Tuesday, July 31, 2007

86 Stories Up

Vince Guerrieri and his brother, Adam, are in NYC for a few days to catch a Yankee game and see the sights. Vince is a friend from the days when I was a writer for the O-R and a freelancer for the P-G and he was covering the same beat for the Tribune-Review.

Vince, now the sports editor at The News-Messenger of Fremont, OH, is getting ready to walk down the aisle this November. (My Grandma Hoag refers to Vince as "Scoop" because he wears old-time newspaperman hats.)

Last night, I caught up with these sons-of-Youngstown at Umberto's Clam House in Little Italy before visiting the top of the Empire State Building and and Times Square.

The view from the top of the ESB never fails to impress, especially on a warm summer night when the line is short. Here's what the view to the northeast looked like from 86 stories up:

Monday, July 30, 2007

Seek And You Will Find

I got back this morning from a weekend trip to Anaheim, CA, where we were exhibitors at the National Catholic Family Conference.

I attended the conference's Sunday Mass at the convention center (pictured). The principal celebrant and homilist was Bishop Andrew Francis of Pakistan who spoke about the status of Christians in his predominantly Islamic country.

The Gospel was from Luke Chapter 11:

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”

He said to them:

“When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test."

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Honor Flight

The Catholic Times, the newspaper of the Diocese of Columbus, OH, recently did a story on Deacon Tom Johnston's "honor flight" to Washington, D.C. to experience the (relatively new) National World War II Memorial.

You can read the story on page 10 of this .pdf file (there are some photos from Deacon Tom there, too.)

Deacon Tom is an uncle of my aunt, Kay Snatchko of Burgettstown, PA, and a great-uncle of my cousins Amy, Luke, Sara, Mary Ellen and Ben.

A one-time Western Pennsylvania resident, Deacon Tom was drafted into the U.S. Navy to serve in the Pacific theater near the end of World War II. He is a long-time permanent deacon for the Church.

(The image above is the Pacific Pavilion at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.)

Joachim & Anne

For Catholics, today, July 26, is the feast of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, the parents of the Virgin Mary.

I've had a life-long connection to these grandparents of our Lord. My parents were married and I was baptized in St. Anne's Church in Bulger, PA. And, I took Joachim as my confirmation name.

July 26 also is a special day in these parts. At 10:18 a.m. today, I turned the big 3-1.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Tree

Received a good quote in an e-mail this week from BeliefNet:

"When eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree."

- Vietnamese saying

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Power of Love

Christianity Today has posted on its Website an excellent review by Bob Smietana of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the seventh and final book of the series by J.K. Rowling. The review summarizes better than I could some of the theology and Christian imagery in "Deathly Hallows" -- including two direct quotes from the New Testament.

After almost three hours of standing in line with my hardy crew at the Barnes and Noble at Union Square before (and after) midnight on Friday, I spent nearly all-day Saturday reading "Deathly Hallows." I think it was a very good ending to the tale -- which may be the greatest contribution of our era to children's literature.

Like Aslan and Frodo before him, Harry is a messianic character that may remind a whole new generation about the power of sacrificial love.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Better Part

The Gospel at Mass today was that of Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus who had different perspectives on what was important the day Jesus visited their home.

From Luke Chapter 10:

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.

She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”

The Lord said to her in reply:

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Thursday, July 19, 2007


This morning, following yesterday’s steam pipe explosion at 41st Street and Lexington Avenue, the 4-5-6 subway I normally take from 14th Street to Grand Central Station (to catch the train to Yonkers) was not stopping at 42nd Street.

So, I exited the subway at 33rd Street and walked north on Park Avenue to reach Grand Central on foot.

At 39th Street, where Park Avenue becomes two-tier, the street was blocked to vehicles allowing pedestrians to walk on the elevated part of the street to continue approaching Grand Central. It was surreal to be on the road – and it afforded probably the best look I may ever get of the clock and sculpture of Minerva, Hercules, and Mercury (pictured above) that adorns the top of Grand Central’s south facade.

