Pope Francis hosted an extraordinary global marriage conference

There was little media coverage. Where did the Francis Effect go?

He’s not sounding the progressive notes liberals thought they’d been hearing from him and some Church hierarchy lately. Just after the Bishops’ Synod on the Family recently stirred so much controversy over the issue of same sex marriage, Francis boldly declared marriage is a sacramental union of man and woman and anything else is “an association.” It got attention in Christian media, but little to none elsewhere.

The movement to redefine marriage unquestionably has enjoyed dominance in the prevailing culture, which has helped that movement shape public opinion through media, politics, the entertainment culture, academia and other ways. The movement has been unified, successful and powerful, while the other side largely has not. Until now.

Yes, the massive March for Marriage in Paris held twice within months last year, with one in the US soon after, and dedicated organizations tirelessly working to engage the marriage debate and build a marriage culture, have made a difference in many ways. But they haven’t had the cohesive and powerful effect the movement to redefine marriage has in recent years. One event may not change that, but it could be a major tipping point. Could this have been the event?

It was the high level conference the Vatican hosted this past week that unified some of the world’s greatest scholars, intellectuals and religious leaders for a unique focus on marriage. Pope Francis opened it with sharp remarks about dysfunction in modern culture and its impact on individuals and families on the most fundamental levels.

Pope Francis stated frankly, “In our day, marriage and the family are in crisis.” The “culture of the temporary” has led many people to give up on marriage as a public commitment. “This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.” The Pope said that the crisis in the family has produced a crisis “of human ecology,” similar to the crisis that affects the natural environment. “Although the human race has come to understand the need to address conditions that menace our natural environments, we have been slower to recognize that our fragile social environments are under threat as well, slower in our culture, and also in our Catholic Church. It is therefore essential that we foster a new human ecology and advance it.”

To do that, the Pope said, “It is necessary first to promote the fundamental pillars that govern a nation: its non-material goods.” He noted that the family is the foundation of society, and that children have the right to grow up in a family with a mother and a father “capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity.”

He also called on participants in the Colloquium “to lift up yet another truth about marriage: that permanent commitment to solidarity, fidelity, and fruitful love responds to the deepest longings of the human heart.” This is especially important for young people “who represent our future.”

Finally, Pope Francis said the family is not an ideological concept, but an “anthropological fact.” That is, the family is not a “conservative” or a “progressive” notion, but is a reality that transcends ideological labels.

Pope Francis concluded his address with the hope that the Colloquium would be “an inspiration to all who seek to support and strengthen the union of man and woman in marriage as a unique, natural, fundamental and beautiful good for persons, families, communities, and whole societies.”

It was inspirational, to say the least. Read Maggie Gallagher:

For the Vatican it was a truly unusual event, with people from every part of the globe and nearly every major faith tradition — Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Jains, Mormons and Muslims, not to mention Sikhs, Hindus, and Buddhists, pouring into Rome to share their faith traditions’ insights into the meaning of this thing called sex…

Something happened at this colloquium, something I would not say was talked about, so much as on display, something deeply foundational and mostly missing in modern discourse on the family, including (perhaps especially) much rational Catholic discourse — something that cannot be explained but only experienced by the hungry human heart.

The closest words we have are so mocked and ridiculed as to be reduced in their capacity to carry the meaning: purity? chastity?

There is something men and women can be together but only when we recognize our difference as deeply precious and meaningful, for in it lies the capacity of the lover and the beloved to influence one another. I mean in particular the special power of women for men to symbolize and therefore incarnate, a world outside that which every teenage boy enters adult life experiencing: the deep power of lust. Can sexual desire ever be something other than this relentless urge to use, to possess, to enjoy, to discard, to delight in degradation that is so evident all around us?

I heard an echo of it in what prominent evangelicals were trying to put into words…

Like famous Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren.

“To redefine marriage would destroy the picture that God intends for marriage to portray, and we cannot cave on this issue,” Warren said. “It’s a picture of Christ and his Church.”

“What are we going to do about this?” he said, according to a report from Christian Today. “The Church cannot cower in silence. The stakes are too high.”

He continued:

“A lie doesn’t become a truth and wrong doesn’t become right…just because it’s popular,” said Warren. “Truth is truth.”

Addressing the issue of remaining steadfast in the face of today’s culture, Warren told those meeting at the Vatican that “the only way to always be relevant, is to be eternal.”

