Sunday, November 29, 2015

(165) A Tribute to Doris Cormier.......a New Orleans gal who will be in that number when the saints go marching in.

      Doris Cormier, born and raised in New Orleans, is a very interesting person worth sharing with those who did not know her.  In giving a eulogy at her funeral, the traditional gospel song of New Orleans, "When the Saints Go Marching In" became so meaningful to me and all those present.  May we learn from it and from Doris too.  

A EULOGY TO DORIS CORMIER (1925-2015)

Doris Cormier at the wedding of her granddaughter Diane

       As an Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister since 2009, I had the opportunity to know Doris well during that time.  It was an awesome privilege to bring Christ Himself and His love to her in Holy Communion every Sunday, to pray with her, and to help her in a little way for her encounter with the Lord in eternity.

I was supposed to minister to Doris, but she also ministered to me.  She placed great value on the Eucharist and she did spiritual reading.  She was faithful to her Catholic Church to the end.

I enjoyed Doris.  She was wonderful to me.  She’d always have a snack for me, first in her own home and later in the Nursing Home.  Doris was always so hospitable and generous.  She was a leader on the Nursing Home Council, even arranging for a religious service.

  Doris loved to have visitors and talk.  Mary Louise, she so much appreciated you and all of your visits as well as Ella Bokovitz and Irene Surber, who also visited her on occasion. Doris had nobody else here outside of Susan and her family.  She also loved football, especially her New Orleans Saints who are not on television much in our area.  But we would watch my Pittsburgh Steelers.
 
Doris loved Susan and her family very much.  She often would show me pictures of her four grandchildren, Dianna, Stephanie, Amanda, and Joseph and tell me how they were doing.  She was so excited about her great grandson, Roman.  It was a joy for me to meet him.  You all enriched the life of Doris Cormier and have a legacy to follow.

Doris would often talk about her beloved husband, Maurice, but called him by his nickname, Moose.  Born and raised in New Orleans, they would go to football games of the New Orleans Saints when they featured all-pro wide receiver Danny Abramowicz, today the host of EWTN’s “Crossing the Goal” on Men’s spirituality, and his great quarterback, Archie Manning, the father of Peyton and Eli, both star pro quarterbacks today. 

Doris missed Moose very much.  Occasionally, she would complain that Moose should have hung on longer and put up a better fight against his Cancer as if he had control.  I would just say, “Doris, someday we’ll all be together again for that one big party” and she smiled.  May we all make it to Heaven and join that big party.

Although very spry, Doris suffered a lot as we all will... sooner or later.  I tried to impress her with the fact that suffering can be very valuable and productive.  If accepted in faith, it can be a great preparation for eternity.  I would say, “Doris, you can reap great fruits with your prayers and by uniting your cross with the Lord’s cross of Calvary and offering it all up to God as a dynamic prayer for the Church, the missions, for our country, for a better world, and for your loved ones.  God knows how much our country needs prayers.  In that way you can be most valuable.”  And she did that.
 
May the fact that Doris died on a date so close to All Souls Day November 2 inspire us to pray often for Doris and all of our deceased loved ones.  After all, according to Catholic belief, most souls that make it to Heaven must first spend time in Purgatory in order to become holy enough to be in the presence of the most holy Almighty God.   May Doris inspire us to strive to become holy and saints on earth in the here and now.  The Church helps us to achieve that goal if we only take advantage of it.

       Please permit me to close with the somewhat abbreviated lyrics of an old Gospel song often sung at New Orleans funeral marches.  I’d like to dedicate it to Doris.

The Lyrics of “When the Saints Go Marching In” 

We are traveling in the footsteps
Of those who've gone before
But we'll all be reunited
On a new and sunlit shore

Oh when the Saints go marching in
When the Saints go marching in
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

And when the sun refuses to shine
And when the sun refuses to shine
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

When the moon turns red with blood
When the moon turns red with blood
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

On that hallelujah day
On that hallelujah day
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

O when the trumpet sounds the call
O when the trumpet sounds the call
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

Some say this world of trouble
Is the only one we need
But I'm waiting for that morning
When the new world is revealed

When the revelation comes
When the revelation comes
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

When the rich go out and work
When the rich go out and work
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

When the air is pure and clean
When the air is pure and clean
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

When we all have food to eat
When we all have food to eat
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

When our leaders learn to cry
When our leaders learn to cry
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

Songwriters: Traditional,
When The Saints Go Marching In lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.,

Let’s all try to sing the most popular verse together.  We can’t do as well as Louis Armstrong, but let’s try.  Everybody sing!

