Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pooh's Best Friend

Andrew Sullivan today pointed to this bit of levity on swine flu:

(Apologies for the language.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mariah Paige

Some family news:

I became an uncle again yesterday. My younger sister, Kristy, gave birth to a daughter at 11:31 a.m. The name of my first niece is Mariah Paige. She weighed in at 5 pounds, 6.5 ounces.

The new arrival makes a brother out of Kristy's son, Ethan John, age 5. Ethan and I have talked about what it means to be a "big brother."

And, Mariah Paige will be a new cousin to Aiden Joseph.

Welcome to the party, Mariah Paige! May the Holy Spirit always be your guide.

An aside: I don't think my sister knows this but there's an old Broadway tune evoking the name she's given to her newborn. Here's one version of that song:

And, a more traditional version:

Monday, April 27, 2009

NCCL in Dearborn, MI

Today through Wednesday, yours truly will be blogging from Dearborn, Michigan.

I'm here exhibiting for my gig at the 73rd annual gathering of the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. NCCL is a professional development organization for Catholics who serve as directors of religious education for their dioceses and parishes.

I've been to Detroit once before but this is my first visit to Dearborn, the world headquarters of Ford.

Hopefully, the prayers of the 600 or so catechists here this week will bring some peace for the beleaguered auto industry.

Flashback from NCCL '08: "A Mellow Heart".

A Pal & A Confidant

First Sophia. Now Dorothy also goes to that great lanai in the sky.

R.I.P. Bea Arthur (1922 - 2009).

In Memoriam:

Hat-tip: John, who broke the news to me Sunday morning via Facebook.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hands, Feet, Flesh, Bones & Baked Fish

Today is the Third Sunday of Easter. The events of the morning brought me to the Financial District so I went to the 12:15 p.m. Mass at Our Lady of Victory, the small red brick church at the corner of William and Pine streets.

It was a solid Mass with a respectable turn-out for what is a less-densely populated part of Manhattan. I'd say about 65 percent of those in the pews were in their 20s and 30s.

In his fine homily, Monsignor Filacchione looked at the word "witness" in the day's readings -- particularly its use in the last line of the Gospel passage.

From Luke Chapter 24 (just after the account on the road to Emmaus):

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you."

But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have."

And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?"

They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled."

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

And he said to them, "Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."

A Concord Pastor, in his homily on today's readings, explains why that baked fish is important.

The image above is from here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Clothed in Humility

The first reading from today's daily Mass is from the First Letter of St. Peter. The passage from Chapter 5 contained this thought-provoking quote:

"Beloved: Clothe yourselves in humility in your dealings with one another, for:

God opposes the proud
but bestows favor on the humble.

So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exult you in due time. Cast all of your worries upon him because he cares for you."

The image above is from here. The entry states that it is an interior shot from Thomas Merton's hermitage. (T.M. thought and wrote a lot about humility before God.)

Funny the Way It Is

I've been told by a reader or two of this space that the odd personal story makes for the most interesting copy. So, gentle reader, I shall introduce one of our weekly features with a little vignette.

Tonight, I went to dinner with someone with whom I am/was interested in going out on a date. It was a very casual thing as we have known each other for almost a year through a political group. We had spoken earlier in the day and agreed to likely touch base in the evening after we both were in the city. We met at a local bar and then went to dinner at a nice but not expensive Thai restaurant.

I thought dinner went quite well. Nice conversation, tasty red curry chicken, etc.

Then, outside the restaurant, things took an almost instantaneous nose-dive.

My "sorta date" leaves. A call from me goes unanswered. Odd text messages follow. A snide message awaits in my Facebook inbox.

In college, when faced with this type of stress, I'd often listen to the Dave Matthews Band -- usually beginning with "Crash."

So, for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," here is the new DMB single "Funny the Way It Is." I think I like it ... still contemplating.


Song hat-tip: Liz in my office

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Manhattan visits the Strip

The blogger behind "Catholic Churches of Manhattan" has apparently visited the 'Burgh.

In the old days (circa 1997 - 2001), we used to hit the clubs on Smallman Street before you reached St. Stan's. I'm a little sorry that's my strongest association with this impressive Church building.

On Blogging

Regular readers of this space know that I often link to The Anchoress and Deacon Greg.

Want to see what they look like?

