The Tuskegee airman that got away

Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD,

REFLECTIONS ON LIFE
By Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD
When I was told that Charles Clifford Chenier had died and that his funeral was assigned to me, I was calm until I heard that he was a Tuskegee Airman.
“Oh no!” I told myself. “How did I live so near Charles Clifford Chenier for two years without discovering that he was a Tuskegee Airman?” No one mentioned it in my hearing and, looking back, I saw no dots that I could connect to find out. I now regret that I did not ask proactively, “Is there a Tuskegee Airman living nearby?”
It was quite different at Our Mother of Mercy Church in Fort Worth, Texas, where Claude Platte was a faithful member and where there was periodical chatter about him and the Tuskegee Airmen. At Tuskegee in Alabama, he went through the paces of the “Tuskegee Experience” where he received the Flight Instructor rating. This rating cleared him to train cadets and to fly dignitaries around the country to exciting places such as Bethune College where legendary educator Mary McLeod Bethune was officiating a graduation at her school. As a primary flight instructor, Captain Platte trained more than 400 blacks to solo and fly PT13s, PT17s and PT19s.
A native of Opelousas, Louisiana, Charles Chenier came into the world courtesy of Theodore and Albertha Chenier on October 27, 1924. He left us for the wide blue yonder of heaven on September 23. Between those bookends, he did primary and high school at Holy Ghost Church in Opelousas until his interest turned toward a hot, new experiment for Negro pilots in Tuskegee, Alabama. So, several years after Claude Platte, he cast his lot with the pilots in Tuskegee.
Shame to tell, World War II was still a time when many people thought that black men lacked intelligence, skill, courage and patriotism. When political pressure challenged the government to expand the role of blacks in the military, the Army Air Corps was the first agency to accept the challenge.
Tuskegee Institute, a small black Alabama college, was chosen to host the “military experiment” to train black pilots and support staff. 
With a strong desire to serve the United States of America to the best of their ability, young blacks came from all over, especially New York City, Washington, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago and Detroit. This was an amazing response from “second-rate citizens.”
Those who possessed the physical and mental qualifications were accepted as aviation cadets to be trained initially as single-engine pilots and later as either twin-engine pilots, navigators or bombardiers. Most were college graduates or undergraduates. Others demonstrated their qualifications through comprehensive entrance examinations. They became known as the Tuskegee 332nd Fighter Group, or, popularly, as the Red Tails, identified by the brilliant color of the fighter tails.
It is important to note that no standards were lowered for the pilots or any of the others who trained in operations, meteorology, intelligence, engineering, medicine or any of the other officer fields. Being black did not equate to getting a break or pass on standards.
Enlisted members were trained to be aircraft and engine mechanics, armament specialists, radio repairmen, parachute riggers, control tower operators, policemen, administrative clerks and all of the other skilled jobs necessary to fully function as an Army Air Corps flying squadron or ground support unit. They, too, had prime training.
During World War II, segregation was the order of the day, even in the U.S. Army, with no respect given to the Negroes who put their lives on the line for their country. Nevertheless, white bomber pilots did not want any but the Negro pilots of the Tuskegee 332nd Fighter Group to escort them on their missions whenever that bomber escort group was available. “Give us the Red Tails!” they always insisted.
Those white bomber pilots did not care what color the Tuskegee 332nd Fighter Group was. All they knew was that, uniquely, the bombers escorted by that group always returned home to fly another mission some other day.
Charles Clifford Chenier returned home after the Red Tails disbanded in 1946 and busied himself as a civil rights activist in the ongoing fight against racism. He was a physical education instructor and basketball coach at D.C. Wolfe High School. He worked with the State Health Department and the Tuskegee Job Corps and was a master welder who taught veterans. He loved his 49-year wife Margaret and their children: Deborah, Brenda, Lois, stepdaughter Sonja (of wife Sonja after Margaret’s death). Charles served Holy Ghost Church and the Knights of Peter Claver.

(Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD, has written “Reflections on Life since 1969.)

