D.C.’s City Council Coming to the President’s Rescue!

The Washington D.C. city council has voted to make the possession and the smoking of marijuana in the privacy of one’s home no longer a criminal offense.1 The article added that the bill, expected to be signed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray, “would partially decriminalize pot by imposing civil fines rather than jail time for most offenses.” This is good news for our President. Now, he can have livelier fantasy football parties at the White House because he won’t be restricted to beer and wine, frustrating for him since he believes they’re all the same when it comes to impacting one’s health.2

Another article noted that “anyone caught with 28 grams of marijuana or less will be fined $25 — less than most city parking tickets.”3 So now, the President will only have to worry about getting into just a smidgen of trouble if he carries it with him to meetings with the IRS to discuss getting back at conservatives.

1 – “D.C. Council votes to eliminate jail time for marijuana possession,” by Aaron C. Davis, http://www.washingtonpost.com, 3/4/2014

2 — “As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life,” the president told the New Yorker’s David Remnick. “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.” Article by Jake Miller, CBS News, 1/19/2014

3 – “Washington DC City Council Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession,” by http://www.voanews.com, 3/4/2014


“ALT” (Appreciating the Little Things) #4: Once Again, Repairs are Being Made to “Old Ironsides”

In the proper perspective, the plan to repair the beloved battleship, the U.S.S. Constitution or “Old Ironsides,” isn’t really a “little thing.” However, because the media and the public tend to relegate the historical to mere footnotes, this story qualifies!

The U.S.A. Today reported on March 6 from Crane, Indiana that “35 white oaks harvested at a naval facility here will be used to replace deteriorated hull planking and supporting structures on Old Ironsides.”

This ship received her nickname after its famous sea victory against the HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812 when many of the shots from the British ship rebounded harmlessly off her wooden hull. In the reported words of an American sailor,“Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!”1

The U.S.S. Constitution was launched on October 21, 1797. Since surviving several wars, its biggest battles have been economic in nature. In 1828, Secretary of the Navy John Branch ordered a routine survey of its ships. The original estimate of $157,000 (over $3 million today) for necessary repairs to the Constitution led to an erroneous article on September 14, 1830 in the Boston Advertiser that the Navy intended to scrap the ship. Two days afterward, Oliver Wendell Holmes’ poem “Old Ironsides” was published in the same paper and garnered great support all over the country. Secretary Branch approved the costs.1

Scrapping was averted in 1843 when Captain John Percival convinced acting Naval Secretary David Henshaw that the ship’s repairs would cost just $10,000 instead of the $70,000 estimated by a naval constructor.1

The Constitution served as a training ship, later as a receiving ship. By 1881, she was declared unfit for service and after her centennial celebration in 1897, her future at Boston was uncertain. When Secretary of the Navy Charles Joseph Bonaparte (ironic name?) suggested that she be used as target practice and allowed to sink at sea, a Worcester, MA businessman, Moses H. Gulesian offered to buy her for $10,000. When the State Department refused, he started a nationwide campaign which led to Congress’ appropriation of $100,000 to restore her in the following year. In 1907, she became a museum ship.1

But by 1924, the ship was in very poor condition once again. Facing the only options of either breaking up the ship or letting her sink at the dock, the Board of Inspection recommended that Secretary of the Navy Curtis D. Wilbur ask Congress for $400,000 to repair the ship. ’’The Secretary, however, took the attitude that it would be a fine gesture on the part of the people of the country, and particularly the school children, if they contributed small donations for the purpose.” Through the contributions of children and adults, the selling of souvenirs made from the ship and lithograph prints of a painting, $617,000 was netted. Unfortunately, the five-year campaign also saw the repair costs rise. In the end, Congress had to spend $300,000 to finish the job! Secretary Wilbur was criticized for shunning large contributions in favor of a grass-roots campaign which eventually led to the added cost. However, Rear Admiral Philip Andrews, the committee’s final leader, acknowledged that Wilbur’s plan did much to increase public awareness of the history of the ship and its role in the Navy’s heritage.2

