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.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Good bye

Per the advice of my principal, this blog is closing down. Thanks to everyone who has read it over the years!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


The Ramones on ukulele. Amazing.

Ismene lives?

Years ago I taught the play Antigone by Sophocles. One of the characters is Ismene, the sister of Antigone. Ismene at first refused to join Antigone in breaking the law, but she was later willing to die with Antigone, who had been sentenced to death. Antigone rejected her offer, and Ismene was spared. We never learn in the play what ultimately happened to Ismene.

There is mention by a later Greek writer that she was murdered, but there are no other mentions of this in other myths and stories from that time.

So what happened to Ismene?She lingered in the back of my mind long after I left that school and no longer taught the play. I felt bad for her. She was not a bad person. I could understand the choices she made. I thought that she was unfairly overshadowed by her more dramatic sister. And I thought Antigone treated her shabbily when Ismene loyally and bravely offered to die with her. I also wondered about how the tragic curse on Oedipus' family would ultimately affect her.

About a decade ago, I actually got an idea for a play focusing on what became of her in the years after the events in Antigone. I even gathered a few notes and scribbled a few lines of dialogue.

Then life intervened.

In the form of other plays.

I began teaching at a school where I wrote all the school plays and dramatic performances. Stone Soup. Robin Hood. The Sick King. Two collections of skits. A draft of a play about the Erie Canal.

No Ismene.

While cleaning a filing cabinet this summer I stumbled across some of my Ismene notes. And this past week at my new school I discovered I was going to be teaching Antigone again after nearly 25 years.

The thought hit me: Maybe its time to finish that play.

Ismene may just get her chance to take center stage!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Working with a smile

At my new school, we are in the process of doing curriculum mapping.

What that means is basically planning out the entire year - all the major works and projects - listing the class content for each course, the skills we plan to help the students develop, and how we will assess their work. This will help all the teachers teaching the same courses to be consistent. It also helps us to better coordinate the Regents-level (i.e. regular)classes with the Honors and AP ones. In previous years, two teachers could be teaching the same class, but cover different literary works, give different assignments, and required different workloads. And because all the teachers are mapping together this summer, it helps up to plan better what material and skills will be covered at the different grade levels, and to build on what the students have had in previous years.

It sounds reasonable and logical to do this, but in many schools this sort of joint planning and cooperation is not the rule. My new school is committed to seeking ways to provide our students with better educations. Awesome.

The process is forcing us to spell out more clearly what we are trying to do and how we will do it. It also means some give and take. If we are going to coordinate, then we have to do the same major works at each grade level. Some teachers are dropping works that they've done for years. We're adding works that we are all agreeing on.

We've been at it for five days. Six plus hours a day. Six hours is about all we can handle before our brains start to flat line.

I love it.

I'm coming from a small Christian school where I WAS the English Department - and the Social Studies Department - and where what we could teach was severely limited because the denomination that runs that school is very strict about what can be discussed and what can be read.

Good people who dearly love their children - I understand what they are trying to do - but their rules and beliefs were often onerous. I still shudder at the thought of the books that had pages cut out because of "objectionable" content. And I sigh as I recall the ruling that came down that said we could no longer stage plays because they were too "entertaining."

But now, instead of working solo, at my new school I'm with a group of English teachers doing the planning. We talk and joke as we work. We make literary references - and everybody gets them.

And the works I can teach again. Old favorites like Antigone. Julius Caesar. Macbeth. Pride and Prejudice. The Glass Menagerie.


I'm tired.

But I'm smiling.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Still mulling: Kill the blog

I'm still trying to figure out what to do with this blog.

I'm going to be teaching at a school where the students are computer savvy, so I wonder how long it will be before one or more of them find me here. I haven't written anything scandalous, and there are no explicit or really embarrassing photos (though that one of me in a green suit playing guitar is scary!). But I do deal with political and social issues. Will my activities or opinions offend? I don't know.

I have made some changes. My Facebook account is now open only to friends, and I've made some changes here to make it harder to find me. But will that be enough?

Another concern is lack of time. My new school will require a lot more work. Will I even have time to blog? And shouldn't I be putting my time and energy into more serious writing? (Look how much time I wasted typing this instead of doing some lesson plans or reading work for school!)