Diamond anniversary plus five

Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD,

Reflections on Life
By Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD
Seventy-five years ago, Harold Robert Perry was entering his final year of theology at Saint Augustine Major Seminary in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi. At the age of 13, I was just beginning my first year of studies at Saint Augustine Minor Seminary. Homesick after some hours of my first day there, I sat down on the steps of the auditorium and cried myself to sleep. Evidently alerted by someone, Harold approached me and we talked about my homesickness. Buoyed by his words, I got up, walked around and was soon running wild with the other boys. That was my first and only instance of homesickness in the seminary.
How many others did Harold help along the way? He was ordained to the priesthood on January 6, 1944. He was the 26th African American to be ordained a Catholic priest. Unbelievably, there was just over a score of U.S. black priests at that time, compared to about 250 now, most of them not members of the Society of the Divine Word. There are also well more than 400 black permanent deacons now.
His first assignment was as associate pastor at Immaculate Heart Of Mary Church in Lafayette until 1948, when he was transferred to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Saint Martinville. Next, he served at Saint Peter Church in Pine Bluff, Arkansas 1949-51 and at Saint Gabriel Church in Mound Bayou, Mississippi 1951-52, before returning to Louisiana in 1952 as founding pastor of Saint Joseph Church in Broussard, Louisiana. Thus, 65 years ago, during his six years as pastor, he built the church, rectory and school. Reflecting on Father Harold Perry’s historic pastorate at Saint Joseph, I penned the following reflections on his ministry March 30, 2009.
“Il semble comme nous!” (He looks like us).
With recognition and pleasure, the Creole-speaking gens de couleur (colored people) of the townlet of Broussard (circa 10,000), Louisiana proudly commented on the image of Jesus Christ concreted in relief against the wall above the front entrance of their spanking new church.
“He looks like us!” they exulted, much to the delight of their new pastor, Rev. Harold Robert Perry, SVD. After all, years ahead of his time, it was a bold statement back in 1952 for him to dare depict Jesus with obviously Negroid features. As I introduced a parish revival there at Saint Joseph Church in 2014, I was pleased to learn that many recalled having said that at their church’s birth.
Since his ordination on January 6, 1944, Father Perry had cut his pastoral teeth under the tutelage of the first four black SVDs ordained in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi May 23, 1934: Anthony Bourges, Maurice Rousseve, Vincent Smith and Francis Wade.
Named Rector of his Alma Mater, Saint Augustine Divine Word Seminary in Bay Saint Louis, in 1958, Father Perry was elected Provincial Superior of the SVD Southern province of the U.S.A., in 1964. He was ordained a bishop for the Archdiocese of New Orleans by Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi, the Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., on January 6, 1966, in the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France.
Led by Father Thomas James, S.V.D., the current pastor of Saint Joseph, the parishioners hosted a Founder’s Day Prayer Breakfast of Gratitude at the Bishop Perry Learning Center of the church on Saturday, July 14. Saints Joseph/Anthony Gospel choir fired up all with Lead Me Guide Me, keying a 30-minute prayer service of gratitude that segued into breakfast. Another song preceded the ritual burning of petitions written by the folks. A song led into the presentation of a glass-etched portrait of Bishop Harold Perry to his family and another to the people of Saint Joseph Church, then remarks by Doctor James Perry, D.D.S., the youngest and only-surviving of Bishop Perry’s siblings. Guest speaker, Perry cousin Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD., addressed the group. Father Thomas James offered a joyous closing prayer of thanksgiving.
For the adventurous, a trolley car toured Holy Rosary Institute, Avery Island and Vermilionville where 34 pickup musicians thrilled us with guitars, violins, etc.
Bishop Charles Michael Jarrell and two concelebrants led a festive Mass of thanksgiving with a full house., Sunday morning. A light closing repast in the Bishop Perry Learning Center concluded the festivities.

“God is love, and all who abide in love abide in God and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)

(Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD, has written “Reflections on Life since 1969.)

What is your piece of paradise here?

Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD,

Reflections on Life
By Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD
Due to ministry, rarely have I had an opportunity to view the Kentucky Derby’s Run for the roses, aka “The most exciting two minutes in sports.” Official bugler Steve Buttleman sounded the clarion call to the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby. Defying the all-time record downpour that drenched the track, everyone and everything else, more than 153,000 paying customers thrilled to the University of Louisville Choir’s rendering of My Old Kentucky Home.
As the historic music rang throughout Churchill Downs, the roots of my hair tingled. It was then that, observing their happy faces, I realized that, for perhaps most of the folks there, this was their piece of paradise.
One could counter that, surely, those people have other cherished pieces of an earthly paradise in their lives. That is perfectly reasonable and desirable. Indeed, truly blessed, fortunate – whatever you want to call them – are those whose prime piece of paradise is their family. Yes, it can be affirmed that the happiest people in the world are those whose piece of earthly paradise is theirsoul mate and children.
With wanderlust almost a part of their DNA, being a jetsetter regionally and globally has always been a piece of paradise for many who have no great interest in settling down in a conventional way of life. With more affordable supersonic airliners just a few years away, jetsetters will take delight in having breakfast in Asia, lunch in Europe and dinner in the U.S.A., whether aloft or on the ground.
Plugged into a world of electronic devices such as tablets, e-readers, MP3 players and smartphones that provide apps to open up a world of information, music, movies and other entertainment, Millennials lead the charge into today’s electronic version of what they perceive as their piece of paradise.
However, they must be constrained to look deep into their own reaction to and connection to electronic devices that, at best, may deter them from meaningful communication with their family and friends. At worst, those devices become vices that draw users away from practical realities and entice them to harsh addictions.
Although entertainment is an integral part of our lives, we must shun addiction to almost nonstop entertainment on a cell phone, computer, TV, at the cinema, at a sports stadium, at a racetrack, being a nightclubber always out to play on the town or regional circuit, or anything that stifles the pursuit of transcendent values in life.
Notwithstanding, this is their piece of paradise for many a wayfarer down here.
Considered classier for the most part than nightclubbing, being a socialite in a Who’s Who world, bathing in the reflected light of celebrities, superstars in sports, business moguls, the megarich or the cream of any so-styled significant profession is the lifelong fascination and dogged pursuit of too many people to count. The Upper Crust, of course, is a bunch of crumbs held together with their own dough.
Hail the greatest celebrity and megastar of all time, the apprentice carpenter who had no formal schooling, yet knew more than the top geniuses of all time! Even though he was born in a borrowed cattle cave and was buried in a borrowed cave hewn out of the rock, his life and supernatural exploits split the reckoning of time into whatever happened before him and whatever happened after him.
Spliced somewhere in all this is the perennial pursuit of the American Dream, to which we can add the Asian, European, African Dream, etc., a piece of paradise. In this, our earthly pursuit of a piece of paradise, we have to align our civil identity and property ownership to Philippians 3:20, “Our citizenship is in heaven.”
A true piece of paradise, the killer smile of a big baby girl in 2006 as I applied ashes to her forehead on Ash Wednesday at Saint Augustine Church in New Orleans was one of the indelible highlights of my life. Perforce, I had to smile in return.
While driving back to my parish in Prairie View, Texas in 1983 with most of the Sedillo family, we stopped briefly just beyond Houston to buy some snowballs. Slumping in the rear of the station wagon, Anthony slurped his large snowball and asked, “Mama, are we in heaven?” Yes, a piece of paradise can be a moment frozen in time under widely varying circumstances tailor-made for individuals. And it is real!
“God is love, and all who abide in love abide in God and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)

(Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD, has written “Reflections on Life since 1969.)

