#2 Paying my respects to “my man”

A few weeks ago, my sister and I headed out to California to visit friends of ours who live in Burbank. Despite the history-making torrential rain that plagued us most of the weekend, it was a great getaway.  She and I have never had a sisters-weekend like that, and it was made perfect by the fact that we were visiting some of our favorite sisters, Therese and Bernadette Peters.  Sisters squared! Throw in Mr. and Mrs. Peters, and you have a regular musical adventure.

For the purposes of this post, however, I won’t be talking about seeing Walt Disney’s house, or having drinks at the homey pub where the animators used to hang out, or even Bernadette’s incredible opening-night performance as Rosie in Bye, Bye, Birdie.  Instead, we need to focus on the Empty The Bucket List item I accomplished: paying respects to Ronald Reagan.

When I was really little, I used to call Ronald Reagan “my man.”  No one is really sure why, but I’m glad I had the foresight at such a young age to recognize greatness when I saw it. I always admired him growing up, but when I wrote my thesis on him in college, I really fell in love.

He died the day my sister got married, and if anyone remembers my toast, I toasted him (my dad told me I had to toast my sister first). It seems Therese remembered, because she asked if we would be interested in going to his Presidential Library while we were out there.

She didn’t have to ask me twice. I tried to remain calm and act like if it worked out, that would be great… but inside I was doing dances of joy.

The rain stopped long enough for us to drive to Simi Valley and enjoy the view.


The Library, which just celebrated their 25th anniversary, is a testament to a great man and a reminder of what moral leadership looks like. The beginning opens with a short video that introduces Reagan’s legacy to those who remember him well and those who may not have even been alive to know him.  I almost started to cry watching him again – witnessing his eloquence and strength in the face of hard issues, many of which we are facing again today.

The museum tells the story of his life, from growing up in Dixon, IL, to his announcing days, his time in Hollywood, and eventually his political career. You could read old high school essays and watch clips of his movies.

The library moves quickly, obviously spending the most time on his presidency, but even then not belaboring anything for too long. There were some places I would have liked to see more detail, but all in all, I think it moves at the right speed and has the right amount of information for those looking to get a good overview of his life and the issues of his presidency.

All of it was well-done, but several areas stand out –  The way they presented the assassination attempted made you feel as if you were witnessing it for the first time.  The mock-up of the Berlin Wall was dramatic and terrifying.  And it was a treat to feel as if you were in the Oval Office.

IMG_7958.JPGIt is set up exactly how it looked during Reagan’s presidency, although none of it is original except the chair behind the desk. One of the docents later told us that Reagan would occasionally sit in that office after the Library was completed and receive visitors.

There was even a jar of jelly beans, of course.


While it’s hard to choose a favorite part, a highlight was definitely Air Force One. It’s the only place you can tour an official Air Force One, and like the Oval Office, it is set up exactly how it was during his Presidency.  Unlike the Oval Office, however, he really used it as President, and I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t a movie set or a mock up.  It was a little smaller than I expected – only a 727. No photos were allowed inside, although they did take a cheesy picture of us on the front steps and then tried to sell it to us.


I loved the prevalence of quotes throughout the library, as well as all the things they had – I never thought I would see things like the suit he was shot in, the Bible he took the oath of office on, or his riding saddles.



I loved this – his file of little notecards where he would jot down quotations. I need to start doing this!

The museum ended with a room about life on the ranch after the presidency, then a room about Nancy, and then a room about his funeral.  Once again, it was hard to keep back the tears.


I’ll never forget the sight of these boots backwards in the stirrups of that riderless horse.

Outside (after the gift shop), there was a piece of the actual Berlin Wall, a beautiful overlook of Simi Valley, and then the tombs of Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

I was able to pray at the tomb of Ronald Reagan.



“I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph, and there is purpose and worth to each and every life.”


“Let us be sure that those who come after will say of us in our time, that in our time we did  everything that could be done. We finished the race; we kept them free; we kept the faith.”




And that, my friends, is emptied from the bucket list.



Politics and the Church

At their biannual general assembly last week, the US bishops were given an update by a group of bishops who are exploring the way the Church communicates with the average person in the pew.  Since my job is in service of just those people – the average person in the pew – I listened to the report with interest.  When the report wasn’t easily found online, I listened to it again and took notes.

