Sunday, August 31, 2008
... I find that I am more and more pleased that she is not another Ivy League lawyer who planned and plotted a political career, but rather a concerned and active, intelligent woman who simply followed her own interests and concerns, and walked through the doors and opportunities as they were placed before her. That’s refreshing - it is also so very “can-do American.”
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
It's the shattering of a glass ceiling by the Republican Governor of Alaska.
In case you missed it today:
I should note that Sully is freaked out over the Palin nod. I can't remember a time when I have disagreed with him more. He's failing to understand the visual.
Ross Douthat of The Atlantic put my disappointment into words:
The speech had good lines and good sections, but for the most part it felt surprisingly banal and jury-rigged, and it suffered throughout from a failure to cohere around any single theme or rhetorical style. There was a lot of liberal boilerplate (recruit an army of teachers, tax the rich, etc.) that could have fit easily into any Democratic acceptance speech of the last twenty years; there was a series of swings at John McCain that, while often effective, seemed more appropriate to a veep's speech than to an address by a Presidential nominee; and then there was a half-hearted attempt to return, in the speech's final third, to the themes of post-partisanship and national unity that defined his '04 convention speech. The whole thing felt schizophrenic - part Clintonian laundry-list, part McCain-bashing polemic, part "beyond red and blue" peroration - and watching it I was left with the impression that Obama would have been better off just sticking with the high-flown inspirational style that got him here, and waiting for the debates to recast himself as the meat-and-potatoes guy who can throw a punch and get down into the policy weeds. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, and you can see what Obama and his speechwriters were trying to do - namely, have the best of both worlds, by being soaring and substance-oriented, combative and post-partisan. But the substance was predictable, thin, and rife with pandering, the combativeness felt faintly inappropriate, and the speech didn't soar nearly as much as it should have. It was a historic evening, for Obama and for America, and there were moments that gave me shivers just watching on TV - but if you didn't go in sold on the Democratic nominee, I think it was ultimately something of a letdown.
It's the first time I have attended a major gathering of Catholic charismatics. It's my fourth time, however, exhibiting in the Anaheim Convention Center.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
How a lot can change in eight years:
He was drained of money and confidence, fresh from a punishing defeat in a Congressional primary race here. Even the Illinois delegation did not have room at the party’s gathering in Los Angeles for Mr. Obama, then a 39-year-old lawyer, who had annoyed some state Democrats for not waiting his turn to seek a higher office.
Never mind all that. Mr. Obama bought a plane ticket and headed west anyway.
He persuaded a clerk at the car rental agency to overlook the unpaid balance on his credit card, and he made his way to the festivities. He was not a delegate — not even close to being a superdelegate — and without a floor credential he had all the sway of the junior state senator that he was.
As he wrote in his second book, “The Audacity of Hope,” he was frustrated by his lack of access. “I ended up watching most of the speeches on various television screens scattered around the Staples Center,” he wrote, “occasionally following friends or acquaintances into skyboxes where it was clear I didn’t belong.”
So he left one day before Al Gore accepted the party’s nomination. This time? Mr. Gore is one of the leading warm-up acts for Mr. Obama. He will be seated in Invesco Field when Mr. Obama is on the stage accepting the party’s nomination.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The difference is starting to show. Just compare arriving at La Guardia’s dumpy terminal in New York City and driving through the crumbling infrastructure into Manhattan with arriving at Shanghai’s sleek airport and taking the 220-mile-per-hour magnetic levitation train, which uses electromagnetic propulsion instead of steel wheels and tracks, to get to town in a blink.
Then ask yourself: Who is living in the third world country?
Yes, if you drive an hour out of Beijing, you meet the vast dirt-poor third world of China. But here’s what’s new: The rich parts of China, the modern parts of Beijing or Shanghai or Dalian, are now more state of the art than rich America. The buildings are architecturally more interesting, the wireless networks more sophisticated, the roads and trains more efficient and nicer. And, I repeat, they did not get all this by discovering oil. They got it by digging inside themselves.
Obama got this far because many voters projected onto him that he could be the leader of an American renewal. They know we need nation-building at home now — not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan, not in Georgia, but in America. Obama cannot lose that theme.
He cannot let Republicans make this election about who is tough enough to stand up to Russia or bin Laden. It has to be about who is strong enough, focused enough, creative enough and unifying enough to get Americans to rebuild America. The next president can have all the foreign affairs experience in the world, but it will be useless, utterly useless, if we, as a country, are weak.
