Saturday, May 31, 2008

Makers Mark

I'm not a Hillary Clinton fan. But, I like the Hillary Clinton in this New York Times article by Mark Leibovich:

And then there was Wednesday night’s airborne bourbon swig in front of reporters on her plane, with Mrs. Clinton holding court for the diminishing press pool accompanying her.

Fernando Suarez, a reporter for CBS News who has been traveling with Mrs. Clinton’s campaign since October, asked her if she had ever been to Mount Rushmore before her visit there earlier in the day. Mrs. Clinton said she in fact had.

“Before you were born,” she added, looking at Mr. Suarez, who is 29, and noting that “I did a lot of things before you were born.”

She swirled the bourbon in her glass and nodded mischievously.

“And thank god you weren’t around,” Mrs. Clinton continued. “Or I wouldn’t have enjoyed any of them.”

The imagination tumbles.

It's nice to see a politician be real. And, right now, if I were Senator Clinton, I'd be knocking back a few bourbons myself.

This story also caught the eye of The Anchoress.

Hat-tip: The photo above is credited to Elise Amendola/Associated Press.

"The Settlers Give It Passion"

Thursday evening, while riding the 6 train from Grand Central Station to Union Square, I read this great quote in a "SubTalk" public service announcement poster:

“There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. […] Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion."

-- E.B. White (1895 - 1985) in "Here is New York"

Hat-tip: swissmiss for the text. FYI: Eric Perry liked the quote, too.

Friday, May 30, 2008

R.I.P. Harvey Korman

Harvey Korman, a great comic talent who became famous as part of "The Carol Burnett Show," died Thursday at the age of 81.

The Deacon's Bench has a clip of Korman in action.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Anyone Else But You

For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," here is Michael Cera and Ellen Page performing "Anyone Else But You" (by The Moldy Peaches) in the final scene of the movie "Juno."


Structured Procrastination

I have been meaning to do a post on an article called "Structured Procrastination" by Stanford University Professor John Perry for more than a week -- ever since first reading about it in a post by Sully.

But, there always seemed to be something else equally important to do ...

All procrastinators put off things they have to do. Structured procrastination is the art of making this bad trait work for you. The key idea is that procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely nothing. Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, like gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they get around to it. Why does the procrastinator do these things? Because they are a way of not doing something more important. If all the procrastinator had left to do was to sharpen some pencils, no force on earth could get him do it. However, the procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important.

Structured procrastination means shaping the structure of the tasks one has to do in a way that exploits this fact. The list of tasks one has in mind will be ordered by importance. Tasks that seem most urgent and important are on top. But there are also worthwhile tasks to perform lower down on the list. Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list. With this sort of appropriate task structure, the procrastinator becomes a useful citizen. Indeed, the procrastinator can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done.

I'm embarrassed to admit how much of myself I see here. My college dorm room was never cleaner or better organized than the day before a midterm or a final!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fred Smith

Last week, PBS' Charlie Rose did an hour-long interview with Fred Smith, the founder and CEO of FedEx. He made the best argument I have heard yet for John McCain being elected president.

For your consideration:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Flight Over Africa

The Academy Award-winning filmmaker Sydney Pollack died yesterday of cancer at the age of 73. He was a director, producer and actor.

Pollack's directing credits included "Out of Africa" and "Tootsie."

Here via YouTube is one of the many great sequences from "Out of Africa":


Last week, I posted a piece of artwork by my old NYU comrade, Anthony Santella.

I'm proud to relay the news that, this past weekend, Anthony's sculpture "Nymph" (pictured above) received the first place honors in the sulpture category at the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Today, Memorial Day, it is important to pause and remember the sacrifice of life made by so many men and women in the armed forces:

We must pray and work for a day when there will be no more wars and violence in our world.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Corpus Christi

Today, Catholics in the United States celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (a.k.a. "Corpus Christi"). It is a day set aside in the liturgical year for study and meditation on our belief in the real presence of the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the bread and wine used during Communion.

The Gospel at Mass today shows Jesus explaining how redemption comes from this Communion with him. The language of the passage is startling.

From John Chapter 6:

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

Jesus said to them:

"Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."

The image above is from A Concord Pastor.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


I have been remiss in doing a post about a significant occurance in my life last month: I sold my car.

