By Charlie Johnston
On Tuesday, Texas held a special election for a State Senate seat that sprawls from San Antonio deep into west Texas. A deeply Hispanic district, it had been held by Democrats for the last 139 years – and the Democrat generally won with 55-60% of the vote.
The establishment media chuckled that Republicans were focusing intently on this race. Didn’t the GOP understand that they had no chance? All the media, the polls and history said so. Besides, there was a “blue wave” coming. Everybody knows that. Republicans will struggle to defend what they already have: they have no chance of taking what they have not had for over a century. Everybody among the smart set knows that. But on Tuesday, Republican Pete Flores defeated Democrat Pete Gallego by a decisive 6-point margin. Real votes trumped all the triumphal pre-election assurances of the Democrats, media, and pollsters.
Flores was always a good candidate with a solid record in other offices. Things got serious in early July when Texas Right to Life (TRTL) took a hard look at the candidate and the race. He was heading into a “jungle primary,” (one where the top two vote getters, whatever their party, face off for the general election) that included a total of eight candidates. Flores was focused on sound messaging and the grass-roots activism that is typical of successful upsets. So TRTL jumped in with both feet, endorsing him and putting resources behind the race – mailer, Facebook videos, and over 3000 direct phone calls into the district. TRTL’s endorsement sparked a flood of high level organizations and officials to follow suit. On July 31, Flores actually narrowly came out the top vote-getter in the jungle primary. Still, the Democrats weren’t worried. The votes were divided among more Democratic candidates than Republicans. Overall, 59% of those who voted in the primary voted Democrat. Nothing to see here.
But TRTL and the other organizations which jumped in for the primary doubled down for the general special election. TRTL wanted to show how dramatically an unapologetic pro-life message can resonate with Hispanics. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sniffed out a potentially defining race that could put to rest leftist fantasies of Texas trending blue – and put $175,000 into the race. On election night, when it was real votes that were counted instead of the ephemeral certainties of the left, the Republican Pete Flores had won by a decisive 53-47 margin. It was not even a nail-biter. Instead of Texas trending blue, it got a little bit redder.
Do not think that leftist assurances of a blue wave are all wishful thinking. Certainly, nationwide, Democratic turnout increases in primaries have exceeded Republican increases. But the reality is that (certainly for the last few years) polls and media are a terribly unreliable means of determining what is happening on the ground in these races. In fact, for the most part, these last few years, Democrats do all their hooting and hollering before the votes are cast. Once they are, Republicans more often have had cause for hooting and hollering. I pray that Pete Flores is a harbinger of the reality we have awaiting us in November. Perhaps then Democrats will seriously address the shrieking hysteria that has gripped their party instead of spending another two years explaining “what happened” and doubling down again on madness.
(Disclosure: Since the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops ordered Parishes not to co-operate with TRTL earlier this year, I have frequently and significantly offered advisory counsel to TRTL).
On June 28, 2000, the day after the Vatican released the text of the Third Secret of Fatima at the order of Pope St. John Paul, I wrote the following interpretation of the secret and sent it to my Priest Director:
“The angel with the sword is the angel of God’s justice. The fire proceeding from the sword is what humanity has merited, particularly in this horrible century. Our Lord is offended by many things, but nothing so much as the general indifference and contempt with which we have treated his mother. But it is her constant intercession and pleadings on our behalf which restrains God’s justice.
The assassination attempt against John Paul II and its timing identify him as the pope of Fatima, but it is not the point of this secret. The ascent up the hill represents this pope’s particular mission. The city which lies half in ruins is Christianity, half of which no longer believes in God, but says Jesus was merely a good moral teacher. The corpses the pope meets and prays for on his way are those who, though they breathe, are spiritually dead. The cross at the top of the hill is the end of the pope’s mission on earth. It represents both his triumph and his death to this world. He kneels before it offering his work to Christ. It is after this triumph that the terror begins. It is the body of the pope’s work that the soldiers fire at. That they are in uniform shows that it is an organized effort. These are the legions who have given themselves over to Satan. But the pope has his legions, as well. They are the Priests and Bishops and Religious who joined themselves to him and followed him on his way. They will be true champions for Christ as the battle is joined. Prominent among them will be some of the dead souls – the corpses – reborn to spiritual life through the pope’s prayers.”
In an explanatory coda to my Priest, I added:
“I certainly concur with the official interpretation that this secret does not foretell the end. But it would be the end if it were not for Our Lady’s intercession. It pleases Our Lord that, when destruction is finally averted, all shall know that it was through Our Lady that we were spared. Then, all who call themselves Christians will show his mother and our mother the honor he shows her. And it is by this pope’s fidelity to his mission that the Church – the whole body of the faithful – has been prepared to endure the storm.”
This has weathered well, I think. I thought at the time, though, that the bulk of the attack on his work would come from outside the Church – not equally from outside and inside.
In March of 1993 I had the first of what I call “Great Visions,” – extensive, explanatory visions of what is to come and why. You must understand that the simplest, most seemingly direct messages from God have layers, facets, of meaning…so I never assume I understand exactly what I am shown. Rather, I take it as cause for intense, ongoing contemplation. The Lord spent over a decade showing me how feeble my (and all human) understanding of such things really is (truly, we do hold these treasures in earthen vessels). I admired St. John Paul at the time, but this vision showed me how consequential he truly is.
I was shown intensely how bad the storm would be (though not as intensely as I was two and a half years later on the eve of the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception in 1995). Near the end, I was shown John Paul working with furious intensity at his desk – and shown that he KNEW what was coming. He had completely devoted himself to preparing the Church to weather the great storm. It would not begin until after his death – and then he would spend his time interceding constantly for the Church and people he so loved, accompanying us every step of the way through the crisis until Our Lady comes in Triumph to end the Storm. Through his constant intercession, may this terrible valley of bones we inhabit (Ezekiel 37) come back to full, glorious life, praising God for their resurrection to true, spiritual life.
I have mentioned my dear friend, Fr. Regis Scanlon, many times here. A Capuchin, he has worked in prison ministry and is focused on the theology of the Eucharist. In fact, he did formation for St. Mother Teresa’s nuns in Africa on the subject – and did a series on EWTN some 20 years ago on the same subject. He has started a marvelous blog dealing with issues in the faith and the Church today. I hope you’ll take a look. As you know, if he is my friend, he is solidly orthodox.
Another friend, Bob Scheich, has taken leadership of the Padre Pio Prayer Group of Denver. It meets for confessions, Mass and worship the first Saturday of every month. I go there for my first Saturday devotions every month when I am home. This Sunday, after Mass at St. Patrick’s Oratory in Denver, they will hold a special celebration of St. Padre Pio’s life (this would be the Feast Day of St. Padre Pio did it not fall on a Sunday this year – as you know, the Feast Day of the Lord on Sundays always takes precedence over any other anniversary). I hope those of you who live in Denver will come out for it – and for the regular prayer group meetings on the first Saturday of each month.
Acknowledge God, take the next right step, and be a sign of hope to those around you. Or, as Padre Pio would say, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.”