The Epiphany of America

The cinema classic, The Sound of Music (1965), starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, based on the stage musical composed by Richard Rogers with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, depicted the struggles of the Von Trapp family in Salzburg, Austria, just before the juggernaut of the Anschluss (Nazi hegemony) in 1938. In a sense, it was the Von Trapp’s family epiphany into a new world dictated by the National Socialist Party which ruled with an iron fist and an iron cross under the guise of change for the betterment of Germanic peoples throughout Europe. It was a ruse. A Trojan horse promising the restoration of national and racial integrity and pride, and also promising equanimity among nations, while diabolical forces possessed its dictator and its god, Adolf Hitler, and misery ensued on an epic scale.

When the horse was opened and unleashed, it spread more horror and death than Pandora’s Box. This was enabled by a clever statesman named Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Great Britain, who promised “peace for our time” following the Munich Agreement and the Anglo-German Declaration in 1938.

Today, we have another trap waiting to ensnare us equal to the one the Von Trapp family stood up against in the last century. It’s called Islamic migration and it’s painted by the press, progressives in government, academia and by our Pope Francis with a happy face. Yet, I believe it’s another type of Anschluss, this time without a führer with a mustache. We have another moment in history where we are being forced to join ourselves in the fight for amoral rights that simply do not exist and can never be condoned by anyone with a sense of conscience. If we stand against this migration or try to curb it in any way we are branded as Islamophobes. Personally, that’s okay by me, because I am an Islamophobe to the extent that I do not trust Muslim extremism and fear its implications to our way of life. Radical Islam is a self-declared enemy of the United States. It is a geopolitical force and the source of international terrorism intent upon the downfall of western society and civilization and the obliteration of the legitimate state of Israel.

I used to think anyone with common sense could see this. I thought that sophomoric naivety was to blame for not recognizing the obvious. But, I was wrong. There’s money behind the apparently obsequious intent to ramrod this agenda down our throats. Big money. And structure and a game plan to keep us silent and in the dark. The politically correct agenda calls this “tolerance.”

Americans can either recognize the threats that face us or, like Neville Chamberlain, like most of Europe today, we can pretend that no threat really exists at all.

Listen to the words of Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:

“Tolerance is not a Christian virtue. Charity, justice, mercy, prudence, honesty – these are Christian virtues. In fact, tolerating grave evil within a society is itself a form of serious evil.”

His eminence may not have been referring to radical Islamic terrorism when he gave these remarks, but the lesson on universal acceptance of everything anti-Christian, now in vogue throughout the west, is right on target. Like the Sino-Japanese three wise monkeys of folk lore we choose to “see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.” Because either we don’t want to recognize evil or we are willing participants in it.

It wasn’t too long ago that I worked as a Training Coordinator for a counterterrorism task force here in Southeastern Pennsylvania. As soon as the Obama Administration took over the federal government things began to change. Emphasis for Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the FBI and then filtering down to state and local governments transformed our national safety threats from world-wide Islamic Jihad to domestic terrorism. Suddenly, everyone had to read the latest from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) newsletters, which focused on white supremacy groups inside the states and labeled both the Family Research Council and Ben Carson, now Untied States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, as homophobes. In addition, much to my dismay, the SPLC also looked upon pro-life organizations as extremists capable of violence. These views were encouraged by the Obama administration and filtered down the line to law enforcement, district attorneys, and throughout government agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service who persecuted conservative leaning organizations seeking tax free status.

Moreover, the term “Islamic terrorism” was a non sequitur. It was forbidden to use it. Terrorist events were ignored, given a pass by the press, and renamed as “domestic” or “workplace” violence. You see you can, if you have the power, change reality into fiction. This is Orwellian demagoguery at its finest.

For the past ten years, maybe longer, we have refused to stand against relativism: the insane theory that there are no absolutes. Like Europe, including the U.K. and Germany and Sweden and France, we can pretend to believe that the threat of Islamic tyranny cannot touch us. Or we can emulate Poland, and wake up to the real dangers that threaten our borders, our way of life, our freedoms, our constitution, our sons and daughters, certainly our grandchildren. We can encircle, like Poland, our nation with a wreath of rosaries to protect our shores from the devouring forces of the crescent moon. The question is will we?

The definition of an epiphany is a “transformation,” a “sudden realization,” much like St. Paul of Tarsus had on the road to Damascus. The feast of the Epiphany is celebrated in the Eastern churches of the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, and Northeastern Africa. Here, in the states, we refer to it as “Little Christmas.” Funny, my wife chides me for not taking the Christmas tree nor the outside lights down until “Little Christmas.” I can’t. Christmas, to me, is a season, not just one day of the year. Although it may not end on the feast of the Epiphany, when the Magi came to the Christ Child and honored Him with gifts, because Jesus, even as a child, manifested to the world the worthiness of gentiles, it’s the day I’ll finally pull the plug on the lights and put the tree at the curb.

Well, today, as the old cliché goes “we have a new sheriff in town.” One that doesn’t proscribe to any definition of what a politician is and has done in the past. Half of us hate him, and half of us love him. Trump is a rogue political servant of the people. This much is true. But there may have been something of an epiphany occurring to his wife, Melania.

When I saw her in the news during the Trump’s state visit to France not long ago, and she was kneeling at the altar of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, with a veil over her head and bowing, reverentially, before the Supreme Presence, I thought something has changed in the American political landscape. That, maybe, just maybe, we’re at a cusp of what we were before and what might happen next. It was told by reliable sources, although I can’t quote them, that Melania asked her staff to grant her some quiet time before the altar. To pray. Maybe to ask for something. Could it have been for the protection of our nation? And, wouldn’t that entail “transformation,” a “sudden realization?”

I’m guessing, you understand, but perhaps I’m asking – praying for the same thing. That an epiphany stirs American souls towards protecting our liberties and freedoms and not only challenges the threats of Islamic migration, but thwarts their every goal. And, my prayer is this: We will never allow what has already happened in Europe to happen to us; never assent to Pope Francis’ mistaken mercy to allow infiltration of jihadists in our midst; never kowtow to politically correct, yet undeniably wrong “doublethink” of those who consider me, and possibly you, and anyone who dares think this way as an unsophisticated “basket of deplorables.”

Will this epiphany come to America in 2018? I think, as I have always thought, that this kind of epiphany can only come through prayer (and probably demands fasting as well).

In the beginning of the movie The Sound of Music, there was a brief scene where an aged nun is seen with her head held in her hands contemplating something. It reminded me of Luke 2:19, just after the birth of the God-King:

“And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” That’s what mothers do isn’t it. Ponder, reflect, pray and hope, not for themselves but for their children. Because for every mother, her epiphany happens at the birth of her precious child.

And, so, we will ponder and reflect in our hearts if America is strong enough to keep faith in our American values. We will pray that we have the will to withstand the tide of a leftist agenda which refuses to see oppression because it is not in the PC playbook.

Have a blessed and faith-filled new year. God bless.


Quindlen’s Christmas

Soon to be proudly published by Regina Magazine.

Dear readers, family and friends, this story is a Christmas gift from me to you. It is written in the spirit of Charles Dickens and O. Henry. And like these beloved authors, I’ve taken liberties to create fiction based upon fact. For me, it’s very much like combining cookie dough with chocolate chips. I hope you find it as irresistible and delicious and as satisfying, with a nice cup of tea, as a warm fire on a blustery, snowy night.


Stave One


Honest John


In the year of Our Lord, 1933, in Philadelphia, one was used to walking at a young age, let’s say at conception.

It has always been true that Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods. Naturally, people walk through, between, around, and into and out of neighborhoods. But, for Roman Catholics in Philadelphia, folks didn’t just walk from one geographic area to another – they walked from one parish to another.

In fact, if you were or weren’t a catholic, the precious turf you called home, or where your place of employment happened to be, or where you used to live and grew up and went to school, or where your grandmother lived all definitively and decisively depended on the name of the catholic church next door.

This is how you navigated Philadelphia. One didn’t need coordinates of longitude and latitude or a numbered avenue or a cross street named for some tree. You only needed the name of the parish. This is how you identified yourself. For good or bad, this was how you were judged. This was how everyone knew your ethnic background. The parish was paramount. If not spiritually, then at least geographically.

However, if you were travelling a distance more than a few measly miles and you had some change in your pocket, you would of course take advantage of the miracle of public transportation.

Honest John Galloway tipped his conductor’s cap to the newcomer entering his trolley on Germantown Avenue and bid him welcome. The sun was still far from making its silent, seldom appreciated, triumphant daily debut on a damp and cold December morning – Christmas Eve no less. The shops in Chestnut Hill would not be opened for hours if at all because this year Christmas fell on a Monday.

