Analysis by Oswald Sobrino, J.D., M.A., who has published in New Blackfriars (U.K.), Homiletic & Pastoral Review, The Catholic Answer, New Oxford Review, CatholicExchange.com, and the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly. He is a lay graduate student at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit. © 2002-06 Oswald Sobrino.
"There is much in Christianity which can be subjected to exact analysis. But the ultimate things are shrouded in the silent mysteries of God." --Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988)
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Saturday, June 03, 2006Great Article on Pentecost
Here is the link to a great and short article on Pentecost from CrossRoadsInitiative.com. Enjoy! We can never emphasize enough the significance of Pentecost. Have a Great Pentecost!
Friday, June 02, 2006St. Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582): Very Interesting
In 1970, Pope Paul VI declared Saint Teresa of Ávila a Doctor of the Church, and thus someone to whom all Catholics should look as a great teacher of the faith. In the 2005 book Prayer: A History by Philip and Carol Zaleski (Houghton Mifflin Co.), which is an academic, religiously neutral view of the history of prayer, Teresa (also known, especially in the Hispanic world, as Teresa de Jesús), is given high recognition as the "foremost scribe" of religious ecstasy (p. 171). From a specifically Catholic point of view, of course, her place is much higher. She is not merely a "scribe"--she was also a direct practitioner, as the authors would also agree. She is not merely an ecstatic--she is also a master of calmer contemplative prayer and a very practical theologian and reformer. In her, we see the Catholic universality of holding all truths together: she united the ecstatic with the more sedate forms of prayer, she united prayer and action, she united emotion and rational logic. She was both head and heart, as is our Catholic faith. As a result, Teresa is a much fuller figure than those from other religious traditions who are reputed to be visionaries or mystics. She is Catholic, broad and balanced, in every sense which that term implies.
The authors discuss the famous "transverberation" in which an angel pierces Teresa's heart with "a long golden spear . . . at [whose] . . . iron tip there seemed to be a little fire" (quoting Teresa, at p. 175). As the authors point out, Bernini's statue The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa is famous for depicting this mystical experience of the saint. What is quite interesting is that, after her death, doctors examined her heart and indeed "found a hole running through the center of her heart, precisely matching the path of the golden dart" (p. 175). The examination was confirmed much later in 1872 because her heart had been miraculously preserved (p. 175). While the authors maintain their professional academic distance from these facts, the personal sense I derived from reading this section was that the authors found the discovery credible.
To be fair to the authors, they also point out that Teresa was not just an ecstatic because ecstasy "is not for Teresa the highest form of prayer; it gives way in the end to serene equilibrium" (p. 177). Yet, Teresa did not exclude the ecstatic. In fact in her classic work The Interior Castle (in Spanish, Castillo Interior or Las Moradas), she describes this particular experience of prayer for the sake of the nuns to whom she is writing as a guide and mentor:
Our Lord sometimes gives the soul feelings of jubilation and a strange prayer it doesn't understand. I am writing about this favor so that if he grants it to you, you may give him such praise and know what is taking place . . . . It seems like gibberish, and certainly the experience is like that, for it is a joy so excessive that the soul wouldn't want to enjoy it alone but wants to tell everyone about it so that they might help this soul to praise our Lord.
From Sixth Mansions, Chapter IV, No. 10, of The Interior Castle (as quoted in Catholic Book of Quotations, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 2004, p. 348).
The description sounds like the praying in tongues that is quite common among Catholic charismatics. In fact, the author of the book of quotations lists the quote under the heading "Speaking in Tongues." So I went to the Spanish original to verify the accuracy of the translation. In my opinion, the translation is accurate. Some other English translations differ; but the one quoted above is, in my opinion as someone fluent in Spanish, quite accurate. (For the curious, the Spanish word translated as "gibberish" is algarabía; the Spanish text I used can be found at this link: http://www.santateresadeavila.com/obras.htm).
