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.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Group Youth Gathering - Rock of Faith

Our parish hosted a youth night for the parishes of the Gates/Chili Planning Group. Teens from five parishes were there for the 4:30 Mass - along with many of the 4:30 regulars. A packed church. It was interesting actually seeing people standing along the walls - I haven't seen that since the Corpus Christi days (pre-schism).

Rock of Faith was asked to lead the music. Since our young guitarist left, I'm the lone guitarist. And our keyboard player, Bernie, was out of town. So I was the main melody instrument (accompanied by bass, drums, and occasional lead guitar/saxophone/flute). Moreover, with the new sound system, the guitar could really be heard.

I was nervous. I prefer to hang back, to let better musicians stand out. And last night I could hear every miscue on my part.

Still, overall it seemed to go well. But I was not out in the pews to really hear.

People were singing along - I could see that. And there was lots of smiling. My wife reported some of the older folks (the regular 4:30 crowd) around her seemed to like the music.

Plus, people could see Father Steve CELEBRATE - and not just mouth/rush through - the Mass. When he consecrates you get the sense that it is a profound spiritual moment, not just something he's reading or reciting by rote.

It was a joyful service. Perhaps that will help some young people to see the beauty of the Mass.

Next week, Bernie is back. Phew.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Writing that novel

I reflected on my horror novel, and have thought of a couple of ways to bring it more in line with my beliefs. In its current state, it's too graphic (yet not as graphic as many horror novels are these days).

So, I will continue it - with revisions and some material cut. Roughly 35,000 words in (though some of them will be cut, so drop that to about 34,000?). Another 40-60,000 to go?

I can only write briefly and intermittently during the school year - perhaps 500 words a week rather than 500 a day? - but then can spend time in the summer. In 2008 I wrote about 18,000 words over the summer. A reasonable goal this year?

I think one thing I want to do is to finish it so it's not hanging out there. If it's lousy, so be it. The writing practice alone would be worth it. Then I can move on, and perhaps be a better writer for it.

Have at you demons!


Friday, January 29, 2010

Bad Haiku Friday: Snow storm?

after dire forecasts
"bad storm" leaves just two inches -
snow day dreams are dashed

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Video tells truth about March for Life

The MSM ignored it - or lied about it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A loss for a friend

Rita Manners, our wonderful choir director, lost her husband to cancer yesterday.

I did not know him, but I know her well and have a lot of respect for her as a fellow Catholic, as a friend, as a musician. I can't begin to imagine the pain she is going through.

God be with her.

I can't make the funeral due to work, but a number of the other choir members will be able to make it. I'm glad for that.

This Saturday, Rock of Faith was scheduled to play for a special youth Mass. We're now being asked to play for all the Masses. It's a way to make things easier for Rita and the parish, and, in a sense, a musical tribute to her.

I'll find out later if we will indeed play for all three Masses. I'm going to go practice now. She deserves my best (as does God!).

Abortion and oral contraceptive cancer links

Monday, January 25, 2010

Huckabee leads Obama in Poll; Brown win good for Obama?

In the the latest Public Policy Polling on the 2012 election, Governor Mike Huckabee now leads President Barack Obama, and does better than any other Republican included in the poll:

45% Huckabee
44% Obama

44% Obama
42% Romney

49% Obama
41% Palin

44% Obama
34% Petraeus

Hooray. But in an interview Huckabee also suggests that Brown's win in Massachusetts could lead to Obama moderating his views, and thus increase his chances of getting reelected.

Obama moderating some of his extreme views? Great. But winning in 2012? Ulp.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

End of an era?

Youngest daughter just left for her last semester of college. In late May, we will journey to her campus for graduation, and then ...

She's already planning to take some time off before possibly going to graduate school. As part of her plans, she intends to find a job and move into an apartment (assuming she does find a job) right after graduation, most likely but not necessarily here in sunny Rochester.

If that happens, we will officially be empty nesters.

All three of my daughters will be gone.

