Monday, August 31, 2009

Cracker Barrel vs. Waffle House

Quote of the Day #2:

"Aah, Cracker Barrel ... my love for you is complex and uncomfortable and tainted with shame. But Waffle House doesn't try to sell me Conway Twitty CDs or resin figurines of cats dressed up as pilgrims. If loving Waffle House makes me tacky and white trashy, then give me a mullet and a flock of plastic flamingos outside my trailer, cuz I love that place."

-- My totally un-pc but lovable friend Lara, commenting on her own Facebook status update: "Lara has seen the future and its name is Waffle House."

P.S. I feel the same way about Popeyes (particularly ones located in southern airports).

The image above is from here.

Newman on Public Opinion

Quote of the Day #1:

"I am not so irrational as to despise Public Opinion; I have no thought of making light of a tribunal established in the conditions and necessities of human nature. It has its place in the very constitution of society; it ever has existed, it ever will exist, whether in the commonwealth of nations, or in the humble and secluded village. But wholesome as it is as a principle, it has, in common with all things human, great imperfections, and makes many mistakes."

-- John Henry Newman, from here.

(This is my high-minded quote of the day. Lighter fare to follow.)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Clean Hands of Hypocrites

Today's Gospel at Mass again brings us a Christ who does not mince words.

"Evils comes from within," he states in response to the "hypocrites."

From Mark Chapter 7:

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.

— For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. —

So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”

He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.

“From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”

A Concord Pastor has some background on this Sunday's scriptures.

Monday Update: Br. Patrick has a good reflection on this Gospel passage.

Friday, August 28, 2009

America: "A Distinct Sort of Society"?

In an op-ed column about Senator Edward Kennedy in today's New York Times, David Brooks provided some interesting thoughts on America itself.

For your consideration:

We in this country have a distinct sort of society. We Americans work longer hours than any other people on earth. We switch jobs much more frequently than Western Europeans or the Japanese. We have high marriage rates and high divorce rates. We move more, volunteer more and murder each other more.

Out of this dynamic but sometimes merciless culture, a distinct style of American capitalism has emerged. The American economy is flexible and productive. America’s G.D.P. per capita is nearly 50 percent higher than France’s. But the American system is also unforgiving. It produces its share of insecurity and misery.

This culture, this spirit, this system is not perfect, but it is our own. American voters welcome politicians who propose reforms that smooth the rough edges of the system. They do not welcome politicians and proposals that seek to contradict it. They do not welcome proposals that centralize power and substantially reduce individual choice. They resist proposals that put security above mobility and individual responsibility.

Like A River Flows

One night late last week, as I was walking home on Mulberry Street, I heard UB40's cover of "(I Can't Help) Falling in Love With You" emanating from one of the Little Italy restaurants.

I know it's a cheesy song. And, I'm not certain how well UB40's 1993 version stands up to the test of time. But, it's still a favorite.

So, for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," here is that ballad. But, for a little variety, the version I've chosen is a live concert recording by Pearl Jam.


Source material: "Blue Hawaii" (1961)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Quote of the day:

"Thankfully, God knows more, and sees more, than the rest of us ... "

- The Anchoress, in a post on today's big news

Hat-tip: Deacon Greg

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

If We Had a Draft ...

... would American troops be in Iraq or Afghanistan?

Bob Herbert doesn't think so. In his column in today's New York Times, he states:

If we had a draft — or merely the threat of a draft — we would not be in Iraq or Afghanistan. But we don’t have a draft so it’s safe for most of the nation to be mindless about waging war. Other people’s children are going to the slaughter.

It's a good point to consider.

How many of us really have skin in the game? Is it real to us? Or, are the wars just another topic for discussion at dinner?

If I or my brothers or cousins or friends could be conscripted into military service, would I be actively pushing for an end to U.S. military involvement in those war zones?

Or, at least, would I (we?) be paying closer attention?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

“This Saying Is Hard”

On Saturday afternoon, along with other young adults from the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, I volunteered at a "Scoop and Serve" ice cream party for children who take part in activities at Abraham House on Willis Avenue in the Bronx.

We had a good time -- both playing games with the kids and learning about this location that serves former jail inmates and their families. (One young man named Leonardo bested three of us from St. Paul's in a highly competitive round of the board game "Sorry.")