Obama is more right than he knows when he proclaims that this is “our” moment, this is “our” time. But it is our time to get back to work on the only home we have, our time for nation-building in America. I never want to tell my girls — and I’m sure Obama feels the same about his — that they have to go to China to see the future.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Flashback: October, 2006.
From the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:
Main Entry: hyp·o·crite
Etymology: Middle English ypocrite, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin hypocrita, from Greek hypokritēs actor, hypocrite, from hypokrinesthai
Date: 13th century
1 : a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
2 : a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings
— hypocrite adjective
Monday, August 25, 2008
But, I have a busy week ahead professionally. And, on top of that, I've loaned out my laptop.
So, here's a recommendation:
For good coverage of the news coming out of this week's Democratic National Convention -- and how what is done and said there (or isn't done and said there) relates to faith (and Catholicism in particular) -- head over to The Deacon's Bench.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
From Matthew Chapter 16:
Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Yesterday's David Brooks column in the NYTimes hoped that Senator Joe Biden would prevail in the Obama veepstakes.
Working-Class Roots. Biden is a lunch-bucket Democrat. His father was rich when he was young — played polo, cavorted on yachts, drove luxury cars. But through a series of bad personal and business decisions, he was broke by the time Joe Jr. came along. They lived with their in-laws in Scranton, Pa., then moved to a dingy working-class area in Wilmington, Del. At one point, the elder Biden cleaned boilers during the week and sold pennants and knickknacks at a farmer’s market on the weekends.
His son was raised with a fierce working-class pride — no one is better than anyone else. Once, when Joe Sr. was working for a car dealership, the owner threw a Christmas party for the staff. Just as the dancing was to begin, the owner scattered silver dollars on the floor and watched from above as the mechanics and salesmen scrambled about for them. Joe Sr. quit that job on the spot.
Even today, after serving for decades in the world’s most pompous workplace, Senator Biden retains an ostentatiously unpretentious manner. He campaigns with an army of Bidens who seem to emerge by the dozens from the old neighborhood in Scranton. He has disdain for privilege and for limousine liberals — the mark of an honest, working-class Democrat.
Democrats in general, and Obama in particular, have trouble connecting with working-class voters, especially Catholic ones. Biden would be the bridge.
An aside: I shook hands with Senator Biden once, I think. It was on an Amtrak train en route from Washington, D.C., back to NYC, circa 1996 - '98. It was after one of the "NYU in Washington" lobby days. If memory serves, he was headed that evening back to Delaware.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Political conversations among Catholics are stuck. Just stuck. Anyone who has been reading the politically-oriented Catholic blogs or websites sees this pretty quickly. Every single conversation - every bloody one - goes like this:
A: Obama’s positions are unacceptable to faithful Catholics because…
B. Oh, yeah? What about McCain’s positions. They’re unacceptable because….
A: But Obama’s unacceptable positions touch on more serious issues.
B. Oh really? The bishops say…
A. Oh really? But the bishops say…
I’ve sort of racked my brain trying to figure out an alternative paradigm. I’ve failed so far. One of the things that seems to be missing is cold hard reality. No, not the reality of balancing goods - that’s on full display and everyone seems to tap into that - but on the reality of politics and politicians and who they are, what drives and funds politics , what the end game is and what a president is for. I’m not trying to be cynical here, (well) ..but what was it someone once said? Put not your hope in princes? Something like that. It’s in some book I read once.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
An aside: Five days a week, I pass this statue of Ella Fitzgerald outside the Metro North Station in Yonkers, en route to my office across the street:
From Michael Powell's report:
To roam the rural reaches of western Pennsylvania, through largely white working-class counties, is to understand the breadth of the challenge facing the two presidential candidates. But this economically ravaged region, once so solidly Democratic, poses a particular hurdle for Senator Obama.
From the desolation of Aliquippa — where the Jones & Laughlin steel mill loomed at the foot of the main boulevard — to the fading beauty of Beaver Falls to the neatly tended homes of retired steel workers in Hopewell, one hears much hesitating talk about Mr. Obama, some simply quizzical or skeptically political, and some not-so-subtly racial.
Powell closed with this gem of a quote:
Nationally, the Obama campaign shies from talk of race, preferring to argue that the poor economy will dominate this election. Such delicacy holds no purchase here. An organizer with the United Steelworkers met with 30 workers in Beaver. He could not have been blunter. Mr. Obama, he told them, stands for national health care, strong unions and preserving Social Security.
