers. Not without natural disasters.

But meant to surround us in a cocoon of protection and relative safety.

Until it’s time to move on.

The feast of the Dedication was taking place in Jerusalem. It was winter.
And Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of Solomon.
So the Jews gathered around him and said to him,
“How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me. But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep.

My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” – John 10:22-30

The God of the Universe sent His only begotten Son to be our Good Shepherd. To get us from here to there.Kit Kat

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention, beginning Friday, April 17, 2015, is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.

 

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Assault Weapons

04/25/2015

(Where in the world is he going with this one?)

I have to laugh at all the do-gooder control freaks who insist that banning assault weapons will make our society safer.

Have any of these people checked the crime statistics in the tiny hamlets and boroughs around our fair land, say for instance, Chicago, and noticed that a ban on guns doesn’t deter naughty, violent people from using them to shoot other people?

Before I get too deep into a political rant, allow me to cleverly tie the blog title to the intro to a faith thought for the day.

You know that I pray the Holy Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy regularly…. I shoot for (get it?) daily, but that doesn’t happen 100% of the time… but then other days like today when I have more time, I try to rip off three or four or five Divine Mercy Chaplets (it’s such an awesome prayer; if you haven’t said it or are unfamiliar with it, try it).

One of my devotional resources is a daily email from the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. It’s a daily meditation from the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska and Jesus Christ’s revelations to her. I must confess that I don’t read these every day, but I opened Day 279 today and here’s what I read (these are the words of Christ, as St. Faustina quotes them in the diary):

Once, as I was going down the hall to the kitchen, I heard these words in my soul: Say unceasingly the chaplet that I have taught you. Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death. Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy. I desire that the whole world know My infinite mercy. I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My mercy (Diary, 687).

My Prayer Response:
Lord Jesus, make me more aware of the power of the mercy chaplet as a prayer for Your infinite mercy for sinners, for the dying, and for the whole world. May You inspire me to pray it unceasingly.

So, there are your marching orders. A quote from Jesus Christ Himself to St. Faustina.

You wanna ignore him?

Okay, so how does that tie in with my intro? Easy, breezy!

Immediately after reading that instruction from Jesus, I tuned into EWTN Radio to listen to the broadcast of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I tuned in about a minute early and was greeted by a commercial. I’ve heard it before. I don’t know who is speaking, but I hear his words loud and clear. The speaker is talking about the importance of frequently praying the Holy Rosary:

“A rosary is an assault weapon with a 50 round clip!”

Your weapons have been chosen.

As we continue to read through the Acts of the Apostles, as we read the stories of these men who were willing to give up their lives to spread the faith, the question is:

Are we willing to give up our lives just like the Apostles and the men and women they hand-selected to spread the faith?

Something else to consider.

We don’t have to die, necessarily, to use our assault weapons, do we?

But just because we don’t have to martyr ourselves, it may not be any easier.

Which is harder?

Think about it.

Today is the Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist.

First reading: First Letter of Peter 5:5b-14

Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.

– 1 Peter 5:8-9

 

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention, beginning Friday, April 17, 2015, is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.

 


(1) The Early Christian Social Experiment and (2) Reluctant Belief

04/18/2015

Two very separate thoughts about Saturday’s Easter weekday readings.

As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. – Acts 6:1

Last weekend, we learned of the great social experiment of having “everything in common,” with all believers not claiming ownership to any possessions as their own and “distribut(ing) to each according to need.”

Today, we see why this type of social/communal arrangement works in theory only. It may work in heaven.

(I have my doubts that it ‘works’ even in heaven, but let’s leave that for another commentary.)

It appears that some of the widows were… shall we say, treated as being a little less equal than others. Depending on whose interpretation of this scripture passage you read, more work was expected of the Hellenistic Jews than the native Hebrews, or the Hellenistic Jews were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food, or perhaps more likely, a combination of both.

The Apostles dealt with it and empowered seven men to help make it work. But the greatest lesson is that, even among the community of believers, there was a problem with executing this equal distribution of goods.

