View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hurricane relief

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops is collecting for hurricane relief in the wake of Katrina. Special gifts or collections can be sent to:

2005 Hurricane Relief Fund
Catholic Charities USA
PO Box 25168
Alexandria, VA 22313-9788

Friday, August 26, 2005

Not even just one shot?

Pope Proposes "Fruitful Collaboration" to Chávez Government

Receives Venezuela's New Envoy

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 25, 2005 ( Benedict XVI proposed that tensions between Hugo Chávez's government and the Catholic Church be surmounted by promoting mutual collaboration for the benefit of Venezuela's people.

As he greeted Venezuela's new ambassador to the Holy See today, the Pope said: "I very much hope that the present difficulties in church-state relations will be dissipated and that there will be a return to a fruitful collaboration in continuity with the noble Venezuelan tradition."

The Holy Father's comments came when he received the letters of credence presented to him by Iván Guillermo Rincón Urdaneta, who until now was president of Venezuela's Supreme Court. They met in Castel Gandolfo, in the hills south of Rome, where the Pope is spending the summer.

Relations between Venezuela's bishops and President Chávez became tense shortly after he came to power. In February 1999, Chávez took measures which seriously hampered the charitable and educational programs of the Catholic Church in the country.

Since then, Chávez has hurled public accusations against the bishops and the papal nuncio, who expressed their opposition to concrete aspects of his government.

Last July 17, for example, in his Sunday radio and television program, Chávez insulted Cardinal Rosalio José Castillo Lara, the retired president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State who lives in Venezuela. The cardinal, 82, had cast doubt on Chávez's democratic practices.

Positive points

In his address to the new ambassador, Benedict XVI tried to calm spirits, acknowledging, for example, "the prominence that the government gave the mourning for the death of my venerated predecessor, Pope John Paul II."

"For its part, the Holy See follows very closely the events in that beloved 'land of grace,' and has so said on numerous occasions," added Benedict XVI.

The Holy Father also acknowledged "the importance that the Venezuelan public authorities give" to "the various programs of literacy, education and health care."

At the same time, the Pontiff asked that the government respect the freedom proper to the Church to carry out its mission in Venezuela.

"Governments of states have nothing to fear from the action of the Church, which in the exercise of its freedom seeks only to carry out its own religious mission and to contribute to the spiritual progress of each country," he said.

Freedom to serve

The Holy Father continued: "The Church, which cannot fail to proclaim and defend the dignity of the human person in his integrity and openness to divine transcendence, calls for the capacity to dispose, in a stable way, of the indispensable space and necessary means to fulfill her mission and humanizing service.

"The Church wants freedom solely to offer a valid service of collaboration with all public and private entities concerned with the good of man."

In the face of the challenges posed by social justice in the Latin American country, the Pope said that a "loyal and respectful dialogue among all social sectors" is an imperative "as a means for consensus on aspects that concern the common good."

Addressing Ambassador Rincón Urdaneta personally, Benedict XVI said he hoped that "during the exercise of his important mission, the now traditional and historical relations between Venezuela and the Holy See will be strengthened with a spirit of loyal and constructive collaboration."

About 88% of Venezuela's 25 million inhabitants are baptized Catholics.

Hmm. This differs somewhat from Pat Robertson’s suggestion that the U.S. just assassinate Chavez.

Actually, when I first heard about Robertson’s remarks, I was reminded of Uncle Fester of the television version of
The Addams Family.

When the family ran into someone they had a problem with, he would invariable suggest that they “shoot him in the back.”

I wonder if we can get Robertson to shave his head Fester-style?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

St. Rose haiku

St. Rose of Lima
had a recipe for beauty –
add some pepper


St. Rose of Lima’s
recipe for vanity –
add some pepper

(According to one story, St. Rose [actually, Isabel. Rose was her nickname] was so beautiful [hence the nickname] that she used to rub her face with pepper in order to disfigure her skin with botches).

(I wonder how the Church's sainthood investigators would treat such an action today?)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Found prayer haiku (from Mass)

Lord, your love is
eternal – do not forsake
the work of your hands

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Boycott Starbucks? Well...

I stumbled across an article about Starbucks written by Meghan Kleppinger of Concerned Women for America.