Now when the saints……..go marching in
When the saints go marching in
Lord, I want to be….. in that number……
When the saints go marching in

          In any event when the saints go marching in, I know that this New Orleans gal, now young and beautiful, will be one of them.  May all of us some day also be in that number among the saints that go marching in.  Let’s all work on it with our lives as faithful practicing Christians with our lives.  Doris, we love you.  Good-by until we see you again.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

(164) Only World War II Chaplain Who Received the Congressional Medal of Honor: Navy Captain Fr. Joseph Timothy O’Callahan S.J.

Fr. Joseph O’Callahan S.J., a Catholic Priest, was instrumental with his leadership in saving the aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Franklin and the 2500 surviving sailors on board who otherwise could have perished. Already dead from the attack were 724 officers and enlisted men.  Top right - President Harry Truman presents the Congressional Medal of Honor to Fr. O'Callahan.  He is indeed part of the "Great Generation" of military and civilians that won World War II through their contributions to the war effort at home and abroad.  

        Military chaplains of all faiths have done a wonderful job throughout history.  One beautiful example of the faiths working together are the four military chaplains that gave their life jackets to soldiers who did not have one when the U.S. Dorchester was hit by a German torpedo on February 4, 1943.  They were Methodist, Jewish, Dutch Reformed, and Catholic.  For more detail on the four chaplains click on
There are ten American military chaplains, who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor (including a Confederate chaplain who received the equivalent Southern Cross of Honor), the military's highest award for heroism, since it was established in 1861.  Most were Catholic.  The qualifications for being awarded the Medal have been tightened up and refined over the years, but it is awarded to a member of the U.S. military for acts of intrepidity and gallantry above and beyond the call of duty while involved in combat operations.
   
Four medals of honor were awarded to Union chaplains for heroism during the Civil War, all of whom were Protestant Christians.  A fifth chaplain may be added……. a Catholic priest serving the Confederate Army.  Fr. Emmeran Bliemel, O.S.B., was killed at the Battle of Jonesboro while administering last rites -- the first American chaplain to die on the field of battle.  Since the Civil War, five chaplains received the Congressional Medal of Honor.  All  were Catholic.

       Each Veteran’s Day, St. Louis Church Gallipolis, Ohio honors military chaplains in an article as a bulletin insert.  You will see that chaplains fill an indispensable role in the military, but secularists are trying to eliminate them entirely. 

         Let us honor this year Navy Commander Fr. Joseph Timothy O’Callahan S.J., who served in World War II.  Upon retirement in 1953 from the Naval Reserve, he was promoted to Captain, an unusually high rank for a Chaplain.

Fr. Joseph O'Callahan
          Born in 1905, Fr. O’Callahan joined the Jesuit Order in 1922 and was finally ordained after a long period of preparation and study in 1934.  He must have been brilliant because the Jesuits assigned him at the age of 24 to teach Mathematics, Philosophy and Physics at Boston College (1929-37), then as Professor of Philosophy at the Jesuit Seminary of Weston College (1937-38), and Director of the Mathematics Department at Holy Cross College, Worcester, Massachusetts (1938-40).  With that scholarly background as a Jesuit priest, who would think that Fr. Joseph would become a war hero?

          The world was already engulfed in the flames of World War II which started in September 1939.  Although the United States had not yet entered the war, Fr. O’Callahan saw a need and joined the Navy as a chaplain in August 1940.  After assignments at different Navy bases and two years on the aircraft carrier Ranger, he was assigned to another carrier, the Franklin in March 1945.

          The U.S.S. Franklin with its 3,200 men was part of a task force whose mission was to track down the Japanese fleet and destroy its ships and air power.  Accomplishing that mission would practically end the War with Japan, perhaps making the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki unnecessary.  Only 16 days later, they confronted the Japanese fleet just 100 miles from Japan.  Waves of Navy planes took off at early twilight for bombing runs on Japanese ships.  Fighter planes escorted the bombers and patrolled the area to protect the Franklin against Japanese air attack.  They expected dogfights with Japanese aircraft.  Before each wave Fr. Joseph visited the various pilot ready rooms, prayed with the men, and gave them general absolution.

