Jan 31, 2009

Daily Inspiration

This is from a bit back but Paul Potts went from working in a Carphone Warehouse to singing opera. This will bring tears to the eyes of the most jaded person.

Jan 30, 2009

Is Blogging Ministry?

Yes...next question...

But seriously, Deacon Greg thinks so too. And in this beautiful and funny piece for our friends at America Magazine he tells us why.

Then, one night in August, on the eve of the Feast of the Assumption, I decided to check my e-mail before going to bed. There was an item in my inbox titled, “I lost one of my students today.” I sat down and took a deep breath. It was from a Catholic teacher in Newark, N.J. One of his pupils, a 15-year-old boy, had been shot and killed that morning while sleeping in his own bedroom. News reports said a neighbor downstairs had been handling a rifle that had gone off accidentally.

The teacher was devastated. He told me that he wrote because he just needed to get it off his chest. “I am stricken with grief at a time when my heart would otherwise be elated—but I know my young student, my child, celebrates this feast in the arms of the Blessed Mother,” he wrote, and asked for prayers for himself, his students and the boy who had been killed.

I did not know what to say. I wrote back to him, offering a few words of consolation, and told him I would pray for him. But something, I felt, had changed.

The flickering words on a computer screen spoke of something greater, and deeper, and sadder than anything else I had encountered in my months of blogging. In the middle of all the bickering in the blogosphere, I had encountered a moment of unexpected grief and profound grace—beautiful, heartbreaking, soul-wrenching grace.

If nothing else, the Internet makes us acutely aware of this: the world is bigger than we realize and smaller than we expect. We are bound together in ways we cannot even imagine. I have learned a lot since I began blogging, but the greatest lesson may be that we are catholic, which means we are universal, and that we are everything and everyone, for better or for worse.

Indeed he is correct. From my time here and my 8 1/2 years at Busted Halo I've gotten e-mail from prisoners concerned about homosexuality, women who have had miscarriages and thought their child had lost all hope for salvation, I even had someone write in who was afraid their son was contemplating suicide. While our retreat program is filled with similar experiences, they pale in comparison to what gets revealed in the anonymity of the internet. It is beautiful and sad at the same time. Beautiful that we are all connected and can reach out to one another and that we can provide some kind of virtual ministry to these people who seek us out. At the same time, the world seems like a lonely place where people have to resort to sending a note on the internet to virtual strangers, albeit people with whom they likely respect and maybe even feel some kind of spiritual or emotional resonance.

The rest of the article is downright funny and poingnant in other ways. So check out the whole thing here.

Williamson apologizes, perhaps also dying

Scott over at about.com and Deacon Greg have the info here:

The apology is dated January 28, 2009, and the text below is from the traditionalist website Rorate Caeli:

To His Eminence Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos

Your Eminence

Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept, only as is properly respectful, my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems.

For me, all that matters is the Truth Incarnate, and the interests of His one true Church, through which alone we can save our souls and give eternal glory, in our little way, to Almighty God. So I have only one comment, from the prophet Jonas, I, 12:

"Take me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you."

Please also accept, and convey to the Holy Father, my sincere personal thanks for the document signed last Wednesday and made public on Saturday. Most humbly I will offer a Mass for both of you.

Sincerely yours in Christ
+Richard Williamson

Most unexpected. My initial inclination was that this Bishop might not even reconcile when the rest of the Society does--but now perhaps he's seeing things differently?

At the same time, he doesn't renounce what he believes to be true about the Holocaust. He simply apologizes for making things hard on the Vatican officials. Perhaps an apology to the Jews might also be in order here? Or perhaps, something else is at play here--something that may humble all of us who have been offended by his remarks.

The London Telegraph reports that Williamson may indeed be dying of cancer and that perhaps these statements may be attributable to this illness. In other words, he may not indeed know what he is saying at times because the cancer may be effecting his brain. Given his long track record this seems unlikely, but not completely out of the question.

Rumours have surfaced that Bishop Williamson, the SSPX bishop whose Holocaust denial has caused such horror, is seriously ill with cancer. Father Z passes on a report in La Repubblica that the bishop - whose excommunication was lifted at the weekend - "has a tumour and is dying".

Similar reports have reached me, but I haven't wanted to print them without some sort of confirmation. Apparently Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos has asked for prayers for Williamson, whose recent statements - outrageous even by his standards - may be attributable, in part, to his illness.

Meanwhile, I address the issue in a more reflective and prayerful matter in this week's Busted Halo Cast in the Out of the Haze segment. Check it out.

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Jan 29, 2009

For What Else Shall We Pray?

I'd like to start a daily regimen of prayer on the blog and hope that y'all will add your prayers in the comments section so we can all pray as a blog community.

I'd like to ask prayers for:

A friend's sister who recently went through a divorce.
All the couples on our recent retreat.
People with mental illnesses.
Fr. James Keenan, SJ
Healing from a broken relationship with a colleague.
Understanding and patience
Our Jewish brothers and sisters
Fr. Frank Diskin, CSP

Oh God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, has instructed the hearts of the faithful grant that by the same spirit we may come what to know what is right and rejoice with the truth. May this same Holy Spirit allow me and all of us to seek peace without our own prejudices blocking our minds. Amen.

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The White Chapel of Dachau

Fr James Keenan, SJ is a moral theologian at Boston College but I simply knew him as the Jesuit who lived in our dorm, who led us on retreats and who was funny and droll at dinner. He is recuperating from Cancer these days, so I ask for prayers for him--but with the talk of the holocaust these days I have been reminded of a moving story he told me once.

He was in Germany and had to go to Dachau. It occured to him that for the people who live in Dachau it had to be embarrassing. I mean who in their right mind would want a city that was known for the concentration camps to be their home? Why would anyone freely choose to live there?

He went and visited the camps and was moved and angered by what he saw. He needed to pray, but upon finding the church nearby, he was turned away by an angry nun who had told him firmly that the church was closed and then slammed the door in his face.

As he began his walk back to his train, he caught sight in the distance of a small white chapel. He walked to that chapel and when he entered in, he found something that moved him to tears.

Above the altar was Christ in a cruciform--though he was not nailed to wood, rather he hung on barbed wires.

It seems the people of Dachau could not forget what had happened there and indeed had appropriated the horror of what happened into their need for prayer, their need to pray for an end to such madness. And it was in that prayer and in seeing the atrocities of Dachau that they met the living God, the one who suffers with his creation.

May their lesson and their prayer continue for all of us today.

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Do you see what happens when Mel Gibson makes a movie?

Methinks that Papa Benedict might be re-thinking that bit of reconciliation with these guys.

NCR Reports:

In the wake of a global furor triggered by Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to lift the excommunication of four traditionalist Catholic bishops, including one who cast doubt on the Holocaust, another leader in the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X has questioned whether the Nazis used gas chambers for anything other than “disinfection,” and said that people who hold revisionist views on the Holocaust are not anti-Semites.

