Monday, October 31, 2011

(19) Why Canonized Saints?

        Being canonized a saint is somewhat analogous to being inducted into the Hall of Fame. They are recognized for extraordinary holiness and heroic virtue as models for us to imitate and learn from. The process of canonization takes years and sometimes centuries. A committee closely scrutinizes the persons life, looking for evidence of great holiness and heroic virtue. One of the members of the committee is nicknamed the “devil's advocate” because his job is to look for significant faults and any evidence whatsoever, that the person does not deserve to be canonized. Furthermore, at least two authenticated miracles, as a signs from God, are required as a result of that person's intercession. There must be no doubt that the cure was supernatural and could not have happened by natural or psychological means. An example may be the sudden disappearance of an advanced malignant cancer.
       Do Catholics pray to the dead? How could we? Canonized saints are alive and with God in heaven. We're certain of that by virtue of the fact that they are canonized. Thus we can honor them and have a devotion to them. Of course, Christ is the only intermediary between man (in the generic sense) and God. However, we can ask a saint to pray for us in the same manner that I am asking friends and the sick I minister to pray for the success of our Newman Club and offer their crosses for itl
        Do Catholics pray to Mary and saints? Some do ask them for prayers, the same as I may ask you to pray for me over a problem or illness. Some saints may have a certain power that God may give them to use according to His will. The Hail Mary prayer to Mary is Biblical, found in Luke 1:28,42. Mary's role is to nurture the faith and bring people closer to her son, protect them, teach them, etc. She is so intimately united to her son that she is always aware of His will and is subservient to it. 
          Above all, Mary prays for us, nurtures our faith, and serves as models of heroic virtue and unusual holiness. In no way can a saint ever replace God. Devotion to Mary or a saint is completely optional. Of course, one may go directly to God. However, Mary purifies our petition and magnifies our prayers, sacrifices, and offerings. Mary interceded at Cana for the newly weds , who were out of wine. She told her son: “They have no wine.” A few minutes later. She told the servants her servants” “Do what He tells you”. You know the rest of the story from John 2:1-11. Mary also intercedes today as the Queen Mother in the heavenly court. Similarly in the Old Testament the Queen Mother had a place of special honor and influence in the King's court.......much more so than any of the King's many wives.
       Every prayer directly or indirectly has the Bible as its root, e.g. petition – “Whatever you ask in my name shall be granted to you”. The Bible is a prayer in itself and inspires more prayer. Every saint must be inspired by the Bible or s/he cannot become a saint. The saints inspire us to holiness by their example of heroic virtue and love of God, which lead us to a greater interest in the Bible. Their stories and writings are great supplements to the Bible, which help us to understand the Word of God in greater depth.
        Can you become a saint? Of course you can. Anyone can become a saint, although probably not canonized. By definition, a saint is anyone who makes it to Heaven. We are all called to be saints; we are all called to holiness. Practice the ten points mentioned in Blog #18 and some day you will be a saint honored on “All Saints Day”, one of millions of other unknown saints who loved God above all things and loved their neighbors as themselves .

Sunday, October 30, 2011

(18) Called to Be Saints........Each One of Us

       Tomorrow is Halloween. It comes from the two words, “hallowed eve” or holy eve of All Saints Day on November 1, a holy day of obligation for Catholics. Unfortunately, the day has deviated from its original meaning and it has become spook night. Even the Satanists have tried to take it over and consider it their night for their festivities. A former student of mine stumbled on a Satan worship ritual one Halloween night and quickly got out of there. He said that “it was really scary”.
        Some people put out displays in front of their houses that rivals Christmas displays. One neighbor of ours had the works.......ghosts, witches, demons, graves, skeletons, etc. The owner happened to be there when I passed by and I remarked: Someday we'll be that way......skeletons in the grave. How true! Thus we should be ready when our time comes, i.e., preparing for eternity through out our pilgrimage on earth.  At Halloween parties in some Catholic circles kids dress as saints and have a good time doing it.
            The name given to us at Baptism and the one we choose at Confirmation should be a saint for us to emulate.  We celebrate a saint's feast day almost every day throughout the year.  But what about us?  Can we become saints?  Yes indeed!  In fact, you are called to be a saint......each one of us.  Anyone who makes it to heaven is a saint, most with a stopover in Purgatory.  We are called to be holy.