“Some of you won’t vote for him because he’s black,” the organizer concluded. “Well, he’s a Democrat. Get over it.”
The photo above is credited to David Ahntholz for The New York Times. His caption: Ivan Stickles talked of false rumors that Barack Obama did not shake hands with troops in Afghanistan, “I don’t have the time to check out if it’s true, but if it is, it’s very offensive.”
Worth a look:
Hat-tip: Andrew Sullivan
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
The new release from Loyola Press is entitled: "A Well-Built Faith: A Catholic's Guide to Knowing and Sharing What We Believe" ($9.95, soft-cover, 192 pages).
The volume is the latest from Joe Paprocki, a religious educator in the Chicago area for more than 25 years. He's also the author of "The Catechist's Toolbox" and "God's Library" and the co-author of "Living the Mass."
"A Well-Built Faith" uses construction as a theme with chapter titles like: "Laying a Firm Foundation: Transmitting Faith," "Construction Safety Signs: Mystery and Sacramentality" and "Building according to Code: The Commandments, Beatitudes and Virtues."
Each of the 18 chapters is digestible for the busy reader with stand-alone text boxes on particular concepts. For instance, Chapter 6 (Union Workers: The Church, Mary, the Saints, and Eternity) features a text box on "The Last Judgement." In Chapter 7, there's a special place for an explanation of the term "efficacious." A box in Chapter 18 answers the question "Is God Male?"
Each chapter also includes notable stand-alone quotes, often-humorous illustrations and a "So What?" summary section, as well as a concluding scripture passage and prayer.
"A Well-Built Faith" would be a useful resource for any teacher of the Catholic faith, whether a teacher of young people or adults. And, while it may be most valuable to those teachers who are new to religious education, its contents would serve as an ample refresher for veteran educators as well.
OK, quick, close your eyes. Where is Barack Obama from?
He’s from Young. He’s from the town of Smooth in the state of Well Educated. He’s from TV.
John McCain? He’s from Military. He’s from Vietnam Township in the Sunbelt state.
Chicago? That’s where Mr. Obama wound up. Modern but Midwestern: a perfect place to begin what might become a national career. Arizona? That’s where Mr. McCain settled, a perfect place from which to launch a more or less conservative career in the 1980s.
Neither man has or gives a strong sense of place in the sense that American politicians almost always have, since Mr. Jefferson of Virginia, and Abe Lincoln of Illinois, and FDR of New York, and JFK of Massachusetts. Even Bill Clinton was from a town called Hope, in Arkansas, even if Hope was really Hot Springs. And in spite of his New England pedigree, George W. Bush was a Texan, as was, vividly, LBJ.
Messrs. Obama and McCain are not from a place, but from an experience. Mr. McCain of course was a Navy brat. He bounced around, as members of the families of our military must, and wound up for a time in the suburbs of Washington. Mr. Obama’s mother was somewhat itinerant, in search of different climes. He was born in Hawaii, which Americans on the continent don’t experience so much as a state as a destination, a place of physical beauty and singular culture. You go there to escape and enjoy. Then his great circling commenced: Indonesia, back to Hawaii, on to the western coast of America, then to the eastern coast, New York and Cambridge. He circled the continent, entering it, if you will, in Chicago, where he settled in his 30s.
The lack of placeness with both candidates contributes to a sense of their disjointedness, their floatingness. I was talking recently with a journalist who’s a podcaster. I often watch him in conversation on the Internet. I told him I’m always struck that he seems to be speaking from No Place, with some background of beige wall that could exist anywhere. He leans in and out of focus. It gives a sense of weightlessness. He’s like an astronaut floating without a helmet.
That’s a little what both candidates are like to me.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
This week, in the Boston Globe, I read the story of an elderly couple named Sol and Rita Rogers. They’ve been married 61 years. They’ve raised a family and lived a long and happy life together. A few years ago, that began to change. Rita developed Alzheimer’s. And she is slipping deeper and deeper into dementia.
Several weeks ago, she was taken to a health care center, where she now has to live. The first few days, she screamed and talked incoherently. She could barely form words with her mouth. Most tragically, she could no longer recognize her husband. She had no idea who he was. This was agony for him. He would go home from visiting her, trembling with grief, overwhelmed by sadness.