Fr. Floriano Abrahamowicz, a pastor and spokesperson for the Society of St. Pius X in northeastern Italy, also referred to Jews as “a people of deicide,” referring to the death of Christ, and suggested that the Jewish Holocaust has been “exalted” over what he called “other genocides,” such as the Allied bombing of German cities and the Israeli occupation of the Gaza strip.

On the other hand, Abrahamowicz insisted that the traditionalist movement founded by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre is not “anti-Semitic.” Among other things, Abrahamowicz said, he himself has Jewish roots on his father’s side.

From the interview itself when asked why people still cast doubt on the Shoah:
Because the whole history of humanity is marked by the people of Israel, who initially were the people of God, who then became the people of deicide, and who at the end of time will reconvert to Jesus Christ. Behind it all is a mysterious theological aspect, which is that of the people of God which rejected its Messiah and which still combats him. It’s a mystery of doctrine. Anti-Semitism is born from the illuminated liberal and Gnostic world. The church throughout history has always protected the Jews from pogroms, as one reads, for example, in Domenico Savino’s book on ritual homicide.

In fairness, after reading the interview, I think they may have put some words in this priests mouth, but it's still astounding that

OK, for the record:

Catholics believe the following:

1) The Jews did not kill Christ. Jesus was sacrificed for our sins.

2) The holocaust actually happened and the last two Popes saw what happened with their own eyes. They have become staunch supporters of order and of life because of their witness to what happens when you don't defend order and life. You get Auschwitz.

3) The Second Vatican Council is valid and every Pope since John XXIII is not evil.

I could go on but this is just starting to make me sad. Do you see what happens when they let Mel Gibson make a movie?

I will say one thing...there certainly have been other genocides in history including many recent ones. Rwanda is a good example. But I don't think that any were so systematically accepted by such a large number of people as was the case with the holocaust. We need people to never forget that moment in history or it will continue to spew hatred and death throughout the world.

A full interview with Fr. Abrahamowicz is found at the link.

New Faces of the Abortion Debate

A Good story on BustedHalo
today about students from Boston who attended both the inauguration and the Pro-life rally.

But the more telling perspective comes not from these two extremes, but rather from the majority of students who find themselves somewhere between the “pro-life” and “pro-choice” labels. Overwhelmingly, students voice some support for a consistent ethic of life while grappling with many of the nuances intrinsic to the topic.

“I think that the consistent ethic of life is a good principle, and it’s very air tight,” said Junior Rob Finn. “In that sense, I think that it’s good thing. But in terms of my personal beliefs, I question certain parts of it.” Other students stated that while they ultimately hope to eliminate the need for abortion, for now a more practical solution is working to reduce abortion rates. “I feel strongly that no mother that finds out that she’s pregnant wants to have an abortion out of malice,” said McNeill. “She feels cornered and feels that she has no other alternative.” If the cultural ethos is changed to encourage women to have children, and young single mothers are supported through social programs, fewer women will ultimately seek abortions.

I agree with the author here. Most people are in the middle with regards to the practicality of how to end the issue of abortion. However, I also find a shift in thinking, especially amongst young women, who seem to be consistently saying that abortion is not a good idea because life begins at conception. At the very least, they don't think abortion a good solution and think most women resort to it because they see no other way out.

It's clear that this attitude represents a drastic change in thinking from other women who considered it simply their own right to do what they wanted to do with their body.

FOCA: Not to say I told you so but...

From CNS and a hat tip to Deacon Greg:

Internet rumors to the contrary, no Catholic hospital in the United States is in danger of closing because of the Freedom of Choice Act.

As a matter of fact, the Freedom of Choice Act died with the 110th Congress and, a week after the inauguration of President Barack Obama, has not been reintroduced.

But that hasn't kept misleading e-mails from flying around the Internet, warning of the dire consequences if Obama signs FOCA into law and promoting a "FOCA novena" in the days leading up to Inauguration Day.

And here's the final nail:

Said Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., an elected member of the CHA board of trustees since June 2006.

"But there is no plan to shut down any hospital if it passes," he added in a Jan. 26 telephone interview. "There's no sense of ominous danger threatening health care institutions."

So sit back and relax at home and figure out how to care for a pregnant teen today along with writing a letter to congress to ask them to support the unborn. While you're at it, take some time to care for the poor and ask congress to do that too. Oh yeah, perhaps you should pray for peace in the world while you're at it.

In other words, we have better things to do than to concern ourselves with FOCA.

Jan 28, 2009

Facebook and Following

If you like the conversation here...

Simply follow my blog by clicking the link on the left hand side or come on over to Facebook where you'll find imports every time I post something

The Black Church & the Inauguration

I meant to blog this earlier in the week but...simply got busy. I enjoyed this take on Rev. Lowery's benediction at the inauguration. A hat tip to Dr. Rachel Bundang for this one.

And perhaps what has been controversial in some media outlets, is the final section or Rev. Lowery's prayer, when he said: "We ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around ... when yellow will be mellow ... when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen."

Melissa, I was literally laughing so hard when I heard this, that I almost fell out of my seat. First, Rev. Lowery pulled out his metaphorical "jive dictionary" from the 1960's, using expressions that were popular "back in the day." But the moment was a significant one for two reasons: humor has always been an element of the black church tradition. We laugh to keep from crying; we take joy in a life and conditions that would have been completely unbearable for others. So knowing the black church as I do, I know that his humor was intentional, but it was not irreverent. It speaks to the joy and the jive that has helped to bring us through some weary years.

And finally, this last little bit of humor pays tribute to the urban and rural blues/folk traditions that have helped to shape the black church, most especially the music, sermons, and worship style of the black church. As a syncretic faith, pulling from African and Western influences, the black church is also a "patchwork" faith that has been influenced by, and has also greatly influenced, many secular forms of art, music, dance, and culture. So Rev. Lowery's benediction highlighted the black church tradition at its best; a tradition of African descent, but American born and made.

Good points all around from Dr Yolanda Pierce. I do wonder however, that even if this "jive" was intentional--and an attempt to be funny, if the fact that many were hurt by his comments has any bearing at all to people who found it inoffensive. It still didn't lessen the racist overtones for me even after reading this.

I will say this. Rev. Lowery has forgotten more moments in a white-dominated culture that were racist than I probably have experiences either towards me or towards others. So I'm apt to give him a pass. In his mind, white people have offended him so many times that he needs to remind us all of that injustice.

I still don't get the "yellow mellow" part though--unless he just needed a rhyme to be funny?

Contraception, Legitimate Fear and the Church's Wisdom

The Obama story below on contraception brought out some comments from people who questioned the church's prohibition on contraception. I wanted to expound on that a bit as there is often misconceptions about the church's position--so I typed this as a comment in the thread but am also reposting here.

