I pray for this guy when I head up to the cemetery. I am grateful. Thank you.
I pray for this guy when I head up to the cemetery. I am grateful. Thank you.
I’ve heard it said that harvesting organs from the living is just fine. It is not. This is murder. Harvesting organs from dead is just fine, though the questions about when dead is actually dead are ignored quite universally by power monster doctors who only want a buck. It’s a very lucrative business.
When I was a student at the John Paul Institute for Marriage and the Family back in the 1980s when it was still in its pristine academic and Catholic foundational era, an international convention of doctors keyed into scientific analysis of the moment of death was brought together. The doctors spoke each of their expertise regarding various criteria for ascertaining death, regarding heartbeat, respiration, auditory or visual viability, brain waves, etc., under “normal” conditions and abnormal (that is, real-life) conditions. The universal consensus was that it’s really quite impossible to ascertain death in such manner that simply disconnecting someone from whatever will provide instantaneous death in such manner that it is permissible to immediately harvest organs from the “dead” patient. Period. Have we advanced in science since then. I’m guessing not very much for the reason that brow beating rhetoric about making tough decisions from doctors who don’t give a damn about life has increased in a hyperbolic manner. They are gods, and God isn’t God.
I don’t have organ donation indicated on my driver license.10
Thanks, Mike the Cop.
You led me deeper into life.
A good friend, an 82nd Airborne Fireman EMT Scots-Irish disaffected Baptist mentioned to me that he just ambulance-delivered an elderly friend of his to a hospital (a new one to me). “He’s Catholic,” he said, adding, “He’s pretty near death.” He told me more about him: “Everything for him is trucks, that was his whole life. He’s pretty crotchety. His parish is […] but we couldn’t get hold of the priest there.” “Just tell me about all those cases,” I requested. “O.K. I sure will,” he said, sorry that he didn’t tell me some hours earlier.
Thinking he might just still be alive, I took off and met this fellow in his hospital room. He was awake, but utterly non-communicative, other than fierce growling noises. He made it clear that he was the most obstreperous, cantankerous, crotchety old man in the throws of death that anyone would ever meet in this world.
There being a chair in the room, I plopped myself down and told him about our common friend. The reaction was for him to be as obstreperous, cantankerous and crotchety as ever, though this new information seemed to make him a bit curious. That was my invitation to continue.
Here’s the deal: Never believe obstreperous, cantankerous and crotchety. That’s just a test to see if someone can respond in kind (that’s some people’s preferred method of communication and there’s no harm in it), a birds-of-a-feather kind of thing. Anyway…
I told him that Jesus wants him in heaven, that Jesus is just that good and kind, even for him, even for me. Always include yourself in making such statements. It’s a birds-of-a-feather kind of thing.
I walked him through how we would go about him receiving the Sacraments and blessings in the present circumstances, interspersing this with how it is that Jesus wound up on the Cross, taking our place, so that Jesus is deadly serious about getting us to heaven, that He didn’t do that so we could just go to hell. He gave a nod of agreement. So, off we went through a flood of sanctifying grace and hope and being pointed to heaven. Was that just about a tear in his eye that I saw?
As a thanks he tried to express his gratitude, but his impossible voice box and weakened state only made it all sound like more obstreperous, cantankerous, crotchety sounds. And yet, these were polite, as it were. And the eyes told the whole story.
My one-time Baptist friend is the best for alerting me for needs for Last Rites. Don’t think that the angels are not at work.
At Myrtle Beach I saw things with both mom and dad that had a huge effect on me. They would bring me to the US Air Force Base (the bones of which are pictured above) and have me eat with the pilots and such. The base would soon close because of a decision to ditch the A-10s. Ironically, it was just now decided in 2019 to upgrade this close air support fighter especially loved by the guys on the ground.
In the speech to announce the closing, the officer said: “It’s the end.” My mom copied that out in longhand, again and again, on bits of paper that I would find later here and there, noting the context of the closing and the name and rank of the beloved speaker. The closing acted for them as the closing of an entire era that was held in living memory, but that too, they knew, would soon pass as well. “It’s the end.”
The two of them used to sit at the end of the runway when it was still military and watch the guys practice their take-offs and landings amidst fancy stuff in the air: warthogs and other jet fighters, a great show instigating lots of memories for dad in one way (surely calling to mind those who didn’t live to die another day back in WWII and the Korean War) and for mom in another way (surely calling to mind those many millions who were murdered by the Nazis).
