May 29, 2006

Visit from the kids

Over the weekend, my sister in law and her husband came to town with 4 of their 5 children, mostly to see her father, a recent amputee.

I just got back into town to see the kids before they left for Milwaukee. Katie the youngest, is clearly my favorite and always has such wonderful hugs and stories for me. I keep her picture in my office and people constantly ask if she's my daughter. Once, when I replied that she was my niece, the inquirer shouted, "Oh too bad! She's a cutie!"

That should've been the first hint that she wasn't my kid.

Regardless, a fine Italian meal at our Aunt's house was a lot of fun. I got rather worn out playing baseball (with a plastic golf club!) with the kids. But a fun time that I wouldn't trade for anything. I often see these glimmers of fatherhood in these moments and long for times like these with a child of my own. While all kids can be rascals at times--and I'm sure they are challenging to control. I often wonder who will be the strict disciplinarian in our home and I often think it will be me! More on that later.

My father in law is doing well. Lots of rehab awaits him.

May 25, 2006

John Allen = More than just a Catholic Journalist

IN a post below I mentioned that I wouldn't consider John Allen a Catholic journalist. That was meant to be a compliment--but I can see how it could be taken in another way.

Allen is MORE than a Catholic journalist. Most Catholic journalists (meaning those who write for a Catholic paper--diocesan, NCR, OSV, whomever) are considered irrelevant in the secular media. But certainly not John. He's the go-to guy for most people. Some others are beginning to make headways into that realm as well. Rocco Palmo is often quoted in the NY Times. Amy Welborn writes op-eds. Even Jim Martin at America magazine and Fr. Dave Dwyer at my own BustedHalo have made the rounds in the media.

However the random Catholic newspaper editors are often viewed as spin doctors for the Bishop of the diocese and every article often reads like "what a great diocese we have."

We need to be more than than to be taken seriously. John Allen raises that bar high.

Father in Law...

Seems to be doing OK after the amputation. He's in a lot of pain but is hanging tough. He'll get a prosthetic leg eventually, but for now he's recovering nicely. We'll probably see him when I return home.


I'm in Nashville to give a workshop today with my pal Lino Ruillithe host of Lino at Large and a real nut (got papers and everything!), on reaching young adults through the media.

The Catholic Press gets virtually no young adult readers. It's a combination of young adults not attending mass and indifference to the articles they present. A writer-friend remarks "I have no interest in writing a column for my diocesan paper. I don't want to write articles that make people say 'Oh what a nice young lady!" True enough--the saccarine content that most articles that are aimed at young adults contain is enough to give me diabetes instantly. It's time that the Catholic press takes young adults seriously. Blogger folks like Rocco Palmo have already become so relevant as Vaticanistas that they trump every other Catholic journalist in the country except John Allen (and I wouldn't even call him a Catholic journalist anymore).

So today we'll be prophets..and prophets are always in trouble. We'll see how that goes over.

May 23, 2006

Some things are simply just nuts

So I've read John Allen's Opus Dei book and liked it immensely. I found it balanced and to the point. However, he mentions that the cilice (the barbed chain that Opus Dei members wear secretly on their leg) is an ancient practice of corporal mortification that even Blessed Theresa of Calcutta used and encouraged.

My comment here is that just because something has been used by many people doesn't mean that it's not downright goofy.

Is corporal mortification something we should use in prayer as Catholics? Or does it hold within in practice dangerous tendencies for some (if not all) users?

I await your comments.

May 22, 2006

Legionaries of Christ Founder Smacked on the Knuckles

I've been quiet about the founder of the Legionairies of Christ, who was undeniably found guilty of molesting seminarians by a Vatican review. However the Vatican chose to not go forward with a full cannonical process because of his age, instead opting to ask Fr. Maciel to live a life of quiet penitence and place restrictions on his public ministry.

John Allen has details

It seems that the founder got off easy to me. Yet I admire the CDF's mercy in this case at the same time. Some thoughts:

1) If this guy was a Jesuit or a Paulist he'd be defrocked almost immediately and they would never issue a statement about how wonderful those communities are as the Vatican did with the Legion.

2) If it's obvious that he did something wrong than I think he should be forced to make a public apology to those he abused and THEN go live his life in quiet solitiude. But that won't happen because Maciel continues to deny the charges as do the Legionaries.