Married life’s stages of love

Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD,

Reflections on Life
By Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD
When a man and woman are joined in marriage as young people, the first stage of their love is easy to discern. It is safe to call their first decade of marriage ten years of passion, for it was the magnet of passionate love that first drew them to communicate with each other. Percy Sledge sang it best, “When a man loves a woman, can’t keep his mind on nothing else!” This is how most marriages begin.
The exception might be the case where a couple were friends (storge, the Greek for friendship love) before eros (Greek for erotic love) was ignited. In many ways, experiencing storge before eros is a much better guarantee of lasting love.
In that first decade of marital love, the chemical power and magic of estrogen and testosterone mix with the outreach and imagination of the human longing for love to create the human foundation for the treasure of love. That foundation we refer to as young love that has all the ingredients for fulfilling, lasting love, but must be tested, tempered and matured in the cauldron of everyday living. Those who refuse to grow will soon find that the wellspring of their love has been poisoned.
Ten years of fashion can be a description of the second decade of marital love. By then, a young couple have hit their stride in love and family life, tiptoeing into social life. Where children have entered their life, the couple is keenly aware of and faithful to their first obligation of rearing and educating their children. As their children grow, the young parents are gradually able to participate a bit in social life.
With most of the initial fire of passion still burning, they nevertheless feel freer to integrate their statements of fashion in social circles with the wonders of love and family. Almost imperceptibly, their initial decade of passion is beginning to morph into ten years of fashion, indicating that they are now a settled couple.
Of course, not consciously taking stock of the nature of their decades of married life, the settled couple move into ten years of compassion. No longer hot, the fire of passion is now warm and comfortable, leaving lots of room for heartfelt compassion and generous sharing among their own family members and in their workaday contacts with friends, coworkers and strangers alike. We say of a couple who are at this juncture in life that they are mellowing out. The years or decades between these stages of love are not necessarily well-defined.
Somewhere in this love mix, there are usually three other forms of love.
Pragma (the Greek for everyday business) is the name given to pragmatic love that does not allow itself to get lost in the fire of erotic love or the closeness of friendship love. Usually, pragmatic love is intimately tied into the pedestrian personality of an individual whose bent is to make everything, including love, as practical as possible.
Pragmatic love can be of great importance in our human quest for love, for it keeps our feet on the ground while our heart and mind explore the heights of emotion and human sentiments. Pragma should be complementary to all other forms of love.
Ludus, the Latin word for play or game, is the name given to ludic love that is lighthearted and playful. Full of cheerfulness, ludic lovers are jovial and prone to tease each other, fulfilling the old saying, “People who love each other tease each other.” As in the case of pragmatic love, ludic love is closely related to the personal temperament of individual lovers. A healthy amount of playfulness is desirable in an intimate relationship, except where the personalities of the lovers make it annoying.
At this point, it should be obvious that the makings of marital bliss are like a wonderful cake whose recipe consists of certain desirable ingredients. If one uses those ingredients in proper proportions, they will balance off and merge into the longed-for product. The ingredients in this case are love of friendship (storge), erotic love (eros), pragmatic love (pragma), ludic love (ludus) and benevolent love.
Agape, the Greek for benevolent love, the highest form of love predicated of God alone (from the Latin bene = well and volens = wishing), means well-wishing, the same as the Christmas message of “Peace on earth, good will to people.”
Finally, pulling all forms of love together, we wish endless years of Agape for married couples as well as for the unmarried. Although properly predicated of God alone, we humans do our best to work benevolent love into our lives, trusting that agape will animate and supercharge storge, eros, pragma and ludus.
Seldom do Italians literally say, “I love you,” which would be “Ti amo” in Italian (Te amo in Latin). Usually, they tell the beloved, “Ti voglio bene,” that means literally, “I wish you well.” That is agape, benevolent love.,
“God is love, and all who abide in love abide in God and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)

(Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD, has written “Reflections on Life since 1969.)

Every column/sermon/task becomes meditation

Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD

Reflections on Life
By Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD
Though the following thoughts seem only clerical in nature, they pertain to every human being. When taken into ourselves and absorbed as part of us, a column, sermon, task and all human endeavors take on a life to themselves, becoming as much a part of us as the air we breathe and the nourishment we ingest. While others must speak from their own unique experience, I personally find that I am not doing a thing right until I become totally immersed in the task at hand, so that it becomes an extension of me. That ipso facto elevates it to the wonderful nosebleed realm of meditation, creative imaginings and expectations.
So how about that? Whatever we do can become a special meditation, firing our juices of imagination, creativity and outreach to our sisters and brothers. Take a column, for example. Little seems to click or flow until something locks into my thoughts and feelings. Almost as if a switch were turned on, the things that I have been reading, the things that people have been saying and doing blend together.
Like the ingredients of a delicious meal or the components of an exquisite symphony, meditation combines everything into a fine creation and rendition. One knows whether a given column or talk will resonate with others by asking oneself, “Does it speak to me, resonate with me, move me to good and higher things? Does it ring a bell for me? That is what a preacher/speaker/writer wants to know at the zero hour. If it does, bells will be ringing for the audience at some level as well.
There are, of course, techniques for composing, writing, speaking formally or informally, making eye contact with each person in a small group or large crowd, convincing each person that you are addressing her or him alone, storytelling in a spellbinding way and interacting with audiences of many varieties and origins. All those things are wrapped up into one when they have become completely part of us. This is not a grandiose view of ourselves and our capabilities. It merely states that we are at our best and most convincing when we give what is uniquely ourselves.
Are these the mere ramblings of a weathered curmudgeon, or, we would hope, of a seasoned seeker hoping to become a savant with many treasure troves?
The latter is indeed what we hope for ourselves and for everyone else. Far from being mere ramblings, we would like to have all the reflections, meditations, imaginings and creations of each person grow out from the very Gospel of God that Romans 1:16 tells us “is the power of God unto salvation.”
This is a paradigm for the laity, for religious and clergy alike, for we all have very similar reactions to words, actions and challenges. Nevertheless, Saint Thomas Aquinas observes how individual we are, “Quidquid recipitur, ad modum recipientis recipitur.” “Whatever is received, is received according to the disposition of the recipient.” Who we are, what we are, how we are, is a composite that determines how we react to and interact with everyone and everything. We are all so very different and, notwithstanding, so very similar to each other. We are wonders, laughing at ourselves as we strive to be the top of the tip and the tip of the top.
No one comes to us, panting to watch us impersonate or imitate some great speaker, a scintillating performer, a wise counselor or engaging, livewire friend. Had people wanted that, they would have gone to check the great ones out. But no! What they come to see and hear are the low-level, everyday people that we are, in whose presence they have no fears or anxieties, they can drop all their defenses, they can let themselves go, they can laugh themselves silly, they can cry their hearts out, they can play the fool and be their little old selves without fear of criticism or rebuke.
Another variant of all this is expressed by Paul as he goes a step further in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” This involves a favorite theme of ours, the good intention, that turns all that we do into spiritual gold, silver and precious stones. Even as we are involved in turning a column, sermon or any kind of task or chore into a meditation, an intimate part of our very selves, we can crystallize all of it into a glorious offering to God by dedicating it to God in the morning and throughout the day.
I certainly hope this does not sound like complicated, convoluted ramblings. The last thing in the world that we need is more complications in our lives. Honestly, I believe that all these thoughts are easy to remember and understand because they are closely related and interlock with each other. Perhaps we can remember them most easily by saying, “In whatever you think, say or do, be all you can be.”
“God is love, and all who abide in love abide in God and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)

(Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD, has written “Reflections on Life since 1969.)

We’ll all have plenty in the land of no more

REFLECTIONS ON LIFE

 

By Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD

By Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD
While we have looked for more all our lives, the most wonderful thing God has promised us to possess and enjoy forever, aside from the Beatific Vision of God, is The Land of No More. Only God could make so stupendous an offer – and deliver it! Imagine searching all our lives and striving all our lives to reach The Land of No More. As futile as it may sound, the Land of No More is where everyone good as well as everything good resides. Once we are safely there, we need look no more to escape all the negative and hurting people and turmoils of our lives on earth.
Revelation 21:3-4 exults, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with people, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away.”

As the old Negro Spiritual says of The Land of No More,
Soon I will be done with the troubles of the world,
troubles of the world,
troubles of the world.
Soon I will be done with the troubles of the world,
Goin’ home to live with God

No more weeping and awailing,
No more weeping and awailing,
No more weeping and awailing,
I’m goin’ home to live with God.

There will be no more angst, no more negative stress that we identify as public enemy number one in the world. The peace of mind, peace of heart, peace of soul that we all seek, often in vain, are destroyed by angst and negative stress.
We think so often, “How can I remove angst, anxiety, negative stress, worry and fear from my mind, family, church and community?” In The Land of No More, there will be no more anxiety, worry and fear, who are the first cousins of angst
The Land of No More will never allow us to thirst again, for as Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:14, “Whoever drinks of the water I will give will never be thirsty again.” Somehow, I wonder whether this lack of thirst excludes the desire to enjoy the pleasure of swimming in heaven. Also, I dare venture the opinion that the Beatific Vision of God does not preclude our being able and free to cruise the galaxies instantaneously through the gift of agility in our glorified bodies unfettered and enjoy forever “a new heaven and a new earth” as in Revelation 21.
No hunger is another casualty of the Land of No More, with the promise of Jesus in John 6:30, “I am the Bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger.” So, will the world’s best chefs – professional or homespun – be out of work/play?
After the many painful, often bitter separations from our dear ones here on earth, we will be so happy and proud to enter The Land of No More, where all our heartbreaking separations from and deprivations of the company of our dear ones are no more. Such abject loneliness, separation, deprivation and abandonment were suffered to the full as Jesus was about to die on his cross on Good Friday, as we read in Matthew 27:46, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Some scholars think Jesus lost the Beatific Vision momentarily.
Very importantly and very interestingly, The Land of No More is a place with no strangers. As we have never known anyone here on earth, we’ll know the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Mary, the mother of Jesus, his foster father Joseph, his cousin John the Baptist, Saint Peter, Saint Paul, the Little Flower, all the saints, all our relatives, our friends, our erstwhile enemies, and, hugely, by far most of the 108 billion people (cf. Population Reference Bureau) who have ever lived on earth. Yes, I believe that by far most souls will be saved through the blood of Jesus Christ. And, somehow, we will even get to know the angels, those pure spirits always with God.
“May they rest in peace,” we pray for the dead, but in The Land of No More:
One of these mornings, won’t be very long,
You will look for me and I’ll be gone;
I’m going to a place where I’ll have nothing, nothing to do
But just walk around, walk around heaven all day.
God is love, and all who abide in love abide in God and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)

(Father Jerome LeDoux has written Reflections on Life since 1969.)

