Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cosby Conservatism

While we're on the topic of race in America, Ta-Nehisi Coates has penned an interesting piece for the May edition of The Atlantic with the header "The audacity of Bill Cosby's black conservatism."

Here's an accompanying video with Coates describing his subject:

Hat-tip: Ross Douthat

A Lingering Cold

A lingering cold the past several days has kept me from blogging, notably about the controversy caused by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright -- Senator Barack Obama's former pastor.

Over the weekend, I saw Rev. Wright in the PBS interview with Bill Moyers. Maybe it was the NyQuil, but he seemed fairly reasonable in that setting. I did not agree with many of his conclusions, but he did come across as discerning.

What a difference a few days make.

Rev. Wright's responses Monday during a Q&A session at the National Press Club were at times offensive and frequently obnoxious. (Beginning at 2:40 in the clip, the reverend reiterates his belief that it is possible that the U.S. government may have spread HIV-AIDS in the Black community.)

Below is video from Tuesday during which Senator Obama disavowed his former pastor:

Video Hat-tip: Andrew Sullivan

Sunday, April 27, 2008

"I will come to you"

Today is the sixth Sunday of Easter. The Gospel at Mass is from John Chapter 14:

Jesus said to his disciples:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you.

"I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.

"Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

Saturday, April 26, 2008

At The Airport

Peggy Noonan had a good column in yesterday's Wall Street Journal.

Her lead:

America is in line at the airport. America has its shoes off, is carrying a rubberized bin, is going through a magnetometer. America is worried there is fungus on the floor after a million stockinged feet have walked on it. But America knows not to ask. America is guilty until proved innocent, and no one wants to draw undue attention. America left its ticket and passport in the jacket in the bin in the X-ray machine, and is admonished. America is embarrassed to have put one one-ounce moisturizer too many in the see-through bag. America is irritated that the TSA agent removed its mascara, opened it, put it to her nose, and smelled it. Why don't you put it up your nose and see if it explodes? America thinks.


For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," I've picked Leonard Cohen's 1984 song "Hallelujah." It's been covered by several vocalists and heard in a few movies and TV shows (usually during a sad moment that achieves resolution of some sort).

"Hallelujah" picked up new steam after being heard this season on American Idol.

I think my favorite vocal on the song is done by Rufus Wainwright.


I also like the the Allison Crowe version:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Blog Report: Monica makes the ballot!

Another update from a previous post:

It is being reported that Monica Douglas has secured a sufficient number of write-in votes to secure the GOP nomination for state representative from Pennsylvania's 39th legislative district.

Go, Mo!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

CNA: Newman Beatification Approved

Update to yesterday's post "Kindly Light":

From CNA:

The Vatican has approved the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, the English convert and theologian who has had immense influence upon English-speaking Catholicism, the Birmingham Mail reports.

John Henry Newman was born in 1801. As an Anglican priest, he led the Oxford Movement that sought to return the Church of England to its Catholic roots. His conversion to Catholicism in 1845 rocked Victorian England. After becoming an Oratorian priest, he was involved in the establishment of the Birmingham Oratory.

He died in 1890 and is buried at the oratory country house Rednall Hill.

The Catholic Church has accepted as miraculous the cure of an American deacon’s crippling spinal disorder. The deacon, Jack Sullivan of Marshfield, Massachusetts, prayed for John Henry Newman’s intercession.

At his beatification ceremony later this year, John Henry Newman will receive the title “Blessed.” He will need one more recognized miracle to be canonized.

The case of a 17-year-old New Hampshire boy who survived serious head injuries from a car crash is being investigated as a possible second miracle.

Hat-tip: Rosemary

Update: The Times of London has a more qualified story on this news.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

He Hath Done It!

Stephen Colbert is a Catholic himself -- and therefore allowed to make Pope jokes.