There's much to celebrate. They are all wonderful girls. But there's also a certain sadness about it.

Life goes on.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Catholic Writers

This topic has come up before. It reared its head again last night at my Secular Franciscan Order formation session.

I was talking about putting my novel on hold because some of what's in it conflicts with the spiritual direction I'm taking in formation with the Franciscans. Too dark.

We strayed of into other writers, including Catholic writers (with an honorary "Catholic" label on C.S. Lewis.) The subject of my own writing came up. Why not write Catholic fiction, poetry and drama?

Yes, I know that a work does not have to be overtly "Catholic" to be Catholic. What it needs is to contain within it a Catholic sensibility, a Catholic vision of the world. That requires the writer himself to be full of that spirit so that is what pours out of him/her. Such writing can help to evangelize, to help others find direction.

I mentioned when I try to be religious in my writing it tends to come out as trite and superficial - a reflection of my own limitations spiritually and as a writer. But if I keep trying, keep plugging away, maybe I can break through.

One thing I do need to do is to read more writers who can help me get a sense of direction and who can feed me spiritually.

So I need to add such contemporary writers to my "pile" of works to be read. I've already read some or own some. I just need to dig in.

Where can I get a bottle?

I love hot sauce.

I put it on everything I can. Pizza. Rice. Veggies. Popcorn.

So an article about some hot-sauce imbibing youths caught my eye.

Some German teens drank some chili sauce more than 200 times hotter than normal Tabasco

The Augsburg youths - ages 13 and 14 - took part in a "test of courage." They subsequently felt sick, and 8 of the 10 who took part were taken to the hospital and had to stay overnight.

The sauce the teens ingested measured 535,000 units on the Scoville scale. That's the scale that determines hotness in chili peppers. Good old Tabasco sauce (yes, there's a bottle of that in my fridge) measures 2,500.

So what did they consume? I'd like to know the brand. A dash or two on some chips? Mmm.

Yeah, I know this is kind of a guy thing. When I was young and stupid in college, I was noted for eating hot food. People used to bring hot peppers to challenge my tongue and palate.

I never lost.

Of course, they may never have given me some of the truly hot, mind-numbing peppers that were out there. And I never drank hot sauce. Well, except for an occasional sip.


How to undermine a pro-life event

Okay, so tens of thousands of pro-life marchers descend on Washington for the March for Life. A few counter protesters show up.

How does the main stream media try to downplay it?

Well, there's ignoring it - which many did.

Or we can look at what our local dying print outlet, the Democrat and Chronicle, did.

Did they cover the bus-loads of Rochesterians who went down? Nope. Run an article about the march itself? Nope?

First, bury any mention of it.

Yep, there is it, on page 13 of the A section - behind the Conan O'Brien story (page 2) or the one about the late Paul Harvey's ties to the FBI (page 8).

There are two pictures, one of a small group of pro-lifers, one of a small group of pro-choicers - suggesting the two groups were of equal size.

The two pictures are tacked above an article about the deranged individual who murdered abortion doctor George Tiller last year. Reinforcing a false stereotype of pro-lifers being violence - even though the alleged killer had no ties to the pro-life movement and his actions were condemned by pro-lifers across the country.

Good job, D & C. Maybe a grateful Planned Parenthood will take out another ad.

Gotta keep up that bottom line before the bottom falls out.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bad Haiku Friday - chili guilt

leftover chili
with cheese on tortilla chips -
wife need never know


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Virtual March for Life

I can't join in the March for Life in Washington this year, so I've joined the Virtual March for Life.

I'm one of more than 55,000 taking part in the virtual march. Among some of the more famous people taking part are Father Pavone, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, John McCain, Lila Rose, Mark Rubio, David Bereit, Mike Pence, and Charmaine Yeost.

Join us, and the hundreds of thousands who will be there for the actual March tomorrow.

Let's send a message of life to President Obama and the pro-choice cabal.

[UPDATE: More than 61,000 as of 5 a.m. January 22.]