We also went to Abraham House's 4 p.m. vigil Mass. Celebrated in Spanish and English, the Mass was very well attended by men, women and children. The Gospel at Mass was a continuation of the same section of the Gospel of John proclaimed last Sunday on the "bread of life" theme.

In my post last week, I stated that the terminology and message of Christ in the passage could be troubling to some people. In today's Gospel, we hear the disciples themselves murmur about the teaching's difficulty.

From John Chapter 6:

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.”

Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.

And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Deacon Greg has posted his homily on this Gospel.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Health Care Questions

This evening, while I was on the elliptical at the gym, I watched PBS' "Washington Week" with Gwen Ifill. The entire program was dedicated to questions on health care reform.

Below, I am posting the show's "Webcast Extra." I place it here, not necessarily with endorsement, as food for thought:

And, here is another clip on this issue from The Newshour:

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Second Discovery of Fire

Quote of the Day:

“Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”

- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. (1881 - 1955), as quoted earlier this month on the funeral prayer card of Eunice Kennedy Shriver (1921 - 2009).

An aside: Teilhard de Chardin has recently been the subject of posts by John Allen, Fran and A Concord Pastor.

Jerusalem Bells

I was pleased to receive some good vibes on Facebook for picking a Coldplay tune for last week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend." So, I thought I'd stick with the Brits for this week's selection.

Below is a performance of "Viva La Vida" (it's live but I suspect some overlay -- the sound quality is too good).


And, check this out:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Arguing with a Dining Room Table

I find myself increasingly frustrated by the debate surrounding the proposals to reform the American health care system.

I am frustrated for two reasons. First, I am frustrated because I am having trouble deciding where I stand on the issue. (Although, I recently found the USCCB site on health care reform to be helpful.)

Second, I am frustrated by the nasty tenor of the debate.

Perfect case in point:

Here is the full video from another angle.

Update: Via Deacon Greg via Rod Dreher, I recommend reading this column by Leonard Pitts, Jr., on comparing political opponents to Nazis.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Nine-Bedroom, Georgian Teardown?

Earlier today, this report from the Wall Street Journal caught my attention. Here's the key passage and some video:

Bond guru Bill Gross, whose Pimco Total Return is the world's largest mutual fund, has bought a bayfront home in Newport Beach, Calif. through a trust for $23 million, according to three people close to the deal.

Records show the home was bought by the Monte Carlo Trust, which names as trustee Jeff Stubban. Mr. Stubban couldn't be reached for comment. Three people familiar with the matter say Mr. Gross intends tear the home down and build a new one on the site.

Now, I'm a believer in property rights. Certainly, billionaire Bill Gross has a right to spend his money any way he sees fit. And, it should be noted, this report is from "sources."

But, the nation is in a very bad recession. Unemployment is a huge problem. Americans across the country can no longer make mortgage payments and are losing their homes.

Now is a poor time to choose to tear down one 11,000-square-foot mansion just to build another (perhaps grander?) edifice in its place.

Sign of End Times?

So, former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Scandal) is going to be part of the upcoming season of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars."

It may be an indication of end times. Not sure yet.

"The Hammer" (ugh) is slated to be dancing in the same line-up as songstress Macy Gray.

Unbelievable. Those two don't live on the same planet.

Here is Macy Gray's catchy 1999-2000 hit "I Try" in case you forgot her claim to fame:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Learning from Bertha

The interesting image above shows the painting "The Assumption of Bertha Huber." A Concord Pastor posted it a few days back in relation to the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary (actually a re-post from '08).

From the good pastor:

If this painting offends, please accept my apology. I post it here not out of any irreverence or even playfulness but rather because the feast of the real Assumption is upon us and, as on all feasts of the Blessed Virgin, we need to discover how what happened in her life and love for God relates to our own. From the website of the painter, Marcia Sandmeyer Wilson:

"This 16x20 oil painting is called The Assumption of Bertha Huber. It is the third version I have done of this theme. Miss Huber was godmother to my three children. She died at age 87 in August, 1975 and I told the children I would paint what it 'really' looked like.

"Miss Huber was from Munich so I know she was expecting nice blond angels waiting for her in heaven... (I)n the first version I also had little pug dog angels because Miss Huber was very fond of our dogs.

"At the bottom of the painting is supposed to be me and the three children weeping for her at the nursing home where she had expired just moments before our arrival. It was a very good nursing home, by the way, named Calvary, in the Bronx."

