Thursday, July 2, 2020

I'm Not Woke; I'm Catholic

When I was a child (could not have been more than 6 years old because my brother had not yet made his appearance in the world) I sat at the dinner table with the adults and listened.

The table, that night, held special visitors.  They were my Father's side of the family and very different from what I knew.  They were visiting from Texas.  None of them were Catholic.  All of them had a way of talking, a rhythm, if you will, that was distinct from the Northern California voices I was normally surrounded by and they discussed the topics of the day with a viewpoint foreign to me.

I remember how proud my Aunt Glenda was that she had been inducted into an organization for women.  Daughters of the Confederacy, she called it.  It was, she said, reserved only for those people related to the brave men who had fought in the Confederate forces in the War Against Northern Aggression.

"And some day, darlin' ", she told me, "You can join."

I do not ever pretend to be something I am not.  What I have always been is precocious and at the ripe old age of 5 I had already been taught something about US History.  Not a lot, but enough to blurt out, "I thought they lost that war."

This caused my Dad to burst into laughter and my Mother to try desperately to change the subject ... but the damage had been done.  I was obviously a Northerner, a turncoat, damaged in the eyes of my Southern family because I had no deep respect for the Stars and Bars and the sacrifice the men had made.

I share this story with you because I do believe history is a matter of viewpoint a lot of the time.  I also think there are moments of time in our history as a nation and as a people that we are foolish to ignore or try in some twisted fashion to defend.  Enslavement of people based on their race, their religion or their sex is evil.  Racism, the belief that somehow one race is inherently superior to another is evil.  Pretending that glorifying the Confederacy is somehow defending our history is stupid.

I have heard the arguments.  There were Black men who fought for the Confederacy, who owned slaves, who were devoted to their White Masters and Families.  Okay.  Any other attempt at this type of argument would be met with a 'that is the exception that proves the rule' response; it is only when we examine slavery and the Civil War that somehow this becomes a reason to okay the southern states' response to the abolition of slavery or a reason to honor  Robert E. Lee.  And if I hear ONE more person tell me that good ol'General Lee really did not like slavery but he loved his native Virginia and that is why he left his post with the US Army and joined in the rebellion I will whip out my ladies' church fan and smack them on the head. 

The fact that he did not have the backbone to stand up for what is right because he 'loved the state of Virginia' should be an indictment of his character and not something to be admired.  After all, other people did, many of them southerners themselves.  He could have stood up to evil.  He chose not to because he loved a place more than God.

Recently the eyes of the woke have turned with a vengeance on St. Junipero Serra, accusing him of being in league with the devil and personally responsible for the killing, raping and enslavement of the indigenous peoples of California.  Again, I have to disagree.

None of the articles sent to me by woke folks have supported those claims; rather, the very articles they have sent me have usually made the distinction necessary to understand this hole man - he was the rebel of his time, standing firmly against the government emissaries of his native Spain and trying his best to live his Catholic Faith no matter what they did to him. 

I look at his life and see a pattern you will find with almost all the saints.  These men and women are usually the ones lovingly but firmly poking their fingers into the eyes of the authorities.  They will shield a native woman with their own body from the Spanish soldier trying to rape her because, as a priest, that is what they are called to do.  They will look  a Governor of an American State straight in the eye and tell him that he is a hypocrite for suspending the death penalty and promoting abortion on demand.  They will tell an errant Bishop who looks the other way while a colleague sexually molests a seminarian that what they have done is a grievous sin and their mortal soul is in danger.  They will gently tell holier-than-thou podcaster  that Faith is more than agreement on essentials, it is an assent of the will.

Becoming a person who looks at injustice in both the past and the present will mean becoming someone who has to be willing to do the research and then discern.  What I am always amazed at by history is that it is always possible to find evidence of people who looked at the status quo and declared it for what it is - evil.  They did not compromise their Catholic Faith,  They did not muddy the waters in order to okay their choices.  This was not easy for them and I am going to tell you the truth, if you make the decision to try your best to be like them it is not going to be easy for you.

