Okay, yes I admit it! Some of my July and August posts were ponderous and heavy. Maybe my titles needed to be more upbeat. For example, “Saints and Sacrifices: Maximilian Kolbe
and Edith Stein at Auschwitz” generated only a few comments. A lot of people tell me they read my posts but usually don’t comment. I can understand that. But I’m told that in the blogging world, comments are generally considered the measurement of success of a post. After my “Saints and Sacrifices” post, someone sent me an article entitled: “Why Did Your Last Blog Post Fail?” The subtitle was, “Nobody comments … Nobody bookmarks it … Nobody tweets it … It’s almost like it was never written!” Wow! And you thought MY title was depressing!
Actually, it wasn’t quite that bad. I know a lot more people read it than commented on it. And regardless, I just couldn’t let Saint Edith Stein’s and Saint Maximilian’s Feast Days go by without some tribute to them. I didn’t write about them just because they suffered terribly, though for sure they did. I wrote about them because they shined, because evil did not have the last word, because 70 years later people like me are still writing about their triumph over oppression, over Auschwitz, over suffering, even over death. That gives me and all of us cause for hope. Unfortunately, that hope might not have been reflected in my title. Having “Auschwitz” in the title isn’t exactly a portent of something upbeat.
Another reader wrote that she liked “Saints and Sacrifices,” but pointed out that it was my third post in 12 weeks about Adolf Hitler, and I’m “beginning to sound a bit like the History Channel.” OUCH! There’s a strange irony in that. There’s no character in history that I loathe more than Hitler. The irony is that as my trial ended in 1994, the prosecutor compared me to Adolf Hitler in his closing remarks to the jury.
It was the sort of inflammatory statement that usually isn’t allowed in court, but it was allowed in that court. The jury looked visibly alarmed, and I can only imagine how I looked to them. As with the rest of that trial, the Hitler comparison like Hitler himself – had nothing to do with the truth or with justice.
Another TSW reader recently asked me to consider an occasional post answering questions and tying up loose ends from previous posts. “Sometimes your posts leave me speechless,” she wrote, “but also leave me dangling and wondering what happened next.” It’s a good point. So I decided to periodically revisit some posts to update readers and answer questions. The section headings will serve as links to the original posts.
THE PARADOX OF SUFFERING: AN INVITATION FROM ST. MAXIMILIAN
In “The Paradox of Suffering,” I described my friend, Pornchai Moontri’s decision to Consecrate himself to St. Maximilian’s dual movements, the Militia of the Immaculata and the Knights at the Foot of the Cross. Before the nine-day preparation began, Pornchai invited another prisoner, Donald Spinner, to join us. Donald is a Catholic convert who was Baptized on August 30 last year.
At Mass on Sunday night on the Solemnity of the Assumption, Pornchai and Donald joined the M.I., and we all prayed the Consecration as Knights at the Foot of the Cross. It was a simple but profoundly beautiful way to honor the Blessed Mother and to put some of our own trials to good use by offering personal suffering as a share in the suffering of Christ.
We were very much aware of the TSW readers around the world who were joining us in that hour either in prayer or in their own Consecration. Before the Mass, I told Pornchai that as a member of Saint Maximilian’s Knights at the Foot of the Cross, I plan to offer each day in prison in spiritual support of the readers of These Stone Walls. Pornchai told me that he would do the same.
Several TSW readers sent messages pledging to join us in the Consecration. Our friend, Donald Spinner was especially moved that people around the world joined us in prayer at that time. The next day, Donald stopped by to tell me how special the Consecration was to him. “After the Mass, I laid down on my bunk and found myself smiling for a solid hour before falling asleep,” he said.
If you thought about M.I. Consecration but were not able to join in at that time, it isn’t too late. The Consecration may take place on any Marian feast, and September 15 is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. The nine-day preparation is not very time consuming, and it’s a wonderful opportunity for spiritual renewal. If you decide to take advantage of this opportunity, the nine-day preparation period would begin September 6. You may obtain the information you need and register your own Consecration at the National Shrine of Saint Maximilian Kolbe (www.marytown.com).
