Saturday, December 31, 2011


As most of my political expression this past year moved to Facebook and Twitter, the (too infrequent) posts on this blog were often about milestones in the lives of family members and friends.  I do appreciate the opportunity this space affords to both welcome and say goodbye.

I have been remiss, however, in issuing one welcome.  And, it seems that celebrating a new life would be a fine topic for this final post of 2011.

Lena, pictured above, was born November 26 at 10:19 a.m., weighing in at seven pounds, two ounces.  She is the daughter of my old NYU friends, Tim and Melissa, and a sister for Ann.

Like yours truly, these "Firework Babies" will often find themselves "between the 'Burgh and the City" as their mom grew up in Bethel Park, PA, and their maternal grandparents still live there.

In mid-January, I will have the honor of serving as Lena's Godfather.  She will be my fourth Goddaughter (joining Georgianna, Nora and Lucy).  United by prayer despite being half a world away, Waldie will be serving as Lena's Godmother.  Just a few days ago, Waldie and her husband, Chris, arrived in Tanzania in East Africa.  They will live and work there for three-plus years as  Maryknoll Lay Missioners.

Welcome to the party, Lena!  May God abundantly bless you with many, many wonderful New Years.

The Jackpot Question

Another New Year's Eve. The steady has a bit of a cold so we're staying in. Which is just fine. At the moment, we're both checking e-mail and surfing the Internet while watching "Julie & Julia" on TV. (A movie about food and blogging set in New York City and Paris -- LOVE it.)

It's time to post my final "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend" of 2011. Would you object, gentle reader, if I opted for the obvious?

Here with Frank Loeser's "What Are You Doing on New Year's Eve?" are Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.


Monday, December 26, 2011

O Great Mystery

"O Magnum Mysterium" is a traditional prayer of the Church at Christmas. One English translation reads:

O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy
to bear Christ the Lord.

A living American composer who has set the prayer to music is Morten Lauridsen. For a belated "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," below is his beautiful offering.


Sunday, December 25, 2011


Merry Christmas!!

Like so many Christmas mornings of my life, I'm up while the rest of the house is still quiet. My inner seven-year-old is curious to see if Santa came, I guess.

But, unlike the Christmas mornings of my past, today I find myself in Auburn, Indiana, at the home of the steady's parents. It's a blessed first. I arrived here yesterday at 6:45 a.m. on the Amtrak train from Pittsburgh (where I had been visiting with my family for few days).

Last night, we went to the 11 p.m. service at the First United Methodist Church. It was quite nice. And, we'll soon head out for the 10:30 a.m. Mass at Immaculate Conception Church. (See: Ecumenism in necessary practice.)

Over at Dating God, Br. Dan has posted a reflection called "Christmas is Not a Holiday…It’s a Game-Changer!"  Here are two snips to ponder:

" ... Christmas marks the most important moment in Salvation History -- the Incarnation, the coming of the Lord, the birth of a child who reveals to us the unseen God, makes visible the invisible and shows us that God's Reign unfolds in the making of the impossible possible!

" ... with God's entrance into the world as one like us, the game has totally changed. Jesus Christ is the game-changer par excellence! The way that humanity related to God previously had become outdated and finally recognized as imperfect, because, whereas once we were able to know about God, now we can personally know God."

Flashback: Christmas 2009 and 2008

The image above is "The Adoration of the Shepherds" or "L'adoration des bergers" by James Tissot. It is the property of the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Celebrating Guadalupe

For Catholics, today (December 12) is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. To help celebrate the day, here is a photo of Texas-based artist Federico Archuleta's contemporary take on the miraculous Guadalupe image:

Monday, November 28, 2011


Last Monday, November 21, my old friend, Heidi Price Brayer, and her husband, Paul, welcomed their baby daughter into the world.

Adelaide Erica, pictured, weighed in at 8 pounds, 7 ounces. She was 21.5 inches long.

Welcome to the party, little lady!  May God abundantly bless all your days.

In the late '90s, Heidi and I worked together as staff writers at the Observer-Reporter in Washington, PA (my first job out of college). In fact, my first day on the beat, it was Heidi who showed me how to do the evening checks with the local police departments. We've been friends ever since. I have no doubt daughter will be as awesome as mother.

To help celebrate this new arrival, here's Frank Sinatra with a song devoted to another awesome Adelaide, from the Broadway classic "Guys and Dolls":

Guys & Dolls - "Ever Loving Adelaide" - Frank Sinatra from Matt Perri on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Learning Glass

We recently attended a performance of Philip Glass' 1979-1980 opera "Satyagraha" at the Metropolitan Opera.  Powerful and challenging, it has stirred my interest in Glass and his work.  So, earlier tonight, I poked around YouTube to hear more.

It's good to share, right?

For a belated "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," below is a beautiful composition by Glass for the film "The Hours."


Monday, November 14, 2011

Thursday, November 03, 2011

In Memoriam: Ray Vincenti, 1916 - 2011

I’m writing today while literally “between the ‘burgh and the city.”  I’m on Amtrak’s “Pennsylvanian” from New York’s Penn Station to Downtown Pittsburgh.  At the moment, we are in the woods west of Harrisburg.

I opted for taking the train over flying mostly because of cost. With only a day of lead time, the train was significantly less expensive than a flight on USAirways, JetBlue and the other airlines. Plus, the long train ride across southern Pennsylvania is providing some beautiful views of the fall foliage.

