Saturday, June 30, 2007

Brownback in Baltimore

Since Thursday, I have been in Baltimore where we were exhibitors at the Catholic Family Expo. Yesterday, the expo's afternoon keynote was delivered by Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, who is seeking the GOP nomination in next year's presidential race.

In his introduction, it was noted that Brownback risked some political fallout in Kansas over his conversion about five years back to Catholicism. This, and his reputation as a strong pro-lifer, likely contributed to the standing ovation that greeted THE BEGINNING of his remarks.

I have not been a fan of Brownback in the past but, I have to say, he made a compelling argument for his candidacy. I especially appreciated his recognition of what he called a "holistic pro-life stand" -- by which I hope he meant the consistent life ethic. It also was good to hear a high-ranking U.S. public official acknowledge the incredibly disturbing abortion rates of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome.

I still don't agree with Brownback on everything -- but he certainly piqued my interest.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

To Guide Our Feet

Sunday at Mass, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist. The Gospel reading was from Luke Chapter 1:

When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her and they rejoiced with her. When on the eighth day they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father.

But his mother said, "Not so; he shall be called John."

They said to her, "No one in your family has that name;" and they asked the father by means of signs for the name he wanted to give.

Zechariah asked for a writing tablet and wrote on it, "His name is John," and they were very surprised.

Immediately Zechariah could speak again and his first words were in praise of God.

A holy fear came on all in the neighborhood, and throughout the Hills of Judea the people talked about these events. All who heard of it pondered in their minds and wondered, "What will this child be?" For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him.

Then Zechariah his father, filled with the holy Spirit, prophesied, saying:

"Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
for he has visited and brought redemption to his people.
He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old:

salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us,
to show mercy to our fathers and to be mindful of his holy covenant
and of the oath he swore to Abraham our father,
and to grant us that,
rescued from the hand of enemies,
without fear we might worship him
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,

because of the tender mercy of our God
by which the daybreak from on high will visit us
to shine on those who sit in darkness and death's shadow,
to guide our feet into the path of peace."

As the child grew up, he was seen to be strong in the Spirit; he lived in the desert till the day when he appeared openly in Israel.

(The image above of the Nativity of John the Baptist is by the Florentine painter and portraitist Jacopo Pontormo, 1494 - 1557)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Denver

I am outside of Denver today through the weekend where we are exhibitors at the Rocky Mountain Catholic Home Educators conference. The conference is taking place at a hotel near the Denver International Airport. Thought I'd share this image from Wikipedia of its unique roof that is meant to evoke the snow-capped mountains:

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Aliquippa: Hub of Bloodshed?

On Sunday, both stories above the fold on the front of the New York Times sports section originated in Western Pennsylvania.

One of the stories, naturally, was about the U.S. Open at Oakmont. (All week, I was amazed by how frequently the New York press referred to "Oakmont" but not always indicating the course was located near Pittsburgh.)

But, there was no mention of finely-manicured greens in the other Sunday NYT Sports piece – a profile by Thayer Evans of Herb Pope, a star high school basketball player fleeing violent crime and family troubles in Aliquippa, Beaver County.

From the article:

But later on Davis Street, a prostitute haggled over a payment, drug deals took place in broad daylight and crack addicts staggered aimlessly. It is also the hub of bloodshed in Plan 11, a section of this athlete-rich western Pennsylvania town of about 12,000 where shots are fired almost every day.

Pope was unfazed by the empty beer bottles strewn about Jessie Belle Walker Park. The 6-foot-9, 217-pound Pope shot 3-pointers and occasionally dunked. His 30-minute workout was remarkable, considering that about two months earlier he was shot once in his left forearm, once in his thigh and twice in his abdomen. Pope said he was hospitalized for nearly two weeks and lost 37 pounds. He said two of the bullets remain in his body.

On his way from the park to home, where he lives with an aunt and uncle, Amy Pope-Smith and Ronald Smith, a gunshot rang out in the distance before 8 a.m., a reminder that not everyone in Plan 11 was asleep.

The photo above from the Times Website is credited to the Post-Gazette's Steve Mellon.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn

This past weekend, I ended up spending a decent chunk of time learning new parts of Brooklyn.

Friday night, we headed to the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn for happy hour at the Brooklyn Brewery followed by a bite at Mug's Ale House. One for the "small world" file: sitting at the table next to ours at Mug's was a woman who works at the South Fayette Township Library (discovered after seeing her friend's Penguins cap).