I also had the chance to take a good look at the large statue of Cornelius Vanderbilt in front of the south facade. I’m not certain I had ever noticed it before. The statue’s black color blends in with the dark windows behind it. Seems an odd location for “The Commodore,” the dominant force behind the New York Central Railroad.

I also was surprised this morning that I did not hear a word of complaint about all of the detours faced by those on the streets (many of the entrances to Grand Central were closed). Having faced such a larger catastrophe not so many years ago, it seems as if New Yorkers take smaller incidents such as this in stride.

One person did die in yesterday's explosion and some 30 were injured.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sign of the Times

You know the housing market is tight when people start renting out their walk-in closets.

No, didn't respond to this one.

A Homecoming

The Pittsburgh media and the Catholic media are excitedly reporting the appointment of Bishop David Zubik as the new bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The news came as a relief -- Bishop Zubik, who came out of Sewickley and Ambridge, was an auxiliary bishop in Pittsburgh prior to his appointment as Bishop of Green Bay in 2003.

He knows Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh knows him. A native son comes home to take the helm.

In 2001, I was working in Downtown Pittsburgh at the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission on the day of the September 11 terrorist attacks. After our offices closed, I went to the Noon Mass at St. Mary of Mercy Church -- celebrated by Bishop Zubik as Bishop Wuerl was away at a meeting in Washington, D.C.

I forget his exact words but I remember Bishop Zubik did a good job that day reassuring all of those at Mass.

I also once served as the lector at a confirmation at St. Alphonsus in McDonald presided over by Bishop Zubik. He did a fine job that day, too. He gave the kids some hard questions but was kind when they did not immediately have the answers.

May God bless you, Bishop Zubik, as you take these next steps in the journey. Thank you for your service to the Church, and your native place.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Gringo Star

Last night, we went to The Mercury Lounge to hear Gringo Star. Two of the band members are cousins of Katie, who was visiting NYC this weekend.

It was a good show. I liked how the band members frequently alternated instruments.

This was the first time I had been to a small NYC music venue since the smoking ban. It was strange at first but, for this non-smoker, probably a net positive.

Luke in The Times

My cousin, Luke, was mentioned in a column in Saturday's Beaver County Times.

Monday, July 16, 2007


My weekend was dominated by the formal welcoming of little ones.

On Saturday afternoon, immediately after getting back from the NBCC Congress X in Buffalo, I took the PATH train to Jersey City for the baby blessing of Miles Henry Rees, my second cousin once removed, in a very nice backyard ceremony.

Miles' mother, my cousin Jennifer (Braunstein) Rees, is a celebrant and the ceremony was led by one of her colleagues. It included participation by Jennifer; her husband, David; their three-year-old, Sayer; and Miles' two grandmothers.

On Sunday afternoon, I ventured out on the Long Island Railroad (along with a bunch of Mets fans en route to Shea Stadium) to St. Mary's in Manhasset for the baptism of Andrew Vincent Manago, two-month-old son o' Greg and Mary. Greg was one of the first friends I made during my freshman year at NYU. I couldn't believe I was watching his first-born get baptised.

Prior to the baptism, I attended the Noon Mass at St. Mary's. The Gospel included perhaps the most well-remembered of Jesus' parables -- The Good Samaritan. It's a lesson I pray Miles Henry and Andrew Vincent will live out in their lives.

From Luke Chapter 10:

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”

He said in reply,

"You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”

He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied:

“A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.

A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.

Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.

But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him.

The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’

Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”

He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”

Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Celebrating the Sacraments in Buffalo

I'm in Buffalo, NY, today through Saturday where we are exhibitors at the National Black Catholic Congress' "Congress X. The conference, "Christ is With Us: Celebrating the Gifts of the Sacraments," has drawn some 2,000 participants from across the country.

The opening Mass, which clocked in at just under two hours, was tremendous. The principal celebrant was the new bishop of Youngstown, Ohio -- Bishop George Murray, S.J.

