Thursday, December 31, 2009

All Soul Searchers

Hard to believe -- it's New Year's Eve.

Since we are approaching the start of the three-day break, here a bit early is this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."

"Christmas Song" by Dave Matthews is the pick. It's both a chill tune and fitting for this seventh day of Christmas. The lyrics are below.


She was his girl; he was her boyfriend
She'll be his wife; make him her husband
A surprise on the way, any day, any day
One healthy little giggling dribbling baby boy
The wise men came three made their way
To shower him with love
While he lay in the hay
Shower him with love love love
Love love love
Love love is all around
Not very much of his childhood was known
Kept his mother Mary worried
Always out on his own
He met another Mary for a reasonable fee, less than
Reputable as known to be

His heart was full of love love love
Love love love
Love love is all around
When Jesus Christ was nailed to the his tree
Said "oh, Daddy-o I can see how it all soon will be
I came to shed a little light on this darkening scene
Instead I fear I spill the blood of our children all around"

The blood of our children all around
The blood of our children all around
The blood of our children all around

So I'm told, so the story goes
The people he knew were
Less than golden hearted
Gamblers and robbers
Drinkers and jokers, all soul searchers
Like you and me

Rumors insisted he soon would be
For his deviations
Taken into custody by the authorities
Less informed than he.
Drinkers and jokers. all soul searchers
Searching for love love love
Love love love
Love love is all around

Preparations were made
For his celebration day
He said "eat this bread and think of it as me
Drink this wine and dream it will be"
The blood of our children all around
The blood of our children all around
The blood of our children all around

Father up above, why in all this hatred do you fill us up with love
Fill me love love love
Love love love
Love love
was all around

Father up above, why in all this anger do you fill
Me up with love
Fill me love love love
Love love love
You can't buy me
Love love love
All you need is
Love love love

And the blood of our children all around

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Christmas Comeuppance

It's the sixth day of Christmas.

I realize I've been rather whiny this year about the secular part of the holiday.

This photo of my little cousin David is my comeuppance:

Photo by my cousin Sara Snatchko.

Magi Punk

For many Western Christians, the Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated this coming Sunday.

Anticipating our celebration of the visit of the Magi, I am posting below a clip with a rendition of the famous carol "We Three Kings."

Ladies and Gentlemen, "We Three Kings" as covered by Blondie (!):

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"The Logic of Love"

Today is the fifth day of Christmas.

Some food for thought:

"Jesus' identification with the poor remains one of the greatest and most incomprehensible mysteries of the Gospels. How can God who is all powerful, all beautiful and all glorious become so powerless, so little, so weak?

The logic of love is different from the logic of reason and power.

When you love someone, you use her language to be close to her. When you love a child, you speak and play with him as a child. That is how God relates to us. God becomes little so that we will not be frightened of him, so that we can enter into a heart-to-heart relationship of love and communion.

The Word became flesh to reveal what is most precious in each one of us: our hearts; our thirst to be loved; and our capacity to love, be kind and compassionate and give life to others.

What is most important is not our knowledge or influence, but the love hidden in our hearts, which permits us to use our knowledge and gifts to serve others, to give life and build covenant relationships. ...

... Our God is not a God of rules, regulations, and obligations or a master teacher who wants to impose a path to salvation. Our God is a God of love and communion, a heart yearning to communicate to another heart the joy and ecstasy of love and communion that exist between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

-- Jean Vanier, a founder of L'Arche, an international network of communities centered around people who have developmental disabilities.

This passage is from "The Heart of L'Arche: A Spirituality for Every Day." (I added some of the paragraph breaks.)

The image above is from the Parish Blog of St. Edward the Confessor.

Beautiful and Complex

Christmas Eve afternoon, we went to see "Avatar."

To answer your first question: No, I did not see the film in 3D. (Note to Fandango: Tell me I have this option next time!)

"Avatar" is a complex film. It has many aspects, most of which I found appealing -- but others that require more consideration.

Directed by James Cameron of "Titantic" fame, "Avatar" is the story of a former U.S. marine (played by Sam Worthington) who goes to another planet to work for a private company that wants to mine a valuable substance from underneath the gigantic "home tree" of a native group on that planet.

The private company has a hired military unit (seemingly all Americans) as well as a team of scientists led by a character portrayed by the amazing Sigourney Weaver. The scientists have developed a program in which their brains control "avatars" that look like members of the "tribe."

That's sufficient background. You can guess what happens. "Avatar" really is "Dances with Wolves in Spaa-aace" combined with a "Titantic"-like romance and great battle scenes.

Did I mention the politics? "Avatar" deals with oppression of native peoples, blatant environmental destruction in the name of capitalism, racial transformation and maybe more.

