Where are the Walls?

Fr. John Bonavitacola

 

Dear Friends,

As soon as a child learns to crawl a parent puts up boundaries: gates, fences that lead to the stairs, the plugs in electrical outlets and the stops on kitchen cabinets where the cleaning supplies are kept. And on it goes up the ladder as the child grows. Boundaries, or as I like to call them walls, are erected to help a child learn the consequences of his or her behavior. The goal of course is for a child to eventually internalize why an action is good or bad, helpful or harmful. We pay pretty frantic attention to putting up walls for things that could harm a child physically but we are doing a poor job putting up walls that prevent harm to a child morally and spiritually.

One thing that is becoming more and more ubiquitous is a young child with a smart phone. In addition to giving a young person access to call his parents you are also giving them access to the child molester, the pornographer and the drug dealer to name a few. Do we really expect children as young as 7 or 8yrs old to spot the danger zones when using such technology?

Maybe worse still children have access to the media which presently tells them just about everything is acceptable. The wall that said promiscuity is wrong has been leveled so no wonder our children walk through it. Our children march over the rubble that used to be the wall protecting the authority of teachers, parents and the law. Then our children come to the wall that used to say that drug abuse was forbidden. In fact now the bricks in that wall have been rearranged into a path that promises happiness and true freedom.

The latest wall that is coming down is the wall that kept marijuana illegal. The truth is that wall has been in disrepair for sometime. The lack of enforcement of the laws on the books has made the idea that pot is a bad joke with young people. The legalization of marijuana for medical purposes has had the effect of making marijuana almost a health food. But before we in Arizona jump on the marijuana train we should consider how it is affecting young people in Colorado where it is legal for recreational use. Here are some of the effects so far:

*Teen marijuana use is 74% higher than the national average. Colorado is #1 in teen marijuana and illicit drug use. The legal age to use marijuana in CO is 21, the same age required in Arizona under Prop 205.

*Newborns testing positive for marijuana are on the rise. In one hospital alone, half of newborn babies test positive for marijuana.

*When legislators saw an increase in children ER visits due to accidental marijuana ingestion; they responded by banning marijuana-laced gummy bears. Note: Arizona’s legislature would not be able to make the same changes to the law because ballot measures are voter protected in Arizona.

*There are more pot shops than both McDonald’s and Starbucks in Colorado.

*And the promise to bring more revenue to our schools: Colorado’s top marijuana official said tax revenue from legal marijuana is a “red herring … you’re not going to pave your roads and pay your teachers with marijuana tax revenue.”

*Marijuana use harms the developing brain of teenagers. It is often responsible for early onset ofteenage schizophrenia and other mental health issues.
The legalization of recreational use marijuana in Colorado and Washington as well as the 25 states with legalized medical marijuana has hurt the profit margins of the Mexican Drug Cartels. Being good business people the Car- tels have simply flooded the market with heroin hence the current heroin epidemic in the US.

The walls we put up for our children are ways to help them limit their self-destructive behaviors. This is espe- cially true when it comes to drug use: the sooner a teen hits the wall the lesser will be the negative consequences of drug abuse. As the adults in the room who vote we can keep up one wall to protect our young people:
VOTE NO ON 205.

Let me state this in the clearest terms possible: the problem of drug use is not solved with drugs! Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise. To think that harm can be reduced by permitting drug addicts to use narcotics in no way resolves the problem. Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called “recreational drugs”, are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects. Substitute drugs are not an adequate therapy but rather a veiled means of surrendering to the phenomenon… Pope Francis

 

Love, Fr. John B.

The Ego or Lady Macbeth

Fr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon Going to the candidates’ debate Laugh about it, Shout about it When you’ve got to choose Every way you look at it you lose

“Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel
When it comes to this year’s Presidential election also known as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, whichever candidate wins, be it The Ego or Lady Macbeth everyway I look at it we lose. Both are dangerous but not for the same reasons nor for reasons you might think.