Eugene Quindlen set himself down on the hard bench seat. He was foot sore from walking all the way from Midvale Avenue in East Falls where he stopped at the church to light a candle, knowing he would probably miss mass. At this hour he was the only fare on Galloway’s trolley.

“What parish?” the conductor inquired.

“St. Bridget’s,” Quindlen stated, matter-of-factly, because the question was almost expected. “And you?”

“St. Ludwig’s.”

Quindlen grinned. “You’re joking with me man. A priest from Ludwig’s would never hear your confession, not in a million years.”

Galloway’s face turned sour. “Tis true my man – tis very true, indeed. An Irishman’s sins are a trial for a German priest. It’s because whiskey is our mother’s milk, not beer. But I take up residence where my car barn is. Livin’ with the Germans isn’t so bad. They make their own black brew and share it willingly. Besides The Most Precious Blood is just around the corner. In a pinch I can confess there.”

“But the Huns have no sense of decency,” Quindlen replied. “Ever since the war they blame the Irish for everything.”

“For God’s sake, man,” Galloway insisted, “the stuff they brew will knock your socks off. Didn’t I just tell you that it’s free? And who are you to be givin’ lectures anyway? Although you’re sober, praise be. Still, only the Episcopalians are welcomed this far west. Are you that bad off that you have to rise in the middle of the night to find work? You’re out of your league and into the land of lace curtains.”

Quindlen looked down at his shoes and sighed, deeply. Galloway cocked his head and saw the poor man’s reaction to his opinions through the streetcar’s mirror. He decided on a tactical retreat.

“But I agree that it was the Irish that put an end to the Kaiser. If it wasn’t for us the Gerrys would have won the war and the English finally put in their place. Just look at what Wild Bill Donovan did with the Fighting 69th and Father Duffy’s prayers.”

Quindlen didn’t hear a word the conductor said. He was staring out at the empty street, his mind filled with the faces of his children. Then, the conductor’s baritone voice became the sweet middle C soprano of his wife, Kitty, and her parting words to him when he rose from their bed at midnight: “Gene, don’t go. We’ll just have to do without. I have enough flour and sugar. I’ll make some cookies for the kids. We’ll sing songs and go to church. Don’t blame yourself for not being productive and providing. We’ll survive.”

About the only thing running with some proficiency and productivity in the whole of the city was Honest John’s electrified trolley car, courtesy of the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company. Everything else was shut down, boarded up, closed for good, and the effects of depressed times showed on the sallow yet still young features of Quindlen’s face. There were dark circles under his bright eyes. His small, short frame was somewhat bent, making him look a decade older than he really was.

Galloway had earned the reputation as “honest” because he kept a rigid schedule driving his trolley. He was always on time as any engineer would be. Natural for a German, quite remarkable for an Irishman if you believed in what you were told was true. But, John Galloway had also earned that nickname because he had the saintly, and oft times annoying habit of getting men out of their warm beds and making them get to work on time. When a regular fare wouldn’t board his trolley at the proscribed minute, John would dash out of his street car and bang on the poor man’s door. In that way he made honest men out of idlers and hung-over drunkards, better yet, and for the most part, John Galloway woke a tired man from a few precious seconds of much deserved sleep. After all, if a man missed one day of work, he might never be able to find another job. This is how it truly was during the days of idle hands and poor prospects three long years after the crash of ’29.

For men everywhere it was worse than hell; worse even than the Great War. Nobody starved if you fell in the trenches of France. But now, the enemy refused to show its face. And, you can’t kill what you can’t see. To not have a reason to wake up in the morning is worse than death. This is what being unemployed actually means.

Work is life. Work is heat. Work is a meal on an empty stomach. If you have a wife and little children, work is a miracle.

For Eugene Quindlen, work would have been an answer to a prayer and a penny candle at St. Bridget’s.

“So now,” Galloway asked, dismissing, the usual banter between Irishmen and getting down to brass tacks, “where’s your stop and what are you searching for lad.”

“Anywhere I can play a piano and put some money in my bride’s hands,” Eugene answered, honestly.

John Galloway sniffed the damp air from a cracked window and was about to pontificate on the virtues of obtaining a steady and reliable government job, but stopped his thought process immediately. If a man had music in his soul he should always pursue it. Like poetry it will not leave you until you are dead. This is why the Irish have always revered the story teller.

Honest John applied his brake at the next cross street but there was nobody there to board his trolley. “You’ve got an honest face, lad. I should know. I’ve seen many snakes crawling around pretending to be what they are not. You’re as fair as the color of your hair underneath that cap of yours and as soft as the jut of your chin. That means you’re not as stubborn as most Micks. What, may I ask, is your Christian name?”

“Eugene. And yours conductor?”

“John. They call me Honest John, but I take no comfort in it. Every day is another day in the battle against the theft of Adam.”

Quindlen scrunched the brows of his Donegal forehead. “You mean Adam stole something?”

“Sure he did.”


“The apple, you fool, what else?”

“But, it was Eve who took the apple from the tree.”

“He abetted the crime, man. How many have used the excuse.”

“But, his wife talked him into it. He did it for her.”

Galloway sighed. “And we’ve been paying the price ever since. Listen, Eugene. I’ve a queer feeling on the progress of this conversation. As I said, you have an honest face. Keep it so, lad.”

The trolley was quickly approaching the next stop. Galloway didn’t want his passenger to leave on a bad note.

“How many young ones, then?”

Eugene hesitated a bit. He was staring at a beautiful Christmas tree atop the roof of an emporium. The lights were all out. Still, it was a grand tree: a fir with all the trimmings.

“Eight. At the last count,” Quindlen answered. “Who knows, it might be an entire ball team before we’re through.”

Galloway laughed. “Well that’s a good start anyway. Connie Mack would be that proud of you. Listen lad, if you have the music as you say, why aren’t you playing at one of the grand Christmas parties the protestants have in their plush mansions on the west side?”

Eugene got off his seat and cradled the hand rail of the trolley. He hadn’t gotten up this early to have a conversation, however edifying, with a transit operator or conductor or motorman or whatever they called themselves.

“I can’t read the music,” he said slowly. “I never could. I picked up playing the piano by ear and took to it like a babe to his mother’s breast. It was just something I could do. And I do it very well. But, I can’t play Chopin. If the maestro puts a sheet of notes under my eyes it’s like looking up at an airplane. I know it’s there, but I have no idea how it got there, you see?”

Galloway pressed his lips in agreement and because he was out of ideas. “But, how in Christ’s name have you made it this far supportin’ a wife and eight kids?”

Quindlen shrugged his slight shoulders. “Oh, I found lots of work during the prohibition. At speakeasies and cheap vaudeville shows where you didn’t have to be a real professional; I even tried my hand at the motion picture shows playing the organ before the talkies came out. But, now the law has changed everything. Booze is legal and all the gin joints are becoming respectable.”

Galloway sighed, stopped his trolley and rang his bell. “Man, what do you hope to accomplish on the eve of Our Savior’s birth before the sun is even up on Germantown Avenue?”

Eugene Quindlen swung his short body across the trolley’s entrance/exit bar and deposited his well-worn shoe leather on the cobblestoned street. He glanced back at the conductor’s honest face.

“I’m determined to provide some sort of happiness to my bride and children this Christmas,” he said. And, with that simple fiat, before the doors of Honest John’s trolley closed, Eugene’s eyes, which were a little bleary along the ride west on Germantown Avenue, burst into a brilliant, radiant blue – a blue hue Honest John hadn’t seen since his youthful last gaze upon the blustery Irish Sea before the turn of the last century.


Stave Two


The Laughing Song


Eugene walked all morning and then all afternoon. He was looking for any opportunity. A woman wearing mink tipped him after he helped with her last minute Christmas packages and held open the door of her cab.

Lunch money. Not much, but it would at least stop the pang in his gut and get him off his feet. He went into the nearest diner. There were no soup kitchens in this neighborhood. He couldn’t suppress the loud sigh emanating from his lungs as he sat down on a cushioned stool. An attractive waitress smacking a stick of gum between her ruby red lips heard him.

“What’ll it be, mister,” she said. It was more of a challenge than a question. She thought maybe he was just there to park himself and get out of the cold. She wouldn’t stand for that. It was Christmas Eve and she needed every nickel to buy that baseball glove for her oldest boy.

Quindlen ordered black coffee, a bowl of vegetable soup and some rolls. He tried not to eat too quickly in order not to attract attention. He bought a paper and had another cup of coffee. Buying a Philadelphia Sunday Bulletin was an accepted expense. Reading about anything new might provide a glimpse of opportunity. Not the help wanted ads, every worker was scouring those, but the transactions in businesses and real estate, even the legal notices of governmental contracts, when viewed through imaginative eyes, could suggest possibilities to the eager mind. He read a story just last week, where the manufacturer of a billiards factory refitted his plant to produce bathroom plumbing products yet kept the capability of his plant to still produce pool tables. When Roosevelt initiated the Civilian Conservation Corps, the federal government put out contracts for both toilets and pool tables to be installed in the recreation halls for the thousands of CCC workers expected to sign up for the program. It was pure genius, Eugene thought, to glean such an opportunity where none had existed before. This was how Eugene Quindlen’s mind worked.

Today, however, the newspaper was no help. Besides, his needs were immediate. It’s true that he had paid his rent for the month. In fact he was covered for January as well. The gas and electric were paid. This is also how Quindlen thought: necessities first. Kitty’s cupboard was not completely barren. There was food in the pantry. He had foreseen the possibility of want, the expectation of hunger late last summer. He borrowed a truck and drove out to the fertile fields of Lancaster County. There he spent what little money he had on bulk farm goods. Kitty learned how to put up the bounty by canning. Eugene turned the basement of their rented home into a root cellar. But, it was proving to be a long winter. Work was nonexistent and the money dried up and disappeared.

And, now it was Christmas Eve. The faces of his children with anticipating eyes and their innocent smiles full of trust in daddy’s promises of a wonderful noel that he could not keep plagued him. The worst of the art of deviltry – despair – besieged him.

He began walking down Germantown Avenue again, then up a steep hill until he came to a trolley loop. There was a green door and a small sign that read “McNally’s Tavern.” Because it was Sunday, the bar wouldn’t be open for business. He knocked on the green door anyway.

A woman with a broom in her hand answered. Eugene removed his cap. “Hello, madam, I was wondering if you had a piano and if you needed someone to play it?”

The woman opened the door wider. “That was fast,” she said to herself. “Come in lad.” Walking over the threshold, Eugene said a quick thank you to St. Bridget and blessed himself.

“Hugh,” the woman yelled to a small table on the other side of the room, “You were just talkin’ about getting a piano player (she pronounced it piʹ-ano).”

“And, what of it woman,” Hugh answered, not bothering to look up. He was playing cards with another man dressed in a conductor’s uniform. The pot in the middle of the table was big, there were even some bills in it.

“This way,” the woman said. Eugene followed her across the bar, nervously fingering his cap with both hands. “Here he is then.” Hugh looked up and eyed Eugene suspiciously. “And who would you be?”

“He’s a piano player,” the woman stated with triumph.

“By Jaysus,” Hugh exclaimed. “I only just now uttered those very words. Remarkable.”

Eugene couldn’t keep his eyes off the pile of money on the table. He wished he hadn’t spent the tip the woman in mink had given him on food. There was enough in that pot to feed his family for a month. After all those years playing in speakeasies, he had become an expert card player. He only swore it off after Kitty had told Monsignor Kelly about his gambling habit. It would have taken him hours to amass the money in the center of the table, still with luck it could be done.

“So, man,” Hugh said, laying his cards on the table – a full house, “do you think you could play that thing.” He nodded to a spot across the room. Eugene followed Hugh’s nod to a dark corner. There was an upright piano and a bench seat that looked like it hadn’t been used for years.

“Thank you, sir. I believe I could.” Eugene said, enthusiastically. He looked at the conductor sitting opposite to the man Hugh. “I took the trolley earlier this morning and told the operator I was looking for work as everybody is today. But, he never mentioned this place. I’m sure he would have, it being so close to the loop. Perhaps you know him?”

The conductor, who was also staring at the pile of money that Hugh was whisking away, shrugged his shoulders. “Well, did you get his name?”

“He said everyone called him Honest John.”

“Ha!” The card player chortled. “John Galloway never does his drinking in uniform. He goes home after his shift. He drinks medicinally every morning. Three fingers of Irish to get the blood up. He takes a cold shower because he claims a hot one weakens the senses. Then he works as many hours that they’ll let him. He’s clean cut, always prompt, and never lets his guard down. He’s the soul of the union brotherhood. Catholic to the core, no communist can shake him. When he does drink, he’s among Fenian friends or not at all. And I’d give my right arm for him if he’d even let me – which he wouldn’t. He has to lead the charge because he knows better than anyone else – which he does. If you’ve met and heard the wisdom of Honest John, then I’d take it for gospel. Does that answer your question Mr. piano player?”

It did and Eugene made his way over to the upright. He blew the dust off the seat and sat down. He opened the lid and stroked the keys. It was obviously out of tune but not terribly.

He started with “The Last Rose of Summer.” The maple wood piano resonated well, although it was situated too close to the wall and the sound was somewhat muffled. The song, a somber, Irish ballad, matched Eugene’s mood. He knew the words but didn’t dare sing them. He could carry a tune as good as anyone but this song needed a gifted voice. But he played as if he were living the melody. He used the pedals to hang onto a note at just the right moment. Everything his heart was feeling – the sadness and tragedy and despair was united to the ancient keys of the upright. It was if there was just one universe with only three things in it: the song, the keys, and the player. When he finished, he looked back at his audience. The woman with the broom, Hugh, and the conductor all gazed at him with blank faces.

“You can play all right,” Hugh said. “What’s your name?”

“Quindlen, sir. Eugene.”

“Well, Eugene, I’m Hugh McNally.”

“And I’m Rose,” the broom lady said with a bright smile.

“And I’m Happy,” the conductor added, holding up his whiskey glass.

They all laughed. Rose went behind the bar and poured the remaining contents of a bottle into two glasses. She brought them over and set one on the piano.

“Oh, Hugh, darling. Can we keep him? Look at his blue eyes. He’s adorable.”

“I’m sure all of the operators of the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company will agree with you my dear,” Hugh scoffed. “Now, Eugene, play something upbeat. The fellas that come here are as down as the economy, including yourself. Try to lift their spirits, lad. Give the boys something to smile about. What they need is music and my whiskey to forget about their troubles.”

Eugene had downed his drink and, because he went without much food over the past week, it went straight to his head. He was feeling euphoric. He played the “Laughing Song” and sang the lyrics. Actually there weren’t any lyrics, per se. It was just a jumble of “hah, hah, hah” and “he, he, he.” But it was fun, uplifting, and contagious.

Rose broke out another bottle. Eugene continued playing and drinking whiskey. He played ragtime and jazz and Irish folk songs. Hugh gave him the job. If Eugene could fill the stools and tables at McNally’s he would always have a full tip jar. It was wonderful. It was glorious. It was a job!

With patting of backs and guffaws of laughter, Rose and Hugh escorted Happy and Eugene out the door and into the cold night.

Walking down Germantown Avenue, it took nearly fifteen minutes for Eugene to realize it: he had a job but he still didn’t have any money.

He thought about going back and asking for some kind of advance. Anything that would just put a couple of bucks in his pocket so he could buy a few presents. Then, he remembered the McNally’s went with them onto the street. They locked the door behind them as they left. They didn’t live at the tavern. That was only their place of business. He had no idea where they lived.

“Oh, dear Lord, what have I done? What got into me? It was the damned whiskey!”

It was getting late. He looked around him but only saw darkness. No one was out on the street tonight. They were huddled close in front of cozy fires. They were drinking warm punch. They were singing songs. They were wrapping presents. They were making merry. And here he was miles from home, broke, stupid, ashamed, and uncharacteristically drunk. He was beside himself with misery.

What was Kitty doing now? What were his kids thinking, dreaming, expecting? Kitty’s words came back to him. But, now they weren’t her words at all. They were somebody else’s words and they hit with a vengeance. “Don’t blame yourself for not being productive and providing…”

“Oh, God!” he shouted to the very heavens. “Please help me! I got a job. I did what I set out to do this morning. Kitty told me not to go – but I did and I did it! What do you mean don’t blame myself? Who else is to blame? I’m not productive and I’m not providing. It’s all my fault.”

Germantown Avenue was so empty of human life that Eugene’s words bounced off the buildings on the opposite side of the street and echoed back into his ears. He laughed like a madman. His laughter, too, reverberated back into his brain and mocked him.

And then the voice spoke: “You are a fool, Eugene. You scan the newspapers for opportunities that do not exist. Why? Do you think you can make money from government contracts? By selling plumbing supplies and pool tables like the other man did? He already had a company. You have nothing. You can’t even read sheet music. Face it man, you’re a failure. There’s no harm in admitting what you already know, is there? Do you really think Kitty meant what she said? That you are not productive and cannot provide, but that this is not your fault? You know better than that. Who do you think you are, some kind of medieval knight slaying an imaginative dragon? Do you really believe you can change the course of history?”

Eugene Quindlen staggered down the street devoid of rational thought, in a vacuum, destitute of feeling anything but the constant, incessant stabbing of the demonic knife that struck repeatedly, deeply, into his soul.


Stave Three


The Tree


A bell rang and the trolley car stopped. Honest John cranked down his window and yelled across the street. “Are you all right, man!”

Eugene was passed out on the stoop of a brownstone. He was dreaming that he was a knight in shining armor atop a great white steed. He wore Kitty’s colors on top of his lance – yellow and blue. She always liked yellow and blue. “If ever we buy a home of our own,” she said, “it would be painted yellow and blue. You know, Gene, blue like Virgin Mary blue.” Eugene smiled. He was, indeed, her knight. He had promised, from the very depths of his heart to serve her for the rest of his life. This was how pure his love was for her. He would slay dragons for her love.

“Get up, man!” John Galloway screamed. “I’ve got to run the trolley and I’m late as it is.”

Wistfully, Eugene awoke from his magnificent dream. He struggled to his feet. He was shivering. Galloway took his arm and guided him into the trolley. Once the heat from the car hit Eugene’s face it knocked him out again. Galloway slapped his face and poured some hot tea from a thermos down his throat

“Eugene, wake yourself up, man. I’ve got to operate the trolley and keep on schedule.”

Quindlen roused himself and sat up on the seat Galloway had plopped him on. “Are you alive then?” Honest John asked looking at him through the mirror.

“I’m alive,” Eugene managed to say. “I’m sorry, I don’t have the fare.”

“Forget about the damned fare,” Galloway fumed. “I dropped you off early this morning. You were full of life and determined to do the right thing for your family. Tonight I picked you up – off the bloody pavement – stinkin’ of the poteen and freezing to death. Now, and slowly, what the hell happened to you?”

Eugene tried to recall. “I walked all day. By the loop I found a tavern with a green door. McNally’s it was, yeah, Hugh and Rose McNally…”

“I worked with Hugh, he was an operator like me.”

“And some guy who called himself Happy, he wore a conductor’s uniform.”

“That’s Harry Coyne – a heavy drinker and a bad poker player.”

“Yeah, I noticed. Anyway I started playing the piano…”

“They have a piano? I didn’t know or I would have told you.”

“Yeah. I mean, Happy told me you wouldn’t have known. He thinks your God or Daniel O’Connell or somebody like that. Anyway, Rose served up some whiskey…”

“Some? Man, you have a strange notion of proportion.”

“Yeah, so my head’s telling me. So, I got the job. Hugh and I shook hands on it. The next thing I know I’m walking down Germantown Avenue and I remembered I never asked for an advance. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Everything I tried to do today went down the toilet because I had a couple of drinks. I could’ve killed myself I felt so low.”

“Don’t even think that way, lad. There’s too much of that goin’ on these days.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Listen, Eugene. I’ve got a couple of bucks in my pocket. Why don’t you take it. Buy somethin’ for the wife and kids.”

Quindlin shook his head. “Thank you friend, but no thanks just the same. Everything is closed now anyway. It’s too late. Listen, let me off at your next stop. I need to stretch my legs and walk off this head.”

Galloway eased off the electric power and applied the car’s new air brakes. Eugene paused as he walked down the steps. He stretched out his hand and the conductor took it warmly.

“Patrick be with you,” Galloway said. “Honest John – now I know why they call you that – I thank you with all of my heart.”

The trolley pulled away and Eugene, once again, began a long walk.

He passed the emporium that he saw on the ride up Germantown Avenue earlier, in what now seemed so long ago. It was the one with the Christmas tree on top of it, the fir with all the trimmings. He looked at the sign in the dark window: “Abe’s Emporium.” An idea began to formulate in his mind.

It was nice tree. It didn’t look too big. It was tied down with ropes. He saw that a fire escape led to the second story of the emporium. Eugene looked up and down Germantown Avenue. Not a soul was to be found anywhere. After all, it was nearly midnight on Christmas Eve.

Maybe he could salvage something of his long day and his long walk and his longing to see the eyes of his children light up on Christmas morning. Maybe Kitty wouldn’t have to lower her head outside of church tomorrow when the other wives described how wonderful their Christmas day was going with presents under the tree and a turkey in the oven. He had a job now. He would pay back anything to anyone if he could just accomplish one positive thing.

He lifted a lever on the side of the building and brought down the stairs of the fire escape and looked around again. Everything was clear. In less than a minute he was on the second story landing and swung his body onto the roof of the entrance to the store. The tree looked smaller from the pavement. Still, it was doable. He went to work on the ropes. The knots were tight of course. They would be to prevent the wind from knocking the tree off the roof. And the trimmings were all secured to the branches with heavy twine.

Finally, he lifted the tree and decided to lower it on the side of the building opposite the fire escape. As he did so, the tree went down about half way and then slowly fell to the ground like it had its own parachute. Everything was going smoothly. He descended the fire escape and walked around the front of the store.

As he turned on the other side of the building to fetch his prize he saw the toothy smile of a beat cop holding the tree in an upright position. Eugene was speechless. Just then church bells throughout Chestnut Hill proclaimed the midnight hour.

“Merry Christmas,” the cop said.

There comes a time in every man’s life when wreck and ruin are the inevitable consequences of one’s actions. When the hangman’s knot tightens around your neck and there is simply nothing else you can do. This was that time for Eugene Quindlen.

“Let me guess,” the cop proffered. “You were just walking by in the middle of the night when you saw this poor tree and decided it needed a home.”

Eugene, who was staring at his shoes in mortal shame, lifted his head and shook it in the affirmative.

“Well, it begs the question – um – Mr.?

“Quindlen… officer… Eugene.”

“Yes, Eugene it is, and a fine upstanding name for sure, but I was just a little curious, lad. How did you expect to get the tree home and where is that anyway?”

“I live in St. Bridget’s Parish.”

“Ah, I see, so that’s where our little tree was goin’. All the way to St. Bridget’s, how nice, I should have known. Did you plan to rent a truck then, Mr. Quindlen? Perhaps you were going to call a taxi cab, or, judging by the stench of whiskey on your breath, you intended to fly home.”

Eugene stammered something unintelligible.

“You know, Eugene,” the cop went on in a sweet Irish brogue, “Santa Claus is comin’ to town tonight with his reindeer, perhaps you were plannin’ on hitchin’ a ride on his sleigh.”

No matter how much he had earned this spate of ridicule, Eugene could stand it no more. He humbly raised his arms with his palms turned up and let his heart do the talking for him. In torrents his story poured out of him like an open spigot, like a tempest-tossed barrage from a cyclone pummeling Chestnut Hill in a once in a lifetime two-minute explanation for the books.

The cop, Mike Thornton, had heard it all in his long law enforcement career. But he had never quite heard it this way, never with this much passion and this much conviction. He had never heard it as the bells were ringing in the birth of the Christ child.

Eugene ended his discourse with this: “I’ve stolen. I am as guilty as Adam. Even more, since my wife tried to talk me out of doing this today or yesterday, in fact she pleaded with me not to go and do this at all.”

Mike Thornton shrugged his shoulders and looked up at the snow flurries suddenly descending on Germantown Avenue. “Okay, Eugene, I think I finally get it. You were going to put this tree on your back and lug it all the way to the distant parish you call home. Somebody else did this once. Only he ended up being nailed to it. I’m no Simon of Cyrene, but I’m not going to let you carry this cross all by yourself.”

Thornton reached into his coat and pulled out a little notebook. “Follow me,” he said to Eugene. They walked to the corner where the callbox was. Thornton finished his conversation with the precinct desk sergeant and turned back to Eugene, who was out of earshot. “The owner of the store, Abe Fineman, is on the way over here. He’ll decide what we should do.”

Abe lived only a block away and was at the scene in minutes. Thornton told him everything. Abe looked Eugene up and down as if he were purchasing a priceless artifact. In fact, he was. He was buying back Eugene’s soul.

Abe removed the store’s keys from his fur-trimmed overcoat and opened up the door. He whispered something in Thornton’s ear and then went to his office to make a phone call.

A truck arrived fifteen minutes later and parked in front of the store after Abe called in a favor, complete with a driver and a few strong bodies. It was immediately loaded with toys and gifts, warm clothing and canned goods from the wealth of the emporium. The fir tree with all the trimmings was also tenderly put into the truck. With a police escort, the truck drove to a small rented house in St. Bridget’s Parish in Philadelphia. There the woman of the house was awakened from a disturbed slumber in a ladder-backed chair in front of a small coal stove. The tree was installed in the home and a bevy of presents placed beneath its stiff branches. The cupboard of the home was filled with sumptuous tins, the few bureaus stuffed with stockings, long johns, wool sweaters, warm linen, and blankets, the lone closet suddenly lined with mittens, hats, coats, and boots. A twenty-five pound turkey was also delivered to the Quindlen’s front door from parties unknown.

Over the many years that followed, Abe Fineman, Mike Thornton, and Honest John Galloway were always the most honored and welcomed guests at the Quindlen’s Christmas celebrations. Reading his Sunday Philadelphia Bulletin, always looking for opportunities, Eugene made a fortune selling plumbing supplies to post World War II communities called “Levittown.”


There are indeed only two constants that mere mortals can rely upon in our world. One of them is the very real beverage called the “milk of human kindness.” The other is the power of a penny candle and a prayer.

And, from this humble author’s family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas.

“And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”


The Irish Rosary on the Coasts



And so they came. Despite the cold and damp and drops of patchy drizzle, the faithful came out to the coasts of the Irish Island. I mean all of it. They braved the stinging winds off the North Atlantic Ocean in tiny villages like Clonbara, Falcarragh, in Donegal. Standing or kneeling on beaches and strands they stubbornly faced Dingle Bay, the Celtic Sea, St. George’s Channel, the North Channel, and the Irish Sea. Determined faces all with one purpose. To stem the tide of abortion in what used to be the most Catholic country in the world. There were thousands of them gathered at predetermined locations to begin their march to the seas. They met at The Docks, in Galway City, the Lobster Pot Restaurant, in Wexford, Brandon’s Pier, in County Kerry, Castlerock Beach, in Derry and more than 270 other locations around the whole of Ireland, north and south, east and west.

They came “asking God for the miracle of the protection of Life and the preservation of Faith.” And, they did this on the Feast of Christ the King. The organizers of the event explained it this way: “Why the Feast of Christ the King? Ireland was the first country in the world to be consecrated to Christ the King. This solemn consecration was declared in the 1940’s. The feast is extremely important. Acknowledging Christ as King has relevance for the spiritual, social, cultural, legal and political life of Ireland.”

Take note America: “…the spiritual, social, cultural, legal and political life.” Especially when our courts, our academic institutions, our major corporations, our own government has redefined the definition of the separation of church and state. Making it impossible to hold any religious convictions, at least publically, lest the office holder or the judge or the bureaucrat or the titan of business or the teacher be held in contempt. Today’s politically correct charged atmosphere will not tolerate the belief in a higher power above the sanctimonious dictates of the state. Because, like the old Soviet Union, the still autocratic China, and all forms of socialistic societies brainwashed by “group think,” the state is now their god.

There are some, I know not how many, in Ireland, who are convinced that prayer is the only path to freedom from the dictates of modern morality.

The Irish did this following Poland’s lead to pray for the protection of their homeland by lining up on their borders, appealing to heaven to thwart the onslaught that threatened a timeless faith and fidelity to Christ the King. Next year there’s to be a referendum in Ireland on abortion. According to the New York Times article (9/26/17) the “debate will center on the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution passed by a two-thirds majority in 1983, which gives an unborn child a right to life equal to that of its mother, effectively banning abortion.”

But, that was a long time ago even in an ancient land who proudly proclaimed itself the island of martyrs and missionaries. The Eighth Amendment was passed only a few years after St. John Paul the Great made the first papal visit to Erin’s shores. In recent years, Catholic Ireland has been bloodied by the sins of her clergy in sexual scandals one after the other. The faith, so embodied by her patron Saint Patrick, has plummeted to new lows. This is a new, spiritual version of the An Gorta Mòr (The Great Hunger). Yes, there is another kind of famine plaguing Ireland today. It is one wrought by the sins of man and not the soil. Like western culture everywhere it has bought into a materialistic, self-absorbed, hedonistic form of secularism. Where the highest good in human existence is characterized and fantasized by a corrupted form of self-realization. Instead of exporting or giving and sanctifying and sacrificing to the world her innate spirituality, Ireland is now importing the modern myth of “what’s in for me.”

Yet, the organizers of the Rosary on the Coasts had an answer for that mindset: “When we honor Christ as King, we are immediately brought to His Queen, Mary and her Immaculate Heart.”

Sharon Mcgononegal, a participant in the event said “next to the prayers of the Holy Mass, the rosary is the most powerful prayer on earth when prayed with fervency, love, and great devotion.”

Bernice Rance, a supporter of the Irish efforts on the Feast of Christ the King, and a native of Alberta, Canada said “this is awesome. Will be praying for you from Canada. God bless!!!”

And, Norma Cahill Morrison added on Facebook “this is the sword given to us … we must use it!!!”

Indeed, instead of complete capitulation to the dynamic forces pushing down our throats a faithless existence and a chlorinated world where everything and every thought is bleached with the esoteric, elite mantra of a progressive and culturally accepted, media sponsored, Hollywood ethical dementia, and the leftover, drug induced, dictates of Baby Boomer professors indoctrinating our offspring, maybe it’s time to fight back with the best weapon we have: the sword Norma Cahill Morrison speaks of. “The beads,” as my father called them.We owe that much to our children, our grandchildren, and posterity. Because, if we let things go the way we have, if our schools keep trending towards a goose stepping insistence on accepting everything anathema to Judeo-Christian ethics, and we surrender to the dictates of social planners planning our own destruction, then we will self-destruct. We will implode from within without a shot being fired from any enemy combatant. Unless we use “the sword given to us.”

The faithful of Poland recognize this. Even their government has proclaimed this. Is this Ireland’s last chance at redemption? Is it ours in America? Can anything save us from ourselves? Yes, of course, if we, as Sharon Mcgonegal shared with us, pray the rosary “with fervency, love, and great devotion.”

On the first day of the apparitions of Our Lady of Knock, in August of 1879, a steady downpour began to fall, not unusual for an island nation in midsummer. In an article written for The Priest, (Our Sunday Visitor, August, 1999), Father Paul E. Duggan, a Doctor of Sacred Theology, quoted Father Hubert, O.F.M. Cap. “Knock is a manifestation of the mystery of redemption wrought by the Lamb of God. By a felicitous symbolism conceived in heaven, the Queen of Knock reveals in her person something of that singular grace and beauty conferred on her by this mystery … She appears as the climax of human redemption. This unique completion of redemption in Mary has already crowned her in heaven as the divine ideal which foreshadows the absolute victory and transfiguration awaiting the Church on its entry into eternity.”

At the Shrine, now Basilica of Knock since St. John Paul the Great christened it so, there was a steady, yet light rain falling on the Feast of Christ the King this past Sunday. On the strands of Ireland everywhere, following the program for the Rosary on the Coasts for Life and Faith, there were hymns sung including Hail Redeemer King Divine, Hail Queen of Heaven, and Faith of Our Fathers. Holy water was sprinkled in all directions. Finally, the faithful dug into the sand and, after a blessing by a holy priest or bishop, they planted Miraculous Medals to protect Ireland from all harm and the self-destructive conventions of our modern world.

And, in the small community of a place called Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania, at Eighth Square, a stone’s throw away from the shores of Lake Caroline, Jane Galloway and members of her family said a rosary in communion and solidarity with their brothers and sisters just across the pond.

Perhaps it’s time to think about our own rosary on the coasts of America. Only, instead of facing the sea we should turn around and look inward at ourselves and our families and our homes. Let’s replicate what the Poles and the Irish have done. Let’s bend a knee to Christ the King.


Witches, and Devils, and Spells – Oh My!

(This is a re-post of a story I wrote a few years back. In the “spirit” of the season, I hope you enjoy and share it.)

I don’t mean to spook anyone with this story, especially at this time of year, but it’s something I need to write about. I also don’t want to enter into the ad nauseam discussion about Halloween. You know, whether it’s okay for Christians to celebrate such a pagan holiday, or if it’s not because of the obvious references to witches, demons, and Elm Street horrors that scare the bejesus out of us and are anticipated with such delicious relish every October, like hot dogs slowly roasted over an open fire.

So, let me cut to the chase: celebrating Halloween is okay. Even though it may be totally un-PC knowing and sympathizing with the feelings of diabetics who cannot partake in the sweet fun, like Washington Redskin fans who can no longer take pride in tribal – I mean team-spirited enthusiasm.

But, on one waning-crescent moon night something very scary happened.

It was June 21st, in the early morning hours of the summer solstice. My wife and I were camping near Ricketts Glen State Park. A 13,000 acre national and natural landmark in Pennsylvania, known for its twenty-four waterfalls and breathtaking mountainous hiking trails; a wonderful forest filled with lore of Native-American tribes: Iroquoian-speaking peoples like the Susquehannock, who were a matriarchal society that honored and worshiped the female because of her life-giving capabilities. We didn’t know it, my wife and me, but our lives were about to be intertwined with mother earth and with spirits diabolical beyond description.

It all started innocently enough. We had booked our camping site a few weeks ahead of time as we usually do. We were looking forward to a great camping experience. I had checked out the state park’s website and was anticipating fishing for large-mouth bass, perch, and maybe some trout in nearby creeks. My wife was just looking for some down-time. She had been working so hard at her job. All she needed was a glass of wine and a good book, reading on the shore of the lake while I would bait and cast, catch and release. You know what I’m talking about, when you dream to get away, you just want to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, stretch out a little, and let the tension work itself out of your body. It’s just you and nature doing wonderful things together.

And, everything was going according to plan. We took in all the sights, especially the waterfalls, where we saw people doing yoga, communing with nature’s god and meditating. Reaching perfect bliss while paying homage to the trees and the water that cascaded down and over the brown-crimson shale, perhaps like the Iroquoian tribesmen centuries ago.

And while nature is a sure sign of God’s providence, His undeniable footprint on this earth, it is not worthy of homage. This belongs only to God and God alone. Nature is not, no matter how beautiful the vista of falling waters, Crayola-colored canyons, majestic mountains, or the simple serenity and tall-awesomeness of Pennsylvania pines to be worshiped. Only the creator is worthy of worship, not His creation, not His creatures.

Enter the Witches of Ricketts Glen

 We were fast asleep in our hybrid camper: our “Shamrock” that sported hard sides, a nice, little slide-out, and drop-down bunks like a pop-up trailer has – perfect outdoor Murphy beds with heated mattresses. It’s, as my daughter used to call a warm quilt on a cold night: comfy-and-a-cozy.

Anyway we were zombies in our sleeping bags when, at three o’clock in the morning I heard this loud scream. It was the type of noise that jerks your head upright even though you were in a sound sleep.

Then, another scream, but this time more piercing and prolonged. Okay, I said to myself, my wife is still out cold and there’s no need to panic. Maybe it will go away. After all we’re camping in the middle of the woods and strange sounds happen all the time. But, then other stuff happened.

I knew that the camper next door had three occupants: a man and a woman somewhere in their thirties and a young man, perhaps twenty-years-old. Yet the din now emanating and echoing around my “Shamrock” seemed to be coming from a hundred voices. I got up, without disturbing my wife and took a peek outside the window. I saw the two men dancing – no, not quite dancing, but stomping on their campfire. Yes, that’s right. They were in the fire pouncing up and down, yelling something unintelligible with their hands raised. They must be drunk, I thought. It’s three in the morning. They’ll stop soon and crash.

They didn’t. The fire got brighter. The men took turns banging their way into and out their camper. The woman screamed and four-letter-words barked and howled like a pack of wolves before my very door. But, the voices and guttural groaning were not of this world. I couldn’t and didn’t want to see it, yet I was also concerned if some kind of rape was going on. Was the woman being ravished without her consent? Were these weirdoes committing a sexual crime? And, if so, should I now, as I felt in every sinew of my body go into action to stop an atrocity?

That’s when my wife woke up.

“What the hell is going on?”

“Hell on earth,” I said, with a bit of sarcasm, but also with a nervous tremor in my voice.

My wife joined me sitting at the window. She was shaking.

“I think they’re part of some kind of cult,” I said, trying not to reveal the distress building inside of me. “Honey, I thought those guys were raping that woman, but by the sound of it, I’d say she was in on the whole thing. I think it’s an orgy or something.”

“You’re not going out there,” she stated flatly, in that tone of voice only a husband of thirty-three years can understand.

But then my John Wayne kicked in. “Oh yes I am. Where’s my baseball bat?”

“You haven’t used one in twenty years.”

“And, I don’t have a gun,” I lamented.

“What would you with that?”

“I’d scare the hell out of them like their scaring the hell out of us. For God’s sake, honey, we just can’t sit here all night listening to this.”

She wouldn’t let me go out and confront them, especially after we heard the sacrifice. I don’t know what kind of animal it was, but I heard one of them say “if it has to die, let it be merciful.” Strange, I didn’t know witches or Satanists cared about mercy.

By that time my wits were at an end. I was no longer scared. I was downright pissed off.

No, I’m not a violent person. I would never hurt a fly – well, unless it was in my camper and then I would swat away. But this whole thing just made me sick.

There were times in my own life where I wish somebody would have slapped a cold hand across my face. You know, when you’re doing something so wrong that only a two-by-four across the head can make you wake up and smell the coffee. When you’re totally out of control yet just don’t know it. But, these people were beyond the pale. They needed more than a good kick in the butt –they needed prayers and lots of them. I got out the only weapon I had, and the best one there is, my rosary.

After about two hours, things started to quiet down.

The only comment I heard from the camper next to us when the sun finally, thankfully, welcomed a new morning, and when their ritual was finally over was “I never felt such power as I did last night.”

Power? Listen pal, I’ve got power, too. So, I took the bottle of holy water I always keep in my truck and spritzed and sprinkled it all over my campsite, sending of few drops airborne over to my neighbor’s trailer as well.

I’m not an expert on the occult. I don’t want to be. I’m a sailor and I want as wide a berth as possible from those who practice black magic, witchcraft, and satanic rituals. Those who have fallen into the evil disorder of the universe are to be prayed for and not sympathized with or legitimized as our military has done.

On this Halloween, pray that you and your loved ones have that same safe berth. Far away from the demons and the poor souls who conjure them up from the depths of hell in order to experience the “powers” of the underworld.

As I said, there’s nothing wrong with Halloween. But there is definitely something wrong, sinful, scary, and ugly with communicating with the dark side. Why can’t common sense, or what used to be common decency, separate us from the evil powers that are so prevalent in our world and dominate our mass media. Is it because of mere curiosity? Or does the “power” or success one gains by communing with demons act like a drug, so that one’s soul is enslaved, forever dependent and chained to the wiles of the wicked. And at what a price!

In any event, if you plan to go camping this Halloween weekend, pay attention to the trailer or tent next to you. And, for God’s sake, make sure to bring along some holy water.

Happy Halloween.


Meeting a Saint

(This is a re-edited article I wrote a few years back. St. John Paul the Great was an extraordinary priest, prelate, and human being. My memory of him is as strong today as it was on the day I met him. His feast day occurs this month. I ask him to send his blessings and prayers on all those who read this story. Enjoy)

I hadn’t seen Father Kelty in years. The last time was on a picket line in front of an abortion clinic on a crisp, breezy November morning in southeastern Pennsylvania. I was just out of high school and involved with our county’s pro-life organization. Father Kelty had enthusiastically joined our efforts to close the clinic. I had known him through my father when Kelty, before his ordination, was a legislative aide to a democratic state representative who was sympathetic to the pro-life movement. Through prayer, protest, and the help of like-minded public officials, the clinic was closed only weeks after it had opened. It was 1978. A new pope had been elected and a fresh, youthful wind was beginning to blow from the ancient, eternal city.

Although it had been over two decades, Ed Kelty hadn’t changed a bit. He met us at Leonardo da Vinci Airport wearing a black cassock and a big smile. Somehow, and I can’t recall the details, he had gotten a job as a liaison for the Vatican, working with the eastern churches who acknowledged the Bishop of Rome as the Supreme Pontiff. When my wife, Cathy, had earned enough frequent flyer miles traveling and telecommuting on her job from Philadelphia to St. Louis, we decided on a family vacation to Rome. I contacted Father Kelty who insisted we make our pilgrimage in the middle of June. He said he might have a nice surprise for us if we acceded to his request. We altered our travel dates and, in doing so, ended up changing our lives.

Throughout the next week, Father Kelty was our mentor and our guide. He spoke fluent Italian which came in handy, especially when ordering meals at the out-of-the-way trattorias in and around the city. Unlike the more formal ristorantes, the trattorias were small mom-and-pop eateries that Kelty preferred because of price and quality. Often, there were no menus and wine was sold by the decanter, not the bottle. Father would furiously bicker with the waiter (usually the papa) over the choice of cuisine. Thankfully, our pastor, Father John Foster, from St. Joseph the Worker Church, who was traveling with us as our guest, my mother, my wife, and my children did not understand any part of these gastronomical discussions, as there were more than a few spicy comments between papa and priest.

As true pilgrims, we had mass said at all four great patriarchal basilicas: St. Peter’s (we celebrated mass at the very tomb of the fisherman), St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls (where Father Kelty took us to Tre Fontane to see the grotto of the “Virgin of Revelation”), and St. Mary Major. Fathers Foster and Kelty con-celebrated the masses in Latin, and I read from the lectern in English. We visited the coliseum and said a rosary honoring the many nameless martyrs who were butchered there. At La Scala Sancta, my son, Patrick, on his knees, made his way up the twenty-eight marble steps (enclosed in wooden planking) leading up to the Holy of Holies and the praetorium of Pontius Pilate where Christ was judged.

Father Foster and I, my daughter, Mary Kate, who was nine-years-old, and my mother made a special excursion to Assisi. I have never in my life felt such peace. While gazing upon Francis’ crypt underneath the basilica, even though there were many pilgrims, not a whisper could be heard. The site breathed tranquility and blessed my soul with an indescribable gift of quietness. I smiled when I saw Brother Leo’s tomb lying so near to the remains of his sainted friend and confessor who taught him the meaning of “Perfect Joy”.

It was after this side trip when Father Kelty informed us his hoped for surprise had materialized. There was to be a meeting of the eastern churches with the pope. It was an annual event with a lengthy presentation on the affairs of the churches loyal to the magisterium. Somehow, Father Kelty managed to have us invited. We were to meet at the Vatican in front of the iron gates of the apostolic palace the next morning. Cathy and my mother had suitable black dresses to wear for the meeting. The boys had dark suits. Mary Kate, however, only had a little yellow dress. Nobody knew the protocol about children’s attire. We just assumed it would be okay.

After breakfast at the hotel we jumped into cabs and were immediately swept into the helter-skelter, bumper-to-bumper traffic nightmare that is part of everyday Roman existence. As we were driven over the Tiber, I remember thinking about the appropriateness of my daughter’s dress. She sat in the back of the cab chatting away with Cathy as mothers and daughters do everywhere. She had a finger twirled up in her long, brown hair, talking and looking at the other cars and mopeds, seemingly within touching distance. A plain, gold necklace with a simple cross adorned her neck. “Too cute” was the phrase used at the time in America, and it described her exactly. No need to worry, dad.

The cab driver pulled up in front of the palace where Father Kelty met us and introduced his departmental boss, an American bishop from the Midwest. Among the other guests were bearded clerics from the eastern churches, ambassadors of state, even royalty – everyone dressed to the nines. Mary Kate was the only child.

We were escorted into the palace with Swiss Guards snapping to attention as we passed. An elevator took us to a floor upstairs and we were led into one of the Raphael reception rooms with its magnificent frescoes lining walls and ceiling. We were seated in the very last row because we had no diplomatic standing. Suddenly, the majordomo opened the doors and tapped his staff on the tiled floor. Everyone stood. John Paul II, now an aged pontiff, slowly made his way into the room with a bent back and an unsure stride. He took his seat upon a cushioned throne and gazed at the fifty or so attendees. His eyes rested upon Mary Kate, standing out in all the finery of the room in a simple yellow dress.

The meeting took almost an hour. The entire time, the pope never took his eyes off of Mary Kate. When we first assembled outside the palace that morning, the American bishop told us he did not know if the pope would be able to greet us personally because of his suffering. Happily, however, John Paul nodded to his steward after the meeting had concluded and, one by one, the guests lined up in front of the throne. We were, of course, last in line. Mary Kate, who was understandably tenuous, took hold of my hand and looked up to me for guidance. I had instructed her to genuflect and kiss the pope’s ring. She didn’t. She just walked up to him and stood there beaming a winning smile. John Paul couldn’t resist. He gently placed his shaking and powerful arthritic hands over her shoulders and took her to him. The pope’s Mary-blue, Polish eyes danced delightedly. He kissed her on both cheeks. One of the cardinal’s standing on the right of the throne laughed repeatedly “bambina, papa … bambina!” It was Cardinal Ratzinger (soon to be Pope Benedict XVI). My turn was next. As I kissed his ring I felt the man’s strength. I have met many famous people in my life, from presidents to screen stars. All these meetings put together do not come close to the way I felt in the precious seconds I spent greeting this holy priest. The feeling has stayed with me ever since.

In his book Our Lady of Fatima, William Thomas Walsh, who interviewed Lucia extensively, wrote of how the children could not speak for some time after one of their encounters with the Mother of God. Karol Józef Wojtyla, Pope John Paul the Great, now recognized as a saint, had a similar effect on us, although, I’m sure he wouldn’t countenance such a lofty comparison. About an hour after our meeting, we sat down for a mid-day meal at a small trattoria just off Vatican Square. Father Kelty ordered for us (without argument). We just couldn’t speak.



The Case for Columbus



Jim Lovell (played by Tom Hanks): “Imagine if Christopher Columbus had come back from the New World and no one returned.” Apollo 13 (1995) Universal Pictures.

They’re tearing down statues now. And history. And memory. The purveyors of political propriety who dictate the latest of whose in and whose out may swing around in any direction, at a moment’s notice, and point bony fingers at past heroes and declare them anathema. So who will be next? Who will be the latest victim of our past who cannot muster the madness of the new norms of societal acceptance? And, what test must they pass in the eyes of the pretended proletariat who falsely claim to be champions of justice?

Columbus, I think. He doesn’t stand a chance.

He’s been under attack in academia for years. Are there reasons for this? Yes. Of course there are, as anyone does who we put under a microscope and see for the first time through the eyes of modernity. But, that’s no reason to discount the historic victory Columbus achieved. He prevailed where the Vikings failed. He transcended ordinary thinking and centuries of legitimate doubt that said no one could sail west to reach the prize of the Indies because there was no port to replenish and re-provision ships on such a long voyage. This took guts. It was a unique vision of how the waves and winds acted in concert. And it required a brave and extraordinary man to not only sell this idea to the courts of Europe, but to actually do it.

But, this is not what modern man remembers. He knows only that Columbus brought destruction on an innocent populace. Search any Common Core web site and find that, surprise! Columbus was actually a very bad actor in a very bad play that brought nothing but misery and disease and slavery to the innocents of the western world. Ergo, he must not be emulated, esteemed, or, God forgive, remembered in granite as a hero for Americans of Italian heritage to honor and respect. Trust me. This is coming to a town near you. But, why?

For the very same reasons they uproot statues of Robert E. Lee. Like Columbus, and Washington and Jefferson and you name it in American history, these people had their faults and were a product of their times. Yet there are those today who cannot countenance any sins whatsoever that do not yield to their righteous indignation. Much like a preacher who only sees someone else’s sins and not their own, they clamor for popular acceptance thereby alleviating personal culpability. Case in point is Quinn O’Callaghan, who wrote a commentary piece published in the Philadelphia Inquirer last week. In his diatribe against the anticipated Philadelphia Columbus Day Parade he says this:

“The truth is that the defenders of Columbus Day and Confederate statues are the ones committed to rewriting history”

NO! The ones committed to rewriting history are those who ignore or dismiss it like an annoying fly or gnat who gets in the way of enjoying themselves at a family picnic. Or, diabolically, by deliberately skewing historical evidence in order to achieve a political agenda. Most Americans, I trust, are of the former persuasion only because we really don’t teach history any more. Just agreed upon garbage carefully sorted through sifts of universal sand where the bad guys are always what used to be called western civilization. Remember courses in college called Western Civ?

Although, it has become evident in recent years that forces (I mean money) have been provided to certain groups to alter the balance of power. Nevertheless, you can’t deny history with every whim that seems popular today and you can’t ignore truth when it faces you square in the face. You can, however, dismiss it if that suits your fancy. O’Callaghan continues:

“Monuments and holidays celebrating Columbus extol the Schoolhouse Rock edition of a conqueror and killer.” And, and this is really grist for the mill, “the iteration of Columbus we give a federal holiday to is born out of antiquated textbooks and bad junior high social studies classes.”

Having taught junior high school, I can agree with O’Callaghan on at least one thing, we should never have digressed to teaching “social studies” at all. We should have stuck to the time-honored liberal disciplines of history and geography. If we did, perhaps such nonsense would never be published in a major American newspaper.

Today, well, for the last fifty years or so – we’ve been looking at history through opaque lenses. Tinted so that we can only see what we’re told to see. It’s been a history lesson in optical illusion where facts are replaced or dismissed or ignored to make room for a triumphant exposition of progressive clarity.

When my kids were younger – I’m sorry, even to this very day, I always told them to look at the big picture when witnessing and evaluating current events. Because anything current has happened before whether we like it or not. Our culture dictates us to view ourselves, each other, and those who came before us with a new morality that is anything but transparent. In doing so, we fool ourselves. Nothing that much has really changed in the past millennium or two. We’d like to think that it has and that’s a comfort to us. But, human nature, whether it was Christopher Columbus’ or ours hasn’t changed that much at all. And, that’s the big picture. You can call Columbus a killer, blame him for genocide against innocent people, even say he began slavery. If it makes you feel good. But, it won’t come out in the wash.

I think Rodney Stark said it best in his book How the West Won (2014, Intercollegiate Studies Institute):

“Perhaps the primary conclusion to be drawn from these historical episodes involves the fundamental similarity of human nature. Just as there is nothing surprising about the fact the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas imposed great empires on those unable to resist them, so too it was to be expected that Europeans would impose empires on the people of the New World, especially since those indigenous peoples lacked metal weapons but were not short of precious metals. It surely is an instance of moral progress that colonialism has become unacceptable – at least in most Western societies. But it is pointlessly anachronistic to suppose that sixteen-century Europeans, Aztecs, or Incas should have known better.”

Christopher Columbus was and is an icon of modern civilization. He ushered in the Age of Discovery. He personally found a way west to a new world. He should be honored for his great deeds. Let parades march in Philadelphia for as long as we can honestly appreciate history and those who made it.


Jˈaccuse…! D’Souza’s Big Expose

There were times while reading Dinesh D’Souza’s new book The Big Lie where I was reminded of Emile Zola’s famous letter of 1898 to the French newspaper LˈAurore accusing President Félix Faure of antisemitism. Like Zola’s historic, combative and wide ranging defense of Captain Alfred Dreyfus involving false accusations of espionage, D’Souza launches an all-out attack upon the Democratic Party in America and its progressive allies. The “big lie” to both Zola and D’Souza is a carefully laid out conspiracy to cover up the sins of the past and accuse the innocent in order to distort the truth. The bulk of D’Souza’s work mirrors my own in the study of Social Darwinism[i] in that it chronicles its diabolical and bloody march through most of the 20th century, and its iniquitous implications for today. But, first a quick synopsis.

Let’s start with D’Souza’s true intent on writing his book:

“My goal is to produce a genealogy in the sense of the term that Nietzsche wrote in his Genealogy of Morals.[ii] Nietzsche hopes, by giving an account of the origin of Christian morality, to discredit it by revealing its allegedly base roots. My goal is to show the base origins of fascism, not so much to discredit it–it should hardly be necessary in our time to do that–but to put to bed once and for all the big lie that makes fascism a phenomenon of the Right. Without this lie, the claim that Trump and the GOP are fascists simply crumbles.”

And what a genealogy. D’Souza traces the roots of the Democratic Party from its inception in 1828 to the present day. Throughout his well-researched and well cited work, the author meticulously documents the political party’s poisonous footprint on American history starting with Andrew Jackson signing the Indian Removal Act in 1930. Because of this heinous legislation members of the Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations were forced to move west of the Mississippi River. Thousands perished in the “Trail of Tears” along the way.

D’Souza then details the Democratic Party’s fight to make slavery an institution guaranteed by law. In the Dred Scott decision, the seven democratic justices declared blacks not people but property. Through the Plantation Period or Antebellum Era, Democrats strove to legalize slavery in newly arriving states and established territories. The American Civil War was an inevitable clash of national consciousness brought on not by the firing on Fort Sumter, but by the intransigence of a political party that could not recognize “that all men are created equal.

D’Souza pursues the democrats in the decades following reconstruction, and into our previous century with its Jim Crow laws, lynching’s, and the history of the Ku Klux Klan (a de facto militia organization utilized by the Democratic Party to enforce its racist agenda).

Where D’Souza’s research and mine dove tail is in uncovering the history of euthanasia and eugenics. We agree it has its genesis in Europe and America as part of the theory of Social Darwinism. We diverge a bit in that D’Souza concentrates solely upon the sins of the Democratic Party and conveniently omits mention of the culpability – indeed, the orchestration of the eugenics movement both as a racial and radical pseudo-scientific movement by republican stalwarts Theodore Roosevelt, Alexander Graham Bell, John D. Rockefeller, and Andrew Carnegie. In England supporters included Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, and Lord Balfour.

D’Souza implicates, with justification, the role of academia in pushing the progressive ideas of eugenics. Still, despite support from Ivy League professors, there began, in the years leading up to World War II, a wave of dissention because the zeitgeist and early euphoria eugenics and euthanasia enjoyed began to crumble around the edges. Not so much because of Nazi programs (read pogroms) but because many scientists were becoming outraged at the lack of scientific methodology and they started to speak out.

Sustained intellectual opposition, very early in the discussion of eugenics, included American sociologist Lester Frank Ward,[iii] anthropologist Frank Boss,[iv] G. K. Chesterton,[v] and Pope Pius XI.[vi] Yet D’Souza fails to credit these credible adversaries of eugenics, possible because it doesn’t follow his genealogical narrative.

Additionally, D’Souza is remiss in following the money trail throughout the post-WWII period. Rockefeller funding continued to pour into organizations espousing eugenics and euthanasia, and, to an even greater extent, pro-abortion advocates. Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s republicans turned a deaf ear to prolife pleas for help. This continues with liberal and moderate republicans today.

Yet, the overwhelming evidence compiled correctly in D’Souza book is that the Democratic Party is guilty of gross injustice to the most vulnerable in our society: minorities, the poor, the aged, those with mental and physical disabilities, and, of course, the unborn. This is indeed a collaborative effort from the Left that has re-resurrected socialist hegemony. Hear D’Souza’s reasoned opinion:

“I am also referring to what the Nazis called Gleichschaltung. The term itself means “coordination” and it refers to the Nazi effort to use intimidation across the cultural institutions of society to bring everyone into line with Nazi priorities and Nazi doctrine. Progressives in America are using their dominance –-actually their virtual monopoly–in the fields of academia, Hollywood, and the media to enforce their own Gleichschaltung. They do this not merely through the type of blatant propagandizing and outright lying that would do Joseph Goebbels proud, but also through the relentless battering and forced exclusion of dissident voices from their cultural institutions, so that there is only one point of view that is communicated to the vast majority of students and citizens.”

Today, unfortunately, there is a convoluted interpretation of what fascism (Benito Mussolini), National Socialism (Adolf Hitler), and international communism (Joseph Stalin) really mean. And, this is the “Big Lie” D’Souza is constantly alluding to. Fascism, Nazism, and communism all find their genesis on the Left of the political spectrum; not on the Right as is commonly misunderstood today.

D’Souza quotes Mussolini in his Autobiography:

“The foundation of fascism is the conception of the State. Fascism conceives the State as an absolute, in comparison to which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived of in their relation to the State. For us Fascists, the State is not only a living reality of the present, it is also linked with the past and the future, and thus transcending the brief limits of individual life, it represents the immanent spirit of the nation.”

This flies in the face of our constitutional guarantees of individual liberty which is sacrosanct in our nation’s history. There is no room for fascism, Nazism, and communism within the parameters of our constitutional republic. It would be beneficial for all Americans to look back at where we have come from, what we have fought and died for, and what our country’s flag truly stands for.

Emile Zola’s letter forced France to look within itself. It not only saved Captain Dreyfus from the perdition of Devil’s Island, it eventually helped bring down the government. Zola never extolled the virtues of violence in order to accomplish this. He used a weapon rarely tolerated today: the truth. D’Souza thinks he has done likewise. Give The Big Lie an unprejudiced read. Our system of government and our very way of life in America may depend upon your conclusions.


[i] (2017). Applying the evolutionary concept of natural selection to human society

[ii] Nietzzsche, Friedrich. 1887.

[iii] Ward, Lester F. 1913. Eugenics, Euthenics, and Eudemics. Chicago: American Journal of Sociology.

[iv] Boas, Franz. Eugenics. The Scientific Monthly Vol. 3 (July-December, 1916).

[v] Chesterton, G. K. 1922. Eugenics and Other Evils: An Argument Against the Scientific State.

[vi] Encycl. Casti Connubii. Dec. 31, 1930.