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.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I'm leaning toward ...



Thursday, October 15, 2009

So, I was thinking ...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Big Government PSA (a spoof)

I don't agree with it all, but I got a chuckle out of it!

40 Days - Midpoint Procession

We will be holding a 40 Days Midpoint Procession this Saturday, October 17.

The pro-choicers will apparently be there.

We've received word that the pro-choice side has heard about the procession and will have a counter protest to greet us when we arrive at Planned Parenthood.

The last time they tried that, they managed to gather 25-30 people loudly chanting, while more that 100 pro-lifer's prayed quietly.

But thanks to their presence, the local media finally paid attention to us!

So local pro-lifers, even if you have not been able to take part in the 40 Days campaign thus far, it's important for you to be there this Saturday!

For Catholics, there will be a Mass at Our Lady of Victory Church, 200 Pleasant Street, at noon. The marchers will gather in the parking lot next to the church at 1. We will then silently process down to Pleasant to Main Street, along Main Street to Gibbs Street, then to Planned Parenthood, where we will pray.

Don't let the usual Rochester apathy keep you away. And don't let fear prevent you from showing up. The police will be there to prevent any problems. And think of the witness we can send through the local media.



Monday, October 12, 2009

President Obama continues attacks on traditional faiths

At the Human Rights Campaign dinner Saturday, President Obama pledged support for the homosexual agenda and continued to express his dismissal of traditional religious - and Catholic - beliefs.

"For despite the real gains that we've made, there's still laws to change and there's still hearts to open. There are still fellow citizens, perhaps neighbors, even loved ones -- good and decent people -- who hold fast to outworn arguments and old attitudes; who fail to see your families like their families; who would deny you the rights most Americans take for granted."

Outworn arguments and old attitudes?

The Bible?

The doctrinal and moral teachings of the Catholic Church?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church?

The teachings of many other Christian Churches?

And some Catholics continue to support him???

Nazareth College "promotes" acceptance of homosexuality

Nazareth College, which used to be a Catholic college, is now celebrating National Coming Out Day.

As part of the the celebrating, it screened the gay propaganda film Milk on Sunday, and will host a talk by local homosexual rights activist Richard Ognibene on October 13.

Ognibene will talk about “Coming Out Strong: the Power of Visibility for the LBGT Community.”

Yes, visibility is important. The more impressionable young people see such things being treated as normal, the more likely they are to think that it's okay.

Ognibene, a Siena College grad (sigh, Franciscan ties), won the 2009 Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence, and was a 2008 New York Teacher of the Year. He teaches chemistry and physics at Fairport High School. He obviously has credibility as a teacher.

And ... he and his "partner" Matt Fleig are described as longtime advocates for LGBT rights.

The events are being sponsored by a number of groups at Nazareth, including the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Center for Spirituality, and the Women Studies Program.

In the flier for the event, the college says "Nazareth College is pleased to sponsor opportunities for education and discussion." Okay, I've heard that rationale before. But the flier lists a number of pro-homosexual groups and resources ... and none that promote or support the Church's teachings on the issue. Then again, including such Catholic groups might steer the education and discussion in the "wrong" direction, right?

And besides, it's no longer a Catholic college anyway.

(From Wikipedia - "In 2003, Nazareth College was removed from The Official Catholic Directory, having been declared to no longer be a Catholic institution by Rochester Bishop Matthew H. Clark. It was the second time since Pope John Paul II issued Ex Corde Ecclesia, the apostolic constitution on Catholic universities in 1990, that a bishop declared an historically Catholic college or university to be not Catholic.")

Sunday, October 11, 2009

"President Obama" Celebrates Peace Prize on SNL

We Lose - Yay!

To tell you how much of a Bills fan I am, I was hoping they would play an ugly game today and lose - and they did!

3-6 - Whoopee! Way to go Cleveland!

