So while I am in New Zealand in vacation, I've seen a great deal of talk about the NFL, respect for the flag and kneeling.
I want to address that, but before I do I must add a disclaimer. First, I have always stood for the anthem for the flag of the United States.
My brother is in the U.S. Army and while I am nothing more than a journalist and historian, I will stand for that flag and provide what service I can to make this country "America the Beautiful" in reality.
With that out of the way, let me say I am disgusted there is some debate about this.
But wait, perhaps you you think I believe players are wrong to politicize the game and should stand?
Wrong. Politics has already poisoned much of the dialogue within the U.S.A., and if you believe politics wasn't a part of sports before, well it is now.
But while I do not condemn the kneelers, I do not seek to praise those who are standing. Let me explain.
G.K. Chesterton once said that having the right to do something is not same as "to be right in doing it." That is where this debate truly begins, do players have the right to kneel during this anthem?
In a word: yes.
Have we really sunk so low and so far that we are debating the limit of peaceful protest?
Who is harmed? No one.
Who is forced to participate or watch? No one.
I do not believe this act of kneeling during the anthem the best protest, so in that sense perhaps it is not the right or best thing to do.
But each player has the right to do it if they so choose.
We are a country, a nation, a people founded on the act of disagreement and protest.
Did not the Founding Fathers peacefully and with good intentions submit their grievances to the King of Great Britain?
Did Martin Luther King Jr. not work through marches and words to seek redress for the utter failure and lack of civil rights in this country?
And now come these men and women, who instead of standing upon the field, kneel in silence and call our attention to what they believe to be injustice within our country.
They have this right and let none abridge it. And here is another reason why. It's an old reason but a telling one.
"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor."
Those words should burn in your mind because they are the parting sentence of the Declaration of Independence.
Those words were not just a pledge for the signers of the Declaration. Every American citizen is bound by that deathless vow.
That vow which bound bound a bunch of argumentative, flawed human beings together in what would one day become these 50 United States.
We are still a bunch of argumentative, flawed human beings and we are still bound together by oaths and promises and by a shared promise that is represented in that piece of star-spangled fabric which soars above our land.
Beneath that flag thousands have died for the millions of us at home.
But beneath that flag, thousands were killed in massacres and for "manifest destiny."
Beneath that flag have laid thousands of coffins carrying the best of our men and women home to rest forever in peace under the earth.
But beneath that flag government failed for decades to truly end segregation and to remember the common brotherhood/sisterhood all men and women have.
And finally, beneath that flag, dozens if not hundreds of athletes kneel for what their conscience demands even as hundreds more stand for what their own conscience demands.
Let us ignore for a moment the Flag code and the NFL regulations which say many things about how to respect the flag and this nation.
Let us look merely at the bonds that bind us to each and every person in this country.
Do these men and women have the right to kneel?
Yes. it has been bought in blood, sweat and tears.
Is it necessarily the best or right way to protest?
Perhaps not. Perhaps time might be better spent speaking and donating money.
But what is right and what someone has the right to do are very different things.
I will continue to stand when the flag is hoisted high above my head, but I shall not judge those who kneel.
Instead, I will listen. I will hear their words, their complaints and I will respond with respect and with empathy.
We're nation founded on disagreement, debate and argument conducted in a civil manner.
I'm sick to death of the hate though, ofthe contempt showered on both the right and the left.
The moment we engage in censorship and decide what free speech is allowed, we've already lost.
And I refuse to lose. I refuse to surrender to hate and extremists. My life, my fortune and my sacred honor are mine and mine alone.
I will stand, but I will be here to help you stand up from kneeling and build a bright, new future when you're ready.
Our lives are filled with people and moments. Sometimes people flash in and out of our lives in a heartbeat. Sometimes they become fixtures as permanent as the nose on our face.
And then there are those who have always been there, in the shadows and in-between spaces, working for our good.
And all of those things, these people I have described can be simplified with two words: kindness and love
A saint once said that love is willing the good of another person above even that of yourself. And this idea wars endlessly with society today.
We go our own way to work or school each day, we check our phones and our Twitter feeds and through all this we are starved for love, for kindness and for all those things which make life worth living.
We do it ourselves. We fail to reach out and offer a meal and a prayer to the homeless couple that approaches us.
We fail to welcome people into our country, our homes and our hearts.
We are afraid of giving.
But here's the thing, the "trick" if you will. Giving, kindness and oh that beautiful thing we call love, never dwindle. They are never divided.
They are multiplied. Our love and our kindness do not go out and plunge into the dark without a sound.