My 1998 dark blue Buick Century "sedan" had mostly been sitting idle in my mother's driveway outside of McDonald, PA, since my move last year to New York City. I had used it during most my visits home but, on some of the trips, I had cheated on it in favor of a more convenient rental from the airport.

The Buick was "a grandma car" but it served me well. I bought it in 2002 after my previous car (my first, a green Chrysler Cirrus) was totalled when a 16-year-old male driver in a red convertible struck me head on after entering my lane while speeding around a blind curve up a hill in the North Hills of Pittsburgh. The driver, his passenger and I all walked away from the accident with nothing more than some scrapes.

The previous owner of the Buick, a woman from my hometown who I knew very well from my parish, had died of cancer a few months prior to the accident. She had kept the car in pristine condition and had put few miles on it. Her husband sold it to me at a very good price.

As they years went on, I often felt bad that I did not keep the car's exterior in such good condition as I knew the previous owner's husband, who lived up the block from my house, often saw that it never got the spit-and-polish treatment it had previously enjoyed.

In fact, the car may have been most recognizable for the large dent in the rear side door that I never did get bumped out. As the years went on, I began to see the dent as theft deterrent. "Some people have The Club, I have a dent," was my slogan.

The Buick saw me through three State House races and was used in community parades with campaign signs plastered over its sides. It was a classic example of what political types call "a campaign car" -- with a backseat and trunk perpetually full of yard signs, brochures, walking lists, parade candy, buttons, pens, stickers and other tools of the trade.

All of this is why I feel a little sad I didn't get a chance to say a personal goodbye to the Buick. The car was sold by remote after I mailed by mother a one-time power-of-attorney letter authorizing her to transfer the title. It was bought by a cousin of my stepfather for use by his new-driver son.

I pray for him and all those who in the future will drive the car and ride in it. May you be safe -- and may the open road (and the hills of Western PA) be your oyster.

FYI: This reflection was sparked by the "Saturday Diary" in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in which Diana Nelson Jones writes about selling her Volvo. The headline: "Carless in Pittsburgh."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Servant of God

This post shows how much of a Catholic nerd I am, but ...

Below is the video of the Mass at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Manhattan after which New York's archbishop, Cardinal Edward Egan, opened the cause for canonization of Father Isaac Hecker, founder of the Paulists.

It was on this day in January that, in Catholic-speak, Isaac Hecker received the title "Servant of God."

Liturgy geeks unite:

(The cardinal's homily begins around 17:40 when he states that St. Paul's is "one of the great parishes" of the world.)

It's Not Easy

For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," here is "Superman" (a.k.a. "It's Not Easy") by Five for Fighting (John Ondrasik).


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Truly Young

Last Sunday, B16 addressed a gathering of young people in the northern Italian city of Genoa. His remarks there were tremendous. I am grateful for the translation below (from the Italian) by Teresa Benedetta of Papa Ratzinger Forum:

Dearest young people,

You are the youth of Genoa! I embrace you with the heart of Christ.

I thank the two representatives who acted as your 'spokesmen'. And I thank all of you for your warm presence in such numbers, rich with the enthusiasm that should always characterize your spirit, not only in the years of youth, full of expectations and dreams, but always - even when youth will have passed and you are called on to live other seasons of life.

But yes, I also ask you, always be young! But let me remind you that youth - true youth - is not a question of years, of physical vigor, of brilliant form, of efficiency. In fact, it seems that youth should be synonymous to joy, but it is not always so.

There are, unfortunately, those who are young in age but are old within - who lag behind, even if they may not lack for earthly goods - they lack culture, satisfactory work, relationships and possibilities.

The Gospel tells us of that rich young man who met Christ, who lacked nothing - neither health nor possessions nor possibilities. Nevertheless, the young man felt that he was missing something - he had the intuition that he did not have the most important thing, that 'something' which could truly fill the soul. His was a religious question, born in the depths of his heart, speaking from the depths of his heart.

To be young means to have discovered the things that do not pass away with the passing of the years. If a young person discovers the great and true values, then he will never grow old, even if the body follows its own laws.

Stay young in your heart and you will radiate youth, which is to say, goodness. Yes, because goodness escapes the grip of time. That is why we can say that only he who is good and generous is truly young.

I wish you all to remain young, but not as fashion goes. Fashions fizzle out in a heartbeat, they burn out in frenetic pointless succession. But youth - the youth born of goodness - will remain. Indeed, it will be perfect and resplendent in Heaven, with God.

