Monday, March 30, 2009

Where's the Tofu?

Friar Rick from Canada has an interesting take on this past Saturday night's "Earth Hour" and B16's recent comments on condoms:

Thanks to another Toronto Catholic blogger, Vox Cantoris I read an interesting critique about the Earth Hour. It’s in the National Post. I guess I am partial to this point of view as I don’t really get the purpose… besides symbolic. However the social pressure to comply is great. It irks me. In a similar way I found myself, several times today, defending the Pope’s comments on condoms. The Pope’s comments on the plane, perhaps not savvy from a PR point of view… are in fact true. If women in some part of Africa are being abused and forced into dangerous sex… well of course a condom would help stop the transmission of HIV. The Pope certainly understands that. But what the Pope is asking… correctly... is why are women being put into that situation in the first place? Condoms are not the real issue. But when you say that condoms are not the solution… people look at you funny like you’re from another planet. I get the same look from people when I ask why we are turning our lights off for Earth Hour? They look at me as if I hate the planet and want to kill baby seals. But honestly, I don’t get the Earth Hour thing… besides being about PR. I really believe in good PR.. but I also believe in substance. Where’s the beef? Oops sorry… “Where’s the tofu!”

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Whole Point

On Thursday morning, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe during her trip to Mexico. As part of the visit to the basilica, she left a bouquet of white flowers on behalf of the American people.

I think it's very good that Secretary Clinton visited Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. The visit itself was a smart and thoughtful thing to do. And, I hope that HRC came away from it blessed and Spirit-filled.


There is a news report indicating that, when Secretary Clinton was shown the image of Our Lady, she asked, "Who painted it?".

It's possible she was misquoted. It was early in the morning. Maybe she misspoke. Maybe there was translation problem.

And, as a commenter said over at Deacon Greg's, "at least 'who painted it' is the right question to ask."

But, if she really did ask this, it shows that either Secretary Clinton or her handlers aren't doing their homework. "Who painted it" is the entire reason the image is what it is. There's not a massive cathedral outside of Mexico City because there's just a beautiful painting there.

Our belief in the miracle is the whole point of the place.

Note to the State Department: IF your boss really asked this question, it's an indicator that you need to improve your system for preparing her for the important work she has to do. A mistake like this in the Jerusalem or Mecca could have been much more damaging.

A final thought: IF this is true, it's no wonder HRC didn't gain the Democrats' nod for the White House. She didn't know a key detail about something that is very important in the lives of Mexican-Americans -- and many other Catholics in the United States.

God bless her.

The image above is from The Anchoress.

"I Have Glorified It"

Today is the Fifth Sunday of Lent.

At Masses where R.C.I.A. catechumens are present, today's Gospel reading will be the powerful account of the raising of Lazarus. For that passage, visit my 2008 post for this Sunday.

At other Masses, the Gospel will be a discourse of Christ exploring His role in salvation history.

From John Chapter 12:

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus."

Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.

"Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.

"I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name."

Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it and will glorify it again."

The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, "An angel has spoken to him."

Jesus answered and said, "This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself."

He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

A Concord Pastor has a good homily on this Gospel.

And, here is a video reflection on the passage:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

"A Brezhnev-era Apparatchik"

I haven't had the chance to do much research on British Tory MEP Daniel Hannan -- and I don't know a lot about the U.K. response to the financial crisis -- so I am posting the clip below without endorsement.

It's a powerful bit of oratory (albeit a rather rude way to address the head of one's government in an international forum):

FYI #1: Daniel Hannan's blog. (He's got a snarky writing style to match his oratory.)

FYI #2: The European Parliament (I don't know much about it. Do you?). Apparently, they have business casual days.

Hat-tip: The Anchoress who came to it from Gerald Warner. Sully had a related post, too.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Where the Headless Chicken Lands

The wisdom of South Park:

Hat-tip: Sully

If You Fall

How about some more from Eva Cassidy for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend"?

Here she is with Cyndi Lauper's 1984 hit "Time After Time." (I actually think it's a good song for Lent if you think about the lyrics in a spiritual context.)


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Love in the Time of Commenters"

I do not get many comments on this blog.

It's never really bothered me.

But, maybe it's why I'm still single:

FYI: Ann Althouse's blog.