The Ego is dangerous because if he wins he will owe almost no one any favors for his climb to the top. He’s not part of the political aristocracy and he’s pretty much viewed as an impolite wedding crasher. The powers that be are very afraid of him for that reason. It’s why so many in his own party have jumped ship or are working to get him against his candidacy. Simply put if he gains power they lose power. Moreover he is not afraid to turn the tables on those who opposed him. If you’re still wondering what really went on with the Fast and Furious Gun Selling, the IRS targeting conservative groups, Benghazi, etc., I’m sure he will gladly reveal all. And what will be revealed is that many Republicans were in collusion with Democrats on these issues and many others. The Ego will have plenty of people to point the finger at and declare: “you’re fired”. Won’t be pretty. Many Republicans in power have a lot to worry about. But Democrats have even more to fear. They know they are a few yards shy of full power and full implementation of the progressive agenda. They won’t take this setback sitting down. If you thought the rioting in various cities like Ferguson and Baltimore was bad those social divisions will rise to fever pitch. The Ego spells doom for the status quo and those in power. Don’t expect them to be gracious in defeat should it come or relinquish power willingly. So don’t expect a peaceful transition of power.

Lady Macbeth is dangerous for different reasons. She is now the most powerful woman in the US and if elected will be the most powerful person in the world. Her power lies in the fact that she has the Justice Department and the FBI under her thumb. Neither agency will touch her and as we have sadly seen both are no longer unbiased instruments of justice but enablers of the rich and powerful. For Lady Macbeth that means no accountability. The only other institution that could hold her accountable is the Press but highly unlikely. She will have the kind of unaccountable power that Richard Nixon could only dream of. Therefore she could use whichever federal agency she needs to silence her critics and punish her foes. Disagree with her on climate change the EPA will find ways to tighten the noose, disagree with her on tax payer funded abortions/ contraception mandate the IRS tightens the noose, dissent from her on the Second Amendment expect Federal agents at your door and on it will go. If you have read carefully her party’s 2016 platform religious liberty is now code for discrimination and those who support the traditional definition of marriage or the biological definition of gender or anyone who still holds the scientific understanding that human life begins at conception and deserves full legal protection until natural death, will be the new enemies of the state. In one of Lady Macbeth’s monologues she stated: “Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will and deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed”. That’s not a suggestion but a battle cry. I take her at her word. Then there are the “deplorables” who are an embarrassment to the ruling elites and deserve no consideration from those who would rule over us. It has been a traumatic shock to the ruling elites that any-one would consider voting for The Ego. You can be sure that if Lady Macbeth is the chosen one both sides of the political aristocracy will never allow this scenario to happen again. Those who dissent will be made to care or dealt with accordingly. Ming the Merciless will look like a pushover compared to Lady Macbeth. If you like leftist dictatorships you’ll love Lady Macbeth, comrade.

When it comes to this election some are saying it is a choice between the lesser of two evils or between the devil you know and the devil you don’t know. If you look at it that way than it is four years of hell. But there is another way of looking at it: God is known to often write straight with crooked lines. In God’s economy a worldly loss can be a spiritual win. Our worst day may turn out to be our best day. Maybe our nation will finally learn not to put all its trust in political solutions but in God.

Anyone who is paying even a little attention can see that the old system is breaking up or as Yeats once wrote, “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”. But the end of one order is also the begin- ning of a new order. As people of faith who trust that God has a plan for the human family and does not abandon His people we can be confident that whatever comes about we will have the chance to put God at the center once again. Be ready to do just that.

Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? Our Nation turns its lonely eyes to you…

Love,
Fr. John B.

As If None Of This Is Really Happening

Fr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

After 9/11 one of my thoughts was that we would become like Israel: a country on high alert at all time, small scale terrorist attacks here and there and security measures that permanently disrupt routine living. But my real fear was that we would become used to it. And so we have 15yrs post 9/11.

Whenever I hear of another terrorist attack whether at home or abroad my thoughts go out to the families of the potential victims. When 9/11 touched us here and when we learned that Gary Bird might have been in one of the towers a frantic search ensued to find out if he was one of the survivors or not. Calls to hospitals, law enforcement, looking at published lists of those either identified as killed or hospitalized turned up nothing. After a few days the obvious had to be considered and then painfully accepted. So when the Night Club in Orlando or the Office in San Bernardino or anywhere else was hit I immediately knew that sinking feeling of dread that the friends and family would have as they frantically tried to find out if their loved one was there and whether they were a survivor or a murdered victim.