Sad. Denial is not just a river in Egypt.

When it rains...

I hate to be the bearer of more bad news (or to be accused of using this blog as a dumping ground for my personal problems), but...

My father in law will need to have his foot amputated due to complications from diabetes. Please send some prayers his way (Lou Peracchio).

May 20, 2006

Fr. Jaime Baca, CSP

Congratulations to the Paulists latest priest, Fr. Jaime Baca. Fr. Baca was ordained today by the Bishop of Grand Rapids, Walter A. Hurley at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York.

Fr. Baca will serve his first assignment in Knoxville, TN at Immaculate Conception Church. A diehard Notre Dame fan, Fr. Baca will have a tough time when the Irish come to town to play the Vols.

Jaime, as I know him, is a great guy and will be a wonderful priest. He served his summer assignment at St Paul's--my parish--just 3-4 short years ago and I worked with him at World Youth Day in Toronto. He's going to be a fun guy to have around.

Paulist Pre-Assembly

I was very happy to take part in the Pre-Assembly for the Paulist Fathers which helps inform the Paulists on their future direction as a community. We had a lot of good dialogue between us lay leaders and the priests of the community. I'm often impressed with the quality of these things--and I'm a tough audience--I want to chew my arm off at "process meetings" most of the time.

In general, there's not a whole lot to report other than that the Paulists look like they may possibly try to open a case for cannonization for their founder Issac Hecker--who's vision was to evangelize America. Could be the right saint to really give us a great vision of American Catholicism.

May 16, 2006

Give D.C. a Wuerl

Pope Benedict on Tuesday named Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl, bishop of Pittsburgh, to be the new archbishop of Washington D.C., one of the most prestigious posts in the American Catholic Church, the Vatican said.

Wuerl succeeds Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, 75, who is retiring after five years in the job.

More from Reuters:

I'm a fan of Archbishop Wuerl, who I'm sure also has Cardnal McCarrick's blessing in taking over the post. The two speak highly of one another often. Wuerl has been in Pittsburgh for a rather long time. My colleague Gary Silfkey who is the director of young adult ministry has spoken highly of his now, old boss as well.

Blessings on his ministry to the good people of D.C.

May 15, 2006

Thanks Mom (and Dad too)

So I went to visit my mother in the hospital yesterday. My mother, as many of you know, suffers from several chronic aliments (rhuemotoid arthritis, severe asthma and a colon ailment) that keep her hospitalized for short periods of time. Roughly every other month she goes into a hospital and is home within a week. It's exhausting for both her and my father as well as my sister (who lives nearby).

While in the hospital, I found out that my cousin, Peter, was also in the room right next door to her. Peter, three years my junior, has been battling drug addiction for most likely several years (heroin mostly). He nearly died of an overdose complicated by pneumonia--thus his recovery in the next room from my mother. Please send prayers his way and for all those who battle addictions. While drugs are a massive problem in our society we do little to empathize with those caught in addiction's grasp. Many of us do not understand addiction. Addicts are powerless over the drug that controls their lives. They indeed DO want to cease using but are powerless to do so. In short, seclusion and therapy in a treatment center is about the only thing that can break the cycle along with repeated meetings in an addict's group (like AA or NA). The brain needs to be re-programmed in some way.

On the ride home I talked with my wife about my troubled cousin and the rest of my extended family, many members of whom battle similar issues with alcohol and drug use. Many have children out of wedlock and faith has taken a back burner at best to other competing needs. Peter's mother, my cousin Maureen, brought Peter's neice with her. She's a brilliant child for her age and I'm praying that she doesn't get caught in the mix of this horrible fixation on drugs, sex, and booze that has captured many of my cousins.

I began to think about my own life on the ride back as well. I wondered why I, nor my sister, didn't end up addicted to drugs or alcohol when seemingly many members of my family did so. What kept us out of trouble's way? The answer to that question lies with my mother and father. Strong Catholics are they at 78 years old and they raised us to be the same. What's more is that they got me involved in many activities from a young age--perhaps too many--and even today I take on a lot of tasks and activities. But that's what kept me off the streets and also kept me within the watchful eyes of my mother and father who always played some role in the activities that I was partaking in. Whether it was driving me to a baseball game, camping with the Boy Scouts, or helping with the Altar Boys bake sale, they were always there for me. They also made sure that I went to Catholic school for 7th and 8th grade because they feared the public middle school. When I think back on it, I remember hating the kids at the Catholic school so much--but I know now it was probably the best place for me. Many of my friends who, shall we say, strayed from the fold, began to do so in Middle School. Cutting class, smoking, drinking, drugs, and getting pregnant can all tell the story of many an adolescence gone bad.