It is beautiful to be young. Today, everyone wants to be young, to remain young, and many masquerade as young people, even if their youth has gone - visibly gone. But why is it beautiful to be young? Why this dream of perennial youth?

I think there are two decisive elements. One is that youth still has all of the future ahead. Everything is the future - the time of hope. And the future is full of promise, although today, it is also full of threats, especially the threat of great emptiness.

That is why many want to stop time, out of fear for a future of emptiness. They would want to consume all at once everything that is 'beautiful' in life - and so they burn out the candle at both ends even if their life has just begun.

It is important to choose the true promises, those that will open up the future, even if it means renouncing certain things. Whoever chooses God will have, even in old age, a future without an end, and will fear no threats ahead.

So choose well - do not destroy your future. And the first choice should be God, who revealed himself in Jesus Christ. In the light of this choice which offers us a reliable companion on our journey, one can find the criteria for the other choices that one must make.

To be young, as I said, means being good and generous. But once again: the true goodness is Jesus, the Jesus you know or that your heart is searching for. He alone is the friend who will never betray. He was faithful up to giving his life on the Cross. Surrender to his love!

As it says on the T-shirts you prepared for this meeting, 'Loosen up" before Christ. Only he can resolve your anxieties and fears, only he can fulfill your expectations. He has given his life for you. Would he ever betray your trust? Could he ever lead you into wrong paths?

His ways are the ways of life, those that lead to pastures for the soul, even if they lead uphill and may be arduous. And it is the life of the spirit that I invite you to cultivate, dear friends.

Jesus has said: "I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing" (John 15,5). Jesus does not speak in circles; he is always clear and direct. Everyone can understand him and take a position.

The life of the spirit is an encounter with him, the concrete face of God. It is silent persevering prayer, it is sacramental life, it is the Gospel meditated, it is spiritual company, it is heartfelt belonging to the Church, to your ecclesial community.

How can one love what one does not know? Knowing impels love, and love stimulates knowing. It is that way, too, with Christ. That is why it is necessary to look deeply into the mystery of Jesus, the truth of his thinking which echoes in the Gospel and in the Magisterium of the Church.

Without substantial formation, how will it be possible for you yo give a reason for your faith to your contemporaries who are themselves often full of questions about life, about themselves, about the Christian faith, about the Church?

How will it be possible to answer questions, there where there seems to be only aridity and desert, addiction to pretentious myths, widespread lies, and cliches of thought?

How can one enter into the heart of decisive questions, today debated without reasoned faith nor reason that has been trained to grasp the truth in values, in order to present them with calm rigor to those who do not have the light of faith?

How to be courageous and joyous missionaries who are also culturally equipped to announce to all that Jesus is the supreme reason of your life, and your youth?

At the end of our encounter, I will have the joy of presenting the Gospel to some of you as a sign of this missionary mandate. Go forth, dearest young people, into the circles of life, in your parishes, in the most difficult neighborhoods, on the streets!

Proclaim Christ the Lord, hope of the world. The more man distances himself from God, his source, the more he will lose himself, human coexistence becomes more difficult, and society falls apart.

Be united among yourselves, help each other to live and grow in the faith and in Christian living, in order to be ardent witnesses for the Lord.

Be united but not closed off. Be humble, but not fearful. Be simple, but not naive. Be thoughtful, but not complicated. Enter into dialog with everyone, but remain yourselves.

Be in communion with your pastors: they are ministers of the Gospel, of the Divine Eucharist, of God's forgiveness. They are, for you, parents and friends, companions along the way. You need them and they - all of us - need you.

Each of you, dear young people, if you remain united with Christ and the Church, can achieve great things. That is the wish that I leave with you today.

To those of you who registered to participate in the World Youth Day in Sydney, I say 'Arrivederci' in Sydney, and I extend this to all, because anyone can follow the event, even from here.

I know that in those days, the dioceses in Italy will be organizing community gatherings for that purpose, so that there may truly be a new Pentecost among the young people of the whole world.

I entrust you to the Virgin Mary, model of willingness and humble courage in welcoming the mission of the Lord. Learn from her to make your life a Yes to God! This way, Jesus will come to dwell in you, and you will bring him with joy to everyone.

With my blessing ...

Hat-tip: Charlotte was Both here and here. The Reuters photo above (taken at the youth gathering) is via Whispers.