Religion, too. The "tribe" has a developed belief system, sacred spaces and "prayer" methods. (It's a "connected to the energy of the forest" kind of thing.)

I loved "Avatar" for its effects, which are brilliant and engrossing. This is a beautiful movie to watch.

I enjoyed the romance, too. Cameron isn't the most subtle of directors -- but he knows how to make you care about his young romantic leads as they face unspeakable horrors.

And, the politics and religion? I need to see the movie again before commenting on these. There's more at issue than I can adequately address in this space. (I'll concede I did tear up when the massive bulldozers entered the tribe's sacred space.)

I did take note that the "bad guys" in this movie are quite clearly Americans (and marines!). When did we become the bad guys?! English-speaking bad guys are supposed to dress like Nazis and speak like Brits. (See: "Star Wars.")

I would not be surprised to see "Avatar" nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. And, if enough Academy voters prefer it to "Precious," "Inglorious Basterds" and a few other '09 flicks, it could take home the Oscar.

As of this writing, "Avatar" has an 83 percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes. It's deserved.

Over at YouTube, this young man says "Avatar" is the "Star Wars of my generation."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Diva Vote: The Anchoress

There's a poll asking who should be named the 2010 Grande Conservative Blogress Diva.

I voted for The Anchoress.

If you're so inclined, you can vote once a day until noon on December 31.

Early Monday, our "diva" penned this:

We hear a lot of talk about “quality of life” issues -- they go hand in hand with “Obamacare” issues and pro-life issues. My bottom line is always this: one person’s life may seem wasted, or unenviable, or horrifically difficult to another, but it is the life that person has -- in all of its difficulties, challenges and “deficiencies,” it is still the life that person has; he or she should be allowed to live it. If we are to err, let it be on the side of life.


"The Big Zero"

If you've had a bad day, don't read this column by Paul Krugman in today's New York Times.

Nut graph:

... from an economic point of view, I’d suggest that we call the decade past the Big Zero. It was a decade in which nothing good happened, and none of the optimistic things we were supposed to believe turned out to be true.

Full, Active & Conscious

I was remiss yesterday in doing a post on the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

A few days ago, over at There Will Be Bread, Fran opined that Mary was anything but a docile and passive participant in the history of salvation (as she is sometimes perceived).

Here are a few graphs from that reflection:

Little lady dressed in blue. That is an image of Mary that attracted me as a young girl and who seemingly called out to me as a 30-year-old woman who needed faith. Mary - sweet, lovely, docile, passive.

As if. ...

... Full, active and conscious participation is demanding; it is not the work of the docile or of the dilettante. Mary was neither. Mary was obedient however. Sadly, our contemporary use of language has demeaned obedient to mean, well - docile. ...

Mike also has a post on yesterday's feast.

Flashbacks: Feasts of the Holy Family 2008, 2007 and 2006.

The image above is attributed to G.E. Mullan. It comes via A Concord Pastor.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Of Politics, Sports & Poetry

Wednesday night, I saw "Invictus" at the Angelika. The latest directorial offering from Clint Eastwood, this fine film tells the story of a meeting of politics and sports in post-Apartheid South Africa.

"Invictus" is set in 1995, the year South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup. In the film, President Nelson Mandela hopes a tournament win by the South African team will help unify the racially-divided nation.

The great Morgan Freeman turns in a spot-on portrayal of Mandela, a stoic and strong George Washington-type who is all too rare on the world scene. (If only Afghanistan and Iraq each had a Nelson Mandela!)

Matt Damon has a key supporting role in "Invictus." He plays Francois Pienaar, the captain of the Springboks, South Africa's rugby team (then made up of almost entirely of white players).

Damon's performance is solid but the flat role easily could have been filled by an actor with less star power. Note to Academy voters: Avoid the temptation to nominate Damon for Best Supporting Actor for his work here. He's more deserving of a Best Actor nod for his quirky part in "The Informant!".

Another ingredient in the success of "Invictus" is its soundtrack. Some nice tunes, including one with some underlying Dvořák (I think).

"Invictus" currently has a 76 percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes. This YouTube guy didn't like it. These guys did.

"Invictus" takes its name from the poem by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903). Take a look:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Stealthy Raid On Our Nature

For the faithful, Christmas is a celebration of the Incarnation, the belief that God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ.

It's the idea that the creator of the universe physically entered his own creation in order to set aright that which had gone wrong -- to heal a wound.

That's no modest claim.

The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) called faith in the Incarnation a commitment to the absurd. (Source; More)

The French poet and playwright Paul Claudel (1868-1955) penned this tongue-in-cheek take on the Incarnation:

“When God took possession of the human form, when he appropriated it for his own use, when he placed himself within it in hypostatic union, he committed an unpardonable offense against justice, good sense and propriety. Until the end of time, intellectuals will respond with alternating indignation and amusement. There are certain things that are simply not done. … this transgressor caught in the very act of stealing back a possession we had every reason to regard as exclusively ours.