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Brown defeats Coakley - A Blow to Obama

In what has to be a major upset - and a slam at President Obama and his policies - Republican Scott Brown has defeated Democrat Martha Coakley in a U.S. Senate election to fill the seat of the late Senator Ted Kennedy.

This puts President Obama's health care overhaul in doubt because it eliminates the Democratic Party's 60 vote majority and complete control of the Senate.

Coakley had been favored, but committed a number of gaffes - including a statement that Catholics who follow the Church's teaching probably should not work in emergency rooms! - and ran a poor campaign. She has already conceded.

Brown was ahead 53-46 the last time I checked. I don't know what the final figures will actually be.

This is major news. It's a victory before the March for Life (Brown is not pro-life, but he is only moderately pro-choice, unlike Coakley.) He is more likely to oppose abortion coverage in health care reform than Coakely was.

Pants on the ground

Okay ... how many of us would have the courage to get up there and do that!

Hmm, can we do a remix for Church ... Albs on the ground?

Word Verification

I'm not a big fan of word verification to post comments, but lately I've been getting a lot of spam. Some in what looks like Chinese. Some for various products I don't plan to use.

So, for now, verification.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Senate candidate suggests Catholics shouldn't work in emergency rooms

There's an interesting Senate race over in Massachusetts - with a Catholic twist.

The race is between Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Scott Brown (and a third party candidate) to replace the late Senator Ted Kennedy. The race has gotten surprisingly tight given the Democratic makeup of my home state (Boston born).

Coakley is not helping herself with comments like the one reported below by the Catholic News Agency.

On Thursday she was interviewed by WBSM radio talk show host Ken Pittman.

Pittman asked if she would support health care legislation what would protect a “conscientious objector” to procedures such as abortion.

Coakley said she did not exactly understand the question and then criticized Brown’s 2005 amendment.

“I would not pass a bill, as Scott Brown filed an amendment, to say that if people believe that don’t want to provide services that are required under the law and under Roe v. Wade, but taken individually decides to not follow the law, the answer to that question is ‘no.’

She repeated that the amendment would allow hospital and emergency room personnel to deny emergency contraception to “a woman who has came who’d been raped.”

“Right, if you are a Catholic, and believe what the Pope teaches that any form of birth control is a sin. Ah, you don’t want to do that,” Pittmann responded.

Coakley replied: “No we have a separation of church and state, Ken, let’s be clear.”

“In the emergency room you still have your religious freedom,” he replied.

After a short stutter, Coakley commented: “The law says that people are allowed to have that. You can have religious freedom but you probably shouldn’t work in the emergency room.”

“Wow,” Pittman remarked.

Wow indeed. Catholics and prolifers need not apply, I guess.

This race is important because if Brown wins - still in doubt even though the polls have it close - the Democratic party would no longer have the 60 seats in the Senate it needs to ram through legislation. I don't know enough about their respective positions on other issues, but if this is typical of Coakley's thinking, then were I still a Massachusetts lad I'd have a hard time voting for her.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pope praises Dominicans ... and Franciscans

In his General Audience January 13, Pope Benedict XVI had some praise for the two mendicant orders - the Dominicans and the Franciscans - and secular orders.

He noted that these orders were among the mendicant orders that arose in response to a need in the 13th Century.

"Of the Mendicant Orders that arose in that period, the most notable and most important are the Friars Minor and the Preaching Friars, known as Franciscans and Dominicans. They have these names because of their founders, Francis of Assisi and Dominic de Guzmán, respectively. These two great saints had the capacity to wisely read `the signs of the times,' intuiting the challenges that the Church of their time had to face."

Unlike some of the other mendicant groups that embraced poverty but also rejected the Church, "the Franciscans and Dominicans, in the footsteps of their founders, showed that it was possible to live evangelical poverty, the truth of the Gospel, without separating from the Church; they showed that the Church continued to be the true, authentic place of the Gospel and Scripture. Thus, Dominic and Francis drew, precisely from profound communion with the Church and the papacy, the strength of their witness."