He said it’s not necessary even to be on the right side of culture, but rather it’s just important to be on the right side, and he said it is time for the Church to be a “proponent of what’s right.”

“The Church must remain strong in its values, and continue to uphold the traditional teaching of marriage and the male-female relationship, despite cultural pressures,” Warren stressed. “It should lead the crowd, not follow it.”

Participants report that several addresses brought the crowd to its feet, for sustained ovations in some cases. Such was the case (as Michael Cook noted) with Lord Jonathan Sacks. His speech was more of an eloquent oration, profoundly stirring listeners to their core.

I want this morning to begin our conversation by one way of telling the story of the most beautiful idea in the history of civilization: the idea of the love that brings new life into the world. There are of course many ways of telling the story, and this is just one.

It was utter poetry.

Maggie Gallagher tried to find words to convey what it did and meant to be there at this extraordinary time.

At the end of this extraordinary three days Archbishop Chaput took the microphone to invite us to the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. “I’ve been a bishop for 26 years, a priest for more than 40 years, and this was the most interesting colloquium I’ve been to in my life,” he said.

That says a lot, coming from Archbishop Chaput, who has not only attended but addressed countless fascinating, important, critical conferences on urgent issues of our times.

Gallagher continues:

The conference ended not with a statement but with a promise: A movie will be made to express our deepest affirmations. Jacqueline Rivers and Reverend Gene Rivers read from the script for the story, the story of our lives:

For on earth marriage binds us across the ages in the flesh, across families in the flesh, and across the fearful and wonderful divide of man and woman, in the flesh. This is not ours to alter,” it reads. “It is ours, however, to encourage and celebrate. . . . This we affirm.

After that, we all stood and applauded for what seemed like ten minutes, reluctant to leave, reluctant to have it end, which of course it should not, because now our task is to find new ways to go forth and carry on the great human story of the generations.

The colloquium wrapped with great warmth, a determined sense of purpose, and the Affirmation Carolyn Moynihan shared here. It was more the end of the beginning.

Vatican marriage conference hears top scholars, global clergy

This extremely diverse group was unified by their profound, fundamental belief in the definition of marriage, and its importance.

Haven’t heard much about it in the media? Is that surprising? Is the Pope Catholic?

The answers are probably no, no and a resounding yes.

Here’s Francis on marriage:

“The family is being hit, the family is being struck and the family is being bastardized,” the Pope told those in attendance at the Oct. 25 audience.

He warned against the common view in society that “you can call everything family, right?”

“What is being proposed is not marriage, it’s an association. But it’s not marriage! It’s necessary to say these things very clearly and we have to say it!” Pope Francis stressed.

He lamented that there are so many “new forms” of unions which are “totally destructive and limiting the greatness of the love of marriage.”

Then Monday, the Humanum Colloquium convened at the Vatican on “The Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage.”  The three day, international, inter-religious high level gathering got an opening address by Francis. It was dynamite.

Complementarity, the Pope said, “is at the root of marriage and family.” Although there are tensions in families, the family also provides the framework in which those tensions can be resolved.” He said that complementarity should not be confused with a simplistic notion that “all the roles and relations of the sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern.” Rather, “complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children.”

Pope Francis stated frankly, “In our day, marriage and the family are in crisis.” The “culture of the temporary” has led many people to give up on marriage as a public commitment. “This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.” The Pope said that the crisis in the family has produced a crisis “of human ecology,” similar to the crisis that affects the natural environment. “Although the human race has come to understand the need to address conditions that menace our natural environments, we have been slower to recognize that our fragile social environments are under threat as well, slower in our culture, and also in our Catholic Church. It is therefore essential that we foster a new human ecology and advance it.”

To do that, the Pope said, “It is necessary first to promote the fundamental pillars that govern a nation: its non-material goods.” He noted that the family is the foundation of society, and that children have the right to grow up in a family with a mother and a father “capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity.”

He also called on participants in the Colloquium “to lift up yet another truth about marriage: that permanent commitment to solidarity, fidelity, and fruitful love responds to the deepest longings of the human heart.” This is especially important for young people “who represent our future.”

Finally, Pope Francis said the family is not an ideological concept, but an “anthropological fact.” That is, the family is not a “conservative” or a “progressive” notion, but is a reality that transcends ideological labels.

Pope Francis concluded his address with the hope that the Colloquium would be “an inspiration to all who seek to support and strengthen the union of man and woman in marriage as a unique, natural, fundamental and beautiful good for persons, families, communities, and whole societies.”