For a laugh:

And, last night, featuring Fr. Jim:

Hat-tip: Catholic Colbert

Kindly Light

The Times of London reported Sunday that John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801 - 1890) may be beatified later this year -- moving him one step closer to being named a saint of the Church.

I learned about Cardinal Newman during my college years after becoming a member of the Newman Club at NYU, a group of Catholic undergraduates on campus who gather together for social, spiritual and community service activities. (Go here for a backgrounder on the "Newman Movement.")

Cardinal Newman was one of the great preachers and writers of Victorian England. His verse "The Pillar of Cloud" is a favorite of mine:

LEAD, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,

Lead thou me on!

The night is dark, and I am far from home,—

Lead thou me on!

Keep thou my feet! I do not ask to see

The distant scene—one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou

Shouldst lead me on;

I loved to choose and see my path; but now

Lead thou me on!

I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,

Pride ruled my will: remember not past years!

So long thy power hath blest me, sure it still

Will lead me on,

O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till

The night is gone,

And with the morn those angel faces smile

Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

Far Away

Prior to the Papal Mass Sunday at Yankee stadium, an ensemble of boys from South London called Libera performed as part of the pre-Mass "Concert of Hope."

Deacon Greg has found a video of Libera's piece "Far Away":

Monday, April 21, 2008

"Like a family"

At The New York Times' "A Papal Discussion" blog, Jesuit Fr. Jim Martin writes beautifully about his day at Yankee Stadium in a post called "A Surge of the Heart."

He ends:

When the popemobile drew within 20 yards, I removed my microphone and told the two (welcoming and warm) anchors that I couldn’t cover this part of the event because I wanted to experience it. The popemobile moved toward our spot, and when it passed directly in front of us, Pope Benedict looked at us, or at least seemed to, and raised his hand in blessing. And Cardinal Edward Egan pointed at me, smiled and waved. And out of me came a loud cry of joy!

I had felt hoarse all day, until that moment. Somehow I had found my voice!

At that moment, I felt a tremendous sense of gratitude. For what? For being a part of a worldwide church. For being a part of a community of believers. For being part of the communion of saints. And also, for being able to see that while some of my old disagreements with the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger are not unreasonable, that he is the Vicar of Christ, and is, for this poor and flawed Catholic, and for all Catholics, the Successor of St. Peter. So this “man of faults,” as he called himself last week, connects me with the apostles, and so connects me with Jesus Christ.

The church is like a family. It drives you crazy sometimes, but you still love it. Not grudgingly, but fully and unreservedly. As well, you may drive everyone else in it crazy, and you will still be a part of them. Not grudgingly, but fully and unreservedly. It will always be flawed, and so will you. It will always be a part of you, and you will always be a part of it. Moreover, I have committed myself to this imperfect and beautiful, traditional and progressive, confusing and clarifying, bizarre and familiar, graceful and sinful community for the rest of my life.

So for being Catholic I cry out, just like I cried out at Yankee Stadium yesterday afternoon, under the bright sun, along with 60,000 of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

With joy!

The NYT photo above is credited to Chang W. Lee.

"You Know The Way"

It has been approximately 24 hours since the end of the massive Papal Mass at Yankee Stadium and I am just now getting around to blogging about it -- partly due to physical exhaustion and partly due to being emotionally strung out by the Papal visit.

I attended the Yankee Stadium Mass along with other parishioners from the Church of St. Paul the Apostle on Manhattan's West Side. The photo above shows the view from our seats along the third-base line.

In the abstract, being part of the universal Catholic Church -- a body of perhaps one billion members around the world -- is digestible. But, to be in the presence of the head of this body three times in one week -- and doing so along with tens of thousands of other Catholics, is blessedly amazing ... and overwhelming.

I remember so well the Papal Mass in 1995 that was celebrated by Pope John Paul II on the Great Lawn of New York City's Central Park. It was the most amazing spiritual experience of my life -- an occasion of joy and community and love.