Sacred Surveillance

Yesterday evening, I went to the opening reception for a new art exhibit called "Sacred Surveillance" on display in the side chapels at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle on Manhattan's West Side.

The exhibit is by Openings, a ministry of the Paulist Fathers for young visual artists aged 18 to 35.

Here is their description of the show:

In Sacred Surveillance, each artist questions existence under the auspices of something greater: a quiet, conscious, presence in one's daily movements or the artist in the role of flaneur, watching the world solemnly from a distance. The selected works discuss how this presence of the transcendent is disclosed through both the hidden and discursive elements of human experience. The exhibit responds to a variety of mediums including sculpture, painting, poetry and mixed-media.

One of the artists included in "Sacred Surveillance" is my old college friend, Anthony Santella. One of his three featured pieces is this framed work entitled "Picture of Jesus":

This coming weekend and next, Anthony also will be part of the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

South Side View?

Andrew Sullivan has an interesting series at The Daily Dish called "The View From Your Window." Saturday, that view was from Pittsburgh at 1:53 p.m.:

South Side?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Spartan Senator

With advance apologies to the supporters of Senator Clinton who may be reading, I have to admit this creation of The Crossed Pond made me smile:



Sunday, May 18, 2008

Trinity Sunday

Some Christian traditions recognize today as the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity or "Trinity Sunday." This first Sunday in Ordinary Time provides an opportunity for us to think more about the being and movements of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel at Mass shed some light on the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.

From John Chapter 3:

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Over at Whispers in the Loggia, Rocco found a song clip both appropriate and chill to accompany his Trinity Sunday post. I've put it in the audio slot at top right.

The image above is a photo from Waldie's World. It shows the stained-glass window in the Father Judge Memorial Chapel at the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity motherhouse in Philadelphia.

NYU Plus-10

Ten years ago this week, yours truly graduated from college. In one sense, it's difficult to believe that much time has passed. My memories of college are still so vivid.

But, in another sense, as someone now in his third career, I know the years of the past decade were busy and diverse. Jobs, friendships, campaigns, moves, parties, deaths and births -- a lot happened.

All this came home for me yesterday while I was at the Alumni Day at my alma mater, New York University. It's now an annual event held on the Saturday after commencement. This year, the NYU Class of 1998 (as well as the other special anniversary years) were toasted.

The day began with a discussion featuring NYU President John Sexton with television commentator Chris Matthews (an NYU parent) and Democrat strategist Bob Shrum. About 80 percent of the hour was spent debating the inside politics of the Democratic presidential primary and perceptions of Senator Obama and Senator Clinton. While it was generally interesting, I thought they could have looked more at the impact young voters and independent voters are having on the 2008 race. A marker of the conversation: the word "Internet" was not mentioned once.

During Alumni Day, I also attended a funny and touching reading by the author E.L. Doctorow and heard remarks by the actor/director/author Bob Balaban, who received the NYU College of Arts & Science Distinguished Alumni Award. (I know him best for his role as the American movie-maker in "Gosford Park.") Some other highlights included the choral alumni open sing, the evening shin-dig at the Puck Building and the after-party at B-Bar.

Friday night also included NYU-related fun: a reunion of Washington Square News staffers from the '90s followed by a going-away party for Tarek Ibrahim (one of the residents who lived on my floor when I was an R.A. at Goddard Hall). Tarek, who just completed his master's degree in architecture, is headed to Berlin to start his new career.

A final note: On Saturday afternoon, while walking down the steps in NYU's Kimmel Center for University Life, I took the photo below. It shows Washington Square Park with the controversial renovations under way. In the earth, you can see the outline of where the historic fountain has been repositioned -- now in line with the arch:

A little too perfect, maybe?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Catholics in New York: Past & Present

Yesterday, I went to the opening reception for the new exhibit "Catholics in New York: 1808-1946" at the Museum of the City of New York, located on 5th Avenue at 103rd Street.

Glenn Collins had an article in yesterday's New York Times about the exhibit. This was his description:

The show, with some 400 objects and images, includes political banners, parochial school report cards, yearbooks going back to the 19th century, vestments, school uniforms, trophies, academic medals and a pew rental receipt. There are holy cards, ceremonial swords, parade sashes and a first communion outfit from 1941. And there are more than 100 family photographs, as well as oral histories on audio and video conducted for the exhibition.

