Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Last Lecture

This is well worth your time if you haven't seen it already.

Monday, July 28, 2008

20,000 Visits!

Hi everyone,

Just a note to say thanks for visiting my blog! A Friar's Life reached 20,000 visits on Sunday thanks to your faithful readership. Thanks!!

Peace,
FT

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Total Commitment to the Kingdom

EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, July 27, 2008:

You’ve probably noticed, as I have, all of the commercials on television for the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing beginning on 8-8-08. I am very excited for the games. I always love to watch the Olympics, especially the summer games. In addition to the competitions though, I’m always so moved by the human interest stories of the incredible things that so many of these athletes do in order to be the champions that they are.

I’m reminded of a story from a few years ago about a group of teens who belong to the Santa Clara Swimming Club. Every morning they get up at 5:30 and hurry through the chilly air to an outdoor pool. There they swim for two solid hours. After a shower and a quick breakfast, they hurry off to school. After school, they return to the pool for two more hours of swimming. At 5:00 they hurry home, hit the books, eat a late supper and fall into bed exhausted. The next morning the alarm rings at 5:30 and they start the whole thing over again.

When asked why the follow such a disciplined schedule, one girl said, “My only goal is to make the Olympic team. If going to parties hurts that, then why go? There is no such thing as too much work. The more miles I swim, the better. Sacrifice is the thing.”

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure buried in a field.” Had Jesus lived now rather than around the year 30, today’s Gospel might have been very different. Rather than talk about a pearl merchant who sacrificed all to buy a dream pearl, or a farmer who sold all to buy a field with a treasure in it, Jesus might have talked about a Santa Clara swimmer who sacrificed all to make the Olympic team. What is the connection between a pearl merchant, a treasurer seeker and a Santa Clara swimmer? The one thing they all have in common is their total commitment to a dream.

All three are willing to sacrifice everything for a goal they have set for themselves. To own the perfect pearl; to obtain a rare treasure; or to make the Olympic swimming team. This leads us to the point of today’s Gospel. Citizenship in God’s kingdom involves total commitment on our part. We cannot pursue the kingdom as we do a part-time job. We cannot work at it as we do a hobby. We must give ourselves to it 100%. We must make the Kingdom of God the top priority of our lives.

Being a Christian is like being a pearl merchant, a treasure seeker or a Santa Clara swimmer. It involves total dedication and commitment. But there is one major difference between a committed Christian and the other three. St. Paul refers to it in his first letter to the Corinthians. He says, “Every athlete in training submits to a strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever.”
That’s the difference. The pearl, the treasure, the swimmer’s medal are all perishable – here today, gone tomorrow. When the pearl merchant dies that pearl will no longer have any value for him. When the farmer dies, his treasure will be as useless to him as the box he found it in. When the swimmer dies, her medal will be just another keepsake for her family. But when a committed Christian dies, the Kingdom of God will shine brighter and brighter and brighter. And that brightness will last forever. At the moment of death, there is only one thing that counts. It is not whether, in life, we acquired great things – pearls, treasures or medals. The only thing that will matter is what we have become in the process of seeking the things we seek in life.

A Chicago high school basketball team had just celebrated Mass in preparation for the state championship tournament. During the homily, the priest said that 10 years from now the important thing about their season will not be whether or not they became champs. It will be what they became in the process of trying to win the title. Did they become better human beings? More loving? More loyal to one another? More committed? Did they grow as a team and as people?

After Mass, the priest overheard the coach speaking to his players, “Father said something that is bothering me. I wonder what I have helped you become in the process of trying to put together a winning season. Did you become better, more loving, more loyal, more committed? Did we grow? If you did, then regardless of what we do in the tournament, we are a success. If you did not, then we have failed God, our school and one another. I pray to God that we have not failed.”

Today’s Gospel makes this point: Nothing in the world may take priority over God’s kingdom and our pursuit of it. Today’s Gospel tells us that what counts in the end is not what we have acquired in life, but what we have become in life.

Lord, give us the commitment in our faith that the swimmer, the pearl merchant and the farmer had in their pursuits. If they can sacrifice so much for a prize that will perish, give me the strength to sacrifice for your Kingdom which will last forever.

May God give you peace.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Some funnies

A father was approached by his small son who told him proudly, 'I know what the Bible means!'

His father smiled and replied, 'What do you mean, you 'know' what the Bible means? The son replied, 'I do know!'

'Okay,' said his father. 'What does the Bible mean?'

'That's easy, Daddy...' the young boy replied excitedly,' It stands for 'Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.'

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There was a very gracious lady who was mailing an old family Bible to her brother in another part of the country.

'Is there anything breakable in here?' asked the postal clerk.

'Only the Ten Commandments.' answered the lady.

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'Somebody has said there are only two kinds of people in the world. There are those who wake up in the morning and say, 'Good morning, Lord,' and there are those who wake up in the morning and say, 'Good Lord, it's morning.'

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A minister parked his car in a no-parking zone in a large city because he was short of time and couldn't find a space with a meter.

Then he put a note under the windshield wiper that read: 'I have circled the block 10 times. If I don't park here, I'll miss my appointment. Forgive us our trespasses.'

When he returned, he found a citation from a police officer along with this note 'I've circled this block for 10 years. If I don't give you a ticket I'll lose my job. Lead us not into temptation.'