I made a decision many years ago to try my best to become a saint.  I have, so far, failed miserably (I blame too things - professional football and really good food - and maybe Scottie dogs) to let go of my earthly attachments but I promise you I never stop trying.  I get so tired.  I get very discouraged.  I never stop trying and I never will.  I want to be a saint.

I reject the idea that statues honoring traitors to our Nation's ideal should be anywhere but  a dumpster.  I also reject the idea that this means all statues of all the white men who made differences in the advancement of that ideal - no matter how stained their own lives were - should be relegated to the dung heap. Discernment, people...we need to bring back critical thinking and the eyes of Faith.

 I have no problem proclaiming that Black lives matter because I believe they do, just as I believe all human life matters.  But more importantly I believe we do suffer from the sin of racism in this country, systemic racism, racism we do not even recognize until it is pointed out to us - usually when we say something that seems oh so reasonable to us but is based on an assumption or belief we never even knew we had until someone says, "What did you just say?".

For me this all boils down to trying my best to live my Faith, to be authentically Catholic in a world that despises anyone who tries to do just that - be a saint.  I know I will never please everyone and I also know that ultimately the only one to please is my Creator.  That does not stop me from wishing it were easier to do out in the world but it does help me not to jump on many bandwagons.

I think, maybe, it is time to recognize that I am never going to be 'woke'.

What I am, I guess, is Catholic...and I hope always to remain Catholic.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The World has gone Crazy? Using the Eyes of Faith

Years ago I was privileged to sit in a lecture at Franciscan University by an amazing Church historian.  The woman, a PhD from Maryvale Institute in England, challenged us to look at history with different eyes.  The term she used was "Eyes of Faith".  It was a wonderful lecture and I came away from that with a valuable idea that has never left me.  That idea is to not be afraid of what is happening around me, to not fall into the kind of mass hysteria I see every day on social media.  Instead, take a moment, feel the emotion around any situation and then ask an important question:  "God, what would You have me take from this?"

The protests and the pandemic, the politics and the screeching and institutional victimhood of some of our Catholic Lights cannot be looked at merely from a psychological or sociological point of view.  It is important to take a deep breath and exhale, to purposefully and intentionally ask for The Holy Spirit to guide us in our examination of current events.  Without that guidance comes the possibility of falling into disunity, anger, resentment and the sin of pride.  We will become so entrenched in our political or ideological stance that we will lose track of what we are called to do as Catholics and we will fall prey to the type of conspiracy theories that are strangling people with fear right now.

I see it every time someone responds to a different take or another opinion with rancor or victim status.  Not everyone who thinks differently is evil and if I cannot look at what they write on my facebook post without yelling at them to unfollow or unfriend me then guess what?  I am the one with the problem.  I am the one unable to open my mind, listen to someone else's experience and consider their idea.  That being said, if I can offer an well thought out rebuttal to their statement it does not mean I think less of them; rather, I am trying to continue the dialogue.  If they cannot do that then I understand.  Not everyone is able to do so without taking a different opinion as some sort of personal attack. 

This type of reasonable approach, however, has a caveat attached. That caveat extends to people who have fallen into the darkness of conspiracy theories.  I reject their ideology.

I have had to make some serious decisions in terms of who I will allow into my life.  My late mother was adamant that one can determine someone's character by observing who they have as friends.  While it may be sad to say good-bye to some people, including some who are of my Faith Tradition,  I have to be willing to follow her advice and make the decision to differentiate between people who have a simple difference of opinion and those who have fallen into serious, ugly sin by being captured by the conspiracy theories of the QAnon crowd.  I can pray for them, I can hope that the Holy Spirit enlightens them, but I cannot have them in my home and will not knowingly support them financially by patronizing their businesses.  Everyone has a right to hold their own opinions.  I also have a right to decide who gets to come over for dinner.

Looking at what is going on in the world right now through the eyes of Faith allows me to let go of the fear.  The Church has survived much worse.  God's got this.  I am not afraid because I know who wins in the end, who has, in my heart, already won.  While I understand that for many what I have just expressed seems as though I am shrugging my shoulders and saying, "Oh Well", I am not; rather, what I am doing is asking a simple question of God every day: 

Who needs me to love them today?