I’m headed to Western Pennsylvania for the funeral of my great-great uncle, Ray Vincenti (pictured).  “Uncle Remo” died Wednesday morning at the age of 95. He was the youngest brother of my maternal great-grandfather, Joseph Vincenti (1908-1983).

Grandpap Vincenti and Uncle Remo’s parents, Dominick and Catherine Vicari Vincenti, immigrated to the United States around 1900.  Dominick originated in northern Italy and Catherine from Austria (although, I believe she too had northern Italian heritage).  Dominic and Catherine had five children in total, four sons and one daughter. Dominic was killed in 1937 in a coal mining accident.

With Uncle Remo’s passing, my family loses one of our last connections to these immigrant ancestors who made the brave decision to come to the United States.

When I ran for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2002, 2004 and 2006, Uncle Remo was a strong supporter. In the 2002 race, he spent the day of the general election speaking on my behalf outside his polling place in the village of Eldersville in Jefferson Township. (We won that precinct that day, too.)

In 2006, Uncle Remo also came to my aid when an opponent issued a piece of literature claiming to be “the only proud Italian” in the race. To help set the record straight, Uncle Remo went with me to a dinner at the Italian Club in the village of Muse in Cecil Township.

He was a good and kind man, and will be missed.  Please keep his wife of 61 years, Della; his daughter, Cathie; his son-in-law, Ken; and his two grandchildren in your prayers.

From the prayers at the end of the funeral Mass:

Uncle Remo,

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.

The photo above is by Ken Havelka.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Most Mysterious Heart

Some food for thought:
“The greatest enigma of man is his heart. It is so magnificent that God competes for it. So powerful that it can resist the love of the Almighty. So frail that many a weakness may snare it in its net. So wild that it may destroy all happiness and all order. So faithful that it cannot be subverted even by infidelity. So naive that it succumbs to every sweet temptation. Of such great capacity that it can contain every contradiction. And all this — almost — in every man, and all this — almost — in the wink of an eye. But man is a hundred times more grand, because he is capable of ruling it. And God? He alone knows the routes into the most mysterious heart. That is why man opened the Heart of God on the cross to learn about His plans.”
Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski (1901 - 1981), from the book “A Freedom Within: The Prison Notes of Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski

Hat-tip: John Wilson

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Kol Nidre

For the Jewish people, today is Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement.

To honor of the day, this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend" features an instrumental setting of  Kol Nidre.

A hat-tip to the Concord Pastor for leading me to this particular composition by Max Bruch.


Monday, September 26, 2011

All of the Right Things

How about a second offering from Adele for this week's (again, sadly belated) "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend"?

This week, I've been listening to the talented Brit's "Best for Last."  I'm not co-signing all of its lyrics.  (As I said last week, I'm way too happy these days to endorse a break-up song or an ode to a bad relationship.) But, this tune has a great beat.

So, without further ado, below is "Best for Last."


Monday, September 19, 2011

Quite Possible

Food for thought:

" ... the mindsets we form from everyday experience close us off to possibility. It doesn't occur to us to rethink much of what we learn about the world because we tend to learn mindlessly; it's not that we aren't paying attention to whatever it is we are learning, it's that we aren't paying attention to the context in which we learn it.  We don't consider that what's true here may not be true there.  If we don't think to improve our ideas, we can't update or improve them. It won't occur to us to question how we know what we know, what facts we base it on, and whether the science that produced those facts is suspect. The hefty price for accepting information uncritically is that we go through life unaware that what we've accepted as impossible may in fact be quite possible. ... "

- Dr. Ellen J. Langer, from "Counter Clockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility"

Dr. Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard, is being honored this Saturday, September 24, by the NYU College of Arts & Science Alumni Association.  (She graduated from NYU in 1970.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

However Far Away

Last week, some of the ladies from my gig made me listen to a few songs by Adele.

Don't know what rock I was living under. How is that I never before took note of this impressive 23-year-old British singer-songwriter with the most sultry and soulful of voices?

For this week's belated "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," below is Adele's cover of The Cure's "Lovesong."


An aside: Adele's "Someone Like You" may be a stronger tune than "Lovesong." But, I'm way too happy these days to post a break-up song.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lux Aeterna

Today is the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," below are three clips to help mark this day of prayer, mourning and remembrance.

The clips are the parts of Morten Lauridsen's Requiem setting "Lux Aeterna."


Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and let perpetual light shine on them.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Sun's Love

I'm writing this afternoon from our pad on Pinehurst Avenue in Washington Heights / Hudson Heights. While perhaps not the most chic spot, its close proximity to the highest natural point in Manhattan proved ideal this weekend as we waited for Tropical Storm Irene to pass by.

"High and dry" would be an apt description.

While very thankful we never lost power or running water, we do now have an awful lot of non-perishables in the kitchen. (Not to mention the $13 in little candles I bought yesterday at the neighborhood pharmacy during an early afternoon rain that turned out to be regular old rain.)

The post-storm calm calls for an equally reassuring tune for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend." I have selected Amanda McBroom's 1979-1980 song "The Rose" as heard in a 2008 episode of "Family Guy." (I saw this for the first time earlier this week -- don't know how it took me three years to catch it!)