Here they are discussing blogging on NET:

FYI: Featured in the second half of the clip are Dr. McNamara and Grant Gallicho of dotCommonweal.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Good Tired = Vocation Fits

Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ, has penned a good article on vocations titled "Ride the Current" for 100th Anniversary edition of America magazine.

I thought this was an especially wise observation:

When a vocation fits who we are, by living it we feel ourselves growing into a stronger, truer self, even though the going gets rough and at times we feel confused and tired. The kind of “tired” we feel is worth noting. It is not that heavy, sad fatigue we carry around like a low-grade fever, a form of depression. Life work demands genuine expenditure. We spend ourselves, maybe exhaust ourselves. But the energy flowing out of us feels natural, just the opposite of feeling pulled at by others, who have their own ideas about what we ought to be doing. When we let this happen, we feel resentful and cranky and sad.

A few years back, when I was running for office, I often found this to be the case. At the end of a day of campaigning, I was usually exhausted -- but often in a satisfying way.

Monday, April 20, 2009

In Memoriam: Gary Vincenti, 1953 - 2009

This morning brought the news that Gary Vincenti, my first cousin twice removed, died Sunday at the age of 56. He had lived for decades with multiple sclerosis.

Please keep Gary and his wife, Laura, in your prayers.

From the prayers at the end of the funeral Mass:


May the angels lead you into paradise,
may the martyrs come to welcome you,
and take you to the holy city,
the new and eternal Jerusalem.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Peace, Doubt, Belief, Signs

Following two relaxing days of visiting some old college friends in Los Angeles, I arrived early this morning in NYC via the JetBlue red-eye from Long Beach to JFK. After a few hours of sleep back at my place, I ventured out to the 12:45 p.m. Mass in English at nearby St. Patrick's Old Cathedral.

(I think 12:45 p.m. is a great time for Mass -- perfect for the occasional lazy Sunday morning. It's the fourth Mass each Sunday at Old St. Pat's. There's an earlier Mass in English followed by Masses in Chinese and Spanish.)

For Western Christians, today is the second Sunday of Easter. For Catholics, it is also "Divine Mercy Sunday."

The Gospel at Mass included the account of Jesus' post-Resurrection appearance to the disciples, as well as the story of "Doubting Thomas."

From John Chapter 20:

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."

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord."

But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you."

Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe."

Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

Deacon Greg looks at the example of the inspiring Susan Boyle of "Britain's Got Talent" fame in his homily on Divine Mercy and Doubting Thomas.

Meanwhile, A Concord Pastor is considering doubt. The good pastor also has posted multiple images illustrating today's Gospel passage (including the one used above).

And, last but not least, Amy is recalling that today is also the fourth anniversary of the election of B16 and the 14th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Both Shall Row

Our Eva Cassidy series will continue for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend." Here she is with "The Water is Wide."


Here's another nice version:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

NCEA in Anaheim

Yesterday, I arrived here in Anaheim, CA, for the annual convention of the National Catholic Educational Association. It's the third time I've exhibited at this one for my gig.

Today's keynote speaker was Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona. In his fine presentation, Bishop Kicanas spoke of how Catholic school teachers can help achieve the five pastoral priorities of the U.S. Catholic Bishops.

I love getting to spend the week in sunny and warm southern California. But, I must say, I do regret not being in Gotham for all of the excitement today and tomorrow at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Endless Song

Easter Monday morning deserves some music.

This peaceful take on "How Can I Keep From Singing?" might work:

Song Hat-tip: The Anchoress

An aside: Yesterday, for Easter dinner, we went to Zenon Taverna in Astoria, Queens. It was a good place. I'd recommend it. Among the fellows were Mike and Deanna (who was featured yesterday on NPR).

"Not a Fairy Tale"

B16 had very strong words Sunday in the annual Easter "Urbi et Orbi" ("To the City and the World") greetings. Here are two passages that struck me:

... The resurrection, then, is not a theory, but a historical reality revealed by the man Jesus Christ by means of his "Passover", his "passage", that has opened a "new way" between heaven and earth (cf. Heb 10:20). It is neither a myth nor a dream, it is not a vision or a utopia, it is not a fairy tale, but it is a singular and unrepeatable event: Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, who at dusk on Friday was taken down from the Cross and buried, has victoriously left the tomb. In fact, at dawn on the first day after the Sabbath, Peter and John found the tomb empty. Mary Magdalene and the other women encountered the risen Jesus. On the way to Emmaus the two disciples recognized him at the breaking of the bread. The Risen One appeared to the Apostles that evening in the Upper Room and then to many other disciples in Galilee.