Harder to stomach is that the leadership in the US just seems to take it all in stride. No outrage, no anger just a shrug of the shoulders and the usual lecture about why this was not the fault of Muslims. And what is truly galling is to hear the President of the US say that more people die in bathtub accidents each year in the US than terror related attacks: ergo as we accept the deaths each year that happen in bathtub accidents we should accept the deaths that happen at the hands of terrorists? To me it seems like he is saying just get over it, that is the way the world is now and is going to be for the foreseeable future. President Obama’s “bathtub accidents are worse than terrorism” is every bit as idiotic as President Bush’s advice immediately after 9/11 that we should all go shopping. Is it really any wonder why 15yrs post 9/11 we are at the same place?

We have also yet to see any trials for the 9/11 masterminds and associates held at Guantanamo Prison. Why?

What we are being asked to do is to pretend “as if” none of this is really happening. But the truth is it is and it has disrupted our daily lives. It does cause people to be suspicious of people dressed in Islamic garb or with Arab accents. The failure to deal with terrorism effectively has hurt peaceful Muslims living in our country as much as the rest of us. In a sense those Muslims who have come to America to live peacefully away from the violence of their homelands have been betrayed by America with a toxic notion of tolerance that causes them to labeled with the very same extremism they sought to flee.

In order to stop the body count from getting any higher we in the West have to have a serious intellectual en- gagement with Islam. Specifically we have to figure out whether the violent political ideology that is associ- ated with Islam is constitutive of Islam or has hijacked the religion. The answer to that determines the re- sponse.

The second part of ending the chaos terrorism causes is to have a united political response. Leaders in every Western nation should say to all Muslims: you are welcomed to live in our lands and peacefully and sincere- ly seek God according to the dictates of your religion but only if you do so within the context of the values intrinsic to liberal democracies. These values include the freedom of religion, the freedom to change religion, the equal dignity of men and women, the freedom of speech including the right to criticize religion and to seek religious converts without coercion.

The final part to ending the chaos terrorism causes is evangelization. Christians need to live in such a way that our lives, families, and communities become beacons attracting people to the Christian life. If each of us truly lived St. Francis Prayer and become a channel or an instrument of peace then there will be peace on earth.

In October of 2017 we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima. During the apparitions she foretold of a hundred years or so of turmoil, war and suffering. Let’s pray that as we approach this centennial we will see the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and a new era of peace on earth.

Love, Fr. John B.

The Spiritual Wisdom of Teresa of Calcutta

Fr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

On this day when Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is canonized we should remember some of the spiritual wisdom she taught us. So for this Sunday let us just pause and savor the joy of the moment and remember how much one person in the name of Christ can challenge the world and spread love on every continent. (Next week I’ll write about the political landscape but you’ll need to be buoyed by hope to hear my take on things. So memo- rize a few of these wonderful words from Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta!)

“Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.”

“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of pov- erty.”

“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

“There should be less talk; a preaching point is not a meeting point. What do you do then? Take a broom and clean someone’s house. That says enough.”

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.”

“The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion because if a mother can kill her own child, what is left for me to kill you and you to kill me? There is nothing between.”

“It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”

“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”

“One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.”

“Let us more and more insist on raising funds of love, of kindness, of understanding, of peace. Money will come if we seek first the Kingdom of God – the rest will be given.”

“We, the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.”

“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
“I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”

“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”

“I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.” “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”
Love, Fr. John B.

Something Beautiful for God

Fr. John Bonavitacola

 

Dear Friends,

Was she a “lying, thieving, Albanian dwarf –less interested in helping the poor than in using them as an indefatigable source of wretchedness on which to fuel the expansion of her fundamentalist Roman Catholic
beliefs” as Christopher Hitchens, not known as a great humanitarian, wrote in his book Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice? Or was it true that she had, as a group of Canadian Academics once opined: “her rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts . . . and her overly dogmatic views regarding abortion, contraception, and divorce.” Then there was always the criticism that the houses she set up in Calcutta for the sick and dying were subpar and the medical care was medieval.  In that view I guess it was better for people to die on the streets of Calcutta than die in a house that didn’t measure up to Western medical standards. And of course there was the accusation that she was in love with poverty and not the poor.

