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, February 28, 2010

Another reason to avoid watching the Olympics

According to news reports, health officials in Vancouver provided 100,000 free condoms to the roughly 7,000 athletes and officials at the Olympic Games - about 14 condoms per person.

As of Wednesday, though, those supplies started running low. Therefore, an emergency shipment of some 8,500 condoms was sent to Vancouver.

Free condoms have been distributed to athletes at Olympics since 1992.

I started boycotting the Games after they were held in Communist China, a land of blatant human right violations that apparently did not bother most Olympic officials and athletes.

I guess prestige and money trump morality.

This report from Vancouver suggests a certain level of hedonism that only adds to my low opinion of the modern Olympic spirit.

Syracuse eases my pain

Number 4 Syracuse 95, Number 7 Villanova 77.

My back doesn't hurt as much this morning!

And by tomorrow night, maybe Number 1 Syracuse?


Saturday, February 27, 2010


So, I was on the way to Saturday morning Mass, stopped at a red light, when a van coming up behind me did not stop.

Next thing I know is I'm part way into the intersection, my rear view mirror is in the back seat, and the rear end of my car is partly in the trunk. Good thing I had my seat belt on.

I didn't make it to Mass.

Slick roads. Sigh.

Now arranging for a rental, and car repairs. This could be a big one. Luckily, it's on the other driver's insurance. The other driver, by the way, said she was fine. A bit of front end damage to her vehicle.

Van vs. midsize. Van wins.

Meanwhile, my back is not happy.

Still, in the scale of things, I have to deal with inconvenience and maybe a sore back, but the people of Chile are dealing with a massive earthquake and many other places are facing possible resulting tsunamis.

Pray for the people of Chile

Another earthquake - a massive 8.8 one - and many aftershocks. How many dead?

And there are tsunami warnings.

Watch over the people of Chile and the other nations who might be affected, Lord.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Gov. Paterson - pro-choice Catholic - won't run

New York Governor David Paterson, who is a pro-choice and pro-homosexual marriage Catholic - has decided not to run for reelection this November.

What finally undermined his reelection bid apparently was that a close aid had to resign in a widening scandal involving alleged domestic violence and attempts by a number of people - including perhaps the governor - to get the accuser to withdraw the charges.

But Paterson has been in trouble for a while due to his poor decisions and poor performance. He's trailing in all the polls.

Unfortunately, the leading contender for the Democratic nomination - and a favorite at this point in the polls against the likely GOP nominees - is Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. He's the son of former Governor Mario Cuomo, who articulated the weasel argument for Democratic Catholic politicians that while they are personally opposed to abortion, they support a woman's right to choose.

Andrew Cuomo has said in the past he supports abortion and homosexual marriage. So unless he has changed his mind, no improvement there: Another pro-choice Catholic betraying his faith. Politics as usual in New York state.

Maybe a few prayers will help him to see the light.

Hooray for Archbishop Timothy Dolan

According to news reports, New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan told a New York television station that pro-abortion Catholic politicians will not receive honors at events like the Al Smith dinner.

“Everybody's welcome,” he reportedly said. “There's a difference between being welcome and providing someone who is dramatically, radically, publicly at odds with the Church on a particularly given issue to have a place of prominence and receive an award.”

So that means pro-choice Catholic politicians like New York Governor David Paterson, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, or Congressman Eric Massa - how did I end up with a trifecta? - should not expect any Catholic honors in New York.

At least not until they actually vote and act like responsible Catholics.

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Planned Parenthood ... lied?

It's bad enough that Planned Parenthood is in profitable business of killing babies and has had a number of staff people caught violating the law and covering up rape and sexual abuse.

But now, lying. Gee.

The latest Lila Rose Live Action Films sting caught yet another Planned Parenthood employee apparently not following the law about reporting an alleged incident of statutory rape (this latest incident was in Wisconsin).

The initial defense was that the tape was edited, so we can't really know was said. But Lila Rose always provides unedited tapes to state legal authorities - as has now happened in this case. In the past, the full tapes have shown that the Planned Parenthood employees did violate laws - leading to some being fired, and to criminal investigations.

But then this past week, the head of Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin tried a different tack.

On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin CEO Teri Huyck said in response to charges that the organization had failed to report the incident, "In this particular circumstance, we did not have the name of the young woman. She did not give it to us. She did not provide any ID. So we were unable to make any report."

On Wednesday she added that the patient would be reported if she gave her name.

