Thursday, September 27, 2007

Guide Our Feet

The Post-Gazette and Rocco Palmo are reporting that Pittsburgh's new Catholic bishop, David Zubik, has decided not to live in the bishop's traditional residence (pictured at right) in one of the tonier parts of the Iron City.

Instead, he has decided to live in rooms at the diocesan seminary outside the town of Carnegie, a few minutes drive south of the city.

I think this is an excellent decision by Bishop Zubik -- simple-living and servant leadership by example.

Tomorrow, Bishop Zubik, a son of Western Pennsylvania, will be installed bishop during a Mass at St. Paul's Cathedral. I know he will be in the prayers of many -- including yours truly.

Some inspiration below from the Canticle of Zechariah (Luke 1: 76-79):

"... you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Brotherly Conversation

This evening, I again joined a standing room-only crowd on the 4th floor of what I guess is now my regular bookstore.

This time the draw was the author Augusten Burroughs who had a "conversation" with his biological brother, John Elder Robison, about Robison's book "Look Me in the Eye."

Yesterday was the release date for "Look Me in the Eye." Perhaps similar in some ways to Burroughs' "Running with Scissors," it details a rather unique childhood and adult years. (Robison once designed guitars for KISS.)

Robison, who was funny and candid, has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome — a high functioning form of autism.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Launch

Earlier tonight, I attended a very well-attended launch party at Pink Elephant (interior pictured above) on West 27th St. for a great new Website named catholicnyc.com.

It's hoped the site will become a one-stop shop for Catholic young adults in and near the Archdiocese of New York. It's got listings for upcoming events, jobs, apartments and the city's many churches.

catholicnyc.com is the work of another son of Western Pennsylvania: Dan Schreck. A native of Bethel Park, Dan works as director of young adult outreach for the archdiocese. His brother, Kim, recently became a priest for the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"Dishonest Wealth"

The Gospel at Mass today was another challenging one.

From Luke Chapter 16:

Jesus said to his disciples:

“A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. He summoned him and said, ‘What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.’

"The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do so that, when I am removed from the stewardship, they may welcome me into their homes.’

"He called in his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He replied, ‘One hundred measures of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note. Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’ Then to another the steward said, ‘And you, how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘One hundred kors of wheat.’ The steward said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note; write one for eighty.’ And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.

“For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?

"No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

Friday, September 21, 2007

An Ivy Extreme

Someone at Columbia must be high.

Giving a platform to a man who has called the Holocaust a "myth"? What?!

The exchange of ideas is always important -- especially on college campuses. But, this is taking it to an extreme.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Stage & Screen

This evening, we attended two events about faith and the arts.

The first event was a reading and Q&A session with Fr. James Martin, S.J., at the Pauline Books & Media Center on 52nd Street. Fr. Martin, an editor of America magazine, is the same priest interviewed by Steven Colbert in the post below.

Fr. Martin read from his new book "A Jesuit Off-Broadway." It's about his experience as a theological advisor to the cast of the 2005 play "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot."

After that, we walked a few blocks west to attend a gathering of the Cathedral of St. Patrick Young Adults over at St. Pat's parish house. The discussion there was on the upcoming movie "Bella."

The independent film won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival. Here's the trailer:




"Bella" opens Friday, October, 26. Yours truly hopes to check it out that night.

Kicker

Good quote below in this article by Paul Kogut in yesterday's Tribune-Review:

... At the beginning of the season, Claassen thought about playing football, but she opted for the girls soccer team. She is the starting goalkeeper for the Lady Vikings and made 15 saves in a 6-0 loss to Deer Lakes on Friday afternoon.

But after the first two weeks of the football season, when Valley failed on all three of its extra-point kicks and tried two-point conversions after three other touchdowns, Claassen reconsidered.

"I thought they had a kicker," said Claassen, who is the first female football player in the Alle-Kiski Valley since Apollo-Ridge's Brianna Akins in 2005. "I realized I could help the team, so I decided to give it a try." ...

You go, girl.

The photo above from the Trib Website is credited to Louis B. Ruediger of the Valley News Dispatch.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Ethics of Exit

One of the great parts of living in NYC is the opportunity to often check out interesting speakers.

Monday evening, we headed over to the Barnes & Noble at Union Square (exterior pictured at left) to hear remarks by Alan Greenspan.

I say "hear" because the store's 4th Floor event space was so packed we weren't able to see the former Federal Reserve Board Chairman. I was disappointed that the session turned out to be more book-signing than speech. But, it was interesting to hear him speak about his youthful interest in baseball and his time as a musician. He also did some Nixon-bashing.