And then, I try my best to do the next right thing as opportunities present themselves, to be a woman of grace and dignity and to love you where you stand.  Reject the sin, not the sinner - but keep the crazy at arms length.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Laura Juliette Crocco Shaw 10-9-1921 to 5-29-2020

Laura Crocco Shaw was born in Stockton, California on October 9, 1921.  She was the youngest daughter of Angelo Crocco and Rose Bernini Crocco.  Raised on the family farm in Knightsen, she attended Knightsen Elementary school and Liberty Union High School where she participated in academic clubs and high school sports.  Graduating in 1939, Laura attended Stockton Business College where she graduated with a degree in Secretarial Administration.
Laura moved to Martinez, California where she soon fell in with a group of amazing young women.  She met her best friend, Harriet Jackson, and the two of them remained exactly that until Harriet’s death in 2018.  They raised their children together and we remain family to this day.
Laura began her banking career as an Executive Secretary at the Bank of America in Martinez in 1941.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the men were sent to war and the women stepped up.  She moved into the Administrative area of banking where she remained until she retired at the age of 70 as an Executive Vice President for Lafayette Federal Savings. 
During this time, Laura met and married John Shaw, a returning Army
Veteran of WW2.  They raise two children, Leslie and John Stephen, in Pleasant Hill, California.
Retirement did not suit her.  She went to work part-time first for Bank of the West and then for CitiBank, spending the next 8 years fending off their offers to move her into management.  She finally retired from banking in at the age of 78.
In 1998 Laura sold the family home in Pleasant Hill and moved to Modesto, where her late father’s family had put down roots 100 years earlier.  Laura moved to Modesto specifically to help her son John with child care for he had blessed her with two handsome grandsons, Ryan and Stephen, and a beautiful granddaughter, Jillian Rose.  Her daughter Leslie came with her and together they created a home in Modesto that was centered around God, Family and Football.  She embraced her new life and enjoyed every single minute with her family. 
Sundays were spent first praying the Holy Mass at St. Joseph’s Parish and then watching her beloved San Francisco Forty-Niners play the game she had loved since she listened to it on the radio at ‘The Ranch’ with her family.  Faithful since 1946, she coached from the couch regularly firing staff and benching players.  Her favorite players of all time were Joe Montana and Dwight Clark, though she thinks that George Kittle and Kwon Alexander aren’t bad at all.
Laura is survived by her daughter, Leslie Shaw Klinger of Modesto and her son John S. Shaw  (Crissie) of Oakdale.  She is also survived by her grandchildren Ryan, Stephen and Jillian Rose, her nephews George Arata Sr. (Marla) of Modesto and Dewey Mansfield (Lorna) of Eugene, Oregon, her ‘other sons’ Greg Peter Pistochini (Brian) of Healdsburg, Ca and Mark Pistochini  (Deirdre) of Virginia.  Laura is also survived by the mother of her grandchildren whom she loved, Pamela Miller Shaw.
Laura has numerous nephews and nieces in Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming, Maryland, Boston and Texas. She loves them all will be of great support to them from her powerful position before the throne of the Most High, Jesus Christ.  She was preceded in death by her husband John, her parents, her siblings Irene, Della, Jeanne and Jerry and son-in-law Fred and daughter-in-law Lisa.
Laura never got the chance to personally thank Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith for the peace of mind those two men gave her as a result of their collaboration.  However, there is no doubt that when she arrived in heaven she sought them out in order to do so.
In lieu of flowers, Laura would like people to consider supporting the Religious Education Department at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Modesto, California or the Stockton Animal Shelter where she met her buddy, Shaw’s Rob Roy MacDuff.
Services will be private as a result of the current pandemic.  Please keep her in prayer, as she will you.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

What Happens When We Forget History

Just this morning, on FaceBook, I was privileged to read two posts from two acquaintances who are diametrically opposed politically - one being a rabid Donald Trump Supporter, the other a Never Trumper Democrat.  Both see themselves as good men - pro life, love their country and their mamas as the song would celebrate.