She alleges that Starbucks supports Gay Pride events, including some where children will be exposed to "sexually explicit materials and pedophiles as well as the extremely liberal and pro-abortion Planned Parenthood."

Her main point comes down to this:

I overestimated, but discovered that if I drink five grande lattes a week for a year, the total number of lattes would equal 260, coming to a total cost of $1,040. So, in my four post-college years, I could have contributed as much as $4,160 to a company that supports the volunteer work of child abusers, "Pride" events, abortionists, and do I really need to go on? Back to that marketing director's quote: "We're committed to supporting things that matter to our employees and our customers." Um ... HELLO, I am a customer, too!

Hmm. The main reasons I see for boycotts are to avoid being part of/contributing to something I don't believe in, or to try to change the organization so that it no longer continues the objectionable activity.

I already "boycott" some places - Walmart, for example, mainly because of its labor practices, the way it treats its suppliers, and the way it destroys small businesses wherever it goes.

But I'm not one to simply jump on boycott bandwagons.

Sometimes I think there are just too many boycotts for silly reasons.

For example, some people have called for a boycott of ABC because it rigged it's Dancing with the Stars show so that it's Playboy-bimbo ABC soap star Kelly defeated the clearly better old guy John. (Okay, this one did tempt me. He was better!)

Then there's the boycotts that are based on misinformation.

One that's circulating now is one targetting Target for allegedly stating in its donation policies that it will support only "gay and lesbian causes", it has been accused of refusing to support veterans groups, and of being - gasp - French owned.

Mon Dieu!

But those Target charges are part of an urban legend. Target is American owned, it has supported many veterans' groups and projects (such as the World War II Memorial), and its official policy contains no such statement about "gay and lesbian causes."

So you have to be careful to check all calls for boycotts.

As for this Starbuck's one, I haven't found anything yet about this alleged child abuse/Planned Parenthood connection (other than this article).

Starbucks has been falsely targetted in the past for allegedly not supporting our troops and boycotting Israel - neither rumor apparently true. It has also been criticized for, among other things, where it gets its coffee supplies (child labor accustaions, etc), about which there was apparently some truth. (Conflicting reports about this one.)

Anyway, if truth be told, I don't like Starbucks coffee anyway.

The coffee is too strong/bitter for my taste, and too many of its other beverage confections are calorie bombs.

If I'm going to drink corporate coffee, I prefer Tim Hortons. I like Canadians.

Better yet is coffee at the local small coffee shops. I think we should support local businesses on principle.

Besides, I bet Kelly drinks Starbucks coffee.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Call to the diaconate - R.I.P.?

“I am in the fiftieth year of my life: therefore a mature man on the road to old age: perhaps death is near. I have achieved very little in the half a century of life and of following the priestly vocation. I feel humble and ashamed before the Lord, and ask his pardon `for my countless sins,’ but I look to the future with imperturbable and confident serenity.” - Pope John XXIII Journal of a Soul (1931 entry)

This passage resonated with me – except the part about priestly vocation (unless you count the priesthood of all believers).

Fifty. Mature – Ha! (Okay, another area of difference!) Having accomplished little. Humble and ashamed before the Lord. Countless sins.

“Imperturbable and confident serenity” – perhaps, though certainly not this morning.

These reflections come from a good and holy man who in 1931 had devoted his life to his vocation and to prayer. He had fought the good fight for his faith and the Church.

I, on the other hand, have wriggled and pulled and fought all the way, like a fish on a line. God has kept reeling me in, but I’ve done everything I could to hold back and get away.

What leads to these thoughts is a meeting I had yesterday.

When my wife and I had begun to talk seriously about applying after last week’s day of reflection, it suddenly dawned on me that in a foolish time in my life I had done something that could prove a serious impediment to becoming a deacon. I called the head of the diaconate in our diocese to arrange the meeting to discuss the matter.

He agreed that it could prove an impediment. He was going to run things by the canon lawyers at the diocese. If they do not see it will be an issue, fine, I can continue the process.

If they do see a potential problem, however, then there may have to be an investigation. After the investigation, they could determine that it will not be a problem, or they could conclude that it is an insurmountable impediment.

Or they could ultimately decide they have to refer the matter to Rome.