I was 19 years old then. Today, I am 31. In the intervening 11.5 years, I have changed, the church has changed, the world has changed. And, there is a new pope -- a new pope with different gifts and priorities and words.

I loved Pope John Paul II intensely. He inspired me in so many ways -- to be brave, to stand up for those in need and to serve my Church and my community. And, in the times of my failings, John Paul's words of truth and courage were often on my brain. I loved JPII the way you love a saint.

Over the course of the past week, I have come to love Pope Benedict XVI, as well. But, right now, this love is different from my love for JPII. I love B16 for what he is trying to teach all of us. I love him for his great desire to remind us of the nature of Christ and why He came into the world. I love him for his steadfastness and strength. Even when I don't agree with B16 on something, I still love him -- the way you love a grandfather.

It really is true what they say -- the crowds came to SEE Pope John Paul but they come to HEAR to Pope Benedict. At the two Papal Masses I attended this past week, the pope's homilies were the part of liturgies that I most anticipated.

Here's a graph from B16's homily at Yankee Stadium:

Real freedom, then, is God's gracious gift, the fruit of conversion to his truth, the truth which makes us free (cf. Jn 8:32). And this freedom in truth brings in its wake a new and liberating way of seeing reality. When we put on "the mind of Christ" (cf. Phil 2:5), new horizons open before us! In the light of faith, within the communion of the Church, we also find the inspiration and strength to become a leaven of the Gospel in the world. We become the light of the world, the salt of the earth (cf. Mt 5:13-14), entrusted with the "apostolate" of making our own lives, and the world in which we live, conform ever more fully to God's saving plan.

I also have to say that part of being emotionally overwhelmed by the Papal visit is caused by joy that the visit itself went so well and hit so many perfect notes: the important meeting with victims of clergy sexual abuse, the visit to the beautiful BNSIC, the visit to the synagogue, his Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, and that wonderful event for youth at St. Joseph's Seminary.

There were so many things that could have gone sour -- but angels were clearly in the whirlwind.

No where was this more evident than from the reporting of the New York City media -- print and electronic. Anti-Catholic bias in the press? Not this week. Not in Gotham. The reporters and photographers and headline-writers fell in love with B16. He brought "HOPE" into their collective lexicon more than any presidential candidate could ever do.

The Gospel at Mass this Sunday, the fifth Sunday of Easter, was a good one for a Papal visit. In it, the apostles Thomas and Philip represent all humanity when they push Christ for proof that he is God -- despite Christ's reassurance them that He is going to prepare a place for them in the house of the Father.

From John Chapter 14:

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.”

Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.”


Yesterday, after the Mass, I took the 4 train home. My end of the train car was filled with Mass-goers speaking in Spanish who said they grew up in Columbia, Brazil, Puerto Rico and Spain.

Among those people was a group of young nuns who told me they are from Columbia but work in Queens. They said their order is "Preachers of Jesus and Mary."

Below is a photo I took of three of the nuns checking out pictures they had taken of the Mass with the Pope:

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cathedral Steps

Today, along with other young adult parishioners of the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in NYC, I stood on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral before, during and after the Papal Mass there.

We waved to the Holy Father as he travelled in the popemobile north on Fifth Avenue (after his post-Mass lunch at the Cardinal's residence).

Chang W. Lee of The New York Times captured this shot of the moment:

I'm in the white shirt on the top step. Here's my camera phone pic of almost the same moment:

Here are some shots from earlier in the day:

(Looking south on Fifth Avenue.)

(Some other YAs from church: Paula, Jeff and Allison.)

(With the glare of TV lights across Fifth Avenue, a Missionary of Charity sister waits for B16.)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sunburned Papist

It sounds like I'm not the only one who got a sunburn Thursday morning in D.C.

Smart People

Maybe a quick movie review to help start the weekend?

Last Saturday, while I was home in Western PA, Ed and I caught "Smart People," a new movie set in Pittsburgh (notably at Carnegie Mellon University and surrounds).