Hat-tip: Alarming News

Full of Grace

For Catholics, today (March 25) is the Feast of the Annunciation (or, more formally, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord).

A song for the day:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Man Blind From Birth

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent or "Laetare Sunday." Like last Sunday, the readings at Mass varied if special prayers were being said over the R.C.I.A. catechumens.

If catechumens were not present, the Gospel reading was a discourse of Christ from John Chapter 3, including the well-known verse John 3:16.

As my parish did have two catechumens present, the Gospel at Mass we heard was the account of "the man born blind."

From John Chapter 9:

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means Sent—.

So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”

Some said, “It is," but others said, “No, he just looks like him.”

He said, “I am.”

So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”

He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’

So I went there and washed and was able to see.”

And they said to him, “Where is he?”

He said, “I don’t know.”

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.

He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.”

So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.”

But others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?”

And there was a division among them.

So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?”

He said, “He is a prophet.”

Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight.

They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?”

His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself.”

His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ, he would be expelled from the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; question him.”

So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner.”

He replied, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” So they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”

They ridiculed him and said, “You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from.”

The man answered and said to them, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.”

They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?”

Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”

Jesus said to him,“You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.”

He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.

Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind."

Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?”

Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.

A song for the day:

"...was blind but now I see":

Friday, March 20, 2009

B16 in Africa

A regular reader of this blog asked for my thoughts on the visit this week of Pope Benedict XVI to Africa.

I'm sorry to say that my annual spring cold/allergy thing has kept me from following the "Apostolic Journey to Cameroon and Angola" as closely as I would like.

But, the National Catholic Reporter's John Allen -- one of the best journalists on any beat -- today provided a report called "Benedict in Cameroon, a Tale of Two Trips." It should be required reading for anyone interested in commenting on the visit.

Some key graphs:

... I don't think I've ever covered a papal trip where the gap between internal and external perceptions has been as vast as over these three days.

It's almost as if the pope has made two separate visits to Cameroon: the one reported internationally and the one Africans actually experienced.

In the U.S. and many other parts of the world, coverage has been "all condoms, all the time," triggered by comments from Benedict aboard the papal plane to the effect that condoms aren't the right way to fight AIDS. In Africa, meanwhile, the trip has been a hit, beginning with Benedict's dramatic insistence that Christians must never be silent in the face of "corruption and abuses of power," and extending through a remarkable meeting with African Muslims in which the pope said more clearly and succinctly what he wanted to say three years ago in his infamous Regensburg address, and without the gratuitous quotation from a Byzantine emperor.

This is just a snip. The whole thing is worth reading.

The image above comes via the Boston Globe. It is attributed to Finbarr O'Reilly of Reuters. Caption: "A nun was among throngs greeting Pope Benedict XVI as he arrived in Yaounde, Cameroon, yesterday. He'll also visit Angola."

The Tennessee Waltz

For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," here is "The Tennessee Waltz" as performed live by Norah Jones.


Norah Jones flashbacks: "Come Away With Me" (Feb. '08) and "Don't Know Why" (Jan. '08).

My appreciation for "The Tennessee Waltz" stems largely from the final scene of the 1998 movie "Primary Colors."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Joseph & Child

For Catholics, today, March 19, is the Solemnity of St. Joseph.

Monsignor Hardiman, the pastor of St. Sebastian Church in the Woodside section of Queens, found this good image to illustrate the day:

This is "St. Joseph and the Child Jesus" by John Collier.

From Monsignor Hardiman:

John Collier is one of my favorite contemporary artists. Consider this wonderful painting of Joseph and the young Jesus. It can really help you, as it did and does me, to begin to get my head around the real people that they were. What elements do you see in the painting that draw your particular interest and contemplation?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ambassador Rooney

Pittsburgh certainly had some luck o' the Irish yesterday:

Steelers owner Dan Rooney (pictured above) was given the official nod by President Obama to be the next U.S. ambassador to Ireland.

From Ed Bouchette's article in the Post-Gazette:

Dan Rooney will soon earn the official title, yet he's always been an Irish ambassador with his Steelers and throughout the NFL. He's long been known as the league's voice of reason and conscience and, when it appeared war would break out or did between the league's players and owners, a man of peace.