Maybe I'll wait to see if I get "discovered."

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Praying at Planned Parenthood

As usual, we gathered outside the Planned Parenthood office in Greece, N.Y., this morning to pray.

The clinic had been closed on Saturdays throughout July (per a note on their door). But it has also been closed the first two Saturdays in August - with no note of explanation.

I asked someone praying with us if the clinic is still open weekdays: It is.

So ... what's going on? Short staffed? Budget issues? They got fed up with seeing us every Saturday?

After all, after years of vigils, prayers, and protests, the main Rochester office shut down on Saturdays. Perhaps our prayers are having an effect at this clinic?

Of course, it could just be a temporary thing and they will be open next Saturday.

But for the past few weeks, seeing no women going in to be harmed adds a bit of joy to our prayers.

Church Rocks (2011)

Church Rocks (2011) was last night. I thought we did well, as did the other three groups. The audience seemed to appreciate the music.

And I don't think I didn't hit too many bad chords on my ukulele debut!

Next year we need to work on better promoting the event to let more people know about it.

I was sad, though, that it may be the last time we'll play with our drummer, Don. He has moved to another city. I gave him a hug after.

I even smiled on stage a couple of times, and chatted with a few people after - trying to keep on becoming more friendly and social.

Maybe next time I'll smile and chat at the same time!

Who needs Lady Gaga's version? (Telephone)

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Team Wilberboom: "Are unborn children human?"

Nagasaki (two 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)

Lord: We pray that atomic weapons will never be used again in war.


Who is that guitarist?

Yes, that's me. I was playing and singing at a wedding back in 1980! They requested all Dylan tunes.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Scotland-Based Mary's Meals Offers Some Famine Relief

A wonderful tale about two Scottish lads reaching out to help others through Mary's Meals:

During 1992 two brothers, Magnus and Fergus MacFarlane-Barrow from Scotland, watched the TV news from the Bosnian conflict with increasing horror. They were so moved that they decided to organize an appeal for food and blankets.

They quickly gathered a jeep load, joined one of the convoys leaving the UK, and delivered the aid to Medjugorje in Bosnia, a place of international pilgrimage they had visited with their family years previously. Believing their good deed done, they returned to their home in Argyll expecting to resume their jobs as fish farmers. However they came home to discover the public had carried on donating aid in their absence, filling their parents’ garage with goods.

Magnus decided to give up his job for a year to drive the aid out to Bosnia for as long as the public kept donating. The public did not stop and it soon became necessary to set up a registered charity, Scottish International Relief (SIR). The charity soon expanded and began to work in Romania, building homes for abandoned children and, in Liberia, helping returning refugees by setting up mobile clinics, while continuing to deliver material aid to Croatia and Bosnia, and funding additional projects.

In 2002 SIR was operating a simple famine relief project in Malawi when Magnus met a family that led to a whole new area of work. The mother was dying of AIDS and lying on the floor of her hut surrounded by her six young children.

She said that all that was left for her was to pray for her children, that someone might look after them after she had died. She knew that the AIDS epidemic had created 1 million orphans in Malawi alone. When Magnus asked her oldest son what he hoped from in life, his stark reply of - “To have enough to eat and to go to school one day” was not easily forgotten. It prompted the campaign, Mary’s Meals.

The campaign aims to provide chronically hungry children with one meal a day in school. In this way the children are encouraged to gain the education that can lift them out of poverty in later life.

This simple but effective idea has gathered momentum and today provides daily meals for over 500,000 children in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe. Mary’s Meals headquarters is still situated in the grounds of Craig Lodge in the Scottish Highands but support groups are springing up around the world.

The U.S. branch can be found through

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Women's Commission Seeks Members (Men Need Not Apply)

I saw the following notice at the Catholic Courier website:

The Diocese of Rochester's Women's Commission is seeking new members.

The Women's Commission serves as an advisory board to Bishop Matthew H. Clark, who appoints members to their positions on the commission. Members of the commission advise the bishop on issues of concern to women in the church and in society. The commission advocates for the role of women in the church and the community and provides its members with opportunities to share the richness of their gifts.

Interested women are invited to apply to join the commission. Current commission members will review all applications and make recommendations to Bishop Clark.