The comedy/drama/romance stars Dennis Quaid as a grumpy, widowed CMU professor. Ellen Page ("Juno") plays his high-strung daughter; Thomas Haden Church ("Wings") is his perpetually down-on-his-luck brother; and Sarah Jessica Parker portrays an emergency room doctor who becomes Quaid's love-interest.

For a plot synopsis, go here.

When I first saw the preview for "Smart People," I was turned off by the prospect of another "angst before enlightenment" movie of this type. But, reading a good review or two (plus the Pittsburgh connection) pushed me to check it out -- and it delivered reasonably well.

But, I think "Smart People" may have been better without Dennis Quaid. I have to concede -- I find him grating. And, his range seems limited.

Sarah Jessica Parker may also have been a liability for the film. It's hard to watch her without constantly thinking of her as Carrie in "Sex and the City."

Go Monica '08!

Monica Douglas, a fellow veteran of the trenches of Western Pennsylvania political campaigns, has been drafted to seek the Republican write-in nomination for state representative from PA's 39th Legislative District.

According to an article at Monica's blog, the Republican who filed for the nomination was knocked off the ballot for having an insufficient number of signatures on his nominating petitions.

If she gains the nomination, this would be Monica's second run for the seat. In 2002, she ran a strong race against the district's longtime incumbent, gaining 41.2 percent of the vote despite a large voter party affiliation disadvantage.

The 39th includes small towns, rural areas and economically-depressed former industrial areas in part of the "Mon Valley," a section of southern Allegheny County and eastern Washington County through which the Monongahela River flows.

Monica is now in her fourth year on the borough council in the town of Elizabeth, PA -- and has been council president since 2006. It says a great deal about Monica's leadership abilities and competence that a Republican was chosen to lead the government of a town with a majority Democrat population.

Professionally, Monica is executive director of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County (RCAC). She previously worked for several political campaigns as well as the North Side Leadership Conference.

Monica is a rare breed in politics -- she has been able to keep her soul and self in tact over the course of many campaigns. Her integrity and determination would be tremendous assets in the Pennsylvania House.

For Monica to get the GOP nomination, 300 Republican voters would need to write in (or type in) her name in this Tuesday's primary election in Pennsylvania. She does have some competition -- apparently the Democrat incumbent holder of the seat is also seeking the GOP write-in.

Go Monica!

Poster Pope

You know the artsy Che Guevera poster-esque image of Barack Obama?

Hat-tip: The Anchoress

La Boheme

For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," it is very tempting to post a piece of music from the Mass at Nationals Park or something else related to the Papal visit. But, before B16 arrives here in Gotham and the ensuing posts about his NYC events, it might be good to take a quick breather from all things Pope.

Also, I have been remiss in mentioning that on Tuesday evening (thanks to her original guest coming down with a bug), I had the opportunity to join Kelly in seeing "La Boheme" at The Metropolitan Opera.

I'm a longtime fan of this Puccini classic and Tuesday evening's performance did not disappoint. In fact, "La Boheme" is usually the piece that I recommend to people when they want to go to their first opera -- owing to its romantic story, lush and memorable score and engaging staging (especially the crowd scene).

But, Tuesday night was a special treat because I had never been to a performance of "La Boheme" at the Met -- it was Kelly's first time, too. She was surprised by how much of "La Boheme" really did inspire the hit '90s musical "Rent."

So, for your listening pleasure, below is a clip (featuring some other opera company) of the well-known piece "Musetta's Waltz" from "La Boheme."

Pace e Bene:

And, a movie clip extra:

Remember when Loretta Castorini went with Ronny to see "La Boheme" at the Met? Enjoy:

A Papal Discussion

Fr. Jim Martin, S.J., yesterday posted two good reflections at the NYT's "A Papal Discussion" blog.