Ireland may be gaining an ambassador, but the Steelers and the NFL are losing football royalty, a Hall of Famer and son of the franchise's founder who put personal integrity above all else while operating his team and dealing with its people.

His absence will be felt in Pittsburgh and across the NFL, where labor war clouds again are gathering. His son, Art Rooney II, succeeded his father as Steelers president in 2002, and the public will discern few changes in the way the team is operated, partly because Art has run the daily operations of the team anyway. And Art's chief adviser, his father, will remain only a phone call away in Dublin.

The image above is from the P-G.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Prayer of an Irishman

Thanks to James Hoag, one of my maternal great-grandfathers, yours truly is 12.5 percent Irish.

It is therefore with the pride of an Irishman that I pray you have a very blessed St. Patrick's Day!

For the Old Irish Blessing, please see my St. Patrick's Day posts in 2007 and 2008.

If you desire to skip the green beer today, be sure to read Mike's Busted Halo piece called "Five Ways to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Without Getting a Hangover."

And ... a bit o' speculation ... could Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney be the next U.S. ambassador to Ireland?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Corbett for PA Guv 2010!

PA Attorney General Tom Corbett has gone one step closer to becoming a candidate for governor of the Keystone State in 2010.

Salena Zito has the scoop:

Republican state Attorney General Tom Corbett today filed paperwork to establish an exploratory committee to run for governor in 2010.

Corbett, 59, of Shaler is expected to hold an evening conference call with key Republicans and state committee members to discuss his plans.

Corbett decided to run after talking with people across the state, party leaders and his family, said spokesman John Brabender.

Tom has supported me. I certainly support him. Flashback: A chilly autumn morning in Burgettstown, 2006.

Hat-tip: Joe Murzyn

Stopping the Presses in Seattle

The bad news from Seattle:

Seattle Post-Intelligencer to publish last edition Tuesday

Comfort Zone

A wise observation by author/illustrator turned guerrilla artist Keri Smith at The Wish Jar:

"The Unthinkable"

Clay Shirky, an adjunct professor at NYU, has a frank and helpful post on the newspaper industry -- specifically how the "revolution" that is/was the Internet contributed to the industry's decline. As Sully puts it, Shirky's take is "a brutal obituary."

Anyone who cares about newspapers will want to read the entire post.

But, here's one important quote:

Print media does much of society’s heavy journalistic lifting, from flooding the zone — covering every angle of a huge story — to the daily grind of attending the City Council meeting, just in case. This coverage creates benefits even for people who aren’t newspaper readers, because the work of print journalists is used by everyone from politicians to District Attorneys to talk radio hosts to bloggers. The newspaper people often note that newspapers benefit society as a whole. This is true, but irrelevant to the problem at hand; “You’re gonna miss us when we’re gone!” has never been much of a business model. So who covers all that news if some significant fraction of the currently employed newspaper people lose their jobs?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Word of the Woman

Today is the Third Sunday of Lent. For many parishes, the Gospel at Mass was the story of Jesus expelling the money changers from the temple area.

However, in parishes like mine where a special prayer was later said over the R.C.I.A. catechumens, the Gospel at Mass shows us Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well.

From John Chapter 4:

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there.

Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.

Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink."

His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.

The Samaritan woman said to him, "How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?" —For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—

Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

The woman said to him, "Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?"

Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water."

Jesus said to her, "Go call your husband and come back."

The woman answered and said to him, "I do not have a husband."

Jesus answered her, "You are right in saying, 'I do not have a husband.' For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true."

The woman said to him, "Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem."

Jesus said to her, "Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth."

The woman said to him, "I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything."

Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one speaking with you."

At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, "What are you looking for?" or "Why are you talking with her?"

The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, "Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?"

They went out of the town and came to him.

Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, "Rabbi, eat."

But he said to them, "I have food to eat of which you do not know."

So the disciples said to one another, "Could someone have brought him something to eat?"

Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, 'In four months the harvest will be here'? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. The reaper is already receiving payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For here the saying is verified that 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work."

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, "He told me everything I have done."

When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.

Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, "We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world."

Deacon Greg and A Concord Pastor have posted their homilies for this Sunday.

Flashback: Third Sunday, Lent '08

The image above is from here.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mayor Franco Harris?