Yesterday evening, we went to a forum at Fordham University's Lincoln Center campus called "Exit or No Exit? Morality and Withdrawal from Iraq." It was sponsored by the university's Center on Religion and Culture.

Nearly every seat in the auditorium was filled for this session featuring four prominent ethicists -- two who favor a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq sooner rather than later, and two who maintain the United States has a moral duty to keep troops in Iraq until the country is reasonably secure (since the U.S. caused the instability).

To my mind, the most compelling of the speakers was Jean Bethke Elshtain (pictured at right). She was in the later category. Professor Elshtain spoke about her work on the board of the National Endowment for Democracy (which I did not know exists).

Perhaps the most interesting moment of the forum came when the moderator posed this question from an audience member:

"Does the U.S. have a moral obligation to stay in Iraq until the democracy there is stable -- or would it be permissible for U.S. troops to exit with a dictator in place who brings stability?"

The crowd sighed with resignation. The speakers were uncertain.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Inky Broadside

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is usually a pretty straight-forward newspaper. But, when it comes to the P-G's arch nemesis, Richard Mellon Scaife of the Tribune-Review, it seems they revel in taking the occasional shot.

Case in point: this article by Dennis Roddy in Sunday's paper.

Hey, Dennis, leave the guy alone. Even dark lords of vast right-wing conspiracies can have personal problems.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Lost & Found

The Gospel at Mass on Sunday included the parables of "The Lost Sheep" and "The Prodigal Son."

From Luke Chapter 15:

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

So to them he addressed this parable:

“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.

“Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’ In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Then he said, “A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them.

"After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and went back to his father.

"While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began.

"Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns, who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”


The image above is a photo of the oil on canvas painting "The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Rembrandt.

flickr Love

On Saturday afternoon, I attended the wedding of Brian Staszel, my high school classmate / college roommate.

It was a beautiful outdoor ceremony held in front of a pond at Lingrow Farm, just outside of Leechburg, PA. The sun came out just as the couple said their vows.

Brian and his new wife met on flickr. So, it's probably fitting that you check out photos of the wedding here, here, here and here.

The minister who officiated the nuptials included a beautiful passage from the Song of Songs (or "Song of Solomon"). I think this was it:

Set me as a seal on your heart,
as a seal on your arm;
For stern as death is love,
relentless as the nether world is devotion;
its flames are a blazing fire.

Deep waters cannot quench love,
nor floods sweep it away.
Were one to offer all he owns to purchase love,
he would be roundly mocked.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Holy Humor

Last night, viewers of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central may have gained some new insights into the challenges of faith and our relationship with God -- thanks to Mother Teresa.




For more on Stephen Colbert and faith, visit this site.

h/t: Rocco Palmo.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ventures

I came across this quote today:

“Our duty as Christians lies in making ventures for eternal life without the absolute certainty of success

This indeed, is the very meaning of the word ‘venture;’ for that is a strange venture which has nothing in it of fear, risk, danger, anxiety, uncertainty. Yes, so it certainly is; and in this consists the excellence and nobleness of faith, this is the very reason why faith is singled out from other graces, and honored as the especial means of our justification, because its presence implies that we have the heart to make a venture.”

-- John Henry Newman from his sermon "The Ventures of Faith."

(Sources say this drawing of Cardinal Newman shows him at age 23.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Propaganda or Best Practices?

Sunday night, while I still back in Pittsburgh for the weekend, we caught a late showing of "Sicko" at the Manor Theater in Squirrel Hill. It's the latest documentary film / propaganda piece (depending on your point from view) from Michael Moore, the director/writer/narrator of "Roger & Me," "Bowling for Columbine" and "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Contrary to what would be natural to assume, "Sicko" is not about the millions of Americans who do not have any health care insurance.

The film focuses on HMOs in the United States and the quality of care they provide. Moore's thesis is that millions of Americans have insufficient health care -- especially working class Americans confronted with very serious health conditions, high co-pays and denials for some kinds of treatments. Moore contrasts the HMO system in the U.S. to what he aims to show are superior national health care systems in Canada, Britain, France and Cuba.

I should say that I do not know enough about the way health care works in the United States or any other country to comment sufficiently on Moore's claims. But, I do think that "Sicko" raises some good questions:

-- Do the American political system and financial system permit (or encourage) an approach to health care that is not beneficial for the country in the long run?

-- Do insurance companies value profits more than people?

-- Are there "best practices" that we should study in other countries?