Human beings have attempted — for tens of centuries — to distribute equally to each according to their need. And there’s always a problem with it. Why? What? How?

Human beings get in the way.

Human emotion. Prejudice. Discrimination. Judgment. Envy. Dishonesty.

The list is endless.

It is because we are human that this type of system cannot work. On earth and (maybe not) in heaven. (Although the rules up there would be markedly different, n’est-ce pas?)

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When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. – John 6:19

Jesus had just fed the five thousand. He knew people would come to “make him king by force,” which of course was contrary to his mission. So he withdrew, away from the crowds.

Left to their own devices, what were the apostles supposed to do? They did what they knew best. They went fishing.

But they picked the wrong night. The seas were rough. The miracle worker wasn’t there to help them out of the rough waters.

Or so they thought.

Remember, at this time, Jesus had not risen from the dead. He was performing astonishing works in front of their disbelieving eyes. Just hours before, he fed thousands of people when all the apostles were able to rustle up were a few handfuls of food.

And now, caught in the middle of a storm, came this man, walking on the water!

What would you have thought?

What would your senses and human intellect have told you?

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention, beginning Friday, April 17, 2015, is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. Well, I didn’t even make it through Day Two without a slip-up. The excerpts are from Saturday, April 18, 2015, and I’m backdating my post. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Forgive me for procrastinating, Father. On this post and on getting my thoughts out to the world.


Fifty Shades of Grey or an Old Fashioned Valentine’s Day?

02/05/2015

So… what’s your idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day date? Dinner? Then maybe a trip to the show? What movie? Fifty Shades? It’s opening Valentine’s Day weekend. I’m sure you knew that.

Why that movie?

What’s the attraction?


I’ve never read a word of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. I do know what it’s about, though.

How can you avoid it? It’s all over social media. And television. Even a Super Bowl commercial. And now, you can even buy your sweetie a Fifty Shades teddy bear.

Seriously? Are you kidding me?

So… ladies… and gentlemen, if any of you are so inclined…

Clue me in.

What is the attraction of fantasizing about a relationship in which a naive young lady is coerced into a relationship with a man — not much older than her, but certainly more street-wise (if “manipulative” serves as a working definition of “wise”) — who subjects her to demeaning sexual acts?

Just because the dude is good looking?

Come on. If that’s the case, the overwhelming popularity is outrageously troubling.


I am not a prude.

But I do consider myself a gentleman.

Would it be an over-generalization to suggest that most of you who find this story fascinating would (or actually do) prefer an abuser to a gentleman in your life?

Please don’t be mad at me for asking the question.

Please respectfully consider what attracts you to the story.

Is it the sex?

Hey, if that floats your boat, the choice is yours. I am the last person to judge.

But I am compelled to ask:

Have you considered the impact of stories like this on your children?

The world is getting faster. News travels fast.

So do Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram and Pinterest “messages” (yes, I’d say those images have the potential to be far more powerful than a Facebook conversation; or rant).

What does your thirteen year old daughter think about Fifty Shades?

How about your ten year old daughter?

Or son?

How much information do they have about the story?

Are you sure you know the answer?

The world is getting smaller. News travels fast.

Yeah. They’re too young. I’m sure nobody their age talks about sex. Or relationships.

Do you think they have a clear idea of what a healthy relationship looks like? Or how to treat a member of the opposite sex? Or how they should be treated by a member of the opposite sex?

Just askin’.


Someone in a Facebook group I’m a part of — I forget where I saw it exactly, but that’s not necessarily relevant — shared a blog post discussing five themes in Fifty Shades. If you’re at all concerned about how your kids might react to any knowledge of this movie, why don’t you give this post a glance?


So… what’s your idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day date? Dinner? Then maybe a movie? How about Fifty Shades? It’s opening Valentine’s Day weekend. I’m sure you knew that.

Why that movie?

What’s the attraction?


There is an alternative. I wonder if you’ve heard of it.

It’s called Old Fashioned.

Let me ask you a question. What would you consider more romantic? A story that examines the concept of “true love?” Of what really matters in a relationship? About honor and dignity?