As the canonization of Teresa of Calcutta approaches we should be prepared for the usual hit jobs to reappear in the press. But why should we expect the world to understand the logic of the Gospel? It never really has. Of course we can’t forget that the witness and work of this little woman with immense charity shamed the rich and power, the intellectual elite and the arrogant. Saints in general tend to prick our conscience and make us uncomfortable. Obviously Mother Teresa hit a raw nerve with so many in our culture.  So let the world judge her by its own standards but the only judgment that matters in the end is God’s. She was willing to become humble like a little child and therefore Jesus declares her “greatest in His Kingdom”. (Matthew 18)

Here is one story in her own words that she told when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize:
One evening a gentleman came to our house and said, there is a Hindu family and the eight children have not eaten for a long time. Do something for them. And I took rice and I went immediately, and there was this mother, those little one’s faces, shining eyes from shear hunger. She took the rice from my hand, she divided into two and she went out. When she came back, I asked her, where did you go? What did you do? And one answer she gave me: They are hungry also. She knew that the next-door neighbor, a Muslim family, was hungry. What surprised me most, not that she gave the rice, but what surprised me most, that in her suffering, in her hunger, she knew that somebody else was hungry, and she had the courage to share, share the love.

There is a great lesson in there for each one of us. Despite our often-busy lives we have to train ourselves to notice. To notice even when we are hungry that there is someone else who is hungry, when we are lonely that there are others who are lonely, that when we are afraid there are others living in fear. It’s challenging to do amid the distractions our culture parades before us. One sure way out of the self-centeredness that so often absorbs us individually is to live a life of service as Mother Teresa did. Obviously not all of us are being asked to join the Missionaries of Charity or another religious community but all of us are being called to serve.

Next weekend once again we will hold the fourth of our four People Raisers for 2016. This one focuses on ways to Pray for the Living and the Dead as one of the spiritual works of Mercy. Specifically we will focus on ways to help serve at the Liturgy and some ways that are connected to the Liturgy. The Mass is our first and most important prayer. When we assemble for Mass we are praying for the living and the dead and doing “something beautiful for God”. But there are lots of details and ministries that go into making our Worship beautiful and for that we need lots of hands.

Also next weekend join us for our celebration of St. Teresa of Calcutta. Something Beautiful for God
is an evening with Tom Booth and a lot, a whole lot of other great musicians, many you are familiar with, some new faces. This will be a relaxed evening with some fantastic music and uplifting stories and testimonies. Invite your friends and neighbors, there is no cost.  As Mother Teresa once said: “We feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” Without your presence and without your willingness to serve, our Parish would be less without each one of you.

Love, Fr. John B.

P.S  For more information on our event Sept. 4 click here  http://bit.ly/2brL8cu

 

Sins Of The Fathers

Fr. John Bonavitacola

 

Dear Friends,

You might not be living in the past but the past might be living in you.

A current example of this is Germany. As much as Germany tries to not repeat the mistakes of its 20th century
past by being hyper vigilant with anything that smacks of Aryan racism, anti-Semitism or xenophobia it also makes it difficult to deal with current refugee challenges. Case in point: Bavaria’s intelligence gathering agency, announced “ISIS ‘hit squads’ had entered Europe with the flood of migrants that came across the borders over the last year and a half and irrefutable evidence that there is an IS command structure in place that will likely launch a coordinated attack on Germany.” Even with such evidence the German Chancellor still insists, “We can make this work”. At all costs Chancellor Merkel does not want to be seen in anyway as racist or xenophobic. If it wasn’t for her country’s past she might be more sensitive to the dangers that the tidal wave of refugees pose to her country.

To be fair the US has its own past to contend with as well. The history of slavery has left a legacy of racism that we just can’t seem to shake off no matter how hard we try or how noble our efforts are at repairing the damage. We hear accusations of racism all the time and whether real or perceived they cause our country to be continually divided and our self-perception sags. But countries aren’t the only ones whose past can continue to affect its present. Families too are often plagued by things like alcoholism, suicide, mental illness and sexual abuse. While some of it may have a genetic component the sins of the fathers are often visited upon the children and grandchildren. How many times I have heard people declare: “I will not be like my father” only to turn out to be just like him.

Of course everyone who is old enough has his or her own past to contend with that often dictates how the present is lived out. Most of us can effectively deal with the past, make amends for harm done, find forgiveness for harms received and learn to leave the past in the past. But sometimes the past has consequences that live on beyond all of that. The fact is when we take the wrong action we don’t get to pick what the consequences will be. Simply put we can’t choose our dues.

