Robert Brehl

Robert Brehl

Robert Brehl is a writer in Port Credit, Ont., and can be reached at bob@abc2.ca or @bbrehl on Twitter.

The British government’s flagrant insult to the cross is more than a religious issue. Though it is clearly anti-Christian, it is yet another example of chipping away at Western society and the ideals that make it the envy of the world.

People from all over the world for years have flocked to Western democracies to experience freedom, raise families and live better lives. And, for the most part, the West has welcomed them with open arms. There has been discrimination, but in the larger scheme of things, rising tides lift all boats and as newcomers arrive, our society rises with them.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, when it comes to human rights violations and protecting religious freedoms, Israel is the worst country in the Middle East — except for all the rest.

The death of singer Whitney Houston at age 48 set off an interesting discussion around the dinner table about the 40s decade. Why are the 40s so dangerous for some, especially the famous?

Think about all the great stars who’ve perished in their 40s: Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, John F. Kennedy, George Orwell, John Lennon, John Candy (who grew up in Holy Cross parish in Toronto) and so many more. Many, but not all, contributed to their early death through lifestyle choices.

Faith and Las Vegas are an oxymoron. But these two seemingly paradoxical thoughts rattled around in my head as we walked down the busy, glittery Las Vegas strip the other day for the first time.

Sure, Sin City has different types of temples filled with moneychangers of a modern ilk. These temples are named Caesar’s Palace, the Mirage, the Venetian, Bellagio and a host of others. And, sure, churches are hidden so far out of sight that you’d think illusionist David Copperfield made them disappear.

It is all too common (and often exasperating) when the ground beneath us shifts on morality issues and common decency. It is easy to shake our head and say, “This sort of stuff wouldn’t have happened in the Canada I grew up in.”

These shifts occur for many reasons, from the silent majority saying nothing about the latest “Politically Correct” silliness to politicians bowing to the pressure from small, but effective, special interest groups. Sadly, the courts are also to blame by too often protecting the rights of offenders ahead of the rights of victims and the community at large.

As we settle into the new year, I can’t help reflecting on three gifts I received this Christmas.

All were thoughtful, one was unintentional, and all came from three wise women. Even a couple weeks later, they still make me smile for different reasons.

The first came from my beautiful and thoughtful wife. This present is the latest, state-of-the-art, high-tech, environmentally-friendly, non-stick, ceramic frying pan. A frying pan! I giggle just typing those words.

Life can be like wine. Some years are simply better than others. And 2011 was a wonderful vintage for me.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some bitter tannins at the bottom of the glass at times, but overall the bouquet was exceptional and the taste robust.

It had to be after beginning the year with a remarkable trip to the Holy Land in January, my first time to walk where Jesus walked 2,000 years ago. It began as a business trip and quickly morphed into a spiritual journey.

In this Advent season of expectation and worship, I was thinking about hero worshipping when I noticed that the other day was the 100th anniversary of the birth of my dad’s boyhood hero, Joe “Ducky” Medwick.

Unless you’re a diehard baseball fan, you’ve probably never heard of Ducky. But everyone in my family knows of him because my late father’s only encounter with Ducky has long been family lore.

The tragic child sex abuse scandal at Penn State opens many wounds for Catholics.

During the first seven-10 days after the story broke, almost every media report compared the scandal to abuse that has rocked the Catholic Church over past decades. The comparisons have not totally abated, either.

“Like the Roman Catholic Church, Penn State is an arrogant institution hiding behind its mystique,” declared the National Post on Nov. 14.

Recently, our next-door-neighbour died.

Technically, he was no longer our next-door-neighbour because he had sold his house and moved into an apartment about a month earlier. But I will always remember him as our neighbour.

John Macaulay was 83 and a wonderful man who built his own business that supplied science kits to schools before retiring some time ago. His funeral was packed with people from so many different parts of his eclectic life. His two sons and grandson spoke well, along with a friend of some 70 years, who told a story about his last conversation with his friend. John called him just days before his death to alert him to a “great sale on underwear” at Sears.