Now before you think I'm crazy - okay, crazier than you suspected - I wanted the Bills to lose so maybe the owner would FINALLY fire the coach. That's the only way I can see them improving this year.

Now, there's hope.

Is it sacrilegious to say a novena to get someone fired?

(I'm sure he's a nice guy and all, but he needs to get a job as an insurance salesman, or something similar).

On a more serious note, Boston was eliminated from the baseball playoffs. Sigh. I need to spend more time reading my Franciscan formation materials anyway.

When does Syracuse University basketball start?

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Secular Franciscan Formation Session

Last night was my first "official" night of formation. Of course, I have been in formation really for the past year, attending the meetings and the retreats. But this was my first discussion of the formation materials as an "inquirer."

One-on-one with the formation director. (I hope more join us.) I give him some of my background, my reasons for thinking I have a call to be a Secular Franciscan, my own spiritual journey and weaknesses.

One area I note is that I've always taken an intellectual approach to faith. Faith of the head. The feeling, the emotive, the "sensual" part of spirituality is an area I know I need to develop in me. Franciscan spirituality seems to me to be a way to help that part of me grow. (It might even make me a better poet, too!)

As part of my faith of the head, I constantly get myself into trouble. I think myself down wrong paths, and given my pride, I have a hard time admitting when I have strayed and with taking correction. I'm pretty good at rationalizing, arguing, denying.

Of course, following my head in the past was one of the things that stopped me dead in my tracks when I explored the diaconate.

I told him that having to wait a year for formation to officially being was actually a good lesson in humility. I need to learn more patience.

The next meeting I will join the whole group to discuss some of the writings of St. Francis. Then in November another formation session. Two more sections to read.

So much to learn.



40 Days: Stay the Course

6:55 a.m.

47 degrees.


I arrive at the 40 Days site outside Planned Parenthood.

I locate the signs that had been hidden, and set up a couple. At 7 a.m., holding one sign, I begin to pray.

As I pray, I watch bands of drizzle sweep by.

I start to sing, quietly.

"Father, we adore Thee ...


"All we are saying, is give life a chance." (Wonder how John Lennon would feel about me appropriating his song?)

No one else arrives by 7:10. I begin a rosary.

Dawn arrives. It grows lighter. Drizzle continues.

Hail Mary ...

Cars pass intermittently. No responses. But maybe seeds planted?

Our Father ...

At 7 :25 Rick arrives. He opens up the Focus Center and gets some more signs. He joins me.

He's not scheduled until later, but dropped by early knowing I was alone. We chat for a few minutes.

Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize.

Red Sox.

Music played last week as part of 40 Days.

More than 180 babies saved, including one locally.


We say a rosary together.

Cars continue by. One honks. Support or not? Unclear. I said I will take it as support.

Rain picks up. Not enough to put up my umbrella - that would make it hard to hold the sign - but steady enough. I put my hood over my hat. My hands are cold. Gloves next time?

I think: I'm uncomfortable, but Jesus really suffered on the Cross to save us. I'm uncomfortable, but the babies we are trying to save face a possible horrible, pain-filled death. I'm uncomfortable, but the women who make the tragic choice of abortion face a life-time of anguish and potential emotional and physical problems.

Thank you, Lord, for this opportunity.

There will be a number of people showing up later. Praying. Singing.

From 7-8, I, and then the two of us, just a presence. But a praying presence.

And whenever two or more are gathered ...

8:10. I leave. Crank up the heat in the car. Flex my fingers.

I'll be back.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Ho Ho Ho

Got the call tonight. Santa needs my help again this year at the mall. Always glad to help the big guy.

He arrives November 21. I'll be on hand to help on the 22.

Ho Ho Ho.

Bad Haiku Friday: Will there be a test?

Teacher in-service -
doodling and nodding off
during the lecture


President Obama Wins the Nobel Peace Prize

The New York Times is reporting: "In a stunning surprise, the Nobel Committee announced Friday that it had awarded its annual peace prize to President Obama “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

He apparently had not even been considered really in the running although he had been nominated. He beat out human rights activists in China and Afghanistan and political figures in Africa.


