Monday, February 27, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, February 19, 2017

This coming Monday, February 20, we observe PRESIDENTS’ DAY. I almost said we “celebrate” this day, but this year, given continued controversy over the actions and comments of our current President, not everyone is in a mood to celebrate and hence it may be better to use the more neutral term of “observe”.

This holiday started off as the celebration of Washington’s Birthday, which is February 22. Since Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday is pretty close to that on February 12, and since what everyone really wanted was a THREE-DAY WEEKEND, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed in 1968 to create Presidents’ Day always on a Monday. However, it did not officially take effect until 1971 with an Executive Order (they used to be rather innocuous) by President Richard Nixon. I do NOT include President Nixon in the observance of Presidents’ Day.

Efforts were made in the early 2000’s to re-establish proper birthday holidays for Washington and Lincoln, but the “Presidents’ Day Sale” lobby had grown too strong and could not be stopped. After all, what is more American than a sale? What better way to honor our great Presidents then to go shopping?

This year, however, I think we need to spend the day in some reflection and consideration about the Office of the President of the United States of America. We have truly wonderful tradition and examples of great Presidents such as Washington, Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and many very good Presidents such as Teddy Roosevelt and James Madison, and some mixed bags such as Woodrow Wilson and Lyndon Baines Johnson, and some poor presidents such as Ulysses S. Grant, a few forgettable presidents such as William K Polk, and a few stinkers. It makes a rather curious group of men.

Fortunately, we have a government based on the division of powers, between the judicial, the legislative and the executive branches. No one branch can go it alone. This was a GREAT idea of our Founding Fathers. However, the temptation is for one branch to try to accumulate enough power that it no longer needs the other two. FDR tried to get around the courts at a critical juncture in our history and got shot down. The principal of the division of powers stood. The division of these powers is being tested again today, and if we come through this test whole and sound, it will inevitably be tested again sometime in the future.

Maybe the best way to observe Presidents’ Day this year is to pray for our country and our current President. I suggest we all take a deep breath and calm down a little bit on Presidents’ Day. Prayer can only help.

God bless America and God bless the entire world. 

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