They surveyed a number of different groups of people in the Church, including Hispanics and young parents and singles.  They interviewed both “engaged Catholics” (those who go to Mass at least 3x a month) and “fervent Catholics” (those who go to Mass 4x or more a month and who indentify themselves as having a personal relationship with Jesus), but also those consider themselves Catholic but are not active.

None of the data shocked me, but it was good to have it verified. A few common themes ran through all of the responses from all of the groups- things like “we want to know the why behind the Church teaching” — which helped validate my position in my own mind.

One of the most common recommendations- from almost every single group- was “stay away from politics.”  The “engaged” Catholics said they had concerns over the Church getting into “politics,” which really translated into  any divisive social issue – abortion, redefinition of marriage, etc.

I think the two are related:  the response that they don’t know the why behind Church teaching, and the concern with the Church being involed in politics.  Let me explain.

Should the Church, strictly speaking, “get into politics?”  No.  Canon law prohibits clergy running for office.  The role of the Church is not to run governments.   But does that mean the Church has nothing to say in the sphere of politics?  Of course not.  If this interests you, I highly recommend the writings of Pope Benedict, particularly his work with Marcello Pera, an atheist Italian senator who writes beautifully about the role of Christianity in the West.

“The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply.”
(Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 28)

It is not the role of the Church’s hierarchy to run the government.  It is the role of the Church- the Body of Christ, the people in the pew – to run the government.  That’s precisely our role as laity: to be the leaven in society to work for the common good and the kingdom of God.

What does this require?  That our intellects, wills, and consciences be shaped by the Church – the Magisterium – so that we can go into the world, into Parliaments and Congress and the public square – and promote true human flourishing.

I think when the people in the pew say they want their priests to “stay out of politics,” it is because they actually don’t know the why behind Church teaching.  They see the Church’s concern over social issues – particulary divisive ones – as meddling in politics because they have never been shown that these issues have roots (and effects) far deeper than at the political level.

If a priest rants about a prochoice politican and I like that politican, my brain is going to shut off and I’m going to label him judgmental.  But if we begin the conversation back at the beginning — what is the role of politics, what is a just society, what are the actual effects of the disregard of the sancity of life in a society — I can then begin to understand why I should vote a certain way.  If someone rants about homosexual unions, it might be tempting to tune them out and wonder why they hate my homosexual cousin. But if we start at the beginning, about how we were created and why we were created and the purpose of sexuality, maybe I can come a little farther in undersatnding why the Church teaches marriage is between and man and a woman.

(Interestingly enough, when parish priests were surveyed, they admitted that they feared involvement in politics would contaminate the mission, yet recommended they be encouraged to teach the moral principles that parishioners need to hear.)

Every day, we are called to work for the reign of Christ the King.  Will we see that reign on this earth in our lifetime?  No. But does that mean its naive or romantic to work for it?  No — it’s our vocation as Christians.  Whether we are priest or religious, married or single, we have a role to play in making this society more just, more holy, more fitting for Christ our King.

So for any bishops reading this blog (ha), when the people in the pew say “stay at out of politics,” see that as a challenge… a challenge to help them understand everyone’s proper role in politics, to help them understand the whys behind Church teaching, and to examine your own actions.  As the Church hierarchy, you should be worried more about the laity knowing the teaching of Christ, and then please… step back and let the laity work in the government to figure out how that teaching is best brought to public policy. (because things like this and this do nothing but further divide and anger those people in the pews.)

Viva Christo Rey. And keep voting.

Hypocrisy at its finest

I almost wrecked my car the other day.  I was driving through a nice Nashville neighborhood, my eyes occasionally wandering to the yard signs that pop up everywhere in the fall, and I saw one urging people to vote against Amendment 1 here in Tennessee.

“Vote No on 1: Stop Government Interference”

I had to try to regain control of my passions and continue driving.  Stop Government Interference?  So now that’s your mantra?  Are you kidding me?

Let me explain, especially to all of you non-Tennesseans, what Amendment 1 is all about.  We have four Amendments on the ballot this fall, and Amendment 1 pertains to abortion.  Does it outlaw abortion?  No.  Does it actually pass any law restricting abortion?  No.  You know what it does?  It returns the right to pass laws to the people of Tennessee and their elected representatives.  Currently, the right to abortion in Tennessee is broader than in the US Constitution.