Or a story that reduces relationship to physical encounter?

Just askin’.

If you’d prefer the former, permit me to direct you to the movie’s website.


Old Fashioned isn’t getting the play that Fifty Shades is. Budget was a little smaller.

As in, about $600,000.

Yep, that’s it. Less than one million dollars.

But Old Fashioned is getting a fair share of attention. And not just from Christian or religious media.

Christian Toto, on breitbart.com, says:

“Hollywood is betting that the release of 50 Shades of Grey, the film adaptation of the sexually tawdry book of the same name, will be a hit with movie-going couples on Valentine’s Day weekend. One indie film begs to differ.”

But you would expect a conservative website to promote a movie like Old Fashioned, right?

Well, that’s not the only press the movie has received. Check out what Jenna Mullins at E! has to say about the film (personally, I’d say calling Old Fashioned “a clean, religious version of Fifty Shades of Grey” is a bit of a stretch, but…).

And Emily Blake at mtv.com says:

“There’s a faith-based film about ‘old-fashioned courtship’ hitting theaters on the exact same day as the sinful, S&M-filled adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Pretty strong words for the Sex, Drugs, and <insert music genre of choice> Network!

Variety, The Daily Beast, International Business Times, and other secular news sources have all covered Old Fashioned‘s direct challenge to Fifty Shades of Grey.

Erin Bishop, Founder and President of The Whatever Girls Ministry, said it best:
“Lust lasts a moment, but true love lasts a lifetime!”

Moms and dads, did you click on the link for the blog post I mentioned above? Don’t be angry with me for suggesting it again. It’s well worth your time.


One has  a multimillion dollar budget. The other was made with a $600,000 budget.

One has been anticipated since 2012. The book has been out since 2011. The movie is highly anticipated.

The other is largely unknown.

One depicts exploitative sex under the guise of romance. The term “mommy porn” is used to describe it.

(Nice.)

The other depicts a romantic chivalry.

One is Fifty Shades of Grey.

The other is Old Fashioned.


Hey, if you had your heart set on seeing Fifty Shades on opening weekend… well, I hope I convinced you to at least think twice about seeing it. But if not…

won’t you at least give Old Fashioned a chance?

If you’re bound (YES! pun intended) and determined to see Fifty Shades, no matter what this prude-who-claims-not-to-be-a-prude is telling you, will you make it a point to go see Old Fashioned, too?

If not for me, will you do it for your kids? Your nieces? Your nephews? For the kids next door or down the block?

If we can seize this opportunity to make the slightest bit of difference — even if the box office numbers of Fifty Shades dwarf those for Old Fashioned — isn’t it worth it?

If not for you, for your kids.


Mass For Life and Cat Boxes

01/22/2015

Where do you find your inspiration? In the shower? Just before drifting off to Never Never Land? (“Where’s my pen????”) On the morning commute?

The older I get, the more ‘things’ happen to me and around me, the more I realize that if I prayed 24 hours a day, that wouldn’t be enough. But certainly not practical.

Also makes me contemplate the truth about Practicality.

So, being the practical sort of guy I am, I look for ways to fit more prayer into my daily routine.


Don’t pray enough? What times in your day lend themselves to prayer? Brushing teeth? Dishes? Cat boxes? Tinkling?


There are not many chores more humbling than cleaning pet excrement, whether it’s shovel and bucket in the back yard or scrubbing caked kitty clay off the tile floor.

The only dogs in my life are canine cousins and granddogs (is that a word? Caution! “Dave-ism!”)

This dog lover is now one cat short of becoming a crazy cat lady. With seven cats, cleanup is a real chore. And lends itself to extended prayer time.

Speaking of humbling, it doesn’t get much more so than kneeling on the cold basement floor, litter dust wafting amidst the oxygen molecules, beads of sweat dripping to the floor, hoping the clay doesn’t find its way underneath fingernails while scrubbing the floor.

It’s a perfect time to pray.

While I’m partial to spending that time listening to recorded versions of the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, today’s routine was unusual.