To enter heaven and stand in the presence of God, we must be holy.  The question is: Do we become holy here on earth or in Purgatory which is much more difficult and arduous.  We could be stuck there for decades if not centuries as we develop holiness.  The greatest torment is the intense longing for God.  Yet it’s a happy place because Heaven is only a matter of time.  The souls there don’t want to go to Heaven until they are ready with the proper wedding garment so to speak.  It’s much easier to become holy here.  Once we make it to heaven, we are saints.  Thus the song: “When the Saints Come Marching In”.  May we be among them some day.  May we become holy on earth so that we can have a direct flight to Heaven.  
        Canonized saints are persons of unusual holiness and heroic virtue, recognized by the Church as models to imitate.......a canonization is analogous to induction to a Hall of Fame after thorough investigation by a committee of scholars backed by at least two miracles authenticated by experts as beyond natural explanation, such as the sudden healing of an organ ravaged by cancer. All faiths have people who are looked up to as heroes and recognized for their unusual holiness and heroic virtue.
        How can you become a saint? None of us will be canonized, but we must all aspire to be saints in heaven. We must aspire to be holy. At the same time, we use the canonized saints as models to emulate. We may ask them to pray for us the same as I might ask you to pray for me. The saints show us that they did it and so can we. If we can imitate a virtue or two of a canonized saint even to a small degree, we are on our way to become a saint. Let us look at the common characteristics of canonized saints and use them as models to develop a virtue to a small degree at first and keep working on it.
Common Characteristics That Canonized Saints Have in Common
  1. They all loved God above all things. God was first in their lives over everything else.                 
  2. They all loved people since Christ is en each person......”Whatever you do to the least of mine, you do it unto me”. They served God by serving others either by charitable works or prayer.        
  3. They were all men and women of prayer, therefore close to God and united with Him.                
  4. They all had a complete trust in God, completely abandoning themselves to Providence.            
  5. They all sought the will of God in everything they did.......even in little things.                           
  6. They all had trials and suffered, all of which they united their crosses with the Lord's cross and offered them all up to God as a dynamic prayer for the Church, the Missions, for repentance, and a better world........often called Redemptive Suffering. 
  7. They all had a devotion to Mary, who nurtures the faith and brings us closer to her son. At the Cana wedding feast, Mary took the initiative to help the bride and groom when they ran out of wine. She told her son and said: “Do what He tells you”. This was Mary's first act of intercession. Today in the tradition of the Old Testament, the Queen Mother has a special place of influence in the heavenly court, from where she intercedes for us. Since Christ gave her to us from the cross as our mother, she nurtures our faith and brings us closer to her son. Thus we have the saying.......”To Jesus through Mary”.
  8. They all had heroic virtue.......Some virtues were more salient than others, depending upon the individual saints and his/her personality. They all exercised self-discipline to develop them.
  9. They all had unusual holiness closeness to God through prayer, loving Him intensely, knowing Him to the point of having a deep personal relationship with Him, serving Him with great dedication, and seeking to discern and do His will in every action.                                                                                                                                                                                                         
  10. They all loved and regularly listened to or read the word of God, the Bible. For the first 16 centuries before the invention of the printing press, the Bible was copied by hand onto parchment, which made it prohibitively expensive and thus were chained to a table for security. Furthermore, until modern times most people did not read. If one attends Mass every Sunday for three years or daily Mass for two years, s/he will have covered the highlights of the entire Bible.
        Follow these points; practice them at least to a small degree, little by little, more and more every day, gradually developing each virtue. It's loving God and neighbor, serving them, the little things done well for the love of Christ, prayer, seeking and following His will that make us saints.

         As a postscript, let us see Bishop Robert Barron talk on saints.  Striking is his point is that the only real failure in life is not to become a saint.  We climb the ladder of success and discover that it's on the wrong wall.  Only saints can enter heaven.  We honor the saints and should try to emulate the saints.  He quotes St. Paul (Galatians 2:20).  "It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me".  That is Christ dominated his life and should dominate ours.  See  We should strive not for wealth, pleasure, power, honor, but rather become saints while being detached from everything else.  That's what life is all about.  

