Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Happy Passover!

As a person of faith, I rather like that the beginning of Passover was marked yesterday at the White House with a seder meal:

Happy Passover to all those observing it!

Hat-tip: NYT

The photo above from the White House blog is credited to Pete Souza.

Holy Tuesday

Quotes of the Day:

“I begin my day saying ‘thy will be done’ and then I spend the rest of the day renegotiating.”

Fran, from here

"It is very difficult to look past the broken creatures and focus on the Creator, but that is what faith calls me to do."

The Anchoress, from here

"The truth must come out; without the truth we will never be truly free."

– Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, from here

The image at right is "Hommage à Bernanos" by Michel Ciry.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Not Nearly Enough

As far as headlines go, last week was a bad one for the Catholic Church. There’s no need to sugarcoat it.

I have been struggling with whether or not to comment on the reports out of Wisconsin and Munich, as well as the continuing story in Ireland.

To be honest, I feel inadequate to the task. I have not had time to personally read through the historical correspondence that has driven the reports (much of which is available on-line).

Also, to me, the Catholic Church is far more than an "institution" or "organization." It's a family of believers. What do you say when harm is caused within a family? What do you say when it appears that harm may have been swept under the rug by other family members?

I am praying for those who were abused as children, and for their loved ones. They should be our primary concern. I wish those commenting would expend more words on what these cases of abuse have done to these people and their faith lives.

I do know that I won't be joining the ranks of those seeking to minimize the poor administrative decisions and lack of oversight by Church leaders regarding the abusers of children. A crime is a crime regardless of how many decades ago it took place.

I have appreciated the thoughtful comments on these matters from Fr. Jim, A Concord Pastor, Fran, Mike and The Anchoress.

Ross Douthat gets it right, too:

... the crisis of authority endures. There has been some accountability for the abusers, but not nearly enough for the bishops who enabled them. And now the shadow of past sins threatens to engulf this papacy.

Popes do not resign. But a pope can clean house. And a pope can show contrition, on his own behalf and on behalf of an entire generation of bishops, for what was done and left undone in one of Catholicism’s darkest eras.

This is Holy Week, when the first pope, Peter, broke faith with Christ and wept for shame. There is no better time for repentance.

This morning, in an unrelated post, Kim posted a photo of a meeting of Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa. I found another image on-line that looks to be from the same day (see both below).

These photos are a reminder that the Church is more than the pope and the bishops. These two great 20th century Catholic women made an impact on the Church and the world without ever wearing a miter or chairing a chancery meeting.

What would Dorothy and Teresa say this week?

I’m encouraged by the hope that they are in heaven praying for the Church they loved and served on earth.

(That's Eileen Egan on the left in both photos. According to an on-line source, these were taken in the Maryhouse office in New York City on June 17, 1979.)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"You Will Be With Me"

For Western Christians, today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.

The Gospel at Mass today, from Luke Chapters 22 and 23, includes an account of the passion and crucifixion of Jesus.

(On Palm Sunday, the Gospel at Mass is always from one of the synoptic Gospels. On Good Friday, the account proclaimed is from the Gospel of John.)

The account from the Gospel of Luke is notable (among other reasons) for the inclusion of the words spoken by "The Good Thief." Mark and Matthew also mention the two men crucified alongside Christ but only Luke remembers redemption for one:

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.”

The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Those few words have given hope to millions of believers through the centuries. They certainly give hope to me.

Of the many images James Tissot painted depicting scenes from Good Friday, one of the most interesting imagines two angels carrying Criminal No. 2 into heaven. Here is "The Soul of the Good Thief" or "L'âme du bon Larron" from the collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art:

In his Palm Sunday homily, Deacon Greg singled out some of the words of The Good Thief:

... We start out acting like angels, singing "Hosanna." And we end up just being the mob.

It can sometimes be that way throughout the church. The headlines this week have told the story. Men called to holiness can be guilty of appalling sins. Sins of abuse. Sins of neglect. Sins of dishonesty. Sins of betrayal.

And yet, to be a part of the body of Christ is to be with him on the cross. The Catholic writer Ronald Rolheiser has put it powerfully. "To be a member of the church," he wrote, "is to carry the mantle of both the worst sin and the finest heroism of soul .... because the church always looks exactly as it looked at the original crucifixion, God hung among thieves."