Yet my parents would have none of it for me. They made sure I went to college, they encouraged me to study hard, and they gave me a faith that continues to enrich my life--so much so that it is the base for my career.

So on this mother's day and merely a week after my father's 78th birthday--I thank them for being such good parents. It's probably a big reason why I long to be a parent myself. I had two great models who gave all they had for me.

What more could a child ever ask for?

May 12, 2006

Thanks to all

For all of you who wrote to me and my wife with regards to our adoption loss, we extend our most heartfelt thanks.

Today I feel better. I had a rough yesterday to be honest. I serve on a committee at my alma mater of Fordham and our tight knit group was very helpful and supportive to me. As have been my friends Donna, Jeff, Bill, Al and Greg and of course, my Paulist friends Frs. Brett Hoover, John Collins and Dave Dwyer. My wife's family has been an incredible source of support for us as well.

As many of you know, we visit the dump, La Chureca, in Nicaragua(pictured, right)--
where people are living-- as an additional outreach to the people of Nicaragua during our mission trip to the Orphanage. There is no more frightening sight than to see children running for the garbage truck so that they can be the first to get the "good garbage." My biggest fear is that Patricia's mother won't be able to turn it all around and that Patricia will be forced to live in a place like La Chureca--which is basically a death sentence waiting to happen. Cancer, AIDS, and other diseases are rampant. Women are preganant everywhere you look--mostly because of the rampant prostitution there (men pay prosititutes more to have sex without condoms), but also because sex is a pleasure that doesn't cost anything. Poor people can still make love and make babies--which in turn keeps them poor because then they have another hungry mouth to feed.

We don't really know poverty on this scale in the United States. However, there are people who live like this in our own country and while not as obviously widespread as it is in Nicaragua, Haiti, or even Africa, it does exist here.

People often plead with God asking "How could you let this happen?" with regards to the poor. In turn, God has the same question for us:

"How could YOU let this happen?"


Tax cuts approved

From Today NYT:

The Senate voted 54 to 44 on Thursday to pass almost $70 billion in tax cuts, mostly for the nation's wealthiest taxpayers. The action ensures that virtually all of President Bush's tax cuts will be locked in place until after the next presidential election.

The measure, which the House passed Wednesday, would extend Mr. Bush's tax cuts on stock dividends and capital gains by two years, until 2010, and shield about 15 million taxpayers for one year from an increase in the alternative minimum tax.
The vote, largely along party lines, was a significant victory for Mr. Bush and beleaguered Republican leaders, who had viewed the tax cuts on stock market profits as a defining party issue and had credited them with jump-starting economic growth and reducing unemployment over the last three years.


Hayes' comment: The rich get richer and the poor gets screwed once again. I wonder what the senate's approval rating will be soon?

Does wiretapping make us more secure?

A friend told me that many people he knows would endure allowing their phones to be tapped because they feel it "makes us more secure."

I'm of two minds here:

1) The concept that it makes us more secure is laughable. Hello? They're tapping your phone! How does that possibly make you more secure? The next step is someone will be sleeping in your basement.

2) However, why are we concerned about people tapping our phones and knowing our business if we indeed have nothing to hide. The old axiom, "Tell the truth and they can't hurt you" is true only up to the point of telling the truth about things that are legal.

So what's the real issue here? Interestingly enough, liberal minded people are using a conservative argument on this matter with regards to keeping the government out of our daily affairs.

My final thought: My suspicious nature wonders if the government would use the information it finds through the wiretapping justly. Therein lies the larger argument. We live in such a litigious society that it breeds much contempt in so many ways.

Let us pray for the ability to trust one another and for our government to be able to instill that sense of trust in all of us. Amen.

Tim Radcliffe

An excellent article recently by Tim Radcliffe on healing divisions within the church. He is former head of the Dominicans.