Saturday, October 29, 2011

(17) School Tax Levy Passage: A Grand Slam For Kids

Note: Three  days ago I posted Blog #14 "A Little Sacrifice, Huge Return".  It described the campaign to pass the School Tax levy which the State of Ohio would more than match to build three new high schools, an elementary school, remodeling of others.   This blog is a follow-up and shows the euphoria in the victory celebration and reflections about it.
(Originally published in the Gallipolis Daily Tribune November 2005)

       At the electrifying election night gathering in a packed Gallia Academy auditorium, a red dot blinked on a map of southeastern Ohio, indicating victory to a standing ovation as red dot balloons popped like fire crackers. With youthful exuberance, kids with red dot tattoos on their faces cheered: “We got a red dot” with the tune, “Celebration” in the background, realizing that it indeed was a historical day. The levy for new schools passed in both the city and county…..a grand slam for Gallia County.

It was a landslide for the City Schools “Red Dot for Kids” (71% of the vote) and a clear majority for the County District “Quality Schools for Quality Kids” (55%). It was a great victory for the Community that worked so hard in a campaign that attracted the greatest local interest and best voter turnout in years at 55%.

All parts of the community pulled together. Businesses, in a demonstration of social responsibility, provided the funding ($60,000 for the city campaign with Holzer providing half) while school administrators, teachers, parents, and the kids themselves did the leg work. The campaign was beautifully organized down to the precinct level….. billboards, yard signs, posters, newspaper ads, pamphlets, auto decals, buttons, t-shirts, rallies, information meetings, a display in the library, newspaper ads, and even a website. Precinct captains and their volunteers got out the vote, making telephone calls through election day.
The Daily Tribune gave unprecedented support for the campaign with frequent front page coverage and acceptance of some 100 articles and letters from the community on the editorial page. Teachers, parents, and other citizens wrote on both sides of the issue. Even many of the kids themselves were able to put their writing skills into practice and learned a lesson in democratic civic participation as little citizens. One day the paper had two full pages of letters and articles. I’ve lived all over the world and never saw anything like it.
May the momentum of this community spirit and civic pride carry over into other activities, future campaigns, elections, projects, etc. The Community showed their willingness to sacrifice their resources for our kids. Those who own considerable land and property will have to bear more than their share of the tax burden. To them, we owe special gratitude, not to mention the out of county taxpayers of the State of Ohio, who will not benefit directly.

       The kids can repay the sacrifices of hundreds of volunteers and thousands of property owners and other taxpayers by studying hard and making their investment pay off for the Community. May the teachers and administrators repay the sacrifices by renewed dedication and enthusiasm. May the Community and especially the parents continue their involvement in education and support the teachers, particularly those who stretch the students by demanding their maximum effort and excellence. Teachers cannot do it alone, especially in regard to discipline and motivation to study hard. Let’s put a greater value upon education now more than ever.

       Finally, may we echo the beautiful prayer of thanksgiving given by Brent Saunders, the Assistant Principal of Gallia Academy, at the close of the victory celebration. We will certainly need divine guidance in spending the millions of dollars wisely with effective design and planning.

(16) Mel Simon: A Career Serving God & His People*

Published in the Gallipolis Daily Tribune November 2, 2011

        Today Dr. Mel Simon officially retired from surgical practice as a urologist and past president of the Medical Staff at the Pleasant Valley Hospital in Point Pleasant, WV after 39 years there. Tomorrow October 29 he will be 76 years old. You would never think that; he does have the right genes.......his mother bore and raised 12 kids and died at 102. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Mel and a happy fulfilling retirement! He will however, continue at a reduced scale in his private practice out of loyalty to his old patients with whom there is a bond.

          Although Dr. Simon will never retire completely ---this dynamo of energy has been too active for that in every facet of his life for so many years---, this occasion is a good time to recognize his many achievements, thank him for his many contributions, and encourage him to continue serving God and His people. Retirement can be liberating in giving more time to serve the Church and the community in related and other ways while being able to spend more time with grandchildren and extended family while getting closer to God.