Rome? For me?

Would I want to push it that far? Do I feel a strong enough call? Do I feel that even if I do ultimately receive permission to proceed, I am worthy?

Or do I humbly accept my position in the back pew and play my role as a part of the priesthood of all believers?

And if that’s the case, what’s wrong with that?

Nothing, of course.

But my ego would not be happy.

And, in the end, that might be the real problem here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Yes, there are lawyers in heaven

Today’s Gospel reading is Matthew 20, 1-16

It’s the story of the landowner who keeps hiring workers throughout the day to labor in his vineyard. Some worked all day, some just an hour, yet all got paid just the same.

I remember when I was younger (okay, a lot younger!), this story used to bug me.

It didn’t seem fair that some of the workers worked all day, yet got the same as the slackers.

I mean, why did Kevin M get to be a lawyer and take over his dad’s comfortable practice even after goofing around throughout school and going on those skiing trips and driving that sports car he got as a birthday gift, while I worked my buns off to earn money and win scholarships and … (oops, getting off on a tangent!)

Anyway, I thought the workers who worked hard should have gotten something more, or, at the least, the ones who worked less should have gotten a prorated amount.

But Jesus began this story by saying this situation was like the kingdom of heaven.

How do you prorate heaven?

You fooled around until you repented late in life, so you only get half or a third of heaven?

Maybe you get a lumpy cloud? Or you get stuck being a guardian angel to a mobster – or an accountant.

And if you worked hard all your life, how can you get something extra?

Do you get to SUPERSIZE your heaven?

Fluffier wings, maybe. Perhaps a harp that keeps in tune better.

Of course, that’s nonsense.

Heaven is heaven. All who are there are eternally immersed in the loving embrace and the beatific vision of God.

Nothing can be better than absolute joy. Absolute joy can’t be lessened. It is.

Once we get there – God willing – we are not going to care who worked more or less than us.

For if we still care about such things, we will not be in heaven. Not yet, anyway. Maybe never if we continue to cling to resentments and jealousies.

And I’d trade a cushy law practice for heaven any day.

Maybe I'll even run into Kevin there.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Taizé Founder, Brother Roger, Slain

Sad note.

DIJON, France, AUG. 16, 2005 ( The founder of the French religious Taizé Community, Brother Roger, was attacked and killed by a mentally disturbed man (some reports say it was a woman) during vespers, his community said.

Roger, 90, was attacked, probably with a knife, during evening prayer today at Taizé, near Cluny, in the eastern Burgundy region, a member of the community told Agence France-Presse.

The Taizé movement started during World War II, when Swiss-born monk Roger Schutz, living in Taizé, provided a refuge for those fleeing the conflict, irrespective of their religion.

Roger, a Protestant with a degree in theology, devoted his life to the reconciliation between Christian denominations.

I remember singing and playing some of the songs of Taizé at church, and services that incorporated Taizé-style prayer. It is a worship style that encourages contemplation.

I will keep him, the man who attacked him, and the community in my prayers.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Sunday Haiku

St. Patrick Father
preaching about the missions
seeks gold for his pot

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Deacon Day of Reflection - encountering God

We had our diaconate day of reflection today.

Phew, lots to chew over.

The four-year education and training process is pretty time and labor intensive.

Even the application process is pretty involved – and the outcome is not certain.

I won’t go into all the details at this time (it’s late), but one question raised by one of the deacons appealed to me: Where do you see God?

I immediately thought of three places I have seen or encountered God.

I remembered one morning while walking the dogs and a bird began to sing. It was so beautiful, so unexpected, that in that moment I had a sense of God’s presence in the natural world.

Then there was one day at Mass when the lector read the readings so reverently, so full of feeling, that I sensed God’s presence in her.

And I recalled a time when I took my 90-year-old grandmother out to lunch, and the waitress went out of her way to help my nearly blind grandmother, changed what was on the menu to fit with what she wanted, and then kept checking back with us, always with a smile and a cheerful voice. In her loving service, in her turning what could have been “just a job” into a ministry, I sensed the presence of God.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Polls suggest a pro-life America

Majority of Americans Oppose Most Abortions, CBS News Poll Shows

Washington, DC ( -- A new CBS News poll finds a majority of Americans oppose abortions in all or most circumstances. The poll follows on the recent surveys showing most Americans believe abortions should either be illegal or happen in a very limited set of circumstances.