And all we can do sometimes is echo the words of the one thief, words we heard just a few moments ago: "Jesus, remember me." That moment is the only one in any of the gospels where someone calls Jesus by his given name. Maybe it is because it is at this moment - the hour of his death -- that he is most like us. He hangs there, stripped, beaten, betrayed. He hangs among thieves. This is what we have done to our God. And this is what we continue to do, even today.

And in our own brokenness, and sinfulness, we ask that he remember us. We pray that we may be better than we are, and receive better than we deserve. We pray that we, who often deserve to be forgotten, may be remembered. ...

Flashbacks: Palm Sundays 2009, 2008 and 2007.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What's Right?

I don't agree with David Frum on some issues. On some things, I'd be to his right. Regarding other topics, I'd be to his left.

But, in this interview with a Canadian television station, he provides ample food for thought about the Republican Party, conservative thinking and the direction of the U.S. electorate.

For your consideration:

Hat-tip: Dan S.

The Prayer

To aid Haiti, a legion of classical artists took a "We Are The World" approach to "The Prayer."

Here is their amazing result:

Hat-tip: Deacon Greg

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ten Thousand Spoons

Yesterday, over at Facebook, my old college friend Maria referenced a line from Alanis Morissette’s 1996 hit “Ironic” from the album "Jagged Little Pill." It’s been stuck in my head ever since.

So, for this week’s “YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend,” here is that fun, quintessential ‘90s tune.


An aside: Maria is a founder of Paper Moon Dance Center in Merrimack, NH. Be sure to check it out the next time your in that part of the Granite State!

In Memoriam: Jane Sweetie, 1920 - 2010

Today’s Observer-Reporter brings sad news of the death of Jane Sweetie at the age of 89.

For decades, Mrs. Sweetie was a constant presence at my hometown parish, St. Alphonsus Church in McDonald, PA.

In a quiet and unassuming way, she saw to many of the details that makes the small-town church such a welcoming place.

From the prayers at the end of the funeral Mass:

Mrs. Sweetie,

May the angels lead you into paradise,
may the martyrs come to welcome you,
and take you to the holy city,
the new and eternal Jerusalem.

Many Wills Conflicting

Quote of the day:

" ... Does one's integrity ever lie in what he is not able to do? I think that it usually does, for free will does not mean one will, but many wills conflicting in one man. Freedom cannot be conceived simply. It is a mystery ... "

- Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964), from here.

Yesterday, March 25, was the 85th anniversary of Flannery's birth.

Anniversary hat-tip: Amy on Twitter

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Favor With God

For Catholics, today (March 25; nine months before Christmas Day) is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. It’s a day set aside to remember the visit of Angel Gabriel to Mary.

As recorded in Luke Chapter 1:

... Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. ... "

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that The Annunciation is one of the most painted scenes in history. Artists throughout the centuries have sought to depict the moment. For some of these images, pay a visit to Fran.

In 2006, my old college friend Anthony Santella twice applied his hand to this task:

And, here is James Tissot's "L'annonciation" from the Brooklyn Museum of Art:

30 Years Later

Yesterday, March 24, was the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Savador.

Fr. Jim, Deacon Greg, Fran and Missy penned entries to mark the day.

In memoriam:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Whatever You Ask

I was remiss Sunday in doing my usual post related to the Mass readings.

For the Fifth Sunday of Lent, I attended the Closing Mass of the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress at the Anaheim Convention Center. The arena was packed so, along with some others, I sat on the floor in Section 308.

This tremendous Mass of many languages and vibrant music was celebrated by Bishop Gabino Zavala. He was joined by ten other bishops (including two from Eastern Catholic rites) and a legion of priests and deacons.

The Gospel passage proclaimed at the Mass was the account from John Chapter 11 of the raising of Lazarus of Bethany from the dead. The passage contains the famous short verse:

And Jesus wept.

I think the account is also notable for its record of the strong words with which Martha, Lazarus' sister, addresses Jesus:

Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. (But) even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you."

It's an accusation, a statement of faith and a prayer -- from the mouth of a woman. Like the words of the Samaritan woman at the well, is this something an ancient propagandist would have recorded?

Here is a clip from the Closing Mass that includes most of Bishop Zavala's homily:

Flashbacks: Fifth Sundays of Lent 2009, 2008 and 2007.