One morning, he went into her room, and saw her lying there and had an idea – an idea, he said, that could only have come from God. Sol climbed into his wife’s tiny twin bed, and put his arms around her. And he just held her. He hugged her. He whispered to her. That’s all. But something happened. As he put it, “I got into bed with her and loved her and it lifted my depression.” And Rita was transformed, too. She responded to his touch. And she began to talk.
He now does it every day. Rita’s doctor says that her “old memory” recalls being in his arms, remembers how he used to hold her, and part of her is able to come back.
Now Sol spends a couple of hours of every day, just holding Rita, telling her he loves her, and she tells him she loves him. Just as they have for 61 years.
I can’t think of a more beautiful example of what married love is all about – for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. The venerable Matt Talbot said that it is constancy that God wants.
Persistence. Perseverance. Sol Rogers had that – and more.
And so did the Canaanite woman in today’s gospel.
It comes down to never giving up for someone you love.
Never losing faith.
The Canaanite woman was the mother of a very sick girl, a child tormented by a demon. The girl may have suffered from epilepsy, or schizophrenia. Terrors in the night. Paranoia. Inconsolable fear. We can only imagine what the mother was going through. The helplessness, and the worry.
But this mother had something more powerful. She had faith – faith in someone who was not even a part of her race or religion. Jesus became her last, best hope.
And so the mother went to Jesus and implored his help. Not once. Not twice. But three times. She wouldn’t take no for an answer. Finally, Jesus was so moved by her faith that he couldn’t refuse her. And her daughter was healed.
The photo above is credited to Pat Greenhouse of the Boston Globe. Caption: Sol Rogers cuddled up with his wife, Rita, during a recent afternoon at Briarwood Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Needham.
From Matthew Chapter 15:
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
A Concord Pastor, as always, has the goods:
And, while perhaps a little irreverent, here's another clip that remembers the Blessed Mother:
She brings us to Him ...
Thursday, August 14, 2008
This hymn has been much discussed in the Catholic blogosphere this week in the wake of a new Vatican decree that the word "Yahweh" (from the Tetragrammaton YHWH) may no longer be said during Liturgy.
"You Are Near" is probably the hymn most used during Mass that will be effected. Although, this may only involve changing "Yahweh" to "Oh, God" or some other variation. My memories of this hymn go back to my high school and college years. I'd miss it if it were gone from the Mass altogether.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
When I was young I was rather more severe. I said: the sacraments are the sacraments of the faith, and when the faith isn’t there, where there’s not practice of the faith, the sacraments can’t be conferred. When I was Archbishop of Munich I always discussed this with my pastors, and there too there were too factions, one severe and one more generous. I too in the course of time have realized that we have to follow instead the example of the Lord, who was very open also with the people who were at the margins of Israel at that time. He was a Lord of mercy, too open – according to many of the official authorities – with sinners, welcoming them or allowing himself to be welcomed by them at their dinners, drawing them to himself in his communion.
Thus I would say in essence that the sacraments are naturally sacraments of the faith. Where there is no element of faith, where First Communion would just be a party with a big lunch, nice clothes and nice gifts, then it can’t be a sacrament of the faith. But, on the other hand, if we can see even a tiny flame of desire for communion in the church, a desire also from these children who want to enter into communion with Jesus, it seems right to me to be rather generous.
Hat-tip: John Allen
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
And, she is inviting readers to join her from the comfort of their own computers:
... the purpose of this retreat is pretty much the same purpose as any other retreat - it is the mindful and voluntary creation of time and space, into which one steps, as through a portal. Like a portal, it is meant to take you somewhere outside of the ordinary, day-to day worries, concerns, duties, obsessions, have-to’s and compulsions. It is a reclamation of the “self” we tend to expend in too-great measure every day. In “giving up” as much of “the world” as one can reasonably do, for a limited time, we may re-order our priorities, re-discover what is really important in our real lives. Often our daily routine tends to corrupt our view, so that we begin to believe we need some things to survive - that we need to check in on the news 5 times a day, we need to answer some snarky remark in an internet forum. During this retreat time, I would urge you to resist the urge to follow your ordinary blog-reading/news-reading patterns, to step away from the computer as much as possible and consider that the time you would normally spend online might be better spent snoozing in the hammock, taking a walk, visiting a neighbor or picking up an old, discarded hobby.
