Ancient Church Bells Tolling

Church Bell

“We’re the most tolerant society in the world here,” said the taxi driver as I made my way from the train station to my hotel.

He seemed friendly, dressed in old clothes with a shaggy beard and a tattered cap turned backwards on his head.  I decided to ask him something about the Netherlands and Amsterdam, the port city on the North Sea.

“Holland is known for being accepting of all people, even Americans,” he smiled warmly as if making a public relations announcement about this place.

I had to say something now, maybe a little sarcasm could work, “Other than pot and sex, can you give me an example of something more tolerant than that, after all, we have Vegas in the States!”

Without missing a beat and on cue, he responded, “Yes, we’re the first country to legalize gay marriages which has been a model for the world.  Also, we were the first country to legalize death with dignity for the suffering.  Ultimately, unlike America, we respect the rights of everyone to make choices for themselves.”

Now the conversation turned a more serious tone as the taxi came to an intersection.   I was caught off guard, feeling like a tired unprepared Ambassador of the United States.

Curious, my thoughts were racing in my head. Tolerance seems to be the highest virtue and truth is relegated to opinion only.  Locals here seem almost despondent, oblivious to the idea that truth might exist as an absolute, revealed to us by God himself.

I consider myself open to learning about different philosophies, cultures and world religions, but find myself rooted to my Christian understanding of life. It seems that all competing ideas can’t be true at the same time.  Life itself must have some elements of absolute reality or everything could be rendered meaningless.

I wonder if he knows that since 2005 when gay marriage was legalized opening a new door for marriage, marriages have gone down.  Since the State changed the definition of marriage from a permanent union between man and woman for the primary purpose of offspring, family size has actually decreased.  It’s now at such a low level that the society itself can’t be sustained.

Cohabitating couples are just choosing not to get married now. Isn’t it a social good for society to uphold traditional families, considered to be the bedrock of civilization?

Surveys show that children perform better in every measurable segment when they are raised in a stable family with their natural mother and father.  Just as we yearn for our creator as St. Augustine taught, don’t adopted children yearn for their natural biological parents?   This doesn’t pertain to exceptions, there will always be exceptions.  But if the State makes the exception the rule, it removes the standard.

It’s interesting to me that in this land of open mindedness, euthanasia claims more than 1,000 lives per year (most in the world per capita) since 2001 when “death with dignity” was legalized.  It has become state-assisted suicide with a financial motive to save healthcare dollars.  What was allegedly designed to uphold mercy for the elderly has recently been accused of dishonoring the elderly in their most vulnerable state whereby many feel they a financial burden to their families with this quick death option lurking in their shadows.  Also, for an advanced medical society, money spent on palliative care for quality of life for the elderly has plummeted since 2001 to a very low standard.

Abortion is up and family size is down, cohabitating is up and new marriages are down, city population is up and church attendance is down, legal drugs are up and graduation rates are down, clinical depression is up, economic optimism is down and I could go on and on.

By the time my taxi ride was finished, we agreed on some things and disagreed on others.  I walked toward the hotel feeling a little shaken by what seems to be a secular earthquake underfoot.  Tradition is being attacked from all sides and sometimes I feel the Church is the last defense bunker against this secular drug that leads to apathy and indifference to faith. The Catholic Church seems to be the last defender of the culture of life against the culture of death.

Just as the reassuring thoughts crossed my mind that “Jesus won’t leave us orphan,” I overheard a loud ring.  A ring heard over the trees next to me.  As I looked, there stood a church tower bell ringing over the town below.  It was the Catholic cathedral signaling 5pm Mass.  I set my bag down and just took it in, absorbing the everlasting bells of Catholicism, still here after almost 2000 years.  All those centuries, through good times and bad, it’s a place for both sinners and saints.  God is still there, calling us back, patiently waiting and watching over us.

Just then I felt a gentle breeze, it whispered, the time for each of us to go back to Church is always now…


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About the Author

Mike Carlton was born in Buffalo, NY. He married his college sweetheart Laurie and has six children. They were married in Ohio in 1991 and live in a suburb of Atlanta, GA. He is the son of the former NFL football star Wray Carlton. Mike currently works as the Global Vice President of MiMedx, a worldwide orthopedic biologics company in medical devices.

He graduated in 1989 from Miami University, Oxford OH with a B.S degree in Marketing and studied in the M.B.A program at Xavier University, Cincinnati OH. He earned an archdiocesan Catechetical Teaching Certificate for the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta in 2003.

Mike was raised Presbyterian and converted to the Catholic Church in 2002. In 2003, he started the apologetics ministry called “Why Catholic” at his parish, St. Peter Chanel, Roswell GA. In addition, Mike and Laurie help start, with Deacon Mike Bickerstaff, MAC “Marriages Are Covenants”, a ministry outreach program of the Integrated Catholic Life for married couples. He has been interviewed on the Sacred Heart Radio Program, the “Deep in Scripture” program on EWTN radio, and has been an invited guest on the “Journey Home” television program on EWTN. A popular speaker, Mike has given his conversion talk around the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

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