I think of one young man convicted of statutory rape. He was 18yrs old and she was 17. He spent ten years in prison and now for the rest of his life will be a registered sex offender. He has had to learn to live under that and deal with the limitations it imposes on his life. Still while he is a different man today and is not repeating the mistakes of the past, the past is very much alive for him everyday. It’s now a choice for him as to how to live in the present without letting the past control his entire life. Of course the lesson for us is not to do things that create a past that we don’t want to live with.

If you read the Bible you will see the same dynamic at work. After King David commits adultery and murder the prophet Nathan tells him: “the sword shall never depart from your house”. In other words the monarchy in Israel will increase in its dysfunction and eventually collapse. But the ultimate way the past lives in us is through Adam and Eve. Original sin as we call it has been passed on to each and affects the world at large. As the great English writer G.K. Chesterton often quipped: “Original sin is the only empirically verifiable theological doctrine.”

A sin-sick world populated by people who bear the effects of that sin, as well as their own, needs to be set right again. That of course is what Jesus came to do. His death forgives our past and rights our future. Despite the continuing effects of sin on our world it will not have the final word. Neither does your past need to have the final word on your present or your future.

So while you might be done with the past, the past might not be done with you. But that’s ok because we who believe have the promise of a better future.

Love, Fr. John B.

Lock The Doors?

Fr. John Bonavitacola

 

Dear Friends,
I imagine that at night before going to sleep most people lock their doors, some might even put an alarm on, or live in a gated community. But what is the motivation for locking your doors at nighttime? Is it because you hate the people outside? No I doubt that is the rationale. Rather you lock your doors at night not because you hate the people outside but because you love the people inside.

Most of us don’t worry too much that our neighbors will come over at 3am to borrow a screwdriver or return the lawnmower. In fact the few people walking around the neighborhood at night are either walking the dog, coming home from the late shift or stayed too long at the casino. But still now and then there might be a person lurking around with bad intentions. So you take a simple measure like locking the door because you love your family.

Daytime is a different story. When you are home you keep your door open since you can easily identify who wants to come into your house. Your neighbor might stop by to return something they borrowed, have a cup of coffee or share with you the crazy letter that the pastor of Mt. Carmel wrote this week. Then at some point in the day the Girl Scouts might knock selling cookies, the Mormons stop by to do their thing, a few kids raising money for new uniforms for their sports team might come by as well. In these cases you are welcoming and hospitable and you do what you can. Now if your neighbor starts coming by a little too often, like when you are in the shower, or eating dinner, or watching your favorite show or doing your taxes you might have to have a talk with him or her about boundaries for the sake of the friendship. It’s not that you are closing the door to him but reminding him of some basic rules of civility.

Then again you might be someone who refuses to lock his doors at night. Maybe it makes you feel anti-social. Most of the time there is no problem. In fact 364 days out of the year nothing goes wrong. Then on day 365 someone enters your house while you and your family are sleeping. Maybe they steal some of your things, or maybe it’s your wife’s or your children’s things they take. Maybe even worse, they assault you or your wife or your children. But still you don’t want to be seen as anti-social, exclusive or intolerant so you continue to refuse to lock the doors at night and it happens again. At this point your wife, your children, the police, your insurance company might start questioning how much your really love the people inside your house. You might respond to that by saying that they are anti-social, xenophobic, intolerant bigots. Not only that but you are emphatic that locking the door at night is not a demonstration of love for those on the inside of your house but actually a demonstration of hatred for those outside you house.

By repeatedly putting your family at risk you are now cooperating with evil and failing in your duty to protect the ones you love and for whom you are responsible. It is true that we have a moral responsibility to assist strangers but we also have a moral responsibility to care for those we are immediately responsible for. The latter trumps the former. Still the two are not mutually exclusive. Just because you love the people inside and try to keep them safe does not mean that you are ignoring those on the outside who need your assistance. It’s just that there is a priority for your family.

That’s the way I think about Immigration, Refugee Resettlement and Border security. Whether it is your home or your country loving the people inside and taking measures to keep them secure does not mean that you hate the people outside.

Love, Fr. John B.

PS. Our favorite parish son Fr. Scott Sperry, you may remember that while he was a seminarian he successfully battled leukemia. He has been in remission for 5 or 6 years and now the leukemia has returned. Presently he is undergoing treatment and battling it again. Keep him in your prayers and Masses. You can send cards and well wishes to Christ the King Parish: 1551 E. Dana Ave, Mesa 85204.