Clips from the episode are banned on YouTube. Fortunately, the "Family Guy" lawyers have not yet discovered its Japanese counterpart:

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Earlier tonight, the steady and I watched the season finale of "The Glee Project" on Oxygen. It's cotton candy for summer Sunday nights.

For his final offering, contestant Samuel performed Dolly Parton 's 1974 hit "Jolene." While I'm not a fan of most country music, I must say this is a fine song -- it's simple but memorable and tells a story.

For this week's very late "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend" below are two covers of "Jolene." (The first is from The White Stripes. Up second is Ellie Goulding.)


Monday, August 15, 2011


For Catholics, today (August 15) is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Out in Teaneck, New Jersey, my old college buddy Anthony Santella is doing a large scale carving of Mary out of the trunk of a dead softwood tree on the grounds of St. Anastasia Church.

Here are some images of the work in progress:

Also (via Fran on Facebook): Karl Rahner on the Assumption of Mary.

Flashbacks: Solemnities of the Assumption 2010, 2009, 2008 and Bertha.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Leads Me Into Life

This weekend, I was on retreat with Apostolist, the young adult group from the Church of Saint Paul the Apostle. We gathered at the retreat center on the grounds of St. Mary's Abbey and the Delbarton School in Morristown, New Jersey.

On Saturday night, we had a beautiful candlelight prayer service on side porch of the Kountze Mansion, also known as Delbarton's "Old Main." With the sounds of a light rain and various insects in the background, we sang three long Taizé chants.

For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," below is the first of those chants, "Bless the Lord, My Soul."


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

A Privilege

Quote of the day:
"Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many."

- Unknown

(I spied this on the inside label of a bottle of Honest Tea.)

Monday, August 08, 2011

Heaven Opens

I'm writing tonight from the Hyatt in Wichita, Kansas. I've been here since Friday to exhibit for my gig at the Midwest Catholic Family Conference.

It's our fifth visit to this annual event that draws moms, dads, grandparents and loads of kids and teenagers from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

I have been trying to think of a song related to Wichita or Kansas for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend." Only one has come to mind -- and it's more a Hollywood creation than anything locally grown.

But, as it's already technically Monday, I better get to it. So, for this week's belated offering, below is the classic tune "Over the Rainbow."


I chose the Ella Fitzgerald version because it includes the often-overlooked first verse:

"When all the world is a hopeless jumble,
and the raindrops tumble all around,
Heaven opens a magic lane.

"When all the clouds darken up the skyway,
there's a rainbow highway to be found.

"Leading from your windowpane,
to a place behind the sun,
just a step beyond the rain ... "

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pipes Are Calling

Tonight, the steady and I spent a lazy hour watching a new episode of "The Glee Project" on Oxygen. (Yes, it's a guilty pleasure.)

Near the end of the program, one of the young participants performed a rather unmemorable rendition of "Danny Boy."

Frustrated that such an amazing tune should receive a lackluster treatment, I'm posting another version here for this week's (quite late) "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."

Cue the late great Eva Cassidy.


Flashback: St. Patrick's Day, 2010

Sunday, July 24, 2011

La Divina

On Tuesday evening, we attended a fine performance of the the Manhattan Theater Club's Broadway revival of "Master Class."

The 1995 play by Terrence McNally is a look of the legendary opera diva Maria Callas. The soprano is adeptly brought to life in the revival by the Emmy Award-winning actress Tyne Daly.

From The Economist's review: "Ms. Daly is excellent, revealing a Callas-like commitment to text and nuance that vividly evokes La Divina's real despair."

For this week's belated "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," below is a clip of Callas singing the Puccini aria "O Mio Babbino Caro."


Bonus: Callas with a selection from "Carmen":

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tell Her Everyday

My old college buddy Alicia (who lives in the Los Angeles area) will be visiting the Big Apple this coming Monday to Wednesday. In fact, the steady and I will be hosting her at our pad in Washington Heights / Hudson Heights.

In preparation, I spent nearly all of Saturday cleaning and organizing. It's amazing how the impending arrival of company motivates cleanliness!

While I was cleaning, I listened to some podcasts to keep me company -- specifically, the Dating God podcast and Catholic in a Small Town.

In one CST installment from several months back, Katherine Barron spent some time talking about how she appreciates the lyrics of the Bruno Mars hit "Just The Way You Are."

So, for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," below is that fine tune.


Bonus: A violin cover:

Saturday, July 09, 2011


This week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend" was suggested by my cousin, Luke Snatchko.

It's the catchy new Paul Simon tune "Rewrite."


Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Land That's Free

This year's long Independence Day weekend calls for a patriotic tune for the "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."

Below is an old film clip featuring the late great Kate Smith performing the Irving Berlin classic "God Bless America." It's complete with the seldom-heard first stanza:

"While the storm clouds gather
Far across the sea
Let us swear allegiance
To a land that's free
Let us all be grateful
For a land so fair
As we raise our voices
In a solemn prayer ... "


Flashbacks: 2010, 2006

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Healer of My Soul

On Friday and Saturday, I exhibited for my gig at the Archdiocese of Atlanta Eucharistic Congress. With tens of thousands of attendees, it's always a great event.

Saturday evening, we attended the vigil Mass for the Solemnity of of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ ("Corpus Christi"). During Communion, the youth choir and instrumentalists presented John Michael Talbot's "Healer of My Soul."