The image above is "Jesus Wept" or "Jésus pleura" by James Tissot from the collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Son of David

For Catholics, today is the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, the husband of Mary.

In recent months, I have been posting images of Gospel scenes by the 19th century French painter James Tissot from the collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Here is how Tissot imagined Saint Joseph:

Tissot also illustrated the moment from Matthew Chapter 1 in which an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream:

"Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid ... "

For other images and reflections on today's observance, visit Fran, Amy, Kim, The Anchoress, Deacon Greg, Deacon Scott and Fr. Aquinas.

Dying to Try

Spring is here. Deo Gratias -- it was a hard winter.

A tune that's light and enjoyable is required for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."

So, here is Colbie Caillat with her take on "Kiss the Girl."


Remember the original?:

It's appropriate to be tapping a Disney song for this weekend's tune as I'm currently in Anaheim, CA. In fact, just a bit ago, I watched tonight's fireworks over Disneyland from my hotel room window.

The purpose of the visit is to exhibit for my gig at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. It's my fourth time at this invigorating annual event.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

From Glen to Glen

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

A tune to mark the occasion:


Fr. Jim has penned a commentary in time for today's celebration. Headline: "Put St. Patrick back in St. Patrick's Day."

Flashbacks: St. Patrick's Day 2009, 2008 and 2007.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Meaning That Goes Beyond Us

NYU President John Sexton was featured Friday on PBS' Bill Moyers Journal. The program was titled "On God, Science and Baseball."

It was a great interview. Some quotes:

... there's meaning in our lives. There's meaning that goes beyond us. There's meaning that goes beyond us in something more than the butterfly effects or the chain of history or existence. ...

... the war between science and religion seems to me is a false war. There's no tension between science and religion. They're different dimensions. ... There are people out there on the NYU faculty that are embarrassed to have their president say this and I delight in that, you know. ... it is something that's real in my life and affects me day-in and day-out. It's self-evident that there are important things that are not reducible to the cognitive. You know, now, the neuroscientists would like to map even the poetic parts of the brain. And so on. We'll see where that goes. But the fact of the matter is that when I listened to Rachmaninoff's second at the Philharmonic a couple of days ago, there was an ineffable transportation to another plane that undeniably became part of my experience.

... I think Keats would say, at this point, that there's a coalescence of what we're talking about here, about transcendence and beauty and truth and faith.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Sunday Kind of Love

A pitch-perfect reflection on romantic relationships, as interpreted by the great Etta James:

I can relate.

Catch Phrase

For a world weary of lame movie trailers, this is genius:

Hat-tip: Paul A.

'Twas Grace

This morning, I went to the 10 a.m. Mass at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle on the West Side. For a second week, special prayers were said over the man for whom I will be serving as a Godfather and sponsor at the Easter Vigil.

At this Mass, the Gospel passage proclaimed was the account of "the man born blind" from John Chapter 9. (There were two options for this Fourth Sunday of Lent.)

For thoughts on today's readings, visit A Concord Pastor, Deacon Greg, Fran and The Anchoress.

The recessional hymn at the end of the liturgy was "Amazing Grace." It was the perfect selection, containing echoes from the both "the man born blind" and the father of the prodigal son (heard in the other Gospel passage that may be proclaimed today).

Here is an offering of "Amazing Grace" that I love:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Has Been Found

Defying the rains and winds, I headed out early this morning to Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ, to exhibit for my gig at the Archdiocese of Newark's annual Catholic Men's Conference.

It was my first visit to South Orange and Seton Hall.

The event drew about 2,000 men of all ages for sessions in English and Spanish.

The conference closed with a vigil Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Lent or "Laetare Sunday." The Gospel proclaimed at the Mass (one of two options this Sunday) featured the Parable of the Prodigal Son from the Gospel of Luke.

To my mind, this parable contains one of the warmest and most reassuring verses in the entire Bible. When the peeved elder son questions his father's generous welcome to the prodigal, the father replies:

"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."

Flashbacks: Fourth Sundays of Lent 2009, 2008, 2008 part deux and 2007.

The image above is "Retour de L'Enfant Prodigue" by Michel Ciry.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Nothing You Can't Do

Empire State of Mind” already has appeared once as the “YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend.”