In his remarks at the reception, New York's archbishop, Cardinal Edward Egan, spoke of some of the early Catholic inhabitants of NYC who went on to become saints of the Church. He referenced St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. John Neumann -- even though Baltimore and Philadelphia try to claim them, he joked.

Cardinal Egan noted that there are currently eight New Yorkers being considered for canonization. Yours truly is personally doing some praying especially for two of those eight -- Paulist Father Isaac Hecker (1819-1888) and Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day (1897-1980) -- both of whom were pictured in the exhibit.

Both the exhibit and Cardinal Egan also highlighted the tremendous social services work that has been done in the city by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.

Last night, after the reception, I made my way downtown to Red Sky Bar & Lounge on East 29th Street where the Catholic Charities Junior Board was holding a fundraiser to benefit the organization.

Perhaps this was some more history in the making.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ubi Caritas

It's back to classical for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend." Below is a choir performance of "Ubi Caritas."

The lyric translates: Where there is charity and love, there is God.


Hat-tip: A Concord Pastor

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I recently had the opportunity to meet John Chromczak, a 37-year-old Republican who is running for the New York State Senate from the Empire State's 25th senatorial district. As you can see from the map above, the 25th includes southern Manhattan and part of western Brooklyn.

I give John a lot of credit -- he's running against a voter registration disadvantage several times greater than anything I faced during my State House races in Western Pennsylvania.

But, John strikes me as the find of guy up to a challenge. He currently works at New York University Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital as a medical technologist specializing in red cell and bleeding disorders.

John's race was featured yesterday in an article in The Observer-Dispatch of Utica, his hometown in Upstate New York.

The article has an error, however. It presumes that John will face off this November against longtime State Senator Marty Connor. But, before that can happen, Connor has to first beat his primary opponent, Daniel Squadron, a young Democrat with the support of U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Examples for Ed Rendell

A few months back, I criticized PA Governor Ed Rendell for saying that Pennsylvanians are racist. I'm sad to say that today's Washington Post provides multiple examples for the governor's argument.

From Kevin Merida's article (available w/o sign-up at MSNBC):

Victoria Switzer, a retired social studies teacher, was on phone-bank duty one night during the Pennsylvania primary campaign. One night was all she could take: "It wasn't pretty." She made 60 calls to prospective voters in Susquehanna County, her home county, which is 98 percent white. The responses were dispiriting. One caller, Switzer remembers, said he couldn't possibly vote for Obama and concluded: "Hang that darky from a tree!"

Documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy, the daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, said she, too, came across "a lot of racism" when campaigning for Obama in Pennsylvania. One Pittsburgh union organizer told her he would not vote for Obama because he is black, and a white voter, she said, offered this frank reason for not backing Obama: "White people look out for white people, and black people look out for black people."

And, keep in mind, these are DEMOCRATS that these campaign volunteers were canvassing. So much for being the party of inclusion.

Hat-tip: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Deep Instincts

David Brooks' column in today's New York Times is worth by a look by anyone who thinks deeply about the existence of God. "The Neural Buddhists" is the column's header.

One important passage:

And yet my guess is that the atheism debate is going to be a sideshow. The cognitive revolution is not going to end up undermining faith in God, it’s going end up challenging faith in the Bible.

Over the past several years, the momentum has shifted away from hard-core materialism. The brain seems less like a cold machine. It does not operate like a computer. Instead, meaning, belief and consciousness seem to emerge mysteriously from idiosyncratic networks of neural firings. Those squishy things called emotions play a gigantic role in all forms of thinking. Love is vital to brain development.

Researchers now spend a lot of time trying to understand universal moral intuitions. Genes are not merely selfish, it appears. Instead, people seem to have deep instincts for fairness, empathy and attachment.

Andrew Sullivan also weighed in on this column today.

Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell

BeliefNet has an interesting Q&A with the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, the Methodist minister from Houston who last Saturday presided over first daughter Jenna Bush's wedding in Texas.

Reverend Caldwell, who also prayed at President Bush's inaugurations, has endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president.

This was BeliefNet's Question #1:

When you called President Bush to say you were endorsing Senator Barack Obama, how did he respond?

He had shared his thoughts with me about Senator Obama months before I called and told him I was going to endorse. And he says he likes him as a person. He told me that early on, before the Senator even announced he was running for president. He has a tremendous amount of respect for him.

