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Arkansas Catholic
Litlte Rock, Arkansas
June 12, 1999     Arkansas Catholic
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June 12, 1999

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Page 14 June I 2, 1999 ARKANSAS CATHOI .S At long lastl The sweet days of sum- mer have finally returned. That of course can only mean one of two things. Either your kitchen pencil cup overfloweth with the slightly gnawed, totally eraser-less, stubby writing tools your environmentally aware children brought home from school to recycle, or the bruis- es you normally don't notice under the thick guise of your winter wardrobe have suddenly blossomed into full, Technicolor bloom now that you've replaced all those layers with your relatively abbreviated stock of summer clothing. As far back as I can remember, sum- mertime has always held a sort of magical --- almost "sacred" place -- in my heart. Sure, fall offers its incredible colors, win- ter its meditative afternoons, and spring its renewal of all things green. But sum- mer? Summer holds the promise of some- thing uniquely unto itself. Summer holds possibilities. Think about it. At what other time of the year is there greater potential for sleeping in, for example. I mean besides the occa- sional weekend morning, at what other time of the year do you find yourself blessed with the opportu- nity to deepen the relationship with your pillow than during these marvelous morn- ings of the sum- mer months? Of course, if you're not the type to covet additional a.m. moments under the cool comfort of crisp, clean sheets, then I realize this means very little to you. On the other hand, if the idea of lin- gering on your lumbar until the decadent hour of 7 a.m. even remotely appeals to you, then you know fight where I am with this sleeping in thing. Because as drivers of morning carpools know, once school kid- dos are out, the snooze potential is in. But even if summer mornings don't translate into schedule changes for you, surely summer afternoons and evenings hold their share of promise. While November is a perfectly lovely month, it's not exactly the most oppor- tune time to clock out from work at 5 for the express purpose of heading to the pool or the lake to soak up the last, albeit still beckoning rays, of the late afternoon sun. And though I'd have to say there are few things that take the chill off a blustery March evening quicker than a big bowl of anything hot and hearty, there's some- thing decidedly delicious to be said for the impromptu picnic supper on the back deck complete with throw-together sand- wiches, a few chips and a cold beverage. Add in a citronella candle, and before you can say "Martha Stewart makeover," you've not only got a summer meal with mood lighting, but protection from would-be party crashers of the winged variety as well. And by golly, the list of summer poa6 bilities goes on. There s summer reading to absorb, summer movies to see, and summer trips to take. There are summ camps, summer schools and summer songs. And lest we forget, for those Who are properly disposed, there's even the potential for summer romance. Now I ask you, aside from the inevitable few days of upper end humidity, the bug bite or three and the sunburneu extremity here and there, what's not to love about this awesome gift we call summer? ,--, P$ But if you really want to know what making this gal's summer heart beat on even brighter note this year, it's the fact that after four full weeks, I still have acW" al, thriving, squirrel-unscathed flowers blessedly flourishing in the flower pqtS outside on our deck. At this rate, I mig even make it to the fourth of July withotlt having to repot or replace them. And that, my friends, is what I call.a summer with possibilities. Therese Rohr writes from Bentonvillg. ot long ago a contingent of local clergy, public officials, musicians and a handful of spectators gath- ered on the courthouse in our coun- ty for the National Day of Prayer. It was a nice event, with noble words and good music. But it started rather oddly, I thought. As our prayer service was about to begin, a low-flying fighter jet circled our little town. Moments later, while the Junior ROTC color corps from the high school was presenting the U.S., state and county flags, it swooped low, fight over the courthouse. The plane was so low that I could see the gear on its underside. Frightened, a little boy in the front row dived to the ground beside his metal fold- ing chair. A number of adults ducked and covered their heads with their hands, as though a few more inches of clearance were going to make a difference. The noise was terrifying. Windows rat- fled. A dog on a leash at the crowd's edge began yelping. Car alarms went off. For a moment we all stopped still, stunned and deafened. Then one of the clergy stood and said, "Let us pray." It was the oddest call to prayer I ever wit- nessed. Don't get me wrong. I love this country. I also love patriotic dis- play. Parades, bands, flags and Dlaly songs are all Ft. great. I believe strongly that we should pray for our public officials. That is what St Paul tells us to do. But what