Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Resolutions 2015 - Reading

As part of my resolutions for the New Year, I have some books in mind to read.

I've already started a number of books - just need to get back to them or finish them:

Urodivoi: Holy Fools by Catherine Doherty
Consider the Ravens: On Contemporary Hermit Life by Paul and Karen Fredette
Bad Religion: How We Became A Nation of Heretics by Ross Douthat
The Divine Comedy by Dante
In the First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I'll be sampling some mystery stories, certainly, though I'm not sure yet which ones.

I need to read at least one Franciscan book. I'm leaning toward Father Daniel Horan's Francis of Assisi and the Future of Faith

Others I'm considering reading:

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (I've seen so many of the movies)

Two rereads in the pile (after many years):

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

There will also be assorted magazines, especially haiku related.

I'm sure more books will surface.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Year is almost done - what should I resolve?

The year nears its end.

Goodbye 2014.

I didn't accomplish many of the things I thought I would. But I still have a job. I still have a wife. I did write and publish some poems. I did continue to play music at Church. Some changes I'd been pushing for did come about at Church (though I don't know if I played a role in any of it, even indirectly).

So what for next year?

I'm mulling a few things. Most center around being a better Catholic Franciscan and a better teacher. I'd add being a better husband, but some of that will be covered in the Catholic Franciscan area.

I also really need to work on my writing.

Getting my weight down would be good.

And reading more good books.

I'll post my official "resolutions" later.

New Year's Eve -
scattering resolutions
like confetti

Pax et bonum

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Beard

 photo beard14_zps65c2fe05.jpg

So here it is, two days after Christmas, and I'm still sporting my Santa beard. Some parts of it are about 4 inches long - short by Duck Dynasty standards perhaps, but still far longer than what's considered fashionable. 

I look in the mirror whenever I wander into the bathroom and wonder: To trim, or not to trim? 

Do I let my Santa flag fly, perhaps even get longer and enter into Solzhenitsyn and Whitman territory? Or do I cut it back to a more socially acceptable length?

Long fits the Franciscan mold - at least the Capuchin/Franciscan Friars of the Renewal sort.

But I must also face teaching in school that emphasizes professionalism in practice and appearance.

Of a divided mind at the moment.

Pax et bonum

Friday, December 26, 2014

Pope Francis's 2014 Urbi et Orbi message

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Christmas!

Jesus, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, is born for us, born in Bethlehem of a Virgin, fulfilling the ancient prophecies. The Virgin’s name is Mary, the wife of Joseph.

Humble people, full of hope in the goodness of God, are those who welcome Jesus and recognize him. And so the Holy Spirit enlightened the shepherds of Bethlehem, who hastened to the grotto and adored the Child. Then the Spirit led the elderly and humble couple Simeon and Anna into the temple of Jerusalem, and they recognized in Jesus the Messiah. "My eyes have seen your salvation", Simeon exclaimed, "the salvation prepared by God in the sight of all peoples" (Lk 2:30).

Yes, brothers and sisters, Jesus is the salvation for every person and for every people!

Today I ask him, the Saviour of the world, to look upon our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria, who for too long now have suffered the effects of ongoing conflict, and who, together with those belonging to other ethnic and religious groups, are suffering a brutal persecution. May Christmas bring them hope, as indeed also to the many displaced persons, exiles and refugees, children, adults and elderly, from this region and from the whole world. May indifference be changed into closeness and rejection into hospitality, so that all who now are suffering may receive the necessary humanitarian help to overcome the rigours of winter, return to their countries and live with dignity. May the Lord open hearts to trust, and may he bestow his peace upon the whole Middle East, beginning with the land blessed by his birth, thereby sustaining the efforts of those committed effectively to dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.

May Jesus, Saviour of the world, protect all who suffer in Ukraine, and grant that their beloved land may overcome tensions, conquer hatred and violence, and set out on a new journey of fraternity and reconciliation.

May Christ the Saviour give peace to Nigeria, where [even in these hours] more blood is being shed and too many people are unjustly deprived of their possessions, held as hostages or killed. I invoke peace also on the other parts of the African continent, thinking especially of Libya, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and various regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I beseech all who have political responsibility to commit themselves through dialogue to overcoming differences and to building a lasting, fraternal coexistence.

May Jesus save the vast numbers of children who are victims of violence, made objects of trade and trafficking, or forced to become soldiers; children, so many abused children. May he give comfort to the families of the children killed in Pakistan last week. May he be close to all who suffer from illness, especially the victims of the Ebola epidemic, above all in Liberia, in Sierra Leone and in Guinea. As I thank all who are courageously dedicated to assisting the sick and their family members, I once more make an urgent appeal that the necessary assistance and treatment be provided.

The Child Jesus. My thoughts turn to all those children today who are killed and ill-treated, be they infants killed in the womb, deprived of that generous love of their parents and then buried in the egoism of a culture that does not love life; be they children displaced due to war and persecution, abused and taken advantage of before our very eyes and our complicit silence. I think also of those infants massacred in bomb attacks, also those where the Son of God was born. Even today, their impotent silence cries out under the sword of so many Herods. On their blood stands the shadow of contemporary Herods. Truly there are so many tears this Christmas, together with the tears of the Infant Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Holy Spirit today enlighten our hearts, that we may recognize in the Infant Jesus, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, the salvation given by God to each one of us, to each man and woman and to all the peoples of the earth. May the power of Christ, which brings freedom and service, be felt in so many hearts afflicted by war, persecution and slavery. May this divine power, by its meekness, take away the hardness of heart of so many men and women immersed in worldliness and indifference, the globalization of indifference. May his redeeming strength transform arms into ploughshares, destruction into creativity, hatred into love and tenderness. Then we will be able to cry out with joy: "Our eyes have seen your salvation".