          The Franklin was both a floating airport with large amounts of gasoline and was also an ammunition dump full of bombs and rockets.  Obviously, the Franklin was the primary target for Japanese planes. 



Then all hell broke loose.  A Japanese bomber got through the air defense and dropped two one thousand pound bombs on the carrier.  One penetrated the flight and gallery decks and exploded in the hangar. Within seconds, gasoline ignited and a wave of searing flame raced down the three football-field length of the hangar and spread from one exploding plane to another.  As so vividly described by Lawrence P. Grayson , “Father O'Callahan retrieved a vial of holy oil and his helmet marked with a large white cross as he made his way through passages filled with flames and smoke to the open area above. On the hangar deck, bombs and rockets, engulfed in a mass of flames, were exploding at a rate of about one per minute.”

“Father continued upward to the flight deck. Here nearly 90 percent of the 1,000-foot apron was aflame. The clear portion was full of burned, mangled, bleeding bodies. He spent a few moments with each of those who were alive, praying, absolving, anointing. Explosions tore apart the steam lines and the boilers shut down. By 9:30 AM, the ship was powerless and listing. Twenty minutes later, a rear service magazine of five-inch shells exploded, raining debris onto the deck.  The fury brought disorganization.  Key officers were dead, and many chiefs, if alive, were dispersed or trapped. Flames, explosions and noxious smoke smeared faces and uniforms making it almost impossible to recognize anyone from a distance. One thing stood out, however, the white cross on the chaplain's helmet. It had the power to inspire.”



“Depleted hose crews needed help. Father rallied a group of men to join him on the hoses. When a live, thousand-pound bomb was spotted on the deck, the chaplain stood by for moral support while a team defused it; then he mustered a group of men to drop it overboard. When the fires were pushed back from the forward gun turret and its ready-ammunition magazine, hundreds of five-inch shells stored there had to be jettisoned before they exploded. Father O'Callahan had men form a chain, taking his turn in the line, to pass the hot shells from the magazine to the edge of the ship where they were dumped. He then joined a crew to flood a lower-deck magazine whose ammunition could not be easily unloaded.”  (See video at http://www.tfp.org/tfp-home/focus-on-history/fr-joseph-ocallahan-the-bravest-man.html.) 

“When the fires on the hangar deck began to subside, Father led a hose crew through a smoke-filled, dark passage to the area. On the flight deck, as the fires receded, six loose, but live, thousand-pound bombs were discovered. The chaplain was there encouraging the men as a hose crew worked to cool the bombs so others could defuse them.”

Somehow the Franklin survived.  The engineers were able to make emergency repairs and get the boilers restarted.  By the morning of the 20th, the Franklin was moving under its own power.  All day and night, the priest and the Protestant chaplain held a brief prayer service for each of the 724 fallen sailors before burial at sea.  Fr. Joseph was wounded, but carried on.  On April 3, one month after it had left, the ship limped into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

The ship's Commanding Officer described Fr. O'Callahan as "the bravest man I ever saw."  For his heroism in helping with his leadership to save an aircraft carrier and its 2500 surviving sailors on board who otherwise could have perished, President Harry Truman presented the Congressional Medal of Honor to him in 1946.  He is indeed part of the “Great Generation” of military and civilians that lived through the Great Depression and won World War II through their contributions to the war effort at home and abroad.
The Navy Congressional Medal of Honor

Before his release from active duty in November 1946, Father O'Callahan served on a new aircraft carrier, the Franklin D. Roosevelt.  While continuing to serve in the Navy Reserves until retirement in 1953, Fr. Joseph taught at Holy Cross College as a professor of philosophy and mathematics. He died in Worcester on March 18, 1964.  The destroyer escort ship USS O'Callahan 1968-1994, was named in honor of this Jesuit priest, who so valiantly served both our God and our country.  Sr. Rose Marie (Alice O’Callahan), his sister attended the christening.

For a fascinating history with bibliography of Catholic chaplains in the U.S. military go to http://www.tfp.org/tfp-home/focus-on-history/catholic-army-chaplains-americas-forgotten-heroes.html.  For the official Dept. of Defense Medal of Honor Citations of Fr. O’Callahan and the other Catholic chaplains, go to my Blog #127 “Heroic Catholic Chaplains Who Have Been Awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor”.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

(163) Why All of This Fuss Over Pope Francis and the Synod on the Family?