These orders "taught ways to nourish the life of prayer and piety. For example, the Franciscans greatly spread devotion to the humanity of Christ, with the commitment of imitating the Lord. Hence it is not surprising that the faithful were numerous, women and men, who chose to be supported in their Christian journey by the Franciscan and Dominican friars, sought after and appreciated spiritual directors and confessors.

Thus were born associations of lay faithful that were inspired by the spirituality of Sts. Francis and Dominic, adapted to their state of life. It was the Third Order, whether Franciscan or Dominican. In other words, the proposal of a "lay sanctity" won many people. As the Second Vatican Council recalled, the call to holiness is not reserved to some, but is universal (cf. "Lumen Gentium," 40). In every state of life, according to the needs of each, there is the possibility of living the Gospel. Also today every Christian must tend to the "lofty measure of Christian life," no matter what state of life he belongs to!"

Very affirming. I wish he had gone further and encouraged people to join the secular orders!

Go read the rest here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Kinks: "God's Children"

More Kinks.


God is a "homophobic bigot"; President Obama is proud

“Your God of Leviticus (and of the whole Bible) is clearly a sinful homophobic bigot. He should repent of his sinful homophobia. He should atone for that sin. And he should seek forgiveness for the pain and suffering which his sinful homophobia has needlessly inflicted upon gay people for the past 4000 years. ... It is not homosexuality which is always wrong, immoral, and sinful. It is homophobia, including the homophobia of your god himself which is wrong, immoral, and sinful. And so your god is a sinner….”

-- Homosexual activist Frank Kameny - October 13, 2009, in a letter to Peter LaBarbera

“We are proud of you, Frank, and we are grateful to you for your leadership.”

-- President Obama to Kameny, June 29, 2009, in a "gay pride month" speech.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bishops: Reject Health Care bill that does not prohibit abortion coverage

The U.S. Bishops have issued a nationwide call to Catholics to help prevent health care reform from being derailed by the abortion lobby.

To that end, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has sent bulletin inserts and pulpit announcements to almost 19,000 parishes across the country.

“As long-time advocates of health care reform, the U.S. Catholic bishops continue to make the moral case that genuine health care reform must protect the life, dignity, consciences and health of all, especially the poor and vulnerable,” the insert says. “Health care reform should not advance a pro-abortion agenda in our country.”

The insert encourages Catholics to contact their Senators and Representatives, urging them to keep longstanding restrictions against federal funding of abortion and full conscience protection in the legislation. (The house version does this; the Senate version, the one preferred by President Obama, does not.)

If these criteria are not met, the Bishops are calling on Catholics to urge Congress to oppose the final bill.

The bulletin insert and pulpit announcement can be found in English and in Spanish at Catholics can contact their legislators online by going to

Good for them. We need more leaders in the Church to exercise courage and to speak out.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Rock of Faith rocks 'em

This is new.

Today before Mass a friend and I chatted briefly. He was sitting in a pew with his grandson (20s) and grandson's lovely pregnant wife. (Is it just me, or do pregnant women all seem to grow more beautiful?)

Anyway, the friend said his grandson wanted to attend that particular Mass because he knew we were providing the music. He likes it when we play.

A fan!

Then I noticed as we played the final song - "Let the River Flow" - several young people were nodding their heads enthusiastically.

Yeah, I know it's not a concert, but if our music can help to get young people in Church and enthused about it, great.

namekuji uchini zassou

zassou zassou
zassou zassou
zassou namekuji zassou
zassou zassou zassou
zassou zassou zassou zassou

winter morning -
dreaming of a slug
among the weeds

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Getting "The Kinks" Out

The Crescat had praise for the Rolling Stones in a recent post (January 5).

Back when I was on college radio in the 70s, whenever I got requests for the Stones I'd play them - at 78 rpm. (Those old enough to remember real "records" will understand. Those not old enough, think Mick and the Chipmunks.)