Kindness shouts and screams through the silence of our minds. And love...well love and choosing the good of another is the bright and soft light of the morning.
It's like seeing the face of God and hearing His voice.
So be kind. Love someone, love everyone. Sure, you can disagree with them, fiercely even, but love them all the same.
Because kindness and love are never divided, only multiplied.
And most assuredly, your kindness and your love will return to you when you most need it.
Usually I keep away from direct religious references. Not because I am afraid of acknowledging my faith, anyone who knows me knows how very, very Catholic I attempt to be, but rather because I prefer to weasel my way inside your mind with the faith without your overt knowledge.
Cue diabolical laugh.
But anyway, today I break that rule in order to discuss something dear to my heart. Psalm 86.
It's not just a random number. Well it is, but I didn't pick the Psalm randomly if you catch my meaning.
But before I digress further let me provide the relevant portion of Christian Scripture, Psalm 86:11-13 and verse 16:
"Teach me, Lord, what You want me to do, and I will obey You faithfully; teach me to serve You with all my heart, O Lord my God; I will proclaim Your greatness forever. How great is Your constant love for me! You have saved me from the grave itself...Turn to me and have mercy on me; strengthen me and save me, because I serve You just as my mother did."
This psalm contains many things to me. Devotion, sorrow, love, mercy and a wonderful reference to Mary the Mother of God. But it is more than that.
In essence this Psalm carries EXACTLY what it means to be a Christian. It is devotion to serve and praise God; it is a reminder of our salvation from sin and that the "wage of sin is death"; and of just how we can serve with humility like Mary did.
And I owe a huge debt to the woman who showed it to me. I don't know if I can pay it, but I shall try to make a down payment with this reflection.
God awaits us. He awaits, like He waited for Mary and her "Let it be done unto me, according to Your Word."
We are called to give the same response. In our daily work lives and beyond we must answer His call with devotion. We must remember the salvation that awaits those who walk His path. It won't be easy. But He never promised it would be easy, only that we would not be overcome by our troubles. And after all, He walked up a far harder hill to Calvary for us, so this is the least we can do.
So reach out and ask the Lord to teach you so that you might know His will and how to serve Him. Sometimes the answer will be silence, sometimes it will be a person entering/leaving your life and other times you might hear a small quiet voice whisper to you.
However you are answered, be open to it. I have not always been to my shame, but that is a part of all of our lives.
Yesterday with all our failures, has already happened. Tomorrow with whatever may occur, isn't here yet. We have only today and we must answer Christ. Today.
How will you respond? How do you want to respond to the one who "saved you from the grave itself?"
Thank you and God bless.
This post is dedicated to the woman who showed me Psalm 86. Pax to you.
By Dominick Jean | email@example.com | Twitter: @Domino_Jean
Looking out on the ocean always forces me into a state of melancholy. Not sad, merely thoughtful. I've made a lot of decisions while looking out over the waters of oceans, rivers or lakes. Good decisions, bad decisions, regretful decisions, joyful decisions, etc. The list goes on.
This particular time, I made no decision. I merely faced for the first time that wide expanse of blue water called the Gulf of St. Vincent and the Indian Ocean.
Instead, I thought about the word "decision." It has a sharpness to it that seems to indicate something clear cut, something simple and easy. And maybe our decisions are simple, but they're never easy.
Years later we are filled with regret. For chances we didn't take, for weaknesses we indulged and for people we failed.
We're also filled with laughter for the friends we made along the way, the songs we sang too loudly and the late night talks.
Good and bad, they remind me of Tennyson's poem "Ulysses" when he said,
"Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
Maybe like that story of Ulysses we made bad decisions, we failed, but like him, WE DID SOMETHING. We made choices, for good or ill. And maybe it's just me, but I believe that every choice and decision will eventually work out for good. Maybe not the good we intended or even wanted, but it will certainly be good in the end.
Maybe that's just the nature of MY hope, but I digress.
Some people will never live. They shall walk the world breathing, but their eyes will be void of faith, love, sadness (yes, even sadness can be beautiful), laughter and all the gorgeous things that make life worth living.
I'm guilty of it sometimes, of forgetting that. I linger on the past, reflecting, too afraid of receiving another psychological bloody nose from those I cared about.
But life goes on each day.
You still have to laugh, you still have to cry, and you certainly still have to sing at the top of young lungs when you're in the car.
So laugh, cry, sing. Be sad, be happy, but DO something. Live fully.
G.K. Chesterton wrote once in his book "Orthodoxy," about the nature of courage and it's his words I would like to end with on just what kind of mentality we need to live fully.