The thing that most people don't know is that the church isn't against the spacing of births. Rather, what it is against is doing it in an un-natural way. The second thing that many people don't know is that Natural Family Planning (NFP) which is the church's recommended use of spacing births is not the old-school rhythm method (less known as Vatican roulette).

Instead of playing a mere guessing game with regards to fertility (I think I'm fertile now because it's the 24th, honey so we shouldn't have sex tonight), it uses scientific signs of ovulation to more accurately predict a woman's fertility cycle and thus abstain during that period of time. I know of several couples who use it with great accuracy not only to avoid getting pregnant but more importantly to get pregnant! (Ex. I know I'm fertile right now so let's knock some boots!)

The main element here I think is fear on all sides. In the political world, Democrats fear that people who don't use birth control will have children that they can't care for--which in my mind is a legitimate fear. We all have a stake here as few people go out of their way for a pregnant teen.

Republicans fear that teens and others will have sex out of wedlock easier if birth control is made widely available and encouraged publicly, thus promoting sexual promiscuity. Also a legitimate fear in my mind. We don't talk about how this also makes prostitution more readily accessible and makes the porn industry more able to produce more of their "materials." AN ancillary result but one we should also concern ourselves with as they often prey on young runaways and other at-risk teens and individuals.

With regards to all of this...what if we all lived as if we had genuine respect for one another? If we valued sex because we valued not sex but rather a genuine commitment to another and to family. What if we didn't try to make deals all the time? Such as, "I'll have sex with you but only if I can be guaranteed that you won't get pregnant!" Maybe our mantra should be that sex should be simply reserved not for procreation but rather for people who can be responsibly committed to one another. In other words, I love you so much that I will deal with the consequences of what could happen if we have sex and will abstain from sex because I know what the consequences will be? What if we welcomed children unconditionally instead of considering them a burden on our good time?

I think that might not only welcome more children into the world but also foster better communication and conversation in marriage--thus leading to fewer divorces--which is something that neither the GOP nor the dems have much to say on.

Lastly, I don't know if most people are ready or think they can handle this kind of commitment. Indeed it is counter-cultural and goes against our very individualistic culture that values personal choice and comfort above all--especially amongst the young. So proclaiming the wisdom of church teaching often fails when it comes to practical implications for many Catholics. Some are just too scared to try something that they are unfamiliar with--and too afraid that it might not work. Women with strange menstrual cycles might feel uncomfortable with this and people for whom it might be dangerous for the wife to become pregnant also will probably choose to take fewer chances that they don't completely trust. Does this mean that they don't trust God to care for them in the midst of all of this is the large question--and the answer may be yes--which is really what is at the heart of this "sin." "I know better than God." "I can't handle my finances with a baby." Etc,. Again, all legitimate fears but our responses to those fears may be understandable but not necessarily the right call.

I'd like to see someone do a survey of 5000 married couples who have been married for over 30 years and see what they have to say about the communication aspects of this topic. How have they dealt with the things life has dealt them? I think we'd have a lot to learn.

Pope Benedict Responds to SSPX

Rocco Palmo has the scoop:

Pope Benedict’s thoughts then turned to the Shoah, the memorial of which was celebrated this week. He said “the memories and images of my many visits to Auschwitz come back to me in these days, a death camp in which blind racial and religious hatred led to the ferocious extermination of millions of Jews and other innocent victims”.

Then Pope Benedict firmly said “While I renew my affection for and complete solidarity with our Brothers of the First Alliance, I urge that the memory of the Shoah lead humanity to reflect on the unforeseeable power of evil when it conquers the Human Heart. May the Shoah be a warning to all against oblivion, against denial or revisionism, because violence committed against any one single human being is violence against all humanity. No man is an island, a well known poet once wrote. The Shoah teaches both the new and older generations, that only the demanding journey of listening and dialogue, of love and forgiveness can lead the world’s peoples, cultures and religions towards the desired goal of brotherhood and peace in truth. Never again may violence humiliate the dignity of man!”.

Jan 27, 2009

Obama asks Dems to drop Contraception Program from Stimulus Package

Perhaps this picture is not inaccurate?

A huge hat tip to Deacon Greg Kandra here:

A $200 million provision for contraception programs is being dropped from the $825 billion stimulus package following criticism from pro-lifers and Republican congressmen.

President Barack Obama personally called House Democratic leaders to ask them to remove the provision, an Obama aide told CNN. One of his calls reportedly went to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and one of the most influential liberal members of Congress.

The president reportedly urged the provision’s removal because it was a hot button issue among Republicans and did not focus on creating jobs as quickly as possible.

Wow! Could this be a great sign at how collaborative the new President might be? Democrats from the past would almost never do anything to appease the Pro-life crowd.

This gives me an opportunity to again repeat my mantra. I'm all for changing the law that would make abortion illegal, but what if we all lived our lives in such a way that would allow women to not fear having their babies. What if we supported women who got pregnant--even stupidly--and made it a less fearful experience and turned it into a moment of joy?

Until then...the hot button issue will always remain despite the law--not because of it.

Commonweal on the SSPX statement

Grant Gallicho is right on the money here.

Shrewd move, as far as it goes. I would have preferred something stronger (”ill-advised” doesn’t begin to describe what Williamson spews), sooner (why did it take so long for Fellay to publicly condemn Williamson’s unhinged views about the Shoah when he has been repeating them for years?), and less, well, huffy (yes, yes, you’re respected the world over, but why not name the Jewish people in your apology to the pope and to “all people of good will”?).

I do think that the Superior could've chosen to say nothing. Grant is just as suspicious as I am about where the impetus for the apology really began though.

SSPX Superior to Holocaust Denier: Shut Up!

This just in from the National Catholic Reporter

A statement from: Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X (right):

We have become aware of an interview released by Bishop Richard Williamson, a member of our Fraternity of St. Pius X, to Swedish television. In this interview, he expressed himself on historical questions, and in particular on the question of the genocide against the Jews carried out by the Nazis.

It’s clear that a Catholic bishop cannot speak with ecclesiastical authority except on questions that regard faith and morals. Our Fraternity does not claim any authority on other matters. Its mission is the propagation and restoration of authentic Catholic doctrine, expressed in the dogmas of the faith. It’s for this reason that we are known, accepted and respected in the entire world.

It’s with great sadness that we recognize the extent to which the violation of this mandate has done damage to our mission. The affirmations of Bishop Williamson do not reflect in any sense the position of our Fraternity. For this reason I have prohibited him, pending any new orders, from taking any public positions on political or historical questions.

We ask the forgiveness of the Supreme Pontiff, and of all people of good will, for the dramatic consequences of this act. Because we recognize how ill-advised these declarations were, we can only look with sadness at the way in which they have directly struck our Fraternity, discrediting its mission.