I’m normally up at 4 AM on weekdays, ready to leave the house by 5:30 to either see my first client or humiliate myself on the racquetball court at LA Fitness. Thursday is normally racquetball day.

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Today, one of our opponents was out of town and the other down with an injury, so my partner and I decided to cancel. I needed to catch up on sleep, so I took advantage, slept in until 6. Today was going to be an office day, all day.

I managed to stay out of Kathy’s way (mostly) as she prepared for work and left by 6:20. Got the cats fed listening to and saying the Rosary and Chaplet, feverishly trying to remember everyone I promised to pray for, leaving the rest in God’s hands.

Daily Mass is normally aired at 7 AM, so I planned to listen as I trudged downstairs to tackle the cat boxes.

I forgot that today is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I forgot that today is the March for Life in Washington, DC. Mass broadcast began at 6:30. It was celebrated at the National Basilica in Washington in conjunction with prayers for Life and recognition of the day.

So I picked up the Mass in the middle of the homily.

My pro-life conviction has solidified as my prayer life has intensified. I heard the words of the Archbishop. I scooped and scrubbed and cleaned. I got lost in the words, the prayers…

When I think about our attitude toward abortion, I often think about the Jews rounded up by the Nazis and summarily murdered and tortured. Hundreds of thousands were fully capable adults. But age didn’t matter. Young and strong, old and frail, all were subject to their captors’ cruelty. The prisoners were helpless because of overwhelming force.

Who is more captive, more frail, more vulnerable, than an unborn child?

How can we treat them so callously? How can we not care? How can we not defend and protect them? How are they any different than any other abused infant? To the former, we (as a society) argue for choice and reason. To the latter, we act as prosecutor, judge, and jury, and our reaction to the abuse is often rage.

What’s the difference?

Mass ended. EWTN then began broadcast coverage of the March for Life.

On my hands and knees, I listened to stories of women who had experienced abortion. I heard how science now provides evidence that a 20-week fetus feels pain. I listened to young men and women share their reasons for attending, about their lack of sleep, and how the cause was so much larger than the inconvenience. I heard a report from the Chicago March for Life from Sunday, January 18.

I thought about the countless children who would never be born. Who were never permitted to breathe fresh air, hear and feel the crunch of snow, taste ice cream, smell fresh cut grass. I thought about the women who never became their mothers. The painful agony of regret that will plague them to the grave. Who will never hear their baby’s cry. Or laughter. Or first word. Or “Mama, I love you.”

I heard from three women who were born because their mothers were raped.

I heard from a doctor who was an abortionist until his young daughter was killed in an auto accident.

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I thought about my sister’s stillborn baby.

Why do we consider that beyond tragic, but we don’t believe it’s tragic when a woman (or man or parents or other “concerned loved ones” who influence her decision) chooses — willfully, knowingly — to “terminate” a life, but rather argue that she is making a rational and acceptable decision?

What are we doing? When will it stop?

I’m compelled to say a whole lot more about this. In the weeks and months ahead, you can count on it. And that may not to win me many friends. So be it.

20150122_195611[1]Sometimes, you have to embrace the excrement.

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If you’re considering an abortion:

pregnancyline.com

www.ewtn.com/prolife

http://hopeafterabortion.com/

http://rachelsvineyard.org/

 


Thoughts way too early on a Sunday morning

07/13/2014

There are way too many people way too hysterical about way too many of the wrong things.

Remember what life is all about.

Most people (and yes, businesses… particularly those in the ‘free world’) want to help other people, not harm them.

We are all — that means all of us — that means 100% — that means NO EXCEPTIONS — are going to die, so what is this life’s journey really all about?

How about let’s all turn on our brains, firmly secure our thinking caps, and use reason and logic, guided by experience, to ascertain motive as we judge who may and who may not be telling the truth.

Are we about self-determination or do we need other people to tell us right from wrong, good from bad, ‘smart’ from ‘stupid,’ holy from evil?