… He embezzled our funds for his own profit. In one stroke he reclaimed for his Father all that cultivated estate which we considered ours by tenants’ rights, under the terms of a hard-won agreement. …

Thanks to the complicity of the Virgin, there has been a stealthy raid on our nature. The damage is permanent; henceforth our walls are marred by a crack that for all our industry can never be mended again. … Our homes are no longer our own.”

-- from “I Believe in God, A Meditation on the Apostles Creed.”

The image above is a detail of "The Nativity" (c. 1303-1306) by Giotto di Bondone.

What Christmas Is All About

"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?" pleads Charlie.

Linus does:

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) saw it cosmically:

It is done.

Once again the Fire has penetrated the earth
Not with the sudden crash of thunderbolt,
riving the mountain tops;

does the Master break down doors to enter his own home?

Without earthquake, or thunderclap:
the flame has lit us the whole world from within.

All things individually and collectively
are penetrated and flooded by it,
from the inmost core of the tiniest atom
to the mighty sweep of the most universal laws of being:
so naturally has it flooded every element, every energy
every connecting link in the unity of our cosmos,
that one might suppose the cosmos to have burst
spontaneously into flame.

Hat-tips: Rocco and The Anchoress

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Turtle Doves

I'm still finding it difficult getting into the secular, cheery part of Christmas. The Christ Child I'm ready to welcome. Santa is another story.

I wish someone had told me this happens when you're still single without kids at 33. I would have worked harder at dating in college.

In the spirit of getting into the spirit, for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," below is Relient K's fun rendition of the "Twelve Days of Christmas."


Hat-tip: Pete W. who posted this on FB.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


For this evening, the final (and most well-known) "O" Antiphon:

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire of all nations and their Savior: come and save us, O Lord our God!”

In Latin:

And, the hymn -- in this version by Enya:

And, a take by Sufjan Stevens:

Cardio & Early Christians

Last night, while on the treadmill and elliptical at the gym, I watched part two of the PBS Frontline documentary "From Jesus to Christ." It provided a good deal of background and commentary on the early Christians.

Here's are two clips:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Cornerstone Who Makes All One

This penultimate "O" Antiphon:

O King of nations, and their Desired, the Cornerstone who makes all one: come and save our race, whom you formed out of clay.”

"King of nations" is "rex gentium" in Latin:

This antiphon makes me think of World Youth Day:

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sun of Justice

This evening's "O" Antiphon:

“O Dayspring, brightness of eternal Light and Sun of Justice; come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”

In Latin, "dayspring" is "oriens":

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta understood this:

"Depressing Year After Year"

I hate that I find myself agreeing with the results of this on-line poll:

PITTSBURGH – The most wonderful time of year is the loneliest time for singles, a telling new CatholicMatch poll reveals.

Nearly 3,000 members answered the question: “Which holiday do you find most difficult to be single?” Forty percent chose Christmas, while 32 percent said New Year’s Eve, 26 percent said Valentine’s Day and 2 percent said Thanksgiving.

The romantic scenes that play out in Christmas movies, commercials and songs – kissing couples, sparkling diamonds, happy endings – can painfully underscore the absence of a significant other, respondents said. “Is anyone familiar with that jewelry store Jared?” asked Monica-390419. “Their commercials are enough to make you gag. I recluse from Nov. 1 until Jan. 1, and then it’s safe to come out.”

Julio-512347 admitted, “In the past there have been occasions where I’ve just slept through it all and was glad it was over.”

A fire is less delightful with no one to hold tight or kiss goodnight, singles lamented. Even a beautiful Christmas Mass can be difficult, Katherine-489999 noted. “People kind of look at you as if to say, ‘So where is your guy or hubby?’ It makes me feel rotten.”

Attending holiday parties without a date is hard for many CatholicMatch members. “It’s like being alone in a crowd,” Donna-462418 explained. Others dread family gatherings, where uncles tease, aunts quiz and grandparents examine left hands. “You go to your families and see all your cousins and everyone engaged or newly married with newborns,” Daniel-228472 wrote. “It gets depressing year after year.”

But if Christmas induces the most pointed, prolonged sense of loneliness among singles, New Year’s Eve takes a close second. Respondents vented about the awkward midnight kiss and the lack of partnership entering into a new year. “Everyone is paired off and dressed up,” Denise-464246 wrote. “Sitting at home with my bottle of sparkling cider is boring – even if I put on my nice PJs.”