This is something we cannot accept, and we declare that we will continue to preach Catholic doctrine and to administer the sacraments of grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Good to know someone in the fraternity doesn't share those views. It's also likely that because this group is fairly small that Bishop Fellay may have single handedly forged the reconciliation with the Pope on behalf of the fraternity.

SSPX: "Never really Excommunicated"

Deacon Greg puts forth a great resource today about the SSPX and the Pope's reconciliation.

Deacon Greg notes that the SSPX says they were "never really excommunicated" and they haven't recanted their refusal to accept the Second Vatican Council.

So why exactly are they back in union with the RC Church? Now I'm confused. Perhaps he's dabbling in "extreme theology?"

Run, Rabbit --Towards the Light

John Updike has died at the age of 76 from Lung Cancer. Updike was a key chronicler of the anxieties of his own age. BBC news has more:

Updike's first novel, The Poorhouse Fair, was published in 1959. The following year, though, saw the publication of the book which established him as one of the greatest novelists of his age, Rabbit, Run.

It marked the debut of his most enduring character, Harold "Rabbit" Angstrom.

In the following decades he would write sequels, including Rabbit Redux, Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest, charting the course of a man's life - his job, marriage, affairs, minor triumphs and death.

He once said his subject was the Protestant Middle Class but I also found some great Catholic images in his work as well.

Rest in Peace.

New NCYAMA Website

It's up and looks great. Check it out at NCYAMA.org. If you're looking to minister to and with Young Adults check them out. I'm the President of the Board of Dircetors, so ask me if you have any questions.

Jan 26, 2009

Benedict and the Schism Reconciliation

I got home from retreat and received several emails from friends concerned about the Pope's decision to revoke the excommunications of four schismatic bishops.

The short story from the NY Times:
But while the revocation may heal one internal rift, it may also open a broader wound, alienating the church’s more liberal adherents and jeopardizing 50 years of Vatican efforts to ease tensions with Jewish groups.

Among the men reinstated Saturday was Richard Williamson (right), a British-born cleric who in an interview last week said he did not believe that six million Jews died in the Nazi gas chambers. He has also given interviews saying that the United States government staged the Sept. 11 attacks as a pretext to invade Afghanistan.

The four reinstated men are members of the Society of St. Pius X, which was founded by a French archbishop, Marcel Lefebvre, in 1970 as a protest against the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council, also called Vatican II. Archbishop Lefebvre made the men bishops in unsanctioned consecrations in Switzerland in 1988, prompting the immediate excommunication of all five by Pope John Paul II.

Here's my take on this. It's really apples and oranges. These men who were ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre were excommunicated because they were not properly ordained and more importantly because the entire movement was refusing to recognize the changes of the Second Vatican Council. They were not excommunicated because of their views on Jewish-Catholic relations in particular (I doubt that the Pope may even know of the one Bishop's thoughts at all on the holocaust and his other absolutely ludicrous positions).

Still, I agree with many critics who have a hard time believing that the Vatican didn't vett this group deeply enough and now are in another public relations nightmare. The headline they were probably expecting was something like: Pope Benedict heals only schism in the Catholic Church in the last century.

One of the critics, Theologian Hans Küng had a good quote in the NY Times as well:

Father Küng agreed. Benedict “does not see that he is alienating himself from the larger part of the Catholic Church and Christianity,” he said. “He doesn’t see the real world. He only sees the Vatican world.”

Indeed. Benedict sees this as healing a theological rift and nothing more. However, I would (if I were the head of Vatican Public Relations) hope that he would come forward and explain the real reason for the reconciliation and then publicly denounce the position of Richard Williamson who I will not dignify by adding the title Bishop to his name. His views are extremely stupid and more importantly dangerous.

Let us pray today that Pope Benedict might have some good advisers who might suggest that he makes a public statement denouncing Williamson's views.

Awesome Retreat; Awesome Marriage

Our marriage retreat was a time of great renewal for our marriage where Marion and I became more united in prayer with one another and with the rhythms of our own marriage. It was inspiring to hear the struggles and successes of other married couples, all married for different lengths of time. For me, the inspiring part is always that people are able to stay married and together despite many tragedies and serious tests of that commitment.

They say that if you can stay married for seven years, then the statistics show that you will probably stay married (the dreaded seven year itch). Marion and I are going to celebrate our 7th anniversary on April 20, 2009. We've been dating for 2 more years--so while it often seems like yesterday to me, we've been married for some time.

While our marriage is not without it's challenges, I think we really listen and respect each other. We took some time to look at some of the areas that we need to work on this weekend and also (and more importantly) to really celebrate the joys of our marriage--something I think we forget to do often. As a couple who doesn't have children we noticed how important our dog has become for us as he has given us something else to unite us and another way to express love not only to our dog (Haze--who has a blog of his own at hazehayes.blogspot.com) but to one another as well. Haze was a gift to me from Marion for my 37th birthday.

We also noticed that we are challenged by time. I became jealous of the couples with children but not because they have kids and we don't--but because we seem to share the same struggles with making time for our relationship. The difference is that their children have placed demands on their time and that results in the challenge of creating time for each other. We don't have that as a legitimate issue. We simply choose other things to occupy our time. I should state for the record--I'm really the one who always has lots of other activities to occupy my time and I tend to work later than I need to.

So this was a good wake-up call and a good opportunity to take that time for one another and become closer with each other. We danced to our wedding song, in fact, the the entire weekend had a metaphorical theme of dancing through life, but we all literally danced together often throughout the weekend as couples. I came away with one very significant moment of clarity:

I married the right girl almost 7 years ago. And I feel that am without a doubt the luckiest man in the world because of that.

Jan 23, 2009

Is THIS Ecumenical enough?

For those who thought Rick Warren's invocation wasn't ecumenical enough--how does this one from Washington D.C. Archbishop Donald Wuerhl from the National Prayer Service yesterday at the National Cathedral strike you?

Almighty God,
who has entrusted us with the care of this great land:

We humbly ask that we may always prove ourselves
a people worthy of this trust and pleased to do your will.

Bless our nation
with honorable industry, sound learning, and mutual respect.

Save us from violence, discord, and confusion,
from arrogance and greed, and from every evil way.

Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people
the multitudes brought from all the corners of the earth.

Bestow the spirit of wisdom
on those to whom we grant the authority of government,
that there may be justice and peace at home.

Through obedience to your law,
may we show forth your glory among the nations of the world.

In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness,
and in the day of trouble, strengthen our trust in you;
all this we ask in your holy Name.

I'd quibble that it's really not ecumenical since it's adapted from The Book of Common Prayer--which is Christian and is used in most Episcopalian Churches. But I like the prayer nonetheless.

BTW--for the first time at the National Prayer Service yesterday a woman delivered a sermon! Namely,

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) General Minister and President Sharon E. Watkins summoned Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Cherokee sources among others.