While the differences between President Bush and Senator Obama are very, very clear, allow me to share with you what their commonalities are. One, they have deep, resolute loyalty to their country, to their families, and to their God. They are both Christians. They both love their wives intensely. They’re both very good dads.They are also strong believers in rebuilding the family and rebuilding the infrastructure of our communities… Now, obviously, they have two entirely different approaches as to how to achieve that common good.

The Anchoress also has some thoughts vis-a-vis the Bush wedding and Reverend Caldwell.

Deacon Greg is curious about the limestone altar.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Aiden Joseph Snatchko

Pentecost/Mother's Day 2008 has turned out to be an especially blessed one for my family. Late this afternoon, my brother, Joe, and his wife, Erin, became parents for the first time -- to a boy!

Welcome to the party, Aiden Joseph. May the Holy Spirit always be your guide.

Aiden Joseph is my second nephew. He and my sister's son, Ethan John (age 4), are the first members of the fifth generation of my mother's family to be born in the United States.

In my father's family, "A.J." is great-grandchild #23.

Bonne fête des mères!

Because Easter came so early this year, we have the unusual occurrence of Pentecost and Mother's Day falling on this same Sunday in May.

A very happy Mother's Day to all the mothers, grandmothers, step-mothers, soon-to-be mothers, Godmothers and mothers-in-spirit out there! (Including my own!)

In my life, I have been blessed to even have living great-grandmothers. The one I knew the best was my maternal grandmother's mother, Mary Alice Berger Vincenti. Grandma Vincenti was born in the United States in 1911, the daughter of two immigrants from Belgium. She lived until 1999, just shy of her 88th birthday.

When I graduated from college in 1998 and moved home to Pennsylvania for my first job, Grandma Vincenti and I lived in the same house. A strong believer in cooking for the men in our family, Grandma would always have a hearty dinner waiting for me when I came home from work. I gained a lot of weight that year -- but appreciated the nourishing gesture of love all the same!

Italian risotto and galettes (Belgian waffle-like cookies) were Grandma Vincenti's specialties. And, I'm proud to say that I am able to replicate both fairly close to how she made them. (For the galettes, I even use her old iron on the stove.)

Above is a photo of Grandma Vincenti that I've been waiting for a day to share on this blog. It shows her as a young girl dressed up for what must have been a special occasion.

Pictured next to her in the photo is her sister Ann (in white dress), who was a few years her junior. I'm glad to be remembering Aunt Ann on Mother's Day, too. While she never had any children of her own, Ann Berger Barrick was a strong, dynamic woman who wrote me regularly as I was growing up and took a great interest in my education and career goals. She died in December, 1997.

At the time this picture was taken, young Mary and Ann would have heard their parents still speaking French at home. So, as perhaps they would have heard it, I say: "Bonne fête des mères!"

Spirit Enabled

Today is Pentecost Sunday, the day when Christians recall the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ's disciples after his ascension into heaven.

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.

And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.

Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

The Gospel at Mass shows a sort of "little Pentecost" while Christ was still on earth. The last line of the passage is a basis for the Catholic belief in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.

The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

The image above is from here.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Pelosi Premium?

What responsibility do the Democrats who control the U.S. Congress have for gas prices? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said they had plan when they came into the majority. Where is it?

Sam reiterates that question over at SaveTheGOP. Here's the video:

Sure, it's partisan GOP propoganda. But, there's a good underlying point: it's time for the Democrats in Congress to take greater responsibility for energy policy that brings more stability to gas prices.


I agree with The Anchoress. It's silly and a non-issue. But, if W. or John McCain made this gaffe, everyone would be hearing about it:

Reality for Contemplatives

More of Thomas Merton in his own voice below -- compliments of the YouTube channel Journeys2008.

According to Chad: "Merton delivered this presentation at the Abbey of Gethsemani in 1967. By this time, Merton was living out at his hermitage, which is a little concrete-block cabin, about a ten minute walk from the monastery. In this series, Merton talks about the Fall, Original Sin, and about how contemplatives view the Resurrection."

For your consideration:

FYI: In the third clip, Merton refers to a conversation on Christianity and the Resurrection that he had with one of his publishers who came from a Pittsburgh steel family. I think it is safe to assume he is referring to James Laughlin who, according to this article, published some of Merton's poetry.