St. Teresa is indeed a good "doctor" or teacher for the rest of us Catholics. We should embrace all forms of Christian prayer, both the ecstatic and the more serene, both praying in unintelligible tongues and in tongues we understand. We should not, out of fear, reject the gifts of God. Teresa taught us not to be paralyzed by such fear but to discern carefully and logically whether our experiences come from God, from the devil, or from our own imaginations. She undertook the hard work to sift her own experiences and teaches us in her works how to do it. In the case of the "gibberish" she describes above, she came to this conclusion: "[S]o much interior delight pertaining to what is very intimate in the soul, and with so much peace, and whose entire content provokes praises to God, it is not possible to ascribe it to the devil" (my own translation from the Spanish found in Castillo Interior, Sixth Mansions, Ch. 6, No. 10, last three lines). And, obviously, she did not ascribe the experience to her own autosuggestion or imagination.
As the Zaleskis point out in their book on prayer, Teresa took this discernment seriously:
Teresa was, in fact, terribly concerned with discriminating between authentic visions and raptures, sent by God, and the ersatz variety, implanted by demons or self-deception. Through her studies of this problem, she helped refine the art of discernment of spirits, a major preoccupation of the Church since patristic days. Teresa was acutely aware that many nuns were prone to self-delusion . . . . Real rapture, she says, may be frightening or painful, but the aftereffect makes one more detached from the world and more deeply in love with Christ. A devil-spawned vision would lead one away from Christ, toward the world. If the rapture brings us closer to God, how can it be anything but a gift from his hands?
Zaleski, p. 178.
As to the issue of self-induced experiences, the Zaleskis note that the famous writer Vita Sackville-West, who studied Teresa, made the point that Teresa's visions are credible because Teresa "was unable to manipulate them in any way" (p. 178). As the Zaleskis write,
For Sackville-West, Teresa's scrupulousness "in never pretending to see or hear more than she actually believed she saw and heard, is extremely convincing, and rules out any suggestion that she could delude herself into imagining something which was not out 'there.' "
Zaleski, p. 178 (quoting Sackville-West).
Yes, Teresa of Ávila is very interesting.
P.S. By the way, the book on prayer by the Zaleskis is praised on its dust jacket by Fr. Neuhaus of First Things.
Thursday, June 01, 2006Next Major Update: Friday, June 2, 2006
Wednesday, May 31, 2006The Arrogance of Self-Esteem
One of the underlying intuitions of our American culture, including of much of our religion, is that "in the eyes of God we are worthy." First, I personally am uncomfortable with anyone claiming to tell us how things are or look like "in the eyes of God." As very limited and puny human beings, all we have is the record of divine revelation that tells us in language that we flawed mortals can understand something of the full truth about God that He wills to reveal to us. We can never hope to see everything as God sees it precisely because we are not and will never be God. Because divine revelation is in language suited to our limited capacities, we must approach with great humility any attempt to try to understand the mind of God. We know through divine revelation what God wants us to know: we don't know everything God knows. In many ways, you can see this truth in the cautions of St. Thomas Aquinas when he emphasizes how much of our knowledge of the divine involves knowing what we do not know (reminiscent in a way of Plato's pre-Christian insight; see Catechism, sections 39-43, quoting St. Thomas).
Second, as in most general statements, there is both truth and falsity in the generalization that "in the eyes of God we are worthy." If we mean that God loves all of us, then it is true that in that particular sense, in the sense that God loves us, we are all "worthy." But the falsity in the statement is the lurking idea that in and of ourselves we have worth before God. I submit that lurking meaning is wrong.
In and of ourselves, we stand condemned before God (see Catechism, 402). To know that is to know the truth of the lurking selfishness that lies within us: an inability to love as love was meant to be. Any merits we have, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, come from Christ (see Catechism, sections 2006-2011, which are quite eloquent). If we were indeed worthy before God, there would have been no need for the Crucifixion. Christ has stood in our place to make us worthy. The love of God through Christ gives us the worth we could never have on our own and to which we have no right whatsoever. That's an astounding statement for our American culture: we have no right to be considered worthy in the eyes of God. Our ability to stand before God comes solely from Christ. We are the objects of undeserved and unearned love. That is a troubling notion to an American culture that insists on rights, entitlement, self-esteem, and on "doing it my way." My friends, our way is no way: only Christ is the Way.