Click to read

May 10, 2006

In God's Hands Now--Regarding Adoption

Semi-bad news from Nicaragua:

We most likely will not be able to adopt the little girl we would like to bring into our home.

The director of the orphanage where the little girl my wife and I (Patricia, pictured with me playing peekaboo, left) want to adopt informed us today that she has not been declared abandoned by the state--which means her mother (who is still alive but is unable to care for her because of the dire poverty that she lives in) would have to allow us to adopt her and she has not been willing to allow her to be adopted. She could change her mind if she would consider meeting us in August--but chances are that she has made up her mind already. She believes that she may one day be able to reunite her family. So things aren't quite over yet, but the fat lady is stepping up to the mic.

So the probability that we will adopt Patricia is now slim. As the director mentioned to us, "It's in God's hands now. Whatever he wants."

Needless to say I'm sad. Sad because poverty has placed this little girl in this predicament. Sad because I probably won't get to raise her and sadder still that she is most likely going to live the rest of her life in an orphanage with infrequent visits from her mother. I'm angry with God because I know one of the things I struggle with is patience and I think this is a cruel way for me to have to learn it.

We've already considered some other options to become parents...the orphanage got a new 7 year old girl recently so she may need a new family and we could provide her with that option.

So today, pray for Marion and I, please and for all the little ones who need someone to care and love them.

Attending Wakes

The most important thing that you can do for someone is to attend the wake of their parents. At least that's what a Jesuit told me while I was an undergraduate at Fordham. He often encouraged us to attend wakes and funerals of our classmates' parents and grandparents. It was something that many of us found as a difficult thing to do.

So I have tried to heed his words and have found the good Father to be very wise indeed. Yesterday, I attended the wake of my college roommate's father. He was a wonderful guy, who flew for Pan-AM for ages, retiring, not easily, in his older years. He learned much from his travels which literally took him all over the world, making friends and acquaintances that he would cherish and tell stories about every time I had the pleasure of being with him.

Obviously the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree. This big, warm, Italian family (Joe--the roommate in question) has 7 brothers and sisters all of whom are close with one another, is a collection of brilliant, friendly and respectable people--just like dear old dad.

Joe's dad lived to be nearly 89 years old. When I met him he was 71 years old with his youngest son just starting college, and I, sharing a room with his crazy rebel son. These were two men who came to know one another well--traveling to Australia, starting a family foundation, generously helping many in need with the family name curiously in the background--never hogging the limelight.

Often, we are all dumbfounded at what we should say or do at a wake or funeral. I keep a running collection of stupid things people have said to me at a wake or a funeral. We are all uncomfortable with death and it seems to bring out the worst in us...we are often at our most awkward moments while others are similarly at their most vulnerable. I can even remember saying some weird things to people myself when they lost a young person--especially if they died unexpectedly (see, 11, Sept. 2001).

So what should we say when someone's life ends?

The same Jesuit had the wisdom that I close with today:

"You need not say anything. In fact, saying something is often meaningless as people tend not to remember what you said..."

"What they do remember is that you were there."

If you would, please remember Phillip Patane, Sr. and his family today in your personal prayers.

And when you can...attend a wake.

And speaking of Amy Welborn...

She's featured today on with regards to the DaVinci Code and Mary Magdelene.

Speaking of the Jesuits...

The British Jesuits have an excellent podcast called Pray As You Go--check it out.

The Jesuits

Hat tip to Amy Welborn who beat me to this article in America.

Interesting. I have no doubt that the ideals expressed by the Jesuits may be taken superficially by some...but that wasn't my experience, nor that of my undergrad contemporaries with the Jesuits at Fordham, nor is the experience of my friends who attended Fordham Prep for High School. I found that many of us were taught these ideals in the strictest sense--challenging us in many ways and providing much fodder for our personal lives of prayer.

We were taught a good balance (in college, mind you) by both those in campus ministry and those in the classroom of both contemplation and community. AND it was emphasized that we needed both and furthermore, that integration between one's personal piety and the world we lived in was more than neccessary.

We live a life as prayer because we are followers of Jesus and Ignatius. We treat others a certain way because of our belief--our lives are changed once that belief takes firm hold in our mature selves. We are no longer children but men and women. And in maturity we do not simply exist for ourselves but rather we need to be for others.