How do you follow that?

With some powerful talks and addresses given by other Catholic leaders, along with officials and representatives of Protestant, Muslim, and Jain traditions. As well as leaders and scholars from Eastern Orthodoxy, the LDS Church and the Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist traditions.

Some of the best of those coming in the next post. Consider Francis first. And meanwhile, explore Humanum.

Pope Francis hosts high level conference on marriage

This follows the recent ‘Extraordinary Synod on the Family’, and it’s truly extraordinary.

It’s an international, inter-religious colloquium called Humanum.

The Vatican-sponsored gathering, on the “Complementarity of Man and Woman,” will take place Nov. 17-19 and feature more than 30 speakers representing 23 countries and various Christian churches, as well as Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism and Sikhism.

The conference will aim to “examine and propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman, in order to support and reinvigorate marriage and family life for the flourishing of human society,” according to organizers.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and the Rev. Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church in California, will be among the participants…

Other notable speakers will include Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of Great Britain, and Anglican Bishops N.T. Wright and Michael Nazir-Ali.

Pope Francis will address the conference and preside over its first morning session Nov. 17, following remarks by Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith…

The conference is officially sponsored by the doctrinal congregation, and co-sponsored by the pontifical councils for Promoting Christian Unity, for Interreligious Dialogue and for the Family. The heads of all four curia offices are scheduled to address the assembly.

Topics of lectures and videos will include “The Cradle of Life and Love: A Mother and Father for the World’s Children” and “The Sacramentality of Human Love According to St. John Paul II.”

The press, American and international, that has framed Francis as a renegade, progressive, breakaway pope thrusting the Catholic Church into the cultural tide to get with the times, has been derelict in reporting some of his more incisive remarks and actions. Like these remarks:

“The family is being hit, the family is being struck and the family is being bastardized,” the Pope told those in attendance at the Oct. 25 audience.

He warned against the common view in society that “you can call everything family, right?”

“What is being proposed is not marriage, it’s an association. But it’s not marriage! It’s necessary to say these things very clearly and we have to say it!” Pope Francis stressed.

He lamented that there are so many “new forms” of unions which are “totally destructive and limiting the greatness of the love of marriage.”

Noting that there are many who cohabitate, or are separated or divorced, he explained that the “key” to helping is a pastoral care of “close combat” that assists and patiently accompanies the couple.

And where did we see these comments reported other than Christian media? Or news of the current colloquium on marriage, Humanum? Michael Cook reported on it here. It deserves widespread attention, especially in the atmosphere of the dominant culture.

It’s much more than a conference, and it began on Monday morning with an address by Pope Francis. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks spoke, followed by representatives of the Protestant, Muslim, and Jain traditions. The gathering includes leaders and scholars assembled from Eastern Orthodoxy, the Latter Day Saints Church, the Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist traditions. Speeches will be given by Dr. Jacqueline Cook-Rivers, Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren, Sister Prudence Allen, and Pastor Christoph Arnold, and Dr. Russell Moore. The three days of intensive talks include “scholars panels,” presided over by Princeton Professor Robert George, Havard Professor Mary Ann Glendon, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, and many others. Professor George said “we must unite across borders and traditions to uphold marriage and build or rebuild vibrant marriage cultures in our societies. I’m glad that Pope Francis sees that and was willing to have the Vatican convene this gathering of religious leaders and scholars.”

This is big, universal, inclusive, multi-cultural, diverse, timeless, and very positive. More to come as the high-powered, focused, intent and determined assembly of international participants proceed over these three days of extraordinary brainstorming sessions.

Meanwhile, next year’s World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, already a major global event, got something like a rocket booster when Pope Francis finally confirmed rumors Monday that he would indeed attend.

After Pope Francis officially confirmed that he will visit Philadelphia next fall for the World Meeting of Families, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said the trip will be a blessing for the event and the world…

Archbishop Chaput said he hopes the World Meeting of Families will provide some clarity for the lay faithful on issues of family and marriage.

“What we hope to achieve through this meeting is a strengthening of family life,” he said. “Not just in the Catholic Church but also in the world, in so far as we can contribute to others’ clarity of thinking on marriage and most importantly the commitment of husbands and wives to each other for the sake of their children.”

People from every continent are coming to the World Meeting of Families, and Archbishop Chaput said he wants the event to be as inclusive as possible.