That's why as Catholics we emphasize the sacraments: the favor or grace of God comes to us by objective signs instituted by Christ to communicate to us God's favor or grace. We can't earn that favor or conjure that grace out of thin air. The old Protestant polemic that Catholics "earn" salvation is an irrelevant caricature out of the past. Christ acts to save us in the sacraments; and, as shown in an earlier post on the sacraments, in the prayer and conversion that are presupposed by the sacraments' fruitfulness in our lives. Even in prayer, we don't stand alone on our own two feet conjuring up anything. The Holy Spirit is the master of prayer who prays through us. It is true, of course, as the Scriptures say, that we move and have our being in God, not on our own (as Paul preaches to the Athenians in Acts 17:28, quoting a pagan poet whom some identify as Epimenides of Knossos from the 6th century B.C.!).
So we would do well to resist the temptation to claim any right to self-worth before God and of announcing that to others. If we resist this temptation, then we will recognize our true situation in reality: we are the constant recipients of mercy, of a mercy which should engender in the realistic a constant sense of gratitude. We are in no position to demand anything of God. Whatever He has given us is already more than we would ever have a right to have. That is the attitude of thanksgiving. That is the attitude that makes us persons of the Eucharist, a term which comes from the Greek word for "thanksgiving." This attitude is the key to peace and contentment, to joy and radiance.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006Keep Your Eye on Maryland U.S. Senate Race
I've written before about it: this election year the Republicans are putting forth prominent black candidates in a long-term bid to begin to end Democrat dominance of the black vote. To paraphrase Winston Churchill loosely, this may not be the end of the Democrat lock on the black vote; but it may be the beginning of the end. In both Ohio and Pennsylvania, the Republican candidates for governor are black. This is not tokenism. These are two important and prized electoral states in the national presidential races. Just as in the post of Secretary of State in D.C., which is, of course, held by another African-American, the Republicans are demonstrating that they are serious about serious and important black officeholders.
According to this Robert Novak column at realclearpolitics.com, the race to watch is the Maryland U.S. Senate race in which African-American Lieutenant Governor Steele is the Republican candidate (here is the link). And for Catholics, the good news is that Steele is pro-life. So is Blackwell in Ohio. The history of black party loyalty began with a decades long attachment to the Republican Party of Lincoln in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Democratic Party of that era was the party of slavery, the Confederacy, and Southern racism. With FDR's New Deal, blacks transferred their political loyalty to the Democratic Party for the first time because of the social programs that meant so much to the poorest of the poor. Today, the Party of Lincoln is making a new bid for black voters to come back home. It's a bid based on supporting school vouchers that will have a revolutionary and favorable impact on black inner city students, on demonstrating the reality of black empowerment and the end of racist attitudes by nominating black candidates to prominent appointed and elected positions, and by appealing to the social conservatism of many religious African-Americans whether on the issue of abortion or "gay marriage." It's a formula that's working because it matches the reality and aspirations of many African-Americans.
In this regard, the reelection of Mayor Ray Nagin in New Orleans has been a tremendous (but little noticed) setback to the political plans of Howard Dean. The plan was to make Katrina the Democrat version of 9/11, even with New Orleans as a potential site for the 2008 Democrat National Convention, just as New York was the site of the 2004 Republican National Convention. But Mayor Nagin, although a Democrat, spoke loud and clear after his reelection by thanking President Bush for keeping his promises to aid the New Orleans recovery. Howard Dean's man will not be the host for any Democrat National Convention in New Orleans. Howard Dean's man (liberal Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu) lost the race even with a gigantic fundraising advantage over Nagin and the backing of the liberal Democrat establishment in Louisiana and beyond. The Democrat Katrina card with black voters lost a lot of its power with Nagin back in office emphatically praising Bush's commitment to recovery.
