“I’M GOING IN!”

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This past Saturday, I had the good fortune to join Doug Barry in giving a day of reflection for men. By and large, the day centered around being, as Doug calls it, “Battle Ready.”

As the day approached, I was working on my two talks … refining and tweaking. It was the day before our “Battle Ready” day that this news broke from CNN:

When Coral Springs police officers arrived at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14 in the midst of the school shooting crisis, many officers were surprised to find not only that Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, the armed school resource officer, had not entered the building, but that three other Broward County Sheriff’s deputies were also outside the school and had not entered, Coral Springs sources tell CNN. The deputies had their pistols drawn and were behind their vehicles, the sources said, and not one of them had gone into the school.

You read that right … there were four armed officers outside the school. And none of them did anything, according to CNN.

With less than 24 hours before presenting to those men at that day of reflection, I completely “reframed” my talks. But, I didn’t change the essence of what I was going to talk about, because it could not have applied more squarely on what happen on that Ash Wednesday at the Florida school.

“You see?” (I told the men) … “those four officers, cowering behind their cars in the school parking lot, as they listened to the gunman kill one student after another, could not encapsulate more effectively what has gone on in our culture, especially in the past half century.”

A few years ago, Jeffrey Kuhner of the Washington Times wrote this …

“For the past 50 years, every major institution has been captured by the radical secular left. The media, Hollywood, TV, universities, public schools, theater, the arts, literature — they relentlessly promote the false gods of sexual hedonism and radical individualism. Conservatives have ceded the culture to the enemy. Tens of millions of unborn babies have been slaughtered; illegitimacy rates have soared; divorce has skyrocketed; pornography is rampant; drug use has exploded; sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS have killed millions; birth control is a way of life; sex outside of wedlock has become the norm; countless children have been permanently damaged — their innocence lost forever — because of the proliferation of broken homes; and sodomy and homosexuality are celebrated openly. America has become the new Babylon.”

“My brothers,” I said to those men, “this was under our watch.” “Why did this happen? Because we allowed it. We crouched behind our proverbial cars in our proverbial school parking lots, while we allowed lives to be lost.”

At the very beginning of our great nation, Sir Edmund Burke said,

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Venerable Fulton Sheen put it this way …

“The refusal to take sides on great moral issues is itself a decision. It is a silent acquiescence to evil. The tragedy of our time is that those who still believe in honesty lack fire and conviction, while those who believe in dishonesty are full of passionate conviction.”

In our Church …

… we’ve cowered behind our proverbial cars while “passionate modernist Deists” gutted out anything that pointed to the supernatural power of God. A woman was the only one who seemed to stand against these destroyers. One, Mother Angelica. While we cowered behind our cars, Mother Angelica was about the only one who stood and, in essence, said,

“I’M GOING IN!”

Here’s a sample (Oh, how the modernists hated this woman):

In our culture …

… just less than three years ago, we were “told” marriage no longer meant what it had for all of civilization. Now, it can mean whatever we want it to mean. And we hid behind our proverbial cars.

Not too long after that, we were “told” we must allow adult men to share a bathroom with our little girls. And we hid behind our proverbial cars.

It has now been 45 years since we were “told” that vulnerable babies in, what was once the safest place in the universe … our mothers’ wombs, no longer received those protections. No, we were now free to tear these babies apart, limb from limb. And, for all of these 45 years, the VAST MAJORITY of us have been hiding behind our proverbial cars in the proverbial school parking lot.

In today’s Gospel …

… Peter wanted to stay back and just live his days wallowing in the “mystical experience” he received by witnessing the Transfiguration. Jesus said, “No!” In essence, Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid … now, let’s move out, because …

“I’M GOING IN!”

How much do we want to make our faith “just” about getting the ooey-gooey feeling from going to Mass on Sunday? But, when we are called upon to engage the evils and/or needs of our culture (primarily through the collective force of our parishes), we stand outside behind our proverbial cars in our proverbial school parking lots, and wait for “someone else” to do it … we wait for someone else to say,

“I’M GOING IN!”

I get that those four officers were most likely thinking, “my family needs to see me walking through the door tonight. It is better that they have a dad who is alive and well.” Yes, but now those four families are looking at dads who had an opportunity to save some of the lives of those 17 students on that fateful day, and their dads chose to cower behind a car in the school parking lot.

I’m going to drive the point home here with …

… my dad, who was probably the most active in our parish, whether he brought us kids with him (when applicable) or not. This, while he found it very difficult to find other dads (who still brought their families to Mass on Sunday) who were willing to make that kind of sacrifice, in “going in.” Our family – with dad’s lead – were active at everything the parish asked for. Did we think dad neglected his family by this level of dedication? Never! What’s the fruit? While most of the children of those other dads’ families fell away from the practice of the faith, all of us seven kids (six now, since my brother died), are “practicing Catholics,” active in our parishes, while one of my sisters is a Catholic school principal, and I am a priest. Why? Because dad, like Abraham and Jesus, had his priorities straight … God, and His will, before anything or anyone else … and his children learned this from him. When God asked him to sacrifice, dad said …

“I’M GOING IN!”

The moral of the story is this:

Jesus was right … “just” staying on the mountain, wallowing in a mystical experience (akin to our “just going to Mass”), is not going to change the world. We cannot “hide on top of the mountain” (believing “going to Mass” is enough). No! We can surely receive the strength of that “mystical experience” (going to Mass), but we must understand the gifts God has given, receive the strength He gives to us, and we must head down the mountain … get out from behind our proverbial cars in our proverbial school parking lots … and “engage” evil, care for need and, in essence, say …

“I’M GOING IN!”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” -Isaiah 6:8

NB: Doug Barry and I, along with the Knights of Columbus, are already in talks to develop a campaign entitled, “I’M GOING IN!” We feel this tragic event at the school in Florida, especially the cowardice of the officers who stayed outside, is a “wake up call” and speaks directly to the great need in our men today. Stay Tuned!

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