The proclamation of the Lord's Resurrection lightens up the dark regions of the world in which we live. I am referring particularly to materialism and nihilism, to a vision of the world that is unable to move beyond what is scientifically verifiable, and retreats cheerlessly into a sense of emptiness which is thought to be the definitive destiny of human life. It is a fact that if Christ had not risen, the "emptiness" would be set to prevail. If we take away Christ and his resurrection, there is no escape for man, and every one of his hopes remains an illusion.


If it is true that death no longer has power over man and over the world, there still remain very many, in fact too many signs of its former dominion. Even if through Easter, Christ has destroyed the root of evil, he still wants the assistance of men and women in every time and place who help him to affirm his victory using his own weapons: the weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love. This is the message which, during my recent Apostolic Visit to Cameroon and Angola, I wanted to convey to the entire African continent, where I was welcomed with such great enthusiasm and readiness to listen. Africa suffers disproportionately from the cruel and unending conflicts, often forgotten, that are causing so much bloodshed and destruction in several of her nations, and from the growing number of her sons and daughters who fall prey to hunger, poverty and disease.

I shall repeat the same message emphatically in the Holy Land, to which I shall have the joy of travelling in a few weeks from now. Reconciliation - difficult, but indispensable - is a precondition for a future of overall security and peaceful coexistence, and it can only be achieved through renewed, persevering and sincere efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My thoughts move outwards from the Holy Land to neighbouring countries, to the Middle East, to the whole world. At a time of world food shortage, of financial turmoil, of old and new forms of poverty, of disturbing climate change, of violence and deprivation which force many to leave their homelands in search of a less precarious form of existence, of the ever-present threat of terrorism, of growing fears over the future, it is urgent to rediscover grounds for hope. Let no one draw back from this peaceful battle that has been launched by Christ's Resurrection. For as I said earlier, Christ is looking for men and women who will help him to affirm his victory using his own weapons: the weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love. ...

Hat-tips: Amy and Rocco (from whom the Reuters photo above is shamelessly cribbed)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Clothed in a White Robe

Tonight (I'm writing this after midnight), I attended the Easter Vigil Mass at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle on Manhattan's West Side. It was the second year that I was blessed to be a sponsor of one of R.C.I.A. candidates at St. Paul's.

The liturgy was extraordinary: the darkened church and the Easter fire, the singing of the Exsultet, seven Old Testament readings plus the Psalms, the Easter Gospel and Fr. Jamie's lively homily, five baptisms (four adults and one baby), 11 confirmations, the liturgy of the Eucharist, the powerful music. It left me very joyful.

The Gospel was the account of the visit of Mary Magdalene and the other women to the tomb. The passage states that a "young man clothed in a white robe" tells the women that Jesus has risen from the dead. (Tonight, white robes also were worn by those being baptized, confirmed and received into full communion with the Church.)

From Mark Chapter 16:

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him.

Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.

They were saying to one another, "Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?"

When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large.

On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, "Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.'"

Tonight, the final Communion song of the Easter Vigil Mass was "In The Breaking of the Bread." It's actually a song about the Emmaus story but I thought it worked quite well for the celebration of First Holy Communions on Easter:

The image above is from here.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Good Friday in the Village

Last night, some friends and I took part in the annual Good Friday Way of the Cross through New York City's SoHo, East Village and Greenwich Village neighborhoods. It was the second year I walked in this special nighttime procession.

Leaving from St. Patrick's Old Cathedral in SoHo a little after 9 p.m., the group of about 75 (mostly) young adults set out carrying candles, tiki torches and simple wooden crosses. At the head of the procession, a seminarian carried a large image of the face of Christ.

Led by Fr. Luke Sweeney of the Archdiocese of New York Vocations Office, we prayed all 14 Stations of the Cross using prayers and meditations by St. Alphonsus Liguori.

We prayed most of the stations in front of the neighborhood's many Catholic churches, including Nativity Church and La Salle Academy, St. Stanislaus, St. George's Ukrainian, Our Lady of Pompeii and St. Veronica's. But, we also prayed stations in Tompkins Square Park, Union Square Park, in front of the Washington Square Arch and in Sheridan Square.

Remembering the unborn, we prayed the second station in front of the Planned Parenthood office on Bleecker Street. Remembering the sick, we prayed the 13th station in front of St. Vincent's Hospital.

