By Charlie Johnston
Out in Los Angeles, I visited the grave of the late Monsignor William Stetson at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery. He was always Fr. Bill to me – and to countless others. He was my original spiritual director, the first person I ever told fully about my peculiar situation.
He was a premier Canon Lawyer of his day and a profound intellect, a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School before he became a Priest (and that was in the day
when cum laude at Harvard really meant something). He was well-known to the Bishops in this country – and advised many of them. He loved the trappings of the Priesthood, was completely orthodox, and was a very shrewd political maneuverer. He passed on the third of January this year.
I chose him to be the first I fully disclosed to because of his great integrity. He was not comfortable with anything mystical, but I knew if it had merit he would not dismiss it out of hand. We developed a deeply affectionate and occasionally rocky relationship. The things I told him always made him profoundly uncomfortable, but if he sensed I was trying to spare him discomfort by not telling him some things, he would get very agitated and scold me.
He was a delight and great fun. He often gave me advice on political and policy matters I was working on – and he enjoyed getting advice on public relations from me, particularly on how to frame certain delicate matters. For a time, he was director of the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C. While there, he often appeared on Fox News to give the Orthodox Catholic perspective. He was a true and vitally important spiritual father to me.
The last time I visited with him, two years ago, we talked about how absolutely panicked I was when I first started speaking with him about my situation. No one else in the world, not even the other Priests who followed him (and who I deeply cherish) will ever know how scared I was. Fr. Bill chuckled over it and said that, yes, he could testify to it – and confessed that once he realized I was not trying to convince him, but counting on
him to show me the way out of its consequences, he took a little delight in poking me. I laughed and said I knew, but never begrudged him. As uncomfortable as I often made him, it only seemed fair he get to do the same to me.
I provisionally call on him as a patron, praying that if he is not in heaven yet, that my prayers for his intercession be accepted as prayers to deliver him from purgatory. I deeply miss Fr. Bill, but pray that he is now helping to guide me (and all of us) from heaven. His remains are at the pinnacle of the beautiful cemetery, overlooking the ocean to the west and a big chunk of city to the east. He would have loved that. I would say rest in peace, but I actually want him working overtime interceding for our poor, battered world. So I say, rest in joy, Fr. Bill.
I don’t see how anyone can bear to live in Los Angeles. It is a beautiful town and I have a ton of friends here, people who keep the fires of faith burning brightly. But boy, when you get in your car, LA is just a few islands of mobility in a sea of traffic. Faithful residents of LA live penance every time they get in their cars.
As I drove into California, I was once again mesmerized by its great natural beauty and resources. I had recently read Ronald Reagan’s autobiography and thought what a paradise it was when he came rolling through in the 1930’s. I contemplated that, a few days before I got here I had been paying, on average, $2.17 per gallon for gas – and now getting it for $4 was on the low end.
California WAS a paradise and would be again if it were not for the most incompetent governing authorities in the nation (and that’s saying something these days). The state is at or very near the top in the amount of its sales, property, income, and gas taxes in the nation – and in the gouging of administrative fees. Yet it is at or very near the bottom in services delivered. It has almost half the homeless in the country. Its roads are maintained well enough, but it has maybe half as many as it needs and refuses to build more. It suffers periodic severe droughts because it refuses to build enough reservoirs or de-salinization plants. It now has catastrophic fires because it will not adopt rational forestry or water rules. Almost all its disasters are literally man-made because of the refusal to plan for easily foreseeable problems. Income inequality in the nation is greatest in California. Its public schools are among the worst (in terms of objective achievement) in the country. It has been run by left-wing semi-socialists for decades (with the exception of a few years of Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor. Alas, though the Terminator always plays a tough guy on screen, he rolled over without much of a fight against the left-wing legislature). By every metric that leftists hold dear, California is an abysmal failure – and it has long been run by those same leftists. So where is all the money going? When you charge Beverly Hills prices and delver Dollar General quality, you’re not a state: you’re a money-laundering operation for elitists.
Californians are smart enough that if they paid $10,000 for a gem on Rodeo Drive and got a Dollar General trinket in exchange, they would raise Cain. It is a glittering state in the grips of a deadly and pretentious arrogance. It strains at plastic straws and swallows unnecessary and catastrophic fires. It obsesses over how to disarm victims while refusing to get serious about crime. It is destined for a hard and humbling fall. Stupidly bad policy can draw down, for a time, on the accumulated capital of previous solid policy. Persisted in, though, it ever leads to destruction. When Californians get smart enough to refuse to accept Dollar General government in exchange for Rodeo Drive taxes, the state will have a chance for a comeback.
I participated in the Coast to Coast Rosary on the 102nd Anniversary of the penultimate
apparition at Fatima on the Pacific Ocean last Sunday. It was at Oxnard Beach Park.
This was special to me for many reasons in addition to being a day that is important to me. Oxnard, California is a milestone city for me. It is where I left the Pacific coast on my pilgrimage and headed inland, up into the Los Padres National Forest and mountains. It was a special grace to go to this park. I had visited it during my pilgrimage, and it has been the setting for some dreams since, but I could not remember where it was. Those memorable places I visited that I can’t place, I usually mentally place in Louisiana – probably because I fell in love with Louisiana. But I knew that could not be the case here, because I was only on the ocean once there, and this was not it. I was delighted to find where this memorable spot was. Déjà vu is French for the phrase, “previously seen.” My sense of déjà vu here was easily explained: I had deja viewed it before. It made the day even more special for me.
It tickles me that I have such a great group in Oxnard, a town that has such profound
memories for me. Anna and Tony Murphy are my coordinators there. They are dedicated pro-life activists. During the volunteer dinner, we were entertained by Martin Benedict Davis, a gifted piano player and the man whose home I stayed at. He is the youngest looking and most active 75-year-old I have ever met. He spends time each week going to a retirement home and playing the piano for several hours for the residents. He is proud to bear the name of two great saints who, like him, are black.
The crowds on this western swing have been fabulous: small at only about 30 per visit, but amazingly serious and sober. They spend their time pondering how to live their duty to God fully and how to help their neighbors. I meet very few people any more who are obsessing on preparing for themselves, but more who are seriously contemplating how to help others, to be a sign of hope, and how to take that next right step with deliberation and justice.
If I were called, like the patriarch whose namesake I am, Abraham, to propose 10 righteous people to God in order to spare our native land, I sure would have a bountiful harvest to offer up to the Lord.
Several people have complained of some problems with WordPress in the last few days. I have noted some changes in how I have to process things on the site. I rather wish they would give some notice, but I suppose it would be hard to get used to regardless. The last two days, though, I have had all sorts of problems with the internet, generally. It seems to have smoothed out tonight. I’m wondering if this is happening to anyone else. Let me know.