I did like a few Stones tunes. I even owned a few of their albums - which I threw away when I rediscovered my faith and moral values (reading Merton, Augustine, and Chesterton gets you to thinking!).

Even still, I preferred the Beatles, or ... The Kinks!

March for Life to include White House rally

This year's March for Life events in Washington will include something that is warranted given President Obama's radical pro-choice agenda: A rally outside the White House.

Organizers of the March have scheduled a two-hour rally January 21 from 6-8 p.m. at Lafayette Park, across from the White House (that's the evening before the March).

This is being described as an attempt to demonstrate participants' commitment to the pro-life movement to President Barack Obama, who continues to push for abortion - including in health care reform - despite the fact that a majority of Americans now identify themselves as pro-life.

The January 21 rally is being called a "mini-rally" because the permit limits the gathering to 3,000 demonstrators. How many will show up is a guess. Unfortunately, many people (including the people on the buses from Rochester) will still be en route to take part in the March on the 22nd.

I will not be able to go this year. But next year, when the March is on Saturday, I will be able to participate in Washington for the first time. I am looking forward to that. Even better, though, would be if President Obama had a change of heart, and the Supreme Court overturned Roe before next January 22nd, making the March unnecessary. (Yeah, I know I'm dreaming.)

I wonder if there are any rallies or prayer vigils planned in Rochester for the 22nd? Anyone know of any?

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Balancing unchanging principles and ongoing application

As part of my ongoing Secular Franciscan formation, I was asked to consider how one balances constant values (also called unchangeable principles) with ongoing adaptations (or changeable applications). And then I was asked about my own experiences.

Constant values in life include such things as honesty, fairness, respect for others' property, putting God first, etc. At the simplest level, following the Ten Commandments.

From a Franciscan perspective, that means the above, but also "living the Gospel of Jesus Christ," simple life-style, penance, and so on.

The hard part can be the application.

Thou shalt not kill - well that's pretty straight forward. Few of us kill another person. But when we push further, that includes all acts of violence against others, physical, verbal, psychological.

Gossip. Sarcasm. Exaggerating. Insults. The silent treatment. I'm guilty of those and more.

We can't always predict how we will will be challenged.

There's no rule book on stealing, for example, that touches on every single situation. It's pretty easy to understand that shoplifting is wrong. But taking home office supplies? Using the work-place computer to do our Christmas shopping or our child's school report? Hanging out with co-workers to talk about last night's game instead of getting that report done? Talking to a friend on a phone while a customer is waiting to be served?

My understanding of all this is that we need to have the basic principles in place. We need to practice them constantly. We need to thoughtfully and prayerfully apply them as situations come up - when we have the luxury of time. And even in those instances in which we need to make a quick decision, hopefully we will have built up the habit of doing the right thing so that our instinctive reaction is to do what is right. That doesn't mean we won't make mistakes or judge incorrectly. But then we can learn from that and the next time maybe not make a mistake, or we'll be stronger so that when a new situation comes up we'll be more likely to make the right decision.

It's a matter of developing the habit of living according to these basic principles as best we can so that we can apply them in changeable circumstances.

One other thing I've realized is that as we progress, as our understanding grows, our eyes are opened. What 10 years ago may not have occurred to us was wrong we now realize was indeed wrong. And things we are doing now that we don't realize are wrong we may in 10 years see for what they are.

It's an ongoing process. One doesn't just convert and it's all over. Conversion is a day-by-day, hour-by hour, minute-by-minute process. It's a process we would not have the strength to continue if not for the grace of God.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Blessed Angela - Repentance is possible

Today we mark the feast of Blessed Angela of Foligno.

Born in 1248 in a prominent family in Foligno, she gave herself over to pleasures of the world, including adultery. Around 1285, she experienced a conversion, and reportedly received a vision of St. Francis. Not long after her conversion, her husband and her children died. She sold what she had and dedicated herself to prayer and serving the poor.

At the prompting of her confessor (a Franciscan), she later described her conversion in the Book of Visions and Instructions. She experienced a number of other visions and ecstasies over the years, and she became a Secular Franciscan.