We ended after midnight with the 14th station in front of the University Parish of St. Joseph in Greenwich Village on Sixth Avenue.

We sang as we walked between stations -- thanks in large part to two men who carried the portable amplifiers on their backs. (The biggest concern of the night may have been keeping the amplifiers dry when it started raining.) Our traveling repertoire included "O Sacred Head Surrounded," "Ubi Caritas," "What Wondrous Love Is This?," "Were You There?," "Jesus, Remember Me," "Amazing Grace" and "Open the Eyes of My Heart."

As we walked, it was fascinating to see and hear the reactions of people on the streets and in the bars and restaurants. Most were just curious. Some were encouraging. A few made fun. When asked what we we were doing, we usually responded "It's for Good Friday" or "It's the Stations of the Cross."

At one point in the West Village, my friend Shu-Fy turned to me and said, "Don't you think this is what is must have been like that day in Jerusalem? Some people would have been watching Jesus carry the cross. But other people would have just been going about their day."

Along the way, one slightly nutty guy decided to join us. A yarmulke on his head and a large silver cross on a chain around his neck, he carried a bible in his right hand preacher-style. He managed to get two young blond women dressed all in black to join us for a station.

On Seventh Street, we walked passed the storefront CityLight church. Loud, upbeat music blared from inside. It actually sounded rather fun.

A woman standing at CityLight's door called out to us, "Jesus is alive!" (Apparently, they skipped right to Easter.) We genuinely appreciated the ecumenical shout-out -- but kept on our Way of the Cross all the same.

The image above is from

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday.

We remember:

The image above is from the Monastery of the Angels in Los Angeles, CA. Caption: "Station XII: Jesus Christ Dies on the Cross."

Plea of the Good Thief

For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," coming as it does in the midst of the Triduum, I give you "Jesus, Remember Me" by Jacques Berthier of the Taizé Community.

From the Gospel of Luke Chapter 23 (verse 42), these words are the plea of the Good Thief who was crucified next to Jesus. Our Lord responds, "Amen, I say to you, today, you will be with me in paradise."


Thursday, April 09, 2009

Praying in the Garden

Mark 14: 39-42:

Withdrawing again, he prayed, saying the same thing. Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open and did not know what to answer him. He returned a third time and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough. The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand."

The image above is from here.

Living Our Best

Rocco, Mike and Deacon Greg all have taken note of the words of Bishop David Zubik at the Holy Tuesday evening "Service of Apology" at St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh.

I have said it before. I will say it again: Bishop Zubik makes me very proud to be a native son of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

His words are worth citing here in full:

“I’m Sorry; We’re Sorry”

The following is the reflection given by Bishop Zubik
at the Service of Apology on
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 at
Saint Paul Cathedral, Pittsburgh

In the name of and on behalf of the nearly 800,000 faithful of the Church of Pittsburgh, I am humbled to welcome and thank all who have gathered together in this moment of prayer. This night we take the opportunity to both acknowledge and celebrate God’s mercy and forgiveness as we acknowledge the failings, the sins of men and women who represent the Church. And while the Church is truly divine, fully given its mission as the Body of Christ by Jesus Himself, we are also a very human Church, comprised of people who are human and sinful. You come here, many of you, with hurts that you hold, and perhaps painfully so, in the inner recesses of your hearts. And so within the context of our prayer, as Bishop of this Church of Pittsburgh, I stand here to apologize in the name of the Church for any ways in which any representatives of the Church have hurt you.

Now I ask you to turn your attention to three powerful vignettes which speak to our being here this night.

Within this context and in anticipation of the millennium year 2000, the late great Pope John Paul II stood before the world’s stage and did something unprecedented. He asked the world for forgiveness for the ways in which the world was hurt by the words and actions of the members and leaders of the Church.

In prayerful fashion, Pope John Paul II began his apology quoting from the Old Testament Book of Daniel: “Blessed are you O Lord, the God of our Fathers for we have sinned and transgressed by departing from you and we have done every kind of evil. Your commandments we have not heeded or observed.” (Daniel 3:26, 29-30) The Pope continued: “The Church imitates an example of this prayer and asks forgiveness for the historical sins of all of her children. “Church should become fully conscious of the sinfulness of her children recalling all those times in history … when … instead of offering to the world the witness of a life inspired by the values of faith, indulged in ways of thinking and acting which were truly forms of counter witness and scandal especially when they involve the respect that is owed to individuals and communities.”