Below is one man's rendition of that beautiful song for this week's (belated) "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Secret

Quote of the day:
"I think 80 percent of the population are really great, caring people who will help you and tell you the truth. That's just the way it is. And I think 20 percent of the population are crooks and liars ... So the truth is, the secret is, find out who the crooks and liars are."

-- Tom Hanks, from here.

Hat-tip: Scott Beveridge's Facebook Wall

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dear Prudence

Friday evening, we braved the scattered storms to head out to the Beer Garden in Astoria for our friend Ernie's going-away party. He's headed back to Texas after several years of life in the Big Apple.

Nearly the whole gang was there from the young adult group at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Manhattan (through which we came to know Ernie).

For most of the night, a young man on solo guitar ably played covers of many popular tunes. One that caught my ear in particular was The Beatles' 1968 song "Dear Prudence."

So, for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," below are two covers of this favorite -- one by another young musician named Andrew Stein and a live performance by the amazing Alanis Morissette.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Not Afraid to Live

Most Christian traditions observe tomorrow as Pentecost Sunday. It's a little strange to be celebrating it in mid-June. But, as Easter fell late in this year's calendar, so then must Pentecost.

To learn about this special day in the liturgical year, the go-to person is A Concord Pastor. For more than a week, he has had many excellent posts with art, prayers and music.

At her blog, There Will Be Bread, Fran also has a fine post on Pentecost. In it, she includes this wonderful thought she once heard in a homily:

"Easter makes me not afraid to die; Pentecost makes me not afraid to live."

Below, for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," is a beautifully-done example of the chanted Pentecost sequence "Veni Sancte Spiritus" (Come, Holy Spirit).


Flashbacks: Pentecosts 2010, 2009, 2009, 2008 and 2007.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Back to the Earth

We are in Western Pennsylvania this weekend vising family and friends as well as taking in some of the sights.

Today, we headed to Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood and visited the beautiful Phipps Conservatory and the nationality rooms at the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning. It was my first time at both in several years.

As a tribute to my native place, this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend" features a song by the Pittsburgh band, Rusted Root. "Back to the Earth" was the last track on the band's mid-'90s debut album. (The Alaska photos in the video are unrelated to this post -- it was difficult finding a high-quality version of this song on YouTube.)


Sunday, May 29, 2011

As Christ To You

On Saturday morning, I attended the ordination to the priesthood of Paulist Father Dat Tran. Father Dat was ordained by New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan during a beautiful Mass at my parish, the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Manhattan.

It was the first priestly ordination I have ever attended.

Among the many fine musical selections at the Mass was "The Servant Song" by Richard Gillard. Here below is a version of that hymn for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."


Bonus: An instrumental rendition on dulcimer:

Friday, May 27, 2011

Compassion Walks

Some verse before the long weekend:

Compassion walks the city street
And listens with uncertain feet
That seek a home they cannot find
Because the heart that leads is blind.

Compassion holds a steady light
To show the way through chill of night
And takes the homeless by the hand
To lead them to a warmer land.

Compassion walks where life is hard,
Where eyes are blank and faces marred
By pain too great to understand,
And shoulders those too weak to stand.

Compassion is the Shepherd's name:
Who from the halls of heaven came
To travel landscapes bare and bleak
For those that only love would seek.

Compassion does not tire or sleep
But walks wherever suff'rers weep
Through ages past and still to come,
Until the world is gathered home
To rest at last where Mercy reigns
And heals all ills and stills all pains.

And there Compassion's walk will cease,
Where God is all, and all is peace.

- Sister Genevieve Glen, O.S.B.

Copyright 2002 by Benedictine Nuns, Abbey of St. Walburga, Virginia Dale, CO

The image above is a painting by Kevin Levick.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Anna Sun

I realize the weekend is almost at an end. But, since Sunday officially lasts another 20 minutes or so, I am still going to post a "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."

The piece below is called "Anna Sun" by the indie band Walk the Moon. I have no idea what the lyrics are about. But, it's a fun tune.


Here's an acoustic version:

Hat-tip: Ryan N.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

At the Center

Quote of the day:

"As a Christian, I don’t think my own personal satisfaction should be at the center of what I do with my life. I’m here to serve ... "

- Bishop Daniel Conlon, from here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Since moving to Hudson Heights, I've been doing trial workouts at various gyms in northern Manhattan and the Upper West Side. I'm trying to find one that has the right amenities at a fair price that's also easy to reach after work and on weekends.

This past week, I had a free seven-day pass to Crunch on West 83rd Street. One of the things I liked about it are the personal TVs on each piece of cardio equipment. Among the limited number of channels available were three dedicated solely to music videos -- one with '80s hits, one dubbed "Urban" and one called "Dance."

One evening this week, while I was on the elliptical, the Dance channel showed the video for TLC's mid-'90s hit "Waterfalls." I've had it on the brain ever since.

So, for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," cue T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli.


And, here's a cover:

Monday, May 09, 2011


Joyful news for a Monday in springtime:

At 1:31 p.m. today, my brother, Joe, and sister-in-law, Erin, welcomed their second child and first daughter.

Annabella Jean Snatchko entered the world at 6.7 pounds and 18.5 inches long. She arrived just two days before the third birthday of her big brother, Aiden.