Sunday, December 20, 2009

You Open and No One Shuts

This evening's "O" Antiphon:

"O Key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel: you open and no one shuts; you shut and no one opens. Come and lead forth from his prison the captive sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death."

In Latin, "key" is "clavis":

Each of the "O" Antiphons begins with a title given to the Messiah. The prayers then state a belief in a certain aspect of God and conclude with a plea for salvation.

But, can our human brains ever fully comprehend and describe God?

My friend, Heather, addressed this question a few days ago in a post at her blog Word Play:

"I think it is a failing of human language to ever be able to express God in fullness."

Fourth Sunday

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent. The Gospel at Mass today features Mary and Elizabeth.

In the passage, Elizabeth is the first to say, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."

Deacon Greg has posted a fine homily on today's Gospel that could be simply titled "Welcome Home."

Fran also has a good reflection for this Sunday.

Flashbacks: Fourth Sundays 2008, 2007 and 2006.

The painting above is "Mary and Elizabeth" by Dorothy Webster Hawksley (1884-1970).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Many Splendored Thing

Many years ago, my maternal grandmother introduced me to the great 1955 movie "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" starring William Holden and Jennifer Jones. (Grandma had a thing for William Holden, I think.)

Jennifer Jones died Thursday at the age of 90.

Remarking on the actress' passing, Deacon Greg said, "To generations of Catholics, she will always be Bernadette" for playing the title role in the 1943 film "The Song of Bernadette." (Jones took home that year's Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of the young saint.)

Over at In All Things, Fr. Jim Martin, S.J., added:

... Jones' singular performance captivates me every time I see it: her Bernadette is luminous, mysterious and, finally, holy. Her artistry makes "The Song of Bernadette" one of those films that, once I see even a few moments, I must watch the whole movie. ...

In "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" Jones plays a woman who is saintly in her own way: Dr. Han Suyin, a "Eurasian" (Chinese-English) hospital physician living in British Hong Kong who falls in love with a married American journalist.

"Splendored Thing" is one of those admittedly schmaltzy movies from the '50s that is still genuinely romantic and sad. It's easy to watch again and again.

This clip has a few scenes:

A Sign for the People

It is Saturday afternoon in the third week of Advent. At this hour, here in New York City's Little Italy, the skies are gray and it's flurrying -- barely a dusting of snow on the fire escape.

There was a parade down Mulberry Street a little bit ago with lots of musicians, some of whom I can still hear in the distance.

Christmas approaches.

This evening's "O" Antiphon refers to Jesse:

"O Root of Jesse, who stood as a sign for the people, before you kings shall remain silent, and to you the Gentiles shall make supplication: come to deliver us, and delay not."

In Latin, "O Root of Jesse" is "O Radix Jesse":

"Equally Convenient Solutions"

Last night after work, I was riding the 1 train downtown when I saw this quote in a "SubTalk" advertisement on the train:

"To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the need for thought."

-- Henri Poincaré (1854-1912), credited to "Science & Hypothesis"

Friday, December 18, 2009

Lights Will Guide You Home

Normally, for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," I'd post a joyful Christmas carol. But, honestly, I'm just not feeling it.

Mind some Coldplay instead? Here's "Fix You."


Nice choral version:

And, a remix:

Hat-tip: Dave

With an Outstretched Arm

This evening's "O Antiphon":

O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, you appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: come, and with an outstretched arm, redeem us.”

Give a listen:

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Today, at 10:41 a.m., my cousin, Luke, and his fiance, Carrie, received their special delivery:

Lucy James Snatchko weighed in at five pounds, 12 ounces.

Welcome to the party, little cousin Lucy. May the Holy Spirit always be your guide.

And, a hearty congratulations to the whole Hickory Street crew in Burgettstown, PA!

Sweetly and Mightily

In the final week before Christmas, some Christian traditions pray what are called the "O" Antiphons during vespers (evening prayer). The well-known hymn "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" paraphrases these great verses.

Each of the "O" Antiphons begins with one of the ancient titles given to the coming Messiah.

Here is the prayer for this evening:

"O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and reached from end to end, and disposed of all things sweetly and mightily: come and teach us the way of prudence."

In Latin, "O Wisdom" is "O Sapientia":

"Thoroughly Theological"

Back to our regularly scheduled programming ...

In a NYT column earlier this week, David Brooks provided another notable take on President Obama's Nobel Lecture:

His speeches at West Point and Oslo this year are pitch-perfect explications of the liberal internationalist approach. Other Democrats talk tough in a secular way, but Obama’s speeches were thoroughly theological. He talked about the “core struggle of human nature” between love and evil.

More than usual, he talked about the high ideals of the human rights activists and America’s history as a vehicle for democracy, prosperity and human rights. He talked about America’s “strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct.” Most of all, he talked about the paradox at the core of cold war liberalism, of the need to balance “two seemingly irreconcilable truths” — that war is both folly and necessary.