The Trump Supporter posted:  I would pay good money to see Trump punch Nancy Pelosi in the face.

The Never Trumper Democrat posted:  Trump is a racist POS. If you defend him YOU are a racist POS and I will tell you that to your face.

These two posts were the bread in a political post sandwich.  The filling was a post from another pro life Catholic who was just shocked that Mr. Obama made a statement against the present administration's handling of the Pandemic.  The person was very adamant that a sitting president should NEVER be criticized by a former president and furthermore this was only done by Democrats.

The train of thought actually included a comparison between the Papacy and the Presidency of the United States - in other words President Obama's criticism of President Trump's response to the Pandemic is akin to Pope Emeritus Benedict the 16th criticizing Pope Francis. 

Added atop that filling was a post from an equally outraged pro life Catholic Democrat, struggling hard to save that party from itself, who posted, "The attack on Mr. Obama just proves that the present leader is mentally ill".

To me all these posts are indicative of the mess that has been made of the American Mind.  Our inability to think beyond tribal positions is costing us much more than morality, good humor and patriotism; rather, all the posts outline quite well the danger of a Duopoly in politics as well as what happens when the adults take on the victim mantle so common among the children today.

Why do I think this?

I have been blessed with a love and fascination for history.  While I would never pretend to be an expert I do know that knock-down-drag-out politics is nothing new on the American Landscape.  Sitting Presidents have been criticized by their predecessors, their opponents and the American People without mercy.  Donald Trump may be crass but his brand of bare knuckle fighting is hardly new.  In fact, if we want to be really tough on ourselves people like me who cringe when these type of posts hit social media are really being big babies.  Trump differs only from Teddy Roosevelt in the quality of his insults.  TR's were much better worded. 

I think the difference is that we are subjected to it non stop 24/7.  We now know what President Obama said five minutes after he said it and we have a sitting President who undermines his own administrative team - the one HE PUT TOGETHER - with nonsensical late night tweets. 

So what happens?

I tell you what I think happens.  I think what happens is that the average American doesn't listen anymore and just punches back like their political hero. 

For example:  I happen to think President Trump is correct to demand some answers from China about this virus.  I also think some of his fellow billionaires need to pull their manufacturing the hell out of that country and return it to the US.  Will this mean I may have to pay twice as much for an iPhone?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  What it will mean is that Tim Cook can regain some credibility by not demanding same-sex, gender neutral bathrooms in North Carolina while allowing his product to be built by slaves so he can make more money.  It may mean I pay more for a product but it could also mean that the workers making that product get a decent wage that allows them to support their family - and if I get to choose to purchase an American made product to support those workers, guess what?  I am going to do it.

It might also mean that these same companies that moved out the US for cheaper labor can rethink their business models.  Perhaps they might look at the idea of Distributism and how that could be applied to their production so that everyone in the immediate area wins - the owners, middle management, the workers - EVERYONE.

Just think; maybe, just maybe, if women can support themselves in a work environment that supports them and allows them to make a decent living they won't fall prey to the lie that they cannot reach their full potential unless they kill the child in their womb.  Maybe, just maybe, if men can support their families they won't be so willing to pressure their wives or girlfriends into ending the life of that child because they cannot stand the pressure of one more mouth to feed.

I bring this to bear on the posts I see on social media because I think that the manner in which these posters behave make having this type of non-partisan, honest and open discussion of what is going sideways in this country impossible.  How can I say to someone who posts that anyone who 'defends this POS is a POS' that I think he is right to challenge China on their managing of the pandemic?  How can I state to someone who is virtually weeping over how the former president is criticizing the current president that maybe Mr. Trump needs to start being a bit more honest about the role his fellow capitalists are playing in the problems we have today?  Or, at the very least, get the heck off of Twitter.

How can you have a discussion about employing the ideals of distributism within a capitalist economy if people think distributism is communism and solidarity is socialism?

How can you have a discussion about a Pro Life world if the only thing the person holds before you is the March for Life?  And why can't it be okay to say, "I am so glad Mr. Trump spoke at the March for Life.  Now we have to get working on this economy so that it can support that agenda?".