Like Hispanics, African-Americans voters must be in play for both major parties in order to have any real influence in American politics. More Republican black voters will do that. More Republican black voters will also be a major roadblock to the Culture of Death of abortion and to the analogous Death-of-Opportunity Culture found in dead end inner city public school systems which Democrats irrationally seek to preserve by resisting school vouchers.
Monday, May 29, 2006Bush Speech at West Point
Here is the text of President Bush's speech on May 27, 2006, at the West Point commencement. I present the text on Memorial Day as another means of presenting the President's views unfiltered by the hostile liberal media. You can also find the text at www.whitehouse.gov. By the way, for those curious, I fully endorse the President's speech. Here it is, with bold highlighting by me:
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for the warm welcome. General Lennox, Secretary Harvey, members of the United States Congress, Academy staff and faculty, distinguished guests, proud family, and, most importantly, the Class of 2006. (Applause.)
I see a lot of Gray Hogs out there -- a few Century Men, too. During your four years at this Academy, I'm told there are about 18,000 opportunities to be late for class, drill, march, or inspection -- and many of you availed yourselves of those opportunities. (Laughter.) Others got written up just for having bad haircuts. No matter what reason you got slugged, help is on the way. (Applause.) In keeping with longstanding tradition, I hereby absolve all cadets who are on restriction for minor conduct offenses. I leave it to General Lennox to define exactly what "minor" means. (Laughter.)
It's a privilege to stand before the future leaders of the United States Army. (Applause.) You have worked hard to get to this moment. You survived the hardest Beast on record -- the "best summer of your lives" in Buckistan -- countless hours in the House of Pane. In four years, you've been transformed from "bean-heads" to "yuks," to "cows," and "Firsties." And today you will become proud officers of the greatest Army in the history of the world. (Applause.) Your teachers are proud of you; your parents are proud of you; and so is your Commander-in-Chief. Congratulations on a fantastic achievement. (Applause.)
This Academy has shaped your minds and bodies for the challenges that lie ahead. You worked hard in the classroom and on the playing field to prepare for the rigors of combat. One cadet described the West Point attitude this way: "First I'll beat Navy and Air Force, and then I'll beat the enemies of freedom on the battlefield."
The field of battle is where your degree and commission will take you. This is the first class to arrive at West Point after the attacks of September the 11th, 2001. Each of you came here in a time of war, knowing all the risks and dangers that come with wearing our nation's uniform. And I want to thank you for your patriotism, your devotion to duty, your courageous decision to serve. America is grateful and proud of the men and women of West Point. (Applause.)
The reality of war has surrounded you since your first moments at this Academy. More than 50 of your fellow cadets here at West Point have already seen combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. And 34 times since your class arrived, you have observed a moment of silence in Washington Hall to honor a former cadet fallen in the war on terror. Each loss is heartbreaking -- and each loss has made you even more determined to pick up their mantle, to carry on their fight, and to achieve victory. We will honor the memory of these brave souls. We will finish the task for which they gave their lives. We will complete the mission. (Applause.)
West Point has adapted to prepare you for the war you're about to enter. Since the attacks of September the 11th, 2001, this Academy has established a new Combating Terrorism Center, a new minor in Terrorism Studies, with new courses in counter-insurgency operations, intelligence, and homeland security, and winning the peace. West Point has expanded Arabic language training, has hired new faculty with expertise in Islamic law and culture, brought in members of the 101st and 82nd Airborne to train you and share their experiences on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. And each of you endured grueling Saturday training events where you practiced identifying IEDs, conducting convoy operations and running checkpoints. By changing to meet the new threats, West Point has given you the skills you will need in Afghanistan and Iraq -- and for the long war with Islamic radicalism that will be the focus of much of your military careers.