Although Watkins began festively -- " 'Mr. President.' Has kind of a nice ring to it, doesn't it?" -- she told Obama that the White House "will tend to draw you away from your ethical center. . . . In the days immediately before us, there will be much to draw us away from the grand work of loving God and the hard work of loving neighbor. In crisis times, a basic instinct seeks to take us over, a fight-flight instinct."

The Washington Post has more.

Conversion of St Paul the Apostle this weekend.

My wife and I are headed to Mount St. Alphonsus, in Esopus, NY this weekend for a marriage retreat. The place is run by the Redemptorists who are the religious community that Paulist founder Isaac Hecker broke away from to start his own religious community. So they have a lot of charisms that the Paulists share.

Probably a nice place to spend the feast day of the Conversion of St Paul the Apostle. You can read more about the great saint here.

Not all are happy about Obama

From the Pro-life march:

Former Rep. Bob Dornan of California delivered a caustic assessment of Obama's comments from his inaugural address. .March for LifeMarch for Life

Paraphrasing the president's speech, Dornan said, "We will not apologize for our way of life -- I add our love of life -- nor will we waiver in its defense. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror -- the terror of abortion -- and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us and we will defeat you."

"I add we will defeat you," Dornan said, the pitch of his gravelly voice rising, "and defeat the culture of death or we will perish as a nation."

Near the rally's end Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia introduced to loud applause 23 Catholic prelates representing both the Latin and Eastern rites, including Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston and Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.

"All of the Catholic bishops are in solidarity with this wonderful group," he said.

In his closing prayer, Auxiliary Bishop Barry C. Knestout of Washington prayed for world peace, a solution to the economic crisis gripping the globe, and the continued commitment of the marchers as well as policymakers and elected officials so that they work to support all life.

My parish, St. Sebastian's in Woodside said they would have a free bus going to the Pro-life rally. The pastor ended up getting around 6 buses due to demand. And as a nice gesture and a staunch commitment to life issues, he footed the bill for all the buses and merely asked parishioners for a small donation at mass if their means allowed. Great commitment!

I would add the following. FOCA--as I stated in a previous post today, has no shot of passing. That doesn't mean that we don't care about it--but it does mean that our energies need to be expended in greater amounts on things that make actual change. While we should care about legislation with regards to abortion, we also need to care about actually making this a part of our lives in helping the mothers of those children who are most at risk. Legislation is not going to change anytime soon, so this is paramount for us to start working hard at the grassroots level to serve the needs of those who are at risk, while we also work on those who make our laws. It may take a long time to change the law--so what else do we need to do in the meantime?

I am open to your thoughts. Meanwhile not too far from my home state of New York a group in Connecticut is doing exactly the kind of thing I think we all could pitch in on.

And the more politically minded, James Salt, offers some other good thoughts from Catholic United.

Peggy Noonan on the inaugural and on FOCA

We left on time and as we taxied onto the runway the pilot came on. "This is the USAir 4 p.m. shuttle to Washington, D.C.," he said in the old-fashioned Chuck Yeager style, and from the back of the plane came a roar of cheers and applause. When the sound reached the cockpit, the pilot came on again. "Hope has come to America," he said. The plane went wild.

The whole experience the next few days was marked for me by a new or refreshed knowledge that those who had not felt included or invited in the past were now for the first time truly here, and part of it all, in great numbers. And I suppose the fact that this would never have come about without the support, the votes, of the traditionally invited and included gave a special air of inclusiveness to the event. There was great kindness between people and true friendliness. No one was different. Everyone, whatever their views or votes, was happy.

I do think that she's right. She goes on later to talk about other people who have been marginalized in the past, those who are pro-life and she speaks of Obama's support of FOCA--the freedom of choice act. I'm not sure how many people caught this in the National Catholic Reporter not that long ago but it's pretty clear to me (thanks to Joe Feuerherd)that FOCA has no chance of passing.

It’s a matter of basic civics. The legislation, which never got a hearing in the last Congress, would be subject to hearings in both the Senate and House, and then have to be approved by the House Judiciary Committee, the full House, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate (with a 60-vote margin to overcome the inevitable filibuster). And then the respective versions would have to be reconciled in a conference committee and sent back to both chambers for final passage.

The notion that a bill this controversial could jump each of these hurdles is fanciful. Basic rule of legislation: It’s much easier to stop something then to pass it.

Further, the House already has a strong coalition of both Republicans and Democrats who either oppose abortion rights or do not want to see them expanded. And even if the bill were to make it to the Senate floor (which it won’t), it’s hardly a 60-vote lock. First rule of lawmaking: Know how to count. The pro-FOCA forces simply don’t have the votes.

But didn’t Barack Obama pledge during the campaign that FOCA’s passage would be his top priority? And doesn’t that change the legislative calculus?

Indeed, in July 2007 candidate Obama pandered to the pro-choice lobby. In response to a question from the Planned Parenthood audience he declared that to protect abortion rights “the first thing I’d do as president” is sign FOCA. But that doesn’t change the fact -- back to Civics 101 -- that President Obama won’t have the opportunity to sign FOCA.

And an excellent comment from NCR's comments section:

While I agree that FOCA is not a dire threat, and I do understand the way that Congress must act before something like this could even cross the President's desk, I do think that the continued opposition and discussion is good as a whole.

This ongoing discussion reminds the President - and those who support FOCA - that there is a very vocal outpouring against this proposed measure. That vocal support AGAINST FOCA will keep it from coming out of committee...

by silently sitting back, as is the case with any law, we risk its passage due to our apathy.

This discussion also allows us to move into and broaden our discussions in the areas of stem-cell research and the financial aid of NGOs that provide abortion counseling...

Now that we are more informed, what ways SHOULD we best combat this issue?

Jan 22, 2009

Grey's Anatomy : Would you attend an execution? Why?

Anyone see tonight's episode of Grey's Anatomy?

I'll try not to spoil it for those of you who didn't see it (awesome episode BTW, one of their best I thought). Meredith is asked by a death row prisoner to attend his execution. "It would be nice to have a friendly face in the crowd." he says.

I think if a prisoner asked me to do that I would go. As Helen Prejean has often said of the prisoners she has seen executed, "I will be the face of Jesus for you."

I also wouldn't go to an execution of someone who victimized me or my family I think. I would also do what I could to show him or her compassion. In other words, I don't think I'd seek revenge in any instance where I or my family or friends had been victimized.

With regards to capital punishment a good friend explained how he felt about this to a death penalty supporter very simply:

"I think if someone killed my mother I have no doubt that I'd want to kill him. I also think because of that instinct the government should stop me from doing it."

What would you do?

Jan 21, 2009

Our Father....

Does anyone have a problem with Rick Warren's use of the Our father yesterday. I'm hearing this from a lot of people and wanted to let people have a voice to understand why they think this is insensitive.

Interestingly enough it looks like he used some portions of the the Shema or Sh'ma too.

"The Scripture tells us, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is One." And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made."