“We even have a scholarship program to help the poor come from different parts of the world because this is supposed to be a meeting of the whole world and not just of people who can afford the travel to the United States,” he said. “We have plans to make this a very inclusive gathering with people from all over.

Their representatives are meeting in Rome right now. This is a major event. I don’t need to wish to be a ‘fly on the wall’ to hear it. Some of the major participants are friends and regular guests of my radio show, and they’ll be back soon, to talk about it all.

Meanwhile, watch this space.

‘Gosnell’ and ‘Irreplaceable’: The people’s films

Hollywood has a lot of power. But people are increasingly going around them to get stories told.

So this power duo of Ann McElhinney and her husband Phelim McAleer were doing what they do best, producing and directing documentary films like FrackNation, Mine Your Own Business, and Not Evil Just Wrong, among others with messages they believe in, without any affiliation with pro-life organizations or causes or much thought about it, in the film world. They were working on something else when they learned of the trial of notorious, infamous, murderous abortionist (a redundancy) Kermit Gosnell. They dropped everything once they learned the truths about the abortion clinic dubbed by authorities as a ‘house of horrors’, what went on there, what the team in Hazmat suits who investigated found there, what that abortionist did to women and babies, and how the media went silent on the trial once Gosnell went to court, with the full blown grand jury report detailing the most grisly acts and crimes again humanity, while media seats in the courtroom remained strangely empty.

Ann and Phelim swung into motion and started planning a film to document this historic moment in the the culture that spiraled out of control since abortion on demand became legal. It’s the logic of abortion taken to it’s conclusion, after all, and this case was emblematic. They had formerly worked with Kickstarter to fund FrackNation, and went back to that crowd source funding process for this project. After all, as Ann’s bio records,

FrackNation bypassed traditional funding methods and instead turned to Kickstarter, a crowd-funding website. In 60 days, 3,305 backers donated $212,265 to tell the truth about fracking. It was one of the most successful campaigns in Kickstarter history.

However, this time, Kickstarter kicked them out. The language used in the film was too offensive, the site organizers decided, and it had to be edited out and toned down.

Wait. What? The language in the film was the language of the grand jury report, finding what they found at Gosnell’s ‘clinic’ and describing it in plain spoken words. In other words, the filmmakers were rejected for describing the actual scene and details of the crime, and not soft-peddling the truth with fuzzier language and actual omissions.

Instead of doing that, Ann and Phelim went to Indiegogo and launched an awareness campaign to crowd fund the film project on a deadline. They are passionate and determined.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell is the most prolific serial killer in American History, but almost no one knows who he is.

The Grand Jury investigating Kermit Gosnell’s horrific crimes said this:

This case is about a doctor who killed babies … What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors …. Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.

Gosnell is serving several life sentences but the media basically ignored his crimes and his trial. They ignored the facts that emerged from the trial, like the fact that the babies he murdered suffered terribly. Here is what a neonatologist told the Grand Jury:

The neonatologist testified… If a baby moves, it is alive. Equally troubling, it feels a “tremendous amount of pain” when its spinal cord is severed. So, the fact that Baby Boy A. continued to move after his spinal cord was cut with scissors means that he did not die instantly. Maybe the cord was not completely severed. In any case, his few moments of life were spent in excruciating pain. (Report of the Grand Jury)

The mainstream media or Hollywood don’t think this is a story.

That doesn’t matter, if enough people do, say the filmmakers.

It’s a frightening testament to the power of the media that very few people even know about Kermit Gosnell: America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer.

This is your chance to bypass the media “information gatekeepers” to get tens of millions of Americans thinking about what happened in Philadelphia.

How’s it going? I covered the Gosnell case and trial and repored here things that didn’t hit the mainstream radar, or stick for long once it did. It seemed at the time that this case may just be the one that turns the culture around on abortion, or at least generates serious public discussion about what this license has wrought in the four decades since Roe. It did that, for a short time. But things went back to business as usual soon after, and this story seems to have faded from memory in a culture that hardly grasped it in the first place.

So I was very interested in how this project is going, once I discovered it. Since I first had the dynamic Ann McElhinney on my radio show in early April, I’ve watched her and Phelim take their campaign to social media and mainstream media by leaps and bounds.

NRO reports, and get how the report comes out:

Ann and Phelim Media recently reached $1.6 million in donations to their Gosnell film crowdfunding campaign, with $500,000 left to raise before May 12.