Dad would later have some health incidents for which I was present in Myrtle Beach. Mom would die at Myrtle Beach in a place pictured above. Here’s a google-map shot of some items placed in an outdoor museum the South side of the runway, which, if you have good eyes, you can find in the picture at the top of this post:
Here’s a fantastic video with some flying action shots, including the Vought Corsair. How they’ve changed since the gull-wing Corsairs dad flew!
Both mom and dad had been through some great spiritual retreats at Mepkin Abbey in their last years. They had taken great notes and spoke glowingly of the retreat master. And for that I thank the dear Lord. “It’s the end”? No. They both learned that, in fact, as the Funeral Mass Preface has it:
“Life is changed, not ended.”
Sparing you the gross details, lets just say we had catastrophic plumbing difficulties and that Service Master had to be called in for the cleanup and disinfection. It’s against State law to hold any public event without proper plumbing or its equivalent. So, everything was cancelled. But now all is back to normal already. Quick!
Signs were put up on all the doors of the church and office and classrooms and social hall that Mass and Holy Hour and any and all meetings were cancelled. Yellow and black striped caution tape was also used, ensuring no entry. The whole campus looked like a crime scene. But the gross reason for sudden cancelling wasn’t publicized on the notices. My bad. I’m humbled at the first reaction I’m told people had: “Is Fr George alive?”
As Mark Twain had it, and contrary to popular belief…
“Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
The anti-Catholic “katholics” not so kryptically klaim that Pope Francis has “changed church doctrine” in the Catechism of the Catholic Church with a rescript of paragraph 2267 on capital punishment. Those who make the klaim that he changed Church doctrine are well aware that there would be no Catholic Church if doctrine can be changed. They know they scandalize the faithful. They revel in coprophiliac self-congratulating fake-news popularity as heroes, self-proclaimed saviors of the Church and the world.
But, of course, Pope Francis has done nothing even remotely like changing Church doctrine. Not at all. Quite the opposite. He’s reaffirmed it. Let’s do something pretty much no one does. Let’s actually analyse the new paragraphs for 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church with my emphases in bold and [[my comments in red]].
Nuova redazione del n. 2267 del Catechismo della Chiesa Cattolica sulla pena di morte – Rescriptum “ex Audentia SS.mi”, 02.08.2018
The death penalty
2267. Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.
Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes [[I’m not aware of that truth being lost on those of the past, by the way, but that is beside the point.]]. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state [[This refers to debate on a deterrent or exacerbating effect of the death penalty.]]. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed [[“been developed”: directly to the point.]], which ensure the due protection of citizens [[“ensure the due protection”: directly to the point.]] but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption [[This is beside the point as this may also come about because of imminent death.]].
Consequently [[“pertanto” “quapropter”: that is, considering these ever changing conditions, the present conditions, generally speaking – and which can revert back to something more primitive in future – are such that right now, for these particular conditions…]], the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible [[…in present circumstances…]] because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”, [[“inviolability” … “dignity”: these absolute statements are actually relative to things like “self-defense”, right? So, there’s no there there.]] and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide. [[Fine.]]
 Francis, Address to Participants in the Meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, 11 October 2017: L’Osservatore Romano, 13 October 2017, 5. [[This citation is incorrect. It is the last paragraph on page 7 which then continues on page 11. See the PDF of this edition of the Vatican newspaper from the Vatican website:
Anyway,there are plenty of ambiguous statements in that footnoted private address which is not directed to the universal Church, nor can it be said that everything in that private address to now canonized, as it were, because it is noted for whatever reason, for instance, to let us know more about not so much the doctrine of the Church but as an indication of Pope Francis’ concern, and to show that he has now brought to completion what he had intended to do for quite a while. There’s no there there. That address is NOT the Catechism no matter how much the mere fact of its publication is noted.]]
=======/// In other words, the doctrine stays in place, and this is simply a comment on the proper application of the doctrine in present conditions, generally speaking. Mind you, the prudence of the Church hasn’t changed one bit. This is a faithful rendition of not only of the doctrine but also of the prudent application of the Church from all ages. This is the judgment for the present time, generally speaking.
The method is crystal clear in examining ever changing circumstances. See the words “developed” and “ensure” and “consequently”?
Get it? This is not hard. In fact, it is so easy that one is tempted to think that there is real malice in those who attack to quickly, so easily, with manipulation.
I, for one, think that we need to support Pope Francis with prayer.
Before Mass at Noon we all marched outside and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, as is the custom on this Memorial Day, we raised the flag which had been at half mast in honor of the fallen heroes, and then quickly raised at Noon to honor their achievements for the country and the world. I was sopping wet under the vestments, as I had just been to the cemetery. It was raining. But, you’ll hear about that. And about this 16 year old…
That kind of brings it home. You’ll hear about that…
Our tiniest of all parishes has wildly interesting people. Many are military and many number among the intelligence and scientific community. Jerry Hudson is a good example. (And, yes, it’s that Hudson.) We had his wake 5-4-2018 and the funeral 5-5-2018. He was edging on 80 years young. I will miss him sorely.
As with most ultra-extreme-genii who change the entire world in which we live, Jerry dropped out of High School. Jerry was profoundly patriotic, profoundly Catholic. He was scooped up by the USAF in his Junior year. They gave him further schooling, specialized, fit for his smarts. After that, he was known simply as “The Mechanic.” It’s like calling “Good” Will Hunting “The Janitor.”
At one point, Jerry went through the FBI qualification exams with extreme perfection.
That hits home with me. I myself have seen it before, up close and personal, at by far the most academic of Catholic institutions. It is frustrating. There is so much that could be done. But, that’s just how it is. It is what it is.
In a what could have been imagination, what if the FBI had instead created a specialized investigatory IG position for Jerry. The Strzok and Comey scenarios and all the rest of the Department of Justice corruption would most likely have never come about the way it is today. Anyway…
There’s no love lost between the FBI and CIA. So, of course, after Jerry was dumped by the FBI, he was picked up by the CIA. I love that. Since he was “The Mechanic”, they put him to work on the U2 spy plane for its missions over Russia, from Turkey – yes, don’t deny it – where he kept the pilots in good order with good oxygen for four years. Mind you, he figured out how to do this for a plane flying many miles higher than the ceiling of our most capable passenger jetliners even while he himself was living in a tent (since you can’t have a base for a plane that doesn’t exist, right?). Mind you, today, we let our fighter pilots die in our own day because of CYA cover-ups, we not wanting to admit that we don’t know what we are doing in trying to keep the pilots in good order with oxygen. For shame! Sure, the guts of planes change. But we should investigate the procedures by which Jerry was able to figure out problems. We might learn something that will save lives today. Science is as much about method as facts. Knowing the facts doesn’t mean understanding. Jerry knew stuff, and understood, and could “fix it.” After all, he was “The Mechanic.”
And, by the way, that stint with the CIA helped to change quite entirely the course of the cold war with Russia. He was, perhaps, at that time, the biggest enemy that Russia had. He was also instrumental during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Jerry is a great American hero, yes, as CIA. I sometimes make purposed poking fun at the CIA, or what looks like serious criticism, but let me for a moment be serious:
Meanwhile, “The Mechanic” worked on pretty much all the Apollo space missions – yes, those missions – and on pretty much all missile systems of whatever kind, air to air, air to ground, ground to air, from the sea, intercontinental… for whatever military manufacturer, for whatever branch of the military, pretty much everywhere. Yes, it’s him: “The Mechanic.”
His baby, above. Just a few of the missions he worked on (but much more than these):
Obviously, he was from Kansas…
I mentioned that Jerry was Catholic. Most of the crowd at the wake and funeral were non-Catholic, mostly family from everywhere and friends. But there were also quite a number whom no one had seen before, were not related, came late, left early, and, if you know what to look for, very much fit the bill as reps for, you know, The Company. I’m very touched by that. Very human, that. And it’s a recognition by The Company of just what an impact Jerry made not only on America but on the entire world in stopping Russian imperialism dead in its tracks. With the passing of Jerry comes the passing of an entire era. He should be recognized in Congress post-mortem. The Air Force came up and did the flag ceremony for the burial. Very touching. They really did a good job as it was obvious this was much more than a job. This was personal.
Meanwhile, Jerry was always helpful, always encouraging, always a friend to everyone. Jerry encouraged me on my homilies, loving the irony of mercy being founded on justice. He loved that I myself led the rosary during adoration, saying that he never once in his life saw a priest doing that, and loved to see a priest who is a believer. As I say, he was always encouraging, looking for things by which he could encourage people. I mean, when does anyone encourage a priest? He did. That’s the kind of guy he was.