With these thoughts I wish you all a Happy Christmas!

Pax et bonum

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Viking Christmas

Now that I know I have Viking blood - percentagewise, second only to the Irish in me - I've been wondering about Viking/Norse Christmas traditions.

My brief reading so far points to a number of Christmas traditions that may have horned-hat origins.

The wreath may have grown out of the "sunwheel" - a burning wheel intended to help entice the sun to return. But that link is tenuous,.

The Yule log is a Viking tradition, though. So is decorating evergreen trees. The Vikings also had myths about mistletoe - though as far as I can tell none of them involve kissing. too bad.

One tradition that's not necessarily Christmas related per se is drinking mead. That they did drink mead is a fact, as is the fact that I like a glass of mead. So one of my traditions is to toast Christmas with a glass of honey wine.


Pax et bonum

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Father Paul Freemesser Goes Home

I learned that Father Paul Freemesser, who in retirement resided in my parish and assisted there, died December 23 at age 81.

Father Kraus had mentioned at morning Mass December 22 that he'd returned Sunday night to find Father Freemesser very sick. Father Freemesser was taken to the hospital, and we could tell from the way Father Kraus was talking it was serious.

Father Freemesser had a long list of parish assignments. He was also a military chaplain - he had the requisite booming voice! I first met him in the 1970s when I was a seminarian. He was stationed in an inner-city parish at the time, and a group of us seminarians visited him to check out his ministry there.

God be with his family.

Thank you Father for all your service.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"Happy Holidays" - Bah, Humbug!

I received a fundraising letter today from an organization run by an order of women religious - one of the ones that like to ride buses. The organization does good work among the local poor. I've donated to them for years.

But this letter hit a nerve.

The letter begins "Happy Holidays." The "holiday season" gets mentioned a couple of times in the letter, but there's no mention of Christmas. Not once.

My first thought was that they seem ashamed to proclaim the Gospel.

Now it could be they'll argue the letter was designed to appeal to an ecumenical audience. But does that mean they place getting money above proclaiming their Catholic identity?

It doesn't sit well with me.

As I said, I've given to this organization before. I won't this year - the money will go to a Catholic organization doing similar work.

As for next year, we'll see.

Pax et bonum

Monday, December 22, 2014

Santa Claus days dwindle

 Santa season is almost over - and for me, basically over.

Unless I get a last-minute call, I'm done.

This year has been strange due to the loss of the mall gig. The private ones were nice, but not as steady, and certainly far fewer. Knowing that I won't have the the mall next season either, I can promote for next year earlier and, hopefully, get more gigs. I think I'm a good Santa - I certainly get positive feedback.

If the private gigs grow in number, maybe I won't return to the mall - or at least do fewer gigs there. The two years out will certainly knock me down in terms of seniority. I may not get much choice when it comes ot shifts.

As for this year, one last bit of sadness: I won't be the last Santa at the mall on Christmas Eve for the first time in nine years.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Torture is incompatible with Catholic teachings

I've seen folks trying to defend the use of torture - I view euphemisms like "enhanced interrogation techniques" as akin to referring to abortion as "reproductive health," or unborn children as "products of conception."

I am saddened when I see the politically motivated trying to justify it. But I am appalled when I see  religious folks trying to justify it, especially Catholic ones.

Catholic teachings are clear: Torture is unacceptable.

"Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity." - Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2297

And the methods used by the U.S. were torture. Not as vicious and some methods used by others, but still torture.

 Pax et bonum

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Beekeeper's Apprentice - Good, but ...

I just finished The Beekeeper's Apprentice: or, On the Segregation of the Queen by Laurie King. I was attracted by the title, given my current interest in bees. And it's a YA book on a number of recommended lists, so it's something my students might read. Then I discovered it was a mystery, and it involved Sherlock Holmes, and I knew I had to read it.

The premise is that a 15-year-old orphan by the name of Mary Russell has moved on to a farm in Sussex where she meets her beekeeping neighbor, who it turns out is the semi-retired Sherlock Holmes. But in addition to his beekeeping, he writes criminology studies, conducts experiments, and apparently still does some occasional detective work.

Holmes finds the brilliant Mary to be in some ways a female counterpart to himself - and he begins to teach her his detecting knowledge and skills. Hence, his apprentice.

There's much to recommend it. The characters are interesting. Many of the Sherlockian favorite secondary characters show up in one form or another. There are some mysteries to solve.

I was enjoying it, but ... it seems to go on too long. The earlier half of the book was by far the most interesting. And I figured out who was behind the crimes long before the end - and even the hidden identity of that person. So the ending seemed anti-climactic. I read the last few chapters in part just to finish reading the book.

Plus, the ending suggested the future directions for the series (this is the first novel in that series) and the characters. I checked; my fears were confirmed about what was going to happen..

Bottom line: Worth a read, but it left me with no desire to read more in the series.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, November 29, 2014

I'm Just a Bill Parody - Saturday Night Live

Pax et bonum

Radio Days

I got my first Christmas card yesterday. It was from a priest who used to be a high official in the diocese back when I was a reporter/editor for the diocesan newspaper. I always respected his intelligence and spirituality, and once even asked if he'd consider being my spiritual director; alas, he had to turn me down due to commitments, and, indeed, later became the rector of the cathedral.