The company switched to crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to raise the money to finance their film after claiming that their initial choice, Kickstarter, had attempted to censor the project.

On Tuesday, Ann and Phelim Media purchased a billboard ad, and placed it half a mile from Kickstarter’s headquarters in Brooklyn. The ad reads, “To Kickstarter — We Say . . . “You stink at censorship!”

Kickstarter’s CEO, Yancey Strickler, recently told National Review Online that the Gosnell project was not suppressed and the filmmakers blew an editorial exchange out of proportion.

What Kickstarter refers to as blowing “an editorial exchange out of proportion” is another way of covering up what really happened. Kickstarter couldn’t deal with the truth, in the plain language of the Grand Jury report the filmmakers report.

And as Phelim McAleer told the Hollywood Reporter:

“Kickstarter tried to censor us – it didn’t work. When faced with a different point of view, their first instinct was to censor,” McAleer said.

He adds, though, that he believes Kickstarter was within its rights because it’s a private company. “But they need to be honest and announce that certain opinions and ideas are not welcome,” he said. “It’s sad, but that’s the truth.”

With 11 days left, the Gosnell project has raised $1.66 million, 79 percent of its goal. If it reaches $2.1 million, it will become the most successful movie or TV project to raise funds at IndieGoGo.

Here’s the site.

Then there’s ‘Irreplaceable‘, a film about the state of the family across the globe. And though produced by MPower Pictures producer John Shepherd, it’s sponsored by Focus on the Family, an organization trying to shift its focus to a more pro-active effort as this, and it’s an admirable effort. I saw it last week in a private screening, and know what it’s about, how it’s done, and how it affected the packed theater in which I viewed it. I thought it would be a good effort, and effective to sort of ‘get the ball rolling’ on re-thinking the family, since we all have one and it’s in a state of crisis around the world.

But it’s remarkable, how simply they hit the primeval sense we all have of needing to belong, and knowing that we belong or grieving the loss of belonging to others in what civilization has always known as family. It’s so fresh, stark, and basic. The narrator and main researcher is a family man from New Zealand who sets out on a journey around the world to talk with experts and regular people about family relationships, the state of the family today, not so much to focus on what’s wrong but on what we might or can do to make it better for everyone. Because God knows, we need to.

From the website:

Every member of the human race has the desire for significance—a desire to belong. And the family is where those deepest longings are fulfilled.

Unfortunately, the word “family” has all but lost its meaning in our modern cultural landscape. And the fallout has been significant. Divorce. Crime. Poverty. Addictions. Abuse. Our attempts to redefine and reimagine the family only make these problems worse, not better. When the family is weakened, society suffers. But strong families make the world a better place.

Irreplaceable is the first in a series of feature-length documentaries that will approach the concept of the family from a number of different angles. The goal of each documentary is to recover, renew and reclaim the cultural conversation about the family.

And besides the series, it’s a new movement. It launches with a nationwide event on May 6th at 700 theaters nationwide in America, and goes from there. Details on the site.

I must admit, I was inspired by the project, and impressed by the producer in an interview we did on my radio program. But when the once-only screening happened on a work night, I was pretty tired and attended with the hope that it wouldn’t be long. After it got rolling, and the New Zealand narrator/researcher started traveling, interviewing, piecing together whatever he discovered on his journey, I got drawn in more.

But something happened around or just after the middle of the film, when the packed theater settled down from their popcorn munching and bobbing around, and grew more still and silent. And it built to a point when no one in the place moved, no one turned their head away, or made a sound. It was riveting, and a couple of people around me were quietly crying. I was moved, a bit choked up, but holding together and impressed with how well they did this film.

Then it blindsided me. Because it sort of seemed to blindside the narrator/researcher from New Zealand. He didn’t expect to have the deep revelation that hit him any more than I did, and by hitting him the way it did it hit me. Maybe that’s an excuse. Maybe it would have hit many of us deeply no matter what, because of the human truths about relationships and belonging and family, or whatever it was that made people cry. And I found myself wiping away tears. It was deep and rich and raw and human. And it was okay to be wounded and imperfect.

This May 6th event is intended to start something. I hope it starts the healing process. God knows we need it.

Another Buckley has passed, and with him, graciousness and civility

When great ones pass, may they pass the torch.

I have seen a number of very moving and inspiring testimonials lately to great people who have recently passed from this world, written by those who knew and learned from them and knew how to write well of those lasting impressions. We can learn from those, and what we learn is of great and lasting value, especially the more their witness to charity and dignity is lacking in this cultural climate.