I can't believe the news I miss living in New York. From Monday's P-G:

Pittsburgh friends: Exactly when were you going to alert me to this?!

If his name reads "Franco Harris" on the ballot, Franco "Dok" Harris could be a serious threat to Mayor Opie there in the epicenter of Steeler Country. (I like that "Dok" intends to run as an Independent.)

An aside: I'm looking forward to my friend Kevin Acklin throwing his hat into the ring for mayor of the 'burgh, as well.

Service of Apology, Service of Prayer

Deacon Greg, Rocco, A Concord Pastor and Monsignor Hardiman all took note yesterday of a very good thing that will happen on Holy Tuesday evening in Pittsburgh.

From Ann Rodgers' report in the Post-Gazette:

Bishop David Zubik of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh will hold a prayer service April 7 to apologize to anyone who has ever been hurt by someone acting in the name of the Catholic Church.

"If you have been harmed by the church in any way, I invite you to come. There will be nothing expected of you but your willingness to pray with me. No one will bother you," Bishop Zubik wrote in his column in the Pittsburgh Catholic. The service will be held at 7 p.m. in St. Paul Cathedral on Tuesday of Holy Week.

Although most publicity about people hurt in the Catholic Church has centered on those who suffered sexual abuse, many other concerns also will be addressed in the prayer service. Bishop Zubik's column mentioned people who have been spoken to harshly by church leaders, who felt they were unjustly let go from a church position or felt picked on by a teacher in a religious education class.

He spoke of a man who approached him recently who was upset that the bishop had not responded to a letter he had written.

"I had no recollection of the matter nor any recollection that the letter ever arrived. But that really didn't matter as much as the fact that the writer was hurt. He felt ignored, even rejected," the bishop wrote.

"Unfortunately, I am sure there were times where my actions or words were the cause of hurt."

Bishop Zubik makes me very proud to be a native son of the Steel City diocese.

(For this reason, too.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Red Roses Too

It's been far too long since the late great Eva Cassidy (1963 - 1996) made an appearance in the "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend." Here she is with the Louis Armstrong-standard "What a Wonderful World."


Flashback: "People Get Ready," Advent, 2007

Thursday, March 12, 2009

No-Newspaper Cities?

The front page of today's NYT carries another disturbing story about the future of newspapers in the United States. Metropolitan areas once served by two major papers may soon have no broad-circulation print outlets at all.

The bad news:

... some economists and newspaper executives say it is only a matter of time — and probably not much time at that — before some major American city is left with no prominent local newspaper at all. ...

For more than two centuries, newspapers have been the indispensable source of public information and a check on the abuses of government and other powerful interests. And they still reach a vast and growing audience. Daily print circulation has dropped from a peak of 62 million two decades ago to around 49 million, and online readership has risen faster, to almost 75 million Americans and 3.7 billion page views in January, according to Nielsen Online.

But no one yet has unlocked the puzzle of supporting a large newsroom purely on digital revenue, a fact that may presage an era of news organizations that are smaller, weaker and less able to fulfill their traditional function as the nation’s watchdog.

“I can’t imagine what civil society would be like,” said Buzz Woolley, a wealthy San Diego businessman who has been a vocal critic of the paper there, The Union-Tribune, and the primary backer of an Internet news site, “I don’t want to imagine it. A huge amount of information would just never get out.”

On this topic, a few days back, I mentioned my fears for the Observer-Reporter of Washington, PA. This article reminded me to also be concerned for the future of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (sample front page above).

Good Pick

The New York Times has selected Ross Douthat, a 29-year-old, pro-life Catholic, to be its next Op-Ed page columnist. He's taking the slot formerly held by Bill Kristol.

Douthat ("Dow-thut") is currently a blogger and senior editor at The Atlantic. He is co-author, with Reihan Salam, of the 2008 book "Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class And Save the American Dream."

It's a very good pick if you ask me.

I've quoted Douthat (pictured above) a few times in this space, most recently in regard to "The Flying Spaghetti Monster."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wednesday Morning Inspiration

A little inspiration for this Wednesday morning in March:

From Freddie25 in Sweden: "32 songs in 8 minutes":

Hat-tip: Sully

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Busted Halo: "Confession 101"

Catholics: Has it been a while since you last went to Confession (a.k.a. the Sacrament of Reconciliation)? Are you looking for a refresher course this Lent?