Monday, August 11, 2008
He has an affair with Hunter, while he’s honing his speech on the imperative to “live in a moral, honest, just America.” A married former aide says he’s the father when she gets pregnant, even though she’s telling people Edwards is the dad. And one of his campaign donors pays off Hunter to get her resettled with the baby out of North Carolina.
But the Breck Girl wants a gold star for the fact that he sent his marriage into remission when his wife was in remission. That’s special.
In his statement, he bleats: “You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten up myself. I have been stripped bare.” Isn’t stripping bare how he got into this mess?
And, her closer:
Back in 2002, Edwards sent me a Ken doll dressed in bathing trunks, Rio de Janeiro Ken, with a teasing note, because he didn’t like my reference to him as a Ken doll in a column.
In retrospect, the comparison was not fair — to Ken.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
It lived up to the good word-of-mouth. Christian Bale and Gary Oldman turned in fine performances, as did Heath Ledger as The Joker.
If Ledger had portrayed The Joker anonymously, one would never know it was him behind the make-up. That's how deeply he disappeared into the role.
My only criticism of "The Dark Knight" would be its somewhat overly long running time.
Roger Ebert summed up the film well in the lead of his very positive review:
“Batman” isn’t a comic book anymore. Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is a haunted film that leaps beyond its origins and becomes an engrossing tragedy. It creates characters we come to care about. That’s because of the performances, because of the direction, because of the writing, and because of the superlative technical quality of the entire production.
Here's that frame:
WASHINGTON — Sixteen years ago, the Democratic Party refused to allow Robert P. Casey Sr., then the governor of Pennsylvania, to speak at its national convention because his anti-abortion views, stemming from his Roman Catholic faith, clashed with the party’s platform and powerful constituencies. Many Catholics, once a reliable Democratic voting bloc, never forgot what they considered a slight.
This year, the party is considering giving a speaking slot at the convention to Mr. Casey’s son, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who like his late father is a Roman Catholic who opposes abortion rights.
William A. Galston, a domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said Catholics were the quintessential swing voters.
... Mr. Obama should also invite Mr. Casey to speak at the convention, he said.
“I spend a lot of time with Catholic intellectuals, and no matter how liberal they are and inclined to support Democrats, they speak with vehemence about the exclusion of Casey’s father from the 1992 convention,” Mr. Galston said. “They don’t accept any of the explanations. I think it would be a dramatic act of historical rectification that would resonate with Catholics.”
Saturday, August 09, 2008
At the end of the event, we had the opportunity to see the building's chapel. It is a predominantly Christian space with a small tabernacle containing the Eucharist. But, the chapel also had some artwork related to Judaism and Islam.
The photos here show a statue in the chapel called "Madonna with Children of the World."
Friday, August 08, 2008
So, in the spirit of welcoming the passing years with levity, this week's "YouTube clip for peaceful weekend," features "When I'm Sixty-Four" by the Beatles.
Hat-tip: Alarming News and, way back when, "The World According to Garp"
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Monday, August 04, 2008
Catholic officials in England are seeking to place Cardinal Newman's remains more in a prominent location in anticipation of his beatification (the penultimate step in being recognized as a saint).
I know it sounds odd to move a body -- but it's not uncommon in the annals of the Church. It's a way to build greater knowledge of the saint among the Faithful.
In fact, here in NYC, the remains of Paulist Father Isaac Hecker were moved from a mausoleum under the Church of St. Paul the Apostle (which Hecker founded) into a large sarcophagus located upstairs in the church itself. Hecker's sainthood cause is in its early stages.
The photo of Cardinal Newman's grave marker, above right, is from here.
From Chris Dugan's article:
The one nagging problem for the league, like most fast-pitch leagues, is pitching. The violent, whipping, underhand motion is difficult to master, even for a person who was a talented baseball pitcher.
"The problem we have is some of our pitchers have only two of three more years left," Snatchko said. "The average age of our pitchers is probably 40. ... It takes time and a lot of work to become a pitcher. For a guy just learning to pitch, you can't pick up the ball in the spring and put it down at the end of summer. You have to work at it all winter. It takes 12 months of working at it before you can throw strikes and throw the ball where you want it to go. The good thing is some of the older guys will help you."
The photo above is from here.
Friday, August 01, 2008
It's our second year at this one.
That verse is from the account (found in the Gospel of John) of the Wedding at Cana (pictured above in an image from the conference Website).