Monday, July 23, 2012

The Citadel

J.M.J. + O.B.T. + M.G.R.*


     My wife Jen and I are greatly concerned about the current HHS crisis and we see the critical need for the Church Militant to muster and witnesss solidarity.  As America approaches the pivotal 2012 election we feel an urgency to write this letter. We have been observing the quickening, the movements on both sides of the Pro-Life battle for the heart and soul of these once United States.  Time is ticking and with each passing day it seems we are being backed into a corner where there may soon be no means of escape.

     Personally, we have been participants in this struggle ever since our first pregnancy, when at a Catholic hospital in Florida we received professional medical counsel that “there are ethical considerations” in our choice to carry our firstborn, John Michael to term (John Michael is now a healthy, vibrant 13 year old).  We have been intimately involved in the Pro-Life apostolate ever since.

     More recently, on July 6, 2010 my father, William, was most likely euthanized while I slept in an adjoining bedroom.  The live-in hospice workers on their first night of duty were told to wake me up if my dad’s then current condition (sleeping peacefully) changed and they sure did.  I was awakened to see him without his nasal cannula and with a death mask that strongly suggested that he was gasping for air in his dying moments.  Yes, oral morphine was involved.  The two workers had different explanations as to what happened to precipitate my father's sudden and unexpected death.

     It was a tragic end to my family in Arizona.  We were literally destroyed by the event.  In subsequent conversations with friends and acquaintances, I have found that our experience was no exception.  Families are being ripped apart, one-by-one, at the explosive moment when death comes at the hands of so-called palliative care.  I have since found out that there is both good hospice and bad hospice.  The great challenge is to make sure you have signed a contract with the right one.

     I felt commissioned by this personal encounter with euthanasia and have made it a point to research the whole spectrum of EOL issues.  Fr. Anthony Blount, SOLT provided a welcome movement forward.  When I heard his taped seminar on End of Life Issues (delivered in Capulin, Colorado) I lamented, ‘Why hadn’t I received this inoculation before my dad died the way he did?’

     It all revolves around five key words. If we get them right we create a fortress, a citadel.  If we get even one of them wrong, we have a weak moral construct that the enemy of true light, life and love will surely try to exploit.  He will most likely succeed.

     The five interrelated words I call The Citadel.  Once I rearranged the order of Fr. Tony's presentation, I saw the key to easily remembering them.

     Again, they are five key principles rightly or wrongly understood.  The teaching method is to start with what the world says and then counter the prevailing 'wisdom' with "but the Catholic Church teaches..."  The five principles are: autonomy, dualism, hedonism, misguided compassion, and utilitarianism.  Rightly understood, these five provide mutual support to protect people/families with Catholic truth against any and all assaults on human life (contraception->euthanasia).

     At base level The Citadel is a battle drill.  It is simple to learn and transmit with your five fingers as a mnemonic.  As one develops each principle through practical exercises ("what if" situational role playing) one grows in self-confidence.  Since the best defense is a good offense it is very likely that a seasoned sentry manning the pro-life watchtower will be compelled to launch a counteroffensive to challenge an anti-life opponent (that hopefully will lead to his/her eventual conversion).  I have field tested the base level with my kids and it works.  They have the principles committed to memory.

Ft. McHenry and the Star Spangled Banner's final verse
are key to relating a true American Cause
and the ultimate victory of Truth and Justice.


The fort was made a national park in 1925; on August 11, 1939, it was redesignated a "National Monument and Historic Shrine," the only such doubly designated place in the United States. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. It has become national tradition that when a new flag is designed it first flies over Fort McHenry. The first official 49 and 50 star American flags were flown over the fort and are still located on the premises.

     I watched with peaked interest Bishop Arthur Serratelli’s EWTN Sunday Night interview with Fr. Benedict Groeschel.  When he mentioned that St. Paul Inside the Walls (Center for New Evangelization) recently held a session with medical doctors where he asked what was their most pressing issue and they replied, end of life, a light bulb flashed in my mind.  It was as if the Holy Spirit whispered, “Get the Citadel broadcast.”

    Yours truly graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, where the honor code provided the key principles for character development and moral conduct: "A cadet shall not lie, cheat, steal nor tolerate those who do."  As an honor committee rep for two years I witnessed how the toleration clause was the weak link in the chain.  During the years 1980-81 there a great loss of institutional integrity at the Point.  It was due primarily to moral relativism and the deliberate toleration of honor code violations.  We couldn't get a guilty verdict, even in the most blatant of cases.

     My older brother William Jr. who graduated from the Citadel was commissioned in the Marine Corps.  He was also blown away by my dad’s untimely demise which sadly, and/or providentially occurred on his 52nd birthday. He can never forget.

     If we had sat down as a family, discussed and jointly agreed to The Citadel, we would never have left my father alone in his bedroom that night.  Moreover we would have ensured that hospice was provided with our Church-based guidelines before we committed ourselves to their “care.”

     Jen and I believe it is worth a look at the method we have drafted (based on Fr. Tony's teachings) to provide this critical teaching to all Catholics, young and old.

     To paraphrase a Founding Father, Thomas Payne in his great work, The American Crisis from 1776:

This is surely a time
that will try men’s souls.

"This triangle of truisms, of father, mother and child, cannot be destroyed;
it can only destroy those civilisations which disregard it."
– G.K. Chesterton

Sincerely yours in Jesus and Mary,
Mike Rizzio

Imitate Mary
Become like Jesus
Live for the Triune God

Seek the Light of Our Lord Jesus Christ
See you on the High Ground!

* - J.M.J. + O.B.T. + M.G.R. stands for:
Jesus, Mary and Joseph;
O Beata Trinitas;
St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael

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