Nothing against the Women's Commission. I'm sure they do fine work and provide the Bishop with plenty of good advice.

But are men unqualified to provide such advice? What about guys like me who raised daughters? And it seems to me that women are welcome to take part in groups that deal with issues of concern to men - like a vocation to the priesthood or the permanent diaconate. So why not men providing insights about women's issues?

And is there a Men's Commission? Only open to men? After all, men have concerns these days, and I'm sure the Bishop could use some advice about helping guys with finding more opportunities to share the richness of their gifts.

Maybe they could at least form a men's axillary to the Women's Commission. Possibly the men could wash the dishes while the women meet. Or maybe mow the lawn.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

I Inflict Another Poem on the Reading Public

I received the May/June issue of Gilbert Magazine today (yes, in Chestertonian style, the issue arrived on August 3rd). To my delight, one of my clerihews was published in it.

President James Polk
would rarely crack a joke.
But his friends say he was quick
with a limerick.

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Abortion is NOT health care.

Abortion is unhealthy care.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

40 Days for Life in Rochester (NY)

We're starting to gear up for the fall ‎40 Days for Life fall campaign (September 28 - November 6) in Rochester, N.Y.

The first planning meeting is next Tuesday night at Focus Pregnancy Center - just down the road (University Avenue, actually) from Rochester's Planned Parenthood headquarters outside of which we will be praying for the 40 days of the campaign.

Lives have been saved in the previous campaigns here in Rochester and across the world.

The Portiuncula

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Angels of the Portiuncula. Our Lady of the Angels is the Patroness of the Franciscan Family.

From The Franciscan Book of Prayer:

The Portiuncula is an ancient church dedicated to Mary under the title Our Lady of the Angels and is located in Assisi, Italy. It was a spot very dear to the heart of Saint Francis.

The Porziuncola is the place where Franciscanism developed, and where Saint Francis lived and died.

The chapel, of antique construction and venerated for the apparition of Angels within it, belonged to the Benedictine monks of Subasio. It was on a piece of land called "Portiuncula" and later, the name of the land passed to the little church itself.

It was abandoned for a long time and was restored by Saint Francis. It was here that he understood his vocation clearly and here that he founded the Order of the Friars Minor (1209) "establishing here his home", St. Bonaventure tells us, "because of his reverence for the angels, and of his great love of the Mother of Christ" to whom the little church was dedicated. The land and the Chapel were gifted to him by the Benedictines for making it the centre of his new religious family.

On 28 March, 1211 Clare, daughter of Favarone di Offreduccio received her religious habit here from the hands of Saint Francis and so initiated the Order of the Poor Clares.

In 1216, in a vision, St Francis obtained from Jesus himself the Indulgence of the Pardon of Assisi that was approved by Pope Honorius III. This plenary indulgence may ordinarily be gained on August 2 and 15; pilgrims may gain it once a year on any day of the year.

At the Porziuncola, that was and is the centre of the Franciscan Order, St Francis assembled all the Friars in the Chapter every year to discuss the Rule and to renew their dedication to the Gospel Life. The Chapter of Mats (Stuoie) in 1221 was attended by more than 5000 friars.

The Porziuncola is situated now inside the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels in the town of the same name around 5 km from Assisi.

Here he began and grew in his religious life; here he founded the Franciscan Order; here he manifested his love and great devotion to the Mother of God. When Francis knew he was dying, he requested to be brought to the Portiuncula to end his earthly life.

As we honor Our Lady of the Angels, may we find inspiration for our own growth and development in the Gospel way of life that Saint Francis embraced and lived so completly.


To obtain the Portiuncula plenary indulgence, visit the Chapel of Our Lady of the Angels at Assisi, or a Franciscan sanctuary (like the "Port" at the Franciscan University at Steubenville - a wonderful replica of the original church), or even one’s own parish church, with the intention of honoring Our Lady of the Angels. While there, recite the Creed and Our Father and pray for the Pope’s intentions. You need to go confession eight days days before or after, and participate at assist at Mass and receive Holy Communion eight days before or after.

Monday, August 01, 2011

From St. Padre Pio

"Always remain close to the Catholic Church, because it alone can give you true peace, since it alone possesses Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, the true Prince of Peace."