When asked about their "personal feeling about abortion," 53 percent of respondents said all or most abortions should not be permitted and only 43 percent said all or most abortions should be permitted.

Of the 53 percent giving a pro-life answer, 33 percent believe abortion should only be permitted in the rare cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. Approximately 15 percent only believe abortion should be allowed to save the mother's life and 5 percent said abortions should never be permitted.

Of those 43 percent backing abortion, 28 percent believe abortion should be allowed in all situations while 15 percent back abortion in all cases but say it should be more restricted than it is now.

While 53 percent took a pro-life position opposing all or most abortions, some 68 percent of those CBS News polled said abortion should be more restricted than it is now. Current abortion law, following from the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, allows virtually unrestricted abortions throughout pregnancy.

A late July poll by Quinnipiac University finds 70 percent of those polled indicated they favored "a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion, 74 percent of the public favors requiring abortion businesses to notify parents before a minor girl can have an abortion, and 76 percent of Americans believe partial-birth abortions should be illegal except when necessary to save the life of the mother.

Meanwhile, an April 2005 poll conducted by Gallup finds that most Americans oppose most abortions. According to the poll, 59 percent of the American public say they oppose all or most abortions.

The CNS News survey polled 1,222 adults from July 29 through August 2 and has a 3 percent margin of error.

Poetry pays...

I just got word that a poetry magazine wants to publish two of my haiku.

That makes three haiku and two limericks accepted for publication this year.

My poetic successes will earn me …$11.50.

I’ll heed my wife’s advice and not quit my day job.

NARAL, Planned Parenthood back down

NARAL has withdrawn its misleading ad about Judge Roberts.

Planned Parenthood Golden Gate has pulled its cartoon of a superhero for choice killing pro-lifers.

Hooray for small victories.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

NARAL lie? Heaven forbid!

The National Abortion Rights Action League is running a television ad that implies Supreme Court nominee John Roberts supported a clinic bomber. The ad cites a brief that Roberts filed, and shows images from a bombing.

The problem is that the brief cited had nothing to do with clinic bombings, and in fact, was filed some 7 years before the bombing depicted in the ad. The ad also fails to mention that Roberts had earlier condemned clinic bombings, and said that abortion-facility bombers should be “prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

Even objective groups have described the ad as “misleading” and “false.”

In other words, NARAL is lying.

That someone in the pro-choice camp would resort to lying should hardly be surprising.

Legal abortion in United States is built on lies.

Pro-choice activists in the 1960s and early 1970s trying to get abortion legal claimed that were more than a million back-alley abortions a year, and that 5,000 to 10,000 women were dying at the hands of back alley butchers.

But Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who co-founded NARAL, later admitted that the numbers were made up.

“I confess that I knew the figures were totally false, and I suppose that the others did too if they stopped to think of it,” he wrote in Aborting America. “But in the `morality’ of our revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics? “

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported only 39 deaths as a result of abortion in 1972. Nathanson estimated that the figure was actually in the hundreds.

Nathanson also said that there were approximately 100,000 illegal abortions annually, not the more than a million claimed. And many of those abortions were performed not by “back-alley butchers,” but by doctors and other medical personnel.

In other words, the pro-choice activists lied.

Norma McCorvey – the Jane Roe of Roe v Wade – initially said that her pregnancy was due to a gang rape. She later admitted that she lied. So the case proceeded to the Supreme Court based on a lie.

During the debate over the procedure known as partial birth abortion, pro-choice activists claimed that there were no more than 500 such procedures done each year, and that the majority were done for health reasons involving either the mother or the baby.
But in a television interview on ABC’s Nightline at the time of the debate, National Coalition of Abortion Providers executive director Ron Fitzsimmons said, “I lied through my teeth."

Fitzsimmons said the number of such abortions was much greater – he estimated 5,000 – and that "they're primarily done on healthy women of healthy fetuses." He added that "the abortion-rights folks know it, the anti-abortion folks know it, and so, probably, does everyone else."

In other words, the pro-choice activists lied.