We exchange Christmas cards still, though it's been years since we have had direct contact.

In this year's card he wrote, "I still miss your dulcet tones on W_ _ _ on Saturday."

That brought back a flood of memories. For some 21 years I was a radio announcer/newscaster/reporter for a local PBS affiliate. For most of that time, I was the Saturday morning host from 6-noon.

My radio career began while I was teaching at a Catholic high school that paid poorly, and had a growing family with a stay-at-home wife. I was doing coaching to supplement my income, but I needed something more steady - and that had better hours.

On a lark I applied at our local PBS affiliate, which had just begun an AM station to go along with its FM and television stations. The AM station had begun to take the news/public affairs programs from the FM station, allowing the FM station to focus on classical music.

I'd been on my college radio station, but other than that, I had no real experience. I had no sound samples, nothing. If I were applying today, I'd have no chance. But somehow, for some reason, they hired me to be the Saturday night board operator.

The programming on Saturday nights (6-12) was basically all recorded jazz shows. I did the announcing in between shows, did spot weather casts, made sure tapes - it was still the reel-to-reel tape days! - were cued up, played all the required promotions. Pretty easy. It gave me time to read and grade papers.

My voice seemed to sound fine on air, and I was reliable, so my bosses were generally pleased. Except for the night I had a problem with a tape and quickly shoved in what I thought was an emergency music cart to go out on the air while I fixed and cued the tape. Turns out it was joke cart  recorded by another announcer. The station manager came in fuming. I was lucky not to be fired.

After six months, the announcer who had been doing Saturday and Sunday mornings left. I applied, and got the shifts - and ended up staying with the Saturday shift for 21 years.

The weekend morning shifts focused more on news, public affairs, and talk programming. I got to play some great shows (Inside Europe, Only a Game, and Studs Terkel's Almanac, for example). The Saturday shift also at first included an hour or  two of jazz. I got to plan what recordings to play, coming up with all sorts of themes - like noting performers' birthdays, playing music by Irish-sir-named performers for St. Patrick's day, and so on). I loved that. But then more shows came on air, including Weekend Edition, and the jazz programming ended. I did do some sub shifts overnight when they had jazz and blues programming, but then they ended the local playing of music (letting the overnight guy go as well).

One happy consequence: Working Sunday mornings meant going to Mass Saturday evening. I sat at the back at church, and spotted an attractive woman who was always at the same Mass sitting at the back. We were soon sitting together - and have now been married 20 years.

Early on, a part-time newscaster came in to do the news for those morning shifts. But he was inconsistent about making it in on time - or at all - so to make sure we had something I started putting together newscasts and doing them myself. Plus, I had left my teaching position and was working as a weekly newspaper reporter, so I knew the local news scene anyway. The news director heard what I was doing, fired the newscaster, gave me a small raise, and I became the weekend morning announcer/newscaster. I also provided news for the FM announcers, recorded newscasts for later in the day, and put together short pieces to be used on Monday morning.

I eventually gave up the Sunday shift. It was the less interesting one, anyway, and I was then able to play music and sing in the choir at church.

I watched as the station grew and the technology changed. Reel-to-reel tapes gave way to computers and satellite uplinks. We began using digital recorders for news reports. I kept learning and adapting.

My greatest  - and saddest - news coup was when the Shuttle Columbia broke up on reentry. I happened to be monitoring the news wires, caught wind of the problem, notified our news director, and went on the air to announce that there was a problem and we were monitoring the situation and would break into regular programming when more information became available. My announcement was the first on local radio - we basically broke the story locally. NPR started live coverage, which I put on the air. Our local news reporters supplemented the NPR pieces with local angles including ones on a shuttle astronaut from our region (who was, fortunately, not on the Columbia). The Station manager later complimented the news team for getting on the story so quickly and the good job we did.

I became somewhat well-known locally - at least among folks who listen to public radio. When introduced to people they'd know who I was. I knew local newsmakers on sight - and they knew me. Even the county executive knew me well enough to sneer at me whenever he spotted me. When I applied for my current teaching job the principal arranged to meet with me even before the actual interviews just because he knew of my work on air and wanted to meet me!

Getting up Saturdays at 4 a.m. got to be a bit of a drag, and I began thinking about how I could move up in the news department and the station. During school breaks I sometimes subbed as the local announcer/newscaster for Morning Edition, and I like it. I also began to do spot news coverage.

Then the local All Things Considered local anchor shift opened. That was the flagship news program on NPR, and would be a great career move. I applied.

The new news director (the fourth I'd been under) who did not know me well, gave me the courtesy of an interview, and later admitted that he was surprised by my knowledge of local news, my newspaper and writing background, and the quality of my reports. I became one of the finalists.

BUT there was a problem. (Shh: No one could say it openly.)

To be blunt, the news department at that point consisted entirely of middle-aged white males (there was one woman who did some reports, but she was not interested in news, and was primarily an FM announcer who later become a great classical music host).

The other finalist was a young Hispanic female from out of state.

She got the job.

The reason I was given was that she had more sound clips and some full-time experience. Okay. I understood.

She was terrible. She did not know the community. Her on-air delivery was poor. She lasted one year.

Meanwhile, I had been busy doing more spot news coverage and mastering the equipment.

When she left, I became one of the three local rotating hosts of All Things Considered. We did that for an entire summer. But when it came time to apply, one of the senior members of the news staff took me aside. He said I was qualified. I knew the local news beat. I knew the shift. But ...