Annabella is a new first cousin for Ethan, Mariah, Brayden and John Ross.

Welcome to our world, Annabella! May the Holy Spirit always be your guide.

An aside: It appears 2011 will be a year of many new arrivals.

In addition to the birth of my new niece, I know six women (five friends and one co-worker) who are expecting. And, in the past fortnight, another co-worker and his wife adopted a one-month-old boy.

Please keep these all of little ones, and their parents, in your prayers.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Close to My Heart

A very happy and blessed Mother's Day to all mothers, grandmothers, step-mothers, Godmothers and to all women who have been a special part of the lives of children! (Including my own.)

In celebration of the day, here is a take on "Baby Mine" (first heard in "Dumbo") for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."


Flashback #1: MissBroadwayDork's take on "Baby Mine"

Flashback #2: "Bonne fête des mères!"

Sunday, May 01, 2011


Today is the Second Sunday of Easter or what Catholics call "Divine Mercy Sunday."

Earlier today in Rome, during Mass in a packed Saint Peter's Square, Pope John Paul II was beatified. It's the penultimate step prior to canonization.

For a good piece of writing on this beatification, I would suggest the post "A Liberal Liking of Blessed John Paul II" by Jesuit Father James Martin at "In All Things."

I was only once in the presence of John Paul II. It was during the Papal Mass on the Great Lawn of Central Park in October, 1995. A group of us from the Newman Club at NYU attended. As I've said before in this space, it was one of the great spiritual experiences of my life.

I have only been able to find two clips on YouTube from that morning in Central Park. They aren't of the highest quality but they do provide a sense of the memorable liturgy celebrated by the holy man beatified today:

Blessed John Paul, pray for us!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Deus Ibi Est

There is much to pray for today.

Hundreds were killed this week in the southern states by storms and tornadoes. Prayers are needed for the dead and those who mourn them, as well as for the hurt and the homeless.

While in London and Rome, it is a time of great events. Prayers would be appropriate for popes, princes and the great throngs of people.

So, for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," below is a "new-ish" setting of the hymn "Ubi Caritas" by the 35-year-old Welsh composer Paul Mealor as it was heard Friday in Westminster Abbey.


In English:

"Where there is charity and love, there is God."

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Monday

In many Christian traditions, Easter (or "the Easter season" or "Eastertide") lasts for 50 days until Pentecost.

So, to help continue the celebration this Easter Monday, below is a video featuring the song "Christ is Risen" by Matt Maher.

For your consideration:

Flashback: 2009

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mandate of the Marys

Happy Easter!

Last night, I went to the Easter Vigil at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle on Manhattan's West Side. It was a fine Mass clocking in at three hours in length (owing to nine scripture readings plus Psalms, two baptisms, five confirmations and a choir performance of "The Hallelujah Chorus").

The Gospel passage at this year's vigil was from Matthew Chapter 28. It's powerful in so many ways -- the resurrection of Jesus being the greatest, of course.

But, perhaps we also need to consider the actors in the miraculous account.

At this ultimate moment in salvation history, the apostles are not present. After all the teachings they had heard and the miracles they had witnessed, the men who had been closest to Jesus did not automatically go to the tomb on the third day. They were hiding.

It was the two Marys who had the faith, courage, determination and love to return to the place where Jesus' body rested.

And, for this, they were blessed with an interface with the angel and then Jesus himself:

Then the angel said to the women in reply,

“Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.”

Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to his disciples.

And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.

Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

In this passage, the greatest charge of evangelization in all of human history is given to two women. It is the two Marys who are being told to proclaim the greatest of good news.

My question: What does the role of the two Marys on Easter morning in Ancient Israel have to teach the Church of today? Do women have a mandate from Jesus himself to preach?

For more on Easter, visit the Concord Pastor, Deacon Greg, Mike, Brother Dan, Rocco, Deacon Scott, McNamara's Blog, Father Stephen and Blue Eyed Ennis.

And, courtesy of Dan Sloan on Facebook, here is some Bach for Easter:

Flashbacks: Easter Sundays 2010, 2009 and 2008.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fine Company

Of all the Lenten observances I've seen in 2011, the best has been Mike Hayes' "50-Day Giveaway" at his blog Googling God. From Day 1, the vlog series was consistent, creative and heartfelt.

Yesterday, in Mike's giveaway for Good Friday, I was honored to be among five bloggers to receive gifts. The others were Fran, Deacon Greg, Brother Dan and the Concord Pastor. (What fine company!)

Check it out:

Thank you, Mike! I know I will enjoy that book. Ray Suarez is a fellow NYU Arts & Science alum. I was pleased to speak to him at an event a few years back.

Holy Saturday

It's a rainy Holy Saturday afternoon here in northern Manhattan. The steady and I just had a late breakfast and are lingering over Facebook, YouTube and various blogs.

For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," below is a piece perhaps appropriate for these hours of waiting prior to the Easter Vigil. It's a setting of the "Angus Dei" by J.S. Bach.


In English:

Lamb of God,
You take away the sin of the world,
Have mercy on us.

Lamb of God,
You take away the sin of the world,
Have mercy on us.

Lamb of God,
You take away the sin of the world,
Grant us peace.

Hat-tip: Beth Connors

Friday, April 22, 2011

Our Homeland

Why did there need to be a Good Friday?