The second story is the one we’ve heard tonight from the lips of Jesus Himself. Shortly after His resurrection from the dead, Jesus meets an embarrassed Peter as head of the Church, a position entrusted to him by Jesus Himself, who must now look Jesus eyeball to eyeball and acknowledge that he betrayed Jesus not once, not twice, but three times. With three questions from the lips of Jesus, “Simon Peter, do you love me more than these others do?”; a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”; and again a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Jesus gave Peter, “the head of the Church” not one, not two, but three opportunities to both acknowledge his sins and failures and to respond to new opportunities of trust. To Peter, Jesus said, “feed my lambs;” “look after my sheep;” “feed my sheep.” And in answer to each of Jesus’ three questions, embracing Jesus’ three acts of trust, Peter responded by saying, “Lord, you know that I love you.”

The third story and clearly the most painful of the stories is our story, our gathering together in this Mother Church of Pittsburgh. In a very real moment of woundedness, I stand before you tonight as Shepherd of the Church of Pittsburgh and embrace the presence of each of you, women and men, who come here tonight showing by your presence that somewhere, sometime in your life you have been hurt by someone who was entrusted to represent Jesus and His Church, but failed to do so. Some of you have already expressed your hurt; for many others of you, you do so this night by your being here. You call me, as leader of the Church of Pittsburgh, to not only not forget the sins of those who have hurt you, but you charge me with the need to continue to work to secure that the sins not happen again.

As I stand before you, I see also the face of Christ, the Jesus who met Peter on the seashore, confronting Peter’s betrayal. Your very presence here tonight both painful and trusting, confronts the need for the Church to ask forgiveness from you and the opportunity to renew your trust in the Church as Jesus renewed His trust in Peter.

To those of you who looked for the compassion of Christ in the sacrament of Penance but found only scolding and harsh judgment in return—I ask you, the Church asks you, for forgiveness.

To those of you who found sacred moments in your life and the life of your family (baptisms, weddings, funerals) met with callous, heartless, unfeeling, un-Christian-like attention to your need—I ask you, the Church asks you, for forgiveness.

To those of you who are here tonight who have in any way been the victims of any abuse, sexual or otherwise, whether as a child or as an adult, or as a parent, or sibling, or friend who shared in the pain of that someone you love—I ask you, the Church asks you, for forgiveness.

To those of you who came to the Church, rightly expecting her to help you understand the rich tradition of our teachings and traditions, but met with a less than half-hearted response—I ask you, the Church asks you, for forgiveness.

To those of you who have been hurt by the poor judgment of others entrusted with leadership—I ask you, the Church asks you, for forgiveness.

To those of you who believed in the Church to be a voice against prejudice but found, rather, a deafening silence—I ask you, the Church asks you, for forgiveness.

To those of you who looked to the leaders of the Church—lay, religious or ordained—to give good example but met, rather, with a philosophy that said: “Do as I say, not as I do,”—I ask you, the Church asks you, for forgiveness.

To those of you who needed the Church to be with you in sickness, in grief, in trauma, in turmoil, but found her representatives to be too busy—I ask you, the Church asks you, for forgiveness.

To those of you who have offered your talents for the mission of the Church, but experienced an injustice in the Church’s workplace—I ask you, the Church asks you, for forgiveness.

For whatever ways any representative of the Church has hurt, offended, dismissed, ignored, any one of you—I ask you, the Church asks you, for forgiveness.

For any ways that I personally, as your Bishop, whether in speech or deed, by omission and commission, have disappointed, not heard, or dismissed you, I ask you for your forgiveness.

At the conclusion of his public act of repentance for the sins of anyone who represented the Church, Pope John Paul II said: “the penitent attitude of the Church in our time turns our gaze to the past and to the recognition of sins, so that they will serve as a lesson for a future of ever clearer witness.”

With all the love in my heart and with all the sincerity in my soul, you can be assured that I will do all that I am able to do to restore your trust in the Church and to work together with you to reflect the very love, compassion, mercy of Jesus Himself in and through the Church.