He talked about the need to balance the moral obligation to champion freedom while not getting swept up in self-destructive fervor.

Obama has not always gotten this balance right. He misjudged the emotional moment when Iranians were marching in Tehran. But his doctrine is becoming clear. The Oslo speech was the most profound of his presidency, and maybe his life.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I got dumped today. The call came just before lunch, to be precise. I was at the office.

Being dumped over the phone wasn't the worst way it could have happened. Sure, in person, perhaps over some coffee, would have been better. But, by phone was a vast improvement over a previous means through which I was given my walking papers (A Facebook message).

The shove came after 12 dates over a seven-week period. At issue were my religion, my politics and differing financial values in a (potential) relationship. A disagreement over the proper visibility of Chinese delivery men in luxury apartment buildings was also a factor (go figure).

I didn't see it coming. And, quite frankly, I'm bummed, frustrated and a little angry.

Had I not been dumped today, I'd probably now be creating an upbeat post on the great article in today's New York Times about cookie tables at Pittsburgh weddings.

But, it's hard to focus my thoughts right now on connections Between The 'Burgh and The City. (And, perhaps it's a little difficult to get excited about a wonderful tradition for people who have found their mates.)

A few days ago, I came across Pearl Jam's chill song, "Just Breathe." It might be appropriate for the moment:

P.S. My cousin, Luke, and his fiance, Carrie, are expecting a special delivery tomorrow. Please keep them in your prayers.

That's way more important right now than any lunchtime phone calls received by yours truly.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Third Sunday

Today is the Third Sunday of Advent or "Gaudete Sunday."

On this day, we light the pink or rose-colored candle on the Advent wreath. It's a marker on our Advent journey that reminds us to "rejoice!" as we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child anew this Christmas.

To aid in our rejoicing, let's turn to the ACM Gospel Choir for a hymn:

Over at There Will Be Bread, Fran provides us "Gaudete" by Libera for this joyful Sunday:

Flashbacks: Gaudete Sundays 2008, 2007 and 2006.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Nobel Lecture

On Thursday, President Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize during a ceremony in Oslo, Norway. Regardless of one's opinion of the POTUS, his politics or polices, you can't deny that his somber Nobel lecture warrants study.

I was particularly intrigued by the President Obama's articulation of the just war theory. In doing so, he seems to be making an argument to his liberal/progressive political base against absolute pacifism.

The ghosts of Ghandi and Dr. King obviously haunt President Obama as he readies to send more young Americans to Afghanistan.

I was glad that the POTUS mentioned, even briefly, the demonstrators in Iran. (They really deserved this year's Nobel Peace Prize.) It's also interesting that he noted the parts Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan played in ending the Cold War.

For your consideration:

Analysis from Shields and Brooks:

Flashback: In TR's Footsteps?

Ruega Por Nosotros

For Catholics, today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

A Concord Pastor has several good posts related to this important feast day for the Church in the Americas.

In Spanish, we pray:

Dios te salve María,
llena eres de gracia,
el Señor es contigo,
bendita tú eres entre todas las mujeres,
y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre, Jesús.

Santa María,
Madre de Dios,
ruega por nosotros pecadores
ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte.


Flashbacks: 2006, 2007 and 2008

The image above is from here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Perfectly Themselves

Yesterday, December 10, was the 41st anniversary of Thomas Merton's death in 1968.

To mark the day, Deacon Greg posted this spot-on Merton quote:

"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them."

I need to remember this. The temptation to "twist" is often great.

The image above is from here.

A Feeling of Christmas

Tonight, as some friends and I left a late dinner at Arriba Arriba on 9th Avenue, the wintry winds forced us quickly into cabs for rides back to apartments in different parts of the city.

The chill gave me my first real Christmas feeling of 2009 -- and reminded me it was time to post a clip of "Silver Bells," as I did in 2007 and 2008. For new readers: "Silver Bells" was co-written by Jay Livingston, a native son of my hometown, McDonald, PA.

For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," here's a cover of that great old carol by Relient K.


"Silver Bells" made its debut in the 1951 film "The Lemon Drop Kid.":

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A 95th Birthday

I want to send congratulations today to my great-great uncle, Joseph Berger, on the occasion of his 95th birthday.

Uncle Joe is the youngest brother of my late maternal great-grandmother, Mary Berger Vincenti (1911-1999).

He's pictured at far right in the old photo above with Grandma Vincenti and two of their three half-brothers, Jules and Simmie Bohey. I'm sorry to say I don't know the year the image was created.