The first half of that paragraph—Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is One—is the Shema, the most important prayer in Judaism. Many Jews recited it on the way to their deaths during the Holocaust.

My wife thinks Joel Osteen is Mother Goose

So I think Joel Osteen is a good preacher at times. Meaning that he is able to weave stories into theological platitudes well. His theology is far from mine and certainly far from anything that is relatively complex--but perhaps that is the beautiful part of his church. He appeals to a large number of people who are looking for direction and his accessible style and friendly demeanor makes him an appealing person to watch. He also fits his message into media pockets very well (a half-hour TV show and short podcasts).

So I'm watching him the other night and he says the following (I'm paraphrasing here):

"The other day I saw a store clerk be very rude to a customer. But the customer decided not to yell back at him. I asked him if the clerk was that mean every day. He replied to me that he does. I asked if he responded in the same way each time he goes to that store and he said, "Every day. I've decided that he's not going to ruin my day." Just because someone has decided to be rude or nasty to you doesn't mean that you have to give away your power of self-control to them. Just bless them as you leave. You don't need to give into their rudeness. They have every right to be rude and you have every right to ignore them."

My wife deadpanned:

"This guy's theological message can be summed up as follows:

'I'm rubber, you're glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!'

And that ladies and gentlemen, is why I married her.

More on Lowery

This opened a huge discussion on my Facebook page with people mostly disagreeing with me. Two of the more intelligent comments were:

I didn't think Lowery's benediction was written particularly well, but I also didn't see anything wrong with it.

I heard it simply as an attempt to use humor, rhyme, and rhythm to make his point: our goal as a nation must be to achieve equality for all people, regardless of race or color. Granted, the rhyming was a bit awkward (yellow/mellow ... I don't hear anyone complaining about that), but it was hardly a statement about whites or right vs. wrong.

I agree with most of this. I DON'T hear anyone talking about the yellow/mellow comment--mostly because what the heck do you rhyme with yellow anyway? What does that mean anyway? Is he accusing Asians of being violent? Or is his only experience with Asians the equivalent of going to a Jackie Chan movie? Dunno. I don't get his point and I really think he just needed a rhyme. But as king of fairness, I'll call him on the carpet for that one too.

I didn't have much issue w/ it. He didn't say anything that hasn't been said in racial/ethnic minority communities before for years already. I suppose it could be off-putting if it's unfamiliar. I also chalk it up to a certain generational take on race that is shifting.

OK--now I'm pretty familiar with what gets said in racial/ethnic minority communities (especially church communities) but that doesn't make that right. It makes certain assumptions about an entire race of people and if that was done in reverse there'd be hell to pay. However....the latter comment I think speaks volumes. This is clearly generational and bespeaks of a man who has been hurt by white people longer than most of us have been alive. It comes from a man who watched his leader be chastised and killed for his speaking out for human rights--not only black rights. It is Dr. King's legacy that I think Rev. Lowery was trying to summon--and perhaps he did a poor job in articulating it but I'm hoping (and will take it as such) that he had no intention of making a racist statement.

Thanks to all for the comments on Facebook.

Jan 20, 2009

Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, Reverse Racism?

Did anyone hear the benediction at the inauguration today--given by the famous civil rights activist Rev. Joseph Lowery? I loved most of it--especially when Rev. Lowery broke into verse here and there (which sometimes I think is inappropriate during prayer but then again, if he read a poem nobody would say squat. So I found it awesome that he took a piece from his own tradition's style and used it well.

But then he got to the last line:

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around -- (laughter) -- when yellow will be mellow -- (laughter) -- when the red man can get ahead, man -- (laughter) -- and when white will embrace what is right.

OK...now I'm upset. So white people are the only ones called to the carpet here? White people are the only ones who deal out injustice?

Rev. Lowery is a civil rights activist and I'm sure for every white person that has been offended there are 25 black people who match them--but still...I thought this was an offensive statement that if he made it any other day of the year he'd be shouted down as being insensitive.

I'll backpedal a bit here and say that I'm sure the good Rev. Lowery meant no offense to white people--but I do think all Americans regardless of their color try to embrace what it right. By the way, CNN exit polls show that 43% of white people voted for President Obama. Are the other 57% racists? I think not.

Can I get an Amen?

It seems so...check out the comments here

Because the Pope really doesn't want to work with Obama....

For the dopes who think that the Pope will keep President Obama at arm's length.



Hat tip to Rocco Palmo

On life and the new President

NPR is already spouting anti-Catholic bias by claiming that the new President will have strained relations with the Vatican because of the President's stand on life issues. John Allen in NCR has already debunked this myth citing the Vatican's eagerness to work with the new administration despite its disagreements with them on questions of life.

I'd like to propose the following to all of us who care deeply about life issues. Let's call this my inaugural address:

Citizen of this great country:

We are a country that is divided, but not so divided that we can no longer work for the common good for all people, born and unborn. While some among us feel that it within a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy others of us also seek that the result of that termination is the death of her baby. Even those of us who stand concerned for the poor, who live in such dire circumstances that adding the responsibility for a human life makes the task of simply living seem insurmountable, feel deeply for those who choose abortion.

While many of us who see abortion as an intrinsic evil, pray for the day when legislation makes the act of murdering an innocent child illegal, I fear that day is far off. That doesn't mean that we stop trying to influence those who make the laws of our land, but rather, we need to ask ourselves how we are best serving the needs of those who are mired in those dire circumstances that push them to seek abortions. Until we can serve the needs of these women eagerly and with a smile on our face and even facing our own discomfort because of our commitment, we can have no hope of legislative success.

So my brothers and sisters, while there are many, our own President included, who will not help us legislate justice in this instance, I ask if they might help us provide care and love for women who would choose a higher road, if only our means allowed them to choose alternatives? Perhaps our good works and our commitment to that might turn their hearts into seeing how much we love these women and their children that they might grow to love not only that care we show but also to love the children that get raised because of that love? Perhaps, seeing our commitment moves them to find these families not as easily disposable? Perhaps one of these recipients grows up to be President and remembers how we treated them as a precious child of God and that person grows to abhor war, injustice and the very intrinsic evil in which we speak.

We all learn from our experiences and while we may not be able to reach all of those who need our care we indeed can try to pour our our love until our hearts grow weary with love and God's inexhaustible love takes over when we cannot manage to love. And the love that we have spread becomes contagious so much so that just as Saul would become Paul and stop his own persecuting and killing, we too might see that same conversion happen again.

What contribution can you make to the unborn today despite our lack of legislation?

Or will you simply let the lawmakers stop you from doing good works?

Obama Inauguration Speech

A friend just said to me that this wasn't a great speech. I disagree. Here are just 4 money quotes that I believe will go down in the annals of American history.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.


In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less.

OBAMA: It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.

Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West, endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

OBAMA: For us, they fought and died in places Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed.

OBAMA: Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply.

OBAMA: The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.

Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.