        A book could be written about his life of achievement and service. So for the purposes of this blog (a comprehensive collection of short commentaries), I will focus mainly on his contributions to the Church and the community that could inspire all of us, including those who are outside the medical field.

        Dr. Mel Simon is literally the fulfillment of the American dream and his wife Lydia, always at his side as faithful friend, personal financial secretary, and sometimes manager, had a lot to do with it. Her help and encouragement made it easier to spend more time in his professional and community activities. Mel grew up in the strongly Catholic Philippine Islands during the Japanese occupation.  As a boy Mel narrowly escaped death when the city hospital was bombed a few minutes after he left it.  He was there when his hero, General Douglas MacArthur was forced to leave and two years later when he kept his pledge, “I shall return”. Mel studied Medicine in Manila and completed his residency in Chicago. 

      In 1966 Dr. Charles Holzer, a pioneer in medicine in southeastern Ohio and founder of an extensive health care system that bears his name, invited the young immigrant to find the American dream through hard work as Chief of the Department of Urology in Gallipolis, across the Ohio River from Pt. Pleasant. Soon he became a very successful and eminent urologist on both banks of the river, serving both communities. Dr. Simon is active in medical societies and was a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve.

        Immigrants such as Dr. Mel Simon made America. They are the best that their native countries have to offer. That is their intelligence, ingenuity, self-confidence, courage, resourcefulness, and spirit of adventure to take the risk of leaving their countries of birth and adapting to a new culture and a new system.  The timid, the lazy, and the less able stay home.  Most are willing to work hard, pursue new paths, and do what it takes to be successful. They give the country new blood and fresh ideas; they come to America seeking opportunity and freedom. Then they work hard to achieve the American dream and so often find it.

        Mel has enjoyed the fruits of his success, but is very generous with his time and financial resources in giving back so much to the twin sister communities that gave him the opportunity as well as to his country of birth that raised him. That's what makes this prominent physician stand out and led to his being chosen for the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame ( in Columbus. That makes him an example to both the very successful as well as to the many unknown people who think that they can only contribute in little ways.......not realizing that many little deeds done over many years are also very important and also add to greatness.

         He exemplifies Christian stewardship, which recognizes that everything belongs to God and comes from Him....... His providential help, one's endowed talents or gifts, opportunities in life, etc., all of which the individual has little or no control......that God gives us earthly possessions, property, and financial resources in trust as stewards to be used responsibly to provide for our own genuine needs and to serve one's fellow man for the common good of all. Greater wealth entails greater responsibility and God will hold us accountable for the use of these gifts.

        Thus Dr. Simon has contributed significantly to his parish, St. Louis Church, to the University of Rio Grande, and many other charitable causes. He has given his time and energy as a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Rio Grande ( since 1994 to assist in its growth and guide it through a severe financial crisis. Mel contributed significantly to the restoration of the historic Ariel Theater ( in 1990, originally built in 1896 as an opera house in the gas light era for this steamboat stop on the Ohio River. That led to the birth of the Ohio Valley Symphony Orchestra ( at the same time and his subsequent participation as a member of its Board of Directors. Dr. Simon is also a 4th Degree member of the Knights of Columbus (, a Catholic men's fraternal and service organization.

        Operation We Care ( Perhaps Dr. Simon's most significant contribution of all is his very active participation in the Rotary Club ( As President of the Society of Philippine Surgeons in America in 1988, he organized an annual medical mission to the Philippines and in 1999 he strengthened the mission by obtaining the sponsorship of the Rotary Club while its District 6690 Governor. Usually every February for 24 years, Dr. Simon recruits a team of some 35 doctors and nurses and obtains donations of medical supplies and equipment to do diverse surgeries for a very intense two weeks.......cleft palate, some genetic deformities, tumors, eye surgery, dental surgery, etc. Each participant in the mission pays his/her own travel expenses. At the same time the team members train their counterparts in a real people to people outreach.