When he had some medical difficulties recently, we spoke of going to heaven as I gave him the anointing and such. He simply enjoyed life because he had a deep faith, a wild sense of irony. Those two go together, faith and irony, very well and make up the Jerry we all knew and loved. You’ll be sorely missed, Jerry. God speed, my friend. Tell Jesus how we want to get to the gates of heaven… and then get in!
Mind you, Jerry was a genius in the extreme. And yet he was always the little kid, full of wonder, always wanting to learn more, always thinking, pondering, but with joy, never with fear or bitterness, knowing that he knew nothing compared to what there is to know both in this life and in the life to come. Would that we could all retain our wonder as kids, and be joyful in learning about things here on earth, and then, please God, in heaven. Here’s Jerry in his younger days, just like his older days:
There was a report in the paper earlier this past week (Thursday) about a body matching the description of yours truly which was found in the river that wends its way through the mountains here in the parish. Various and sundry people told me today that they thought for sure that it was me, well, until they saw me today at Mass! It’s someone who sure looks like Fr George, they said. Not me. Anyway, this is yet another death besides the murder we also had the other week. A busy small town.
It’s been raining and raining and raining. The stream next to the rectory rose up and grabbed one of our new Holly trees and threw it into the river on the other side of town. And then the water went down again, like it never happened. But the tree remains gone.
And so I think of so many who have gone on their way to the next life in such a way, in waves of violence, waves of sickness, waves of war, waves of accidents, waves and waves. We can look to what would have been, what could have been. Or we can look to what might be, what may be, what we hope will be in heaven. Life is changed, not ended.
We are in exile here. Exile, I say. Far from home. So very far. And yet, God is with us, right with us, the indwelling it’s called, of the Most Holy Trinity, so that we are tabernacles of the Most High, the one thing that is important, and it cannot be ripped away from us by anything, by anyone. Jesus loves us.
I’ve been posting only rarely. I’ve been screamingly busy these past number of weeks and it’s only picking up steam. I entirely blame guardian angels for this. And thank them. In my experience, the angels like arranging things and doing stuff when they know this will do good both for others and even for me. Let me give you an example.
The other day I got a call from a wonderful 191 million year old lady who is on my weekly Communion Call list. She’s way up in the backsides of the beyonds in Northwest Graham County. It’s hard to get more remote than that. Her nephew, the exact same age as me, was dying of cancer, with only hours to live at the hospice on the far side of Asheville. “Could you say a prayer for him?” she asked. “Yes. And I will go see him,” said I.
Meanwhile, right away, like clock work, as soon as one emergency was over, another one came up, things which could not be delayed with others that I had to take care of. I’m thinking the whole time about the nephew. Finally, about 8:00 PM I was able to get on my way to the hospice, stopping halfway, an hour into the journey, for the Breviary, but starting up again immediately.
I got to the main medical campus at about 10:30 PM but couldn’t find the hospice for the life of me. The campus takes up an entire mountain top and has, it seems, dozens of clinics for every ailment under the sun. No hospice. I’m now despairing, as it is now 11:00 PM. Finally, I headed down a tiny alley that seemed to go off campus straight down the mountain. There were still more clinics. Finally, the last building in the most unusual place with a most unusual name seemed like it might possibly be the hospice and it was. It’s open 24/7, of course.
No one was on duty out front. “Go to the nurses station down the hall” was the sign up on the desk. So, off I went. My friend was in the room adjacent to the nurses desk and they were happy to send me in. I’ll just relate to you a few of the events that went on in the next 20 minutes or so with this man who was filled to the brim with cancer.
His eyes were closed and he was in the death rattle which I’ve witnessed it seems a thousand times, head way back, throat way out in bulbous fashion, having difficulty breathing. I took his hand in mine and rocked it back and forth, arm wrestling fashion, but ever so gentle and reassuring. He gave plenty of squeezes, happy someone was there. Finally, I said, “This is Father George.” He opened his eyes with some effort and confirmed that that was the case and gave a little smile, closing his eyes once again, squeezing my hand in appreciation. After a few minutes, I said a long prayer for him, a prayer which is sure to set the soul on a straight path to Jesus, and looking forward to a heavenly meeting. To this prayer he added the most peaceful, all encompassing, affirmational, assenting to everything that is the will of God “Amen” I think I ever did hear. And that was through the death rattle breathing.