Adulation and babies to kiss at Independence Square in Philadelphia
            He was adulated as a super star during his visit to the United States.  Yet he continues to have his share of controversy and is sometimes misunderstood, especially when he speaks off the cuff in interviews and the media interprets it according to its agenda.  Some points brought out in the Synod add more controversy.  Let’s put it all into perspective. 


Pope Francis is just a human being and he’s the first to tell you that.  When asked who is Jorge Brogolio?  His answer was: “a sinner”.  Below Pope Francis warmly greets prisoners in a Philadelphia jail, the Curran-Fromhold Correction Facility.  His speech there was beautiful. For the complete text, go to
http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2015/september/documents/papa-francesco_20150927_usa-detenuti.html).



His parents were Italian immigrants, who fled from Italian Fascism to Argentina; naturally the family spoke Italian at home.  His father was an accountant.  After graduating from a Salesian Catholic high school, Jorge Brogolio had no lofty ambitions, working for a couple of years as a bouncer and a chemical technician. On his way to propose to his girlfriend, he suddenly felt a strong calling to the priesthood during Confession.  The Lord would not let him forget his calling any longer.  Despite opposition from his mother, he joined the very intellectual Jesuit Order, which gave him years of intense preparation and study.  After ordination, he taught and was later removed as Rector of the San Miguel Seminary for being too conservative.  He was even told not to reside in Jesuit houses.  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Francis for a detailed biography. 

Relegated to obscurity, St. Pope John Paul II rescued Fr. Jorge Brogolio S.J., making him Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires and later Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998.  Cardinal Brogolio was known for his love for the poor and simple lifestyle, but consistently faithful to Church teaching.  Despite being relatively unknown outside of Argentina in 2013, he was elected Pope under the guidance of the Holy Spirit which the College of Cardinals earnestly prayed for).  Suddenly he was thrust onto the world stage.  Soon he was adulated as a super star.  To handle all of that and not let it go to his head, one has to have deep humility.

From the very start he identified himself with the poor as Christ Himself did.  On being elected Pope he refused to move into the Papal Apartments, but rather lives in the same modest suite he occupied as Cardinal Jorge Brogolio S.J. during the Conclave.  Below Pope Francis has an informal audience in the Vatican with a few of the homeless of Rome.  He even had showers put in off of St. Peter's Square for them.  

Pope Francis chats with a few of the homeless of Rome in an informal audience in the Vatican.


Pope Francis deeply realizes that any adulation is not for him, but for his office as Vicar of Christ and the 265th successor to St. Peter.  After many if not most of his speeches, he asks the people to pray for him.  Pope Francis is clearly a man of prayer.

The coat of arms of Pope Francis below tells much about him.  He is devoted to his order, the Society of Jesus (IHS symbolizes the Holy Name of Jesus and the order) and its founder, St. Ignatius Loyola, a true soldier of Christ, who was wounded in battle before his conversion.  The eight pointed star indicates his devotion to Mary, the Morning Star, and the Spikenard flower symbolizes St. Joseph.  The keys symbolize the keys to the Kingdom attributed to St. Peter and his successors.  The miter symbolizes his other office as Bishop of Rome.  Below the shield is Latin for “By giving mercy and by choosing”.  Mercy is paramount in his love for the poor and desire to bring back those estranged from the Church……homosexuals, divorced and remarried Catholics, fallen away Catholics, drifting Catholics, etc.

Pope Francis called for the advisory Synod on the Family in 2014 and 2015 to learn more from church leaders all over the world (300 bishops, married laypeople, etc.) in order to make wiser decisions.  He called on Christian faithful to “embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church's journey in years to come."  The Pope's vision is reflected in his address to delegates at the opening of this second Synod on October 5 that the goal is “to read the reality of present times with the eyes of faith and with the heart of God.”  He also pointed out that the Church is not a museum which Christians are called to guard or save, but rather that the Church is a living force and witness in history to the love of God as salt and light.  Pope Francis, therefore, called on the delegates to enter into dialogue with one another in a spirit of humility, courage, and openness to the Holy Spirit through fidelity to the faith, the Gospel, and the will of God.