Uncle Joe was born December 10, 1914, the son of Peter Berger and Amelia Moulton Berger. Peter and Amelia had immigrated separately from Belgium sometime around the turn of the century and settled in McDonald, PA.

The town, which had a glass factory in those days, became the home of many Belgian immigrants. It has a "Belgium Hill" and a "Belgium Club." A patch of houses in a village west of McDonald is still called "Belgium Hollow."

Uncle Joe grew up in McDonald and went to school there. On June 8, 1942, he married the former Rose Dusie. They made their home and raised two daughters, Barbara and Natalie, in nearby Houston, PA. Aunt Rose died in 2000.

An avid golfer, Uncle Joe worked was an agent for Ashland Oil and Refining Company and operated a bulk plant in the village of Wolfdale. He then spent 16 years with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, retiring as a manager of purchasing and stores in 1979.

Uncle Joe's 95th is a milestone for my family. To my knowledge, we've never had someone live to within five years of their centenary. I have two other relatives coming close, however. My maternal great-great uncle, Ray Vincenti, and my paternal great aunt, Rosanna Snatchko Pancirov, are both also in their early 90s.

I was glad to have the chance to see Uncle Joe when I was in Pennsylvania a few weeks ago for Thanksgiving. We visited as he had dinner at his new residence, The Willows at Presbyterian SeniorCare in Oakmont, PA.

A small party was held today at The Willows in honor of Uncle Joe's 95th.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A Religious Man? Oui.

Today is the 30th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

The churchman and television personality died here in New York on December 9, 1979. His remains lie in the crypt beneath the main altar at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

To mark this anniversary, I could post one of Archbishop Sheen's famous quotes or perhaps a clip from his '50s network television show "Life is Worth Living."

But, the YouTube clip below is a little more fun -- and certainly speaks to Sheen's popular following in the mid-20th century:

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Like Mary

For Catholics, today is the "Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary."

It's a day when we recall how God prepared Mary to be the mother of Jesus. It's a good occasion to think about how God prepares us for the challenges we face in life.

A Concord Pastor has several posts on the solemnity.

Over at Googling God, Mike has penned a reflection about one of his college friends who died 14 years ago today:

"... It is no surprise to me that Dave died on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Like Mary, he accepted his lot in life despite knowing that pain was on the other side. ..."

The photo accompanying this post shows a 2005 painting by old college buddy, Anthony Santella. It's entitled "Girlhood of the Virgin."

Flashbacks: I.C. 2008 and 2006.

Living with Dispassion

For most of this year, I've been surprised by how little President Obama seems to be part of the national conversation.

Is it just me? Am I not paying sufficient attention to his speeches?

Or, is the current POTUS really not a dynamic part of the day-to-day dialogue on the country's affairs -- in the style of Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan?

Last week in his NYT column, David Brooks touched on this.

The column's bookends:

Many Democrats are nostalgic for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign — for the passion, the clarity, the bliss-to-be-alive fervor. They argue that these things are missing in a cautious and emotionless White House.


The advantage of the Obama governing style is that his argument-based organization is a learning organization. Amid the torrent of memos and evidence and dispute, the Obama administration is able to adjust and respond more quickly than, say, the Bush administration ever did.

The disadvantage is the tendency to bureaucratize the war. Armed conflict is about morale, motivation, honor, fear and breaking the enemy’s will. The danger is that Obama’s analytic mode will neglect the intangibles that are the essence of the fight. It will fail to inspire and comfort. Soldiers and Marines don’t have the luxury of adopting President Obama’s calibrated stance since they are being asked to potentially sacrifice everything.

Barring a scientific breakthrough, we can’t merge Obama’s analysis with George Bush’s passion. But we should still be glad that he is governing the way he is. I loved covering the Obama campaign. But amid problems like Afghanistan and health care, it simply wouldn’t do to give gauzy speeches about the meaning of the word hope. It is in Obama’s nature to lead a government by symposium. Embrace the complexity. Learn to live with the dispassion.

The photo above is from here.

Monday, December 07, 2009

World's Largest Library

Quote of the day, from the bulletin board in the computer lab at my gym:

"The Internet is the world's largest library. It's just that all the books are on the floor ... "

- Attributed to John Allen Paulos

The image above is from here.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Second Sunday

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent.

In the Gospel reading for this Sunday of the liturgical year, we always hear John the Baptist calling us to be prepared for what's coming.

We need John the Baptist figures -- brave men and women who call us out of our comfort and complacency. As Jesuit Father Alfred Delp (1907 - 1945) once said:

"Blessed is the era that can honestly claim that it is not a desert wilderness. Woe, however to the era in which the voices calling out in the wilderness have fallen silent, shouted down by the noise of the day, or prohibited, or drowned in the intoxication with progress, or restricted and quiet out of fear and cowardice. ...