Here are the links:

The Meeting With Abuse Victims

The Vicar of Christ and My Gay Friend

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Context of This Hope

The Papal Mass this morning here in Washington, D.C., at Nationals Park was an amazing experience. The ballpark was packed with some 46,000 souls -- all intent on welcoming B16 and hearing his message of hope.

My old NCSC friend, Michelle Colby, and I were blessed to be seated on the field about 20 feet from the front row. If you were looking at the altar, we were in the second section to the left of the center aisle in which the processions took place.

(The political nerd in me feels compelled to share: we were about 15 feet catty corner from the seats of Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito.)

The music used during the Mass was varied. The highlight was Cesar Franck's "Panis Angelicus" ("Bread of the Angels") sung by opera legend Placido Domingo at the end of Communion. I also was very moved by "Pange Lingua" -- another song during Communion. (The version performed was a composition of Paulist Father Ricky Manalo.)

This Mass likely will be most remembered for the pope's brilliant but somber homily during which he addressed the recent crisis in the Church due to the sexual abuse of minors. Here's a snip:

It is in the context of this hope born of God's love and fidelity that I acknowledge the pain which the Church in America has experienced as a result of the sexual abuse of minors. No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse. It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention. Nor can I adequately describe the damage that has occurred within the community of the Church. Great efforts have already been made to deal honestly and fairly with this tragic situation, and to ensure that children - whom our Lord loves so deeply (cf. Mk 10:14), and who are our greatest treasure - can grow up in a safe environment. These efforts to protect children must continue. Yesterday I spoke with your Bishops about this. Today I encourage each of you to do what you can to foster healing and reconciliation, and to assist those who have been hurt. Also, I ask you to love your priests, and to affirm them in the excellent work that they do. And above all, pray that the Holy Spirit will pour out his gifts upon the Church, the gifts that lead to conversion, forgiveness and growth in holiness.

The full homily is at Whispers. Also, John Allen of National Catholic Reporter is reporting that, earlier today, the pope met with sexual abuse victims from Boston.

The Anchoress has a good reflection on this morning's Mass. Her lead: "Did it seem to you, as it did to me that we watched Benedict loosen up or break free a little bit at this mass? Watching him exit he seemed bigger and bolder to me, as though he was growing into his part."

I should note that there was one slight negative out of today's Mass (and those field seats): I have a sunburn!

The image above of B16 incensing the altar today at Nationals Park is from BBC News.

Washington, D.C.

I am now in Washington, D.C., where the plan is for us to attend the Papal Mass at Nationals Park tomorrow (really later this morning).

In the evening, I'll be breaking bread with a few fellow alums of the National Catholic Student Coalition -- we'll be getting together at 7 p.m. at "America," the restaurant at D.C.'s Union Station. (Please join us if you're local!)

For what Sully today called the best coverage of B16's apostolic journey to the United States, go to Whispers in the Loggia.

I think Amy is doing a nice job, too, over at Charlotte was Both. In the midst of it all, I was glad to see her post remembering today's first anniversary of the tragedy at Virginia Tech.

For excellent analysis of what the Pope is saying, also check out The Anchoress.

And, so as not to be totally scooped by the independent bloggers, The New York Times has started a blog dedicated to the visit. It includes posts from several folks including Fr. Jim Martin, S.J.

The image above is from the New York Times Website. Photo credit: Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. Caption: Pope Benedict XVI completes his address in the Crypt Church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

B16 in America

Pope Benedict XVI has arrived in the United States. Here, via YouTube, is some C-Span coverage of the airport arrival ceremony:

Or, if you'd like some commentary, here is the same footage from EWTN:

Angry Renter

I do not yet have a fully-informed opinion on the sub-prime mortgages bailout proposal. But, I have to say, this is a compelling argument against:

Hat-tip: Andrew Sullivan.

Monday, April 14, 2008


While I was home this weekend, we also had the chance to catch the Saturday matinee of Burgettstown High School's production of "Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." The production was directed by my old friend, and fellow Fort Cherry H.S. Class of '94 grad, Heidi Fedinetz Adomshick. (By day, Heidi is BHS's band director.)