And those of us who manage the public's knowledge will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched.

OBAMA: But this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.

The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.

OBAMA: They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy, guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We'll begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard- earned peace in Afghanistan.

OBAMA: With old friends and former foes, we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense.

And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that, "Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

And perhaps, my favorite:

Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old.

OBAMA: These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

OBAMA: This is the source of our confidence: the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall. And why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.


So let us mark this day in remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled.

Rick Warren

Let us pray.

Almighty God, our father, everything we see and everything we can’t see exists because of you alone. It all comes from you, it all belongs to you. It all exists for your glory. History is your story. The Scripture tells us “Hear, oh Israel, the Lord is our god; the Lord is one.” And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made.

Now today, we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time. We celebrate a hinge-point of history with the inauguration of our first African-American president of the United States.


We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where the son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership.

And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in Heaven.

Give to our new president Barack Obama the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity. Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the Cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.

Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all.

When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the Earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us.

And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes, even when we differ.

Help us to share, to serve and to seek the common good of all.

May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day all nations and all people will stand accountable before you.

We now commit our new president and his wife, Michelle and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.

I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Essa (ph), Jesus, Jesus, who taught us to pray, “Our Father who art in Heaven hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.”


I loved this prayer. Not divisive. Not fundamentalist. Not haughty or even "rah-rah America." I'm also glad that he wasn't afraid to speak Jesus' name--not in exclusion of people of other faiths but simply to invoke the name of his God without apology. As he said "the one who changed my life."

While I don't agree with Warren on much, I thought this was a great job.

Jan 19, 2009


I agree with The Mets Police who says "This is a game you blow off in October."

But I will say this it could be a lot worse if the Philly fans, who are some of the worst fans in all of sports were still in this one. People will say "Oh it would've been great if it were Eagles-Steelers and have an all Pennsylvania Super Bowl." "It would've been great to see the Eagles in it because the Phillies also won this year." "It would've been great to see Donovan go up against Ben."

No it wouldn't. Philly fans would've been an embarrassment as usual. And it would've pit two teams that don't really have a natural rivalry together despite being in the same place. Think Giants-Buffalo.

Is it our first Black or African-American President?

For some time it seemed that saying the word "black" to describe someone's race was actually and OK thing to do. I remember in the early 90s even saying the word "black" was equated with racism. I also remember someone doing a report about a gentleman from Antigua and he used the word black to describe his race (which was a central element to the story about race relations in Florida) and was chastised by his assignment editor for doing so and was ordered to use the term African-American, even though the gentleman had no African ancestry of any kind (at least none he was aware of anyway).

But recently, and more to the point, the term black has crept its way back into our common parlance here in the United States. To be honest, I'd rather focus more on the fact that President-elect Obama had many obstacles to overcome and focus on all of them, not merely his race as the only one. He came from a fairly meager economic background and is in touch with those of lower economic statuses from all racial backgrounds. But there are some who will belabor the point about the two terms here.

I believe he uses the term African-American to describe himself so I'll go with that. But what do others think? Is it OK to call President-Elect Obama our first black President? Does the fact that he's bi-racial make any difference in this case?

Regardless, we should be proud of our new President for a number of reasons. He's helped heal divisions already breaking down lines of political divisions and reaching across the aisle to others who may not think along his lines of thought. He inherits a country deeply divided on many issues and struggling economically (perhaps the worst since Jimmy Carter inherited Gerald Ford's mess? Or some may say since FDR?). And he's got to have an enormous weight on his shoulders simply by the pressure of the job itself, and even moreso, because of his racial background. Stupid people will judge all black people by President Obama's successes or failures. So he's got to feel that he's representing an opportunity to show the world that racism has no place anywhere in today's society.

So with that in mind I say, let's pray for our new President. Let's stand proudly that our country has broken the glass ceiling of racism for the first time in the White House. And let's be particularly proud of young man who overcame all the odds, where many people because of their own preconceived notions probably thought that he could never sit in the oval office or go to Harvard or Columbia. Some probably thought and some perhaps even told him he'd never be Senator or a lawyer or make anything much out of himself. Some people who share his race may have thought that they'd never see this day...

So let's thank God that we all stand today, united in the sure and certain hope that we are all created equal.


Marc Adams a resident of the DC area and producer at BBC America these days takes some time to produce these two videos for BustedHalo

Jan 15, 2009

Prayers of Thanksgiving for U.S. Air Passengers

Sometimes God gives us the grace to do the extraordinary...

I wonder what these people all thought about when they started to go down? I wonder what I would be thinking. I also wonder what they'll think about upon further reflection?

What would you think about?

The "None" Factor vs. "Dynamic Orthodoxy"

I'm in the great Pacific North West where I led a workshop today for the Archdiocesan Youth and Young Adult Office on the difference between Millennials and Generation X and then suggested some ministerial options to the group.

An interesting group indeed from all walks of life and all with great perspectives. They also face very similar issues and generational divides that we see across the United States pretty clearly, I think. In particular though, they face what I fear is a growing sense of disenfranchisement with religion that they call "the none factor." Which means, when asked "What religion are you?" A significant portion of the population here replies "none." Non-affiliation is one of the bigger if not the biggest denominations here in Seattle. So they've got their work cut out for themselves.

In today's workshop people raised quite a few issues that I thought were valid and interesting. One woman who said that she had a pretty intense conversion experience talked a lot about young people who had a strong adherence to their Catholic faith, a significant minority group in the USA as a whole which I write about extensively in Googling God (in fact, I'm one of the few people in the church who writes about this demographic that even considers their experience to be significant--others merely dismiss them as fanatics at worsts and a passing fancy at best).

It's interesting to contrast these two groups. The first group, the people who seemingly have no use for religion at all, see religion as either a crutch for simple-minded people or something cult-like and dangerous. Some also don't have much of a problem with religion, but don't really engage with it either. They find other ways of making-meaning in their own lives outside of the religious perspectives. Still others, think that the world is simply a random chaos and there is no need for meaning-making on our behalf at all.

The second group, the people who not only adhere to their Catholic faith, but also have been attracted to what has come to be known as "dynamic orthodoxy" are what I would best describe as an adherence to "extreme catholicism" (not to be taken in the negative here--think "extreme sports" to give you a more vivid definition). These people are almost the polar opposite of the first group. They love their faith, they are "on fire" for their faith and they seemingly are bursting at the seams to share that faith with those around them. All good things--yes?

Perhaps not. The latter group can be highly judgmental and exclusionary. In fact, their approach to new members sometimes even outsides them from the group itself. More people head running for the doors than enter and find welcome at times. For some there is even a tendency towards fundamentalism, a literal interpretation of either the bible or a very rigid interpretation of the Catechism. Sometimes they're even hard to have a conversation with because they are entrenched in their own dogmatism that they don't see beyond their narrow viewpoint.