He is even allowing individual bishops to state the ridiculous and lets them talk all they want in complete freedom to maximize creativity.  For the sake of diversity the liberals may have been disproportionately represented.  Pope Francis is a product of Jesuit thinking that the Holy Spirit often works through discussion, debate, and even contradiction that comes up in the process.  Hopefully, it will not open a Pandora’s Box of dissent, division, and off-the-wall ideas against Church teaching as had happened after Vatican II.  Yes, Pope Francis would like to have consensus, but the decisions up or down are solely his since the synod, like the parish council, is advisory and consultative.  The Church is not a democracy.  Clearly Pope Francis is open to reform, but not at the expense of doctrine.  Papal infallibility seldom comes into play except when the Pope, after considerable intense prayer, study, and deliberation, makes a solemn declaration on faith and morals.  The last prominent examples were the declarations of the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in 1854 and her Assumption in 1950. 

The liberal press speculates that Pope Francis will change church teaching and allow those who are divorced and later remarried to receive the sacraments.  The gay community is pushing for the Church to recognize their life style as morally legitimate and allow gay marriage.  As Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he vehemently opposed the passage of the law permitting gay marriage in Argentina.  Of course, the Church has always welcomed those with same sex attraction, but it cannot condone the sexual lifestyle.  Sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman always has been and always will be morally wrong.  The Synod restated Church teaching that homosexual tendencies are not sinful, but homosexual acts are. 

Opening Session of the Synod on the Family October 6, 2014
There cannot be nor will there be any change in Church teaching regarding divorced and remarried Catholics.  They are most welcome to attend Mass and devotions, participate in parish life, but not receive the sacraments unless the couple promises their confessors to live as brother and sister.  The Synod did recommend flexibility on the divorced and remarried being allowed to receive Holy Communion on an individual case by case basis under the direction of each bishop, but that could be abused to the point of watering down the doctrine that marriage is insoluble.  Nevertheless, the Pope has the final word on that.  

St. Pope John Paul II reaffirmed and clarified Church teaching on marriage and the family in his 1981 Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio (http://www.domestic-church.com/CONTENT.DCC/BASEDOCS/JPII_FC_1.HTM and http://cnsnews.com/blog/michael-w-chapman/pope-st-john-paul-ii-church-reaffirms-no-communion-divorced-persons-who-have).  Pope Francis could update it, but would not contradict it.

In 1968 it was widely believed that the Church would change its teaching on contraception and Pope Paul VI was under great pressure to do so.  After much agonizing, Paul VI, wrote a landmark encyclical, “Humanae Vitae (On Human Life)”, a classic with the help of a great philosopher, Cardinal Karol Wojtyła (later St. Pope John Paul II).  It not only reaffirmed Church teaching, but was prophetic, predicting that contraception would be a slippery slope leading to more promiscuity, more divorce, and more abortion.  All of that came to pass and the world is suffering as a result.

Pope Francis like previous popes will be in union with his predecessors.  He may refine, clarify, or deepen our understanding of Church teaching, but he will not contradict it.  Remarkable is the evolution of Church social teaching, beginning with Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum on the Condition of Labor in 1891.  Pius XI updated it with Quadragesimo Anno (Forty Years After) in 1931, John XIII with Mater et Magistra in 1961, Paul VI with Octogesima Adveniens in 1971, John Paul II with Centesimo Anno in 1991, and Benedict XVI with Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) in 2009.  In no instance did one contradict the other.  It was always a case of reinforcing his predecessors, bringing the application of Church teaching up to date, confronting new evils in changing times, building upon, deepening, and refining.  For the original text of virtually every papal encyclical and many other papal documents, go to http://www.papalencyclicals.net/ereader.htm.   
        
No Pope will ever contradict his predecessor(s) on basic Church teaching or change Church doctrine.  It is inconceivable that any pope would contradict 2000 years of Church teaching.  The Holy Spirit would not allow it.  A couple of past popes have assumed the papal office with an agenda for change in doctrine, but could not do it.  After all, Christ promised that He would be with the Church until the consummation of the world.  Pope Francis is looking for ways to reach the estranged and bring them back into communion with the Church to fulfill his God given mission, but not at the expense of changing basic Church teaching.  It won’t happen.  TRUTH WILL PREVAIL!

Our Lord Himself appointed Peter as the first Pope and established the office of the Papacy for his successors: “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19)…….”I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world” (Matthew 28:20).