He was born the second of nine children to Rose and her husband Joseph P. Kennedy on May 29, 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts. John F. Kennedy, or young Jack, was the great grand-son of Irish immigrants and the son of a saloon keeper who in 1914 had married the daughter of John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, a powerful and colorful Boston poltician. It was a union of money and power for young Joe had graduated from Harvard and, at only 25, became the youngest bank president in the United States, amassing a fortune. His son Jack would also become the youngest President of the United States. This was Joe's goal for his older son but Jack got plenty of attention and care. During his early youth Jack was sickly, suffering from a myriad of maladies such as adrenal insufficiency, allergies, appendicitis, chronic back pain, diptheria, ear troubles, hepatitis, irritable stomach, jaundice, malaria and scarlet fever often causing him to miss days, even weeks at a time at his Catholic grade school, but his father pushed him, covered for him, and instilled in him an athletic prowess and determination to overcome all adversities which Jack used to his advantage beginning at Choate Prep School, an exclusive, expensive high school for boys in Connecticutt. A practical joker which frustrated his father, Jack nearly got expelled for his antics including rigging the school elections for officers. From early on Jack possessed a charisma that endeared others to him, allowing him to talk his way out of predicaments that might have predestined others to a worse fate. He graduated as the "Most likely to succeed" in 1935.
By the time young Jack received his degree from Harvard in 1940, his father had parlayed a successful career into an ambassadorship to London. World War II was breaking out and it was Joe's clout that got both Jack and his oldest son Joseph Jr. into the United States Navy. Jack had been rejected earlier due to a bad back, but mysteriously the Navy waved his medical records and admitted him as an ensign in 1941, assigning him to the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington D.C. Jack was there when word came through that fateful day on December 7, 1941 that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. Because of his sailing experience in Hyannisport, he volunteered in 1942 for duty in the Pacific theater, being commissioned commander of PT Boat 109 and became a war hero, documented in his book "PT 109."
He returned home injured, needing back surgery and received the Purple Heart Medal and the Medal for Gallantry making him a hero to the nation. But his joy was tempered by the news that his older brother Joe Jr. had been shot down over Germany and killed. It was the first of many Kennedy family tragedies that would span the last six decades. Jack's brother's death dashed Joe Sr.'s hopes for young Joe becoming the first Catholic President of the United States. From that time on he focused all his attention on Jack, providing the ways and means to effect his dreams. For Jack it was the fast track to fame, riches and power thanks to the backroom deals of his father, still a powerful force in Boston where Jack first campaigned for U.S. Congress in 1946. At 29 he became one of the youngest congressmen ever and got his first taste of life inside the beltway in Washington D.C. while representing the 11th Congressional District of Massachusetts. He was re-elected in 1948 and 1950.
In 1952 he met with President Harry S. Truman who, though he intensely disliked Jack's father, prophesied of young Jack, "There is little doubt of the great political future in store for Kennedy." After it looked like defeat, he pulled a stunning upset in 1952 and was elected Junior Senator from Massachusetts. His star was on the rise.
On September 12, 1953 he married Jacqueline Bouvier and while recuperating from back surgery he chronicled various heroic efforts in his Pulitzer Prize winning Profiles in Courage. In 1958, he was re-elected by a 78% margin and tabbed as the prime candidate to be the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 1960. But he had grander plans, announcing "I'm not running for the vice-presidency anymore. I'm running for the presidency."
As we all know, that is exactly what he did. Easily outpolling the Republican nominee Richard M. Nixon in the famous television debates in which he won the hearts of America through his charismatic manner and personality. After almost becoming the Vice Presidential nominee with Adlai Stevenson in 1956, he did what another Catholic Presidential candidate in the 1930's Al Smith couldn't do and overcame the past stigma of being Roman Catholic to become the 35th President of the United States. Few will ever forget his words at his inaugural that have forever been recorded for all generations, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." It was the time or should we say the last hurrah of Camelot.
One of his first acts was to send a band of heavily armed and trained Cuban exiles back into Cuba to try to overthrow Fidel Castro which would be followed with backup by US military troops, but it bungled badly and will forever be known as the "Bay of Pigs" fiasco. But he bounced back from that nearly disastrous flaw by reinforcing the Berlin Wall. Shortly after that Cuba entered the scene again, this time with the Cuban missile crisis in which he strongly stood up to communism, calling the bluff of Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev who blinked at the last minute, pulling his missile ships and averting what would most definitely have been nuclear war. Throughout his brief three-year presidency the media made him out to be more than he was. It was the beginning of the spin-meisters manipulating the public. Yet conversely, the media's excavating for more material materialized into showing the Catholic Church more in a positive light, capturing his excursions to Sunday Mass in Washington D.C., St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York and church in Boston and vicinities. Many cardinals and bishops were openly welcomed to the White House and regarded as friends because of JFK. Prayer breakfasts featured priests and Catholicism was thrust into prime time nightly on the major networks.