        From his own resources, he and Lydia furnished a 100 bed surgical ward of the 400 bed Region One Medical Center in Dagupan, Pangasinan in the northern Philippines. In gratitude for five years of bringing the medical mission and numerous donations, it was officially named as the “Dr. Mel & Lydia Simon Surgical Ward in 2007. In addition they helped in the construction of a 30 bed community hospital in Mangaldan, Pangasinan, where deep water drinking wells were also constructed in 17 surrounding villages through the generosity of Filipino and American Rotary Clubs. These wells helped to greatly decrease the incidence of gastro-intestinal diseases and improved the quality of life. Dr. Simon and Lydia also initiated nutrition and literacy programs for hundreds of undernourished school children.

        The French 500 Free Clinic is Dr. Simon's most recent ongoing community project. My having observed free clinics as a lay missionary in Peru that the American Maryknoll Fathers ( ( established in their parishes in Peru and based upon Mel's 24 years of experience with medical missions, I asked him in early 2009 whether such a model would work in our own Gallia County. He jumped on the idea, recruited a very capable and dedicated cadre of doctors, nurses, and lay people to organize and run a free clinic. By August we were off and running with our first monthly free clinic in an annex of his own Hill Crest Clinic.

        To date the French 500 Free Clinic has served 720 uninsured patients free of charge with the help of donations. Soon it will be joining the 41 member Ohio Association of Free Clinics ( ). Clearly, this model is more efficient than a trillion dollar government program. Could private neighborhood clinics staffed by nurse practitioners supplemented by medical doctors work on a larger scale financed by fees charged on the basis of ability to pay, donations and no strings attached matching government funds? Too often government programs entail expensive bureaucracies where it's giving without love and care without concern.

        Thank you, Dr. Simon for your many years serving God and His people. May you have many more years doing the same in your retirement. As the Polish people like to say for birthdays, “Stolat!” That is: “May you live to be 100.” Your mother did. May the Lord bless you richly on your day.

St. Louis Parish Hall May 20, 2013

          Dr. Mel Simon is the epitome of the American Dream.  As a little boy he lived under the yoke of the oppressive Japanese Occupation from 1941 to 1945.  At one point he narrowly escaped being killed by an American bomb.  He was there when his hero, General MacArthur kept his pledge, “I shall return”.

          Dr. Mel studied Medicine at the University of St. Thomas in Manila and completed his residency in Chicago.  In 1966 Dr. Charles Holzer invited him to be Chief of the Department of Urology at the hospital his father founded.  Soon Dr. Simon became a very successful and eminent urologist, serving his patients on both sides of the river.  He was a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force reserves and past president of the Medical Staff at the Pleasant Valley Hospital and also of the Rotary Club.  Currently he is a 4th Degree member of the Knights of Columbus, the Board of the Ohio Valley Symphony, and the Board of Trustees of the University of Rio Grande. 

       Mel has enjoyed the fruits of his success, but is very generous with his time and financial resources in giving back so much to his parish, the twin sister communities that gave him the opportunity, and to his country of birth that raised him.  As President of the Society of Philippine Surgeons in America and before, he organized an annual medical mission to the Philippines and in 1999 he strengthened the mission by obtaining the sponsorship of the Rotary Club while its District 6690 Governor. Usually every February of the past 29 years, Dr. Simon recruits a team of some 35 doctors and nurses and obtains donations of medical supplies and equipment to do diverse surgeries for a very intense two weeks.......cleft palate, some genetic deformities, tumors, eye surgery, dental surgery, etc.  Each participant in the mission pays his/her own travel expenses. At the same time the team members train their counterparts in a real people to people outreach.

          In our own local community he was the prime mover in the formation of the French 500 Free Clinic in Spring Valley.  Since its founding in 2009 it has treated over one thousand uninsured patients of Gallia County on the last Thursday of the month.  I have some brochures here for those of you who know people who cannot afford medical insurance. 

All of this makes this prominent physician stand out and led to his being chosen for the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame.  Today his fellow Knights and his parish have the opportunity to recognize Dr. Mel Simon for his achievements in serving humanity here and abroad.  Dr. Simon, thank you for all that you have done for humanity.  May each one of us follow your example in frequently serving our Church and community in little or big ways as we are able.  Thus it is a privilege to present to you the very first Knights of Columbus Humanitarian Award.  Dr. Simon, please step forward and Lydia as well who had a big part in it.