We returned on July 29 from the funeral of an exemplary Catholic businessman – Emil Ogden of College Station, Texas. It was not just his hard-earned financial success in the always turbulent oil and gas industry or his lifelong quest for knowledge to advance his career and personal growth, but it was his steadfastness and commitment to his family and foremost his never-wavering commitment to his Catholic faith, particularly his defense of the most vulnerable and defenseless – the unborn – that made him exemplary.
Emil saw Jesus in those in need and quietly gave many a hand to bolster their spirit and provide comfort. He knew what it meant to be your brother’s keeper. Let us pray for others to emulate the example he set to be a leader for faith, family and freedom.
There is a saying “it is the best of times, it is the worst of times.” With all that is going on in America today, the latter seems to be center stage. It is difficult to actually feel like we have a grasp of what is really happening.
One thing is abundantly clear. If we have put our faith in materialism and failed to keep God at the center of our life a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness can prevail. We wonder how could a people and nation so blessed come to this point. What is really happening and what is driving the direction, or lack thereof, for our people.
I look for positive and uplifting messages to offset the negative of what we find in the general media outlets. I found such a positive story in the words of Vice President Mike Pence at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in June where he called on all to “continue to be the hands and feet of our savior, Jesus Christ,” and to be the “voice for the voiceless,” after proclaiming that “life is winning” in the nation.
“Life is winning in America. Life is winning through the steady advance of science that continues to illuminate more and more when life begins,” Pence said.
He added that the pro-life cause is advancing also “through the generosity of millions of adoptive families” and “through the compassion of caregivers and volunteers at crisis-pregnancy centers and faith-based organizations.”
The vice president stated: “I believe we’ve come to a pivotal moment in the life of our nation, and, indeed, the life of the world. The Catholic community in America has made an enormous difference in the life of this nation.”
“I urge you to continue to stand up, to speak out, to continue to be that voice for the voiceless that the Church has been throughout its history. Continue to be the hands and feet of our Savior, reaching in with love and compassion, embracing the dignity of all people of every background and every experience.”
The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast has taken place each year since 2004 as a response to St. John Paul II’s call for a “New Evangelization.”
Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, introduced Pence by saying that the U.S. needs a “new national political consensus” built on faith. He added that “the times require men and women of prayer and humility, courage and conviction, leaders who can help bring healing to our nation.”
Speaking of persecuted Christians worldwide, maintaining that the Trump administration is committed to promoting and protecting the freedom of religion, Pence said the administration “stands with those who are persecuted for their faith around the world” and “stands with the most vulnerable, the aged, the infirm and the unborn.”
Pence further praised the contribution of the Church in America: “I really grew up with a front-row seat to the Catholic faith and all that it means to families and to communities. It gave me a deep appreciation for the Church’s rich contributions to the fabric of American life. The truth is Catholicism is woven deep into that fabric. It gives America a vitality and vibrancy that inspires everyone who sees it — to this very day.
“American Catholics have built everything that matters in this country — built families, built businesses, founded hospitals, ministered to the poor, become leaders in public life, established world-class institutions of higher education, and so many other countless contributions to America” said Pence.
We need to hear more of what is good about the tremendous contributions to America of the Catholic Church. More about what is good about America and how American idealism is crucial to the future of a “civilized” world.
In an article written by Howard Kurtz of Fox News, Kurtz writes about David Brooks, the moderately conservative New York Times columnist who has been an outspoken critic of President Trump.
Brooks said, “There’s just something worrisome every time we find ourselves replacing politics of democracy with the politics of scandal. In democracy, the issues count, and you try to win by persuasion. You recognize that your opponents are legitimate, that they will always be there and that some form of compromise is inevitable.
In the politics of scandal, at least since Watergate, you don’t have to engage in persuasion or even talk about issues. Political victories are won when you destroy your political opponents by catching them in some wrongdoing. You get seduced by the delightful possibility that your opponent will be eliminated. Politics is simply about moral superiority and personal destruction.
It no longer matters who started it; everyone knows that politics has become poisonous.”
Brooks adds that “the politics of scandal is delightful for cable news,” and according to Howard Kurtz he’s right “it provides a melodramatic plot and a forum for endless left-right arguments.”
Will the future politics at all levels – city, state and nation – be that of scandal or can we find a way to get back to civility, discussion, negotiation and ultimately policies that are best for the country? This surely won’t happen without a desire and drive to find solutions that seek to serve the common good ahead of political war between spokespersons for political parties.
Texans can be proud of much that is coming from the leadership of Texas Governor Greg Abbott. When we are honest about what is happening to our basic freedoms, we must be alarmed.
Remember as St. John Paul II said, “freedom is not doing what you want, but freedom is having the right to do what you ought.” Place this principle alongside modern society’s actions of “if it feels good do it,” seeking instant personal gratification without regard to the consequences to others. This latter generational shift has moved us away from demonstrating compassion and love for one another. In their eyes it has reduced the value of human life and protection of human dignity.
It is time to stop and restart the engines of what has made America and Americans great. We can do this, one person at a time.
Timothy Von Dohlen is the founder and president of the John Paul II Life Center and Vitae Clinic in Austin, Texas. (www.jpiilifecenter.org) For a more robust bio, click here. He may be reached at [email protected]
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