As I wrote in “A Corner of the Veil,” suffering offered for another is redemptive of both. I thought of that post – and of my mother, the subject of the post – during my own Consecration When I was growing up north of Boston, my family and I lived simply and modestly. Anything that wasn’t a necessity had to be earned. I realize today that this was as true for my parents as it was for me and my brothers and sister.
I recall asking my mother for a new bicycle when I was eight. So she sat me down at our kitchen table and placed a shoe box in front of me. I had to help her paste that month’s pile of S & H Green stamps into their collection books.
It’s been decades since I’ve seen or even heard of S & H Green Stamps. I remember that they were always distributed at the grocery store’s checkout register, and at just about every other retailer my mother went to. Every item purchased would produce Green Stamps, and sometimes had bonus stamps. At the age of eight I could never quite see the point, but once a month I had to help paste the stamps into collection books.
Then when the shoe box was full of books, we drove them to a place called the “S & H Redemption Center.” My mother would walk in with her books of stamps and walk out with something new. One day the “something new” was a new bicycle for me. I thought it was magical. Somehow these mysterious stamps that tasted awful when I pasted them into books were transformed into something spectacular. “That’s why it’s called a ‘Redemption Center'” my mother said. Years later, as I pondered the mystery of redemption in a theology class, I could think of no better metaphor than this one from my mother.
And while I’m on the subject of redemption, Pornchai’s birthday is September 10. I’ve been collecting some great digital photos of his hand-carved model ships and plan to write a post about them next week. Pornchai will be 37 years old, and has been in prison for 19 of those years. If you want to send him a birthday card, the address is:
P.O. Box 14 – #77948
Concord, NH 03302-0014
Remember that all the mail rules described on our “Contact” page above apply. If you prefer an e-card, it will be printed and mailed to him. Just send it to TheseStoneWalls@hotmail.com
ROMAN POLANSKI, FATHER MACIEL, AND THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
After posting “The Whoopi Cushion” last October, I never planned to write again about Roman Polanski. I was working on another post for August 4 and had just finished it on the previous Saturday night. I must have my posts finished and in the mail by Sunday night at 8:00 PM. That’s my last chance to get something into Monday’s mail. Then I saw something on the news about Roman Polanski that Saturday night, and then typed my August 4 post on Roman Polanski and Father Maciel in two hours. I hope it didn’t show.
I much appreciated the positive comments on that post. I know the story of Father Maciel is a painful one for many people who placed their faith in him. One person sent me a message asking how I could compare the cases of Roman Polanski and Father Maciel as the latter had several accusers. I made no such comparison. What I did compare was the media’s treatment of the two cases, and I stand by that comparison. The duplicit and double standard have been blatant and downright bizarre.
Kathy Maxwell from Texas wrote that she was glad to see a reference to the C.S. Lewis classic, The Screwtape Letters . It’s the most famous book by C.S. Lewis, a series of letters from a devil named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood about the latter’s progress in undoing a human soul.
C.S. Lewis dedicated The Screwtape Letters to one of his dearest friends – and one of my most beloved authors J.R.R. Tolkien, a devout Catholic and philologist. After C.S. Lewis died in 1953, Tolkien wrote a letter to his son:
“I was wryly amused to be told that ‘Lewis himself was never very fond of The Screwtape Letters’ – his best seller. He dedicated it to me. I wondered why. Now I know.”