Saint Thomas Aquinas says that such agreement with the faith is consonant with the gift of sanctifying grace, but that the grace of final perseverance is a special gift that kicks in right at the time of death for the person either to accept or reject.
After more minutes of rocking his hand in mine I offered him something else, a joke, of sorts. If you tell a joke when someone is actively and immediately dying, it had better be pretty good. I think I had told him about this bit of humor previously, but now was the time to repeat it. I told him that I had a request of him, that I wanted to give him a message to deliver to Jesus, saying that if he was too embarrassed to say it, the whole heavenly court would say it for him, or even Jesus Himself, so he may as well go ahead and repeat my request. I told him that I had made this request, by now, to I think some dozens if not hundreds of dying people in my priesthood. By this time, he was all ears.
I said that I wanted him to tell Jesus that there’s a donkey-priest still down on earth who especially needs His watchful protection and guidance. That, of course, made him laugh, death rattle or not, as it has for everyone else. This is something that sets those who are dying totally at ease with what they are about to do, with where they are about to go, with whom they are going to meet. They are happy and peaceful, in a good place, aimed at the heavens, able to rest with no fear in the prayers that had been said, like little kids about to jump into the arms of Jesus. It is then that he died.
But there is more. A couple of things. The first is that this was all impossible without the direct intervention of the angels since early that morning and more. I had been delayed and delayed and delayed and, I must say, almost gave up and turned around fifty miles into the trip already, thinking I would never be let in at that hour of the night, and who would blame me for avoiding a further one hundred and fifty miles in the middle of the night when maybe I could see him the next day? None of these delays or my perseverance were coincidences. As soon as one thing would finish, the phone would ring. And on it went until I arrived at that precise time of his dying with those exact of amount of minutes before he actually expired. This had to be the angels, right? Well… there’s also this:
The second thing is that the angels made themselves evident, not by appearing, but – how to say it? – almost appearing. I think they were so very happy and let this be known. You have to know that the angels are part of the family and are always with us. Jesus says they behold the very face of God in heaven, and yet are with us, and that they rejoice over us being with Jesus and that we not to offend them. We must not ignore them! After this gentleman’s “Amen!” to the prayer and until he died there was a – what? – I don’t know what to call it… perhaps a visitation of sorts.
While I had his hand in mine, with me looking up to heaven (only seeing the ceiling, mind you), I received a very strong impression, very personal, very immediate, that the heavens had opened up right then and there and that the heavenly court was looking down at this spectacle of a Catholic priest and a Presbyterian layman in a hospice room in the middle of the night more than a hundred miles away from the priest’s parish. Very peaceful, though with much rejoicing, as if to say that my petition for his soul was granted by the Most High and the angels were now eager to bring him on his way. They didn’t have to wait long at all. The weight of the glory of God was upon us. His final perseverance, it seemed to me, was assured. I felt very self-conscious, thinking I was just a bit of a donkey-priest, doing only what I absolutely had to do. And not that this had anything to do with my weak prayers. The prayers of his 191 million year old aunt were always before the throne of God.
I experienced what Lewis and Short secondarily define for admīrātĭo , ōnis, f. admiror, that is, II. Wonder, surprise, astonishment. I must say that I rejoice in all this as a tiny little child.
There is a danger in writing about such things. Some might think I’m special. I’m not. Some might think the nephew who died is special. No, not really, though he did make it a campaign to let it be known that “God belongs in Graham County.” Some might think it is improper for me to write that showing love to a fellow Christian is good since they think that this offends against ecumenism because they say you can only be kind to someone who is Catholic because otherwise non-Catholics won’t become Catholic, or some other absurdity like that. Some might think that writing such things is offensive to those who are not Christian. Why? Some might think it’s simply improper to write about such things because it causes them to think about the end of their own lives and they don’t like it one bit. Ahhh…. Yes, the ol’ takin’ offense at the proclamation of the Gospel tantrum. O.K. Whatever. I just think that Jesus and His mom and the angels are all pretty cool and that we can love them and share the greatest love of our lives with others. I think that that’s not a bad thing, is it?
Having said all that, let’s all of us go to Confession and be at the ready!