I am not a registered Democrat.  I am not a registered Republican.  I belong to the American Solidarity Party.  We do not have a perfect platform in my opinion but it is a platform that allows me to participate in the political life of my country without having to be a part of the shenanigans I see every day on Social Media.  It is a platform that allows me to vote and express an opinion without using foul language, nasty tweets, promote violence against opposing politicians and otherwise behave in a manner that denigrates my own mind and my Faith.

I get is a new world.  Right now it is a rather scary world.  I think we have more important things to worry about than whether or not a sitting president has an opposing opinion from that of the former president or visa versa.

In other words, I think it is time we grow up.  Not just 'them' - all of included. 

It is not about dignity it is about doing the right thing....and we all need to be willing to stop sweating the petty stuff and get to work.

Maybe.....maybe....maybe if our focus becomes outward and being productive we will stop finding it necessary to advocate for punching people and actually have something meaningful to offer to our country.

Friday, May 1, 2020

A Last Responder

I saw a news report last night.  It was from our local affiliate so I trust it.  The report involved an interview with a woman from the Sacramento area who is a mortician.  She shared her experiences of volunteering in New York City and the heartache she witnessed.  The young lady is on her way home to California where we have had more success battling Covid19 (less deaths being my criteria for 'success).  She will be in quarantine for 14 days and then return to her practicing her profession here.

When she referred to herself as a 'Last Responder' my heart broke a little.  I got tears in my eyes.  Not because I am afraid of death.  I'm not; I am a Catholic.  We are not afraid of myths, we are not afraid of legends and we are not afraid of death.  No, my eyes filled with tears because I had never considered those who help us navigate that which must be dealt with when a loved one dies as a Last Responder.

The title gives a certain dignity to the profession I had not considered until now.  I thought of the people who helped me when my husband died, when I found my father dead in his home, when my Uncle Jerry passed away and I realized how very kind, thoughtful and efficient they were during those times.  I was hardly at my best.  I made decisions as best I could, did the next right thing in front of me and turned to my Faith and my family for support but honestly if you had asked me to balance my checkbook during any of those periods I would have looked at you like the RCA Victor dog (wha???).  The members of the Funeral Profession guided me with grace and with impeccable manners.  Burdens were lifted that I didn't even know had been placed on my shoulders.  What they did was good. 

I think about my biggest fear right now and it has to be that one of us in this household were to become ill and have to be in the hospital alone.  My mother is 98 years old and she is very healthy and alert but she is someone at risk for this virus.  If she were to become ill and had to go to hospital at this time she would be there alone.  I, on the other hand, would be in jail for trying to force my way into said hospital.  This would throw a damper on my possible run for City Council as a member of the American Solidarity Party, unless I can spin it as 'look how much of a family oriented person I am?' kind of thing.  I will have to talk the gang about that; it might work.

Today, life is so strange and people are so angry and afraid.  I have lost so many friends - not to death but to anger and resentment and the discovery that we are way too far apart in our philosophies to ever consider being able to even agree to disagree.  We have to part as friends...and for someone like me who battles the need to be adored and loved or at least liked by everyone this is tough on me.  It has taught me to really be a woman of integrity - to not give in to the fuzzy thinking and illogical crap being thrown around and to respond with humor, teasing and my best logical arguments.

And as I have said, here in California our battle has not been as horrific as it was in Italy and New York.  Our President has praised our Governor and the two of them are, in my opinion, doing the best they can in a difficult situation.  I am not a supporter of the present administration but I give Mr. Trump a lot of credit for bringing in experts and then listening to them.  He is, in a way, a wartime president and I keep him in my prayers.

Yet even with our success none of us, whether it is as a result of Covid19 or a car accident or dying of old age in the comfort of our livingrooms (I want to live long enough for my Niners to revenge that SB loss), are going to avoid interaction with that Last Responder.  Our families or friends or maybe strangers will have to rely upon the Last Responder to help them navigate our preparation and our burial.  Those men and women will be taking care of us and we need to remember them for what they are - valuable members of society.

I salute you.  Thank you for your service.