End of Days

Every once in awhile, I sit down to watch some TV, nothing special is on my agenda, and a show or movie catches my attention and ends up drawing me in to watch the whole thing.

That very thing happened yesterday with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1999 apocalyptic themed movie “End of Days”, which I watched on the ‘Encore’ movie network.

I grew up in the whole Schwarzenegger-Sylvester Stallone-Bruce Willis-Harrison Ford-Clint Eastwood era of movie watching. I simply enjoy watching these actors performances in most of their action adventures.

This group of actors has delivered more memorable one-liners than any collective group in the history of cinema. Their films have come during the era when special effects have allowed almost anything to happen and seem realistic.

The plot of “End of Days” finds Schwarzenegger portraying an ex-cop turned private security specialist. He is providing security along with his partner, played by Kevin Pollack, for a wealthy Wall Street financier played by Gabriel Byrne.

Problems begin when Byrne’s character’s body is taken over by Satan himself. It is the devil’s goal to mate with a chosen human woman in the final hour before the end of the Millennium.

That chosen woman is played by the beautiful Robin Tunney. The film is also highlighted by one of the final appearances (the last in a major film) from veteran actor Rod Steiger.

As the rest of the world prepares to celebrate the coming of the year 2000, officials of the Church are trying to track down and stop the mating process of Satan and his chosen concubine. Per the story line, this would result in the birth of a child who will usher in a ‘hell on earth’ scenario.

Schwarzenegger’s character is an unbelieving, pragmatic dupe whose own wife and daughter were brutally murdered a few years earlier. He has descended into a battle with alcoholism in the aftermath, and is now just moving through life using his particular ‘skill set’ to provide private security services.

He finally is forced to realize that in this case, he is providing those services for the Dark Prince himself. Thus begins his mission: to protect Tunney from becoming the devil’s mate, something which she was apparently born to become.

In the end, it is only through Arnold’s own personal revelation, his own belief and faith, and his own self-sacrifice that he can finally hope to overcome evil and save the woman and the world.

Around all of the outstanding special effects, and there are many here that still hold up great even a decade later, as well as a bit of a typically overblown storyline, there are outstanding themes and lessons to be learned.

First, the idea of those ‘end of days’ as a central theme. The ‘end times’, ‘Armageddon‘, the ‘apocalypse’ is addressed in dramatic form. It has been addressed better and more believably in other places, but this pop version of the story returns the idea to the front of your consciousness.

If you are an unbeliever, little more than being smacked on the head with a board by God Almighty Himself is likely to wake you up. But to believers, we know that it will happen. It is simply a matter of time and exact details.

The fact is that God gave us a primer to that time. He provided us clues, in the Bible’s final book. No one actually knows when the exact end of time will come. That is God’s information alone. But he just as obviously wanted man to know that the time was coming. He wanted us to have final opportunities to come to love and accept him before any final judgment.

The Book of the Apocalypse, or the Revelation of St. John, provides some interesting information that points to things happening in today’s world which should give us pause. The book provides that there will be seven cycles of events that will lead to the return of Jesus Christ, and the end of days on earth as we have known them.

Some of the signs are generic, and could apply to any time in Earth’s history. False prophets have always existed. There have always been wars and rumors of war. Famine, earthquakes and other natural disasters strike regularly across human history.

But what is revealed to St. John is that these things will become more and more frequent. They will prove more and more devastating as the end approaches. To say that this has not been happening in our real world of recent years, for whatever reason that they may be happening, is to simply deny reality.

Another sign was that the Gospel would reach all corners of the world thanks to instant communications. This sign was not completely possible until recent years. The development of the Internet, high-speed travel, and other modern realities allow the Word to spread to every corner of the globe.

The signs also include the return of a restored Roman Empire, the return of Hebrew as a language, and the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount in Israel.

To many, a figurative Rome has indeed become reborn in the form of the European Union. Hebrew was a dead language until the birth of the nation of Israel, which restored it’s formal teaching. Now some are actually planning to re-construct the Jewish Temple. When you see this one actually happening, you will know that the time is coming.

And then there is the famous ‘Mark of the Beast’ most widely known under the number ‘666’, and the fact that all will be required to accept this number in some way in order to buy and sell and move about freely.

Today’s developing technologies are making this possible. Microscopic bio-chips and other ID implant technologies. The development of cards replacing currency. Bar code technology. These and other inventions have clarified how this might ultimately be carried out.