The homily at Mass was delivered by Auxiliary Bishop Martin Holley of Washington, D.C. Bishop Holley weaved into his homily a reflection on the recent tragic death of his eldest brother, Syl, in a motorcycle accident.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Peace To This Household

In the Gospel at Mass this past Sunday, Jesus gives instruction to his disciples. From Luke Chapter 10:

At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.

He said to them:

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’ Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand. I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.”

The seventy-two returned rejoicing, and said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.”

Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power to ‘tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

Friday, July 06, 2007

Not Meeting Elaine Chao

The "C-Span nerd" in me feels compelled to share:

Yesterday afternoon, while waiting to board my flight from LaGuardia to Pittsburgh, U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao was waiting in the same boarding area.

I think I was the only person there who noticed her. Certainly, no one else said anything or pointed her out.

I was surprised that a member of the President's cabinet can basically go unnoticed in an airport. Does it show our society's lack of knowledge about the people who run our government? Or, it is a good thing that in our democracy such figures are not considered celebrities?

Or, does it just mean no one cares about who runs the U.S. Department of Labor?

I spent a good 10 minutes debating whether or not to try to say hello to the secretary. I didn't want to be a dork -- but I was interested in meeting her. So, as the boarding of my flight began, I approached a female security officer for the secretary and asked if it would be OK to say hello.

She said no.

C'est la vie.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Good Game

Last night, we kicked off the Independence Day celebrations by partaking of America's favorite past-time. We went to the Yankees game -- my first ever visit to "The House that Ruth Built."

Good game. Yanks shut out the Minnesota Twins 8-0.

Celebs in in the crowd: Jerry Springer, Steve Schirripa and Robert Iler.

For a native of Western Pennsylvania visiting Yankees Stadium, you can't help thinking that PNC Park is a better place to watch a ballgame. The skyline view is certainly superior. It's just unfortunate the Pirates haven't had a winning season since before I had a driver's license (and I'll be 31 in a few weeks).

Walk in the Park

Yesterday's amNew York, a free newspaper handed out weekday mornings at the subway stations and other high-traffic spots in the city, included an interesting column titled "Recovery: Like A Walk in the Park." It was about a psychoanalyst who conducts therapy sessions while walking with his clients through parks and other parts of the city.

From the column by Farnoosh Torabi:

Clay Cockrell rings up a new pair of sneakers each month. His job demands it. As the sole psychoanalyst running Walk and Talk, the 37-year-old conducts therapy sessions on the go in Central Park, Battery Park and throughout Manhattan.

"We generally walk in isolated areas. It's not like people are listening in on our conversations," said Cockrell, who calls his alternative method "outdoor psychotherapy." Although if the trees could talk, it would probably be a different story, he admitted.

The concept for Walk and Talk began three years ago after treating patients in his midtown office. "It was actually my wife's idea," said Cockrell. Since then, his client list has more than doubled from 15 to 40 a week. "We'll walk to their place of business or I'll meet them at their apartment … The convenience was a big selling point," he said, adding that appointments are sometimes scheduled in his old midtown office if the discussion is too serious.


Then, there's the physical growth, said Cockrell, since being active is ultimately a healthy thing for the body. Personally speaking, Cockrell's blood pressure's gone down and he's shed about 15 pounds since starting the business. He said being outdoors also forces him to be more on his toes." This is harder, I found [for me]," he said. "You really got to be on your game. It's a dynamic active session. I'm exhausted by the end of the day."

This column reminded me of a quote I once read that went something like this:

"When you are troubled, go out for a walk. Angels speaks to a man when he goes out for a walk."

Follow Me

I have been remiss this week in my usual posting of something from the readings at Mass.

The Gospel was from Luke Chapter 9:

When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him.

On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.

When the disciples James and John saw this they asked,“Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?"

Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him,“I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus answered him,“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

And to another he said, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”

But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”

To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”