Painting in the folk art style, Wilson has given us a kind of folk art appreciation of the Assumption. The word comes from the Latin assumere which means to take to one's self. Assumption celebrates the Lord's taking to himself his beloved Mother, the Mother of us all, who, the Church has taught from early times, was assumed into heaven body and soul lest the body which bore the Christ into the world should undergo any corruption.

We pray that one day the Lord will take us to himself at the time of our passing from this life to life forever with God: one day the hands reaching down in Wilson's painting will reach out for you and me. No, we will not be assumed body and soul: this mortal coil of ours will undergo the inevitable corruption of nature. Yet one day the Lord will waken each of us to glory and our souls will be reunited with our bodies in a glorified state, the beauty of which we cannot yet imagine.

Big Brother Pizza

I'm not always an ACLU fan, but this is scary.

Go here if the link above gives you trouble.

Hat-tip: CP on FB

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bird Songs

I find myself needing a tune to get ready for the Sunday afternoon.

This might work -- an unexpected combination of two favorites:

Flashback: Learn to Fly

"For the Life of the World"

For a fourth consecutive Sunday, today's Gospel at Mass is a passage from the Gospel of John related to Christ as the "bread of life."

Today's passage uses language that certainly gives pause -- both because of the terminology used by Christ and because of what he is saying about salvation.

It's a passage that can be troubling -- or hope-filled, depending on your perspective.

For Catholics and some other Christian traditions, the passage helps to explain the belief in the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine used during Communion.

From John Chapter 6:

Jesus said to the crowds:

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

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

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.

"For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.

"Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Deacon Greg recalls a miracle in his homily for this Sunday. A Concord Pastor is asking a good question in his homily.

Fran has a reflection, too.

Monday Update: Missy has posted some good quotes on Sunday's Gospel at St. Anne, Pray for Us. This "Priest's Diary" entry by Fr. Victor Muzzin is worth a look as well.

The image above is from here.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Maria, Ora Pro Nobis

For Catholics and some other Christian traditions, today (August 15) is a day set aside to celebrate the belief that the body and soul of Mary, the mother of Jesus, was assumed into heaven after her time on earth had ended.

The proper name of the celebration is the Solemnity of The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

To mark the day, here is the soprano Jessye Norman with "Ave Maria":

Flashbacks: Ave Maria, Hail Holy Queen, Mary's Month, Bookends, Lourdes, Guadalupe '06, Guadalupe '07 and Nuestra Señora.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Osaka Sun

For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," how about another tune featuring Chris Martin? Below is Coldplay's "Lovers in Japan."


Song hat-tip: Dave. His comment:

"I admire Coldplay for making a video for a song that doesn’t really have a chorus. Well played, pasty British people."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Plaxico to Portsmouth?

It was hard not to think of Plaxico Burress this morning while reading Gail Collins’ column "Gunning for Health Care" in today’s New York Times.

One graph:

“The question is, why don’t people bear arms these days,” said William Kostric, when asked why he came to welcome President Obama to Portsmouth, N.H., on Tuesday with a protest sign and a loaded handgun strapped to his thigh. This turned out to be completely legal under New Hampshire law.

Memo to P.B.: Post-slammer, move to New Hampshire.

There's even an arena football team in Manchester (the "Wolves"). Bet they could use a good wide receiver.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The August Quiet

Fran has said "The End" at

Amy is leaving BeliefNet and going home.

The Anchoress is on retreat.

Deacon Greg is at Disney.

Rocco is in summer slowdown. (That's his beach shot at right.)

It's near silence in my favorite part of the Catholic blogosphere! :-(

At least A Concord Pastor is still chiming in from the Cape. In fact, he just introduced us to Brother Patrick.

And, Mike, who just had some great news, is still around too.

Deo gratias.


Quote of the day:

"The very pains we take to prevent distractions often work upon us as a considerable distraction."

– attributed here to Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, d. 1641, whose memorial is celebrated today, August 12.


Remind me never to tick off U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. It's hard to believe she lost her cool while abroad:

As Dorothy Z. would say:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Baby Sneeze

God bless you!:

This is Sean Joseph. The nephew of one of my co-workers, he was born July 31.

Monday, August 10, 2009

An Outdated Institution?

This afternoon, following the flight from Atlanta, I took the M60 bus - W train - 6 train public transport combo from LaGuardia Airport back to the pad in Little Italy.