Michael Cook wrote this about Brian Harradine.

Brian began as a union organiser and Labor Party stalwart in Tasmania and rose to national prominence by dint of hard work and his steely intellect. But in 1975 he was expelled from the Party for denouncing Communist infiltration. It was a bitter blow, but he immediately stood for the Senate as an Independent and was elected easily.

Look at his witness and adherence to principles, and tenacity in not only defending but advancing them.

He spent the next 30 years in the Federal Parliament, where he fought tirelessly for his constituents and for causes that he believed in passionately – workers’ rights, Aboriginal rights, the rights of the family, and the rights of the unborn. I don’t think that there has ever been an Australian politician who fought harder and longer for the pro-life cause than Brian Harradine.

He also knew what families are all about. In 1980 his wife died, leaving him with six children. A couple of years later he married Marian, a widow with seven. The family of 15 lived in a modest house in a modest suburb.

Being an independent in Canberra was a lonely job. But all the parties respected his conviction and toughness. They had to. From 1996 to 1999 he and another independent held the balance of power and the government ate humble pie to secure his vote. He was unpretentious but he knew how to leverage his position and he drove a hard bargain…

He was also a man with a deep Catholic faith which kept him smiling through hard times at home, disappointments in politics and his years of illness. I shall miss him.

And so will the world, those who knew him and those who never did, because now they will not. Except through those who carry on the virtues and character he embodied.

Kathleen Parker wrote this about Reid Buckley.

He was, as I wrote in a long-ago Town and Country profile of him, a force of nature — driven by an insatiable curiosity, a joy of learning, and apparently a need to salvage what he could of Western intellectual tradition by infecting others with his passion. The Buckley School of Public Speaking has been a tiny incubator where minds were nourished during a brief respite from the mundane and then released back into the world with the sublime command to go forth and multiply.

Reid was nourished in turn by the transformation of students who under his tutelage morphed from timid mumblers into Shakespearean actors. Reid taught confident articulation by applying the debate skills he mastered first at Yale, where he was president of the debate club, and later as an itinerant debater opposite his liberal counterpart, Max Lerner. The two performed formal debates on college campuses during the 1960s, disagreeing civilly on the issues of the day.

The transformation wasn’t only practical but also spiritual. There was something magical and transcendent about entering Reid’s world. He immanentized the eschaton even though, theologically and politically, he opposed such utopian fantasies. Perhaps it was the intoxication of jasmine growing along the school’s antebellum porch. Or maybe it was the smell of hundreds of books, a fair portion of which were written by various Buckleys. Mostly, I think, it was exposure to knowledge, truth, and beauty, and delight in feeling a part of something truly special. He raised your game and made you want to be a better human being.

Of how many people can that be said today, with such reverent and eloquent tones?

Reid might not have known who Oprah was, but he could quote Thomas Merton or Socrates or Yeats with the ease of mortals ordering dressing on the side. A devout Catholic, he was serious about his faith but counted atheists among his friends. Ultra-conservative, he claimed most of his friends were liberals because they were more fun. Ultimately, he was a sensualist in love with beauty in all its forms.

This all seems like a bygone era, right? It shouldn’t and needn’t be, especially because the intellectual progeny who spent time in that world are still in this one, disagreeable and uncivil as it is.

To the 5,000-plus students who passed through his school, he was the lamplighter who waved the burning torch and showed the way out of the subterranean tunnels of rigid thinking. If, alas, I am a tad verbose in my praise, please pardon the indulgence. My cup runneth over.

However, it continues to spill forth…

There’s so much more to say. He was a novelist, essayist, and raconteur, a friend to movie stars, bullfighters, and everyday folks. If he had a snobbish bone, he kept it well hidden. His charm lay partly in his eager willingness to accept all men and women as his equals, intellectual and otherwise. He was the happiest of warriors, madly (madly!) in love with his Spanish wife, Tasa, to whom he professed his love nearly every time they spoke. (He did this in Spanish, but I listen in Spanish.)

A devoted father to their ten children, he called family meetings when any child had a problem to solve. He cherished weekends riding a tractor on his farm, inviting friends to stash and drink wine at his country cellar, and summers writing in his beloved Spain. More than anything, he loved his family, his God, and, by no means least, his dogs — all of them regulars at the school.