One man's answer:

“ … God migrated to humanity so all of us in turn could migrate back to God. …

“ … God in Jesus Christ so loved the world that he left his homeland and migrated into the far distant territory of humanity’s sinful and broken existence. There he laid down his life on a cross so that we could be reconciled with God and migrate back to our homeland where there is peace, harmony, justice and life. … "

- Fr. Daniel G. Groody, C.S.C., from an article in the February 7 edition of America

Flashback: 2010

The painting above is "The Two Marys Watch the Tomb" by James Tissot. It's from the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Love Held Him There

Good Friday thoughts:

... God was so engrafted into humanity that one who was both God and human ran like one in love to the shameful death of the cross.

This incarnate Word wanted to be engrafted onto that tree. And it was not the cross or the nails that held him there. These were not strong enough to hold the God-Man.

No, it was love that held him there.

- Saint Catherine of Siena, d. 1380, Doctor of the Church. The quote is from "Letters of St. Catherine of Siena" translated by Sr. Suzanne Noffke, O.P. (The paragraph breaks are mine.)

The image above is "It Is Finished" or "Consummatum Est" by James Tissot. The image lives at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday.

"How shall I bury you, my God, how enfold you with the shroud? What chant shall I intone, sorrowing on your funeral way?"

The image above is "Crosses," created in 1981 or 1982 by Andy Warhol. It lives at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. (It may not be shown above in the direction originally intended by the artist.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


This Spy Wednesday is turning out to be a damp, gray day here in the New York City area.

Reynor Santiago captured this well this well in a photo he took this morning on the grounds of St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers:

"One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the Chief Priests ... " (Matthew 26: 14)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Okay With That

There was a fine post today by Ree Drummond at her blog Confessions of a Pioneer Woman called "A Palm Sunday Baptism."

The post concluded with this intriguing prose and photo:

When I walk into a Catholic church, whether it’s in Pawhuska, Oklahoma or Dallas, Texas, a lump immediately forms in my throat and I have to swallow hard to keep the tears from flowing. The lump doesn’t disappear until I walk out of the church.

I’ve thought about it a lot, trying to figure out the reason for this response, over which I’ve found I have absolutely no control.

I don’t know if it’s because of my Episcopalian upbringing; maybe being in a Catholic church takes me back to my childhood.

Or maybe it’s the history of the church itself, that it’s survived through the ages and is always, always the same.

It could be that I feel the presence of the saints, whose images can be seen in the stained glass windows.

Or, more likely, it’s something more mysterious…something I’ll never exactly understand.

And I’m okay with that.

But one thing I discovered yesterday: throw a gummy-mouthed, beautiful, smiling baby into the mix, and the lump very quickly gives way to tears.

Copious, salty, dripping tears.

Yes, I’m a mess.

But I’m okay with that, too.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tried for Three Years

Another Palm Sunday. Another Holy Week begins.

This week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend" should help set the mood. So here is a 60-something Ted Neeley with "Gethsemane" from "Jesus Christ Superstar." In the first moments, you may be skeptical. But, keep going to around 3:00. It's worth it.


Song hat-tip: Deacon Greg

Flashbacks: Palm Sundays 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Reason vs. Imagination

Quote of the day:
“The heart is commonly reached not through reason, but through imagination.”
Blessed John Henry Newman, from here.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Rayos de Canción

On Thursday night, the steady and I went to "Rayos de Canción," a concert of classical music at the Church of Saint Paul the Apostle.

The evening was organized by Matthew Wright, a flute virtuoso, to benefit a mission trip to Antigua, Guatemala. Matthew was joined in performance by five of his fellows from The Julliard School.

One particularly beautiful part of the program was the Andante section of the Flute Sonata in E Minor by J.S. Bach. I liked it so much I thought I would share it as this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."


Thursday, April 07, 2011

Wisdom of the Other Side

There's an excellent new offering at Salon called "I can't believe my best friend is a Republican." The author is Taffy Brodesser-Akner.

I loved this paragraph:

... I think having a Republican friend is making me a better liberal. We need friends who differ from us. It's easy to watch Republican extremism and think, "Wow, they're crazy." But when someone is sitting face to face with us, when someone we admire and respect is telling us they believe differently, it is at this fine point that we find nuance, and we begin to understand exactly how we got to this point in history. We lose something critical when we surround ourselves with people who agree with us all the time. We lose out on the wisdom of seeing the other side. ...
Amen to that.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

A Particular People

Some food for thought on the subject of tradition:

"It is not of advantage to us to indulge a sentimental attitude towards the past. For one thing, in even the very best living tradition there is always a mixture of good and bad, and much that deserves criticism; and for another, tradition is not a matter of feeling alone. Nor can we safely, without very critical examination, dig ourselves in stubbornly to a few dogmatic notions, for what is a healthy belief at one time may, unless it is one of the few fundamental things, be a pernicious prejudice at another. Nor should we cling to traditions as a way of asserting our superiority over less favoured peoples.

"What we can do is to use our minds, remembering that a tradition without intelligence is not worth having, to discover what is the best life for us not as a political abstraction, but as a particular people in a particular place, what in the past is worth preserving and what should be rejected, and what conditions within our power to bring about, would foster the society we desire."

-- T.S. Eliot, from "After Strange Gods"

Hat-tip: Tim T.

