Tony

Tony
My brother in law Tony helping the poor

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Saints and Veterans - What do they have in common?

Happy Veteran's Day!!  I especially want to wish my brother John a great day.  John served in the Vietnam War in the late 60's, early 70's.  I was merely 5 years old when he returned (thank God) to us, and a good thing he did!  He has been such an asset to this country, not just in his service, but as a citizen as well.  John is my oldest brother, someone I have always looked up to and has never let me down.  Thank you God for my brother John!  In honor of my brother I thought I would share this story with you.  It is a story of courage AND faith.

Last Thanksgiving my nephew had come home for a holiday visit and was all excited to tell us about his new girlfriend (by the way, they are now engaged).  As we were sitting around the rather large dining room table surrounded by cozy decor and music, my nephew mentioned to me that even though he still considers himself Catholic he doesn't really "believe in all the Catholic stuff."  "Like what," I asked?  Across the table my oldest brother shot his wife a look like "ah ha...we got us another one!"  You see, my brother and his wife belong to Parkside Church, a ginormous non-denominational church on the east side.   My brother was born and raised Catholic like all of us but I think after his divorce he figured it was just easier to switch faiths rather than going through a long drawn out annulment process.  But that's just my opinion. 

Anyhow, my nephew proceeds to tell me that he doesn't understand why we have to believe in or pray to saints.  Of course there is nothing that says we as Catholics have to pray to the saints but we do recognize them.  In fact, there is a saint for every day of the week on our Catholic Calendars, and of course we recognize our patron saints for particular vocations, and whatnot, but there is no "worshiping" of saints. 

Yet I understood my nephew's question and wanted help him understand it better, so I looked to my brother, the ex-Vietnam veteran for inspiration.  My response to my nephew's question was simply this;  My brother (his uncle) is truly a great man and a great inspiration to me.  He is a man who selflessly fought in the Vietnam War and was highly recognized for his bravery and courage.  I thought, how wonderful it is that we have such a terrific monument erected in our nations capital to recognize the bravery of all these great men and women especially those who gave their lives so that we can continue to enjoy the freedom we have today!  It is because of this example that we remember our saints and honor them as well.  If it were not for their bravery and courage we would not be able to enjoy the religious freedom we have come to take for granted. 

How can we dismiss the people who have given their lives for our freedom, religious or constitutional?  When you deny or ignore the saints you are also ignoring history.  I would no more want people to forget the men and women who serve to protect our political freedoms than those men and women who have served to protect our religious freedoms.  How sad it is that we give more honor to veterans of political wars than we do to veterans of religious wars?  We don't pray to our political veterans or worship them either but we do remember them.  Like our saints, we even have a special day marked on our calendar in "honor" of them. 

There are many things that people of other faiths,even Catholics for that matter, find strange, but in all of our persuit for a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ" I think we forget that we are not him.  Allister Beggs, the very articulate and entertaining pastor at Parkside Church bellowed during his latest Christmas concert, "it's all about your personal relationship with Jesus."  Well, my question to him is, if all that matters is my relationship with Jesus Christ, what do I need him for?  

One time I said to him as I walked into his HUGE mega church, "where is your crucifix and alter?"  He replied, "we don't worship icons here."  "Then what do you call those big screen televisions?" I replied.  

You may think our methods are archaic and silly but I'd rather be silly and found than contemporary and lost!