This Academy went through a similar period of change six decades ago, at the end of World War II. Some of West Point's greatest graduates -- men like Eisenhower and Bradley, Patton and MacArthur -- had just brought our nation victory in Europe and Japan. Yet, almost immediately, a new threat appeared on the horizon -- the threat of Imperial Communism. And West Point, like America, had to prepare for a long struggle with a new adversary, one that would require the determination of generations of Americans.
In the early years of that struggle, freedom's victory was not obvious or assured. In 1947, communist forces were threatening Greece and Turkey, the reconstruction of Germany was faltering, mass starvation was setting in across Europe. In 1948, Czechoslovakia fell to communism; France and Italy appeared to be headed for the same fate, and Berlin was blockaded on the orders of Josef Stalin. In 1949, the Soviet Union exploded a nuclear weapon, giving our new enemy the ability to bring catastrophic destruction to our homeland. And weeks later, communist forces won their revolution in China, and claimed the world's most populous nation for communism. And in the summer of 1950, seven North Korean divisions poured across the border into South Korea, marking the start of the first direct military clash of the Cold War. All of this took place in just the first five years following World War II.
President Truman set a clear doctrine. In a speech to Congress, he called for military and economic aid to Greece and Turkey, and announced a new doctrine that would guide American policy throughout the Cold War. He told the Congress: "It must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures." With this new doctrine, and with the aid to back it up, Greece and Turkey were saved from communism, and the Soviet expansion into Southern Europe and the Middle East was stopped.
President Truman acted boldly to confront new adversaries. When Stalin tested America's resolve with a blockade of Berlin, President Truman launched the Berlin Airlift, delivering supplies to the besieged city, forcing the Red Army to back down, and securing the freedom of West Berlin. Later, Truman again responded to communist aggression with resolve, fighting a difficult war in Korea. The Korean War saw many setbacks, and missteps and terrible losses. More than 54,000 Americans gave their lives in Korea. Yet, in the end, communist forces were pushed back to the 38th Parallel -- and the freedom of South Korea was secure.
President Truman acted boldly to help transform old adversaries into democratic allies. In Asia, his administration led the effort to help Japan change from a nation that had launched a surprise attack on America into a thriving democracy and a steadfast ally. In Europe, he launched the Marshall Plan, an unprecedented effort to help Germany and other nations in Europe recover from war and establish strong democracies. The Marshall Plan cost about $100 billion in today's dollars, and it helped to save Western Europe from Soviet tyranny, and led to the emergence of democratic allies that remain indispensable to the cause of peace today.
President Truman transformed our alliances to deal with new dangers. After World War II, he led the effort to form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the first peacetime alliance in American history. NATO served as a military bulwark against communist aggression, and helped give us a Europe that is now whole, free, and at peace.
President Truman positioned U.S. forces to deal with new threats. Despite enormous pressure to bring our troops home after World War II, he kept American forces in Germany to deter Soviet aggression, and kept U.S. forces in Japan as a counterweight to communist China. Together with the deployment of U.S. forces to Korea, the military footprint Truman established on two continents has remained virtually unchanged to this day, and has served as the foundation for security in Europe and in the Pacific.
President Truman launched a sweeping reorganization of the federal government to prepare it for a new struggle. Working with Congress, he created the Department of Defense, established the Air Force as a separate military service, formed the National Security Council at the White House, and founded the Central Intelligence Agency to ensure America had the best intelligence on Soviet threats.
President Truman made clear that the Cold War was an ideological struggle between tyranny and freedom. At a time when some still wanted to wish away the Soviet threat, he brought Winston Churchill to Missouri, to deliver his famous "Iron Curtain" speech. And he issued a presidential directive called NSC-68, which declared that America faced an enemy "animated by a new fanatic faith" and determined to impose its ideology on the entire world. This directive called on the United States to accept the responsibility of world leadership, and defend the cause of freedom and democracy -- and that's exactly what the United States did.