En route, I had the chance to read some of the latest print edition of The Atlantic, which includes a provocative article by Sandra Tsing Loh entitled "Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off." Subtitle: "The author is ending her marriage. Isn’t it time you did the same?"

It goes without saying that I don't agree with the conclusions reached by Tsing Loh in the piece. (It certainly was a departure from what I saw and heard over the weekend in Wichita!) But, the article is a good read and provides ample food for thought about relationships and life-long human development.

One passage:

... In World Values Surveys taken at the turn of the millennium, fewer Americans agreed with the statement “Marriage is an outdated institution” than citizens of any other Western country surveyed (compare the U.S.’s tiny 10 percent with France’s 36 percent). We are also more religious—more Americans (60 percent) say they attend religious services once a month than do the Vatican-centric Italians (54 percent) or, no surprise, the laissez-faire French (12 percent). At the same time, Americans endure the highest divorce rate in the Western world. In short, although we say we love religion and marriage, Cherlin notes, “religious Americans are more likely to divorce than secular Swedes.”

Cherlin believes the reason for this paradox is that Americans hold two values at once: a culture of marriage and a culture of individualism. Or is it an American spirit of optimism wedded, if you will, to a Tocquevillian spirit of restlessness that inspires three out of four Americans to say they believe marriage is for life, while only one in four agreed with the notion that even if a marriage is unhappy, one should stay put for the sake of the children. If America is a “divorce culture,” it may be partly because we are a “marriage culture,” since we both divorce and marry (a projected 90 percent of us) at some of the highest rates anywhere on the globe. Hence Cherlin’s cautionary advice consists of two words—“Slow down”—his chief worry about our frenetic marriage-go-round being its negative impact on our children. In fact, while having two biological parents at home is, the statistics tell us, best for children, a single-parent household is almost as good. The harm comes, Cherlin argues, from parents continually coupling with new partners, so that the children are forced to bond, or compete for attention, with ever-new actors. These are the youngsters who are likely to suffer, according to a measurable matrix of factors such as truancy, disobedience in school, and teen pregnancy. Instead of preaching marriage, Cherlin says, we should preach domestic stability for children. Is marriage the best way to ensure this? Apparently not, at least not the way we do it in America.

The bolding is mine. As someone who has had four step-parents (two step-mothers and two step-fathers) in his 33 years, I have to say this line rang true.

The image above, which accompanied the magazine article, is credited to Kim Rosen.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Bread of the Angels

Earlier tonight, our flight from Wichita arrived in Atlanta some 15 minutes too late to make the connection back to NYC. It was the last flight of the night to Gotham.

So, I'm blogging from the Doubletree Hotel near the Atlanta airport where Delta has put us (and a bunch of other stranded folks) up for the night. It's not a great situation but at least they threw in complimentary hotel Internet access.

I thought I would use this largess to note that today, at the Sunday Mass in Kansas, the choir sang César Franck's beautiful setting of the hymn "Panis Angelicus" ("Bread of the Angels") during Communion.

It has been been my privilege to hear this piece performed twice by the great tenor Placido Domingo -- at the Papal Mass in NYC's Central Park in 1995 and at the Papal Mass at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., last April.

Here's some video from the latter:

Many great vocalists have recorded Franck's "Panis Angelicus." Here, for instance, is tenor Andrea Bocelli:

A chill rendition by Sting and Pavarotti:

And, we can't forget the ladies. Here's the soprano Renee Fleming:

"Is This Not ...? Do We Not ...?"

As happened once in the past, I come to you this evening from the little airport in Wichita, Kansas. I was in this "really big little town" to exhibit for my gig at the Midwest Catholic Family Conference.

It was our third time at this conference, which seems to draw a mix of local Catholics, folks interested in apologetics and homeschooling families from several Midwestern states. I'd say the event drew around 1,800 to 2,000 adults, teens and children. All in all, worth the trip -- even if there isn't a direct flight from NYC. ;-)

I went to Sunday Mass today at the conference. The Gospel was a continuation of the "bread of life" theme we've been exploring these past weeks.

From John Chapter 6:

The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets: They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.

"Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

Friday, August 07, 2009

"Always Stop at Exits"

For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," I think it's time to go with something created this millennium. (Not that I didn't enjoy our MJ series.)

So, below is Nelly Furtado and Chris Martin with "All Good Things."


Official video (just Nelly):

Song hat-tip: Ed

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Sans Accordian

Quote of the day:

" ... going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion. ..."