The news staff was the same as it had been the year before. White. Middle-aged. Male.

I didn't even get a formal interview.

They hired a young Jewish woman from New York City. I will admit, however, she was very good. She did an excellent job. She's still on the air, though in a different capacity.

But I realized at that point there was no full-time future for me there.

Other factors came into play.

One came over the issue of abortion.

In the news department we received a directive about how we were to cover abortion stories - giving the newscasts a clear pro-choice bias. I objected, argued for balance. I was overruled. I should mention that at the time the directive was issued the head of the station's board of trustees was the president of the local Planned Parenthood.

So, after 21 years, I gave notice.

The last news director I worked under was later let go - replaced by a woman. He now works in public relations.

The news director before him - who had remained with the station as a reporter - was also let go. I now hear him doing fill-in shifts and reports for another local station (I hope he gets a full-time gig. He's a good guy, and a good reporter.)

The overnight guy who had a national reputation for his knowledge of jazz and blues - and whose shift I occasionally subbed for - was let go.

The morning guy who's shift I often took over during vacations was let go. He was working odd shifts at another station, last I heard.

The midday guy moved to mornings, then when ATC Jewish female moved on to other on-air programming,  moved to ATC - and a woman (who'd been let go by another local station) was hired for the morning shift.

The station did later hire another male news reporter (who'd been let go by another local station).

The radio business is not a secure one. It's probably for the best that I did move on when I did.

To be honest, I don't miss it. It's much nicer to be out walking my dog in the wee hours on Saturdays than it was putting together a newscast and getting ready to go on the air at 6 a.m.

So thanks father. But I'm happy with my decision.

Signing off.

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On Ferguson ... and lying

I'm tired of all the racial hoopla.

There's too much lying going on.

Yes: Racism and bigotry exist.

But it goes both ways these days.

And too often, it's used as an excuse for not getting off your butt and making something of your life.

Many minority groups have faced discrimination. My own Irish ancestors did. But instead of sitting around and just decrying what was, some of them did something about it. Legally. Thoughtfully. Deliberately.

They went to school - often to substandard ones - and actually learned something and even graduated. They got jobs, even if the jobs were menial and low-paying. They got married before starting families. They did not buckle to the abuse, but they knew when to pick fights and how to fight strategically. They knew when to speak and how to speak respectfully, and when to keep their mouths shut.

Yes, there were criminals and drunks and drop-outs and those who did use discrimination as an excuse. But they were not the ones who lead. They were viewed with shame and embarrassment.

The rest moved on - and up.

Dr. King knew what he was doing. Follow his lead. Speak out, but in a way that addresses the issues in a rational way, in a way that does not seek to shut down - or shout down - others. He was willing to put his life on the line and face legal consequences for his actions. He was himself: He didn't hide behind masks. Or look for cameras to scream and carry on.

He was no coward.

He stood for the truth.

Robbing stores to "protest" injustice is a lie.

Burning innocent peoples' cars to voice frustration at discrimination is a lie.

Throwing bricks through windows or at people - including police - to voice anger is a lie.

Racism is a horrible thing and must be opposed, but using it as an excuse for bad behavior is a lie.

Quit lying.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Next day's early haiku batch

watching a movie
about giant killer ants -
no picnic today

fund raising dinner
where black ties are optional -
I will change my socks

white-bearded fellow
avoids "Santa Land" set at mall -
a contract dispute

Pax et bonum

Saturday, November 22, 2014

10 haiku a day?

The most recent issue of Frogpond contained an interesting article about "The Buson One Hundred," a challenge to write 10 haiku a day for 100 days. That means creating 1,000 haiku.

I haven't written 1,000 poems - let alone haiku - in my entire life.

The article by J. Zimmerman and Gregory Longenecker notes that Buson himself tried the challenge twice, but did not meet the goal of 1,000 haiku. The article includes observations from five contemporary poets - the two authors, along with Eleanor Carolan, Patricia J. Machmiller, and Phillip Kennedy - who tried the challenge. They likewise admit that they didn't always make the goal of 10 a day - so they sometimes had to write extras to make up for missed goal. Plus, they acknowledged that many of the haiku were more drafts than polished haiku, and a relatively small percentage were eventually polished and even submitted for publication - some 5-10 percent. Still, that's 50-100 poems, a decent number.

It's sort of like those "write-a-novel-in-a-month challenges. A fun idea, but not condusive to high quality.

I scribbled a few this morning -

this haiku poet
must jump into the shower -
morning Mass awaits

counting the tweeters
who've begun to follow me -
new paranoia?

son of a sailor
studies this morning's red skies -
changes are coming

garbage day -
ignoring all the stains on
discarded mattress

Um, okay.

I doubt I'll take up the challenge. I don't know how I'd come up with 10 a day. But the discipline of writing a least a few each day is a good idea. It's like exercising. The more you do, the better, stronger you get.

And I might even come up with a few haiku I can actually revise and submit.

Probably not that mattress one, though.

(Added later -

 incident at mall -
small boy stops, points at me and
intones "Ho! Ho! Ho!")

Pax et bonum

Singing and playing at a Fraternity meeting

Yes, the Fraternity really does let me play ...

Pax et bonum

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Kneeling is now the norm - Alleluia!

One of my ongoing disputes at my parish has been over following (or in the case of my parish, not following) liturgical norms. It's been fought in stages.