The NARAL ad raises the specter of “pro-life violence” and the image of clinic bombings.

There’s no denying that bombings did take place. But they were soundly and consistently condemned by pro-life organizations – a fact that the pro-choice organizations conveniently fail to mention.

As for the deaths – one would image there have been dozens or hundreds of killings and other acts of deadly violence committed by self-proclaimed pro-lifers.

Actually, there have been seven such killings. Only one resulted from a bombing, and the last killing took place in 1998.

Seven is still too many. They are wrong, and the people who committed them do not deserve the title “pro-life.”

As for the total number of actions of physical violence – murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, rape, etc. – Human Life International reports that there have been a total of 27 such incidents involving pro-lifers (as of 2004).

Again, these actions are to be condemned – as genuinely pro-life organizations and individuals have consistently done.

Still, the myth of pro-life killers is a lie.

On the other hand, Human Life International documents 116 cases in which pro-choicers were charged by civil authorities with murder, manslaughter, and infanticide in connection with abortion, and the "Blackmun Wall" records the deaths of 347 women who died because of legal abortions.

Total: 463.

That’s 463 deaths vs 7.

And that’s not including the more than 46 million babies aborted.

So who’s more violent when it comes to causing serious physical harm to others?

If you keep repeating lies, people come to believe them. The pro-choice camp is aware of that. Certainly the mainstream media has usually fallen prey to the lies.

But when considering whom they really are serving, maybe pro-choice activists need to remember who is the "Father of Lies."

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Dinner with a pastor

Father Steve was over last night.

It’s the first time I’ve had a priest over in years.

He’s the one who suggested it – but Nancy and I had no problem with having him over.
It was an enjoyable meal and conversation. We shared some ideas about the Church and the parish, and a few jokes.

Why did he suggest it? I don’t know.

If I were in his place, I can imagine reasons why I would do it.

If I were relatively new to a parish, I would want to get to know the people in the parish – and in particular people who take on leadership roles. I’d also want to get to know someone who’s said he’s interested in becoming a deacon – and may some day become the parish’s deacon.

Plus, being a human being new to a place, I’d like to set up a social network.

He said he is praying for my deacon quest. I appreciate that.

He also suggested that he could use another deacon at the parish – though I pointed out that I wouldn’t be ordained for five years. Of course, given the way this diocese handles priest appointments (12 years maximum, except in special circumstances or for priests who are grandfathered), he would still have seven years left at the parish.

He is in a tough situation.

In the last 10 years, the parish has had a number of upheavals.

The diocese decided the close the parish school – which was doing well – so it could use the building to house the regional junior high school. A number of people in the parish got really upset about that. Some of them left the parish – and the Church – as a result. Interestingly, the parish now has only four children attending the school.

Then, one pastor decided the church needed to be renovated. The church does look nice now, but at the time people protested how much it would cost. Some of them left, or refused to support the project. The parish did have a portfolio at the time the project began. Those funds are now depleted.

That project pastor was suddenly moved to another parish after the pastor of the other parish got involved with a woman. Sigh. He was able to help stabilize that other parish, but it left things unsettled at our parish.

Our last pastor was not a fundraiser, or a booster. As a result, parish funds decreased even more as the parish had to pay diocesan assessments, and parish groups died off (including the social ministry committee). One unfortunate part of the situation was that that priest was black, and some of the older people at the parish did not like that. (Sigh).

Then, that pastor suddenly signed on as a military chaplain and was gone. Father Steve served as the administrator for six months, and then was officially named pastor in June.

What he faces is a parish where attendance has dropped and collections are down. The parish no longer has savings. Many of the committees are defunct or comatose.

He is the lone priest – other than a retired priest in residence and a religious order priest who helps out occasionally.

Because there are many seniors in the parish – including a senior housing project developed on land provided by the church - there are lots of funerals. There were 130 last year alone!

Father Steve has to do almost all the funerals because the retired priest can’t stand for any length of time, and the parish can’t afford to pay too many stipends for other priests to do the services.

Meanwhile, the parish deacon has had health problems, and now spends part of the year in Florida.

No wonder Father Steve is excited at the possibility of another deacon in the parish.

I hope he keeps praying about it. I am.