Flood of rescuers calls to mind storms past

Reflections on Life
By Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD
The mighty Cajun Navy appeared in all their glory, towing their powerboats from Lafayette and other points in Acadia down the highways leading to Houston and other towns vulnerable to the caprices of wholesale rain and flooding. Having cut their teeth cruising the forbidding waters of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005, the Cajun Navy caravanned into Texas soon after Harvey hit Rockport just several days short of that awful Katrina rendezvous date 12 years prior. Their stylish arrival had all the makings of an action movie.
Although the Cajun Navy was the most prominent of all in appearance and numbers, many local and other Good Samaritans joined the rescue operation in their own powerboats, airboats, jet skis, low-powered skiffs, rowboats, flat-bottomed boats, other flotation devices, high-water vehicles and amphibious military vehicles. Some rescuers hailed from states hundreds of miles distant.
Of course, there were the spectacular helicopter rescues, some initiated by private helicopter companies, obviously scaring the beejeebers out of regular folk dangling on a cable high above the waters. It was better than Hollywood at its best. Do you think any of those being rescued dared to take selfies? I’ll wager some did.
It was weird that rescue boat pilots had to beware of submerged obstacles like fireplugs, cars and even street signs in some cases. Navigating etiquette was at a premium with so many in need of rescue and so many rescuers in the mix of waders with or without a load of scooped-up belongings, terrified people crawling out of semi-submerged cars, people with evident heartbreak bidding their homes goodbye, and an amazing number of neighbors helping others even with their own homes underwater. That included numerous first responders who did everything they could to help others, some even with their own homes wasted by the unruly waters.
Flooding by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans was not a rain event, but a storm surge event that broke ill-constructed levees. By contrast, the epic flooding of Houston, Port Arthur, etc. was a rain event of biblical proportions that fell in such a short period of time that storm drains, bayous and rivers were overwhelmed.
Likewise, the horrendous, nameless hurricane that virtually destroyed the island of Galveston in 1900, killing an estimated 8,000 people, was not a rain event but a storm surge event that leveled 3,600 buildings. Historically, it was the most deadly.
The following account does not intend to diminish the 2017 devastation that took place recently in Houston and its environs. Believe it or not, as bad as Harvey was, he fell below the total 1861-1862 rains and floods of the least likely competitor of all: California. Don’t believe the lyrics, “It never rains in southern California.”
Writing in the Scientific American Magazine on January 1, 2013, B. Lynn Ingram/Michael Dettinger explain, “Reaching back hundreds of years, geologic evidence shows that truly massive floods, caused by rainfall alone, have occurred in California every 100 to 200 years. Such floods are likely caused by atmospheric rivers: narrow bands of water vapor about a mile above the ocean that extend for thousands of miles.” Give a nod to climate change dating back to geologic times!
“The atmospheric river storms … are responsible for most of the largest historical floods in many western states. The only megaflood to strike the American West in recent history occurred during the winter of 1861-62. California bore the brunt of the damage,” reeling under 10-15 feet of snow to the north and 66 inches of rain (4 times a year’s worth) to the south.” As implied, neighboring states got it too.
“This disaster turned enormous regions of the state into inland seas for months, and took thousands of human lives. The costs were devastating: one quarter of California’s economy was destroyed, forcing the state into bankruptcy.”
Although the downtown district of Sacramento was raised 10-15 feet during the seven years after the flood, Sacramento remains second only to New Orleans as the U.S. city most vulnerable to flooding. It should also be noted that any city that receives a good fraction of the rainfall that Houston did will suffer from flooding.
Consider what happened to Chicago on August 13-14, 1987 when almost 9.5 inches of rain fell. Since the city was in an extreme drought, people were welcoming the storm since the ground was extremely dry. Unfortunately, everyone got much more than anyone bargained for: $220 million in damages and 3 lives were lost. It may surprise some that, when the pump operators maintain all 24 pumping stations properly, New Orleans can manage that amount of rain reasonably well.
“God is love, and all who abide in love abide in God and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)
(Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD, has written “Reflections on Life since 1969.)