A couple of years ago, the main issue was lay people preaching. After discussions with the pastor, I finally wrote to the bishop. The preaching did not completely end for a while, but the more blatant preaching did end, and the even the indirect preaching (Father saying something, then giving way to a lay person) was gradually phased out.

There were other minor issues that I didn't push - such as Eucharistic Ministers standing at the altar while the priest received Communion. The bishop put an end to that one across the diocese this fall.

But one area I did raise concerns about was standing at the Eucharistic Prayer, even though the national norms called for kneeling. I had spoken to the pastor, and when that didn't work, even wrote two years ago to the former bishop, who was, admittedly, less formal about norms. He backed Father, so I kept quiet and stood with the rest of the congregation.

This past summer during daily Mass when a few people knelt during the Eucharistic Prayer - including me, thinking I wasn't being confrontational as others were doing it - Father had even stopped Mass and instructed us all to stand. I was troubled by this, and attended daily Masses elsewhere from that point on. 

But with the new bishop cleaning up liturgical practices, I had thought of writing again. I hadn't yet, but apparently no longer need to. Today at Mass we knelt. I'd been away from the parish for a couple of Sundays, so I asked someone who'd been there every week. He said the pastor had announced a couple of weeks ago that from now on we would kneel.

Did the Bishop say something? Did Father just realize what the norms called for, or perhaps sense that conformity to the norms was finally becoming standard practice in the diocese?

I don't know. I'm just happy to see it.

Now about liturgical dancing ...

Pax et bonum

"O'Holy Night" Patti Smith

Pax et bonum

Saturday, November 15, 2014

PATTI SMITH - Constantine's Dream.wmv

Pax et bonum

Patti Smith to play at Vatican Christmas Concert

I've heard that Patti Smith is going to play at a Christmas Concert at the Vatican.

Yes, the Godmother of Punk.

Actually, she's already encountered the Pope.

And she has a religiously "themed" song on her album Banga, so not totally off the wall.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Victory for prolifers and those heeding Catholic teachings? Well ...

This past week's election saw a number of pro-life candidates winning, and number of blatantly pro-abortion candidates losing. In addition, some folks are suggesting Catholic or Catholic-supported candidates did well.

Is this a positive sign for 2016?

I'd like to hope so, but I'm not that optimistic.

This time around I think it was a combination of good pro-life and poor pro-abortion candidates, anti-Obama/anti-Democratic Party sentiments, and unease about the current world situation due to such things as the Ebola hype and terrorists.

I don't think that will hold in 2016. If the Democrats put up a charismatic candidate and the Republicans put up a bland one, the voters will ignore positions on moral issues and abortion and vote for the candidate of the party of death.

Plus, while some winning candidates this time around seem to pay lip service to moral and life issues, how many of them will actually try to do anything once sworn in? We've seen that not happen before - all too often.

Pro-lifers need to work even harder; Catholic leaders need to wood even harder; moral leaders need to work even harder.

If we just sit back and rest on our current "success," the pro-abortion forces will come back.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Vote according to Catholic beliefs

I live in Rochester, NY - a center for liberal ideas. It's a very pro-homosexual, pro-homosexual so-called marriage, pro-abortion community - even among Catholics. And, of course, until the last year, the diocesan policies (or lack of enforcement) tended to be more heterodox than orthodox.

But the Rochester scene is a reflection of the state-wide NY-City/urban scene - including having a governor (Cuomo) who was raised Catholic but who promotes all sorts of policies that go against Catholic teachings, and a Catholic Senator (Gillibrand) who is pro-abortion.

Too many politicians - and voters - have been seduced and deluded by what's been deemed acceptable by the culture.

Tuesday Catholics have a chance to make a statement.

They need to vote according to their faith. There are issues on which Catholics can legitimately disagree - taxes, gun legislation, Common Core, etc. But there are non-negotiables over which there cannot be disagreement, especially if one claims to be Catholic.

Catholics should not vote for a politician who is openly, defiantly, pro-abortion, or pro-homosexual marriage. I note that in a number of close races the Democrats - the party I belonged to and worked for 35 years - are making it clear that they have made support for unlimited abortion one of their core beliefs. So unless a Democrat clearly says he/she does not support that position, and given that there are alternatives (even if not ideal and who support positions on other issues with which I disagree), there's no valid, legitimate, moral reason to vote for a Democratic candidate in most races.

I don't say never vote Democratic. There may be choices in which, for example, both major party candidates take the equally wrong positions on abortion or so-called homosexual marriage, and so other issues can come into play. (And yes, I acknowledge that many who take positions against abortion don't have a strong track record of actually doing something to reduce or eliminate it.)

But none of the local/state-wide races in which I can vote have such situations. I may not be happy with some of the alternatives, but at least they don't hold positions on non-negotiables which prevent me from voting for them.

Let's vote for the candidates who at least say they are pro-life, pro-morality. Then let's push them to actually do something about abortion, marriage, and other moral issues. But we can only push them if they get elected in the first place.

I say all this acknowledging that when I was young I was myself subject to the culture on some issues. For mistakes I made then I am penitent. 

I also keep in mind that even those Democrats, politicians, and voters who have fallen prey to the culture need our prayers that their hearts and minds might be open. They are my brothers and sisters, and I must keep that in mind as I speak to them and about them (I often fail: More instances for which I must be penitent.)

Pax et bonum

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Who are the prophets?

My Scripture reading of late has involved some of the prophetic books - the minor prophets.

I wonder who are the prophets today?