-- Are their fundamental moral / ethical questions that the American people need to address where health care is concerned? Is health care a human right? Is government the best or only means by which we could guarantee that human right? Is this a pro-life issue?

Aside from the political questions, "Sicko" was reasonably entertaining just as a movie-going experience. Perhaps the best moment came when Moore revealed he sent an anonymous $12,000 check to one of the authors of Moorewatch.com when that author had financial troubles that were due at least in part to the rising cost of health care premiums for his ill wife. It was a stunt -- but an entertaining one.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Flag

An apartment building is being constructed across the street from my company's office in Yonkers. Today, as you can see in the picture above, a huge U.S. flag was placed on the building's southern wall. The flag is four-and-a-half stories long.

My assumption is that the flag marks today's sixth anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks -- a fitting thing to do, I think.

Yonkers' Metro North train station is in the foreground. Another view:

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Column

On August 19, a column I wrote appeared on the Sunday commentary page of the Observer-Reporter. I was remiss in posting it here. Better late than never:

Legislative hopefuls need to get busy
By Paul Snatchko

For months, the news has been full of reports about the 2008 race for the White House. Even though the presidential election is 15 months away, even the casual observer likely knows the names of some of the major contenders.

Just as Hillary, Rudy and crew are stumping and fund raising, it also is time for local politicos to begin preparations for 2008. In the cycle ahead, local citizens again will have the opportunity to elect representatives to Congress, the Pennsylvania Senate and the Pennsylvania House.

With the 2007 county government and municipal races now underway, it's unfortunate attention has to be diverted to the legislative races coming up in 2008. Lord knows, it's confusing enough when you have something called "prothonotary" on the ballot. But, the demands of fund raising and mass voter outreach - even on the local level - mean that candidates for the legislative seats need to begin preparing now.

I was a candidate for one of the local State House seats in 2002, 2004 and 2006. I guess you could call me "Mr. 46 Percent" - that was my approximate take each time. As much as I hated losing, I know that the campaigns were beneficial - both for democracy in the 46th Legislative District and for my own personal development.

A recent move out of Pennsylvania for a new job ensures that I'm done running for office - at least for now. So, gentle reader, it's your turn.

Yeah - you. If you're reading the commentary page of the O-R, you likely have an interest in the region and where it's headed. Chances are you care about the quality of our towns and schools. You're probably worried that so many of our young people can't find good jobs here after they get out of high school or college.

It's pathetic that each election cycle so few people put forward themselves and their ideas on how our area could be a better place to live, work and raise a family. This isn't even necessarily about the incumbent holders of these legislative seats - they may be doing fine jobs. But they should be vigorously challenged in each primary election and general election - always pushed to work harder and smarter for reelection.

Technically speaking, to run for these positions, you simply have to be a Pennsylvania citizen over the age of 21 or 25 (depending on the office) and have lived here for one year prior to the Election Day in which your name will appear on the ballot.

As a three-time legislative loser, I recognize that I may not be the best person to be giving advice on how to "Plan a Winning Campaign." But, since you're still reading, here is my take on the four most important things you need to do to get started:

1. Make certain your significant other is on board. The most successful public officials and candidates have the enthusiastic backing of their wives, husbands, fianc├ęs, significant others, etc. Your main squeeze doesn't just need to support the idea of you running for office - she or he needs to want to campaign alongside you on a frequent basis. He or she doesn't just need to give you permission to leave the family picnic to campaign at the firemen's parade - they have to want to drive the car. Don't run for office if your partner is not on board. After all, it's their future lifestyle at stake, too. I've seen more than one instance in which a politician with an apolitical spouse ends up confronting alcoholism, depression and/or infidelity.

2. Round up the troops. You can't run a local legislative race without lots of strong supporters - a campaign committee made up of your family members, personal friends, neighbors, fellow church members, municipal officials and members of the county political committees. You can't do this alone! Start having meetings now. Engage your supporters in various outreach tasks and find out who will really be there for you when the going gets tough. By the end, you will need a small army to reach those thousands of voters. If you don't have family support, a decent number of personal friends or others on whom you can rely - don't run for office. It won't work - especially in small towns and rural areas.

3. Figure out the money, because this is going to be expensive. Running for office costs thousands upon thousands of dollars. The mailings, the commercials, the yard signs, the promotional items and maybe even some paid staff and a headquarters - all of these can break the bank and/or ruin your credit rating. My number one weakness as a candidate was my inability to raise large sums of campaign dollars - largely because I just didn't like asking strangers for money. But unless you're independently wealthy and willing to fund your own campaign, it's something you have to do. Start early. Ask often.