You can argue all you want about any of these ‘signs’ individually. But it is the combination of them that signals the coming of the End Times. I have faith, and personally believe that all these things will happen. Whether they happen in my lifetime or not is not for me to say.

But I would say to you that if you are intelligent, and if you have any established Christian belief that you take seriously, then you need to keep your eyes, ears, and heart open. Watch for the signs as they come closer and closer together, signalling the beginning of that “End of Days” scenario.

And as for the film itself, check it out. Schwarzenegger provides yet another action-packed performance. This time, there is even a little more for you to consider as you watch the fictional drama unfold.

That’s my boy !

Petey at around age five, with our granddaughter Elysia at about age 1-2. They practically grew up together.

 

My grandson was born just a month ago, and is beginning to make his presence known in the family. But I never had a son, so for a long time the only other male in the immediate family was a boy named ‘Petey’.

He alternates between long hair, when we sometimes refer to him as the ‘puffy dog’ and his shaved-down look. I am talking, of course, about our family dog: the one and only Petey Veasey.

Petey came to us in the fall of 1999, just about five months after we moved into our new home in the Somerton section of Philly. It was a bit of a coincidence that brought us together. Our new home with a spacious back yard came at the same time that Pete was being evicted from his previous residence.

It seems that as a puppy living in a cramped row home in Fishtown, young puppy Pete escaped from his cage one day while his owners were at work and quickly went about the task of tearing a new leather sofa apart.

His owner, a young man named Jeff, was engaged to a young woman who promptly told him “that dog is outta here, and you ain’t getting back in with him!” This broke Jeff’s heart, as he had taken to loving Petey, but he chose his fiancee and put Petey up for adoption at a Bensalem shelter.

My wife, Debbie Veasey, worked with and was good friends with Jeff’s mom, and heard about the story. We had been discussing the possibility of getting a dog, and when Deb brought up the idea of adopting Petey it sounded good to me.

We went to the shelter to meet him, and the first impression was a bit jarring. The dog was a wild child, having not gotten very much discipline in his short one-year life. We took him anyway, eventually took him to a trainer (who trained us, as much as him), and Petey quickly became a member of the family. He has brought a great deal to our home, basically a fixture here over the past decade.

Among his varied interests are chasing his ‘ball’ in the back yard, taking rides in the car to either the vet or the groomer, and hanging out with his mom and dad (me and Deb). He also has an affinity for knocking cups of coffee all over our daughter Kelly, barking at passing dogs, chasing squirrels, walks around the Somerton Woods, and rolling onto his back for a good scratch.

He is a longtime connoisseur of both wet and dry Pedigree brand dog food, and enjoys a variety of treats, most especially pizza crusts. And he is a Philadelphia Eagles fan who hates the Dallas Cowboys.

When he was about two-years old, Petey was attacked by a loose pit bull while walking in the woods behind our home. The pit bull charged from the woods quickly and suddenly, seemingly from out of nowhere, and aggressively sniffed around Pete before taking a chomp at his neck. Fortunately, part of Pete’s training regimen was the wearing of a metal ‘cinch’ collar for walks, and this combined with his usual leather collar saved him.

Pete overcame that trauma to enjoy many more walks, and many more good times. Though we have both been around family dogs in our lives, Pete is the first dog that Deb and I have owned ourselves, and he is a part of our home and our family.

We celebrate his birthday on November 1st, and this year Petey will turn 10 years old, which means that he is an old dog now, and in all likelihood he only has a few good years left with us. But we are gonna enjoy the old boy for as long as we can, and will remember him long after he is gone.

When I first got him it would have been hard to convince me that a pet could ever become so much a part of my life, but there it is. My good boy, Petey Veasey, is one of the family, and we are happy to have him.

NOTE: Petey finally crossed over the Rainbow Bridge in early spring of 2012, making it to the ripe of dog age of 13 1/2. We look forward to him being a part of our family again in eternity.

Democratic ticket Palin by comparison

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The 2008 U.S. Presidential election just keeps on getting more and more interesting with every passing day.

Of course this pace cannot continue, and now that both parties have set their full tickets things will settle down a bit to the serious campaigning, particularly once next week’s Republican National Convention passes.

But what presumptive Republican nominee John McCain did today was toss a serious curve ball to the Democrats and their nominee Barack Obama.