But I think for a man who has only been in office less than a year, this is a bit premature. Let him accomplish something - like Theodore Roosevelt's successful peace negotiations between Russia and Japan - or keep up a sustained effort - like Rev. Martin Luther King's years of fighting for civil rights - before handing him such an award.

This just seems another instance of him rising to the top without really doing anything first.

Maybe they are honoring him for NOT being President Bush. I have to admit, much as I disagree with President Obama on some important issues, he certainly comes across as far more competent than his predecessor.

Language advisory

I have mentioned that there has been an issue at school that is eating up a lot of my time and energy - and causing me to lose sleep. As principal I'm stuck in the middle of it.

One part of the problem is a particular student's use of racial language - including the "N" word (and some others). He had been first told not to use such words, then given a warning when he did it again and a note was sent home, and finally was going to be receive "in-school suspension" (i.e. sit in my office for one day and do all his work there) when he uttered the "N" word yet again.

The reprimand was for not only his language mind you, but also his actions and disrespect for teachers - including hitting other students, giving teachers the finger, bullying, defying authority, refusing to follow directions, destruction of school property, etc. But the language incident was last straw.

The idea was not so much to punish him as to try to impress on him the seriousness of his actions. He's only a fourth grader (!) with low impulse control, and reminders, words and warnings, visits to my office, notes and phone calls home, time out, loss of recess, etc., were not working.

His parents blew up. They fixated on just the language incident. The punishment was too severe. He was being picked on by the staff. He's only a little boy with too much energy. People should be fired.

Now were this a public school with lots of kids and families, this would be less of a concern. But being a small private school with lots of parental power, and the community that supports the school being close-knit, it has become a major confrontation.

I've had several meetings with trustees trying to save one teacher's job in particular.

But at the latest meeting, one trustee told me that the word the boy used was not as bad as swearing, after all.

?!?#%$!! (Vulgar term only!)

I politely, but strongly disagreed. I told him that I thought racial slurs were far worse than vulgar language, and that racial language was dealt with severely at any school where I have taught. Such terms could lead to violence - I told him the most violent fight I ever had to break up at another school was when a white student called a black student by that term, leading to two of us staff members having to physically restrain the students to avoid people getting hurt, and both students being expelled (albeit, for the fighting). I told them it was common for students to be suspended for using continuing to use such language.

(Later, I realized that I could have said that racial slurs are "violent" and show disrespect, even contempt for people, and that's part of what makes them worse that mere vulgar expressions. But I didn't think of it at the time.)

I surprised them. I don't think it had ever occurred to them. Mind, you, this is a very sheltered religious community that runs the school.

I mentioned this language situation to my wife, and she agreed that racial slurs were worse than vulgar language. That's all well and good, but in terms of running the school, I have to report to the trustees, and if they don't think such language is a big deal, I have to follow their dictates.

Any thoughts out there?


At least another two meetings coming up involving trustees and teachers caught up in the dispute. There still might be at least one job on the line.

One fellow teacher - who pointedly said he is staying out of this - remarked, "You wanted to be principal."

Pride cometh before the fall - or the school year!

Thank God for a three-day weekend.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

40 Days: Baby Saved in Rochester

This from the 40 Days team here in Rochester -

We had our first Rochester "save" of the 2009 campaign today! Martha and Mary Lou were at the vigil when three young women were dropped off by a man. One of them announced to Martha that she was about to have a baby but that her friend who she was with was here to have an abortion. At that point, the woman she was referring to started running for the entrance to the abortion mill. Martha urged her friends to go after her and talk her out of it. They all disappeared into the building and when they didn't come out, Martha began reciting the attached poem, "My life depends on you" at the top of her voice while Mary Lou prayed. After several minutes, the women came out. The woman who was going to have the abortion approached Mary and said: "I heard you from inside the building and I just couldn't go through with it". Thanks be to God. While it's gratifying to here results like this, we have to realize every prayer we say, every information packet we give out, and every time someone sees us holding those signs makes an impact. We need more vigil volunteers.