... John the Baptist figures, forged by the lightning of mission and vocation, should never be lacking from life, not for a moment. They are led by their hearts, and that is why their vision is so keen and their judgment is so incorruptible. ... "

Father Delp was executed on February 2, 1945, for being part of the German resistance to the Nazis. (His quote is from here.)

The late great Eva Cassidy once performed a superb version of "People Get Ready" that I think fits perfectly with this Sunday:

Here's another artist with a similar style:

Flashbacks: Second Sundays of Advent 2008, 2007 and 2006.

The photo above is by Corey. My suggested title: "Advent Clouds over Cambodia."

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Your Better World

It's Saturday afternoon in the first week of Advent.

In a comment on last Sunday's post, my cousin Casey asked for a picture of an Advent wreath here on the blog. I'm happy to provide such an image above (courtesy of Rocco).

This week, I also discovered the hymn text below. It seems a very appropriate prayer for Advent:

Behold a broken world, we pray,
Where want and war increase,
And grant us, Lord, in this our day,
The ancient dream of peace:

A dream of swords to sickles bent,
Of spears to scythe and spade,
The weapons of our warfare spent,
A world of peace remade.

O Prince of peace, who died to save,
A lost world to redeem,
And rose in triumph from the grave,
Behold our waking dream.

Bring, Lord, your better world to birth,
Your kingdom, love's domain;
Where peace with God, and peace on earth,
And peace eternal reign.

By: Timothy Dudley-Smith, b. 1926.

Copyright 1989, Hope Publishing Co.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Big Lights Will Inspire You

Last night, my date and I met by the clock in the center of Grand Central. Braving traffic and tourists, we walked north to Rockefeller Center to check out the Christmas tree (which, actually, looked a bit smaller this year).

From there, we strolled crosstown to Hell's Kitchen for a yummy Thai dinner at Yum Yum on Ninth Avenue. Then it was an R train downtown to Nolita for drinks ($4 Bourbon Cherry Cokes) at Vig Bar.

It was a quintessential Manhattan night -- and it put me in an "Empire State of Mind." So, that's this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."


Hey, if the Vatican can get into Tupac, I can post some Jay-Z.

Here's Alicia Keys' solo take on "Empire State of Mind":

Thursday, December 03, 2009

A Too-Weak America?

Yesterday in a NYT op-ed column, Thomas Friedman disagreed with the POTUS' decision to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

Here is a key graph as Friedman worked out his thoughts:

"Many big bad things happen in the world without America, but not a lot of big good things. If we become weak and enfeebled by economic decline and debt, as we slowly are, America may not be able to play its historic stabilizing role in the world. If you didn’t like a world of too-strong-America, you will really not like a world of too-weak-America — where China, Russia and Iran set more of the rules."

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Marriage in America

Earlier today, the Democrat-controlled New York State Senate struck down a bill that would have legalized gay marriage in the Empire State. The vote was 38 to 24 with eight Democratic senators voting nay, including four from Queens and two from the Bronx.

One of the state senators who spoke in favor of the bill was Senator Diane Savino of the 23rd District, which includes parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn.

I had never heard of Senator Savino before today. I don't know anything about her beyond what I've read at her Website.

But, her animated remarks on the Senate floor provide ample food for thought about the institution of civil marriage itself (don't miss the story that begins at 3:10). A self-identified Catholic, Savino also draws a distinction between civil marriage (what city hall makes legal) and sacramental marriage (what the Church defines).

Things to consider:

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

65 Million

Today is World AIDS Day.

From Catholic Relief Services:

In the 25 years since the virus was first detected, 65 million people around the world have contracted HIV, with millions more affected. The impact of the growing numbers—and the millions of children left behind—endanger the development of many regions of the world.

Flashbacks: World AIDS Days 2008 and 2007.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Sunday

Today is the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the Church's new liturgical year.

I went to the 8:30 a.m. (!) Mass at my hometown parish, St. Alphonsus, in McDonald, PA.

Please check out last Sunday's entry if you were a reader of my weekly Sunday Gospel posts.

Flashbacks: First Sundays of Advent 2008, 2007 and 2006.

A Concord Pastor has several posts for the start of the new season.

The photo at right is by Corey.

Friday, November 27, 2009

You Know I'm Bound

I'm writing today from the Panera at Settlers Ridge, a new shopping and entertainment development southwest of Pittsburgh. I've been in PA since Wednesday evening for the long Thanksgiving weekend.

In keeping with the holiday, I wanted to choose a tune related to "giving thanks" for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."

So, below is Natalie Merchant's 1998 ballad "Kind and Generous." It's cheesy but appropriate.