"The so-called patient in this case did not provide identifying information. In fact, she refused." she said. "It would've been difficult if not impossible to make any kind of report."

So the young lady in the video "refused" to give her name?

The only problem is that Live Action Films then released more of the film, clearly showing that the young lady (Rose herself posing as a 14-year old impregnated by her 31-year-old boyfriend) DID give her name, and her birthday.

The Planned Parenthood counselor featured in the video - named as Sonia - is shown coaching Rose how to obtain a judicial bypass waiver for an abortion so that her parents would not find out about her supposed relationship with an older man.

"What is your name? So I can call them and tell them you're coming,” the video shows Sonia saying.

Rose gives her name as “Janelle Marion” and reports a birthday of July 27.

Could Huyck be lying? Wow, who would expect that of a Planned Parenthood employee?

Huckabee: I Am Pro-Life

"As Americans, we have a love of all humans, from the baby growing inside a mother’s womb, to the elderly facing the end of their life on earth. Our respect and love for the human race is at the core of our society. It defines our family units. It defines our judicial system. It defines our political system. If we lose sight of the sanctity of human life, then we lose our soul."

That's Governor Mike Huckabee writing on his blog February 17.

In the statement, he talks about life beginning at conception - and he cites the "culture of life" which stands in opposition to the "culture of death" (Pope John Paul II must be smiling).

His statement it is definitely in line with Catholic teachings when it comes to abortion, the treatement of seniors, and the care of the poor and suffering of the world. It sounds a lot more Catholic than what some "Catholic" politicians say.

The full statement is below.

I have stated repeatedly, unequivocally, that I am pro-life. It is easy to get caught up in the nuances of exactly what that means. So I want to spell it out, as clearly and concisely as I can.

There is no doubt in my mind that life does begin at the point of conception. It does not begin when a Judge, or an attorney, or a left wing activist group decides that it does. Science determines that life begins “when the male sperm and female egg join – a new and unique life form is created.” Scientists don’t say life begins at birth or viability. It begins at conception.

Why is this so important to those of us who are pro-life? It’s pretty simple really. Human life is the foundation of our civilization. It defines us as a people. Protection of life is the centerpiece of what makes us unique as Americans. That is why as one people, we rush to the aid of earthquake victims in Haiti, tsunami victims in Sri Lanka, and hurricane victims in our own country.

We recognize that each life, every life, is unique and that the loss of one unique life diminishes each of us individually and collectively. This recognition is why we fight so hard to save the life of a lost boy scout, or a cave explorer trapped far below the surface. It is why Americans risk their lives every day. It is what separates us from the terrorists – they have a culture of death – we have a culture of life.

As Americans, we have a love of all humans, from the baby growing inside a mother’s womb, to the elderly facing the end of their life on earth. Our respect and love for the human race is at the core of our society. It defines our family units. It defines our judicial system. It defines our political system. If we lose sight of the sanctity of human life, then we lose our soul.

That is why I will continue to fight, by every legal means available, for the protection of life – every life is a life worth fighting for.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Planned Parenthood and sex abuse of a minor - again

Live Action Films has caught another Planned Parenthood employee disregarding the law regarding alleged sex abuse of a minor - this time in Wisconsin.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dad - Update

I got home from band practice to find a message from the nursing home to call. Dad had continued to deteriorate - his oxygen was low, his lethargy had increased. They'd sent him back to the hospital.

Off to Emergency. The doctor said he still has signs of he pneumonia he'd had two weeks ago - but they'd released him at that time because he'd "improved." Now, here he is back. The doctor decided to admit him.

When I spoke to Dad, he acknowledged me, then drifted off to sleep again.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Obama Pushes Abortion Unhealth Care

President Obama has now offered his version of health (sic) care reform. Not surprisingly, his version is similar to the pro-abortion Senate proposal.

His bill provides a starting point for discussion at the upcoming health care summit - that's likely to be the argument his administration will make. But there are hints that if pro-lifers and Republicans (not synonymous, by the way) don't go along with what he wants, he might just seek a procedural way to ram it through.

Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups and individuals will undoubtedly applaud - and contribute to his 2012 campaign.

We need some health care reform, but without the protections for life and conscience, his proposed bill is unacceptable.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dad - Down day

When I got to the nursing home to visit Dad today, he was not out playing games as usual. I found him in his room, looking half asleep in his wheelchair, with oxygen.