By the actions he took, the institutions he built, the alliances he forged and the doctrines he set down, President Truman laid the foundations for America's victory in the Cold War. As President Truman put it towards the end of his presidency, "When history says that my term of office saw the beginning of the Cold War, it will also say that in those eight years we set the course that can win it." His leadership paved the way for subsequent Presidents from both political parties -- men like Eisenhower and Kennedy and Reagan -- to confront and eventually defeat the Soviet threat. (Applause.)
Today, at the start of a new century, we are again engaged in a war unlike any our nation has fought before -- and like Americans in Truman's day, we are laying the foundations for victory. (Applause.) The enemies we face today are different in many ways from the enemy we faced in the Cold War. In the Cold War, we deterred Soviet aggression through a policy of mutually assured destruction. Unlike the Soviet Union, the terrorist enemies we face today hide in caves and shadows -- and emerge to attack free nations from within. The terrorists have no borders to protect, or capital to defend. They cannot be deterred -- but they will be defeated. (Applause.) America will fight the terrorists on every battlefront, and we will not rest until this threat to our country has been removed. (Applause.)
While there are real differences between today's war and the Cold War, there are also many important similarities. Like the Cold War, we are fighting the followers of a murderous ideology that despises freedom, crushes all dissent, has territorial ambitions, and pursues totalitarian aims. Like the Cold War, our enemies are dismissive of free peoples, claiming that men and women who live in liberty are weak and lack the resolve to defend our way of life. Like the Cold War, our enemies believe that the innocent can be murdered to serve a political vision. And like the Cold War, they're seeking weapons of mass murder that would allow them to deliver catastrophic destruction to our country. If our enemies succeed in acquiring such weapons, they will not hesitate to use them, which means they would pose a threat to America as great as the Soviet Union.
Against such an enemy, there is only one effective response: We will never back down, we will never give in, and we will never accept anything less than complete victory. (Applause.)
Like previous generations, history has once again called America to great responsibilities, and we're answering history's call with confidence. We're confronting new dangers with new determination, and laying the foundations for victory in the war on terror.
In this new war, we have set a clear doctrine. After the attacks of September the 11th, I told a joint session of Congress: America makes no distinction between the terrorists and the countries that harbor them. If you harbor a terrorist, you are just as guilty as the terrorists and you're an enemy of the United States of America. (Applause.) In the months that followed, I also made clear the principles that will guide us in this new war: America will not wait to be attacked again. We will confront threats before they fully materialize. We will stay on the offense against the terrorists, fighting them abroad so we do not have to face them here at home. (Applause.)
In this new war, we have acted boldly to confront new adversaries. When the Taliban regime in Afghanistan tested America's resolve, refusing our just demands to turn over the terrorists who attacked America, we responded with determination. Coalition forces drove the Taliban from power, liberated Afghanistan, and brought freedom to 25 million people. (Applause.) In Iraq, another tyrant chose to test America's resolve. Saddam Hussein was a dictator who had pursued and used weapons of mass destruction, he sponsored terrorists, invaded his neighbors, abused his people, deceived international inspectors, and refused to comply with more than a dozen United Nations resolutions. (Applause.) When the United Nations Security Council gave him one final chance to disclose and disarm, or face serious consequences, he refused to take that final opportunity. So coalition forces went into Iraq and removed his cruel regime. And today, Iraq's former dictator is on trial for his crimes -- and America and the world are better off because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. (Applause.)
In this new war, we have helped transform old adversaries into democratic allies. Just as an earlier generation of Americans helped change Germany and Japan from conquered adversaries into democratic allies, today a new generation of Americans is helping Iraq and Afghanistan recover from the ruins of tyranny. In Afghanistan, the terror camps have been shut down, women are working, boys and girls are going to school, and Afghans have chosen a president and a new parliament in free elections. In Iraq, the people defied the terrorists and cast their ballots in three free elections last year. And last week, Iraqis made history when they inaugurated the leaders of a new government of their choosing, under a constitution that they drafted and they approved. When the formation of this unity -- with the formation of this unity government, the world has seen the beginning of something new: a constitutional democracy in the heart of the Middle East. (Applause.) Difficult challenges remain in both Afghanistan and Iraq. But America is safer, and the world is more secure, because these two countries are now democracies -- and they are allies in the cause of freedom and peace. (Applause.)