Do they post on Blogs or Twitter or Facebook or others?

Are they also treated with disdain and mockery?

I can't think of anyone who qualifies as a prophet - but then, I also wonder if that was true of the biblical prophets in their day. Were they considered loudmouths and kooks by their contemporaries, and only later became enshrined as prophets?

Pax et bonum

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Blessed Pope Paul VI - Proving Prophetic

Today Pope Paul VI was officially proclaimed Blessed Pope Paul VI.

I'm sure that fact will offend a number of people who are calling for changes in Church teachings. After all, Pope Paul is the one who gave us - shudder - Humanae Vitae, the encyclical that reiterated the Church's prohibition on artificial means of birth control.

Theology underlying that prohibition is difficult for many people to grasp - not because it is wrong, but because of the level of understanding and subtle thinking required.

The controversies surrounding that encyclical, and the misunderstandings about it, have been blamed for leading people to leave the Church or to simply ignore its teachings, often inspired/influenced by critics and dissidents.

I'm not here to debate the teachings - which I support - but rather to point out how Blessed Pope Paul has proven prophetic.

Since most people - including many people who criticize it - have not read the actual document, I'll quote the prophetic passage:

17. Upright men can even better convince themselves of the solid grounds on which the teaching of the Church in this field is based, if they care to reflect upon the consequences of methods of artificial birth control. Let them consider, first of all, how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality. Not much experience is needed in order to know human weakness, and to understand that men -- especially the young, who are so vulnerable on this point -- have need of encouragement to be faithful to the moral law, so that they must not be offered some easy means of eluding its observance. It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.

Let it be considered also that a dangerous weapon would thus be placed in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies. Who could blame a government for applying to the solution of the problems of the community those means acknowledged to be licit for married couples in the solution of a family problem? Who will stop rulers from favoring, from even imposing upon their peoples, if they were to consider it necessary, the method of contraception which they judge to be most efficacious? In such a way men, wishing to avoid individual, family, or social difficulties encountered in the observance of the divine law, would reach the point of placing at the mercy of the intervention of public authorities the most personal and most reserved sector of conjugal intimacy.

The key points in this are his prediction that the widespread use of contraception would have four main negative consequences:

It would lead to a lowering of moral standards.
It would lead to an objectification of women into sex objects.
It would lead to an increase in infidelity (and in the number of illegitimate children).
It would lead to the government intruding into provision and even imposition of contraception.

We have seen all prophecies coming true - From what passes as entertainment these days, statistics about cohabitation, the illegitimacy rates, the growth in pornography and pressures put on women, the push for homosexual marriage, the government forcing people of faith to provide birth control or to pay for provision of it, and so much more.

Birth control has not freed women and men: It has enslaved us. It has turned sex into just a recreational activity, not an intimate and selfless expression of love between a man and a woman.

Blessed Pope Paul VI deserves to be honored if for nothing else for his foresight.

 Pax et bonum

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Margaret Coel - an enjoyable read

The latest Catholic mystery read was Margaret Coel's The Shadow Dancer.

Not only does it feature a priest sleuth, it's set on a reservation - shades of Tony Hillerman! The Native American elements alone were enough to attract my attention.

I'm glad it did. It was worth the read.

Coel's style is very workman-like - in the positive sense. The story is well-crafted, the characters well developed, the dialogue handled well, the plot is plausible. It's obvious Coel knows what she is doing.

Oh, there are some quibbles - really, no one knows the story of the abused ex-wife? On a small reservation with a close-knit community, people and her grown children don't know why she got divorced? (Even though it took place when the kids were young, kids see things.) That seems a bit of a stretch. And there were some background details that got repeated - as if we (or she?) might forget them in 100 pages. And the public hearing with the bishop to close the mission did not rings quite right. 

But those are quibbles. Over all, it was a good read. I even went back to the library and borrowed another one of her books - that tells you something right there.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Desert Fathers - with a Japanese perspective

During a trip to the Abbey of the Genesee last Saturday, I spotted a book about the Desert Fathers. I'd read other book collecting the Zen-like wisdom of the Fathers, so the book intrigued me. Henri Nouwen's name was prominent on the cover, so I figured he had written it.

Silly me.

While Nouwen helped to inspire it, and wrote an introduction, the book was actually a work of translation and illustration by Yushi Nomura, who'd been one of Nouwen's students at Yale. This edition is an updated version of the original 1982 book - with some lecture notes of Nouwen's added.

Despite the mistake about who'd written it, buying Desert Wisdom: Sayings from the Desert Fathers was no mistake.

Nomura did a nice job of selecting and translating, and his illustrations fittingly were Japanese in nature, highlighting that Zen-like quality of the saying that I'd mentioned earlier.

It  was a quick read - and one of those books that merits rereadings. Some of the sayings hit home based on some of my own current musings and challenges.

Nice find.

Pax et bonum

Monday, October 13, 2014

Steubenville Conferences - Summer 2014 - "God Is"

One coming to Rochester in the summer of 2015? A sign of the renewal in this diocese?

Pax et bonum

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mass changes begin; buckle your seatbelts!

Bishop Salvatore Matano has issued some rubrics for celebrating several sacraments in our diocese. The rubrics clear up some issues and abuses, but not all.

This morning at Mass Father announced a few changes - like requiring those seeking First Communion and First Penance and Confirmation to be regular Mass goers before they receive, or the sacrament might be delayed. Horrors. He sounded almost apologetic as he said it, probably afraid there might be some backlash. (After all, the Bishop has gotten some unfair flak already.)