She gathered SFO followers (male and female), and later created a community of sisters.

She died in 1309. She is one of the "uncorrupted": her body has never deteriorated and is housed in the church of St. Francis at Foligno. Many people attributed miracles to her. Pope Innocent XII beatified her in 1693.

Blessed Angela, pray for us who are also tempted.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Obama - kept promising, fails to deliver on C-SPAN

There are campaign promises, and then there are lies.


Sunday, January 03, 2010

A musical grumble

This afternoon we are having "Lessons and Carols" at church - weather permitting. (6-10 inches of blowing snow in the forecast.)

The music/singing will be provided by the choirs of the five regional Catholic churches (I'm in the St. Theodore's choir), plus two contemporary music groups - Faith on Fire and Rock of Faith (to which I belong). As far as I can tell, I'm the only person with two different groups.

The director of Rock of Faith e-mail yesterday and suggested we get there extra early for set up and sound check.

I e-mailed back that I'm hoping the weather will cancel it.

We held our our only joint rehearsal on Wednesday. It was disorganized, the choirs were not in sync, and the "lessons," well, one was done as a mini dialogue between Joseph and Mary in somewhat contemporary language. Not very polished. Stiff. As an actor and a writer, it irked me. And musically, I was embarrassed by the singing. We are going before people to sing when we don't even have our music down? We need a couple of more rehearsals.

I decided that I will play with Rock of Faith only. We are doing "Mary did you know?" We've practiced it a few times and come up with our own arrangement, so it sounds okay. I will not sing with the choirs. They have enough male voices already, and I hate feeling unprepared.

I'm still hoping it will be cancelled. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

(Yeah, I know, too much ego. And I'm forgetting that people might enjoy it and get something out of it.)

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Feast of a poet - St. Gregory Nazianzus

St. Gregory Nazianzen
by Venerable John Henry Newman, C.O.

Peace-loving man, of humble heart and true
What dost thou here?
Fierce is the city’s crowd; the lordly few
Are dull of ear!
Sore pain it was to thee,—till thou didst quit
Thy patriarch-throne at length, as though for power unfit.

So works the All-wise! our services dividing
Not as we ask:
For the world’s profit, by our gifts deciding
Our duty-task.
See in king’s courts loth Jeremias plead;
And slow-tongued Moses rule by eloquence of deed!

Yes! thou, bright Angel of the East! didst rear
The Cross divine,
Borne high upon thy liquid accents, where
Men mock’d the Sign;
Till that cold city heard thy battle-cry,
And hearts were stirr’d, and deem’d a Pentecost was nigh.

Thou couldst a people raise, but couldst not rule:
—So, gentle one,
Heaven set thee free, — for, ere thy years were full,
Thy work was done;
According thee the lot thou lovedst best,
To muse upon the past, — to serve, yet be at rest.

(I found this text online at only one spot. I plan to check elsewhere to make sure it's correct.)

Friday, January 01, 2010


Okay, I admit that I'm a stats geek. That's why I was the scorekeeper in my bowling leagues, and I kept the score book for my high school basketball team (you don't actually think they'd let me on the floor to lose a game! I was just needed so we'd have enough players for practice. And I kept good stats.)

Last year, this blog recorded 57,536 visits and page views. Small potatoes compared to some blogs, yes, but considering in the first four years of the blog I averaged just under 2,900 per year (told you I was a stats geeks), a decided improvement.

Of course, I took that hiatus, which caused the numbers to drop. In October, I had 6,238 views and visits; in November, just 3,793. And since I've been more cautious in what I say and less controversial, I don't know if I'll get back up over 6,000 in any month.

A clerihew to start the new year

Thanks to Edward Lear
I no longer fear
any beard-nesting fowl,
including the bearded-screech owl.

New Year Haiku (2010)

reading my list
of New Year's resolutions -
more of the same

a variation ---

reading my list
of New Year's resolutions -
same old, same old