Still rolling at four-score and seven

REFLECTIONS ON LIFE
By Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD
Four score and seven years ago, my parents brought forth, on this continent, a new person named for my mother’s twin brother, Jerome Gaston Petrie. As you can see, folks, I have finally caught up with President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Although each birthday is a genuine milestone, it is a celebration that must not be allowed to obscure the overwhelming importance of today, each solitary day of our lives. Let alone a year, we cannot grasp a month, not even a week. The most we can handle is one day at a time, and sometimes we must take one hour at a time.
Would you believe that one minute lends itself to our best management of time? I have often quoted, “Just a tiny little minute – but eternity is in it.”
Longevity can be a wonderful thing, and by far most people would like to live a long, productive, enjoyable life sporting a sound mind in a sound body. But far more important than longevity is living every moment at the peak of quality, service, fulfillment, generosity and love. Our desire for life tends to wane as its quality does.
We remain at that peak for some decades before our wonderful body begins to show signs of wear, smile lines on our face, some inset wrinkles in our brow and generous splashes of silver atop the crown of our heads. Through it all, it is of prime concern and importance for peace of mind that we feel comfortable in our own skin.
To my dismay, December 2016 brought along an ineptness in my right thumb and right index finger. No doubt a gradual development, all of a sudden I had trouble picking up a host (the bread) from the ciborium to share Communion during a Mass.
Placing the host on a person’s hand or tongue was equally difficult and hazardous. At the same time, my right thumb lost its ability to strike firmly the advance bar on my computer keyboard, so that I had to learn to compensate with my left hand. I thought back fondly to the times when I would cradle an apple in my hands, dig my thumbs in at the stem and split it in half with scarcely a ripple of my thumb muscles.
Since I have been very observant and analytical about my health for decades, I quickly associated a link between that finger-thumb weakness and a bias of my body toward the left hip that I had noticed in a mirror. That bias has also marked a mild scoliosis that has developed in my spine in the last couple of decades.
To some extent, I have succeeded in arresting that bias development, and I have even been able to reverse it a bit by making a conscious effort to stand tall and erect, pulling my left hip in and rotating my right hip out. Over the years, one tends to slump a tad as muscles weaken. With the deterioration and compression of the cartilage in our spine, we grow shorter as we age. Once 5’11,” I am now 5’8.”
My problems with the host at Mass began in December and peaked in early to mid January as folks became aware that I was on a fishing expedition each time I reached in for a host. Uncharacteristically, I dropped one or two from time to time.
Amazingly, even in real time while I was struggling to grip a host with my thumb and index finger, by rotating my right hip out and forcing myself to distend my spine by standing tall, I was able to grasp a host that I failed to grasp just moments before. By February 4, I had begun to move into a better phase of finger work and control.
When I was suffering from accidental dehydration in late January, Father Lambert insisted that I get my annual physical at Opelousas General. Slapping an IV in my left arm, and later an antibiotic IV also, the nurses ran me through the entire array of tests, measurements, X-rays, CT scans and blood analysis. Seeing all normal outcomes, the head nurse told Father Lambert, “The age of 87 cannot be right.”
Just shy of 87, February 26 changed that. I have no pains arthritic or other, no need for medication, no acidity in my breath or stomach, no memory issues, no fiber problems with bowel movements at least twice and often thrice daily, no mood changes since I was 24, and no desire to be even a partial carnivore/omnivore again.
Considering the huge health benefits that have accrued to me from eating no meats, no seafood, no dairy – nothing that has a mother – no white flour, no white rice, no salt, no sugar, no caffeine, I am not in the least tempted to even dream about consuming any of those things. In fact, the smell of most meats and seafood has become offensive to my nostrils and taste buds. Even desserts turn me off.
With Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday just past us, I am grateful that my entire life is stricter than a Lenten fast, yet happy, with two cups of water and a tablespoon of barleygreen for breakfast, an orange later, a big salad at noon, later, a heated low-sodium, spicy V-8 juice, an evening meal of beans and vegan jambalaya.
“God is love, and all who abide in love abide in God and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)
(Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD, is pastor of Holy Ghost Church in Opelousas, La. He has written “Reflections on Life” since 1969.)