Shortly before her death from cancer in 1990, Sister Thea Bowman, an African American Sister who had a reputation of portraying the very face of Christ and challenged all whom she met to become more like Christ, was part of a concert for people afflicted with AIDS. Her words that day brought a challenge to all. Thea Bowman said: “I have come tonight seeking a blessing. I have come tonight seeking a healing. I don’t usually talk about myself, but tonight I want to tell you a little about me. I have cancer. More importantly, I have something in common with my brothers and sisters who have AIDS—weight loss, hair loss, loss of voice, weakness, fatigue, exhaustion. I’m here tonight to say, God IS! GOD MADE ME! GOD LOVES ME. I WANT TO LIVE MY BEST; I WANT TO LOVE MY BEST; I WANT TO DO MY BEST; I WANT TO GIVE MY BEST.”

Like Sister Thea, I stand before you tonight on behalf of the Church seeking your blessing, seeking your forgiveness, seeking a healing so that we as Church can live our best; love our best; do our best; and give our best.

Watch and Pray

In the Western Christian traditions, today is Holy Thursday. This evening, we will begin our solemn observation of the Sacred Triduum.

After the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, many churches will remain open for several hours for the Faithful to pray before the tabernacle. The time is sometimes called a "Night Watch" and recalls Jesus' Agony in the Garden.

One piece of music often used often for this time of prayer is the Taizé chant "Bleibet hier" or "Stay With Me." (In English, the verse is: "Stay with me, remain here with me, watch and pray, watch and pray.")

From YouTube:

And, in 2007, from Cologne, Germany:

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Struggling Toward Goodness

In today's New York Times, columnist David Brooks asks if we have reached "The End of Philosophy"?

He concludes:

The rise and now dominance of this emotional approach to morality is an epochal change. It challenges all sorts of traditions. It challenges the bookish way philosophy is conceived by most people. It challenges the Talmudic tradition, with its hyper-rational scrutiny of texts. It challenges the new atheists, who see themselves involved in a war of reason against faith and who have an unwarranted faith in the power of pure reason and in the purity of their own reasoning.

Finally, it should also challenge the very scientists who study morality. They’re good at explaining how people make judgments about harm and fairness, but they still struggle to explain the feelings of awe, transcendence, patriotism, joy and self-sacrifice, which are not ancillary to most people’s moral experiences, but central. The evolutionary approach also leads many scientists to neglect the concept of individual responsibility and makes it hard for them to appreciate that most people struggle toward goodness, not as a means, but as an end in itself.

Memory of a Priest Swap

Deacon Greg today posted a clip of a Pittsburgh Catholic report on "pulpit sharing” or “priest swap" -- when priests from neighboring parishes exchange pulpits for a Sunday morning.

This isn't a totally new thing in the 'burgh.

One Sunday morning, when I was a kid growing up at St. Alphonsus Church in McDonald, PA, our pastor, Fr. Gentile, swapped pulpits with "Father Ed," a youngish priest from Our Lady of Lourdes Church in nearby Burgettstown, PA.

It just so happens that, last Thursday, that one-time parochial vicar from Burgettstown was installed as the Catholic bishop of Juneau, Alaska.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Storyship at the F-V Station

Tonight, after I left the gym a little after 11 p.m., I went down into the F-V subway station at 14th Street and 6th Avenue for the ride downtown.

Performing on the platform was a young four-man group called Storyship playing guitar, banjo, accordion, drums and more. I was on the platform long enough to hear them perform three songs, including The Beatles 1965 tune "We Can Work It Out."

They were good. I was impressed by their vocal harmonies.

Here, thanks to YouTube, is how Storyship sounded a few days ago at the Union Square station (minus their bass player):

Here they are with Radiohead's "High and Dry":

Summer '53

Sunday's New York Times had a fun column by Matthew Algeo on Harry and Bess Truman's post-White House road trip in the summer of 1953.

A few graphs:

In Truman’s time, things were quite different. When he retired, 10 years before the Kennedy assassination, former presidents had no Secret Service protection. Nor were they entitled to pensions. Truman’s only income was an Army pension of $111.96 a month, and he refused to “commercialize” the presidency by accepting lucrative business offers or extravagant speaking fees. Like his hero Cincinnatus, the Roman leader who forsook power to return to his farm, Truman believed he could easily make the transition from leader of the free world to, as he put it, “plain, private citizen.”

So, that first summer after leaving the White House, Truman and his wife, Bess, did what ordinary Americans do every summer: they took a vacation. For 19 days they drove around the country, from their home in Independence, Mo., to the East Coast and back again.