A little connection: My late maternal grandfather, John Hoag, worked for 37 years as a millwright in the Jones & Laughlin Steel Co. (popularly known as "J & L") mill in Aliquippa, PA (owned in his final years there by LTV).

Friday, May 09, 2008

"Viva Obamus! Viva Nominatum!"

I loved the papel election coloring that Peggy Noonan added to her column "Damsel of Distress" in today's Wall Street Journal:

He's got this thing. And the Democratic Party, after this long and brutal slog, should be dancing in the streets. Party elders should be coming out on the balcony in full array, in full regalia, and telling the crowd, "Habemus nominatum": "We have a nominee." And the crowd below should be cheering, "Viva Obamus! Viva nominatum!"

Instead, you know where they are, the party elders. They are in a Democratic club on Capitol Hill, slump-shouldered at the bar, having a drink and then two, in a state of what might be called depressed horror. "What are they doing to the party?" they wail. "Why are they doing this?"

Petite Vanilla Scones

For the record: I love Starbucks' petite vanilla scones. But, I only get one at a time. Never three.

Go here and here for background.

Update: Dissent.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Hey There Delilah

For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," here is "Hey There Delilah" by Plain White T's.


Hat-tip: Ed

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

99 Balloons

This was the most sad and touching thing I've experienced in a long time:

For background, go here and here. Be sure to see the P.S. on the April 11 blog post.

Hat-tip: The Anchoress for catching a Deacon's Bench post that I missed.

Would you like spies with that?

Eric Schlosser, the author of “Fast Food Nation” and “Reefer Madness,” penned an interesting op-ed for today's New York Times about Burger King spying on activists seeking to gain better wages for farm workers.

Yes, Burger King.

From the op-ed:

And now it turns out that the Burger King Corporation, home of the Whopper, hired a private security firm to spy on the Student/Farmworker Alliance, a group of idealistic college students trying to improve the lives of migrants in Florida.

The Student/Farmworker Alliance and an affiliated nonprofit, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, have for years been urging the fast-food industry to accept some responsibility for the plight of Florida migrants who harvest the tomatoes for its hamburgers and tacos. I am a longtime supporter of their work. The wages of these farm workers, adjusted for inflation, have declined by as much as 70 percent since the late 1970s. And hundreds, perhaps thousands, of migrants have been enslaved by labor contractors and forced to work without pay. The McDonald’s Corporation and Yum Brands (which owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC) have agreed to subsidize a modest pay raise for their tomato pickers and work closely with the coalition to eliminate slavery from the fields. Burger King, however, has pursued a different strategy.

No decaf

Tonight, we went to dinner at Pepe Giallo, an Italian restaurant at 253 10th Avenue (in the West 20s) here in NYC.

I loved this disclaimer on their menu:

No Diet Coke

No decaf

No skim milk


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Novena from Concord

We are now in the week leading to Pentecost Sunday. A Concord Pastor is in the midst of a novena in anticipation of our celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit.

The image above is from

Also, a hat-tip to the Concord Pastor for the music clip at upper right.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Four Passions

Yesterday, I saw that this blog had received a nice shout-out from Chad, a Lutheran minister and the creator of the YouTube channel Journeys2008. Chad sent out thanks for the March 29 post that embedded his well-done videos featuring audio with Thomas Merton.

Below is the latest offering from Journeys2008 featuring Merton instructing the younger monks at Gethsemani, the Trappist monastery in Kentucky, sometime in the middle of the last century. Merton's talk on man's "four basic passions" (love, joy, fear and grief) is brilliant but complex. (I needed to listen to it more than once to catch everything.)

For your consideration:

Tofu in the 'burgh?

Longtime FOP* Heidi Price has a new story over at Pop City:

I like her opening line:

I really thought this would be an us versus them kind of story.

Photo above from Pop City is credited to Brian Cohen.

* Friend of Paul

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Disturbance in the Force


Hat-tip: dotCommonweal

Raised His Eyes

Today is the 7th Sunday of Easter. The Gospel at Mass today finds Jesus praying for his followers in anticipation of a time when he is no longer with them. To quote my parish priest in his homily today, the gospel speaks to "the intimacy between God the Father and Jesus the Christ."

From John Chapter 17:

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him. Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.

"I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began.

“I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me.

"I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you."

Friday, May 02, 2008


For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," below is Michael Bublé with "Everything."