" A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine."
So live furiously indifferent, drink wine, and sing loudly. Show the world you have the desire for life and all it's decisions.
And here's another pep talk, just in case you needed one.
By Dominick Jean
It sounds so simple to travel, to cross the globe, to tramp across new lands and meet total strangers. But I don't think it really hit me until I woke up early this last week for a run. The sun was just peeking out over the Adelaide sky. The sun yawned above the sleeping city, half a world from my true home.
It was me and a few of those dreadful "morning people" out on the streets. I knew no one, didn't really know where I was going and... I couldn't care less.
I was content and untroubled. It's not that I didn't and don't have concerns or plans while I'm here in Australia, but I've already done the crazy thing. I'm already here.
In stepping foot in Australia, I placed myself beyond worry into my very own adventure. Putting aside jokes about Australia remote location and how almost everything here can kill you, it felt very much like I had stepped off the edge of the world. I seemed to have entered that mysterious territory that ancient maps only labelled with "Here there be monsters."
But what do you find when you step off the edge of the map? Wonder. Just imagine the experience of the explorers Marco Polo, Amerigo Vespucci or Vasco da Gama when they sailed into lands and realms where no European had yet been.
And while travel is certainly simpler now, that sense of wonder is so vital. Every day is a wonder, with the possibility of tantalizing new sights and people. So I'm not going to worry. I'm going to trust that Divine Providence which has brought me this far to take me a little further.
In the mean time, all I can do is live. Live fully, sing loudly, travel far and fill every second with the wonder of a child. Being content and untroubled doesn't mean being complacent.
I'm content. I'm happy with myself and who I am right now as I travel. I'm alone, but never lonely. How could I be when I have the whole wide world to fall in love with? I'm untroubled because I've left my burdens and responsibilities behind in the states.
I'm here to see beautiful churches, have adventures, taste sweet wine and love life with a fierce desire.
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” – Ray Bradbury
P.S.- I will also be travelling to New Zealand soon, so be prepared for nerdy moments about the places where they filmed Lord of the Rings.
By Dominick Jean
You've seen it a hundred times over. The smile that grows and threatens to overwhelm your face. The wrinkles that form around eyes as they twinkle with that burning light. The laughter that bubbles up from deep within and echoes unapologetically throughout the room.
These are visible signs of something far more mysterious.
Something mysterious called joy.
I want to be clear though before continuing. I'm not referring to the laughter and smiles that come from mockery, dirty jokes and other such things. I'm talking about the deep-seated realization making those things unnecessary.
The realization that you and I have a "reason for our hope," that life is truly good.
This joy doesn't make our suffering less, our heartbreak cease to exist or anything like that. I'd be lying if I said it did and you'd know that.
But joy illuminates our path, it helps us to dance through the thorns of this life a little more elegantly, to sing a little louder and to shine a tiny bit brighter.
St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta (God bless am I right?) said that joy is strength and not only that but that joy is "a net by which you can catch souls."
What is more attractive, more beautiful, more gosh darn magnificent then someone truly joyful?
Not a whole lot, in my opinion.
Men and women truly come alive when they are filled with joy, their beauty shines like a beacon for us all about the possibilities.
I've seen this joy in children, cancer patients, the blind, married couples, priests and others. It breaks my heart open, in the best possible way, to see this joy in those around me. They help us recognize joy ourselves and take a step towards the same realization.
Joy isn't some grandiose one-time only decision. Rather, it is an every day choice to look at the world, even with all its suffering and see 7 billion beautiful souls, including your own.
You're going to make mistakes. Sorrow and suffering will hit you. Someone will likely break your heart if they haven't already. Guess what?
In those cracks around your heart you'll feel this amazing thing trying to sneak inside. Your friends, family and lvoed ones will carry it into your brokenness.
It's called joy. Mirth. Laughter. Love.
Joy is our strength, accept it, embrace it and then spread it. I'm happy to say I'm prone to suffer joy and laughter often. Join me.
So we've all been given advice. Whether it was your mom reminding you for the tenth time to make sure you have your keys or the old folks at your church telling you what NOT to do in college, you've been given advice.
Same here. But I received the best and most simple advice awhile ago and it sticks with me.
It sticks with me through the days and nights. Through thick and thin. And most certainly it sticks with me at work or relaxing.
It's simple. Be bold, be brave, be raw and be real.
Be a saint.
Easy enough right? Or if you're me, not so much.
If you're anything like me (and I'm going to go out on a limb and say you are) you likely make mistakes. Instead of be bold, you're cowardly. Instead of being brave and venturing into the world, you stay back and hide. Instead of being raw and real you conceal and obsfuscate, never giving yourself away.
In other words, you're never putting yourself at risk.
which is pretty much the only determining factor that every saint has in common.
There are big saints, thin saints, tall saints, small saints, fierce saints, meek saints and a thousand more kinds I can't even think of.
But everyone of them has one thing in common. Other than a love of God obviously. And that's the fact that they risked something.
They were real. They were brave and bold. And oh goodness were they raw.
Let me explain.
I'm not talking raw like your meat. That would be gross. I'm saying, these saints cut themselves open, to the bone, for the Lord and their brothers and sisters in Christ.
They didn't put just their heart on their sleeve. Hey put their soul out there and trusted in God.
They were brave and bold, giving up lives of comfort for the greatness that we are called to seek.
They were so real. They were real because they shone with something otherworldly. Something that transcends what we have here.
We look around us and often we wonder about "fake people, fake news and fake stuff."
And we're obsessed with that stuff. I am at least. I mean fake news reports said there were giant pythons in Lake Monroe (there are none by the way).
But there's more. And we want more. Maybe we can't put a name on it yet. Maybe we can't even say it's God we're seeking yet. But by taking that advice I've talked about we can start on the right path.
So be bold, be brave, be raw and most certainly be real.
First off, it's important we wish all of our fathers a happy and blessed Father's Day. It is hard to overemphasize the importance of good mothers and fathers, especially with the world we find around us today.
We are surrounded by examples of what some have termed "toxic masculinity," of masculinity which doesn't accept "no" which considers itself the end-all-be-all of our society. But that's not masculinity, that's not fatherhood. A recent Wall Street Journal opinion wrote, there seems to be a lack of any masculinity in our world at all.
Which is why we need our fathers. Why we need fathers of all stripes, both physical and spiritual.
Speaking only for my own experience of fathers, I am cognizant of my blessings and how utterly unworthy I am of them. My own dad has blessed me with his support through my 21 years of life with his words but more importantly with his example.
By watching him I've learned a few things. I've learned you always look someone in the eye when you or they are speaking. I've learned to always be kind to any waiter or sales rep doing their job. I've learned the importance of both silence and speaking in equal measure. I've learned what it takes to admit when you're wrong and to change your whole belief system out of faith in something invisible.
I've learned that love is a choice you make every day, and I've seen firsthand what it means to accept and say yes to it with quiet strength each day.
And I've been blessed with another father in my priests.
Maybe once again I have been lucky. Perhaps your experience hasn't panned out in the same way mine has. I can only reassure you that within the Catholic Faith there are so many wonderful, blessed men engaged in the work of the priesthood.
And to a young boy, engaged in the faith and now as a young man, I've learned from them.
I learned from one priest who many in my parish disagreed with, they thought him surly and perhaps even mean. But all I saw was a titan who was there when my family first joined the faith and gave me my first crucifix.
I learned how much joy and laughter there is within the faith from a man and priest who came to it late in life.
I learned the nature of devotion and the Divine Mercy, which is a gift like no other, from my spiritual adviser.
So my experience has been a good one. And that may not be your experience, but I can only speak to my own. But here's what I'm trying to say: good fathers, good mothers are the people around which our world spins.
It's when the family falls apart that things go to hell in a hand basket. So now more than ever we need good parents who step up and be the example we need of our Heavenly Father's love and its reality.
We need fathers who see in their daughters the blessed purity of the Lord and who believe in their little girls no matter what. We need fathers who by their example will inspire a generation of sons to authentic masculinity. A masculinity which defends others, including women, not because they are weak but because they are precious and without price.
And we need spiritual fathers who will serve as they have for 2,000 years. The vision of Christ on earth.
Amen and g'night all.
"As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live." -St. Pope John Paul II
"Oh, Catholics hate sex"
"You can't really believe that?!"
"You Catholics are such prudes.
"Just look at her being forced to wear that veil"
No we don't, yes we do, we most certainly are not and nobody is forcing her to wear that veil.
I hear these things all the time. And they are so ridiculous to my Catholic convert mind. Just look at the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Look at the scenes of Judgement and biblical history. See the human body in its sublime beauty as portrayed by the Catholic genius of the Renaissance, Michelangelo.
Men and women were each made in the image and likeness of God. Our bodies are his handiwork as much as our souls were crafted by His love.
We don't hate the physical. We don't dislike nakedness or sex. We understand its most serious importance.
Let me explain. Or better yet, let us have St. Pope John Paul II explain.