This is the fullness of a life well lived, and I was riveted by the account of it, inspired by the sheer nobility of such a witness to discipline, study, hard work, teaching, mentoring, conversing, debating, socializing and sharing, treating everyone with equal dignity and humanity. In other words, a gifted intellect who realized his gifts, a believer who lived his beliefs in every fiber of his living and being, and therefore witnessing faith, hope and charity. To the end, when it was clear it was the end.

When another staff member, Caroline Avinger, visited, Reid urged her not to be sad. “We’re believers, dearest,” he said. “We know how the story ends.”

We are all inconsolably sad, anyway. With Reid Buckley’s earthly departure, Western civilization has lost one of its fiercest gladiators and God has gained the delightful company of one of his most joyful servants. Reid’s parting words at the end of each seminar seem a fitting close to these recollections and a testament to an examined life well lived:

Through your efforts you have advanced in a mighty and terrible power, the art of persuasion. It can be used equally to advance good or evil. May you exercise this power always in the love of truth, decency, and the defense of the poor and weak.

Do you own to a god, may He be your witness and your judge should you betray this trust; if you do not own to a god, may your conscience be your scourge and also your salvation. And so help you, may the lucidity of your reason be guided by the purity of your heart.

Amen.

Yes. Indeed.

Pause for Thanks

This should be part of our daily lives. But at least we have one day set aside to remember that.

Years ago, I started the practice of giving thanks at the start of each day. It grew to more pauses throughout the day not only to realize gratitude for things, but to give thanks at regular intervals in the day. Different religions do that. The Muslim call to prayer throughout the day, the Catholic Liturgy of the Hours, are manifestations of the human need to encounter God who directs all things.

It’s a core belief of mine that divine providence guides everything that is and that happens, and that it’s humbling to acknowledge that God is God and I’m not, nor are the folks around me. To acknowledge that it’s all grace, and it makes and keeps us human and caring and communal.

I’ve been seeing some great messages on Facebook lately by people dedicating each day to another thing or cause or gift for which they give thanks, and it’s uplifting. Meanwhile, turn on the news and see all the horrible violence and the physical and verbal assaults on people, and it’s easy for people to get lost in all that, in addition to keeping their demanding daily routines and extra demands of family or work or commitments, and they’re just too overloaded to think deeply (or at all) about life, and what a gift it is.

Family and close friends of mine know the story I frequently tell of the young man whose wife had just died, and he was understandably bitter and angry. When his wife’s sister came by to go through her clothing and belongings, she found beautiful things she’d never seen her wear. He said, painfully, “She was always saving that for a special occasion.” But then he added: “But every day you’re alive is a special occasion.”

I never forgot that. It’s so true. It’s a gift, worthy of regular celebration. And thanksgiving.

I am thankful for the supreme creator and author of all that is, the just judge and merciful God who gave us divine revelation and continues to reveal Himself through beauty and truth and order. Who is at the center of the human instinct and morally informed conscience to serve others, to love others and be kind and generous and helpful to others, respecting their innate dignity. To suffer for and suffer with others in the truest sense of compassion.

I’m thankful for family, the manifestation of ‘love beyond all telling.’ Being a mother has given me the most indescribable strength and weakness and love that calls for a stronger word than love, but ‘about which nothing greater can be said,’ to borrow from the phrase Thomas Aquinas applied to God Himself, since it applies to the ultimate.

The larger family, ‘the clan’ as I call it, is a great gift, and I am so grateful for every single human being in my family, oldest (my father) to youngest (children of nieces and nephews), and the connectedness we share. It’s beautiful. Family battles with diseases and personal issues and private struggles, when shared, have been exquisitely painful times of growth, in trust and the appreciation of human dignity and need for love and forgiveness and shared suffering.

Friends. God must have a great sense of humor, because I’ve landed a circle of them that only He could have designed. If any of them are reading this, I want to say ‘I love you, but you already know that, and I’m always here for you,’ as we share life. The story of my family and friends writ large tells the human story. I’m grateful to be a part of it all, every day.

Work. I thank God for work in the world that calls on our abilities and skills and talents and passions, because that’s how we best serve. I think I shall never retire, there is so much to do. So much in the arena of ideas, the life of the mind, the pursuit of truth and justice. People can come to you for what you work so hard to provide, or not, but having the work to do is worth all the doing. Especially in communications media. Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George said a few years ago that we are less a world of nation states and more ‘citizens on continents in conversation.’ I love participating in that forum of information sharing.

And so much more…

For all of the above, I give thanks.