He also talked about how Eucharistic ministers have to wait until after the priest receives Communion before approaching the altar - previously EMs at our parish had stood behind the altar while Father received.

If he had just announced the changes with a little explanation that we are following what the Bishop has decreed, it would have been fine. But Father added that before we just had guidelines and we didn't have to follow them strictly, now we had procedures. And we have to follow them.

That attitude helps to explain why there have been so many liturgical abuses and liturgical free lancing in the diocese over the years. Even when we only had "guidelines," the rules were there, just fudged or ignored because they were never really proclaimed or enforced. And folks who asked respectfully that we follow the rules were labeled and ostracized.

I'm waiting to hear how Father announces some of the other PROCEDURES - like the two-year confirmation process that has some people complaining because our kids are just so busy already - you know, with soccer leagues on Sunday mornings, jobs, sleeping in, etc.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, October 11, 2014

More on that mystery novel

I'm still doing research on monastic life for my mystery novel. I've developed more of the makeup of the monastery and its income and products - honey. bee hives, jellies and preserves. Right now researching the monastic life and schedule.

I have more of the back story of the protagonist - Brother Francis: divorced, former radio and print journalist, alcoholic and former street person who now lives as an oblate at the monastery, doing all the errands, driving the monks to appointments, helping to sell the monastery products, whatever is needed.

I have some ideas about one of the main monks - Father Barney, a holy, gentle but wise soul who has a way with bees - and how the monastery gained some income and fame - a former punk rocker (from the band Black Hornets?) who after a scandal and drug problems finds peace at the monastery and in the company of Father Barney. When the musician dies, it draws attention to the monastery - that's how Brother Francis, back when he was a journalist, first had contact with it - bringing visitors. The musician also left part of his estate to the monastery.

In addition, the abbot is a former social worker who allowed Brother Francis to move to the monastery as a way to help him.

I also have an idea about how the monastery was created, and the neighbor woman who helped to create the products, and who was in love with the founding abbot. Maybe her daughter/granddaughter still helps?

In the city, the protagonist has contact with the police through a former friend who is on the police force. In addition, he still has contact with the director of the shelter who helped him get sober, and who now runs a neighborhood center. He also has some journalistic connections who help. And he will have some kind of contact with his ex-wife, now serving as a communication director for the mayor.

The first crime involves a deranged mass murderer.

Still working out how Brother Frank gets drawn into the case, and how his insights will help solve it. Something about his days on the streets? Ah - perhaps the shelter director asks for help with a troubled young man, through whom Brother Francis will have contact with the killer?

I'm also looking for ways to incorporate bees and the monastery products into the plot. Searching for a way one of them can help give Brother Francis a clue to help solve the crime.

Pax et bonum

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Blood moon didn't rise

School work has intruded on independent reading - or writing, or even this blog.

This is what happens regularly as my students begin to submit papers and I get caught up with grading, lesson planning, the administrative details the school requires, and so much more.

So it goes.

My major disappointment was the Blood Moon that was supposed to be visible the other morning. Too many clouds; no moon to be seen from my house. Alas.

Another moon related haiku lost in the shuffle!

I did get one moon haiku published (in the October edition of Brass Bell):

crescent moon
above our snow-shrouded neighborhood
so many secrets

That gets me up to about 45 poems published  - I'm still in minor poet territory!

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Chameleon" - hiding a mystery in church talk

Chameleon by William X. Kienzle is the first of the religious mystery books I've read to prep for my own possible mystery writing adventures.

The book held my interest - good.

The priest detective, Father Koesler, was interesting - also good.

But it is by no means perfect.

As a mystery, too much time is spent lingering on the red herrings, so much so that I knew they didn't do the killings just because the author was working too hard to make it seem like they could be guilty. The actual killer and how he's stopped seemed a bit of a stretch - but I've seen worse.

The part of the book that really did not sit well with me, though, was there was way too much churchy talk. The writer, an ex-priest, seemed to be using the book to ruminate about his own views on the Church, which he clearly loves and cares about, but which in his view needs reform. Okay, I don't object to that, but some of the issues and inside baseball talk seem a bit dated (even though the book is only about 20 years old), and some of the characters go on and on about them. I began to wonder if Kienzle was using the book to deal with his own concerns - or was he just trying to pad to the book to get it to the standard paperback mystery length?

I wasn't sure how this would play with non-Catholics. Indeed, the library from which I borrowed the book has a page stuck in it for reader comments, and one of the previous readers wrote "too much religion."

I think it would be a better book had he cut down on the church talk and spent more time on the mystery, and on the criminal as opposed to the red herrings.

Not a bad book. But it could have been better. I'll try another one of his books later - maybe one of his earlier ones.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, September 28, 2014

It's a mystery

As I continue to send out poems - and occasionally get some published (just got word on another haiku being accepted!) - I've gotten an inspiration.

I've always loved mystery stories, and often read ones involving priests, religious, and pious lay people - you know, the cozy, "clean" type of mysteries. Father Brown, Father Koesler, Father Dowling, Brother Cadfael, etc.  So why not create one of my own? It would be an outlet for my fiction side that's been stalled on that horror novel I never could finish in part because it got too dark.

I've even got an idea for a character and a setting.

My detective would be a former print/radio reporter who due to a broken marriage (wife ran off after an affair and now lives with one of his former friends) and ongoing depression sank into the depths of drink, and finally got pulled out though help (a priest or religious with a background in therapy/counseling?), and now, somewhat of a broken man, survives as the extern for a monastery of hermit monks who produce honey, jams and jellies, and maple syrup in the Finger Lakes region. He is the one who makes some deliveries, supervises shipping of products, runs errands, provides contact with the outside world, all the while continuing his process of healing and discernment. But then his contacts from his years as a reporter - including contacts with the police - get him involved in helping to a solve crimes.

Several saints are associated with beekeepers - St. Ambrose is the most commonly cited male patron saints of beekeepers. St. Ambrose Abbey?  St. Benedict is also sometimes cited.

A prayer over bees and beehives:

O Lord, God almighty, who hast created heaven and earth and every animal existing over them and in them for the use of men, and who hast commanded through the ministers of holy Church that candles made from the products of bees be lit in church during the carrying out of the sacred office in which the most holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ thy Son is made present and is received; may thy holy blessing descend upon these bees and these hives, so that they may multiply, be fruitful and be preserved from all ills and that the fruits coming forth from them may be distributed for thy praise and that of thy Son and the holy Spirit and of the most blessed Virgin Mary.


Pax et bonum

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ancestry - I'm Irish

So here I've been clinging to my Scottish roots, a map of Scotland in my classroom, and my heart lamenting the recent vote - and it turns out I'm not really Scottish.

Yes, my mother came from there, but the family stories did acknowledge that ancestors had once lived in Ireland, with the implication was that they had traveled from Scotland to the Emerald Isle a few generations earlier and had simply returned to the mother country a generation or two before my mother graced the world.

Alas, it appears I'm not significantly Scottish, at least not according to DNA.

Meanwhile, the story on my father's side was that a great grandfather had been named McCarthy, but had been adopted and taken on the current family name from his adoptive parent - thus I knew there was some Irish there. Meanwhile, dad's mom was always described  as being of German/Dutch ancestry, with maybe some English.

I just got the results of a DNA test. The breakdown:

Ireland - 56 %
Scandinavia - 16 %
Great Britain - 10 %
Iberian Peninsula - 8 %
Western Europe - 5 %
A few odd traces - 3 %

So ... clearly Irish. I had guessed that before, and the 56 % figure is no surprise. Scandinavian? Maybe a bit of Viking mixed in - explains my fondness for Beowulf. And Mead. Great Britain apparently includes Scottish and English and Welsh - but I thought there would be more Scottish, or even some direct indication there is some Scottish in me. Only 10 % is below what I'd thought. But Iberian Peninsula - where did that come from? Spanish or Portuguese (or, given my separatist ways, Basque)? And the Western Europe could be a bit of Dutch or German.


Makes one think.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Litany of Mary, the Mother of Mercy

For a retreat on non-violence at our school I composed the following Litany as a concluding prayer. I did take a few lines and ideas from other litanies.


LEADER                                                                     ALL

Lord, have mercy on us.                          Lord, have mercy on us.    
Christ, have mercy on us.                        Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.                          Lord, have mercy on us.    
Christ, hear us.                                         Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven,                       have mercy on us.
God the Son, redeemer of the world,      have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost,                               have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God,                            have mercy on us.

Holy Mary,                                                              pray for us.
Holy Mother of God,                                               pray for us.
Mother of Christ,                                                     pray for us.

Mother of Mercy,                                                     pray for us
Mother who cares for all victims of violence,         pray for us.
Mother who cares for all the unborn,                      pray for us.
Mother who cares for the poor,                               pray for us
Mother who cares for the sick                                 pray for us
Mother who cares for the hungry,                           pray for us 
Mother who cares for those who are abused,          pray for us
Mother who cares for refugees,                               pray for us
Mother who cares for those caught up in wars,       pray for us
Mother who cares for those oppressed by prejudice    pray for us.
Mother who cares for those in prison,                          pray for us
Mother who cares for those denied education,             pray for us.
Mother who cares for those denied justice,                  pray for us.
Mother who care for those denied equality,                 pray for us.
Mother who cares for those who are unwanted,           pray for us.
Mother who cares for those who are ridiculed,             pray for us.
Mother who cares for those who are neglected,            pray for us
Mother who cares for those battling addictions,           pray for us
Mother who care for those who suffer mental illness,  pray for us     
Mother who cares for all creation,                                pray for us 
Mother of Mercy,                                                          pray for us.

O Queen of Mercy,                                                    pray for us.
Queen of Peace,                                                         pray for us.
Queen of Healing                                                       pray for us.
Queen of Compassion                                                pray for us.
Queen of Comfort                                                      pray for us.
Queen of Good Counsel                                             pray for us.

LEADER                                                                                 ALL   

Queen of Reconciliation                                            pray for us.
Queen of Justice,                                                       pray for us.
Queen  of Mercy,                                                       pray for us.

Lamb of God, Who takes
  away the sins of the world,        spare us, O Lord!
Lamb of God, Who takes

away the sins of the world,          graciously hear us, O Lord!
Lamb of God, Who takes

away the sins of the world,          have mercy on us, O Lord!
Christ, hear us.                            Christ, graciously hear us.

Let us Pray. (All)

O Lord, grant that all Your servants may remain continually in the enjoyment of health of mind and body, that they may be treated with compassion, justice, and fairness, and through the glorious intercession of Mary, the Mother of Mercy, may be delivered from any present sadness, and enter into the joy of eternal happiness. Amen. 

(Still some refining to do?)

Pax et bonum