Non-Catholics: Have you ever wondered what Catholics do during Confession?

The good people at Busted Halo have some answers for you in this these two videos:

Monday, March 09, 2009

Fit to Print?

As much as I appreciate new media tools like blogs and YouTube and podcasts, I must say that am very worried about how good old-fashioned newspapers and magazines will survive this economic crisis. At least one or two mornings a week, I try to grab a New York Times while headed through Grand Central. For $1.50, it's both good reading for the train ride -- and a way to help the cause of print journalism.

I'm sad to say I can't do the same for my one-time employer of fond memory, the Observer-Reporter of Washington, PA. I'm especially concerned for how that old county daily is faring during this economic crisis. I visit the O-R Website everyday to keep up with the home front. If the O-R ever ceased to print, it would be a very serious blow to the economy, political life and community life of Washington and Greene counties in Pennsylvania.

In "The Media Equation" column of today's NYT Business section, David Carr writes about the troubled newspaper industry.

He begins:

Back when I was a young media reporter fueled by indignation and suspicion, I often pictured the dark overlords of the newspaper industry gathering at a secret location to collude over cigars and Cognac, deciding how to set prices and the news agenda at the same time.

It probably never happened, but now that I fear for the future of the world that they made, I’m hoping that meeting takes place. I’ll even buy the cigars.

Even casual followers of the newspaper industry could rattle off the doomsday tick-tock: a digitally enabled free fall in ads and audience now has burly guys circling major daily newspapers with plywood and nail guns. The Rocky Mountain News is gone, The San Francisco Chronicle is on the bubble, and dozens of others are limping along on the endangered list.

Magazine and newspaper editors have canceled their annual conferences (good idea: let’s not talk to one another). But perhaps someone can blow a secret whistle and the publishers and editors could all meet at an undisclosed location.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Transfigured Before Them

Today is the Second Sunday of Lent. The Gospel at Mass is the account of the Transfiguration of Jesus from the Gospel of Mark. (I have only just realized that the Transfiguration story is always the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Lent. In 2007, we read the account from Luke; in 2008, from Matthew.)

Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.

And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.

Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.

Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.

Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him."

Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.

Deacon Greg has an excellent homily for this Sunday.

The image above is from here.

Friday, March 06, 2009


For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," I've decided to go with the charming duet "Lucky" by Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat. Below is how it sounded live on a TV talk show.


I also like this version with Jason Mraz and a young woman (identified as "Clara" in Paris):

And, I'd be remiss if I did not mention this cover version of "Lucky" that (as of this writing) has been viewed more than 1.6 million (!) times on YouTube:

This is the fourth time that Jason Mraz has been featured in the "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."

Flashbacks: "Bella Luna" (Jan. '08), "The Rainbow Connection" (Feb. '08) and "I'm Yours" (April '08).

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Reader Request: L.A. REC Round-Up

A Concord Pastor has asked for a summary of my thoughts on the L.A. Religious Education Congress last week in sunny Anaheim, CA. I don't get many reader requests, so I'm happy to oblige now that I'm back in chilly NYC.

The good pastor's question is inside baseball -- the L.A. REC is sometimes controversial in the Catholic blogosphere for its speakers (sometimes thought of as "liberal" or "progressive") and its Masses (mostly upbeat with very dynamic music).

I cannot provide a truly thorough summary as I spent most of the L.A. REC helping to staff an exhibitor booth. I did not have the time to attend any of the sessions or workshops. This year's keynote speaker was Jim Wallis, the editor of Sojourners and a "liberal" or "progressive" evangelical to be sure.

This year, some Catholic bloggers were troubled by comments made by L.A.'s Cardinal Roger Mahoney in response to a question about the Tridentine Mass (a.k.a. "the Latin Mass") during an online chat. That's a complex issue that I apologize I cannot adequately address in this space.

I can say, however, that I had the chance to briefly watch Cardinal Mahoney in the exhibit hall as he chatted on-line. I think it was laudable that he granted such access. And, chatting online in a public place with your comments broadcast in real-time on nearby screens is not for the faint of heart.