He looked at me quizzically at first - as if he did not recognize me. Then he started to talk, but it was more of a mumble.

I got him to talk louder, and kept asking questions to get him to focus. Finally, he told me that a man from the town where he used to live was coming for a logging certificate that Dad had in the back of his dresser. Dad was convinced it had fallen behind the drawer, and it would be hard to get it out. He was very concerned about this.

His good hand kept shaking. No cards were possible. I'll have to sign the checks for his bills this week (I have power of attorney).

I kept trying to get him to focus, and he would for a moment, then would drift off to talk about the man, the certificate, the stock market going down, Mom (dead for four years).

I spoke to his nurse. She said he hasn't been doing well. She had to partly feed him at lunch time just to get some food in him. He's been very lethargic.

I went back to the room. An aid came in and Dad kept asking if the aid was my brother (now dead nearly 27 years), then asking if he was the man coming for the certificate. I tried all sorts of small talk, trying to keep him talking, hoping things would begin to click. I talked about all the stuff at work, teaching, waking up early, my two dogs of happy memory, Duke and Maggie. I mentioned my old high school in Geneva. He said maybe I could teach there. I said I could not afford to move back there. He said I could move back into the old family home in Geneva as he still owned it. Mom and Dad sold it back in 1974.

When I left, I said I would be back next week and I was going to kick his butt in euchre. He smiled at that.

I kissed him goodbye and told him I loved him. He said he loved me.

I hope he is better next week. I hope he will be able to kick my butt.


There's an old saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."

My mind working the way that it does, and given all that's going on at work and in my personal life, I woke at 1:30 this morning.

I lay there for a while. Sleep did not return.

So I got up and finished reading the last 90 pages or so of Piers Paul Read's The Death of a Pope.

A good read - though I had pretty much figured out most of what was going to happen at the end the novel by the time I was half way through the book. Still, a good enough story to hold my attention

I recommend it.

Then I said morning prayers, read the Sunday morning paper (that arrived a little after 3), and wrote more of my novel (I'm still on track with the 500-words-a-week goal during the school year).

All that's fine. I just hope I don't wake at 1:30 tomorrow: I have to teach school.

Maybe tonight before I go to bed I'll drink some lemonade - with a shot of whiskey in it!

Quoting St. Francis

“Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” - St. Francis of Assisi

Saturday, February 20, 2010


It's been a rough two weeks at the small private school where I am a both a teacher and the principal.

For various reasons, one teacher was placed on a leave of absence two weeks ago, and another was let go yesterday.

They are both good people whom I like a lot, so that made it all the more painful. Even though the actions were taken by the trustees, as principal I played a role, and felt I had to be present. I would like to reach out to both of them, but can't at this time.

I have a reputation as someone who can be objective, who always seems unflappable. But that doesn't mean I lack feelings. Right now they are churning. Constantly.

I tend to internalize.

On a practical level, on top of my own five classes, for the first week I had to prepare the lessons for five courses that had been taught by the teacher put on leave. Late nights trying to work with subjects I don't teach and know little about. By this week, three of the classes had new teachers, but I had to pick up one - meaning I'm now teaching six classes, including two at the same time (ah, the old one-room school house!) on top of my principal duties, and I'm still doing the preps for another class while we search for someone to teach that.

As all this was getting underway, I was also dealing with my dad being in the hospital and even after he got back to the nursing home, his depression over his situation. Then another teacher had to take days off due to a death in the family, further upsetting classes.

It got so bad by late in this past week I commented to a fellow teacher that maybe at contract time I would say I just want to teach and they should search for another principal. Or maybe that it was time to begin applying to other schools for teaching positions.

I'm have a history of running away.

Not looking for sympathy. This is more of a vent. One of the sad things in my life is that I'm somewhat of a loner naturally, and the few people I was close enough to to talk things over with have all moved away. Or been put on leave.

Blogging has not been a priority. And I haven't been visiting other blogs that much.

Right now, what I need to do is pray. Mass is in 45 minutes.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Planned Parenthood and Black Genocide


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pro-choice Catholics

Being a pro-choice Catholic is like claiming to be a Red Sox fan, then cheering at a Red Sox/Yankees game for the Yankees.

Valentine's Day

the day we first met
my eyes drank in your beauty -
they are drinking still

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Early Valentine's Day Gift!

It's been a rough week at work. I rarely drink, but the Good Looking One heard me lamenting one night that I could use a beer.

Today she went shopping.

A 12-pack.