The students on stage and in the pit were quite good.

"Joseph," an early work of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, is a good pick for a high school ensemble. The musical, based on the story from the Book of Genesis, calls for a fairly large cast, has many enjoyable songs and lots of room for variation. (In the BHS show, a Donald Trump-like figure as seen in "The Apprentice" provided character fodder for the Egyptian Potiphar.)

I don't have any footage of the BHS production, but below (compliments of YouTube) are two good clips from professional productions of "Joseph." Check them out:

Distinguished Dinner

The original impetus for my weekend trip to PA was the annual dinner of the Washington County Republican Party held Friday night at the Hilton Garden Inn at Southpointe. (I served as WCRP's executive director from November 2003 through February 2005.)

I attended along with a group of people who were active in my '06 State House race, including my old campaign manager, Tom Baker. (Don't forget to check out Tom's new book!)

We were especially keen to attend because Meryl Hatton, my '06 campaign committee chairwoman, was awarded the WCRP's Julie Uram Distinguished Republican Leader Award during the dinner. The Uram award is annually presented to a GOP leader who distinguishes himself or herself by supporting and fundraising for a specific GOP candidate from Washington County. Meryl is also third vice president of the Pennsylvania Federation of Republican Women.

The keynote speaker at the dinner was first Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey, who is currently serving as chairman of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County and as a leader for the McCain campaign in the Keystone State.

Always pitch perfect, Mr. Roddey eloquently saluted all those volunteers who work in the political process. He also told the story of how, last year, his 90-something mother caused him to be detained at the airport in Corpus Christi, Texas, on the suspicion that he was a kidnapper.

Here's a file photo of Mr. Roddey and his mother:

In Memoriam: Jerry Schutz, 1936 - 2008

Gerald E. "Jerry" Schutz, Sr., one of the characters of my hometown of McDonald, PA, died on Friday. He was 71.

Jerry owned Small Engine World, a great niche business that brought people from a wide area to McDonald. As you'd expect, the business deals in small engines -- the kind of engine you would find in lawn mowers and chainsaws.

Jerry was also very active in Native American affairs and was the driving force behind the establishment of the Wanashee Conservancy. The conservancy is working to clean up the Robinson Run Creek (a tributary of the Chartiers Creek that passes behind Small Engine World).

The man was blunt and opinionated, determined, dedicated and generous. His passing leaves a void.

Of Mass Times & Good Shepherds

Friday morning through early this morning, I was back in Western Pennsylvania -- my first visit home since Christmas. The four-month gap was my longest time away from the foothills of the Alleghenies since I began my new gig in New York last March.

There are a few things I'm going to attempt to blog about that came out of the weekend -- but the most difficult thing first.

In January, Father John Harvey, the priest of my hometown parish, St. Alphonsus Church of McDonald, PA, retired after decades of faithful service to the Church and several years past the age when he could have retired.

Due to the declining numbers of priests in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, it was decided that St. Alphonsus will now have the same pastor as St. Patrick Parish in the nearby village of Noblestown.

While St. Alphonsus and St. Patrick will technically remain separate parishes, the sharing of a pastor means that each parish will have one less Sunday morning Mass. The schedule: Mass at St. Alphonsus at 4 p.m. on Saturday and 8:30 a.m. on Sunday. Mass at St. Patrick at 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Previously, St. Alphonsus had Mass at 5 p.m. on Saturday and at 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Sunday. The changes were made after polling of parishioners of both parishes.

(To put this in perspective: I most often attend a 5:15 p.m. Sunday Mass here in NYC. And, when I say I'm going to an "early" Mass, that usually means one at 11 a.m.)

My head says that all of this is making the best of a poor situation. My heart is troubled.