Meanwhile, maybe we all need to be a little more aware of our priests’ social and human needs, and invite them over for dinner.

St. Lawrence on the barbi

Today is the feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon. How appropriate, given my current plans.

According to legend, when told to bring the treasure of the Church to a Roman prosecutor, Lawrence brought 100 poor people with him, and called them the treasure of the Church.

Supposedly, the prosecutor got mad and ordered him roasted alive. After lying on the grill for a while he told his executioner to turn him over, because “that side is done.”

He is the patron saint of comedians and cooks. I’m not kidding.

I think deacons world-wide should have barbecues in his honor. Given his apparent sense of humor, he might appreciate that.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Planned Parenthood "promotes" killing pro-lifers!

Okay, the headline sensationalizes it, but this cartoon allegedly depicts the killing of pro-lifers (and treats it as a positive thing).

I did go to the site and saw the cartoon promoted, but I was unable to get into the cartoon to see it. Maybe there was too much traffic, or perhaps they’d gotten complaints and blocked it.

A few minutes later when I tried again, it was gone! Hmmm.

The Dawn Patrol - Dawn Eden did get some of the images, though. (Good work!)

Planned Parenthood Abortion Video Backs Violence Against Pro-Lifers
by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 9, 2005

Washington, DC ( -- An online cartoon video sponsored by a Planned Parenthood affiliate in California is drawing sharp criticism because it advocates violence against pro-life advocates. The video is sponsored by Planned Parenthood Golden Gate (, the abortion business that distributed the dangerous abortion pill to teenager Holly Patterson -- ultimately killing her.

The PPGG video features a cartoon superhero who travels the globe to promote abortion and oppose abstinence education.

Music reminiscent of doomsday booming introduces the cartoon and Planned Parenthood’s self-described mission. An African-American woman dressed as a superhero begins her journey in California promoting contraception and birth control.
She tells viewers that pro-life people often protest outside Planned Parenthood and claims they "can sometimes become unruly."

“But mostly, I just wish they would disappear," the character says.

Next, the "Superhero for Choice" shoots each protester with a gun that envelopes the pro-life person in a condom. The condoms explode and the protesters die.

The abortion activist cartoon character happily explains that, with the death of the protesters, people can now visit the abortion business "without intimidation or violence."
At the end of the video, during the rolling of the credits, a pro-life person is decapitated.

Doug Scott, president of Life Decisions International, a pro-life group that boycotts businesses which contribute to Planned Parenthood, calls the video "absolutely outrageous."

"It sends a message to teenagers that it is acceptable to eliminate those who disagree," he says of the killing of the pro-life people.

Jim Sedlak of STOPP International, a group that monitors Planned Parenthood, called for the abortion business to fire any staff members and dismiss any volunteers responsible for the making of the video because of its violent content.

Sedlak called on Planned Parenthood "issue a public apology without delay to pro-life Christians everywhere for inciting violence against them."

The superhero also travels to Washington and tosses a pro-life lawmaker into a stew pot. Shedding his suit, he emerges naked from the kettle, served on a silver platter, announcing that he “no longer has the misinformed stench of conservatism."

Planned Parenthood Golden Gate did not return a request for comment.

Two Nagasaki haiku

a break in the clouds
gave way to that sunrise –

the morning prayers
rose heavenward that day –

(Notes: The primary target August 9 was cloud-covered. The bomber crew went to the secondary target, Nagasaki, where a break in the clouds allowed them to drop the bomb.
Nagasaki was the most Catholic city in Japan at the time of the bombing)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Kid stuff

A kid poem for today -

Remarkable Brett

The remarkable thing about Brett
was a skill that few others get.
Without much ado,
and always on cue,
he could burp the whole alphabet!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

When I grow up

Time to get seriously childish.

Way back when I first mentioned a possible call to the diaconate, I mentioned that I was turning 50. I viewed that as an age to look back at my life, and to look at where I might go.

The diaconate is an important part of where I might go.

Now that I’m a week away from the diaconate day of reflection – the next step in the discernment process – there’s something else I’ve been thinking about.

What do I want to do when I grow up?

The question may sound silly, but it is appropriate, because what I want to do is to write and perform for children!