Harry and Bess Truman were frugal travelers. They ate a lot of fruit plates at roadside diners. In Decatur, Ill., they stayed at the Parkview, a motel on Route 36 where rooms cost about five bucks a night. (That motel is now a prison for work-release inmates.)

And like countless other road trippers, they crashed with friends. In Indianapolis, they stayed at the home of Frank McKinney, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and his wife, Margaret. When the McKinneys’ daughter Claire came home late from a night of dancing, she found the former president banging away on the living room piano.

In Frostburg, Md., the Trumans stopped at the Princess Restaurant, where they splurged on chicken dinners (70 cents each). The cook, George Pappas Jr., a World War II veteran, recognized his old commander in chief right away. Telephones all over town started ringing, and soon business was booming at the Princess. “I had been there before,” Truman wrote, “but in those days they didn’t make such a fuss over me. I was just a senator then.”

A little farther down the road in Frederick, Truman stopped at Carroll Kehne’s Gulf station for gas and a Coke. When Kehne asked him to give his mechanic, Albert Kefauver, a hard time for being a Republican, Truman declined. “It’s too hot to give anybody hell,” he explained. After Kehne died in 1994, his son found Truman’s Coke bottle and donated it to the local historical society.

Read the entire column here.

The NYT illustration above is credited to Brian Cronin.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

"That Almost-Baptized Feeling"

If you're in Brooklyn, Queens or Long Island Monday afternoon or evening -- you may want to check out Soul Wow!:

(Notice the authentic NY accent on the word "sure".)

Hat-tips: Deacon Greg and The Anchoress

"Eloi, Eloi, Lema Sabachthani?"

Today is Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week. For Catholics, today is formally called "Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion."

The Gospel at Mass was one of the accounts of the Crucifixion of Jesus.

From Mark Chapters 14 and 15:

The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were to take place in two days' time. So the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to arrest him by treachery and put him to death. They said, "Not during the festival, for fear that there may be a riot among the people."

When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head. There were some who were indignant. "Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil? It could have been sold for more than three hundred days' wages and the money given to the poor."
They were infuriated with her.

Jesus said, "Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me. The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me. She has done what she could. She has anticipated anointing my body for burial. Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went off to the chief priests to hand him over to them. When they heard him they were pleased and promised to pay him money. Then he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?"

He sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says, "Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?"' Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there."

The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.

When it was evening, he came with the Twelve. And as they reclined at table and were eating, Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me." They began to be distressed and to say to him, one by one, "Surely it is not I?"

He said to them, "One of the Twelve, the one who dips with me into the dish. For the Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born."

While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is my body."

Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."

Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Then Jesus said to them, "All of you will have your faith shaken, for it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be dispersed. But after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee."

Peter said to him, "Even though all should have their faith shaken, mine will not be."

Then Jesus said to him, "Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times."

But he vehemently replied, "Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you." And they all spoke similarly.

Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed.

Then he said to them, "My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch."

He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will."

When he returned he found them asleep. He said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak."

Withdrawing again, he prayed, saying the same thing. Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open and did not know what to answer him. He returned a third time and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough. The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand."

Then, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs who had come from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying, "The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him and lead him away securely."

He came and immediately went over to him and said, "Rabbi." And he kissed him.

At this they laid hands on him and arrested him. One of the bystanders drew his sword, struck the high priest's servant, and cut off his ear.

Jesus said to them in reply, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs, to seize me? Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me; but that the Scriptures may be fulfilled."

And they all left him and fled.

Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.

They led Jesus away to the high priest, and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. Peter followed him at a distance into the high priest's courtyard and was seated with the guards, warming himself at the fire. The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they found none. Many gave false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. Some took the stand and testified falsely against him, alleging, "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this temple made with hands and within three days I will build another not made with hands.'"

Even so their testimony did not agree.

The high priest rose before the assembly and questioned Jesus, saying, "Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you?"

But he was silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him and said to him, "Are you the Christ, the son of the Blessed One?"

Then Jesus answered, "I am; and 'you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.'"

At that the high priest tore his garments and said, "hat further need have we of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?"

They all condemned him as deserving to die. Some began to spit on him. They blindfolded him and struck him and said to him, "Prophesy!" And the guards greeted him with blows.

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the high priest's maids came along. Seeing Peter warming himself, she looked intently at him and said, "You too were with the Nazarene, Jesus."