Still, the flip side is that these young people indeed can change a parish or a campus or even a large diocese with their vigor and enthusiasm. They love the church, they gush over the sacraments and have a strong desire for the Eucharist, they have deep intense experiences of emotive prayer, they connect with the divine in all the other areas of their life. Again, all good things to be sure and an enthusiasm that need not be tempered.

So where does that leave us as ministers?

How comfortable can we become with either group and how comfortable can we be when theses two groups come together? My sense is that we need to teach those who wish to share their faith some ways to better and more appropriately invite new people into the Catholic experience without the judgmental attitude. And vice-versa, the non-adherents have to leave their biases about Catholics at the door as well and enter in to see what really makes Catholics tick. What is it about the Eucharist that these young people are enthralled by? What is it that makes people do social justice work gladly and with a smile on their face and a willingness to say that they did all of it for Jesus?

That's powerful. That's evangelizing--but I fear many never get there. Instead they become defensive or haughty about their faith. And that in turn becomes a way to horde Christ for yourself and merely make religion into a commodity that doesn't change lives but rather becomes an exercise in self-aggrandizement (look at how good I am, or we are when referring to a group).

Today let us pray that young adult ministers can help people integrate their faith experiences with appropriate models of self-disclosure. And that all of those who see how Jesus is changing people's lives for the better can be inspired to see further.

Jan 10, 2009

Happy Belated Birthday to a Theological Rock Star

Happy Birthday a few days late to Dr. Rachel Bundang, the theological rock star who is professoring this year at St Cate's in the Twin Cities. We will observe the Bundangian feast day tonight despite the snowy weather here in NYC.

She's the coolest person I know and have learned much by simply being her friend. Does that make me cool by association?

I know, I know...fat chance. But here's a bit about what makes her cool!

Rachel Bundang rocks.

She sings, plays jazz and gospel piano, and listens to hip-hop, classical and Brazilian music. On her laptop are musical selections from Los Amigos Invisibles, a Venezuelan funk group. She speaks English, French, Spanish and Tagalog, a language used in the Philippines. She moves from stage to pulpit to Manhattan street with aplomb. She talks politics, art, culture and religion, peppering her sentences with language taken from urban neighborhoods and the halls of academe. She studied tap and ballet as a child and took up modern dance in college, and then there's salsa dancing, of course, at parties.

Bundang is also a leading Asian/Pacific-American Catholic theological ethicist. A "1.5 generation" Filipina-American (born in the Philippines but raised in the United States), she is a leader and former conference chair of Pacific/Asian and North American-Asian Women in Theology and Ministry (PANAAWTM, pronounced "pan-autumn"), served for three years as co-convener of the American Academy of Religion Women's Caucus/Religious Studies, and has since 1997 been a delegate to the U.S. Minorities Section of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians. She is active in the four-year-old Asian Pacific American Religions Research Initiative.

Behind these involvements is the constant negotiation of complex identities--American, immigrant, New York resident and frequent California visitor, raised in the deep South, heir to her mother's popular religion and forger of new religious paths, daughter of a Navy man, Catholic high school alumna, feminist of faith, working-class and "double Ivy" (Princeton and Harvard), Pinay (Filipina-American), intellectual, artist, minister, scholar.

Working her way through a Ph.D. in ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York, Rachel Ann Rodriguez Bundang has spoken around the country on such varied topics as young adult ministry, home and exile, devotions to Mary and Jesus in Filipino-American Catholic life, the ethics of cyberspace, Asian/Pacific-American women's theologies, and New York City memorials in the wake of Sept. 11. Besides a vast collection of music, her laptop also holds speeches, homilies, papers-in-process, and a voluminous correspondence with friends around the United States.

Here's some more on the rock star which is well worth reading. Thanks Dr. Rachel for inviting me to sit with the cool kids at the cool lunch table.

Fr Neuhaus, RIP

I have been remiss in extending condolences to the folks over at First Things magazine. Their head honcho, Fr Richard Neuhaus passed away after a battle with cancer this week. Know that I have included him in my prayers this week.

Fr Neuhaus was a strong stalwart of conservative Catholic thought but unlike the usual stereotypes of traditional minded Catholics lacking in deep thought, Fr Neuhaus always raised the bar intellectually. As friend stated, "I might not agree with much that is written at times in First Things, but man do they raise the bar intellectually. Their arguments are always well-thought out and smart.

One of his famous quotes abbreviated here, on death itself:

We are born to die. Not that death is the purpose of our being born, but we are born toward death, and in each of our lives the work of dying is already underway. The work of dying well is, in largest part, the work of living well. Most of us are at ease in discussing what makes for a good life, but we typically become tongue-tied and nervous when the discussion turns to a good death. As children of a culture radically, even religiously, devoted to youth and health, many find it incomprehensible, indeed offensive, that the word "good" should in any way be associated with death.

The church lost a good servant in Fr Neuhaus and a strong intellect who was an admirable for for those on the Catholic left. He always challenged the modern culture not simply for the sake of being a thorn in their side but to try to bring a different perspective to what he considered superficial in today's modern world.

May he rest in peace.

Jan 9, 2009

"Take care of your Father when he is old" - Sirach 3:12

From the school of "am I making too much out of this?"

I believe very much in taking care of one's parents when they get old and sick, etc. I've grown up with a sick mother who's body has been degenerating since i was about 9. Somehow she's been able to live well past many people's expectations. My dad recently had a kidney stone and needs to have it blasted so being a good son I went up to take him for his pre-surgery x-ray.

The ridiculous thing is that the secretary at his urologist told him that she would fax his information over there and that he should call her when he arrives at the hospital and she would fax over his prescription. Naturally nobody told me any of this, so when we showed up we had to wait for an hour for the doctor's office to open & for someone to fax over the prescription.

Eventually, it got taken care of but who has ever heard of someone doing that? Why wouldn't you give my father the prescription and he goes when he wants to.

I've given up trying to figure this out.

Jan 8, 2009

If you're in New Jersey....

I will be speaking at the West Essex Theology on Tap tonight at 7P:

"Googling God: Connecting with the Divine in A Busy World"
The Cloverleaf Tavern, Caldwell NJ

This is a partnership with the Archdiocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry and our friends from Sacred Heart, Bloomfield, to host Theology on Tap this month.

Join us at 7PM for networking over a light supper and soft drinks-- for $10. Of course, the great beer and drink menu of The Cloverleaf Tavern will be available to those 21+ (pay your own way). We'll wrap it up around 9PM.

TOT will be happening all month in Northern NJ. Essex County nights also include:
Sun Jan 18th: Fr. Bill Halbing on "Love is Patient, Love is Kind...The Love Letters of Paul"
Sun Jan 25th: Fr. Tom Wisniewski gets radical with "No Rules! Lessons from the Conversion of Paul."

Click here for more on TOT and Young Adult Month in the Archdiocese of Newark!

Googling God

Googling God
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