As a 20+ year federal employee and as someone who did not vote for Barack Obama, one might – might – expect me to be all up in arms about the President’s decision today to freeze federal civilian pay for 2 years.

Well…I’m actually in favor of the decision. Most federal employees, although not exactly rich by most standards, make a decent salary and have better-than-average benefits. Freezing the annual 2-3% salary increase, although significant to any individual or family when it comes to raw numbers, surely beats losing a job or having salaries cut by 5 or 10%. Most importantly, it sets a necessary example that cutting back on spending and reversing course on our deficit begins with the government.

As far as I’m concerned, the sacrifice is well worth it.

This was one of Barack Obama’s better decisions. Much more is needed, from all sectors. Let’s see what happens in the coming weeks and months as the Republicans take over the House in 2011.

Happy Thanksgiving

A Happy Thanksgiving to all! May your day be full of the blessings that we give thanks for, not just today but every single day.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski Battles the Dragons of Hatred

One of my regular routines upon leaving Mass every Sunday is to pick up the latest church bulletin and a copy of The Florida Catholic. If you’re going to be a practicing Catholic, it’s a duty to know and get involved in the Church and its myriad of activities. It’s also a duty to be informed of the views of local Church leaders, from the parish pastor to the  Bishop.

In the Miami version of The Florida Catholic, Archbishop Thomas Wenski published a translation of his homily at La Ermita de la Caridad (Shrine of Our Lady of Charity) in Coconut Grove during the much-publicized and controversial visit by several Cuban priests and bishops. Before I get to the main point of this post, a little background: Archbishop Wenski and others from the Archdiocese of Miami have been criticized by some for visiting Cuba to commemorate the opening of the first Seminary in Cuba in 50 years (the first leg of the Cuba-U.S. exchange which was immediately followed by the visit to Miami mentioned above).

Personally, I don’t have an issue with Wenski’s visit to Cuba, nor the visit by Cuban Church representatives here. Wenski clearly points out the true purpose of the visit:

The construction of this new seminary is a sign of the hope that Cuba needs so much. The seminary has played this role not only throughout the ecclesiastical history of Cuba, but also throughout its civic history — because within its classrooms were forged the national and religious identity of Cubans. And it will do so in the future as well.

I have been critical of the Cuban Catholic Church for their lack of action – and courage – in dealing with the utter oppression of basic human rights in Cuba. I have also been critical of Archbishop Wenski’s outspoken opposition to the U.S. “embargo” on Cuba. For the former, my objections are deeper and more troubling. For the latter, it’s simply a disagreement with a man whom I believe has the right things and people at heart. How do I know this? Well, Wenski’s never been known to be a quiet wallflower, as his recent encounters with raul and the regime in Cuba demonstrated.

This quote from his homily, however, says tons more than a brief encounter with Raul or a stated opposition to a misrepresented foreign policy ever will:

How often in the history of the world has the dragon of the Apocalypse (cf. Revelation 12:1-18) in its various incarnations attempted to swallow up the Bride of Christ? Yet it is the dragon that is ultimately vanquished — for love always proves more powerful than hatred. As Pope Benedict XVI said: “In all ages, the Church, the People of God, also lives by the light of God and as the Gospel says is nourished by God. … Thus in all the trials, in the various situations of the Church through the ages, in different parts of the world, she wins through suffering. And she is the presence, the guarantee of God’s love against all the ideologies of hatred and selfishness” (Aug. 15, 2007).

Let’s hope the “dragon” 90 miles south of Key West is vanquished, pronto!

Senator-Elect Marco Rubio!

Picture by Mike Stocker - Sun Sentinel

Hello once again, folks. Rumors of a move to Mexico and an abduction at the hands of the Democratic National Committee are false. Life took over and I just haven’t had the time, energy or will to blog the past several weeks. However, I would be totally remiss if I didn’t pop in for a few comments on the midterm elections.

Of course, I’m quite pleased that the GOP will take over the House and made big strides over on the Senate side. However, as Senator-Elect Marco Rubio pointed out in his victory speech, it’s merely a “second chance” for the GOP. I couldn’t agree more (more on Rubio below).

The GOP’s success tonight is reflected in Florida and South Florida, with David Rivera easily defeating Joe Garcia in my home district (25), Allen West beating Ron Klein in District 22 (!), Alan Grayson sent home packing and Rick Scott squeaking past Alex Sink, among others.

As someone who identifies himself as a conservative, first and foremost, above party affiliation, it’s important that we not lose sight of those conservative values and that we hold these newly-elected folks to their word and to the principles of conservatism.

On this note, I would like to congratulate Marco Rubio for a well-earned win as our next junior senator from Florida. His victory speech, like so many of his speeches, was inspiring but at the same time fully aware of the road ahead of him in Washington. He could have (and surely most Democrats would have expected him to) turned the speech into a big partisan “rah-rah Republican” speech. Instead, Rubio sees the big picture and spoke of how both parties have gotten us in the mess we’re in today. He made many touching remarks about his humble upbringing as the child of exiles and asserting the unique greatness of the United States.

The most touching moment of Rubio’s speech for me, however, was when he asked for prayers for himself and his family that he not lose his way in Washington.  To me, there is no more humble act than to ask others to pray for you and yours. Rubio understands what so many politicians don’t: as smart of a person and as talented of a politician as he is, he’s only human. It’s only through God’s grace that he has been given the tools to do what he’s been able to accomplish, and it’s going to take more of that wonderful grace to get him through the next few years in Washington. Marco Rubio is someone with whom I share more than just a hometown, high school, ethnic background and ideology. Marco Rubio is a man of true faith, and I can truly say that I am proud on this evening to have witnessed Marco Rubio’s election to the United States Senate.

Congratulations, Senator-Elect Rubio. God Bless you, and may this be only the beginning.


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