Thank you, Lord!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Queen is not amused

Queen Elizabeth is reportedly "appalled" at recent developments in the Church of England.

An article in the Telegraph says she has even "grown increasingly sympathetic" to the Catholic Church over the years!

Pope Benedict plans to visit England next year, and there are reports he will even stay at Buckingham Palace. She had earlier met with other Popes, including Pople John Paul II.

Now I don't expect the Queen to suddenly convert, but I think she reflects an unease among many Anglicans/Episcopalians about the indefensible positions being adopted by their church.

WHIC Catholic Radio Misses Chance to Support Life

As part of my support for the 40 Days for Life Campaign, I had earlier contacted WHIC - our local Catholic radio station. They had posted info in their calendar, but hadn't done much about 40 Days as far as we can tell. We had hoped for a report, or even a brief interview. Something.

Last Thursday, I called the station to try to get on one of the open line shows.

I was not allowed on the air.

Here's the e-mail I sent to the station on Saturday:

This past week I called during the Calling All Catholics show. No one else was calling in at that point, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to give an update about 40 Days for Life campaing in Rochester and Buffalo - an overwhelmingly Catholic pro-life activity locally - and to issue a call for more volunteers.

I was told that promoting local events was not permitted, and I was not allowed on.

That may be the policy, but frankly, I was surprised. Given the pro-life, prayerful nature of 40 Days and the extent of Catholic involvement, I thought it would be a natural thing for the local Catholic station to allow even just a few minutes of air time.

As a past supporter of the station, I was disappointed.

I hope that the station might in the coming days or weeks do some interviews with local leadership of 40 Days in Buffalo and Rochester and help to get the word out to area Catholics.

(Grr, a typo with "campaign.")

Here it is Tuesday, and still no response from the station. Maybe I've missed it, but I have also yet to hear 40 Days brought up. Too bad: A Missed opportunity to support area Catholics fighting for life.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Monday Morning Coming Down

The Mets' injury-plagued season is mercifully over.

Stick a fork in the Bills.

Thank God for the Red Sox!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Happy Feast of St. Francis

To all my fellow Franciscans - and admirers of the Seraphic Saint - Happy Feast Day!

There was no local celebration - perhaps because the Feast fell on a Sunday and there's no Franciscan parish here in Rochester. (Wouldn't it be nice if we could get Franciscan Friars of the Atonement in town!)

Last night to mark the Transitus - the death of Francis - my wife and I decided to watch one of our Francis movies. She chose Clare and Francis. It's a somewhat romanticized view of his life - though not as bad as the 1960s Francis of Assisi or Brother Sun, Sister Moon (and certainly not as dated as the latter). I think it's a movie that young people might find enjoyable and inspiring. A pleasant choice.

I also continued my reading for formation as a Secular Franciscan. I must admit, it's getting to be heavy going. I need to ask the formation director just how much I do have to read. Last night I read - then had to reread (slow brain) - sections of Crossing the Threshold of Hope, then dove into part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Things began to run together!

As part of the program I have to do some writing. I haven't even started that yet.

40 Days - More Babies Saved!

The national 40 Days for Life campaign is doing well. As of today, 121 babies have been confirmed saved. Who knows how many locally or nationally have been saved that we don't know about.

There have also been television reports and newspaper articles written, and videos posted on Youtube. The word is getting out there.

Meanwhile, recent polls find the pro-life trend in this nation continuing.

40 Days: Where have all the pro-lifers gone?

I arrived for my shift at Planned Parenthood early yesterday. I had invited fellow Rochester-area bloggers to join me, and since I was the "host" I thought it would be good to be there if any should arrive. I also wanted to touch base with the 9-10 shift people.

