Sunday, August 5, 2012


We approach August 6, 2012-- celebration of the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus * --with measured steps up a mountain of misunderstanding.  The Son of God reveals himself in all his glory, full of the divine light of  mercy and overwhelming love He has preached and shown in His healings.  The three apostles present still don’t understand (want to stay in a cloud), nor do we, two thousand years later.

On this same August 6th two terrible events have occurred in recent history, which demonstrate the depth of our hard-hearted rejection of the message and person of Jesus--who is our Light against the darkness.  
Little Boy--first Atomic Bomb--Dropped on Hiroshima, Aug. 6, 1945--Boston Globe source

Kemmler's electric chair--or facsimile
Lesser known is the story of the execution on this day in 1890 of the first person to die in the electric chair, William Kemmler.  The state of New York introduced this new method to kill a murderer.  Though advertised as a most modern technology it took multiple shocks from a dynamo that needed to be restarted to finish off Mr. Kemmler—sensationally reported as a ghastly affair.  {The book Empires of Light gives full description and context}.  This should have given pause to capitol punishment proponents, and some people did protest, but the culture of death for criminals by “humane methods” persists over 100 years later.

Unfortunately, a local Port Huron hero of that era, Thomas Edison, the world’s greatest inventor, was involved in manipulations to make sure this new form—execution by electricity—occurred as grim spectacle.    The current used was AC [that favored by Westinghouse] and Edison championed DC for widespread household use.  AC could now be discredited as too dangerous, and execution by electric chair termed, “to be westinghoused.”  So went the Edison strategy.   The father of the light bulb, failed though to prevent the more utilitarian AC from becoming our common power source, and the power that lights our cities has extinguished the lives of thousands of U.S. prison inmates.

Representation of slightly more modern version of electric execution, from film "The Green Mile"

The second terrible perversion of power and light occurred this day August 6th 1945 massacring a civilian population of Hiroshima Japan, in the name of victory over enemies and saving our troops lives.  {The book Hiroshima by John Hershey tells some of the grim, still not often told story—Bob Tighe who was a member of our BWPC, and Fr. George Zabelka, who was chaplain for the Enola Gay plane that dropped the A-bomb, were Michigan people I’ve known, there soon after as GI’s, and collaborate the total destruction.}
Hiroshima, autumn 1945--two lone figures walking--Boston Globe source
There is historical debate about what was really necessary.  There is no question that a weapon of mass destruction without precedent was introduced into the world, in this way radical evil was served, and that Jesus’ teaching to love your enemy was violated.  A blast of superhuman light and power was embraced as more trustworthy, than the light of truth revealed by God in the life death and resurrection of God’s beloved Son.

Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy has written an essay on the theme above.  Please read. 

In it we find:

 If the spirit of homicidal violence had but one victim in human

history, it would be no less monstrous, grotesque and perverted.

 The satanic is not fundamentally discerned by statistics. Indeed,

 statistics can dull empathic sensibilities that expose critical


  Nor is God a calculator of statistics.  Forgive 70 times 7 is the measure.  We wrestle

 here on earth with the dark angel that advertizes a culture of preemptive death and

 despair.  Jesus our Transfigured Light shows us the only way to drive out these


On July 22, 1456, Crusaders defeated the Turks at Belgrade. News of the victory reached Rome on August 6, and Pope Callistus III placed the feast of the Transfiguration on the Roman calendar the following year.
We seem to always want to attribute victory in war, and justice executed by death, to our faith in the One who said, “Father forgive them they do not know what they do,” as He died on the cross. 

Have we yet listened to, or even heard, the voice of the U. S. Catholic Bishops, spoken in their “ The Challenge of Peace” pastoral letter of 1983 ?
             After the passage of nearly four decades and a concomitant growth in our understanding of the ever growing horror of nuclear war, we must shape the climate of opinion which will make it possible for our country to express profound sorrow over the atomic bombing in 1945.  Without that sorrow, there is no possibility of finding a way to repudiate future use of nuclear weapons…”

Hiroshima bomb aftermath--excavated years later

Transfiguration by Raphael

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