For months, the McCain camp has pointed at a lack of experience on Obama’s part as a serious shortcoming. And for their part, the Obama folks have called McCain nothing more than the same old tired Washington politics, and a continuation of Bush policies.

So when given the chance to name vice-presidential running mates, who did each candidate choose?

Obama chose the ultimate Washington insider, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, a man whose middle name is ‘same old politics’.

Then today McCain names as his running mate the Governor of Alaska, Sara Palin, whose national political experience is almost as short as Obama’s.

So the Dems have a man at the head of their ticket who is a three-year Senator with no governing experience, where two of those years have been spent running for President, and a man at the back end of their ticket who is as ‘more of the same old Washington politics’ as any person around.

Meanwhile the Republicans have at the top of their ticket a seasoned political veteran and universally acknowledged American hero, and at the back end of the ticket a woman, the first woman to ever be nominated on the top Republican ticket.

Once the shock of not having someone like Tom Ridge, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, or even Joe Lieberman as the veep choice wears off, the conservative base of the Republican party should find much to love about Sara Palin.

First off, she is pro-life, which should be a litmus test for any Republican. Second, she is a lifetime member of the NRA, an outdoors woman with a passion for intelligent, informed environmentalism and the second amendment.

Her state’s proximity to Russia and it’s abundance in prospective oil make her experiences with those issues stronger than most. She has governed, albeit for just the past two years in Alaska. But that is two more years than the man at the top of the Dems ticket has ever governed in his life.

In her personal life, she was born in Idaho and raised in Alaska. She is the 20-year wife of her high school boyfriend. And she is a five-time mom, having just given birth in April to her second son, a Downs Syndrome child.

Palin is a woman, a wife, a mother, a Governor. She is an attractive, articulate, intelligent vice-presidential candidate for the Republican Party, which makes this ticket every bit as historic as the Dems ticket.

Uh, yes, I did say she was attractive. That is not a slight or a sin to notice. The woman was the runner-up in the Miss Alaska pageant a couple decades back, and still looks great today. So sue me for noticing.

In November, the United States will either elect it’s first African-American to one of the top two offices, or the first woman.

Experienced war hero backed by governing, conservative woman on the Republican side, or inexperienced liberal backed by old-time Washington politico on the Democrat side. The choice is now clear, and when held up against the light of the Republican ticket, the Dems choice is palin‘ by comparison.

Bill & Hill’s mile-high show

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Hillary Clinton prepping for her 2008 DNC speech

The Democratic National Convention winds down today in Denver, Colorado, culminating with tonight’s acceptance speech by Barrack Obama.

In that speech, Senator Obama must go further than he has at any time in his campaign to this point. He must speak to those ‘swing’ voters, the true ‘undecideds’ who allege that they have yet to make up their minds.

So far his campaign has been only about two themes: ambiguous ‘Change’ and the typical liberal anti-Bush mantra.

What has been seriously lacking are specifics about what programs and policies that an Obama administration intends to implement in order to reach those goals. He cannot win over middle America with ambiguity and misdirection. For example, he cannot win with the kind of speech given the past two nights by the Clintons.

Former President Bill Clinton last night, and his wife, New York Senator Hillary Clinton, each gave speeches that revealed as much that they are positioning for another run in four years as they are supporting any specific Obama plans this time around.

Hillary Clinton has been clearly wounded by her blowing the ’08 Democratic Party nomination. Just last Fall, even early this past Winter, she was the clear front-runner. That that point she was really the only candidate.

Clinton then went on a months-long crash-n-burn of a campaign, while Obama suddenly emerged, gained the affections of the all-important media, and took off on his own meteoric rise.

For the Clintonistas, especially their leader Hillary, this 11th-hour defeat was heart-wrenching, and there were weeks if not months of denial.

Even up to the opening of the DNC, all the rumblings coming from the back rooms were that the Clinton supporters and staff were still bitter. The Clintons knew they had little choice but to eventually support the nominee, but they still angled for terms and conditions.

The Obama camp, knowing how important the Clinton supporters would be to their efforts, caved in and gave the Bill & Hill show prime exposure, with Hillary headlining on Tuesday night and the President headlining on Wednesday evening.