There’s more, but that’s enough. I need to go back to bed. I’m just… troubled by so much of it…

#pray
#thatsreallyALLwehave

And oh by the way, if you haven’t tried it, you can pray yourself back to sleep. And the longer it takes, the better:) Try it.


Is the Holy Family Still a Relevant Role Model?

01/15/2014

In a previous post, I told you a little bit about my Catholic side.

I told you that I have owned hardbound copies of the Vatican II Daily Missal and Vatican II Sunday Missal, published by The Daughters of St. Paul, for more than twenty years.  I told you that I enjoy the general commentaries on the day’s liturgical theme, the specific synopses of the readings, and the daily meditations.

Sadly, both of these volumes are now out of date.  The revised English translation, or Third Edition, of the Roman Missal was introduced by the Roman Catholic Church in November 2011.  Through countless years of research and careful study, the original text of the entire Roman Missal has been more faithfully and carefully translated.

I still enjoy and appreciate having my own missal.  My smart phone serves as a worthwhile, if imperfect, substitute for the Daily Missal.  I did purchase a replacement for the Sunday liturgies.  My new translation is the Saint Joseph Sunday Missal, published by Catholic Book Publishing Corp.  This missal also includes Mass themes and commentaries.  They are written by Rev. John C. Kersten, S.V.D.

You know how you prefer one author to another?  You gravitate toward a particular writer because you enjoy their writing style?  Or maybe what they’re trying to tell you?  There’s a noticeable difference in the style and spirit of the commentaries between my old and new missals.

Just like there’s a difference between apology and apologetics.

Possibly, it’s simply a matter of writing style and my interpretation of the writer’s meaning.  But I often find myself questioning or confused by the commentaries in the Saint Joseph Sunday Missal.

For instance, here’s a sampling from Sunday, December 29, Feast of the Holy Family.  The first reading was from the Old Testament book of Sirach (3:2-6, 12-14).  The passage speaks of our duty to honor our father and revere our mother.  To my simple mind, this is seemingly straightforward, common sense advice.

The second reading, from the Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians (3:12-21), gives direction on God’s plan for family life.  It focuses our attention on love, peace, and thankfulness.

The Gospel, from Matthew (2:13-15, 19-23), tells of the instructions Joseph receives to flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt and later to return with his family to Israel.

Beyond the obvious celebration of the family, the feast reminds us of the importance of the family unit to all classes of society. The Church encouraged and formalized the idea of family as an autonomous, self-contained unit and marriage as a personal, exclusive relationship between one man and one woman, with each person having equal rights and obligations.

That concept is often overlooked.  It has been misunderstood and improperly interpreted since Vatican II, and still is today.

The notion that the Church created or has blindly insisted upon an antiquated, unequal, patriarchal relationship between man and woman is a modern misconception.  In fact, societies that have failed to recognize the vital nature of the self-contained family structure have destroyed themselves.  Note the destruction of Greek and Roman society.

So when I read the introductory comments by Rev. Kersten in my new St. Joseph Sunday Missal that these readings “necessarily reflect the patriarchal family pattern, hence the subordinationist family ethic” and that “(w)e should distinguish between the core of the Christian ethic and the cloth in which it is wrapped,” I found myself disagreeing with a writer who no doubt is better educated on this subject than I.

When I further read that “(b)y keeping in mind that the point of (the first reading from the Book of Sirach) is conditioned by time and culture, a modern Christian can succeed in learning from it,” I found myself confused and disappointed that the message being conveyed to the lay reader of the Missal was that these beautiful ancient words were somehow no longer applicable to our relationship between father, mother, and child.  Somehow, we must view these primitive words in a new way, given our enlightened modern society.

It seems to me that we are doomed to repeat the past failures of so-called “enlightened” societies who convinced themselves and others that the basic family unit was no longer essential to a free society.

The books of the Torah and later the Old Testament, and finally the New Testament, with the promulgations of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, serve as the basis of the new way of thinking.  Much of what our “modern” society has allegedly discovered in recent years has been tried and done before.

And has failed.

May we not make the same mistake.  We’re headed that way.


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