Now before you think I’m crazy (okay, you may be right anyway), this is not something out of the blue.

I have long loved children’s literature. Even as I’ve been reading theology books, Dickens, and Shakespeare, I’ve also been reading such books as L. Frank Baum’s The Patchwork Girl of Oz, C. S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew, and Bruce Lansky’s collection, Kids Pick the Funniest Poems. When I read to my daughters when they were young, I enjoyed the books as much as they did!

Moreover, for the last 11 years, I’ve been a professional storyteller and children’s musician. I have entertained at festivals, picnics, libraries, schools, private homes, etc. I tell traditional and original stories, and sing traditional and original songs.

It has been very much a part-time thing (I work two jobs and have been raising a family), but it’s something I’ve had some success at. I was even the featured storyteller on a children’s cable show for one season.

When my schedule was more flexible, I also acted with a children’s theater company and with a Shakespeare troupe. Along the way I’ve played a dragon (and nearly set the theater on fire!), an ogre, a goblin, a doctor, a wizard, a father, and a grizzled Civil War veteran.

Sounds like type casting.

One of the things hanging in my closet is a Santa outfit. I hope to start portraying him for hire – and for free for some worthy groups.

My fascination with Santa is part of the inspiration behind my other blog – Santa's Diary.

That blog is also a way to develop some story ideas I hope to publish some day.

So that is one way I’m pursuing that dream.

I’ve also written two children’s plays I’m trying to market. One is The Vain King and the Dragon. That play grew out of a story I told my daughters (it features three lovely princesses, by the way!) The other play is Stone Soup, based on the classic story. I even got to direct and stage performances of that play at the school where I teach.

The latest front I’m working on is children’s poetry.

I am the monster `neath your bed,
the one with sharpened claws.
And right below your sleepy head
I rest my fang-filled jaws.

Yes, I’m the monster `neath your bed
who’s making all that noise.
But that’s my monster way to ask,
“May I please play with your toys?”

Okay, at least it’s a start.

Part of what got me thinking about this even more was watching the Dorothy Day movie, Entertaining Angels, the other night with members of several parish’s social ministry committees.

In the movie, Martin Sheen, playing Day’s teacher and mentor, Peter Maurin, tells Day (Moira Kelly) to start a newspaper. When Day asks where she’ll get the money to start the newspaper, he says, “When you are doing God’s work, money is not a prerequisite. You just begin to do it.”

The Catholic Worker newspaper is now more than 70 years old.

So, when it comes to writing and performing for children on a more consistent basis, I think I’ll just begin to do it.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Times uncovers Roberts' transgression

N.Y. Times Investigates Unpaid Library Fine of Supreme Court Nominee
By Don Key

The New York Times is looking into a report that Supreme Court Nominee John G. Roberts, a practicing Catholic, has an outstanding library fine dating back some 40 years.

The report has leading Democrats questioning his fitness to be a High Court Judge.

“This is a serious issue,” said Massachusetts Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy (D), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will examine Roberts’ nomination. “He has committed an infraction, an infraction stemming from lack of proper oversight, and has refused to provide restitution for four decades. I think this raises legitimate questions about how well and responsibly he will carry out his office of interpreting the law.”

The Times has obtained documents that show that the Catholic Roberts returned The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek by Evelyn Sibley Lampman to the Buffalo Public Library when he was first grader. He owed a .50 cent fine that was not paid.

A few months later, Roberts’ Catholic family moved Indiana. Roberts never paid the fine. The library made repeated attempts to contact the Catholic boy, but without success.

“We take fines very seriously,” said Buffalo library clerk O. B Sessive. “They help to support the system, and keep people from just keeping books as long as they please. Why without fines, we’d have all the books in our collection out and about without control.”

Roberts’ attorney issued a statement in response to reporters’ inquiries.

“Judge Roberts has no recollection of the fine, but will be happy to pay it,” the statement read.

“Certainly we will look at what seems an obvious disregard for the law,” said Senator Charles Schumer, (D-NY), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “We have to hold him accountable for his actions. The actions of the Catholic boy could signal the thinking of the Catholic adult.”

White House spokesperson Ella Fant labeled the Times’ charges as part of a “liberal witch hunt.”