Saturday night, I was part of Anthony and Nick Santella's contingent at a party at Gregory Skolozdra's art studio in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn ("Dumbo" stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). Greg, an attorney by day, has done many nature-inspired interior landscapes like this 2005 work "Jumbo Umbrella Mushrooms":

En route to Greg's studio, we unexpectedly happened upon the fireworks shooting off over the Brooklyn Bridge that capped off Children's Day at the South Street Seaport -- and watched them from the small park that's almost under the Manhattan Bridge. Courtesy of dumbonyc.com, here's what the scene looked like on a similar night in 2006:

Monday, June 18, 2007

With Her Tears

Often, when I am in NYC on a Sunday, I go to the 5:15 p.m. Mass at St. Paul the Apostle Church, the huge but friendly church at the corner of 60th Street and 9th Avenue not far from Lincoln Center. Liturgically-speaking, the Masses there are usually quite straight-forward with good music. Also, they have a nicely-developing young adult ministry. (St. Paul the Apostle is the "mother church" of the Paulist Fathers, the order behind the great Website Busted Halo.)

Yesterday, the priest who celebrated St. Paul the Apostle's 5:15 p.m. Mass read the Gospel with great fervor and a sense of the dramatic. So, when you read the passage below, imagine it being pronounced slowly with lots of dramatic inflections and pauses, like I heard it yesterday.


A Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.

Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”

Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

“Tell me, teacher, ” he said.

“Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty. Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?”

Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.”

He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Afterward he journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Welcome, Friends o' Katie!

Welcome to readers from Waldie's World, where this blog was mentioned today and has been added as a link.

Waldie's World shares the stories of Katie Waldie Reid, one of my old friends from the Newman Club at NYU.

Also be sure to check out Required Reiding, written by Katie's husband, Chris. Katie and Chris live in Columbia, South Carolina.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Bon anniversaire!

Yesterday was the 1st Anniversary of this blog. From the campaign blog to something more personal, I've enjoyed writing it.

I had forgotten the date until I realized today was Flag Day and I rememered mentioning Flag Day in one of the first posts last year. In celebration ...

The Theologian-Pope

I'm currently reading "Jesus of Nazareth," a look at the Jesus of the Gospels that Pope Benedict XVI began writing when he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. I recently heard one priest say that reading this book is like "reading the New Testament for the first time."

A few years ago, I probably never would have bought anything written by Cardinal Ratzinger, who I thought was too doctrinaire. But, B16 is really growing on me. His writings are brilliant. And, at the core, he seems to simply want all of us to have a more-informed knowledge of God. He really is the "Theologian-Pope."

So far, these two quotes from "Jesus of Nazareth" have struck me (highlights are mine):

Neither the individual books of Holy Scripture nor the Scripture as a whole are simply a piece of literature. The Scripture emerged from within the heart of a living subject – the pilgrim People of God – and lives within this same subject. One could say that the books of Scripture involve three interacting subjects. First of all, there is the individual author or groups of authors to whom we owe a particular scriptural text. But these authors are not autonomous writers in the modern sense; they form part of a collective subject, the “People of God,” from within whose heart and to whom they speak. Hence, this subject is actually the deeper “author” of the Scriptures. And yet likewise, this people does not exist alone; rather, it knows that is led, and spoken to, by God himself, who – through men and their humanity – is at the deepest level the one speaking.

and ...

Religions do not aim merely to answer the question about our provenance; all religions try in one way or another to life the veil of the future. They seem important precisely because they impart knowledge about what is to come, and so show man the path he has to take to avoid coming to grief. This explains why practically all religions have developed ways of looking into the future.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Out of the Rain

Last night, we set out to see a free performance of “La Boheme” by the Metropolitan Opera on the Great Lawn of Central Park. But, the sporadic rain showers cancelled the show and encouraged us, and many others, into the adjacent Metropolitan Museum of Art (which, very happily, was having a free admission day).

We visited the new Greek and Roman galleries in the Met's former dining area, the “Poiret: King of Fashion” exhibit and the Clark Brothers collections. One of the paintings in the Clark Brothers collections was Van Gogh's 1888 oil on canvas "The Night CafĂ©":


From there, dinner was at Brother Jimmy's on 2nd Avenue -- a place where I think Vincent might have found some inspiration.

A New Chapter for Heidi

Yesterday, over at her blog "Life in Progress," my former co-worker and friend of many years, Heidi Price, announced the end of her 10-year tenure as a writer for the Observer-Reporter of Washington, PA.

When I began my under two-year stint as reporter at the O-R back in July, 1998, it was Heidi who took me around to the local police stations and showed me how to cover the "cops" beat. In the summer of 1999, Heidi and I co-wrote a tragic crime story that earned us a Golden Quill nomination from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania for the "Best Spot News" story published that year in a medium-sized daily newspaper.