I am greatly worried that St. Alphonsus' young adults and young families more in tune to the late-morning Mass may either find new faith homes or begin to miss Mass on a regular basis. I am worried about St. Alphonsus' thriving religious education program (housed in a new building) that was previously held in between the morning Masses. I am worried about the beautiful choir that led song at the old 11 a.m. Mass. I am worried.

On Sunday, I had planned to attend the 8:30 a.m. Mass at St. Alphonsus with my maternal grandmother. We both slept in.

So, we got out the car keys and drove the short distance to Noblestown for the 10:30 Mass at St. Patrick Parish celebrated by Father Ken, the new pastor of both parishes. It was an appropriate Mass that included a children's liturgy of the word (always good to see and something we did not have at St. Alphonsus). We saw four other folks from St. Alphonsus there.

I should point out that we really aren't strangers to St. Patrick Parish. My maternal Italian-Austrian immigrant great-great grandparents, Dominic and Catherine Vincenti, are buried in the hillside cemetery behind the Church. My father's family also has a connection to St. Patrick's. A story is told that Rose Kargle, one of my paternal great-great-grandmothers, would graze her cow on the church's lawn while she attended Mass there.

Also, history would remind us that St. Alphonsus actually began its life as a mission parish of St. Parick's in the late 1890s when the Catholics in that area began to moving into the coal patches and small towns of northwestern Washington County.

But, even with these connections, the changes are hard to accept -- particularly when it comes to the Church in which you were raised. I do recognize, though, that the Catholics of McDonald are blessed -- they still have a Church when other small towns in similar situations have seen their parishes closed altogether.

Appropriately, yesterday (the fourth Sunday of Easter) was Good Shepherd Sunday.

The Gospel at Mass was from John Chapter 10:

Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”

Although Jesus used this figure of speech, the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them.

So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

I spied the image above at A Concord Pastor.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Classical Acoustic Guitar

For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," below is a little something from the subway.

Pace e Bene:

Improv Everywhere's "Best Game Ever"

Improv Everywhere also headed out this week to the old ballgame -- a Little League game in California, to be specific.

Check it out:

Hat-tip: The Anchoress.

Advance Greetings

B16 sends an early hello in advance of his journey next week to Washington, D.C., and NYC:

(I guess I'm a nerd, but I find it interesting to hear the Pope speak in English -- so often we only hear him speak in Italian and Latin.)

And for fun ... Metro Pope:

Hat-tips: Whispers in the Loggia and Charlotte was Both (aka Rocco and Amy).

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Levittown, PA

The most recent New York Times Magazine included a story by Michael Sokolove, a Pennsylvania native who went back to his Eastern PA hometown to get some perspective on the race between Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama for the Democrat nomination for president.

Here's what he found.

Key graph:

I was focused primarily on Levittown’s response to Obama. Here, after all, was a place that needed a big change, a new dream, which for many voters Obama — with his mixed race, international background, inspiring life story and his soaring rhetoric — represents. But Levittown, while largely Democratic, is composed of many white, working-class “Reagan Democrats,” exactly the part of the electorate that has been least receptive to him — even before the controversy over the incendiary remarks by Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

I have a hunch that what Sokolove heard in Levittown is similar to what an investigation would yield in the old industrial towns of Western Pennsylvania, as well. Many Democrats in the Keystone State's small towns aren't really into "agents of change."

(Yours truly has the battle scars and old campaign debt to prove it!) :-)

The photo above is credited to Mark Peterson.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Old Ballgame

From America's largest denomination to America's favorite pastime ...

Tonight, along with Mike Hayes from Busted Halo, we went to the Houston Astros game at Minute Maid Park ("The Field Formerly Known As Enron").

Weather was good. Game was decent. Park was a good place to watch a ballgame. (We had seats in the front row of the terrace level along the third baseline.)

FYI: the Astros fell to the St. Louis Cardinals 5-3.

Photo above from Wikipedia.

A Mellow Heart

Yesterday, here at NCCL in Houston, one of the keynote speakers was Rev. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI. (OMI stands for Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.)