There was no one there.

10 minutes to 10: No one.

No bag with materials. No signs. No one praying.

I checked my watch (silly, I know) to see if I had messed up the time. I even checked it against my car clock.

I went over the Focus Pregnancy Center and rang the bell, hoping maybe someone had gone in to go to the bathroom or for coffee, and to see if at least I could get a sign.

No one was there.

As I wandered back to the site, I wondered if maybe something had happened. Maybe someone had gotten sick.

Or maybe they couldn't get volunteers to fill the earlier shifts.

I stood at the site. I decided that even if no one showed I would begin to pray. I wondered if I had anything in my car to make a make-shift sign.

A few minutes after 10, Mary, wife of Ben (the "Fallacies and Fashions" blogger), arrived. Hooray.

We said the reflections of the day provided 40 Days, then began a rosary. Barbara, who had not signed up but was part of the "Lambs" group that prays there many a Saturday and is a veteran of 40 Days, arrived to join us. Then "In the choir loft" showed up. We finished one set of decades.

Staff for Focus arrived part way through the shift - they'd been involved at a protest at a Planned Parenthood conference, and brought out the signs and materials. We did a second set of decades and said a few other prayers. When we weren't praying as a group, I prayed silently for people driving and walking by. We got a few waves and thumbs up. One woman going to the vet's across the street came over to thank us and shake our hands. (A St. Boniface parishioner!)

One guy did drive by and yell something that sounded like it might be unpleasant, but none of us caught what he said. The overall response was positive.

I was glad the others showed. I always feel charged up praying with other people. And I have gotten to meet some fellow bloggers/commenters (In the choir loft, Fallacies and Fashions, Journey to a New Pentecost).

Thank you, Lord.

I stayed until ten minutes after my shift was over. One person had arrived to help with the 11-12 shift. Two of the folks who prayed with us during the earlier hour were going to remain for a while.

But I wondered where the other pro-lifers were. Maybe some were out at the Planned Parenthood event protesting. Maybe some were saving their energy for the Life Chain on Sunday. But surely one hour?

And where are the other Rochester blogger/commenters? Perhaps they don't want to be seen with me? (Might ruin their credibility in some circles!) Perhaps they are showing up for other shifts (so far, only one has said that he is). I figured for working folks a Saturday morning would be possible. I even chose different times to try to fit in with others' schedules (not everyone is an early riser like me.)

40 Days is having a hard time filling shifts this year. Maybe there's fear due to some recent pro-choice violence. Maybe people have gotten burned out. Maybe the novelty wore off. I don't know why.

Please, if you have even just one hour over the next 4 weeks, consider coming down and joining us.

I'll be there next Saturday at 7 a.m. I'll pray even if I'm alone. I plan to make up an emergency sign just in case.

The issue is too important.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Hyding Behind Hyde

So simple even pro-choice Congressional Representatives might understand.

(Thank you Susan B. Anthony List - and American Papist.)

40 Days - Drawing a reaction

This video shows a group of 40 Days participants praying peacefully - and in the background you can hear the pro-choice side's loud, hostile, response. The pro-lifers continue just praying peacefully.

Who is more violent?

Apparently there has been an increase in the number the incidents this year, most involving verbal harassment. But there is one report of objects being thrown at 40 Days participants. No one has been hurt - thank God.

Who is more violent?


A Night of St. Therese

It being two days after the Feast of St. Therese, and both being tired from long weeks, I suggested last night that the Good-Looking-One and I watch Therese - Leonardo Defilippis' movie about St. Therese of Lisieux.

I was in the right mood for it last night, so I enjoyed it even though it is not one of my favorite hagiographies. It's a flawed movie - the definitive English movie about her life has yet to be made - but a sincere effort. I wish it had done more to explore her spirituality. I've heard that Cavalier's 1986 French film does more of that, but I haven't seen that one.