4. Do a personal assessment. What do you look like? Are there things you may need to change about your personal appearance before launching your campaign? Are you a confident public speaker? Do you have any annoying habits? Any skeletons in the closet? Get ready because they'll all be coming out. Unfortunately, when you run for office, you become public property. You don't need to be perfect to run for office - but you do need to know your strengths and weaknesses.

Here's hoping the local campaign trail is a crowded one in 2008.

Paul Snatchko, a former resident of McDonald, now lives in New York, where he is manager of marketing and communications for a Catholic liturgical publishing house.

Renounce All

The Gospel at Mass yesterday was another with very strong language from Jesus on the conditions of being His disciple.

Is it exaggeration to make a point about suffering? Is it literal?

From Luke Chapter 14:

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them:

“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Hillary was a CR Prez?!

It's well known that Hillary Rodham Clinton was from a Republican family and that she participated in some Republican campaigns when she was young.

But, prior to reading this New York Times article earlier this week, I never knew that she had been president of the College Republicans at Wellesley College and even attended the 1968 GOP Convention in Miami.
Go figure.

From Mark Leibovich's article:

As the nation boiled over Vietnam, civil rights and the slayings of two charismatic leaders, Ms. Rodham was completing a sweeping intellectual, political and stylistic shift. She came to Wellesley as an 18-year-old Republican, a copy of Barry Goldwater’s right-wing treatise, “The Conscience of a Conservative,” on the shelf of her freshman dorm room. She would leave as an antiwar Democrat whose public rebuke of a Republican senator in a graduation speech won her notice in Life magazine as a voice for her generation. ...

A Goldwater Girl

Ms. Rodham had arrived at Wellesley in the fall of 1965, a decorated Girl Scout and teacher’s pet from a Republican household in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge, Ill. She had distributed leaflets for Mr. Goldwater’s presidential campaign the previous fall and was determined to rise quickly through the moribund ranks of Wellesley’s Young Republicans chapter.

As a go-getter freshman, Ms. Rodham was elected president of the group, dutifully recruiting students to help Massachusetts candidates including Edward Brooke, the future United States senator whom she would chastise in a 1969 commencement speech as being out of touch with the concerns of the new graduates.

If Senator Clinton were to win the White House in '08, I wonder if she would be the first past president of a College Republicans chapter to become POTUS. Something tells me that wouldn't end up as a laurel on the National CRs Website.

The photo above from the NYT Website is credited to Corbis. Caption: Ms. Rodham in 1969, the year she graduated.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Ron Paul vs. Mike Huckabee

For those trying to form an opinion on the continuation of the American troop surge in Iraq, the YouTube clip above would be good to watch. It's from last night's GOP prez candidates debate. Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee make strong arguments on both sides of the question.

When the Light Shines

In the clip above, Luciano Pavarotti sings "Nessun Dorma."

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Voice

Last night, when I added the post of Paul Potts singing "Nessun Dorma," I had no idea that Luciano Pavarotti was dying.

Pavarotti, who died early this morning of pancreatic cancer at age 71, brought the song to millions around the world. The voice of the Italian tenor was unforgettable.

The photo above of Pavarotti is from a slide show at the NYTimes Website and is credited to Sara Krulwich of the Times. Caption: As Nemorino in "L'Elisir d'Amore" at the Met in 1998, celebrating the 30th anniversary of his Met Opera debut.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Paul Potts

Per Rick Rubin's suggestion in the article mentioned in yesterday's post: This YouTube video shows Paul Potts, the winner of this summer's "Britain's Got Talent." (American Idol in the U.K.)

"Nessun Dorma" is an amazing song. It's from Puccini's 1926 opera "Turandot." This is Wikipedia's translation of the words from the Italian:

"Nobody shall sleep!... Nobody shall sleep! Even you, o Princess, in your cold room, watch the stars, that tremble with love and with hope. But my secret is hidden within me, my name no one shall know... No!...No!... On your mouth I will tell it when the light shines. And my kiss will dissolve the silence that makes you mine!..."

"No one will know his name and we must, alas, die."

"Vanish, o night! Set, stars! Set, stars! At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!"

Dorm Rooms

Yesterday, I learned something new after reading this cover story in the latest New York Times Sunday Magazine:

Def Jam Records was founded in Weinstein Hall, the NYU dorm I lived in '94, '95 and '96 during my freshman and sophomore years in college. We knew the Beastie Boys had lived there in the '80s but I didn't then know of this connection to Rick Rubin (pictured; current Columbia Records co-head and subject of the Times Mag piece on the future of major record labels).

