On more than one occasion, I have listened to Pope Francis speak, and all I can say is, "What a breath of fresh air." There are over a billion Catholics in this world and for one of the first times in my 55 years of being one, there seems to be a man at the top who truly cares about not only the church he leads but those outside of the Catholic Church, too.
I wish that I could write a message to everyone that would be full of flowery and optimistic verses, based on a world that has seemed to come to its senses. What I have witnessed in the past year, and within my own makeup at being a realist, throws cold water on those thoughts and we are a very troubled world indeed. But I refuse to be defeated and my only salvation comes in thoughts about how people have overcome adversity before - but then I think it was only because they were committed and really wanted it to happen. My hope - my prayer - is that we will want it bad enough too.
Somewhere between Halloween and Christmas is Thanksgiving. The original intent of the holiday was to set aside a day to give thanks to our Creator for all the good things we have received during the year. We did this by sharing some of our bounty with others, but it went much deeper than that. It was also a day to reunite with loved ones, not just in that celebratory feast, but it was an opportunity to share the love and sense of caring we have for each other. Then entered football games, and Black Friday sales, and all kinds of other distractions.
A while back, an old friend of mine passed away. I've lost a lot of friends lately, so that in itself was nothing new. I guess the difference for me, in this one, was that he was a World War II veteran and there are not a lot of them left. I was born in the spring of 1941, eight months before the start of the war. Memories in humans do not recollect many things before the age of 5. Mercifully, I remember little of life in America during the war, but from the end of the war on to my early adolescence, I remember a lot.
Most of you know that I am a writer of fiction stories; but what I am about to tell you is not fiction, but true and factual. Some of you also know I was a firefighter for the city of Brooklyn Park. What I am about to tell you happened to me and a man named Bill (not his real name). It probably happens much more often than we realize, and it really makes no difference where you are, as a firefighter - this could happen anywhere in any town or city. It was a daytime fire call in our city, and we were short of manpower at most daytime calls, as we were a paid on-call department.
So, a few weeks back it was three years. Three years since she left me to carry on alone. I keep telling myself, "It didn't have to be this way." Somewhere along the way, I have grown to realize that she couldn't help herself any more than I could help her. She wanted to quit so badly, but that monkey on her back just wouldn't let her do it. Yes, this is what can happen to anyone that gets hopelessly addicted to tobacco.
Recently, I shed a few tears during the funeral of the Mendota Heights Police officer killed in the line of duty. Beyond all of the pageantry of the ceremony, I was moved by the overwhelming response of the people who most likely never knew this officer. They lined the route to the cemetery for miles, holding signs and flags. They saluted, they made the sign of the cross or simply dabbed at their eyes as the entourage wound its way to the officer's final resting place. Those who will carry on where he left off preceded his casket.
The scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church has had some far-reaching effects. It has cost the church a lot of money and a lot of embarrassment. It has cost the victims who were harmed emotional and physical damage. All of this comes at a time when people are seeing the Catholic lifestyle as very challenging and even Christianity as a whole being too restrictive for our society.
What does the Fourth of July really mean to you? Do you know,or even care, about what we are celebrating. Or is it just a great day for a party and a parade? Every time you shoot off one of those bottle rockets, do you think about the freedoms we enjoy in this country or are you maybe hoping the neighbors won't call the cops on you for your illegal fireworks. Then again maybe, it's just a little civil disobedience - meant to show your heart's in the right place - but remember you have the freedom to do that in this country.
Certain members of Congress are urging us back into Iraq. They say we left too soon after declaring victory. Define victory, if you would, and also acknowledge that we were asked to leave by the Iraqi government. Let's see if I have this right. The people, who are trying to upstage and destroy the government in Iraq right now, are the same people who were fighting to overthrow the government in Syria. Our government supplied some of their weapons, including the ones they captured in Iraq.