Stacks and Stacks

Having moved three times in the past four years, I've had ample opportunity to ponder the nature of personal belongings, a.k.a. "stuff."

I generally try follow the two year rule: If you haven't worn, read or used an item in two years, you probably don't need it. But, I have to admit, I'm thankful for the large attic at my mom's house in Pennsylvania where all evidence of my life before 2007 now resides.

In the new edition of U.S. Catholic, editor Bryan Cones takes this topic for a drive and discovers something about himself.

Here is part of his fine Lenten column "Boxed In":

... I lived for a year without half my things, and I never really needed them. When I finally unpacked the dozens of boxes, I wondered why I had wasted hundreds of dollars storing them. There were mementos from high school and college, knickknacks from trips, old videos, and CDs. But most of it was books, books, and more books, along with notes from college classes and papers I had written more than a decade ago.

Why was I keeping all this stuff? Did I really think I was going to take up biblical Greek again, or that I had a use for a 10-pound German dictionary? An anatomy textbook? Really?

I used to watch TV reality shows about people who have collected so much that they’ve become completely overwhelmed, prisoners of their own treasured possessions. They couldn’t allow themselves to throw anything away, and they couldn’t say why. Inevitably, once the work of clean-up had begun, the reason became obvious: grief and regret embodied in so many knickknacks, feelings that suddenly burst forth when the show’s host suggested that Aunt Edna’s broken teapot might be ready for the trash heap.

As I looked at my books and papers—almost all of them from my seminary and theology school days—I was surprised by my own unacknowledged sadness. Most of that library was a collection of dreams unfulfilled or only partially so, visions of myself that weren’t to be: me as a priest and pastor, as a theologian and college professor.

Even more, carrying them around—hundreds and hundreds of pounds of them—was wearing down more than my back. There was regret, disappointment, even a sense of failure that I hadn’t lived up to expectations. And as long as they were there in front of me, living where I live, I wasn’t going to move on. They were taking up the space where new life could have a chance to grow—my own little spiritual tomb built in stacks and stacks of paperbacks. Cue the soft rock. ...

Friday, April 01, 2011

Breathe In, Breathe Out

Earlier this week, my co-worker Liz was playing music in her adjacent workspace. During one stretch, all of the tunes were from the "Gray's Anatomy" soundtrack.

One in particular caught my attention: "Breathe In, Breathe Out" by Mat Kearney. It had a relaxed, meditative feel. (And, honestly, it sounds a lot like many of the ballads sung by one of my favorites, Chris Martin from Coldplay.)

So, for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," here it is below.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

In Old Savannah

I'm coming to you again from Tybee Island, Georgia, an ocean-front town of some 3,000 souls near Savannah. Yesterday, the steady's sister was married here and it's been an enjoyable whirlwind of wedding activity and sightseeing. Today, for instance, we visited Fort Screven and Fort Pulaski.

As I write this at 11:30 p.m. on Sunday night, I recognize the weekend is almost at an end. But, begging your indulgence, gentle reader, I still do want to post a "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."

One song about Savannah is the fun 1920s tune "Hard Hearted Hanna." Below is a rendition by the late great Ella Fitzgerald.


Hat-tip: The steady and Dorothy Zbornak

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Tragic Centennial

I'm writing tonight from beautiful Tybee Island. It's a shelter island off the northern coast of Georgia, about 17 miles from Savannah. The steady's sister is getting married here tomorrow.

But, before the day passed, I wanted to make mention here at the blog about a tragic centennial that more people should know about. Today, March 25, is the 100th anniversary of the horrible fire in 1911 at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City's Greenwich Village.

The fire broke out in what is now New York University's Brown Building (on Washington Place off Washington Square East). As a student at NYU in the 1990s, I walked its halls.

Below is a portion of PBS' American Experience documentary about the factory and the 146 garment workers killed there (most of whom were Italian and Jewish immigrant women).

In remembrance:

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Bach Birthday

Today (March 21) is the 326th anniversary of the birth of the German composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).

Here's a musical selection to mark the day:

Hat-tip: Dan Sloan, who today posted several Bach pieces to his Facebook wall.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In the Glow of Evening

I'm writing this evening from the lobby of the Hilton in Anaheim, CA. My co-workers and I have been hanging out here for a few hours before we have to leave for LAX for the Delta red-eye back to JFK.

We've been here these past few days to represent our gig at the annual L.A. Religious Education Congress. It's my fifth time exhibiting at this tremendous event that draws tens of thousands of catechists and other Catholics involved in education and ministry work.

Even though the weekend is nearing it's end, I still want to post a "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend." The tune is "I Have Dreamed" from the great old Rogers and Hammerstein musical "The King and I." I was reminded of it earlier this week in a post by Mike over at Googling God.

The first version, a smooth instrumental rendition, is from the soundtrack of "The American President." There's a second take, too, with lyrics.

This is dedicated to the steady back in the Big Apple (who I can't wait to see tomorrow). ;-)


Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Anxiety of Saint Joseph

For Catholics, today (March 19) is a special day to remember Saint Joseph.

Last year, I posted two images of this husband of the Blessed Mother created by the 19th century French painter James Tissot. For good measure, below is one more from the collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

This image is called “L'anxiété de Saint Joseph" or “The Anxiety of Saint Joseph”:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Change Often

Food for thought for a March Monday:

“In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Of Parapets and Angels

Today is the First Sunday of Lent. I went to the 5:15 p.m. Mass at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle on 9th Avenue at 60th Street (which is now "downtown" for me).