In this new war, we have forged new alliances, and transformed old ones, for the challenges of a new century. After our nation was attacked, we formed the largest coalition in history to fight the war on terror. More than 90 nations are cooperating in a global campaign to dry up terrorist financing, to hunt down terrorist operatives, and bring terrorist leaders to justice. Nations like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia that once turned a blind eye to terror are now helping lead the fight against it. And since September the 11th, 2001, our coalition has captured or killed al Qaeda managers and operatives in over two dozen countries, and disrupted a number of serious al Qaeda terrorist plots, including plots to attack targets inside the United States. Our nation is more secure because we have rallied the world to confront this threat to civilization. (Applause.)
The greatest threat we face is the danger of terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction. To confront this danger, we launched the Proliferation Security Initiative, a coalition of more than 70 nations that are working together to stop shipments of weapons of mass destruction on land, at sea, and in the air, and to stop them from falling into terrorist hands. And building on the legacy of Harry Truman, we launched the most dramatic transformation of the NATO Alliance since its founding in 1949. Working with allies, we created a new "NATO Response Force" that will allow NATO to deploy rapid reaction forces on short notice anywhere in the world. And together we transformed NATO from a defensive alliance focused on protecting Europe from Soviet tank invasion into a dynamic alliance that is now operating across the world in the support of democracy and peace.
For five decades, NATO forces never deployed outside of Europe. Today, NATO is leading security operations in Afghanistan, training Iraqi security forces in Baghdad, delivering humanitarian relief to earthquake victims in Pakistan, and training peacekeepers in Sudan. An alliance some said had lost its purpose after the Cold War is now meeting the challenges of the 21st century.
In this new war, we're positioning our forces to meet new threats. For more than half a century, American forces essentially had remained in the same places that President Truman deployed them. So, two years ago, I announced the largest transformation of our global force posture since the start of the Cold War. Over the coming decade, we will move U.S. forces from Cold War garrisons in Europe and Asia, and reposition them so they can surge quickly to trouble spots anywhere. We will deploy advanced military capabilities that will increase U.S. combat power across the world, while bringing home between 60,000 and 70,000 troops now stationed overseas. By taking these steps, we will reduce stress on our military families, raise the pressure on our enemies, and ensure that when you put on the uniform of the United States Army you are ready to meet any threat. (Applause.)
In this new war, we've undertaken the most sweeping reorganization of the federal government since the start of the Cold War. We created a new Department of Homeland Security, merging 22 different government organizations into a single department with a clear mission: to protect America from future attacks. We created the new Director of National Intelligence, which has led a broad restructuring of our nation's intelligence agencies for the threats of the 21st century. We have transformed the FBI into an agency whose primary focus is stopping terrorism, and reorganized the Department of Justice to help us meet this new threat. We passed the Patriot Act, which broke down barriers that prevented law enforcement and intelligence agencies from sharing vital information on terrorist threats.
At the Department of Defense, we created a new Northern Command responsible for homeland defense, a new Strategic Command responsible for defending America against long-range attacks. We transformed the Special Operations Command, more than doubling its budget, adding thousands of new troops, and making it the lead command in the global war on terror. And we're undertaking the largest transformation of the Army in more than a hundred years. Since the turn of the last century, the Army has been organized around the division structure designed by Napoleon. Today, we're replacing that division structure with a 21st century Army built around "modular" brigade combat teams that will be interchangeable and available to work for any division commander. These brigades will make our Army faster and lighter, and more agile and more lethal -- and it will make you more effective in the defense of freedom. (Applause.)