She loves me.

A thought on Jesus's miracles

The other morning at Mass something occurred to me about the miracles of Jesus recorded in the Gospels.

So many of them seem to involve casting out demons, raising the dead, curing the deaf and blind, and providing food or drink for people.

The demons are our fallen nature, the control of the evil one when we permit it. We are spiritually dead. Jesus drives out the evil, and raises us from spiritual death to eternal life.

We are all blind and deaf - to God's love, to the beauty of God's creation, to the signs and wonders before our eyes and whispering in our ears, to our own weaknesses. Jesus removes the blockages so we can truly see ourselves and the wonders of God's love.

We hunger and thirst for salvation, and Jesus provides us with the food and drink we need.

So these miracles are all symbolic of what Christ brings us. I suspect the Gospel writers recorded these miracles intentionally because of their meanings and because they fit the messages they were trying to convey - and probably did not record many other miracles Jesus performed because they did not fit in with their narratives.

I wonder what some of those other miracles were?

But back to my point: These recorded miracles are not just manifestations of God's love and power in tended to amaze us. They are lessons for us. They are means for us to consider what God does in our lives day after day.

These ideas have probably been spoken of and written about many many times before by others who are far brighter and holier than I am. I'm still a child in my faith taking one uncertain step after another, but always trusting in Abba.

Senator Gillibrand responds

I have been critical of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand because of her stands on certain issues - particularly abortion - that go against the teachings of the Catholic Church even though she describes herself as a Catholic.


When I wrote to her, she not only responded - or at least her office did - but actually addressed the concern I raised.

Dear Mr. Strong,

Thank you for writing to me with your concerns about coverage of abortion and health care reform. I appreciate your concerns, and I will keep them in mind when the bill comes to the floor of the Senate.

While we have differing views about reproductive rights
(sic), I believe we can still agree that the final health reform bill should do more to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions, and make a commitment to supporting young mothers. ...

(The rest of the e-mail goes on to talk about health care reform in general.)

This letter is unlike some of the form letters I've gotten from some of my other representatives. It suggests that someone actually read what I wrote. So I give her nod of appreciation. Her response showed respect for my opinion. Thank you.

But I still say I find it unconscionable that one of my Senators (Gillibrand) and my Congressional Representative (Eric Massa) describe themselves as Catholic, yet vote against the teaching of the Church.

I'd suggest they either follow the teaching of the Church when those teachings are clear - as they are on abortion - or that they stop describing themselves as members of the Church.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Bad Haiku Friday: Lying groundhog!

watching the snow storms
miss us again and again -
was the groundhog wrong?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Palin's crib notes

Crib notes on your hand for a speech?? Reminds me of middle school. Very disappointing.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

A pro-life country song - "The Call"

Nice. It's amazing the positive effects a phone call, an e-mail, a card, a kind word can have on someone's life.


Monday, February 08, 2010

Rock of Faith musical selections

For those who like to grumble that Rock of Faith is playing secular or irreverent music, all of the hymns are from Spirit and Song, and have been published with the approval of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy.

In other words, we are playing music that has been approved for church use.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Rock of Faith, okay, but ...

We played for the Mass today. It went well - though I messed up some chords. Argh. Practice.

With Lent coming, we have to change some of the songs. We are playing February 28. One of the songs we will do that day is Matt Maher's "40 Days."


Update on Dad

I went over with my father-in-law to visit Dad at the hospital. We spent about three hours there, with Frank (father-in-law) helping to keep the conversation going (he has lots of stories!).

Dad enjoyed the visit - he smiled broadly when he saw Frank walk in.

Uncle Jack (the fellow on the left in the picture above, which was taken two years ago) later called to find out how Dad was.

He and Dad (in the wheel chair) are the last two Strong males of their generation. My cousin Don (second from right above) and I (bearded fellow on the right) are two of the last Strong males of our generation.

Dad is still getting antibiotics to fight the pneumonia. It's not clear when he will go back to the home. Given the way hospitals work these days, he could go back tomorrow. Or it could be several days. We'll see.

Franciscan day of recollection

We held a short day of recollection - half a day really - with the two local Secular Franciscan groups. We met out at St. Leo's, Hilton, for talks by Father Anthony and Brother Francis (above - and yes, he is a big fellow!) both of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

The day included not only the talks - both fine, and Brother Francis' tale of being basically a faithless "punk" in London who, thanks to a Divine Mercy picture found in a phone booth (!), became a Catholic and a Brother was particularly gripping - but also a Holy Hour, Confessions, and a Mass.