In her speech, Senator Clinton used the word ‘I’ 18 times, the word ‘my’ 11 times, the word ‘me’ 13 times, and even the word ‘mine’ once. During her speech, she referred to herself 43 times. She mentioned the candidate as ‘Barrack Obama‘ just nine times, two more simply as ‘Barack’, once as ‘President Obama‘. She mentioned his challenger John McCain a half dozen times.

For everyone but the already-on-board liberal crowd, it was obvious that Clinton’s speech was a reminder to her supporters of her campaign and her dream. I heard it spoken this morning on Bill Bennett’s radio program that the Clintons are already planning to run again in four years.

I believe that they would never challenge a sitting Democratic president, so that has to naturally mean that, despite tepid public pronouncements of support couched in her self-aggrandizement, the Clintons are hoping for an Obama loss in November.

For his part, the former President out-mentioned Obama 14-4 over his wife. Bill Clinton knows how these things should be done, how these things need be won, and he put the emphasis where it belongs, on the candidate. But he did take time to mention his wife enough (3 times) at the front of his speech to know where his true feelings lie.

Make no mistake about it, the Clintons and their zombie-like Clintonista followers pine for a do-over, and they want it to happen yesterday. The next shot they will get is in four years, and an Obama loss may ensure their front-runner status again.

Rest assured that next time around they will not blow it. Bill and Hillary Clinton put on a masterful show the past two nights in the Mile High City of Denver as the first phase in their recovery towards what they see as a new opportunity in 2012.

It’s the ‘hard’ that makes it great

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This past weekend, presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama announced that Senator Joe Biden of Delaware would be his running mate. One of the things being touted about Biden is that he is Irish-Catholic.

I don’t know if this is a harking back to the good ol‘ JFK days for Dems, or if it is an attempt to paint the ObamaBiden ticket as more mainstream. In any event, as most real Catholics know, there is a big difference between calling yourself something and actually being that which you label yourself.

In recent decades the concept of the ‘cafeteria catholic’ has emerged. This means that you do some things, like attend Mass, take Communion, send your kids to Catholic schools, and so on, but that you don’t follow Church teachings on certain issues.

Those certain issues are different for each person, each gets to select whatever part of the faith they want, and discard whatever part of the faith that they do not want. Thus the idea of it being like a cafeteria, you get to pick and choose from available items, ideas, positions, rulings.

Problem is, we as the faithful flock do not get to make or interpret Church doctrine or spiritual matters. In most instances, the Church Fathers, especially the Pope, rule on and interpret matters of the faith, and pass along how we should approach these situations.

One of the strongest positions that the Church holds is that of being pro-life. For politicians who call themselves Catholic but who want to present themselves as politically liberal, this often means breaking from the Church on this issue. These pols publicly announce that they are pro-choice, meaning that they support a woman’s decision to pursue an abortion if she so wishes.

This is, of course, the wrong position to take. All Catholic politicians should be taking positions such as that taken by Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who is liberal on most all issues, but who is pro-life in that area.

Casey recognizes that this is not only a political litmus test, it is a true moral one as well, and one that he will not sacrifice on the political altar. Nor has he needed to, as he defeated a popular and seasoned opponent in Republican Rick Santorum to win election to the U.S. Senate last year despite being one of the few Democrats with the courage to take a pro-life position.

Now the leading Dems are coming under fire from Church leaders for their public positions. The Archbishop of Washington D.C. has come out against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who stated that the history of the Church does not show that it is always against abortion. Archbishop Donald Wuerl responds that the Church teaching has not changed in 2,000 years and that Pelosi is simply incorrect.

The Dems then named Biden as their Veep nominee, a man who calls himself Catholic but who supports abortion and claims similarly that the Church position has changed over the millenia.

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, in whose city the Dems are hosting their nominating convention this week, in response stated: “I presume that his integrity will lead him to refrain from presenting himself for communion, if he supports a false ‘right’ to abortion.”

The fact is that if you are going to call yourself Catholic, then you should try to follow the teachings of the Church as much as possible. You should certainly never bend your morals for political considerations, in effect selling out your soul for your elected position.

If you don’t want to obey the rules, then leave the Church. There is always some church out there that has similarly bent their morality to that which you are seeking.

Being a Catholic isn’t always easy. As Tom Hanks said in the film ‘A League of Their Own’ regarding baseball: “It’s not supposed to be easy. If it was easy, everyone would do it. It’s the ‘hard’ that makes it great.”