We have made clear that the war on terror is an ideological struggle between tyranny and freedom. When President Truman spoke here for the 150th anniversary of West Point, he told the Class of 1952: "We can't have lasting peace unless we work actively and vigorously to bring about conditions of freedom and justice in the world." That same principle continues to guide us in today's war on terror. Our strategy to protect America is based on a clear premise: The security of our nation depends on the advance of liberty in other nations. On September the 11th, 2001, we saw that problems originating in a failed and oppressive state 7,000 miles away could bring murder and destruction to our country. And we learned an important lesson: Decades of excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe. (Applause.) So long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place where terrorists foment resentment and threaten American security.
So we are pursuing a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. I believe the desire for liberty is universal -- and by standing with democratic reformers across a troubled region, we will extend freedom to millions who have not known it -- and lay the foundation of peace for generations to come. (Applause.)
We're still in the early stages of this struggle for freedom and, like those first years of the Cold War, we've seen setbacks, and challenges, and days that have tested America's resolve. Yet we've also seen days of victory and hope. We've seen people in Afghanistan voting for the first democratic parliament in a generation. We have seen jubilant Iraqis dancing in the streets, holding up ink-stained fingers, celebrating their freedom. We've seen people in Lebanon waving cedar flags and securing the liberty and independence of their land. We've seen people in Kyrgyzstan drive a corrupt regime from power and vote for democratic change. In the past four years alone, more than 110 million human beings across the world have joined the ranks of the free -- and this is only the beginning. (Applause.) The message has spread from Damascus to Tehran that the future belongs to freedom -- and we will not rest until the promise of liberty reaches every people and every nation. (Applause.)
Now the Class of 2006 will enter the great struggle -- and the final outcome depends on your leadership. The war began on my watch -- but it's going to end on your watch. (Applause.) Your generation will bring us victory in the war on terror. My call to you is this: Trust in the power of freedom, and be bold in freedom's defense. Show leadership and courage -- and not just on the battlefield. Take risk, try new things, and challenge the established way of doing things. Trust in your convictions, stay true to yourselves -- and one day the world will celebrate your achievements. (Applause.)
I have confidence in the final outcome of this struggle, because I know the character and determination of the men and women gathered before me. We see that character and determination in a cadet named Patrick Dowdell. It was Patrick's dream to attend West Point, and he applied straight out of high school, but did not get in on his first try. After being turned down, he wondered if he was cut out for the Academy. His father, New York Fireman Kevin Dowdell, encouraged Patrick to apply again. Kevin wrote letters to his congressman on behalf of his son. And he spent long hours working with Patrick on his application -- right up to September the 9, 2001. Two days later, Kevin Dowdell raced across the Brooklyn Bridge with his fire rescue unit to the burning World Trade Towers -- and he never returned.
After the attack, Patrick spent months digging at Ground Zero, looking for his dad -- and thinking about the dream that they had shared about his future. He was determined to fulfill that dream. And in the summer of 2002, Patrick arrived here at West Point as a new cadet -- and today he will receive his degree and his commission. (Applause.)
A few weeks ago, Patrick's mom, RoseEllen, attended another graduation ceremony -- at the New York City Fire Academy, where her other son, James, followed his father's footsteps as one of New York's Bravest. And today, RoseEllen -- (applause) -- is with us to see Patrick join the ranks of America's bravest, as an officer in the United States Army. (Applause.)
We live in freedom because young Americans like Patrick, and all the cadets here today, have stepped forward to serve. You have chosen a difficult and dangerous vocation -- and America is grateful for that choice. Today, you will accept a sacred trust: You will lead America's sons and daughters on the battlefield in a time of war. Our nation is counting on you as we count on no other group of young leaders in our country. The last four years have tested you in ways you never imagined -- and you leave here well prepared for the challenges you will face.
There's a saying at West Point that much of the history you teach here was made by the people you taught here. Now the Class of 2006 will leave for the battlefield -- and you will make history. Never falter, never quit. Bring honor to the uniform, and pride to your country. May God bless you, and the Class of 2006. (Applause.)