In 1973, a one-year series of repairs included removing red oak which had been used experimentally on the ship in the 1950s, but had not aged as well as live oak. The U.S.S. Constitution opened as a privately run museum in April of 1976. One month later, Commander Tyrone G. Martin dedicated a 25,000 acre tract of land in Indiana which now supplies most of the wood used in her repair work.1

In 1992, a 3-year comprehensive structural restoration was started on the Constitution. The $12 million project was aimed at restoring her to the famous 1812 specifications while still open for visitors. Contributors to the project included the city of Charleston, SC which sent live oak felled by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and some live oak from International Paper Company’s properties.1

“Old Ironsides” has seen a lot of history and, through the tireless efforts of many over the centuries; many more will be privileged to see her as well. As that sailor in the War of 1812 exclaimed, “Huzzah!”

1 — Wikipedia
2 – “Pennies for Old Ironsides,” http://www.navyhistory.org, 8/21/2012

Tribute to My Godmother, Rita A. Woodley (1921-2014)

Godparents "Vic" and Rita Woodley with yours truly, 5/1/1955

Godparents “Vic” and Rita Woodley with me on Baptism Day, 5/1/1955


Dear Godmother,

Last week, I learned that you passed into eternal life on Washington’s Birthday when I received a very considerate note and commemoratives from your daughter, Carol.  My immediate reaction was one of sadness in that it was no longer possible to see you in this life.  Even though it had been many years since our last meeting, there was always that possibility until now.

Yet, that feeling was short-lived as I recalled the quick change of emotions I felt when my father died in 1995.  Sadness was immediately replaced with joy in that he no longer had to suffer in this world.  I was reminded of that by your daughter’s comment that you are “in a better place and free.”

Godparents are given to assist the natural parents in teaching the love of God which we are to share within the communion of saints.   That love, of course, is present both here and the hereafter.  It meant a lot to my parents that you and your husband, Vic, agreed to be godparents to their first-born when your relationship had been primarily with my non-Catholic grandparents.  That you were there for us on my baptism at St. Monica Church in Cincinnati means you have known me almost as long as anyone else!  [“Have known” instead of “had known” reflects the previously mentioned acknowledgment that you are not estranged from those of us who are still members of the church militant.]  🙂

My godfather died when I was in early grade school, and his was the second name added to my list for nighttime prayers, just a year after my paternal grandfather’s.  The list has grown over the years and it reminds me of the timelessness of God’s love – prayer for loved ones isn’t to stop after “x” number of years.  You can be sure that you will be remembered accordingly!

Even though we rarely saw each other after my early years, you continued to teach me the importance of commitment.  My sisters and others I have known gradually lost contact with their godparents over time, but you faithfully remembered me on my birthday and at Christmas.  (It was the notice sent by Carol that I shamefully admitted to myself that I never knew when your birthday was.)  You always sent remembrances and gifts.  Finally, during my college years that I suggested that you no longer needed to send me presents.  You had worked hard for many years after my godfather’s passing and I wanted to make sure you thought of yourself for a change.

Your example lives in me.  My first goddaughter was born in 1980 and I vowed to be as faithful in remembering her on special occasions as you had been to me.  My track record hasn’t been quite as good as yours, but I try my best and was also able to be part of a gift to her first child born last spring.  My second goddaughter is in a different family and attends college.  If an important date approaches, memories of your kindness are there to help me mark the occasion at least in some way.

Godmother, thank you for the 58 years of our earthly acquaintance.  I look forward to joining you in the heavenly family someday!




It’s Never the Right Time for This Kind of School Survey

It’s good to learn that the Litchfield, CT school district postponed its “Profiles of Student Life” survey scheduled for tomorrow.  However, this arrogant jab at basic parental authority has pulled back only temporarily and is waiting for the next opportunity.

This survey, to be given “anonymously,” contained questions regarding “gender identity, drugs, sexual activity and whether a student has ever carried a knife or gun.”1

Even though parents may request that their children not take this survey, its mere presence is a cleverly strong challenge to parents.  School administrators know human nature well enough that simply presenting such an inappropriate test is enough to get many parents to be reluctant to stand their ground.  The current tidal wave of disregard for time-tested values and Natural Law is in the administrators’ favor.  The senseless “everybody does it” philosophy has been salvaged from the trash heap of illogic and has become the rallying cry for those who use peer pressure to push others to do what is unwise.