I plan to write about both men soon. Anyway, if you haven’t read my post on Roman Polanski and Father Maciel, I urge you to do so. It isn’t a defense of Father Maciel or even a judgment on whether, or how much, I think he was guilty. That is not mine to judge. The post is an examination of a fundamental question about where we place our trust in the times we live in as people of faith and values. That fundamental question is one I raised directly and indirectly in a number of posts this year. Here’s how I put it in my April 28 post, “In Honor of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Patron of Prisoners, Priests & Bloggers“:
“No, it is not a Catholic crisis. It is in fact a news media crisis. It is the focal point at which we must all decide whether the news media, as it now exists and conducts itself, can be trusted to inform us of the truth, of the whole truth, and with perspective and context. In this, the media has been a dismal failure.”
I recently read some chillingly arguments in favor of a U.S. government bailout of the floundering American newspaper industry. I think I made my best case for why such a thing should never happen in America in my post. “Catholic Scandal and the News Media: William McGurn Told the Truth.” Too many American newspapers have openly adopted a transparent ideology that spins the news. It’s about the only thing about them that’s transparent. Perhaps the best example is the one I present below as I revisit my post on Father Menna.
THE EXILE OF FR. MENNA AND TRANSPARENCY AT THE BOSTON GLOBE
I wrote about the case of 80-year-old Father Dominic Menna in the above post, and in my post on Roman Polanski and Father Maciel. A Few months ago, Father Menna was removed from ministry, placed on administrative leave, and ordered to move out of his Church owned home after facing his first accusation of sexual abuse – an accusation alleged to have occurred in 1959.
Several readers have asked me if there is any news about Father Menna. One friend of “Father Dom,” as his friends and parishioners call him, has written that he has had a difficult time with it all, but is also moved and encouraged by the outpouring of support from parishioners and friends.
A part of that post was about story that made The Boston Globe’s agenda toward the Catholic Church quite transparent. Lest anyone think this impression was solely my imagination, the Globe went on to report in a front page article about the Archdiocese of Boston’s call to estranged Catholics to come home to their Church and faith. When I read the July 21st Globe report on this, I knew it was supposed to be news, but it wasn’t a news article. It was a long opinion piece masked as a news article, and it was slanted, shallow, and clearly hostile to the Archdiocese of Boston and the Catholic Church.
Four days later on July 25. the Globe printed a letter from Ted Doyle, a Newton. MA resident who saw the same thing I saw. Mr. Doyle took the time to take the Globe to task:
“As a Catholic who has missed his share of Masses and is not yet reconciled with the way the church has handled its recent crisis, I was nonetheless put off by the Globe’s unbalanced, cynical portrayal of the Boston Archdiocese’s effort to bring Catholics back to the fold.”
Ted Doyle referred to the Globe’s points, and the fact that only one source could be found to speak positively of the Church’s efforts, as “patently ridiculous.” Mr. Doyle was right. Now imagine your tax dollars being used to underwrite such reporting.
CREATE IN ME A NEW HEART, O LORD, AND A STEADFAST SPIRIT
I had to save the best news for last. In my post, “Create in Me a New Heart,” I wrote of l6-year-old Christopher Warwick’s heart transplant surgery at Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital. The nine-hour heart transplant was literally happening as I was writing that post.
I heard this week from John Warwick, Christopher’s grandfather and President of the Pittsburgh chapter of Serra International. John told me how deeply grateful he and his family were and are for the prayers of the readers of These Stone Walls. It has been two months since the surgery, and Christopher still makes regular visits to Pittsburgh Childrens, but his progress and prognosis are excellent. Chris is preparing to start his junior year at Pittsburgh’s Central Catholic High School where he hopes to resume his place on the tennis team with the blessing of his surgeon and physicians.
For the last year since learning of Chris Warwick’s need for a new heart, I have been offering each Saturday in prison in spiritual support of him and his family. I want to thank TSW readers for coming to their aid with your prayers. I know the Warwicks also pray regularly, and have done so throughout this ordeal, for the young man whose heart now beats in Christopher. They have limited information about him. Please pray for them both. Stay with Christopher, Lord.
Let’s pray for each other as well. May the Lord bless you and keep you.