She noted that the book was about a talking dinosaur and was written by a woman, signaling Judge Roberts’ objectivity when it comes to such issues as evolution, racial discrimination and women in the workplace.

“Judge Roberts is a fair and thoughtful man,” Ella Fant said. “All we ask is a fair hearing.”

The library fine is just one of the areas being examined by the Times.

Other areas under investigation include:

· The adoption records of Judge Roberts’ two children.
· Reports thatRoberts under-tipped a waitress in a Washington restaurant in 1997.
· Judge Roberts’ contribution records at the Catholic Churches he has attended.
· A “B” he received on a test in a high school government class
· An embarrassingly outdated dress his wife once wore to a party.

“We will give him a fair and impartial hearing,” Senator Schumer said. “This is not like the Catholics' Spanish Inquisition.”


walk in the woods
noticing the mushrooms –
August 6

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Looking for a book to read?

I recently read You did it for Me – Care of Your Neighbor as a Spiritual Practice by Father Kevin McKenna.

First, a disclaimer: I’ve known Fr. McKenna for years. He used to be Chancellor of our diocese, is a past president of the Canon Law Society of America, and is now a pastor in our diocese.

He’s also a baseball fan.

The book is a good primer. It touches on the seven broad themes under which the U.S. Bishops have summarized the Church’s social teachings, which he lists as: respect for the life of dignity of each person; call to family, community and participation; rights and responsibilities of the human person; option for and with the poor and vulnerable; dignity of work and the rights of workers; solidarity; and care for God’s creation.

Fr. McKenna includes quotes from encyclicals, pastoral letters, Scriptures, Documents of Vatican II, biographies, and so on.

Also included are reflection statements mixed in with the text, and questions at the end of each chapter.

Each chapter begins with a vignette about some person engaged in social ministry – lay, ordained and religious.

What’s nice is that while we may be knowledgeable about one aspect of the Church’s social teachings, we may not know a lot about other parts of it. His book gives us a good sampling in a readable format.

The reflection statements and questions can lead to discussion – and prayer.

Best of all, he doesn’t write like a canon lawyer.

I give it a “thumbs up”.

And I’m not getting any kickbacks!

It’s available from Ave Maria Press.

By the way, go Red Sox!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A bitter pill to swallow

New warning on contraceptive-cancer link

Rome, Aug. 03 ( - The World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations (WFCMA) has called attention to a new study showing that the use of oral contraceptives increases a woman's risk of cancer.

In a study backed by the World Health Organization, a team of 21 scientists from 8 countries studied estrogen-progestogen oral contraceptives, and concluded that the Pill belongs on a list of known cancer-causing agents. The study, conducted under the aegis of the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyons, put the estrogen-progestogen on the list of "Group 1" carcinogens.

The international study "sheds new light light on the prophetic value of Paul VI's Humanae Vitae (doc)," the WFCMA observed. The Rome-based group added that it "encourages Catholic doctors to spread the methods for natural family planning."

Roughly 100 million women worldwide-- about 10 percent of all women of child-bearing age-- use the Pill. The WHO study shows that the Pill is linked to higher risk of cancer of the breast, cervix, and liver.

Let’s see. The pill is bad for women’s health. Abortions are bad for women’s health. RU-486 is bad for women’s health. IUDs are bad for women’s health.

And the pro-choice, pro-contraception folks say they are pro-woman?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

morning Mass haiku/senryu

reading the Gospel
the old priest loses his place –
Mass for vocations

We're winning (but not yet)

Polling Data: Young Women Becoming More Pro-Life on Abortion

Washington, DC -- New polling data shows that young women between the ages of 18-29 are becoming more pro-life on the issue of abortion.

According to a CBS/New York Times poll, 49% of 18-29 year old women believed that abortion should be "available to anyone who wants it" in 1993.

In 2003 among the same age group, only 35% of respondents agreed.

In 2005, only 28% of young women favored making abortion "available to anyone who wants it."

Meanwhile, in 1993, 30% of female respondents in the 18-29 year old age group believed that abortion should be "available, but with stricter limits."

By 2005, the number had risen to 40%.

Some 19% of respondents in 1993 believed that abortion should be "not permitted."

By 2005, the number had risen to 30%.