For this week’s edition, here’s another take on Jay-Z’s famous anthem by the awesome PS 22 Chorus.


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

That Glimpse of Truth

Perhaps a mission statement for the writers among us:

My task, which I am trying to achieve, is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel -- it is, before all, to make you see. That -- and no more, and it is everything. If I succeed, you shall find there, according to your deserts, encouragement, consolation, fear, charm, all you demand -- and, perhaps, also that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask.

-- Joseph Conrad, quoted by Sally Fitzgerald in the introduction to a volume of works by Flannery O'Connor. Fitzgerald said O'Connor was an admirer of Conrad. "From him, she took a definition of her fictional aims."

(I recently borrowed this book from the Mulberry Street Library after finally getting a New York Public Library card. I'm embarrassed that it took me three years to do so.)

The photo of Conrad above is from here.

In Keds and Tube Socks

Something fun for a sunny Tuesday morning:

(Apologies to anyone offended by Wheatus' lyrics.)

Hat-tip: Ian

The Trial of Jesus

For the first time I can remember, I missed watching the Oscars on Sunday night. (I think I generally agree with the Academy's picks. But, I have not seen "The Blind Side" or "Crazy Heart" so I'm not able to opine on the selections for Best Actor and Best Actress.)

Instead of an Oscars party, Sunday night found me in Hunter College's Kaye Auditorium on 68th Street for the annual Erasmus Lecture sponsored by the journal First Things.

It was the first Erasmus Lecture since the death of First Things' founder, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus.

This year's lecturer was Professor J.H.H. Weiler of the NYU School of Law. His fine remarks were titled "The Trial of Jesus" and reflected the seminar of a similar name he teaches at NYU Law.

Course description:

The Seminar will examine the historical context, the factual matrix and the legal issues concerning the trial(s) of Jesus by the Jewish and Roman authorities. Readings will include some of the principal primary sources and a selection from the vast secondary literature. For serious learners. Tons to read and plenty of hard work. Do not enroll just for curiosity.

I am proud that the law school of my alma mater provides such a course for its students.

Professor Weiler's remarks were textured and thorough and gentle. I was particularly interested in his speculation that the historical impact of the trial may have been different were it not for the Gospel of John in which the "Jews" play the greater part.

Had only the three synoptic gospels been part of the New Testament, he said, more emphasis may have been place on the role of the Roman authorities in the condemnation of Jesus.

Professor Weiler rightly noted that, unlike the Jewish people, later-century Italians were never blamed for the crucifixion.

An aside: After the lecture, I had the pleasure of meeting The Anchoress in person for the first time.

The image above is "The Morning Judgment" or "Le jugement du matin" by James Tissot. It is part of the collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Monday, March 08, 2010


Yesterday afternoon, under some gloriously sunny skies, we walked over to a building off West Houston Street near the Hudson River to visit the PULSE Contemporary Art Fair.

The one-weekend fair included a number of interesting pieces.

I think I was most struck by two offerings by the art photographer Adriana Duque from her series “Infantes.” Here’s a photo of her photo “Felipe”:

The Hummer rebuilt as a stagecoach also was memorable:

And, the source of a chuckle:


Photos by Bill.

A Strong Woman

Yesterday was the Third Sunday of Lent.

I went to the 10 a.m. Mass at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle on Manhattan’s West Side. After the homily, special prayers were said over the adults who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil. (I am serving as a Godfather and confirmation sponsor for one of them.)

There were two options for yesterday’s Gospel. At the 10 a.m. Mass at St. Paul’s, the Gospel passage proclaimed was the account from the Gospel of John in which Jesus has a conversation with the woman at the well in Samaria.

It’s an interesting piece of scripture. In fact, I’d say it’s one that shows the Bible is the real deal – would an ancient propagandist have recorded that the Messiah spoke at length with a woman that the Jews of the time considered a foreigner?

Moreover, the woman at the well is a strong woman. She questions. She talks back.

I’m also intrigued by the line in the passage that notes Jesus remained with the people of the Samaritan town for two days. He wasn’t in a hurry. He stayed and visited with them.

After this, the people said:

“ … we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

Flashbacks: Third Sundays of Lent 2009, 2008 and 2007.