Today's Gospel reading, from Matthew Chapter 4, was the account of Jesus' 40 days and 40 nights in the desert during which he was tempted by the devil.

The French painter James Tissot created multiple images of this passage. Here are two:

" ... Then the devil took him to the holy city,
and made him stand on the parapet of the temple ... "

" ... Then the devil left him and, behold,
angels came and ministered to him."

Flashbacks: First Sundays of Lent 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007.

For reflections on today's readings, stop over at the blogs of Fran, A Concord Pastor and Deacon Greg. And, to see a superb Lenten observance in progress, everyone should pay a visit to Mike and his "50-Day Giveaway."

The images above live at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Day of Tears and Mourning

The images out of Japan following Friday's earthquake and tsunami are horrific. With thousands of people dead and missing, it is the most devastating occurrence in that nation since World War II.

Dear God, we pray for the dead and those who mourn them. We pray for the missing and the injured. We pray for the rescue workers and for those who will need to salvage and rebuild. God, save them.

This week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend" is dedicated to the people of Japan. The piece is from Mozart's setting of "Lacrimosa" in the Requiem Mass.


An English translation:

That day of tears and mourning,
when from the ashes shall arise,
all humanity to be judged.
Spare us by your mercy, Lord,
gentle Lord Jesus,
grant them eternal rest. Amen.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Goodbye to Grand Street

I've been remiss in noting here on the blog that I moved last week. After two years of hanging my hat in Little Italy, I have relocated to northern Manhattan.

Pinehurst Avenue near 187th Street in the Hudson Heights section of Washington Heights is now home. It's a great residential block a short walk from The Cloisters, Fort Tryon Park and the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Shrine. I'm also now much closer, geographically-speaking, to my office in Yonkers (although the commute is only 10 or 15 minutes shorter).

But, I'll long cherish my memories of living in Little Italy and the adjoining parts of Chinatown and Soho -- a part of the city that I think is one of the great urban neighborhoods of the world. I loved being surrounded by the diverse architecture and the wonderful restaurants and shops. And I especially loved learning more about the area's wonderful history. I never tired, for instance, of telling the story of Old St. Patrick's Cathedral to out-of-town guests whenever we approached the corner of Prince and Mulberry streets.

Regarding the famous Little Italy restaurants, I'm sorry that my work and travel schedule (and my budget) didn't allow me to become become a repeat customer at any of them -- except for the great dessert cafe Ferrara's. I will miss, however, the excellent and affordable Malaysian restaurant Nyonya and the amazing macaroni and cheese spot Macbar.

(The steady keeps reminding me: "We can go back!")

For history's sake, I want to record that I lived at 191 Grand Street, a five-story brick building at the intersection of Mulberry and Grand streets. My roommate Claudia and I shared a two-bedroom apartment on the fifth floor with Claudia's cat Marsha and kitten Tommi. I lived in the little bedroom next to the kitchen.

From my south-facing bedroom window I could clearly hear the sounds of of the neighborhood's annual events like the Saint Anthony feast, the Feast of San Gennaro, the Miss Little Italy pageant and the East-Meets-West Christmas parade.

Above is a photo of a framed list attached to the wall on the first floor landing at 191 Grand Street. My guess is that those are the names of the building's residents many decades ago when nearly everyone was still Italian. We lived in the old Gassarino apartment, No. 30.

For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," below is a tune dedicated to all those great old Italian-American families who made my former neighborhood such a unique place.

It's the 1952 song "That's Amore" as performed by Dean Martin. The video shows then-and-now New York City locations featured in the film "Moonstuck."


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Live As One

The PS22 Chorus from Staten Island is slated to perform this Sunday at the Oscars ceremony. In honor of the occasion, below is a clip of those famous fifth graders for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."

Joining the chorus on John Lennon's "Imagine" is Ithacapella.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Scandals and Sanctity

Some church-related food for thought:

"Treat the Catholic Church as divine only and you will stumble over her scandals, her failures and her shortcomings. Treat her as human only and you will be silenced by her miracles, her sanctity and her eternal resurrections. ... "

- Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson (1871 - 1914), a British convert to Catholicism and novelist, from "Paradoxes of Catholicism" (1913).

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Under The Auspices of Liberty"

As I write today, the nearby living room television is turned to CNN. The network is showing images from Libya where the people are protesting against a dictator of some 40 years.

"Gaddafi out!" said a protester's sign in one of the shots.

It's ironic this is the leading news on a day when we Americans celebrate the birthday of our first president, George Washington. History reminds us that, after two terms in office, the founding father could have stayed on but freely did not.

This was a blessing to the young American republic. It led to a peaceful transfer of power from one democratically elected leader to another and set the precedent for a calm presidential retirement.

The Arab world needs men and women like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and the rest -- leaders who cherish real democracy and true freedom more than power for themselves and their regimes.

The despots could do well by reading George Washington's Farewell Address.

Here's a piece of that honorable exit:

" ... In looking forward to the moment which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected.

Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it. ... "

The image above, the famous Gilbert Stuart portrait of President Washington saved by Dolley Madison, is from here.