St. Therese is one of those saints I've always had a hard time getting a handle on. (Certainly not her fault! More likely a blind spot in my own spiritual character.) But so many people I respect have praised her and her Little Way that I keep coming back to her.

Ah, but tonight is the Transitus of St. Francis. After a visit to Planned Parenthood this morning to pray for an end to abortion, then an afternoon at the Hilton Apple Fest with the Good-Looking-One, maybe viewing one of the Francis films we own tonight? Hmm - which one?

Friday, October 02, 2009

St. Therese

Be sure to tell your boss, ambassador

Welcoming new U.S. ambassador Miguel Diaz to the Vatican today, Pope Benedict XVI noted some areas of potential cooperation with the Obama administration, but then pointedly raised the issues of issues of abortion and the rights of conscience.

According to a CNS story, the pope called for "a clear discernment with regard to issues touching the protection of human dignity and respect for the inalienable right to life from the moment of conception to natural death, as well as the protection of the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care workers, and indeed all citizens."

I hope Ambassaodor Diaz clearly and completely conveys the Pope's message to President Obama - and that Obama will really listen.

Bad Haiku Friday: Lab Time

probing owl pellets
students totally grossed out
but fascinated


Thursday, October 01, 2009

Ignorance explored.

I earlier cited one of the questions I have to consider as part of my Secular Franciscan formation.

The question mentions a few things I know: the seven sacraments, the two Great Commandments, the eight Beatitudes, the Ten Commandments.

But the three theological virtues, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit? Hmm, time to do some looking up.

The three theological virtues: Faith, Hope, Charity.

Ah, those I DO know.

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord.

Okay, got me with those. I honestly don't remember ever hearing all of these gifts linked together under that title.

The twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit: Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Benignity, Goodness, Long-suffering, Mildness, Faith, Modesty, Continency, Chastity.

I was an English major, and I'm not even sure what "benignity" is! (Oh, kindness.)

Now, to try to link all of these different gifts/virtues, etc. together. I've got some work to do.

All a twitter

I'm in a board meeting. Having a miscarriage. Thank goodness, because there's a f*****-up 3-week hoop-jump to have an abortion in Wisconsin. from TwitterBerry


Yep. That's what she wrote. Now maybe she was just trying to shock. Maybe she was lying. Maybe she wanted to attract attention to drum up business. Or maybe she is simply so deluded that she thinks this is okay to tweet about.

Even if it's not true, it's in incredible poor taste. There are so many women out there who are hurting from miscarriages - and abortions.

Her tweet and her defense of it reveal how distorted her thinking is. (So is the thinking of the people who chastise her for ... tweeting during a board meeting!!?!)

This is a woman in desperate need of prayer.

Admitting my ignorance

I'm in the midst of the first "Period of Inquiry" session of my Secular Franciscan program (I was assigned two sessions to complete by October 9).

There are 8 pages of reading, then some required and recommended reading from other sources. I had or could easily find most of the works involved - selections from the SFO General Constitution, the SFO Rule, Lumen Gentium, Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Pope John Paul's Crossing the Threshold of Hope (See honey, I can tell my wife as she stares and my shelves of books, I told you they would come in handy some day!). I don't have Pope Paul VI's The Credo of the People of God. Have to look that one up on line.

At the end of the first session, there are some reflection questions. The first four are along the lines of "What does it mean to be 'called to holiness' ... "What does it mean to you to be a 'Christian.'"

Okay, I could go on about those.

But then I got to question 5: "How do the seven sacraments, the three theological virtues, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the two Great Commandments, the eight Beatitudes, the Ten Commandments and the twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit all fit together?"

Holy cow. Before I can answer the question I have to know what all of those are. I'm familiar with some of them, but others, I can only vaguely recall even having heard of them!

I guess I do have a lot to learn.

Wonder if I can find answers in any of the books my wife occasionally shakes her head at while sighing?