-- Jed Babbin, former U.S. Defense Department official, January, 2003.

One of my co-workers came across this quote this morning at Snopes. Dated but creative.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Prayer in a Time of Tragedy

It has been difficult today not to think about the shooting last night at a gym outside of Bridgeville, PA. For readers of this blog not from the Pittsburgh area: the location of the shooting is about a 10-minute drive from my hometown.

One of my best friends was in the gym at the time of the shooting. Thanks be to God that he was never in harm's way.

This morning, I read the on-line writings of the shooter. But, I am not going to link to these writing or repeat the name of the shooter. In the writings, he makes it clear that attention is what he wanted. While his soul requires prayer, his earthly violence should not earn him posthumous celebrity.

Three women were killed in the shooting: Elizabeth "Betsy" Gannon, Heidi Overmier and Jody Billingsley. These are names to remember -- as are the names of those who were injured.

A prayer:

Dear God,

We pray that your Holy Spirit may be in us -- and all that we say and do -- in the aftermath of this act of violence against innocents.

We pray for those who have died. May their souls now be with you, in the warm embrace of your love that is beyond all understanding.

We pray for the family members and friends of those who have died. Console them in their grief, O God. May they know your love. May they come to again know peace in their hearts and minds.

We pray for anyone who may be contemplating an act of violence such as we have witnessed. God, your people plead for the strength and knowledge to reach out to these troubled souls. Help us to be your instruments in bringing them back from the brink of hate, despair and violence.

We pray for an end to all violence in all its forms everywhere upon the Earth. God, grant us peace in our time.


See also: The Bread Line Blog here and here.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Thank Heaven for Little Girls

Yesterday afternoon, my old college buddy, Greg, and his wife, Mary, welcomed a new addition to their family:

Welcome to the party, Olivia Mary! May the Holy Spirit always be your guide.

If you are counting, this is the fifth birth of a baby girl this year to one of my friends or family members. Little Olivia joins Nora, Ann, Olive and Mariah. (There actually was a sixth but I have yet to get a photo of the little one born some months back to the wife of my old Western PA buddy Mike Carberry.)

I have one more college friend who is expecting in 2009. But, this time, it looks like the Y chromosome has prevailed. My cousin, Luke, is slated to become a dad in January, 2010. Too early to tell there.

There's an old song that may be appropriate for the entry of all these little ladies into our midst:

Monday, August 03, 2009

Scolding by the Public Editor

When I was a newspaper reporter, I had nightmares that something like this would come out of one of my articles.

From the NYT Public Editor Clark Hoyt:

The short answer is that a television critic with a history of errors wrote hastily and failed to double-check her work, and editors who should have been vigilant were not.

But a more nuanced answer is that even a newspaper like The Times, with layers of editing to ensure accuracy, can go off the rails when communication is poor, individuals do not bear down hard enough, and they make assumptions about what others have done. Five editors read the article at different times, but none subjected it to rigorous fact-checking, even after catching two other errors in it. And three editors combined to cause one of the errors themselves.

Hat-tip: Andrew Sullivan: "Poor Cronkite"

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Never Hunger, Never Thirst

In this Sunday's Gospel at Mass, we find the crowd getting restless -- and asking many questions.

From John Chapter 6:

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”

So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”

So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”

So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

A Concord Pastor has background for this Sunday's Mass readings here, here and here. (The image above is shamelessly cribbed from one of these posts by the CP.)

Saturday, August 01, 2009

A Heavenly Cause

Yesterday, in his eulogy at the Memorial Mass for Louisa Kirchner, her son Joe recalled that his mom used Cervantes' novel "Don Quixote" in her Spanish classes at the University of Connecticut.

Joe added that, while his parents were not "theater people," they repeatedly attended performances of "Man of La Mancha," the Broadway treatment of "Don Quixote."

So, for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," below is a Brian Stokes Mitchell recording of a ballad from that show: "Dulcinea."


And, of course, that's hardly the only famous tune from "Man of La Mancha":

In Memoriam: Louisa Kirchner, 1915-2009

In the summer of 1997, I was working as a resident assistant at Goddard Hall, one of NYU's traditional residence halls on Washington Square in New York City. The summer position brought with it free room and board as well as a "triple" room all to myself.

