Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Cardinal Virtues

I'm reading a book written by, Bill Donohue, called, Why Catholicism Matters, How Catholic Virtues can reshape society in the 21st century. It's very good so far and written in such a way that even I can understand it. (I'm past the point in my life where I will slodge through densely written material and come out with any kind of understanding.)
While reading the above book, I came across this passage on page 19: "If men were angels," James Madison wrote, "no government would be necessary." He was right, and the government the Founders crafted was based on this understanding. Absent government, the weak would perish at the hands of the stronger.
But it is not enough to conclude that government is necessary; a government that does not institutionally block dictatorial impulses can deliver more evil than anarchy. That is why the Founders gave us a horizontal balance of powers, dividing the powers between the executive, legislative, and the judicial branches. This system of government works because it takes for granted that too much power in the hands of any single source spells the death of liberty; it also takes into consideration man's nature.

The Catholic Church offers the best hope of realizing the good society that our Founding Fathers intended for us partly because it understands that man is inherently flawed and in need of redemption. That is where the ten commandments come in. If it was in our nature to do only good, we would not need the ten commandments written down for all to see. We do have a fallen nature as St. Augustine taught, "Man entered the world in a state of sin." Thus, we need to be taught the ten commandments so that they become second nature to us. These teachings should be upheld and modeled not only by the family, but by our institutions, the schools, and by society as a whole. The ten commandments tell us what not to do (do not kill, do not covet, do not steal, etc...), but virtue tells us what to do or how to do it. This is where the cardinal virtues come into the picture.

The author goes on to say that there is nothing inherently religious about the cardinal virtues, and were taught by Plato and Cicero as contributing to the heart and soul of the good society. By cultivating and practicing these virtues we are able to keep God's commandments. William C. Mattison, III, a Catholic theologian, state that "a virtue is a good habit."

"But, virtue does not come easy", states the author; "the apprenticeship is demanding. It is up to the family, more than any other source, to inculcate virtuous behavior in children." This line truly struck a chord with me and I believe it with all my heart. "Virtuous behavior cannot be ordered into being; it must be carefully and consistently crafted, making use of positive as well as punitive sanctions to get the job done."

As I have time, I will come back here and share more about these cardinal virtues so important for us to learn and emulate so that by them we will have a "happy life" and so please our creator at the same time.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

We were once a family.....

I wish someone would have told me - warned me - that things would change and not for the better. Perhaps I could have coped with the change or the loss of a place I had in life, if only I had just known what lay ahead. People define themselves by their connections to others; where they are born and when; are they first, second, third, etc. in the birth order. Who is talented in music, who can sing, who can draw or paint, or who is very very smart in science. Which one has a sweetness to them, which one is kind and friendly, which one is sharp, which one is mean, who has a short temper, which one doesn't care. You get the picture. It takes a long time to get to know your siblings, your parents, and everyone else in one's world. It takes a long time to figure out who you are, what you like, or don't like; and just when you think you have a handle on it (I'm skipping decades of experience here), something terrible happens -- your father dies and you have a great big hole inside that never goes away. That is what happened to me on November 17, 2010.

The story of my family begins in 1956 when my mother ran away for parts unknown. I was 5 years old, but I remember it like it was yesterday. Anyway, I never saw her again. My dad left soon after to work in southern California and I was left in the care of my grand-parents along with my sister and baby brother. About a year later, he came back to get us and took us to southern California to live with him and his new wife, Jan. It was a complete surprise to me - I had no warning - but, it was a wonderful surprise. I knew Jan and her three children when we lived in Texas, and liked her very much. We remained a family for a long time and I didn't realize that it had all fallen apart until it was really too late to do anything about it. That realization came after my dad died.

I call my mom, Jan, at least once a week to visit and catch up on what we've been doing all week. At first I still felt the connection with her after dad passed away; a bonding of the heart you might say. Then, she progressively sounded more and more distracted on the phone to the point that there was really no deep personal bond going on between us. She became more and more forgetful and not wanting to talk about the past at all. She couldn't remember past shared experiences and would say "I don't know or I don't remember" a great deal.

Today was another one of those "forgetful days" that ended in tears and frustration for me. Then, I suddenly realized that I don't have a childhood family anymore. It all ended with the death of my father. My brothers and sisters don't write or call or stay connected with me even though I send them birthday cards and Christmas cards each year and make a point to see them when I visit down there.
It's heartbreaking, gut wrenching, sad.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hannah graduated - 6th grade

Today I attended my very first sixth grade graduation ceremony where my grand-daughter was the recipient of a document that confirmed that she had indeed graduated. On to bigger and better things for her. I could not believe how crowded it was in the auditorium. Every single person associated with a graduate was there. The girls looked beautiful in their brand new dresses - most at appropriate lengths, hair done up, make-up, and manicures. Yes, they sparkled. The boys didn't seem to have the same enthusiasm for the event. Most of them dressed like it was a normal school day but some of them wore ties. People held gifts, flowers, and balloons and clapped energetically for every single child that received their "diploma". I was impressed with the community spirit, and a little jealous that I had never been honored in that way when I was a sixth grader. Well, maybe it is all for the good. Perhaps these young people who will soon be adults feel that they should pursue higher education and become something wonderful in this world.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


I had the great privilege to watch my grandson, Joshua, this week while my beautiful daughter had her second child. What an experience it was to see him explore and figure things out - he is only 18 months old but a quick learner. My heart melted each time he gave me an unexpected and spontaneous hug or snuggle. This is a child who lives each moment, each second, to the fullest until he crashes with exhaustion. We had to take him back home yesterday, and the house seemed so empty without him -- it broke my heart to let him go.

My new grandson, Caleb