Emmitsburg Council of Churches

The Nativity of John the Baptist

Father John J. Lombardi

This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.' Matthew 3:3

It's Summer. That may mean: swimming, picnicking, vacationing and Summer reading--catching up on some books or articles on a beach, by a pool or in the backyard on a lazy afternoon. I just got away for some vacation-here's some summer reading you may consider--or some excerpts and comments and how they may affect us as Catholics and Christians, both good and bad…

With Life and Laughter (Pauline Press:1996) by Br Gerald Muller. This is a short, fine book for people of all ages about the beautiful Jesuit priest and martyr Fr Miguel Pro who was killed in Mexico city 192 This was man who was sickly, heroic and creative-all at the same time--and a jokester to boot. Like the "joyful Saint" Phillip Neri enjoyed playing practical jokes or friends and fellow religious even while being devout and holy he didn't want a "sacristan spirituality"-meaning aloof from others while following Jesus Christ. Rather, oppositely, on his road to the priesthood, he aligned himself amongst the regulars and workers of the world and showed them the road to holiness. He often went out disguised as a repairman or garbage collector to "stations" (covert homes of Catholics) to give the sacraments under cover to the Faithful. Communist repression came to Mexico in 1925 and the Catholic Church became persecuted and underground. Fr Pro was arrested unfairly in trumped up charges and sentenced to death-s were many Catholics-laity and clergy alike. When asked right before he was shot to death if he had any requests he said-"Yes I'd like to pray." He did, kneeling and then was shot and killed, as he cried:"Viva Christo Rei: Long Live Christ the King!"…Do you have and cultivate heroic faith in your life? How can you bolster your faith and pass it on to others? How can you to witness to others? How can you more consciously pray for persecuted Catholics and Christians in our world today-in Iraq, the Middle East,China, N Korea and the Sudan and S. America?

Presidential Courage: by Michael Beschloss (Simon and Shuster: 2007). I heard about this book from an intriguing radio interview, with the author describing courage and faith, namely about Ronald Regean and many others. After the assassination attempt on his life Regan miraculous survival he said that he would devote the rest of his life to God. Obviously Regan wasn't' demonstrably an overt Christian nor spoke about his Christian Faith to others, but he was a "believer". Herein this book are stories on George Washington who was heckled in his last days as president (over a covert treaty with Great Britain under John Jay which was perceived by many as a betrayal to the newly formed United States) and on John F. Kennedy- and his slow conversion to civil rights causes; Abraham Lincoln …The subtitle is well served: "Brave Leaders and How they Changed America-1789-1980." …In a time when people don't want to talk "religion and politics" how can you nurture courage like these leaders to bring Faith into our country's causes for justice and peace and thereby exhibit that, whether overtly or subtly Christianity can help our country grow?

The Canon-by Natalie Angier (Houghton-Mifflin: 2007). I was excited to get and read this book as I am interested in how God "grows the natural world around us," I read a praiseworthy review about the book and thought that it would be good to catch up on basics of science for dummies-as this book promised much but, later, as I read, didn't know that it would upbraid creationists (those Christians who bleive God created the world about 4,000 yrs ago), Intelligent designers" (there is an "Intelligent design/er" behind all the mystery and complexity), and with the author trumpeting her own agnostic- atheistic views upon the reader, however subtly and with wry, entertaining wit. There are good chapters on basics of science-cell biology, geology, astronomy and so forth, but after I read that she was an unbeliever, and critiqued anyone against evolution and the Big Bang (which she says is incontrovertible true) I lost any respect for this esteemed science writer for the New York Times. .Point: she draws you in with her knowledge and entertaining narratives-yet it is largely into a world largely without "design" and "purpose" and goal-i.e., atheistic and cold. By the way, the book is titled: "A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science"-atheists and agnostics like the author can only offer a limited view and explanation of beauty in life with little else. Funny thing: while agnostics offer lots of evidence of so-called evolutionary development and mechanism of change and direction, they claim by scientific fiat that others cannot claim "purpose" or "design' to this very underlining obvious fact and thereby keep God out of the picture. Also Angienr and other scientists have a "secular-scientific faith" in "The Big Bang" he co-that the cosmos began 5 billion years ago in an amorphous mass of material and then exploded into our current world-they have never factually proven this and yet propose or push this theory on others as "fact". It may or may not be true but it often is a veiled attempt to push or leave God out of purposeful design of our world. Upshot: don't' believe everything you read and while we Christians need to use valid scientific principles they should never contradict our faith and God as creator and providential Father. So, I learned from this book: you take what is good and leave what is bad and learn to dialogue with unproven "science" with enlightened openness and knowledge.

Evolution for Everyone, By David Sloan Wilson (Delacorte Press:2007) Subtitled

"How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We think About Our Lives" Frankly I got the book because of the subtitle and how to engage with such thinking-which we Christians should be able to do. Wilson prizes his scientific methodology and challenges and chides believers and others to "prove their case" and use facts and so forth to support Faith and science as collaborators (usually incompatibles in his view). He says he would like to be a believer (of some kind) but his "religion" is Doing good and the Golden Rule-doing good to others as they would do to you. Like the above book this was an enjoyable but perturbing read. Wilson is a strict evolutionist and proposes-and thus the attractiveness of his book and subtitle--how the theory can explain just about anything-from insect development to families and village life-and how we all should thus become believers in evolution. Wilson and other evolutionists promote a "selfish gene is the Way of Life"-that we are programmed for survival and development at the cost of other lesser fortunate genes and people and insects, and yet says that this is not always so as in some life-phenomena which have cells in them which are sacrificial and die for a common good. Herein are two contradicting principles and he cannot explain it but only focuses on "survival of the fittest" while rejecting "the sacrificial principle". That's not scientific!

For some evolution has become a kinda religion-belief since everyone usually has some kind of God or a god… A friend asked me why I was reading this book and I responded that we Catholics need to know what opponents of Faith are thinking and how to respond. This seminal and serious issue-evolution--is not going away and we Christians need not despise science or evolution as a possible theory but engage them in a viable way to synthesie with our belief in God the Creator. We need wisdom to discern!

Reclaiming History: by Vincent Bugliosi, This is a fascinating, gripping read. about the assassination of John F Kennedy in 1963. Previously I've been un-awed by the discussions of "conspiracy" versus "lone gunman" arguments and all else surrounding this: it was history. But then I saw an interview with this author and was riveted by his simplicity and convinceness. Upshot: one assassin (Lee Harvey Oswald) acting alone. That's it. Jury's out. No conspiracy. The book is over 1300 pages (footnotes on an acocmanyining cd!) and each time I picked up the book I didn't want to put it down. It shows you: drama (Jackie Kennedy trying to get into the surgery room of JFK, finally successfully, after being stopped three times) , intrigue (Oswald's whereabouts just after killing the President avoiding police) , mayhem (a kinda reckless scramble to get the shot-president to the hospital while speeding), surprise (JFK's omen of a possible assassination) irony (the First Couple getting a bouquet of not Yellow roses of Texas on the day of assassination but a Red bouquet of flowers) and much else. As Bugliosi-a trained lawyer who spent 10 years on this case-shows, the facts support a "lone gunman" theory and, amidst all the surrounding data, if there was an assassin wouldn't we have heard about some leads or "smoking gun" in the meantime? Anyway: no matter what you believe, we can learn at least two things: it's a the book by Bugliosi is a good introduction into all the drama and facts of the case; and second, scout around before you believe anything unproven-about science or your Faith in the real life world…

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi