Because “Don’t Give Up the Ship” Makes Sense

As a relatively new convert to Catholicism (Class of 2008), friends have asked me the following question, “How could you join such a scandal-plagued institution?”

My answer has been something along the lines of what St. Peter said to Our Lord in the Gospel of John (6:67-69) when,

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are The Holy One of God.”

But the painting shown here speaks to me as well. It is entitled A Ship In Need In A Raging Storm and was painted by Willem Van de Velde II in 1707.

Throughout Her history, the Church has been depicted as a Ship. As a Marine, I have an affinity for all things nautical and love the jargon and the feel of all things naval. And I have written before that I read the entire Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brien which, in a way, helped soften me up for Blaise Pascal’s assault on my personal beachhead.

The Ship as metaphor for the Church works to answer the question above easily for me. When your ship is damaged, due to weather or as a result of action against an enemy, the command is “man the pumps, clear spars, frother a sail over the hull, beach the ship for repairs,” etc.. The command is not “abandon ship.”

As for the members of the crew who commit acts of treachery, criminal conduct etc? Yes, they must be dealt with internally within the ship (using the Articles of War) and externally through the powers of the state. But again, and consider that I am just an able-bodied seaman (nothing more) writing this, when crises like these erupt, the alarm given is “man overboard!” and a life-line is thrown or a launch put down in the water in order to effect a rescue if at all possible. Sometimes, due to weather for example, this is not possible. But the order is certainly not “scuttle the ship.” Never.

Sometimes the orders and alarm occur simultaneously. And scandals will occur, as they always do. As Catholic Christians, we are called to man our battle stations and stay alert as members of the crew of His Majesty’s Ship. The command is “Don’t Give Up The Ship!”

Semper Fidelis

Because the Real Santa Story is Amazing Enough

I’ve told my children that there is no Santa Claus. I make no apologies about that either. My reason? It takes away from the story of the actual miracle man who is Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker.

As I’ve stated before, I’m a newcomer to Catholicism. However, I was baptized when I was ten years old and have been a Christian for (do the math) thirty-six years. So I’m not exactly a newcomer to Christianity.

And I truly believe in the Spirit of Christmas. But I never really knew the true story of Saint Nicholas until I went looking for it. I had no idea that he is commemorated on December 6, the day of his death in 347 A.D.

This guy is amazing! And yet there isn’t much really known about him. We do know that he was the Bishop of Myra in the fourth century. Myra is no longer around, having been superseded by a new city called Demre in the Anatalya Province in Turkey. Here he is in a painting entitled St. Nicholas Saves Three Innocents From Death. The painting is hanging in the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. (Note, it is St. Petersburg again, and no longer Leningrad.)

So I have sat all three of my children down (ages 13, 10, and 8) and spilled the beans on Madison Avenue’s version of Santa Claus and the unlimited wish-fulfillment powers of same. (Hey, personally, I love that guy too.) Now, my 13-year-old has known the truth since he was 8. My daughter started getting concerned when she was about 8 and couldn’t see ash footprints or any other convincing evidence of his visit, and my youngest is 8 now so . . . I did what had to be done. I told them the truth.

This has caused a bit of a dust-up within our extended family, and I understand why. You can’t convince kids aged 13, 10, and 8 to continue telling a fiction about Santa Claus to their friends. Well, maybe the 13-year-old, but the 8-year-old will sink the party pronto. This is like a state secret that “need to know” will not keep safe. And that is the concern of certain relatives, which my wife and I fully understand.

But that doesn’t do St. Nicholas justice, nor Our Lord and Savior whom he serves. So if your child comes home from school one day with the idea that Santa isn’t real? Blame my kids. Or tell yours the truth and donate an unwrapped new toy to Toys for Tots.

Semper Fidelis

Because This May Be My Last Mass

Gulp . . . My eyes water, and I get a lump in my throat just looking at this photograph.

That is Our Lord on Iwo Jima, and a priest providing comfort and solace to the sheep of His flock. Young Marines in a crazy, mixed-up, madhouse of a world with death staring them right in the face. Death from a thousand angles, at any second, in diverse manners and forms, all of which are horrible.

How do they do it? I mean function in that environment? The same thing is going on in Kandahar today. How do they do it? I can’t put “it” into words that you would understand—not yet anyway.

One of my favorite Marines in the Marine Corps Roll of Honor is Sergeant Major Daniel Daly, winner of two Medals of Honor. He is famous for saying (as a Gunnery Sergeant) the following immortal phrase—”C’mon you sons-of-bitches! you wanna live forever?”—at the WW I Battle of Belleau Wood.

Looking at this photograph, whether you agree or disagree with the “reasons” for either World War (see our recent post), the Chaplain Corps provides much comfort to us troops. I wasn’t a Catholic when I was serving in the line as a Marine. (Wow, I would seriously recommend it now!) But many of us took advantage of the comfort the Padres provided.

Semper Fidelis


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