Once I heard this in college, my faith radically changed. For the first time, I saw people who were truly living the gospel (not all mind you, but more than you might think--and certainly more than I had experienced in the church I belonged to up until my time at Fordham, which tended to be exclusivist, judgmental, and in more than a few ways racist and class restrictive).
The Jesuits made me see Christ and dare to become like him. Most importantly, they encouraged worship and contemplation daily. Setting time aside each day for an Examen, mass, and other sacramentals.

Everyone else just told me to worship Christ, punch my Sunday time card and forget about those outside the walls.

Now this should be interesting

Hugo Chavez to be received by B16 at the Vatican.

May 8, 2006

Death surrounds me

This weekend my college roommate's dad, Phillip Patane, died after a long illness. At nearly 90 years old, he lived a very full life, filled with joy and laughter. His large italian family will miss him much as he was certainly the strong patriarch of his clan. I will miss him and pray to him often. (Henceforth, he is known as St. Phillip of Brooklyn).

Also over the weekend, Sr. Rose Thering died, who Renee LaReau profiled on BustedHalo some time ago, whose doctoral research was in part, responsible for the issuing of the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate ("Our Time"). She is a hero to many of us who long for more ecumenical and interfaith dialogue.

Lastly, Fr. Bob Moran, CSP a wonderful Paulist died about two weeks or so ago and I haven't had the chance to blog about him much. Bob was a character! I'll best remember him for the line he quipped in the early days of the construction of our website. Our web design consultants were encouraging us to call our website "90 degree turn" (

When we pursued why they were even thinking of calling the site that they came up with the following scenario:

"Well, when you're at a crossroads and are trying to make a decison, you don't want to make a 180 degree turn because you'd be going backwards. You really want to make a slight turn to the left or to the right--about 90 degrees."

So I'm thinking that they're crazy....

They continue: "But if you go 90 degrees upwards... now you're going in the direction that God wants you to go."

The good Fr. Bob Moran, God rest him, remarked:

"Do they really think God's up there? The Russian Cosmonauts proved that theory wrong long ago!"

I continue to giggle everytime I tell the story.

The three all had a great ferocity for their God. That fire needs not be estinguished with their deaths. Rather, their lives will continue to emblaze our own as we remember the great love they had for their family and friends, their church, their God.

Eternal rest grant unto them O'Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

May 5, 2006

Saint of 9-11: Fr. Mychal Judge

Check out Fr. Chris Devron's column on BustedHalo today and the website that promotes the movie.

Also the book put out by Paulist Press on him is excellent and a young adult retreat center in New Jersey has been named in his honor.

I truly believe that he was a Saint..a man who struggled with his own demons and his own troubles with who he was and in doing so...and allowing that to change him...he brought many people to God.

Going to try to see this movie tonight.

May 4, 2006

Condi Rice at BC

Condi Rice was named this year's commencement speaker at Boston College, which is a Jesuit University for those who may be unaware.

Now naturally liberals are up in arms about her being selected because of her role in the war in Iraq. Interestingly, conservative also snub her because she is "mildly pro-choice."

As usual it all comes back to abortion for the conservatives who seemingly still have their head in the sand (or perhaps the flag?) about the war (and in fairness, many liberals have it in the sand on abortion too).

Why wouldn't people just protest her IDEAS instead of protesting her right to speak. The media's going to cover this event--give them something to cover.

The older I get the more I'm convinced that people really think way too simplistically most of the time.

Googling God the Book UPDATE

Fr. Michael Kerrigan at Paulist Press called yesterday and said that my revised manuscript has been approved for publication pending review for some stylistic changes (e.g. using endnotes instead of footnotes; only using the first name of the young adults I interviewed as examples).

We should have a ballpark on a publication date soon--so stay tuned.

NCYAMA Board Meeting

Sorry folks for the lack of blogging the last few days. I was in San Jose at the board meeting of the National Catholic Young Adult Ministry Association, of which I am President. We are going through some changes right now as an organization and Paul Jarzembowski (from Spiritual Popcorn) and I were working in taking the lead in making those changes happen. It was a long process with little down time.

Thanks to Jenene Francis from Charis for helping to facilitate the process and to Sister Christine Wilcox (from Sister Christer) for the use of her community's vacation home.

The rest of the board members did a wonderful job and I am confident that NCYAMA is once again headed in the right direction.

Googling God

Googling God
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