The image above is "The Woman of Samaria at the Well" or "La Samaritaine à la fontaine" by James Tissot. It is part of the collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Psalm for a Saturday Morning

Last night, around 8:45 p.m., I went to confession at St. John the Baptist Church. It's the Capuchin parish across 31st Street from Madison Square Garden.

I received the sacrament during the "24 Hours of Confession" planned throughout the city by the Cathedral of St. Patrick Young Adults.

The atmosphere inside St. John the Baptist was memorable. Many Filipino and African women were there. Some where upstairs in the church preparing for an all-night prayer vigil while others were downstairs in the church hall making peanut butter sandwiches (for homeless outreach, I surmised).

My choice of St. John the Baptist for confession was not just because of the convenient hour. I had the Capuchin Friars on the brain. Friday morning, I had gone to the funeral of a Capuchin Fr. Bernard Smith at Sacred Heart Church in Yonkers. He was the uncle of a friend.

Four Capuchins were hearing confessions last night. Three friars were in the old-school, booth-style confessionals along the church walls in which you kneel behind a screen. One friar was in a small room at the back of the church where one has the option to be behind a screen or sit face-to-face with the priest.

I opted for the little room and a face-to-face confession. That's how I always did it back in Pennsylvania (where the priests of my hometown parish would have known my voice anyway).

It was a good confession, I think. I had made a list earlier in the day but, when the time came, I didn't need it.

The friar who heard my confession was Indian or Pakistani (or perhaps Sri Lankan). He was kind and urged me to be open to God's grace.

For my penance, he asked me to meditate on Psalm 139.

Here are verses 1 - 12 set to music:

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Depth of Man's Spirit

For the past two weeks, in celebration of the bicentennial of the birth of Frédéric Chopin, I have selected works by this great composer for the “YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend.”

Perhaps one more for good measure?

Below is the lovely and lush second movement of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1.


On Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI noted Chopin's bicentennial during his general audience. According to the VIS, B16 said (in Polish):

"May the music of this famous Polish composer, who made such a great contribution to the culture of Europe and the world, bring those who listen to him close to God and help them discover the depth of man's spirit."

B16 quote hat-tip: MONKROCK at Twitter

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Narcotic in Nature

Saturday night, I finally had the chance to see the Academy Award-nominated film “Up in the Air.”

This enjoyable George Clooney vehicle was directed Jason Reitman, who previous work includes “Thank You for Smoking” and “Juno.”

As he did in those fine films, Reitman demonstrates in “Up in the Air” a canny ability to create lovably acerbic characters who live by their own rules, fall in love and have their hearts broken. He creates romance without crossing the schmaltz line.

And, like “Thank You for Smoking” and “Juno,” this latest entrée from Reitman also is an issue film. It’s about America’s corporate culture and what happens to the souls of business types who are always on the road.

As someone who travels a decent amount for work, this aspect of “Up in the Air” hit home. There does come a point when business travel becomes something of a drug – and working the system becomes a game. (My colleagues and I have a developed a passion for snagging bulkhead seats on planes at no added cost.)

After seeing “Up in the Air” in December, Fran penned a smart reflection of her corporate travels that parallel those of the Clooney character. One bit:

“Wherever I was, I longed to be somewhere else and in my mind I traversed the globe. And in reality, I did much of the same. Why live in my ordinary life, aware of my ennui and discomfort when I could be dreaming of the next stop? It was a balm, narcotic in nature, that I was in need of.”

As of this writing, “Up in the Air” had a 90 percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes. I’d say that’s on target.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Prayers for Chile

I have been remiss in blogging about the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Chile on Saturday.

It is certainly a time to pray for the people there -- for the dead, the mourning, the homeless and all rescue workers. May God be with them now and in the days ahead.

To make a financial contribution to the relief efforts in Chile, you may want to consider the good work done by Caritas.

The photo above is credited to Tomas Munita for The New York Times.


A friend of mine went to Vancouver last week for the Winter Olympics. It was one of those spontaneous, jump-on-a-plane kind of things.

I e-mailed him to ask how it went.

“I didn’t actually buy a ticket to anything," he replied. "Just hung around in the bars in Olympic Village and watched curling. (What a sport!)."

He also provided an interesting assessment of the atmosphere. I apologize that only active Catholics under age 45 or so might get this:

“Kinduv like World Youth Day for secular white people.”