I don't like is combining the symbols of military power with the sym- bols of religion. I think it is a dangerous mix that usually winds up either diluting religion or misusing military power. What does it mean to fly over a prayer service with a warplane? Is it trying to say that God is "on our side?" Years ago the sociologist Will Herberg wrote about "civil religion." He cautioned against the identification of government with religion. One or the othe? suffers. Probably religion. Military weapons have a place as sym- bols of civil power. It is appropriate to put a cannon on a courthouse lawn, but not on the lawn of a church. Military power, by its nature, uses force and violence. It can be controlled and directed to good ends, but it is force and violence nonetheless. Religious power is different. It calls on us to accept and surrender to the will of God. It uses the language of conversion and persuasion, not force and violence. When religion employs violence, it betrays itself. We Christians look back on the cru- sades with shame, not pride. Can anyone really imagine Jesus re ing the Roman legions or calling the al , ples to prayer with a banging of swords shields? Jesus did not directly conde l) the use of military power. He certai _ praised some people who were in the itary like the centurion whose faith he was greater than any he had seen in Israel' However, Jesus never identified his sion or message with any nation, not Israel. His kingdom was not of this earth' His mission is to all nations. St. Peter says in the Acts of the Aposti when visiting the house of Cornelius, centurion: "I begin to see how true it t, that God shows no oartialitv. Rather, de man of any nation who fearsthim and uprightly is acceptable to him" (Acts 10:34-35). Religion has a role to play in nublic life.. . " ,, tB It does belong in the public muare. B we should take care how we co-ambine symbols, lest our prayer get lost in de backwash of a jet fighter. The joy that comes with having a truly good father is something that sons and daughters celebrate. And some stories that remind us of a father's importance last to inspire new genera- tions. One of my favorite anecdotes comes from Jim Gilken's little book tided rhe Heart of a Father." He recalls a true incident. One "after- noon an extremely popular opera was scheduled for a matinee at the Metropolitan Opera House. A world- renowned tenor was scheduled to sing and every seat was sold. But just before the curtain rose, an announcement was made: the famous tenor has fallen ill. His role would be sung by a scarcely known substitute. A moan of annoyance erupted from the audience. The performance began. The substi- tute tenor made his entrance and his first aria. Usually that particular solo is fob lowed by a tumult of applause. This time the spectators sat silent. Then something surprising happened. A small boy, seated When Jesus taught the disciples tobarrel. "The engineman threw a lever. in a box near the stage, stood up and, in a address God as "Father in the Lord's started to drop. Father held me tight in childish voice audible to all, he exclaimed, Prayer, they were no doubt startled. The arms. I felt him in the darkness as the "Daddy, I thinkword Jesus used for Father -- "Abba" -- rel shot down in the darkness, ban1 you're wonder- was precisely the same highly personal hard against the wet, black walls, I cow" ful!" The child's form used by that opera singers young hardly catch my breath. When we came love and loyalty son: "Daddy. 'Jewish, writings use the words a stop...father lifted me out of the bafrw' for his dad affect- "Abba and "Imma as intimate, everyday I clung to my father's hand as he led de ed everyone. The dtles in @,e way that we use "Daddy" and way along the ttmnel, a 1 entire audience' Mommy. Jesus used the word Abba" in Someone asked me if I was afraid started clapping his instruction about prayer, teaching His said, Well, I d be awfully scared except furiously, cheer- followers to use the trusting, familiar man- daddy is with me.' ing and wiping ner of little children speaking to Daddy: "I remember my father looking at away tears. "When you pray, say Abba. with a wonderful smile and saying, 'Tla I have always To the disciples, addressing God as you will never be scared, son, becauSe One found in that "Abba was a radical departure. It opened Greater Father than I will always be story a simple a whole new way of thinking about God you.'" expression of the and communicating with Him. God actu- Father's Day is a good time to way Jesus Christ himself spoke of our rela- ally wanted them -- and us --- to recog- ber the lessons and joys of having --- tionship with God. Over and over again in nize Him as a loving father, a dad. being -- a good father. And should the Gospels, Jesus used the image of an Writer Henry Taylor tells about an ever wonder who among us does God] earthly father in order to give us our best experience that clarified this truth for will, I tell you it is the one who has le human glimpse of His Heavenly Father him. When he was a tittle boy his dad took to call Him Abba," proudly, trustit and ours. him to the bottom of a coal mine --- in a and lovingly.