I did have the opportunity to attend three Masses at this year's L.A. REC -- the Hawaiian liturgy on Friday evening, the young adult liturgy on Saturday evening and the closing liturgy on Sunday afternoon. (On Friday and Saturday evenings, the participants had several different liturgies from which to choose. Last year, in one of these time slots, I attended a "Celtic Mass." Two years ago, I attended a "Jazz Mass.")

I found all three Masses I attended at the L.A. REC last week to be spiritually uplifting. But, the young adult Mass on Saturday was likely the one I'll most remember. It was celebrated by Monsignor Ray East, the head of the Office of Black Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

Monsignor East was engaging, humorous and appropriately solemn -- all at the right moments. In his memorable homily, he spoke of efforts to invite lapsed Catholics back to Church. He also spoke of how we prepare for Christ -- doing so after stirring thought by singing a few notes from "Single Ladies" by Beyonce. (Before giving the closing blessing, he reminded all to "put a ring on it.")

In the Hawaiian Mass, there were a few unexpected aspects that might have given some pause. For instance, a woman wearing native Hawaiian dress was seated in what at the other Masses in the arena was the presider's chair. Unconventional to be certain -- but she never functioned as the priest celebrant (who sat facing the altar from another direction in the center of the arena). Also, in the Hawaiian Mass, a song was substituted for the "Lamb of God" that (while quite good by itself) did not convey that same prayer of appeal to God for mercy and peace.

Experts in sacred liturgy likely would have issues with these aspects and other parts of the Masses at the L.A. REC. (I'm not even going to touch on the whole question of liturgical dance.) But, these Masses did bring the Word of God and the Eucharist to tens of thousands of the Faithful.

A word on the attendance at this year's L.A. REC, which was given as 38,000. At least in the exhibit hall, the numbers did seem to be down a bit from last year -- notably on the Saturday. But, considering the state of the economy, this was not unforeseen.

Speaking of the exhibit hall, I cannot end without this observation: At the end of the 600 aisle, there was a booth for "The Stories of Caesar Chavez" directly next to the booth for

Now, that's a pairing only brought to you by the Catholic Church.

The image above is from

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

"Via Media"

Amy has moved to a new blogging home called "Via Media." Beliefnet is blessed to have her on board.

But, I have to say, I have long thought "Charlotte was Both" was a great name for a blog -- and I'm sad for that moniker's end. In case you forgot the inspiration:

It is not often that someone comes along who is both a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.

(E. B. White, the conclusion of "Charlotte’s Web.")

Monday, March 02, 2009

Pale Blue in Santa Monica

I am truly blessed.

I'm writing this from a coffee shop in Santa Monica, CA, just a few blocks from the promenade looking out onto the Pacific Ocean. I've stayed a extra few days in the Los Angeles-area to visit some of my old college friends after the end of the L.A. Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, CA.

It's a relatively cool day here but nothing compared to the blizzard that blasted NYC on Sunday.

A little earlier, I spent some time sitting at the end of the long Santa Monica pier. It was beautiful and peaceful. The sky and the ocean were both a very pale blue. The sun was peaking out from behind the light clouds. Some dolphins swam past.

It was one of those times when it's impossible not to contemplate God and creation:

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.

The photo above is from here.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

"The Spirit Drove"

I attended Mass for the First Sunday of Lent here in Anaheim, CA, at the close of the L.A. Religious Education Congress. The Gospel was a brief passage on Christ's 40 days in the desert.

From Mark Chapter 1:

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.

He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:

"This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."

In his homily, Cardinal Roger Mahoney observed that Mark wrote "the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert" as opposed to the other Gospel writers Matthew and Luke who wrote "the Spirit led Jesus into the desert."

"This is a radical difference," Cardinal Mahoney said, adding that we, too, sometimes are "driven" and sometimes are "led" by the Holy Spirit into our 40-day observances of Lent. With the economic crisis, said the cardinal, Lent 2009 may seem like one into which we are being "driven."

For the offering hymn of the Mass, the orchestra played the peaceful tune "Gabriel's Oboe" by Ennio Morricone. It's always a good listen.

The painting above is by Ivan Kramskoi (1837 - 1887). Hat-tip: Dr. Maureen Tilley