I've enjoyed Heidi's writing over the years and thought her blog was very good. In addition to her new PR gig in academia, here's a hope that she keeps on blogging.

I know she has many more wonderful stories to tell.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Connections

The P-G's David Guo had a review of the "Function at the Junction" in Sunday's paper.

In the article, the Montour Trail Council's Stan Sattinger states:

"This new path has connections for bike tourists that generally can follow the four main compass points. You come to McDonald and you now have a choice," he said.

"At mile 18, you can now say, hmm, do I want to go east to Carnegie today, or do I want to go west to Weirton?"

"Where else in the country do you have a crossing of two major trails? I can tell you, it's pretty rare," Mr. Sattinger said.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Next Door

Next door to my office in Yonkers is the Hudson River Gallery & Conservators. (Literally next door -- they're on the other side of the wall next to my desk.) The owners, Helmut and Barbara, do restorations, high-end framing and occasionally have exhibits.

They are currently at the end of an exhibit by Daniel Bennett Schwartz. Thought I would share one of the works they have on display (although this photo doesn't do justice to the vibrant colors):


This 30 X 48 oil painting is called "Waders."

They All Ate

For Catholics, yesterday was the Feast of Corpus Christi, when we celebrate our belief in the real, actual presence of Jesus Christ in the bread and wine of Communion.

The Gospel at Mass recalls another miraculous feeding. From Luke Chapter 9:

Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God, and he healed those who needed to be cured.

As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said,"Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here."

He said to them, "Give them some food yourselves."

They replied, "Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people."

Now the men there numbered about five thousand. Then he said to his disciples, "Have them sit down in groups of about fifty."

They did so and made them all sit down. Then taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.

They all ate and were satisfied.

And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Function at the Junction

Tomorrow, Saturday, June 9, is an important day for McDonald and the surrounding area. Beginning around Noon, the "Function at the Junction" will mark the official opening of the connecting link between the Panhandle Trail and the Montour Trail.

The connection, just west of McDonald in Robinson Township (Washington County) at the old railroad trestle, allows north- and south-bound trail users on the Montour Trail to travel east and west on the Panhandle Trail (and vise versa). It's an important addition for both recreation purposes and economic development.

David Guo had an article in yesterday's P-G about the festivities. Yesterday's Trib also had coverage.

THANK YOU to all those trail volunteers who made this possible! Our community is much in your debt for your tireless commitment to this important project.

Photo above from the Montour Trail Website is credited to Deb Thompson.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Rehash

Sunday afternoon, we used some complimentary passes to take in "The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron?" at City Theater on Pittsburgh's South Side.

I hesitate to blog about it because I hate to criticize City Theater, which is one of Western Pennsylvania's great treasures. But, this one-man play by Robert Dubac was disappointing. It aims to examine the male psyche in the context of male-female relations.

Actor Ben Evans, obviously a talented guy, did the best he could with the material. But, the dialogue was little more than rehash of the stereotypes already examined to exhaustion by '90s sitcoms like "Seinfeld," "Mad About You," and "Friends".

Disclaimer: We saw the 2 p.m. matinee. The crowd, mostly comprised of women over age 50, laughed a lot and seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves.

I'm just glad I didn't shell out $40 for a ticket.

An aside: Prior to the show, we had brunch just down the street from City Theater at Gypsy Cafe. Great place.

Below the Surface

I was home in Pittsburgh this past weekend. Saturday evening, we had the chance to catch "Knocked Up" at the inexpensive movie theater next to the old Washington Mall.

I know some folks might not appreciate the movie's vulgarity, profanity, nudity and depictions of pre-marital sex and drug use.

But, I have to say, I enjoyed it. And, not far below the surface, director Judd Apatow's "Knocked Up" really has a conservative message. It was certainly pro-life and pro-marriage.

Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl were excellent in the lead roles. Leslie Mann also has a good scene in which she interacts with a club bouncer in one of the more unexpected and refreshing bits of dialogue heard in recent films.

I would compare "Knocked Up" to Kevin Smith's "Dogma." In both movies, if you look deeper than the off-color humor, you find Generation X's underlying respect for human life and a genuine desire for commitment and stability.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

What Is Mine

For Catholics, today is the the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. In today's Gospel at Mass, Christ teaches his disciples something about the divine workings of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Trinity:


Jesus said to his disciples:

"I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.

"He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you."

The photo above shows the large window of Holy Trinity Chapel at the Catholic Center at New York University. It's located on Washington Square South in New York City.

Friday, June 01, 2007