In 2000, the Supreme Court of Tennessee declared that there was a fundamental right to abortion in the Tennessee Constitution. What that has translated to in the last 14 years is that we can’t pass laws on things like waiting periods, informed consent, or even enforce health standards for abortion clinics.  What happened to making abortion “safe, legal, and rare”?  We are currently not allowed to pass laws that ensure basic safety standards for abortion procedures.  What sense does this make?

The abortion clinic where I occasionally go to pray doesn’t even have a health license.   Is it too much to ask that a “clinic” where major invasive surgery is taking place actually be inspected by the health department?  It seems that even pro-abortion activists should agree that health standards are important.  And what about telling the woman about the procedure?  As this blogger points out, that’s customary before getting a cavity filled.  But yet it is not required that the staff at the clinic tell the women anything before the abortion. And this is pro-woman?

As a woman, I’m insulted that the “No on 1” crowd doesn’t want to pass laws protecting my health and safety.  If I wanted to get an abortion, I would want to be educated about what was happening and I would want to do so in a clean, licensed facility. 

Some facts to think about, women of Tennessee:

A Nashville abortion clinic actually went to court to prove they no longer had to have a license from the Department of Health and be inspected

Tattoo parlors in Tennessee are inspected four times a year. They have stricter health requirements than abortion clinics.

Let’s go back to when I almost wrecked my car.  “Stop Government Intervention”

Honestly?  It’s okay for the federal government to force religious groups to act against their conscience.  It’s okay for the government to force Christians to perform same-sex weddings.  But it’s not okay to force an abortion clinic to be inspected by the health department.

The hypocrisy is unbelievable.

They have rhetoric like this gem from a Knoxville news report“What this amendment does is it imposes a rather extreme position of the government inserting itself into people’s personal lives,” Rovetti said.

A rather extreme position.  All the Amemdment does is say that the “right to abortion” is not in the Constitution and that we the people have the right to make laws about abortion.

Yes, that sounds extreme.  How dare we ask for the right to make laws. Sounds like government intervention to me.

If you live in Tennessee: go vote. Remember: due to the way the amendments are passed, if you leave Amendment 1 blank, it is as if you are voting against it. 

Everyone reading this: Pray for us.  They have been working for this for the past fourteen years. It is the Rubicon. We need this to pass.

A Nation Rises

Prayers for all those traveling to DC for the March tomorrow!  You will be ignored by our President, our Senate, and by most of the mainstream media.  But God will hear your cries.  And when we’re all asked at the end of our lives what we did to save our country and our generation, you will say, “I fought for them when so many ignored them.”

“Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage?  that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”

Those of us who are under 40 years old — we are survivors of the biggest killer in American history.  Thank your mother that she chose life.

righttolife(Hat tip for this incredible graphic: Sacred Monkeys of the Vatican)


You’ve Got Mail Moment

I had a You’ve Got Mail moment today — you know the scene when Meg Ryan is complaining that she can’t think of the perfect comeback until it’s too late?  And Tom Hanks warns her, “when you finally have the pleasure of saying the thing you mean to say at the moment you mean to say it, remorse inevitably follows.”

Well, God protected me from that remorse today.  I was standing with a student and a professor passed by and asked me why my prediction didn’t come true.  I groaned and he kind of laughed sadly and walked away.

The student asked what my prediction had been.  I knew the student was an Obama supporter, so I just kind of mumbled that I had thought Romney would win in a landslide.

He made a noise between a scoff and a laugh.  “Really? What made you say that?”

I don’t even remember exactly what I said, but I quickly made my exit.

Tonight while brushing my teeth, I replayed the scene in my head.  Only in my head, I answered, “Because I had misplaced optimism that the American people would be above voting with their carnal desires.”  Other variations through the course of the evening included, “…wouldn’t re-elect someone who’s bad at their job,” and “…wouldn’t vote for someone who was intent on disassembling the Constitution.”

But I think the real winner is, “Because I thought the American people were smarter than that.”

Alas, none of that came.

And maybe it’s for the best.