Monday, November 23, 2009

November 22nd and the Kennedy Family

Yesterday was a glorious November 22, 2009 in Northeast Ohio. The sky was cloudless, perfectly blue. The temperature was a mild 55 degrees. During the afternoon Linda, Emily, and I hiked the Pearson Creek and Old Valley trails at the Holden Arboretum (the Holden Arboretum is a world treasure, located in Kirtland, Ohio). I felt grateful that my heart, lungs, legs, and knees held up to the vigorous hike, up and down steep ravines. The ravines are full of gigantic hemlock, poplar, sugar maple, and other native trees (red oak, different kinds of hickory trees, beech, and understory musclewood, spicebush, etc.). And there were many varieties of fern still perfectly green. In the arboretum's gardens, a few blooms were still to be seen (especially roses)

The trails in other parts of the arboretum, especially in the open meadows, are lined with tall sticks so that when the heavy snows come (and that could be soon!), the cross-country skiers will be able to find their way. As we hiked around we kept thinking how unusual this warm and sunny weather was. Northeast Ohio in late November can be very dark, cloudy, cold, and snowy. And here was this perfect day!

So for a while I forgot that November 22nd is the anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, one of the saddest days of my life--and the life of our nation. I was in tenth grade at St. Joseph High School in Cleveland that day. Around 2 PM, Brother Stanley Matthews SM, our principal, came over the PA announcing the shooting. And then, about a half hour later, he brought us the sad news of JFK's death. To Irish Catholic kids like us, this was the most devastating news imaginable.

I've been thinking a lot about John F. Kennedy lately because I've been reading the remarkable memoir written by Ted Kennedy called True Compass. This is an interesting and valuable book, with the genuine voice of Ted Kennedy shining through. He loved and admired his oldest brother, who he always refers to as "Jack." The book makes it abundantly clear how unique and brilliant (and funny and courageous) Jack Kennedy was.

Last evening's news brought more Kennedy news. The bishop of Rhode Island, Thomas Tobin, has apparently banned U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy from receiving Communion because of pro-choice legislative positions. I think this is a wrongheaded decision, though I myself am very much against abortion (with exceptions for a mother's health and in cases of rape or incest). Catholic bishops often don't seem to understand who their friends are and who their enemies are. Education, dialogue, involvement are the tools we should be using with those that disagree with us--not the sledgehammer of ex-communication. The Church's record with ex-communication is tragic and has often backfired or proven wrong in the long haul.

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