As was mentioned before, they haven’t given up.  A proponent of the survey, Executive Director of the Housatonic Valley Coalition against Substance Abuse (HVCASA), Allison Fulton said, “It takes some time to get everything in order.  When they think they can get the message out in a way that everybody understands the survey a little bit better, that’ll be a better time.”Translation:  given enough time, we can do a better job of fooling them into thinking this invasive survey really is a good thing.

Granted, the HVCASA would seem to be on a noble mission to curb one of society’s most pressing problems – substance addiction.  However, children are first and foremost the parent’s responsibility.  Neither the state nor the schools have the authority to engineer society, regardless of the motives.  The right way to approach the substance abuse problem is to teach the parents how to spot key behavior indicators and what sort of professional help to get.

A more dismissive comment was made by education board member Gayle Carr: “Reaction from the community on the survey makes me think that people are going into this with blinders on. They don’t know anything that caused that problem.”2  Here’s a secret Ms. Carr, our national problem with these issues began way back in the 1960s and Big Brother is a cause, not a cure.

She and the rest of the busy-bodies would eliminate a lot of strife and wasted effort if they were to acknowledge that:

“Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children… The home is well suited for education in the virtues (emphasis directly from text).  This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all freedom.  Parents should teach their children to subordinate the ‘material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones’… Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies.”3

Not only are the schools’ wishes supposed to be subordinate to parental authority, but this centuries-old directive sets a standard which is actually higher.  After all, do we see an emphasis for “self-denial, sound judgment and self-mastery” in school sex education programs or in the HHS mandate where human pregnancy is a “preventable disease”?

Except in cases of true abuse and neglect, the state must not intrude into the family.  Just as freedom of religion is not to be confined to church buildings, parental authority is not to be restricted to homes.


1USA Today, “State by State” section, 3/4/2014
2 – “Litchfield Profiles of Student Life survey canceled after community feedback,” by Shako Liu, www.registercitizen.com, 3/10/2014
3 – taken from paragraphs 2223 and 2224 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Liguroi Publications, Liguori, MO, 1994

Caution: Even Good Things and Desires Can Become Bad

Last Sunday’s Gospel described the three times Satan tempted Jesus after His 40-day fast in the desert.  As Fr. Matthias Wamala, assistant pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Cold Spring, KY, reminded us, while Jesus was divine, He was also human in every way.  Therefore, we can relate to his struggles, especially those which include temptation.

Fr. Wamala mentioned the three areas of our being which are involved in the spiritual war taking place constantly and are affected by temptation:  our mind, body and soul.  Our mind has a natural desire for knowledge.  This is a good thing, unless it we focus on it to the point of pride and arrogance.  Our body has normal desires for survival, but even normal drives carried to excess will lead to greed and other carnal sins.

He reminded us that while the body looks for pleasure, the soul seeks joy.  Pleasure, even when it has the proper balance our lives is temporary, while joy is eternal.

We see the same good/bad situation in nature.  As Father Wamala noted, water is quite beneficial when it is contained in a natural setting, but if released, a damaging flood can ensue.  Fire can be very useful.  However, a fire on one’s roof is certainly not good.  Ants can be no problem when they are in an anthill, but if they end up in someone’s pants – that is another story!

I want to bring up “love.”  God IS love.  Whenever we express love to the best of our human abilities, we receive a glimpse of what heaven is like.  True love wants the best for others both in this life and the next.  That “best” is joy, at the expense of pleasure if necessary.  Love desires this even if requires sacrifice.  However, when the caring aspect of love moves us to enable bad actions or to condone disordered behavior, it ceases to be good and becomes just as devastating to the soul as pride, arrogance and greed.

Fr. Wamala recalled the Oscar Wilde quote, “I can resist anything except temptation.”  That sums up the on-going spiritual battles we face.  Knowing that Christ and the saints had the same tug-of-wars in their lives encourages us to keep up the good fight!