What was also nice is that we had three young women there. Two are students at SUNY Brockport who are apparently not satisfied with the Newman Center there, met an SFO at a daily Mass in town where they heard of the day of recollection, and showed up.

Wonderful. And a wonderful day.

I also suggested we consider meeting some time at the St. Padre Pio Chapel, an idea that got a positive response from the Rochester SFOs. We'll see.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Dad back in the hospital

It's an eerily familiar scenario.

A senior struggling with health, a phone call from the nursing home - going to Emergency - my own trip to the hospital, sitting in an Emergency Department room talking with someone who is seeing things - ants on the table - and looking so frail.

When did this former heavyweight boxer and all-star athlete lose so much weight?

Pneumonia. Low oxygen count. Fever - 101. Pulse racing at above 105.

As I sat there with dad Thursday I kept thinking of all those trips with Nana, until we reached the point where I told the home to stop sending her to the hospital as the trips were doing nothing except reducing the quality of her life.

As for dad, by last night he was in a room, at least for the weekend, stable, fever down, but still not thinking straight, still looking so frail. I stopped by to see him after school, found that the home had not sent his teeth or his glasses, so I drove to the home to pick them up and returned to the hospital. The man should at least be able to eat and watch television.

I asked about his condition. His nurse, who was basically seeing him for the first time, did not know, didn't even know if he could receive pain medication for his arthritis - even though he'd been on pain abatement medication for years.

The nurse never came back, so I went to the desk. No one knew anything. Ask his nurse, they said. His nurse walked past me into a room behind the desk. No one said anything to him. They had all stopped talking to me. Busy. I finally snapped, "Guess I don't find out," and walked away.

A few minutes later a nurse practitioner showed up to dad's room, apologized, and went over a few things - but she had no idea how long he would be there. At least the weekend. Maybe more. The doctors had left no notes. She searched through the documents for my name and phone number - I'm his proxy. No luck. No sign of the papers that had been with him in the Emergency Room, so she had to take down contact details.

Then the nurse came back and apologized. I did too for my sarcastic tone.

Dad lay in the bed. I'm not sure how much of this he understood. He wanted to be back at the home. He wanted to play bingo, and cards. He was going to miss the communion service. He started talking like he was in the home. Where's my dresser, I want a chocolate. I reminded him he was in the hospital. He looked at me, puzzled for a second, then said he knew he was in the hospital.

I kept thinking of those last months with Nana.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

President Bush gets a pro-life award????

The Catholic business group, Legatus, is giving former President George Bush its Cardinal John J. O'Connor Pro-Life Award.

Forgive me while I choke on my coffee.

The group's executive director, John Hunt, reportedly said, "You could argue that he was the most pro-life president in our lifetime."

Argue? You bet.

He is pro-life only if you narrowly define "pro-life" as applying to abortion and embryonic-stem cell research. There, yes, he did support life - and is a stark contrast to the current pro-abortion President. And these are important issues, no argument there.

But when it comes to unjust and illegal wars, when it comes to support for the death penalty and torture, Governor and later President Bush is clearly not pro-life. Certainly not deserving of such an award.

Speaking as a Catholic pro-lifer, this is embarrassing.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Yeah, I do like sports

I'm not a total sports junkie. I don't sit glued to the television on Sundays during football season, for example.

I just follow certain teams. The Bills. The Mets. The Red Sox.

Right now, it's college basketball time, and Syracuse University, a team I've followed for more than two decades, is 22-1.

Hey, after the Bills' season I needed something to cheer about!

Syracuse has a real shot this year at the national championship. GO S.U.!

Syracuse, the Mets, and the Red Sox have all won championships during my time as a fan. Now if only the Bills could come through. (Not likely this coming season. Sigh.)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Why Catholics can't vote for Gillibrand

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand identifies herself as a Catholic, yet she has taken postions that go against the Church's teachings, including on the issue of abortion.

The latest update on her activities from her office provides further proof:

"She led the fight in the Senate to defeat the Stupak Amendment, which would have severely rolled back women’s reproductive rights."

Catholics and pro-lifers can't in good conscience vote for her.

Monday, February 01, 2010

God of Wonders

One of the songs we did Saturday for the Youth Mass. (Obviously this is not Rock of Faith performing it!) This is one of our favorite songs to play. We'll be doing it again this Sunday.