His final prayer breakfast was the morning of November 22, 1963 - the feast of Saint Cecilia in Fort Worth, Texas. There Monsignor Wolf invoked the President's breakfast which, in retrospect, would be his "last supper" for four hours later while touring in a motorcade in downtown Dallas. As the presidential conver headed downhill toward the overpass, shots rang out and a sunny day in November became Black November as a day that will live in infamy. We doubt few who were living at that time will forget what they were doing when they heard the devastating news that President Kennedy had been shot and killed. A Dallas priest performed the last rites at Parkland Memorial Hospital a few miles away from the Book Depository area where he was shot in the temple. The idyllic King Arthur was dead and with him went Camelot. Almost on cue satan ushered in Roe vs. Wade and the advent of the prophylactic age that opened the doors wide for the promiscuous sixties and seventies that gave way to the repercussions of the eighties and nineties.
Kennedy's last will and testament was literally the non-stop broadcast of his funeral Mass which brought to the world the glories of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as expert priests provided play-by-play coverage of the Mass still said in Latin at that time. It was beautiful and a fitting last gift from John F. Kennedy for though he was gone, his brilliant career cut short by assassin bullets, the Church of his birth would continue as it had for 1,930 years before. JFK's dear mother Rose would live another 32 years before dying in 1995 at the age of 105 and, like Our Lady of Sorrows whose feast we celebrate tomorrow, her heart would be pierced by many swords both in her husband's wheeling dealings and unfaithfulness and the trials, tribulations and tragedies of the Kennedy clan. Through all of it, she kept the faith and prayed, just as Saint Monica did for another brilliant son Saint Augustine.
But we can't forget the Apostle Saint Paul's charge to the Romans, "For none of us lives to himself, and none dies to himself; for if we live, we live to the Lord, or if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and rose again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living" (Romans 14: 7-9). The previous Sunday Paul details what we must do to live and die in the Lord, bringing this into vivid focus in Romans 14: 8-10 which is echoed nearly two millenniums later by Pope John Paul II, the 264th successor of Paul's comrade in spiritual arms Saint Peter. "Owe no man anything except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law." This seems easy enough, but when one considers what is happening in the world today, it's not easy; in fact extremely difficult...unless you are divorced from humanity. This has been the case recently in the Sudan and East Timor. The world has seemingly turned its head from the atrocities going on, deciding to "sleep on it and we'll get back to you." Meanwhile tens of thousands are being slaughtered each day. The normal reaction from anyone is righteous indignation. Another normal reaction is revenge. Get those Muslims in Africa and Indonesia. Shoot 'em all down. But that's the human, gut response. That is not Christ's response, not the Christian response. Therefore, it cannot be ours. Yes, Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, the spiritual leader of East Timor, and the Holy Father have condemned the violence and pleaded for self-defense, but that is not revenge, rather survival. Neither advocates violence, but rather peacekeepers to end the nightmare. The fact the UN and the United States have finally awakened to their responsibilities is an answer to our prayers, but the longer they have hesitated and the longer they deploy troops to prevent further bloodshed, the more blood will flow in the streets of Dili, Baucau and other places in both East and West Timor where many refugees have been taken to die in the same fashion as another horrendous terminal - Auschwitz.
The passage from Ezechiel the previous Sunday reminds us we cannot sit still and let someone else "do the dirty work" or "take the ball and run with it." We've got to get involved. Everyone of us. "But if you warn the wicked man, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself" (Ezechiel 33: 9). All Our Lord asks is that we do our best. Give it the ol' college try. Our duty here at the DAILY CATHOLIC is to do just that, tweak the consciences of those who have not followed Christ's mandates. If they heed Christ's words, all is forgiven. If not, they'll have hell to pay!
The reading from this past Sunday in Sirach 28: 1-3, reminds us that everything evens out in the end, "The vengeful will suffer the Lord's vengeance, for He remembers their sins in detail. Forgive your neighbor's injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven." A good example of this is expressed by Father Svetozar Kraljivec, OFM, the humble Bosnian priest from Medjugorje who experienced the horrors of war and sacrificed everything to be with the people - as so many Franciscans in that region have done over the past several centuries (which is at the core of the fued between the Diocesan bishops and the Order and the people's undying loyalty to the Friars). Fr. Svet condemned the acts as barbaric, but he wouldn't condemn the people - the Muslims, the Serbs. "They are God's children as well. In these times, it is probably the most difficult thing to do, but that's what Christ expects. To love our enemies. To retaliate with love confounds them and our only weapon must be prayer. The Rosary is so powerful. Prayer will be our ultimate victory. That is why the Gospa constantly reminds all to 'Pray! Pray! Pray!' There is a reason why so many have suffered martyrdom for Our Lord over 1900 years. The fields of blood have been and will be transformed into a field of flowers, bouquets to Heaven that have and will blossom into conversions the world over because of their ultimate sacrifice and our daily sacrifices. We can never forget those who died and why they died."