That summer, I had hoped to get an internship at GQ magazine. But, due to my lack of formal design and layout experience, my application was rejected. This left my evening job at the NYU alumni phonathon as my only cash-generating employment for June, July and August.

So, I slept in many mornings. I helped to plan Goddard Hall's fall orientation schedule. I planned (and executed) my blow-out of a 21st birthday party on July 26.

And, that hazy summer, I had my first communication with Louisa Kirchner.

It was Sarah LaPlante, in a telephone call from Milwaukee, who made the connection.

Sarah was then serving as the executive director of the National Catholic Student Coalition (NCSC), an association of Catholic college and university students who are active in campus ministry programs around the United States. In 1997, I was chair of NCSC's Northeast Regional Team.

Sarah had been asked to recruit a new Catholic college student or two to go to the United Nations headquarters in New York to attend briefings for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on behalf of the International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS). Thanks to the luck of geography, yours truly was one of the students to get the nod.

Waiting for me at the U.N. was Louisa.

By the time I met her in mid-1997, Dr. Louisa Byles Kirchner, age 82, a retired professor of Spanish at the University of Connecticut, had been laboring on behalf of IMCS and its professional / academic sister organization (called "Pax Romana") for the better part of 60 years. In fact, Louisa was one of the founders of one of NCSC's predecessor organizations, the National Federation of Catholic College Students.

Louisa, and her husband, Ed Kirchner (then aged 85 years), took me and the other Catholic student representatives under their wing. The couple would come to the U.N. multiple times a month from their home in Stamford, CT. They would take the train into Grand Central and then walk over to the U.N. buildings by the East River.

The Kirchners were with us as we sat through NGO briefings, meetings of the various U.N. NGO committees as well as events at the International Catholic Organizations Center on 47th Street upstairs of Holy Family Church. And, Ed and Louisa were sitting behind me in June, 1998, when I made a statement to the U.N. General Assembly Committee of the Whole during the Special Session on the World Drug Problem.

With her small stature, white-gray hair and pants suits of muted colors, Louisa did not immediately strike fear in the hearts of the U.N. bureaucrats. But, she had a strong presence. She was never afraid to ask a hard question in a briefing or remind someone of a proverbial elephant in the room.

After a briefing or meeting, I would love to go to lunch with Louisa and Ed. Often over sandwiches in the cafeteria of the Engineering Societies Building (now the site of the Trump World Tower), we would talk about the Church, international affairs and politics. I remember the day I told Louisa I was a Republican. The feisty proponent of the preferential option for the poor was not amused!

In July, 1998, I moved home to Western Pennsylvania to work in newspapers and politics. But, I stayed in touch with Louisa and Ed for as many years as Louisa was able to e-mail. And, in 2000, we spent a week together in Paris for an international conference of Catholic academics and professionals. (The photos in this post are from that trip.)

Ed died in 2003. Louisa passed away on June 28 of this year. A child of 1915, she would have turned 94 on August 29.

Friday morning, I took that New Haven-line train from Grand Central to Stamford to attend a memorial Mass for Louisa at the Kirchners' old parish, Our Lady Star of the Sea, where she once served as a lector.

At the Mass, it was recalled that Louisa was a great-granddaughter of Peter Delmonico, one of the brothers who founded the famous Delmonico's restaurant, and that she was a niece of Father Thomas Byles, the priest who went down on the Titantic.

Also remembered was Louisa and Ed's wedding in the Lady Chapel of St. Patrick's Cathedral in May, 1946. The New York Times report of the nuptials indicated that the wedding ceremony was performed by Paulist Father Joseph McSorley while the Mass was celebrated (and a Papal blessing bestowed) by the Jesuit theologian Father John Courtney Murray.

Joe Kirchner, the youngest of Louisa and Ed's three children, recalled the years his parents spent in Europe after WWII. Ed ran a displaced persons camp while Louisa worked with students and helped to secure scholarships for many of them.

Joe also reported how, in Louisa's final years, she continued to inspire others just by her presence at Sunday Mass. From his eulogy:

"Louisa may have been frail, but she did not want anyone coming down the aisle to bring her communion. She inched her way up, navigating her walker around musical instruments where the aisle narrowed next to the choir to receive God from both the Eucharist and the cup. When people held the door for her or made room in the pew, you could detect a sense of awe in their faces. She may not have been able to articulate it, but people were inspired by the strength of her conviction, every Sunday, inching her way to communion. ... at her core, was her faith."