He described in his Theology of the Body, the sexual love between a husband and wife within marriage as "an icon of the interior life of God himself."
Sex, as an expression of marital love, is sacramental in a way. the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, and within matrimony, sex, unite us with our fellows on earth and with God above.
We take it so seriously, with such a deep, serious joy, we are labeled prudes. That is the exact opposite of what we are.
We are a people of laughter, song and dancing. But paradoxically, we are also a people of sack clothes and ashes, of solemnity.
Which is a decent segue into the next stage: Veils and solemnity. Recently, I saw a post blaming a culture of oppression for why Melania and Ivanka Trump wore veils to meet His Holiness Pope Francis.
Disclaimer: I love veils. If called to marriage and children, my daughters are receiving veils as gifts.
Now back to it. Okay so first of all, there is no culture of oppression around Catholic veiling. It is a perfectly reasonable choice. Many women who do veil have described it to me as a tool to focus, as humility and as a reminder.
It's a reminder not of oppression or of history but of the solemn beauty that belongs solely to women alone. Men and women are both made in the image of God, which means there is something sacred there. And what have we done with things view as holy. Aka, The Jewish Temple and all of our altars at Mass...
We veil them. We cover them in silk, lace and cotton. Not in some mean and cruel way to shuffle these holy places aside but to showcase and shout to the world, "THIS IS IMPORTANT."
There is a solemness in that idea of veiled importance, but also a joy.
Our bodies, men and women, are physical signs of the invisible. Human bodies are icons, markers leading us to God. The veils draw your eye towards the sacred. But just like the veil she wears before you kiss her at your wedding Mass, beneath it we have the sacredness God designed and placed in each of us.
"The body, in fact, and only the body, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine."- St. Pope John Paul II.
So to wrap up, we're not prudes. We celebrate, within the sacrament of marriage, the utter wonder that is the human body. We are bond in the Spirit and made "one flesh."
We are a people not of sullen sorrow, but of serious joy. And every day let us imagine in our own minds, the Sistine Chapel and look out on the world the same way Michelangelo did. In that "peculiar light" of God.
“All” by Dominick Jean
I tasted the winds sweeping by
Breezes like kisses batter my skin
On the edge of the sea, where I lie
Dreaming, as I was, of all my sin
I recall not what I was after
With this foolish recollection
The crossing stars sing with laughter
And I curse my bold, too-strong affection
But now, the stars alone shall see
And find my affection a mild flame
Before the dark and deep desires which be
But these also shall I tame
My soul is blue and runs with tears
My heart is red and filled with fires
And finally, I will look into those mirrors
And will drown all those desires
For I wish to say, if only some day
That I never knew or tasted you
Whatever you wish or claim, you may say
But my tongue is sharp and screw you too
All I was is a counterpuncture
All I am is a shadow
All I will be… is me
If you read the poem, you understand at least in part. There will be people you love, people who had eyes which entranced you with their strength. People, who for a brief instant, made the sun shine at midnight.
And you will hurt them and they will hurt you. They'll swing a left hook and you'll put up a strong right cross. You'll duke it out until you feel every bruise and all that exists is the tired, filthy hatred that you curl up around at night. It keeps you warm.
It also ruins you. Utterly.
You curl up around the pain of it all and it keeps you warm but you feel ruinous. You feel like your hands have been trained for war with them and your fingers for battle. But you are so wrong.
You have been trained for mercy, forgiveness and even for love.
“It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.”
― Pope Benedict XVI, Saved in Hope: Spe Salvi
Pope Emeritus Benedict said it better than I with those words. We are trained in the same school of love which Christ brought to us on the cross. In our suffering, we find Him. And we find each other. We find love.
Our soul runs blue with tears and our hearts red with both passion and hate. And in our shattered selves something small, wiggles and needles its way into our inner self.
It's that voice you've heard before. It's forgiveness.
The most Divine all telling thing there is and it's called Mercy.
So the poem you read above...well obviously it's not very forgiving you think. And you'd be right. It was written for the singular of shoving a knife into a battered heart. But reflecting on it...the gift that mercy is, shows itself.
So I step into forgiveness, just the first step now but it is a step. Take the music, the poetry, the rage inside and listen to it, acknowledge its validity and then put it to rest. You will never have solace with it, your rage and anger can never satisfy your dark and deep desire.
Your dark and deep desire to be raw, and real and bold.
Turn to mercy and find everything you ever wanted.
"Turn to me and have mercy on me; strengthen me and save me, because I serve you just as my mother did." -Psalm 86:16