Fr. Rolheiser, who is the president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas, gave an interesting talk on the mission of religious education teachers to engage the "secularity" of our society.

While I don't have video of his talk yesterday, below are some YouTube clips of Fr. Rolheiser giving a recent parish mission on theme "Keeping a Mellow Heart in a Bitter Time." (The clips also include a choir singing some hymns.)

For your consideration:

Monday, April 07, 2008

Houston, Texas

Today through Wednesday, I am in Houston, Texas, where we are exhibitors at the 72nd annual National Conference for Catechetical Leadership (NCCL), a gathering of Catholics who serve as directors of religious education for their dioceses and parishes.

I think this is the first time I have ever been to Texas.

The photo above of the new Co-Cathedral in Downtown Houston is from the Houston Chronicle. It is credited to Smiley N. Pool.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Their Eyes Were Opened

A Concord Pastor has a great knack for spotting images to illustrate the Gospel stories. Here's one he used this week for the Emmaus story:

The image is a color sketch by artist Nikki Sheppard.

David McCullough on the 'burgh

The Trib recently asked historian David McCullough about Pittsburgh. (McCullough is the author of the superb John Adams biography that has been turned into the HBO series everyone is talking about.)

Here is what the 'burgh native had to say:


Today is the Third Sunday of Easter. The Gospel at Mass finds two of Jesus' disciples on the road to Emmaus. It may be my favorite passage in all of the Gospels.

From Luke Chapter 24:

That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.

And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.

He asked them,“What are you discussing as you walk along?”

They stopped, looking downcast.

One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?”

And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”

They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.”

And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.

As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther.

But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”

So he went in to stay with them.

And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.

With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.

Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”

So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying,“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”

Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

The image above is from Facebook Art. It's titled "Christ and the Pilgrims of Emmaus."

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Mindless Menace

At The Deacon's Bench, Deacon Greg reminds us of the words Robert F. Kennedy spoke after learning of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968. Here's some footage from YouTube:

The next day, April 5, 1968, RFK spoke again -- delivering the speech known as "On the Mindless Menace of Violence." Here is a video with that audio:

Friday, April 04, 2008

Opening Night: "Dante's Hope"

Tonight, I attended the opening-night performance of "Dante's Hope," a new play by Fr. Harry Cronin, C.S.C.

The play, a production of Blackfriars Repertory Theater, was presented in the sanctuary of St. Joseph's Church in Greenwich Village under the direction of Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P., the editor of Magnificat.

"Dante's Hope" is "a modern retelling of a medieval French legend transposed to present day California. The Blessed Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Guadalupe) contends with the devil (dressed as a mariachi band member) for the soul of a dead gang leader."

I think my favorite part of the performance was watching actress Jessica Angleskhan carry out what must be the difficult task of bringing "La Virgen" to life -- which she did with grace, style and just the right amount of humor.

"Dante's Hope" continues at St. Joe's this weekend and next.

The Mountaintop

Today, April 4, is the 40th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

To mark the day, I thought I would share some of his words.

Via YouTube, below is the speech Dr. King gave the night before his death. Here's Part 1 of "I've Been to the Mountaintop":

Part 2:

Additionally, below is an audio clip of a speech he gave titled "Why I Am Opposed to the Vietnam War":

I'm Yours

For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," Jason Mraz makes his third visit to this space -- this time with "I'm Yours."


Apparently, this song is huge in Sweden. Some video to prove it:

"I'm Yours" has been the subject of lots of YouTube covers, too. Here's a montage:

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Three Years

Today, April 2, is the third anniversary of the day in 2005 when Pope John Paul II went "to the house of the Father."

I was blessed to once attend a Mass celebrated by JPII -- on the Great Lawn of New York City's Central Park, in October, 1995. That day, the Pope said to us in a loud voice:

"Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Be brave! God is with you!"

In Thanksgiving: