Monday, July 31, 2017

Franciscan quotation

If there were one million families praying the Rosary every day, the entire world would be saved. - Pope Saint Pius X

Pax et bonum

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Franciscan quotation

The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today. - St Francis of Assisi   

Pax et bonum

Solomon Clerihew

King Solomon,
though deemed wise, when all was said and done,
undermined his spiritual life
by trying to please wife after wife.

Pax et bonum

Vocations - what seems to work

I've long contended that while many progressive religious orders are slowly dying, ones that are traditional/orthodox in practice - both newly created, and even older ones - are thriving. Among those orders are the Sisters of Life (above), or the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (below).

Recently I came across the following passage in the 2009 Vocations Study Overview by the National Religious Vocations Conference that confirmed some of my observations.

The most successful institutes in terms of attracting and retaining new members at this time are those that follow a more traditional style of religious life in which members live together in community and participate in daily Eucharist, pray the Divine Office, and engage in devotional practices together. They also wear a religious habit, work together in common apostolates, and are explicit about their fidelity to the Church and the teachings of the Magisterium. All of these characteristics are especially attractive to the young people who are entering religious life today.

Let's break that down.

The most successful ones in terms of attracting and retaining members are ones that "follow a more traditional style of religious life."

That style includes living "together in community," participating in daily Eucharist, praying the Divine Office, engaging in in "devotional practices together. So community and communal activities are important in providing encouragements and support.

In addition, they "wear a religious habit." I've long pointed out this one. The habit serves as a way to identify and to evangelize. In public, priests should at the least wear their collars, and members of religious orders should wear their habits.  

The members "work together is common apostolates." To be honest, this is one that I've never really considered much. Certainly there are traditional apostolates - teaching, social ministry-based,  and health care, for example. They should avoid ones where they are called to compromise beliefs or downplay their identity - such as in government service.

 They "are explicit about their fidelity to the Church and the teaching of the Magisterium." I know I have always been troubled when people who identify as priests, deacons and religious publicly criticize, oppose, distort, or ignore Church teachings.

This study was from eight years ago, but I think the findings are still valid. And in recent years even as I've seen progressive orders slowly dying I've seen others following these guidelines growing. I'm optimistic.

Pax et bonum

Friday, July 28, 2017

Franciscan quotation

Place your mind before the mirror of eternity! Place your soul in the brilliance of glory! And transform your entire being into the image of the Godhead Itself through contemplation. - Saint Clare of Assisi          

Pax et bonum

Catholic Liberal Education

I've just returned from a conference on Catholic Liberal Education - liberal in the traditional "classical" sense, not in the political.

It was wonderful.

An education based on the classics, on rhetoric, on reading and writing, on reducing the use of electronic media rather than reading printed text and writing by hand. All with a spiritual sense.

I loved the ideas. Some of the methods - mixing music, art, and literature, and linking works - are ones that I've already used to some degree. So this is right up my alley.

As for the Catholic angle - I don't recall the last time I saw people say grace at every meal, or an education conference that involved morning prayers and daily Mass, or even where we said rosaries as we drove to and from the conference. Faith was brought up in almost every talk and workshop. Two of the breakout sessions were on C. S. Lewis. One talk even focused on levels of prayer - and how to incorporate more prayer into classes.

I'm somewhat religious, but these good folks put me to shame!

I'm looking forward to the school year.

Pax et bonum

C. S. Lewis clerihew

It is said that C. S. Lewis
was unhappy if in his class he saw a miss.
so his friends were amused when their boy
was suprised by Joy.

(Lewis reportedly was not happy when women began attending his university. His autobiography was "Surprised by Joy" - about his discovery of faith - but then in his 50s the seemingly committed bachelor married Joy Davidman, leading to some jokes.)

Pax et bonum

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Franciscan quotation

Speak courteously to everyone. - St. Francis of Assisi

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Franciscan quotation

Gratitude is the first sign of a thinking, rational creature. - Blessed Solanus Casey

Pax et bonum

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Franciscan quotation

To write well and speak well is mere vanity if one does not live well. - Saint Bridget of Sweden

Pax et bonum

Franciscan quotation

There is no sinner in the world, however much at enmity with God, who cannot recover God's grace by recourse to Mary, and by asking her assistance. - Saint Bridget of Sweden

Pax et bonum

Friday, July 21, 2017

Franciscan quotation

“God, you made me. You love me. What would you have me do? Where would you have me go? Who would you have me serve? Show me how I can be your eyes of compassion, your heart of love, and your hands reaching out to this world. Amen.”  - John Michael Talbot

Pax et bonum

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Franciscan quotation

Thank God ahead of time. - Blessed Solanus Casey

Pax et bonum

Post-Christian U.S. Cities - Rochester is #13

According to a study by Barna, a religious research group, Portland-Auburn, Maine, is the most post-Christian city in the United State, and my city, Rochester, New York ranks 13th.


The study involves surveying people on 16 factors, and those who fail on 9 of them are deemed post-Christian, and those who fail on 13 are considered highly post-Christian.

Those factors are:

  • Do not believe in God
  • Identify as atheist or agnostic
  • Disagree that faith is important in their lives
  • Have not prayed to God (in the last week)
  • Have never made a commitment to Jesus
  • Disagree the Bible is accurate
  • Have not donated money to a church (in the last year)
  • Have not attended a Christian church (in the last 6 months)
  • Agree that Jesus committed sins
  • Do not feel a responsibility to “share their faith”
  • Have not read the Bible (in the last week)
  • Have not volunteered at church (in the last week)
  • Have not attended Sunday school (in the last week)
  • Have not attended religious small group (in the last week)
  • Bible engagement scale: low (have not read the Bible in the past week and disagree strongly or somewhat that the Bible is accurate)
  • Not Born Again

  • Some of the wording is decidedly evangelical Protestant - "Born Again," "commitment to Jesus" and "the Bible is accurate," for example - and so it's language devout Catholics might not use, thus the results for cities that are heavily Catholic might be off. Heck, I'm off on a few, and people consider me very religious. But still, the results are revealing, and not surprising.

    Portland-Auburn, Maine, topped the list with a score of 57%.

    Boston, MA-Manchester, NH came in second at  56%. The others in the top 10 are:

    Providence, RI-New Bedford, MA - 53%
    Burlington, VT-Plattsburgh, NY - 53%
    Hartford-New Haven, CT - 52%
    New York, NY - 51%
    San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA - 50%
    Seattle-Tacoma - 50%
    Buffalo, NY - 50% 

    Hey, Buffalo beat us. Given its heavily Catholic population, the number may be slightly off, maybe even enough for us to pass them.

    Philadelphia, PA (11), Tucson-Sierra Vista, AZ (12), and Rochester (13) all tallied a score of 49%.

    Of the top 13, 10 are in New England/Northeast, and two are West Coast. No surprise there.

    When you look at Rochester, the number of colleges and universities likely play a role in helping us to abandon Christianity. We have an active arts/music/theater community as well, and a substantial number of those folks tend to reject traditional religion. As for the religious community, in Rochester there is history of liberalism, heresy, and acceptance of immoral and disordered behavior.

    Still, there are many good people trying to evangelize and turn things around, so I'm optimistic.

    But I will pray for the people of my city - and that my own faith and religious practices might grow and develop.

    Pax et bonum

    Wednesday, July 19, 2017

    Franciscan quotation

    You cannot all abandon your possessions, but at least you can change your attitude about them. All getting separates you form others; all giving unites to others. - St. Francis of Assisi

    Pax et bonum

    Tuesday, July 18, 2017

    Franciscan quotation

    Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do. - Pope St. John XXIII

    Pax et bonum

    Monday, July 17, 2017

    Franciscan quotation

    The best gift anyone can give to a friend is to pray for him.

    - Father Benedict Groeschel

    Pax et bonum

    Sunday, July 16, 2017

    Franciscan quotation

    This morning my soul is greater than the world since it possesses You, You whom heaven and earth do not contain. – St. Margaret of Cortona

    Pax et bonum

    Saturday, July 15, 2017

    Franciscan quotation

    The most deadly poison of our times is indifference, And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise Him to the greatest extent of our powers. - St. Maximilian Kolbe

    Pax et bonum

    Friday, July 14, 2017

    Franciscan quotation

    The world would have peace if only men of politics would follow the Gospels. - St. Bridget of Sweden.

    Pax et bonum

    Thursday, July 13, 2017

    Rule of nature reminder trashed

    A recent paper by the U. S. Institute of Physics restating and upholding the Law of Gravity is meeting with charges of unfairness, insensitivity, and being out of touch.

    The paper stated that gravity exists, that all planetary bodies are surrounded by gravitational fields, and that the measurable effects of gravity are affected by mass and acceleration.

    These statements drew immediate criticism.

    "The Pharisees of the physics establishment are trying to impose an outdated law on us," declared Patchouli Dumhuvud, a Rochester, N. Y Reiki master. "We have learned so much about various forms of energy and how to channel them in recent years. And there have been so many advances in technology that also allow us to negate that law We need greater flexibility when if come to gravity."

    Courtney Kruller also said the law is unfair to those who are clumsy or weight challenged.

    "This law discriminates against those who have trouble with gravity," declared Kruller, vice president of the International Crystal Cooperative. "Stating this law in this way is so insensitive to them."