Quote from the story:

"In 1983, while he was attending N.Y.U., he borrowed $5,000 from his parents and recorded "It's Yours" by T La Rock and Jazzy Jay, a 12-inch single that became a local dance hit. Rubin then invented a label, calling his company Def Jam ("Def" meaning great, and "Jam" meaning music), and ran the business out of his dorm room. "The clerk at the front desk handled all the shipping," Rubin recalled.

FYI, this Answers.com site confirms the Weinstein connection. This New Republic article places Rubin and crew in Room 712. And, an aside: if memory serves, I may have worked a few late-night work-study shifts at that front desk myself.

A visual of the old haunt on University Place a few steps northeast of Washington Square Park:

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A Light For Us

On Wednesday, we will mark the 10th Anniversary of the death of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

I have been thinking a lot lately about "Mother Teresa" after reading the cover story about her in the last edition of TIME Magazine. The article is based on a forthcoming book that maintains this modern-day saint endured decades of "The Dark Night of the Soul."

The book ("Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light") includes letters written by Mother Teresa in which she describes no longer being able to truly pray and feeling a great spiritual "silence" and "emptiness." The book was edited by Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., the postulator of Mother Teresa's cause for sainthood.

From David Van Biema's article:

That absence seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta, and — except for a five-week break in 1959 — never abated. Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the "dryness," "darkness," "loneliness" and "torture" she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. "The smile," she writes, is "a mask" or "a cloak that covers everything." Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. "I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God — tender, personal love," she remarks to an adviser. "If you were [there], you would have said, 'What hypocrisy.'"

Learning that Mother Teresa likely lived through this great spiritual struggle makes her more of a saint in my eyes. Despite the loneliness, she persevered in her work helping the poorest of the poor.

One of my favorite moments in the life of Mother Teresa was chronicled is this essay by Peggy Noonan about the day Mother spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast during the Clinton years and boldly stood up for Life.

You can read the entire address here.

Mother Teresa may have felt abandoned at times by God. But, I feel strongly that the Holy Spirit was certainly with the brave woman who spoke these prophetic words.


The photo above from
TIME.com is credited to Daniel Kramer / Sygma / Corbis.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Sacrifices of Labor

Happy Labor Day 2007 to all working men and women.

I want to send out special greetings to the members of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66 and the Boilmakers Local 154. These dedicated Western Pennsylvania labor unions last year sent foursomes to my golf outing. Operating Engineers Local 66 also graciously invited me to join them in marching in Pittsburgh's Labor Day Parade. I appreciated your consideration of my candidacy.

To commemorate the day, I want to share the photo below of a mural by the Croatian artist Maxo Vanka (1890-1963). It shows the great sacrifices often made by working families:

The mural (which has vibrant colors not seen in this B&W photo) is one of many painted in 1937 and 1941 by Vanka on the walls of St. Nicholas Catholic Church, an ethnic Croatian parish in Millvale, PA. It is entitled "The immigrant mother raises her sons for industry."


Unfortunately, the recent Utah miners tragedy demonstrates that his sort of sacrifice is not a thing of the past.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Place of Honor

At Mass today, the Gospel again finds Jesus dining in the home of another. It's a lesson about humility.

From Luke Chapter 14:

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully.

He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Sufficient

Last night, we checked out "Death at a Funeral." It had received some lukewarm reviews so I had fairly low expectations -- which were exceeded. It was a typical but sufficiently humorous Brit comedy worth the ticket price.

We laughed a lot -- even at the gross stuff.

Frank Oz directed the movie. One of the promotions for "Death at a Funeral" referred to him as "the director of Bowfinger."

"Bowfinger"? Big deal. Frank Oz was voice of Yoda -- now that's significant.

Subway Reader

For anyone in Manhattan today or tomorrow: Be sure to stop by Anthony Santella's booth at the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit. His display of paintings, drawings and sculptures is on the western side of University Place just north of 9th St.

Anthony is a longtime friend going way back to the Newman Club at NYU days. In addition to being an artist in several mediums, he holds a Ph.D. in computer science from Rutgers.

Yesterday, I purchased a print of this oil on canvas painting by Anthony:

It's called "Subway Reader." That station looks a lot like the 4-5-6 stop at 14th St./Union Square. (Although, that station is always crowded -- never barren like this.)

An aside: Anthony is the secretary of SIAC -- that's the French acronym for the International Association of Christian Artists.