Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Secular Franciscan Politicians?

With all the focus these days on the election, I began to wonder if there are any Secular Franciscans holding or running for offices. Obviously Obama and Romney are not Secular Franciscans, but what about other candidates? Maybe in Congress? A governor somewhere? A state legislator? Heck, how about a town board member???

What effect would being a Secular Franciscan have on how one conducts business as a public official? Care for others? Concern for the Earth? Telling the truth about one's positions, or those of one's opponents? Can you be honest and get elected? I suspect so, but it must be hard.

And then there was the fate of one Secular Franciscan in public office: St. Thomas More. Maybe that's what happens when one tries to live out one's faith while serving in the government.

So anyone know of any Secular Franciscan elected officials or candidates out there?

 Pax et bonum

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rock of Faith - Forever? (Or just for now?)

We held the first meeting for Rock of Faith last night to prepare for the upcoming year.

Good and bad.

We don't start until October - the Director of Religious education/youth ministry decided that she did not want us to provide the music for the beginning of the religious ed season in September (No explanation why).

Our former leader quit over the summer, so we were trying to pull things together as best we can. We did get the first Mass planned, and most of the second. (I also learned that the former leader is now moving and won't even be in the parish any more. He was a talented, caring man. I'm sorry to see him go.)

On the down side, our lead singer did not show up - without a call about why. Is she still with us? Her daughter, another singer, also did not show, but we had kind of expected her to be leaving the group. Is she? We don't know.

The keyboard player (and backup vocalist) will not be available for that first Mass because he and his family is going to a Buffalo Bills game. Meanwhile, I (guitar/backup vocals) won't be playing for the second Mass because the Mass will include liturgical dancing.

It was nice to see everyone who was there, but things still seem uncertain about the future of the group.

Our first practice is scheduled for September 10. It will be nice to play and sing again.

Pax et bonum

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fraternity picnic (2012)

We held our Fraternity picnic on Sunday. We had taken a summer break, so it was nice to see my fellow Franciscans.

 Over the food, folks discussed a variety of topics. The meeting dates for September. The Transitus, and October meetings. A play by Leonardo DeFilippis (Maximilian: Saint of Auschwitz) coming to our area. Speculation about a new bishop for our diocese (everyone's waiting to see who Rome sends us; our current bishop submitted his letter of resignation in July).
The 2012 election (no fans of Obama were present!). What might happen if there are no changes in the administration, the HHS mandate, and the sense we are heading towards accepting euthanasia (at 57, I'm one of the youngest members of the Fraternity). Creating a cookbook containing the recipes for all the wonderful food people brought to the picnic. A local Catholic school facing some problems. Our Fraternity blog. The health of our minister.

A wonderful time. I look forward to our first Fraternity meeting in September.  

Pax et bonum

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Test of Fire: Election 2012 (Catholic)

Saw this for the first time last night. Very effective.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Old man, look at my life ..

I was at the store in the checkout line. Ahead of me was a father with two young girls in his cart. He had some heavy items in the back part of the bottom rack of the cart that would have been difficult for him to get out, so I took them out and put them on the counter for him. He thanked me.

A minute later his wife arrived with a couple more items, and one of the girls announced brightly, "The old man helped us."

First time I've ever been called an old man!

The white beard and hair will do that, even when you're only 57!

I got a chuckle out of it. And I thought of Neil Young.

Pax et bonum

A-Chestertonianing I Will Go!

While chatting with someone from the American Chesterton Society yesterday I learned that the next national conference is tentatively scheduled for Boston the first weekend of August in 2013.

Finally, a place I can get to and a time that works with my school schedule. So I may actually get to go to one of the national conferences. I've attended some of the regional one-day ones in Rochester, New York, and they've been wonderful. But three days with Chestertonians from across the country would be wonderful.

Plus, the good looking one likes Boston, and one of our daughters loves there, so we can make it a joint trip. While I'm off talking Chesterton she can do things around Boston and with daughter, then we can have a couple of extra days for Boston excursions together.

I also learned that during an upcoming visit to Rome the head of the Society hopes to get some time with Pope Benedict to pitch Chesterton's cause for sainthood. Both getting a chance to pitch and seeing Chesterton declared a saint would be wonderful.

Now where is that most recent issue of Gilbert Magazine ...

Pax et bonum

Friday, August 24, 2012

Study links abortion to breast cancer

Yet another study shows the connection between abortion and increased breast cancer rates.

Who is conducting a war on women?

Pax et bonum

Romney on "The World Over"

I watched the Romney interview on The World Over.

He was smooth, but ...

I wish the questions had been tougher. Will he overturn the HHS Mandate?  What about the exceptions in his abortion stance? What made him change his views on abortion, gay marriage, and forcing Catholic institutions to provide birth control and abortion services in Massachusetts?

I wish the interviewer had not led Romney duck answering questions the way he did.

I wish I had been given more reassurance about what Romney will do.

I wish I had a major party candidate I could vote for without qualms.

Pax et bonum

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ryan Abortion Update

I was troubled when in response to the Akin flap the Romney-Ryan campaign issued a statement declaring that the campaign accepts abortion for pregnancies resulting from rape.

I wondered if Ryan, a pro-life Catholic, was taking a position counter to Catholic Church teachings.

But then he came out and said he still opposed aborting children conceived through rape, so he did not agree with the position stated by the spokesperson for the campaign. But, he noted that Romney is the presidential candidate, so Romney sets the campaign agenda, and although not what he, Ryan, wanted, it was a step in the right direction.

Okay, I can see that. I'm not happy with it, but at least it's clear where he stands, and he is right: It is a step in the right direction.

And then the platform for the Republicans came out and the official position of the party remains opposition to abortion even for rape and incest.

I still have doubts about what a President Romney might do, though. He might take some steps to improve things, but I'm not sure how much of a priority it will be for him.

We can hope and pray. And we can write to Romney to help him move from his current position of accepting abortion under some circumstances.

Pax et bonum

St. Rose of Lima

St. Rose of Lima's
recipe for vanity:
add some pepper

St. Rose
was plagued by earthly beaus.
To discourage their thoughts of marriage
she dashed some pepper on her visage.

(According to stories about St. Rose, she was a great beauty, and had many men interested in marrying her. To discourage them, and to fight vanity, she reportedly rubbed pepper on her face, causing redness and splotches.)

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


20 years today.

Thank you , Lord.

Oh, and thank you, Nancy!

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Romney/Ryan would accept abortion!

Congressman Todd Akin, running for the Senate in Missouri, made some ill-informed and insensitive remarks about rape, and people are calling for him to drop out of the race. I have no problem with that, even though, interestingly, a poll taken AFTER the remarks show him still ahead of his foe!

I'll let the GOP in Missouri figure out what to do. I'm more interested in something that came out of the Romney-Ryan campaign.

Mitt Romney condemned what Akin said about rape. But then campaign spokesperson Amanda Hennenberg issued the following statement on behalf of the campaign:

"Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement. A Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape."

Of course, the Catholic Church opposes abortion even for pregnancies resulting from rape - why kill the innocent child for a crime someone else committed? - and so if this is indeed Ryan's new position he is going against Church teachings.

Maybe he doesn't fully understand Church teachings on the issue. Heck, he liked Ayn Rand for a long time, and listed Rage Against the Machine as a favorite band even though the band's lyrics attack much of what he stands for. He needs to hear from Catholics about this. Perhaps we can get him to clarify his position.

Meanwhile, Romney has said he not only would allow abortion for rape, but also incest (and the life of the mother). 

While rape and incest are terrible things for a woman to suffer, it doesn't alter the fact that the child is guilty of nothing, and is being killed. 

If Romney says he's against abortion because it is the taking of an innocent human life, then he is being inconsistent here as the children of rape and incest are also innocent human beings. And if he is only saying this because it's the politically expedient thing for a Republican presidential candidate to say, shame on him.

In either case, this doesn't do much to reassure pro-lifers about Romney.

{UPDATE: Ryan later explained his position. He still opposes abortion in cases of rape, but said that Romney as the head of the ticket sets the agenda for the campaign, and that at least it was a step in the right direction.}

Pax et bonum

Okay, I do have an ego

Over the years, I've been in a number of plays. I'm not a great actor, and I've mostly had bit parts - the dad who dies in Act I (Othello), the doctor who pops in occasionally (The Secret Garden), a troll/dragon/goblin (The Hobbit). But I do remember my lines and I do show up, so I've managed to linger on the edge of theater and I still get calls from directors desperate to complete casts!.

I have had a couple of bigger roles, though. The high point of my acting career was when I played Prospero in a children's production of The Tempest (Tempest in a Teapot) back in 1999. When I was on Facebook, one of the people I was in that play (and others) with sent me some images. I saved some of Tempest and R.U.R. (a 2010 reader's theater production) pictures from Facebook when I discontinued my account. I'm including a few of them.

Pax et bonum

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Joy of Creation

The Painter
highlighted the tree tops
with sunlight

I went out in the evening to walk the dog. The sun was low in the sky, and the particular angle it was at led to golden light coloring the upper parts of some of the trees.

I was reminded of Bob Ross of The Joy of Painting and his "happy little trees," and wondered how a painter might capture that glow and highlight the trees. It is a skill I certainly do not have, for I've never studied painting (though it is something I could probably learn if I set my mind to it). Instead, I scribbled a little haiku-like poem to capture the moment.

Then I thought of the Painter who did highlight the trees. He also created the sun, the light, those trees, even my dog and me. There is beauty in all of those creations. And we are all in our own way "happy" when  we share. even unconsciously, the Painter's handiwork in our lives.

The Joy of Creation.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bye Bye Facebook

I found myself wasting too much time on Facebook, and I lack enough self control to stop reading and responding, and playing games. Plus it was one of the places where I kept shooting off my mouth and offending others, and being offended by their comments. I had several incidents in just the last few days that left me disgruntled and thinking - even at Mass and for hours afterward. It's a weakness in me: I have a hard time giving up and letting things go.

So I deactivated the account.

I'll blog. And of course I'll still have e-mail. And if anyone really needs to get ahold of me there's always the phone!

Pax et bonum

A Pollock clerihew

Jackson Pollock
faced with possible painter's block
discovered that what matters
to the critics were his splatters

Pax et bonum

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Morning Mass Message

Morning Mass today included a homily that was what I needed.

Father preached about parents watching their children leave the Church, and even religion for that matter. He noted that all too often parents beat themselves up over this.

He pointed out that what we need to focus on is not what others do - we can't ultimately control them - but on how we are living our faith. God cares that we really tried, not whether or not we succeeded. We will be judged by our actions, not by others'. Plus, the seeds we planted in out children may blossom in the future - we just can't see that now.

I needed a positive message like that! Thank you, Lord.

Pax et bonum

Oops, I did it again

One of the non-Franciscan parts of my nature is that I'm an argumentative sort. I constantly shoot off my mouth and get into disputes. But I not only dispute, I keep pushing, aggressively.

The most recent flap involved a haiku group I belong to.

A haiku dispute??

Actually, people get pretty intense when it comes to haiku. Groups have split over arcane points. People have avoided speaking to each other for years!

Then again, religious orders have split over whether to wear sandals or not!

But this most recent dispute - one in a long series in my less-than illustrious career - involved the use of foul language.

I don't like it. It bothers me. But instead of simply asking nicely if people could find better ways to express themselves, I wrote some sarcastic haiku.

Blow up. Foul language flying. Name calling.

What did I expect, really?

I quit the group - another in the long list of groups I've quit in disputes. It's happened in jobs, too. And with friends. I just keep shooting off my mouth, antagonizing people, getting myself in trouble, not knowing when to stop (or rather, keep going when I know I should stop).

Of course, given the nature of arts groups, even if I'd asked politely, I probably would have been shot down. But I would have behaved more honorably.

I also set myself up sometimes by joining groups that might lead into disputes of this sort. Poets, writers, artists, theater groups tend to attract colorful passionate people.

So I left the group for now. Maybe when the dust settles I'll rejoin.

But I need to work on that prickly part of my nature.

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Reagan's Sunshine

I've heard a few pundits likening likely GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's upbeat demeanor to that of President Ronald Reagan.

Yes, Reagan was noted for his sunshine, his sense of humor, his every-man image. I don't dispute any of that, and I admit that he did do some good things - he and Pope John Paul II helped to undermine communism in Eastern Europe, for example.

But I have other memories of the Reagan years.


Support for Central American right-wing dictators who murdered thousands.

Supplying aid and military materials to Saddam Hussein (helping him to get the chemical weapons he later used against civilians).

The incredible number of people from his administration accused of and convicted on corruption charges.

The homeless crisis (I helped to convert a room in our church to a homeless shelter and served as an overnight volunteer).

Corporate and Wall Street greed.

Huge deficits.

Environmental issues.

And so much more.

Again, he did some good things. But I think sometimes his "sunshine" blinded us to the darker aspects of his record.

So when they liken Ryan to Reagan, a part of me shudders.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, August 11, 2012

St. Clare of Assisi; mea culpa

Today is the Feast of St. Clare of Assisi.

I have to admit that my focus over the years has been more on Francis than on her, though in my fraternity we have begun to read her writings. It is part of my ongoing formation and growth as a Franciscan. Prior to my reading more, my image of her was the one created by Hollywood - someone around the same age as Francis, and a possible romantic interest of his. I even had the notion that she chose to follow his path out of love for him and because she had decided that if she couldn't marry him she'd give up earthly love! I now know differently. I'm learning to respect her spirituality and courage.

And even before I learned more about her, I thought enough of her that my oldest daughter is named Catherine Clare, and even though her first name is Catherine we called just Clare from almost the beginning.

Sadly, my Clare is estranged from the Church these days; I pray to St. Clare and St. Francis that some day she will return.

I also pray for my other two daughters, who are also estranged, and ask forgiveness for any ways in which I failed to set a proper example for them. Youth, the spirit of the age, conflicting influences, and their own choices play a role, of course, but I know I could have done more and done better as the spiritual head of the family and as a role model.

Pax et bonum

Friday, August 10, 2012

We may not have had to drop the bombs

I've always been troubled by the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

 I wondered if there wasn't still a chance to end the war in another way - maybe the Japanese would have surrendered if given an ultimatum and knowing that they had no chance of winning. Or maybe we could have waited for the Soviet Union to come in, again as a way to show the Japanese that they could not win. Or maybe we could have dropped one bomb in an uninhabited area but before Japanese witnesses as a demonstration to shock them into surrendering. Or at the least, we could have chosen militatry, and not civilian, targets.

One argument often put forward for the bombings was that an invasion would have cost a half a million American lives. That number always seeemed high to me - that's more than we lost in the entire war.

But I recently came across an article that addresses this issue - and provides a different estimate.

Ralph Raico points to studies that indicate the high estimate of loss of U.S. lives was actually 46,000 - and it could have been less. That's terrible, but not anywhere near 500,000.

Instead, between 100,000 and 200,000 civilians were killed.

I'm going to do do some more digging, but if this holds up, then the bombings were indeed unjustified.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Romney: The Chicken Factor

First, a confession: I worked for the local Huckabee campaign back in 2007/08, and I hoped he would run this year.

No such luck.

So instead we have the two current candidates to deal with.

As a Catholic, that I can 't and won't vote for Obama is a given.

But what about Romney?

Having scrutinized him back in 2008, I dreaded the thought that he might be the nominee this year.

He says the right things on social issues that concern me, true. But in the past he has said - and done - the wrong things on those issues when it was politically expedient to do so. Sort of like Al Gore, when he was a Senator from a conservative state, being pro-life, and suddenly becoming pro-choice when he decided to run for national office.

Now Romney says he has had a conversion on these issues. Maybe. But doubts remain.

He had a chance to address those doubts last week during the Chick-fil-A controversy. It was an issue of free speech, but with a social issue subtext.

Romney could have made a statement. He could have shown up at a Chick-fil-A and ordered some food. He could have made contact with social conservatives and regular people. He could have countered his elitist image.

He chose not to.

When asked, he told reporters "Those things are not part of my campaign."

True, but reassuring voters is.

Now maybe it's just that he has poor political sense. Or maybe he 's too slow on his feet to realize a political opportunity. Or maybe the issues involved in the controversy are not ones he really cares about. Or maybe he was too afraid of the potential backlash.

Whatever the case, he missed an opportunity. And he did noting to convince me and others that his conversion on social issues is real.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, August 4, 2012

No Mass

I arrived at a local church where they have a Saturday Mass, and the parking lot was almost empty. A couple of cars were leaving. One of the regulars pulled up next to me and said no one was in the church. I got out and walked up to the door and tugged it. Locked. A couple other people arrived. I asked if anyone was a parishioner and maybe this had been announced. We were all from different parishes: This is one of the few nearby parishes that has a Saturday Mass, and we come in from all over. Someone said he had heard another church had started a Saturday Mass, but that had begun fifteen minutes earlier, so no way to get there on time. We all left.

I wondered about the priest. I hoped he was okay. But then, not of the regular sacristan/server types were there, so perhaps this was something announced in advance. I hope that's all it is, though I was at the morning Mass there yesterday and nothing was said.

Getting to daily Mass is a privilege, not a necessity. But it's something I enjoy and that helps me spiritually.

I thought of the places - particularly in mission countries - where because of lack of priests they not only don't have daily Mass, they often have to go weeks without even a Sunday Mass. Around here, with the priest shortage, some places that enjoyed daily Masses may soon face no Masses. There are already a number of parishes where at least one daily Mass has been replaced by a Communion service. At the parish where there was no Mass today they've just gone from two priests to one, and the new pastor had said he will be looking at the Mass schedule and possibly changing it.

Hopefully, vocations to the priesthood will increase. I pray they will.

I'll be going to Planned Parenthood shortly to pray, and some of the regulars there attend the parish. I'll ask if they know anything. I hope it's just a blip.

I can get to a noon Mass that I know of. I'm glad of that. But will that Mass always be there?

UPDATE: Apparently the pastor announced on Tuesday that the schedule was changing. He eliminated one of the two daily Masses, and the Saturday morning Mass. I'm glad it wasn't anything bad happening to him, but I'm sad to see the priest shortage hit home.

Pax et bonum

Friday, August 3, 2012

Why some Catholics support Obama - and what to do

A recent Pew study has Catholic support for President Obama at 51 percent, with 42 percent supporting Mitt Romney. That compares to the Pew exit poll in 2008, with 54 percent of Catholics voting for Obama versus 45 percent for McCain.

Given all that has happened in the past three plus years and his attacks on the Church and religious liberty, and his positions on moral issues, it amazes some Catholic bloggers and social media users that President Obama still has a lead among Catholics.

Why is he still ahead?

There are many reasons.

First, a lot of people do not read newspapers or periodicals in general – except maybe sports, horoscopes and anything salacious or gossipy. That’s evident by the number of newspapers and periodicals shutting down. And when it comes to Catholic newspapers and periodicals, the numbers are even more stark. A number of them have indeed ceased publication, or reduced their schedules. The Catholic newspaper where I used to work, for example, went from a weekly to a monthly. Catholics, like the population in general, are uninformed, and are not particularly interested in being informed.

There are various Catholic-oriented social media outlets – blogs, Facebook, etc. – where what Obama has done is regularly discussed. But that readership is relatively small – especially when compared to more secular blog and outlets - and often consists of many of the same people. Some of the blogs I read are written by Facebook friends, for example. Thus the information we share churns among the same small group of people.

The study showed that those Catholics who attend Church weekly do not support Obama. That’s good. The percentage could improve, though. But only about a third of Catholics attend Church weekly. The other two thirds – who are probably included in the survey – support Obama. So the results of the survey may be a bit skewed. It seems clear that the majority of practicing Catholics don’t support Obama.

Most Americans don’t bother paying attention to the election until it’s almost upon them. When the debates occur they start to look. But even then, only between 50 to 60 percent of the eligible voters bother to vote. Catholics figures would be in line with the general population ones.

Some Catholics support Obama because they either don’t care about the issues, or agree with his positions and actions. There are a number of Catholics who are not concerned about abortion, or homosexual marriage, or embryonic stem cells research – or even favor them. They tend to support Obama.

Other Catholics have been led astray by progressive Catholics who undermine the Church teachings, or misrepresent what Obama has really said or done.

I could come up with more, but that’s a start.

As for what to do: We need to follow the lead of the political parties and advertising agencies. Inform people, inform them again, and then repeat it. Again. And again. And again. If we put out the information time after time, eventually some of it will begin to seep through.

Get out of our comfort zone. We should not just be repeating the same information to the same people on blogs and Facebook – they often already agree with us. We need to put it out there where other Catholics and the general public can see it. Letters to the editor. Media blogs and websites. Blogs and websites devoted to other concerns – parenting, health care, hobbies, whatever. We need to talk to people besides the usual suspects. But that also means we risk angering people, encountering people who want to argue and debate, maybe even facing ridicule and insults.

But isn’t persecution a potential part of the package for people who really practice their faith?

We need to encourage our Church leaders to keep on speaking out on the issues. If some people hear enough times that Catholics should not support pro-abortion, pro-stem cell research, pro homosexual so-called marriage candidates, and then make the connection with Obama, they might realize they can’t in good conscience vote for him.

We must be careful how we do all this, though. We must inform and even argue with respect for others. We have to be careful not to resort to name-calling and insulting back. We have to be well-informed ourselves, so we need to do our research.

It will take some work. But who said defending the faith was easy?

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man ‘against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.”  (MT 10: 34-36)

Pax et bonum