But he denied it saying, "I neither know nor understand what you are talking about." So he went out into the outer court. Then the cock crowed.

The maid saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, "This man is one of them." Once again he denied it.

A little later the bystanders said to Peter once more, "Surely you are one of them; for you too are a Galilean."

He began to curse and to swear, "I do not know this man about whom you are talking." And immediately a cock crowed a second time.

Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had said to him, "Before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times." He broke down and wept.

As soon as morning came, the chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin held a council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate questioned him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"

He said to him in reply, "You say so."

The chief priests accused him of many things. Again Pilate questioned him, "Have you no answer? See how many things they accuse you of."

Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them one prisoner whom they requested. A man called Barabbas was then in prison along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion. The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them as he was accustomed. Pilate answered, "Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?"

For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over.

But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate again said to them in reply, "Then what do you want me to do with the man you call the king of the Jews?"

They shouted again, "Crucify him."

Pilate said to them, "Why? What evil has he done?"

They only shouted the louder, "Crucify him."

So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified.

The soldiers led him away inside the palace, that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort. They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him. They began to salute him with, All Hail, King of the Jews!" and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him. They knelt before him in homage.

And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him.

They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.

They brought him to the place of Golgotha — which is translated Place of the Skull — They gave him wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it.

Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take. It was nine o'clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, "The King of the Jews."

With him they crucified two revolutionaries, one on his right and one on his left. Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, "Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross."

Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among themselves and said, "He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe."

Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.

At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three o'clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Some of the bystanders who heard it said, "Look, he is calling Elijah."

One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink saying, "Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down."

Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.

The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"

There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome. These women had followed him when he was in Galilee and ministered to him. There were also many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

When it was already evening, since it was the day of preparation, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a distinguished member of the council, who was himself awaiting the kingdom of God, came and courageously went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.

Pilate was amazed that he was already dead. He summoned the centurion and asked him if Jesus had already died. And when he learned of it from the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.

Having bought a linen cloth, he took him down, wrapped him in the linen cloth, and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock.

Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watched where he was laid.

Flashbacks: Palm Sundays 2008 and 2007.

A Concord Pastor has some background on today's liturgy. Deacon Greg has posted his Palm Sunday homily. Rocco has a post on Palm Sunday in Rome. And, Mike has some thoughts for today, too.

The image above is from here.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

From Antwerp, Belgium

The Anchoress today deemed this offering from Antwerp, Belgium, a terrific "palate cleanser."

I agree -- even if it is a blatant steal of this.

Gets groovy at the 2:13 mark:

An aside: Longtime readers may recall that yours truly is 12.5 percent Belgian.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Banana Pancakes

Before entering into the intensity of Holy Week, I thought it might be good to have a light-hearted tune for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."

To fill that need -- and because it was raining here in New York today -- here is "Banana Pancakes" by Jack Johnson.


Here's another version with the lyrics:

Jack Johnson flashback: "Better Together" (Jan. '08)


How about this for a gathering of the like-minded?:

The American Society of Shitcanned Media Elites

Hat-tip: mediabistro

Thursday, April 02, 2009

"Ever More Human"

Today is the fourth anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II.

Here are some good thoughts of JPII on mercy and forgiveness:

Society can become ever more human only if we introduce into the many-sided setting of interpersonal and social relationships, not merely justice, but also that “merciful love” which constitutes the messianic message of the Gospel.

… Forgiveness demonstrates the presence in the world of the love which is more powerful than sin. Forgiveness is also the fundamental condition for reconciliation, not only in the relationship of God with man, but also in relationships between people. A world from which forgiveness was eliminated would be nothing but a world of cold and unfeeling justice, in the name of which each person would claim his or her own rights vis-à-vis others; the various kinds of selfishness latent in man would transform life and human society into a system of oppression of the weak by the strong, or into an arena of permanent strife between one group or another.

For this reason, the Church must consider it one of her principal duties – at every stage of history and especially in our modern age – to proclaim and to introduce into life the mystery of mercy, supremely revealed in Jesus Christ. Not only for the Church herself as a community of believers but also in a certain sense for all of humanity, this mystery is the source of a life different from the life which can be built by men.

From the November, 1980 encyclical letter “Dives in Misericordia” or “On the Mercy of God.”

The image above is from here.

Anniversary Hat-tip: Rocco

"The Dance of Life"

This brightened my day:

Hat-tips: Deacon Greg and Julie