Sunday, July 26, 2009

Church

For my entire adult life, I have always heard that you should never comment about politics or religion unless you want to get into a fight. I'm not looking for a fight, but I'm going to comment about something very sensitive.

I am a Roman Catholic. I was born into the faith and for a while, turned my back on it, but happily returned. Now I know that we're supposed to go out and make converts according to The Great Commission in The Bible, but I'm guilty of not being the best evangelist when it comes to my religion.

Back in the Smock of the 1950's and 60's, you would not think that the 98% of our town's population were interested in gaining converts since most of the services were standing room only. We went to church and we kept to ourselves.

We had our annual church "bizarre" (which was the way it was spelled in our weekly bulletin). I remember the pizza and the Vernor's ginger ale. Oh mercy. And the penny pitch which was not rigged. In the nickle pitch, you could win....glassware. The bingo area was off to the left in the back lot of the Smock school. At night, you could hear Tony Pindrock's voice over the vacuum tube driven public address system as players sat beneath bare light bulbs that attracted herds of moths, bats, and other night creatures.

The notice for our church bizarre was in our church bulletin, right there next to the EXACT dollar amount that everyone in Smock gave the prior Sunday. Those that were not in the "Dollar A Sunday Club" were omitted and were labeled cheapskates by those who were published. Of course our well to do folk who gave more were at the top of the page with their $20.00 or $10.00 listed. And on Christmas, FIFTY BUCKS. Imagine the amount of popsicles you could buy for fifty bucks.

But I digress. This past week, I got a couple of e-mails from someone who wanted me to know in no uncertain terms that I was a hell-bound heathen and that my Catholic beliefs were, well, satanic and that my only salvation was to immediately turn my back on my religion and join another faith.

For her sake and for the sake of those who may write me and tell me that I am truly hell-bound, I am not going to abandon my faith. Not even if satan himself popped up out of my living room floor, held out his hand, and said "Put her there." No one to my knowledge has ever produced any factual evidence showing miles of Presbyterians or Lutherans or Jews or Methodists or Mormons in line at the pearly gates just waiting for admission, saying that it was THEIR religion that was the key to the Kingdom.

So, much to the dismay and most likely disgust of those out there who disagree, I am convinced, just like all of those good people of St. Hedwig's in Smock, that we're all on the same train, but just in different cars. Oh yeah, and then we'll have arguments about whose train car is nicer.

I wrote to this woman and asked her why she didn't accept my religion as easily as I accepted hers. I have never received a response.

So lets turn to Old Hundredth or Pange Lingua Gloriosi or the Doxology or even "Morning Has Broken" and stand up and sing. God loves us. And I'll meet you outside of the really posh dining car where all of the Catholics are.

Mazel tov.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day

As I opened my e-mail this morning, I see where my dear friend El McMeen wrote a Letter to the Editor of the New York Times asking why there was no mention of Independence Day anywhere on the front page.

Because I'm about 50 miles displaced from my dear home town of Smock, I rely on the online version of the Herald/Standard, the local newspaper that is published in nearby Uniontown.

It appears that the Herald/Standard followed suit with the Times and totally eliminated any reference to Independence Day on their front page. No banner at the top of the page. No story featuring an old military vet reminding us of how valuable our freedom can be. Nothing.

Call me a flag waver. I'm proud of it. And proud of what millions of young men and women have done in years gone by to keep that freedom alive in this country.

I remember reading Jesse Ventura's book on "telling it like it is" where he said that he would not get in the way of someone who wanted to burn an American flag in his front yard. At first it was shocking, but do you know that flag burning is PROTECTED by the First Amendment of our Constitution and ratified by the U.S. Supreme Court in Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), and reaffirmed in U.S. v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990)?

In other words, our FREEDOM in the United States even allows us to burn and/or desecrate an American Flag. How many countries give their population that much freedom?

Back in Smock, I remember the old timer's taking such care and respect when hanging out Old Glory on Flag Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. They remember. They heard the screams of battle. I still hear them myself.

I even remember Kuba, our church sexton who would respectfully raise and lower the flag in the front yard of St. Hedwig's rectory every morning and evening. That flag pole is gone. And it appears that the national pride and love of country may be gone a bit too.

My grandfather was in World War I. I still remember his old campaign hat resting on a shelf in that little room behind the kitchen right next to his straw boater. I asked him about it once and clearly remember that he did not want to talk about his time in the war. But if you asked him about WHY he fought, you'd better sit down and get comfortable because you're going to hear at least a one-hour lecture. And he wasn't even born in the USA.

Today, it seems in vogue to bash the President, our country, its lawmakers, and even it's military.

This blog often reflects back to a time when things were different. Oh how I wish that we could be back there today.

Happy Independence Day everyone.

And remember, if you are hanging your flag vertically on your front porch, the blue field of stars goes on the left side.