Hat-tip: Ed

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Kissinger on Obama

From an elder:

“He reminds me of a chess grandmaster who has played his opening in six simultaneous games ... But he hasn’t completed a single game and I’d like to see him finish one.”

-- Henry Kissinger on the POTUS, as quoted here.

Hat-tip: Sully


Quote of the week:

“An alcoholic is someone who can violate his standards faster than he can lower them.”

-- Robin Williams, from "Opening Wide His (Repaired) Heart" in Sunday's New York Times

The NYT photos above by Jay Paul.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Soar to Uncreated Light

In the spirit of mixing it up ...

Tonight, I went to the 7 p.m. Sunday Mass at St. Patrick's Old Cathedral in SoHo/Nolita. I'm pleased to report that the number of young adults at this new Mass time for Old St. Pat's continues to grow.

The Mass was celebrated by Fr. Jonathan Morris. In his homily for this Solemnity of Christ the King, Fr. Morris spoke of how, unlike the great kings of history and their elaborate thrones, Jesus' throne is the Cross.

For the offertory hymn, cantor Joshua South beautifully sang Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring."

Here's that piece as performed by some other guy named Josh:

Jesu, joy of man's desiring
Holy wisdom, love most bright

Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light

Word of God, our flesh that fashioned
With the fire of life impassioned
Striving still to truth unknown
Soaring, dying round Thy throne

End of The Cycle

For Catholics and some other Christian traditions, this Sunday is the final Sunday in the liturgical year. On this day, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. Next week, a new liturgical year begins with the First Sunday of Advent.

So today, this blog marks a milestone. It marks the end of three years of posts on the Sunday Mass readings, most of which included the full text of the Gospel passage.

I began posting on the Mass on the First Sunday of Advent 2006. It was a significant move for the blog that previously had been used to promote my 2006 PA State House race.

Looking back, I can't remember my thought process on expanding into topics of faith and spirituality on the blog. But, I'm certainly glad I did. And, of course, the change came shortly before my professional move from political campaign management to Catholic publishing.

But, since the scripture readings at Sunday Mass are presented in a three-year cycle, I have decided that now is a good time to end my weekly feature with the text of the Sunday Gospel -- mostly because I'm afraid I might begin to repeat myself.

It's quite likely I will still post an entry on many Sundays about that day in the liturgical year or about something I saw or heard at Mass. I'm just going to mix it up.

This Sunday's Gospel at Mass is certainly a good one with which to conclude the series. In the passage from the Gospel of John, Jesus talks about the nature of his Kingdom and why he came into the world.

From John Chapter 18:

Pilate said to Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?"

Jesus answered, "Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?"

Pilate answered, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?"

Jesus answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here."

So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?"

Jesus answered, "You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."

A Concord Pastor has posted a good homily for today's solemnity as well as several versions of the hymn "Crown Him With Many Crowns."

As part of this concluding weekly feature, it has been my honor to recommend several other bloggers who comment on the Sunday Gospels. In addition to the good pastor from the Bay State, these fellows have most often included Deacon Greg, Fran and Mike. Please be sure to keep them in your favorites list.

The image above is from here.

REM on the Red-Eye

This morning, I flew into JFK on the Delta red-eye from San Francisco. It was probably the first time I achieved REM sleep on an overnight flight (which I usually try to avoid).

I was in northern California since Thursday exhibiting for my gig at a multi-diocese faith formation conference in Santa Clara.

This last business trip of 2008 was uneventful. The conference had a disappointing attendance on Friday but was quite good on Saturday. On Friday evening, we had dinner at the Mediterranean restaurant Thea in San Jose. Enjoyed it.

Perhaps the most interesting moments of the visit came on the Super Shuttle to and from the airport. On the way to Santa Clara, we passed through the very attractive and pedestrian-friendly downtown of Mountain View, the home city of Google.

And, en route back to SFO last night, we stopped on the campus of Stanford University (my first time there) near the end of the fourth quarter of the big game against Cal.

The four Standford guys in the shuttle (all headed back to the East Coast for Thanksgiving) were bummed to be leaving the campus in the final moments of the close game -- and kept checking on the score.

They were less disappointed to be leaving after hearing of their team's 34-28 loss. :-(

Friday, November 20, 2009

Strangers Waiting

Up until a year or so ago, I hated the old Journey standard "Don't Stop Believin'." I found Steve Perry's vocals grating and the lyrics downright cheesy.

But, as the tune has reemerged in recent years, I've come around. I've seen how many people enjoy "Don't Stop" as those first well-known notes are heard. It's undeniably catchy and even uplifting.

So, for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," here it is as performed by the famous PS22 Chorus.


For good measure, below is a clip of the PS22 Chorus showing their vocal talents on another hit from the early 1980s, "Eye of the Tiger":