Jesus' words in this past Sunday's Gospel in Matthew 18: 21, when asked how many times we should forgive brings home the point that our forgiveness must be boundless and, if we don't forgive, there are dire consequences as Our Lord indicates in Matthew 18: 35, "So also My Heavenly Father will do to you, if you do not each forgive your brothers from your hearts.". No, it's not easy, but if we are truly members of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church we have only one course to follow - forgiveness. All those who truly live and die with forgiveness in their hearts will reap the rewards of everlasting life. This is what has spurred millions of martyrs over the life of the Church. The historian Tertullian stated, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity," and this has been proven throughout the history of Holy Mother Church. Just as countless Catholics were killed in Croatia and Bosnia in the early and mid nineties, so also today the countless Catholics in the Sudan and East Timor are our most recent martyrs and we must treat them the same way and remember the accounts of the early Christians who also gave their lives for Christ in the Collisseum and other blood fields of Rome, to the Crusaders who sacrificed themselves against the Saracens in the name of Jesus, to the martyrs of the Reformation such as Saint Thomas More and many others, to the martyrs of this century and the horrors of World War II like Saint Maximilian Kolbe and Saint Edith Stein to name a few. Everyone of them asked forgiveness and, more importantly, forgave those who persecuted them and executed them, following the example of their Master Who, while dying on the sterile wooden cross on Calvary, put to shame by the Jews and the Romans who mocked Him, mustered within Himself the courage to pronounce from His heart what we must also echo, believe and practice from the heart what is documented in Luke 23: 34, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
The hierarchy is the “teaching Church,” the ruling body composed of the priests with their bishops and the Pope above all. It is an army of leaders having care and control of the holy and sacred things of the Church. “Under this army of the “teaching Church” is the “hearing Church” the faithful, the laity.
The members of the hierarchy differ in two ways: in the power of orders, and in the power of jurisdiction. The power of orders is given by the sacrament of ordination. It is the power to sanctify, a permanent spiritual power that no earthly authority can take away. The power of jurisdiction is given by a superior, to enable a subject to exercise his spiritual authority lawfully. This power may be limited and revoked by legitimate authority. The members of the hierarchy are divided into three classes with different power of orders: deacons, priests, and bishops.
This order of rank and power has been in force in the Church from the time of the Apostles. These three classes were foreshadowed in the high priest, priests, and Levites of the Old Law. They also had counterparts in Our Lord, the Apostles, and the disciples. Our Lord gave full powers to the twelve Apostles, but only limited power to the disciples who are the priests, religious, deacons and laity today. The members of the hierarchy are divided into many ranks according to the power of jurisdiction, the chief ranks being those of Pope, bishops, and parish priests.
These differences of rank and power are necessary for the proper government of the Church just as there are differences of rank and power in the civil government. Without them the Church would be a society without organization. In organization the Church is like a vast army; the Pope, its visible head, is commander-in-chief of this army. He has jurisdiction and supreme and sovereign power and authority over the entire Church. He is formally addressed “Your Holiness.” This is how one can easily find the True Church: “Where Peter is, there is the Church.” To show the variety and extent of the interests of the Church.
The Cardinals are the Pope’s advisers and assistants; they are his ministers. He appoints them, and their numbers have increased considerably during the last three pontificates. Their installation comes during what is called a "Consistory." Consistories are assemblies of cardinals presided over by the Pope. There are three kinds: (1) secret, with only the Pope and cardinals present; (2) public, attended by other prelates and lay spectators; and (3) semi-public, attended by bishops and patriarchs. At the secret consistory, the Pope delivers an allocution on religious and moral conditions throughout the world; sometimes seeks the opinion of the cardinals on the creation of new cardinals, gives the cardinal's ring and red-hat, appoints bishops, archbishops and patriarchs, makes ecclesiastical transfers, divides or unites dioceses, and asks for a vote on a proposed canonization. At the public consistory, held every two to four years, the Pope bestows the red hat, hears the causes of beatifications and canonizations. At a semi-public consistory the propriety of a proposed canonization is decided.
Of the current 156 cardinals named in Consistories, two were named by Pope John XXIII, twenty-four by Pope Paul VI in six Consistories, and 132 by Pope John Paul II over seven consistories thus far, the last being February 21, 1998. Cardinals receive the rank of cardinal deacon, cardinal priest, and cardinal bishop depending on length of service and their position.
Those under 80 are eligible to vote for a pontifical successor in the Sacred College of Cardinals in conclave when the Holy See falls vacant. The College is the Senate of the Pope. As principal advisers and helpers, the cardinals assist the Holy Father in the government of the Church. After the Supreme Pontiff, the cardinals have the highest dignity in Holy Mother Church.
The cardinals form the various congregations or committees in the Papal court, such as the Congregations of the Religious, of Rites, of the Sacraments, etc. In the past many cardinals only had the orders of deacon. The cardinals are distinguished by a red hat and mantle, as a sign that they will be loyal to the Pope at the cost of their blood. A cardinal is addressed “Your Eminence.”
These congregations, offices, prefectures, councils, committees, and commissions compose the Roman Curia which we will cover on Thursday. Tomorrow we will deal with Papal Elections and the responsibilities of the Sacred Conclave. To learn more about the current cardinals, go to COLLEGE OF CARDINALS biographies up through Cardinal Pengo.