    Albert Newton, spokesperson for the Institute, pointed out that the paper was simply reminding the world of a law that was already in place.

    "There was no desire to create a new law," he explained. "We have all been equally subject to the law of gravity, and all we were doing was reminding people of what's been accepted and true for centuries."

    Such explanations do not sit well with those angered by the paper.

    "We can change our hair color, our noses, or the definition of marriage," Dumhuvud contended. "Why not a law of nature?"

    In response to the report, the Los Angeles-based Anti-Gravity League has begun circulating a petition calling for basing the law and all such laws on either a vote or an opinion poll.

    Pax et bonum

    Franciscan quotation

    Just as the root feeds the tree, so humility feeds the soul. The spirit of humility is sweeter than honey, and whoever is fed by this sweetness produces fruit. – St. Anthony of Padua

    Pax et bonum

    Wednesday, July 12, 2017

    Found poems

    I rediscovered some poems I'd kind of forgotten had gotten published.

    The two topical limericks were printed in City in the July 24-30, 2002, edition:

    The truth about white collar crime
    is offenders will rarely do time.
    They're in bed, you see,
    with the powers that be,
    who'd turn a blind eye for a dime.

    Please don't call them corporate crooks
    because it is not as it looks.
    After working each deal,
    it's hunger they'd feel,
    and that is why they cooked the books.

    Pax et bonum

    Franciscan quotation

    We are developing in the United States a huge underclass of unwanted people, many of they the descendants of the exploitation of the South American and Latin American countries by American piratical capitalism. Not all capitalism is piratical, but some of it certainly is. And we have a fantastic gap beginning to exist between rich and poor.

    - Father Benedict Groeschel, CFR 

    Pax et bonum

    Tuesday, July 11, 2017

    Franciscan quotation

    We must be faithful to the present moment or we will frustrate the plan of God for our lives.

     - Venerable (soon to be Blessed) Solanus Casey, OFM

    Pax et bonum

    Monday, July 10, 2017

    In Honor of E.C. Bentley's Birthday

    Today is the birthday of Edmund Clerihew Bentley (July 10, 1875), who befriended G. K. Chesterton while they were in school, and who invented the verse form that bears his name, the clerihew. (Chesterton illustrated a number of Bentley's clerihews.)

    Here's a clerihew in his honor:

    E. C. Bentley
    knew just what to do
    with a clerihew.

    Pax et bonum

    You can quote me

    I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice. - Abraham Lincoln

    Pax et bonum

    Franciscan quotation

    Pax et bonum

    Sunday, July 9, 2017

    St. Matthew cinquain

    left his table
    to respond to the call
    to share with all the Lord’s message
    of  love.

    Pax et bonum

    You can quote me

    "In the first centuries of Christianity the hungry were fed at a personal sacrifice, the naked were clothed at a personal sacrifice, the homeless were sheltered at a personal sacrifice... And the pagans used to say about the Christians, "See how they love each other." In our own day the poor are no longer fed, clothed, and sheltered at a personal sacrifice, but at the expense of the taxpayers. And because of this the pagans say about the Christians, 'See how they pass the buck.'"
    - Peter Maurin         

    Pax et bonum

    Saturday, July 8, 2017

    You can quote me

    “Don't worry about being effective. Just concentrate on being faithful to the truth.” - Dorothy Day

    Pax et bonum

    Thursday, July 6, 2017

    Why I quit (part 2)

    Just got the AP scores - I'm still falsely listed as the teacher, even though the principal replaced me two years ago with a teacher whom he contended would do better job (the real reason was he wanted the course as a lure).

    They look - awful.

    The AP Language and Composition Scores (by teacher)

                         Me            "better teacher"
             2014   2015      2016   2017
     Tests - 42         68         58        70

     Score   %        %         %         %   

      5       26.2     26.5      19       15.7      
      4         38       32.4      36.2    24.2
      3         31       32.4      32.8    38.6
      2         4.8         8.8     12.1    7.1
      1           0          0          0       4.3

    Failure   4.8       8.8      12.1    21.4 

    The drop in the percentage of 5s (the highest score) from the last year I taught the course to the first year of the supposedly better teacher was 26.5 to 19 - a 28 percent decrease - and from that last year I taught to the score under the "better teacher" this past year the decline was 26.5 to 15.7 -  a 41 percent decrease.

    Overall, the percentage of passing students decreased, and the average test score dropped.

    So ...  clearly a decline in the scores. The class when I taught it was the most successful at the school, and one of the highest scoring in the region. Now, middle of the pack. Better teacher? Really?

    I feel bad for the students.

    Pax et bonum

    Isaac and Abraham (clerihew)

    After that day in Moriah, young Isaac
    developed many a nervous tic,
    and was tempted to run for his life
    whenever Abraham picked up a knife.

    Pax et bonum

    Wednesday, July 5, 2017

    Beardless blasts from the past

    Before I left my old school, I located some old pictures in a yearbook from 1986. I shaved off my beard for the first half of that year - the only time in my adult life (starting when I was 18) when I didn't have a beard - and there were two images of me beardless.

    In the above photo, a fellow teacher (the late, wonderful, Juli Palma) and I dressed up as Herman and Lily Munster for Field Day. One of the day's activities was a Scavenger Hunt that included getting teachers to dress up as television characters. My daughter Clare was with me that day, so we said she was Wednesday visiting from the Addams Family.

    This one is my official faculty picture. We had a couch in the English office, and I stretched out to pose with a book (On Becoming A Novelist).

    And yes, I did work part-time in radio for more than 20 years. Here's the 2003 schedule with me as the Weekend Edition local host. My shift was 6 to noon every Saturday for 21 years. I also did some spot news coverage, and hosting of shows like Morning Edition or All Things Considered during school breaks, and overnight blues and jazz programs on weekends. One summer while the station was looking for a permanent All Things Considered local host three of us rotated hosting duties.

    Ah, memories!

    Pax et bonum

    Tuesday, July 4, 2017

    A Not So "Nice" Post

    I heard someone mention on the radio that the word "nice" originally had some negative meanings.

    That caught my attention.

    "Nice" is one of those words that bug me. It's one of those words that have become so vague in meaning I chastise my students when they use it in essays. I tell them to find a stronger, more descriptive adjective. For example, I tell them to change "She was nice" to something like "She was compassionate" or "She was humble."  Something that really describes the person or thing.

    Meanwhile, there is the whole cult of "nice" in our culture. We seem to think it more important to be nice - i.e. accepting of anything, going along with whatever is popular or easy - than to be good or to stand up for what is right or moral. 

    I decided to look up the word.

    According to the Online Etymology Dictionary:

    late 13c., "foolish, stupid, senseless," from Old French nice (12c.) "careless, clumsy; weak; poor, needy; simple, stupid, silly, foolish," from Latin nescius "ignorant, unaware," literally "not-knowing," from ne- "not" (from PIE root *ne- "not") + stem of scire "to know" (see science). "The sense development has been extraordinary, even for an adj." [Weekley] -- from "timid" (pre-1300); to "fussy, fastidious" (late 14c.); to "dainty, delicate" (c. 1400); to "precise, careful" (1500s, preserved in such terms as a nice distinction and nice and early); to "agreeable, delightful" (1769); to "kind, thoughtful" (1830).

    In many examples from the 16th and 17th centuries it is difficult to say in what particular sense the writer intended it to be taken. [OED]

    So, "nice" originally meant foolish, stupid and senseless? Given how it is sometimes used today, that makes sense. In accepting whatever is wrong for the sake of being "nice," we are indeed being foolish and stupid and senseless. All too often the morality of being "nice" is really often a way to avoid standing up for morality.

    The entry goes on:   

    By 1926, it was pronounced "too great a favorite with the ladies, who have charmed out of it all its individuality and converted it into a mere diffuser of vague and mild agreeableness." [Fowler]

    "I am sure," cried Catherine, "I did not mean to say anything wrong; but it is a nice book, and why should I not call it so?"
    "Very true," said Henry, "and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk; and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything." [Jane Austen, "Northanger Abbey," 1803]

    Ha! Jane Austen was right on target. This is the way my students use "nice." Too broad, too general, ultimately, too meaningless.
    We need to sometimes to be disagreeable, to speak out, to challenge, NOT to be just nice.
    Then maybe we can really change things in the world that really need to be changed or curtailed in some way.

    Wouldn't that be nice?
    Pax et bonum

    Monday, July 3, 2017

    A Weighty Issue

    I've been feeling fat lately. Pictures from yesterday's visit to the Fatima Shrine confirmed that I am.

    The last time I weighed myself - several months ago - I was about 50 pounds overweight. I suspect it's closer to 60 now. Our scale has disappeared, so I can't confirm the weight that way, but the picture above says all I need for now.

    I kid that it's Santa weight. But it's unhealthy weight.

    So, diet and exercise time.

    60 pounds? Maybe - but my goal is to get down into the 190s (I'm 6 foot). I need to get a scale to start monitoring. By summer's end I'd like to be down 10-15 pounds.

    To do this, I'm going to cut out the snacking, especially at night. I'm going to cut down portions. I'm going to cut down on sweets and beer. I'm going to get more exercise, including bike riding (rode to Mass this morning).

    The good thing is that I have some clothes that might actually start to fit me again.

    Pax et bonum