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There is the story of a pastor who got up one Sunday and announced to his congregation: 'I have good news and bad news. The good news is, we have enough money to pay for our new building program. The bad ne ws is, it's still out there in your pockets.'

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While driving in Pennsylvania, a family caught up to an Amish carriage. The owner of the carriage obviously had a sense of humor, because attached to the back of the carriage was a hand printed sign... 'Energy efficient vehicle: Runs on oats and grass. Caution: Do not step in exhaust.'

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A minister waited in line to have his car filled with gas just before a long holiday weekend. The attendant worked quickly, but there were many cars ahead of him. Finally, the attendant motioned him toward a vacant pump. 'Reverend,' said the young man, 'I'm so sorry about the delay. It seems as if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a long trip.

'The minister chuckled, 'I know what you mean. It's the same in my business.'

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People want the front of the bus, the back of the church, and the center of attention.

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Sunday after church, a Mom asked her very young daughter what the lesson was about.The daughter answered, 'Don't be scared, you'll get your quilt.'

Needless to say, the Mom was perplexed. Later in the day, the pastor stopped by for tea and the Mom asked him what that morning's Sunday school lesson was about. He said 'Be not afraid, thy comforter is coming.'

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The minister was preoccupied with thoughts of how he was going to ask the congregation to come up with more money than they were expecting for repairs to the church building. Therefore, he was annoyed to find that the regular organist was sick and a substitute had been brought in at the last minute. The substitute wanted to know what to play.

'Here's a copy of the service,' he said impatiently. 'But, you'll have to think of something to play after I make the announcement about the finances.'

During the service, the minister paused and said, 'Brothers and Sisters, we are in great difficul ty; the roof repairs cost twice as much as we expected and we need $4,000 more. Any of you who can pledge $100 or more, please stand up.'

At that moment, the substitute organist played 'The Star Spangled Banner.'And that is how the substitute became the regular organist!

Monday, July 21, 2008

You will be my witnesses!


"But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts. 1.8)
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We had an awesome time at Steubenville East '08! To see photos of our teens on fire with the love of Christ, visit:
and

What will you leave the next generation?

Pope Benedict XVI completed the 23rd World Youth Day in Australia on Sunday. Below are links to the texts of his talks and homilies. They are rich spiritual treasures. Take the time this week to read them if you haven't already.

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And to watch, fullvideo of everything remains available on the WYD Vid-page (scroll down the right sidebar to access the archives).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Red Sox make formidable repeat threat


Boston features hard-to-top rotation entering second half
By Tom Singer / MLB.com

Baseball's recent World Series champions have had feet of clay. Their fall glory has faded into the ensuing summer's fall.

It should not come as a surprise that the Majors have not had a repeat Fall Classic winner since the New York Yankees wrapped up their three-peat in 2000.

After all, there hasn't even been a repeat World Series participant since those Yankees in 2000-01. And you can't win it if you're not in it.

Do the Boston Red Sox now have the "might" stuff? A few years after breaking the shackles of a since-forgotten 86-year curse, are the Sox poised to take their new identity to the next level? Will the Red Sox be able to make it two in a row?

Better question: Who is going to stop them?

There could be no answer to that. In a new age of big league parity, the Red Sox may be the least flawed team. They have versatile and talented players, a tunnel-visioned manager and an activist front office.

Can the Red Sox be kept out of the World Series?

By the Yankees? Not likely. This doesn't mean that it won't happen -- this is The Rivalry, and logic is always being defied -- only that it shouldn't happen.

By the Rays, perhaps past their expiration date? The Angels, Boston's proven postseason patsies? The imperfect White Sox or Twins? Even less likely.

Once back in the World Series, can they be kept from winning it? Especially now that they'd again have home-field advantage because of their league's fantastic win in a 15-inning Midsummer Classic -- the American League World Series team has not lost a home Game 7 since 1979, when the Orioles were vanquished by the Pirates, 4-1, at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.

The biggest challenge would come from the National League West, whose two probables are both built for short series. The D-backs (Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and the Randy Johnson of late) and Dodgers (Chad Billingsley, Derek Lowe and Hiroki Kuroda) have Big Three starters who can throw a blanket over a lineup.

A Classic foe from the Central wouldn't faze Boston. Milwaukee, whose CC Sabathia would love another crack at Boston after his ALCS experiences of last year with Cleveland, would pose a problem. And, of course, if the Cubs actually reached a World Series, a papal order might come down that they win it.

But first, of course, the National League representative would have to figure out a way to win a World Series game from the Red Sox, which has not happened since 1986, when the Mets took them in seven.

Beyond the fact that the Yankees are dealing with more injuries than is Boston, consider the teams' relative fortunes and depths in the one area that invariably is decisive, starting pitching: While the Red Sox ship out Clay Buchholz because there's no room in their rotation for the young upside righty, the Yankees bring in recycled veteran Sidney Ponson out of desperation.

"As well as we're going to pitch is how well our team is going to do," Boston captain Jason Varitek said.

Not to mention that now New York has got Boston mad. The Big Apple fans totally ignored All-Star protocol, which calls for suspending animosities in favor of league solidarity, by mistreating Red Sox players and staff for two days.

That won't be forgotten, and the Red Sox will spend the rest of the season trying to send a response through the Yankees, particularly livid closer Jonathan Papelbon.

The Tampa Bay Rays? Last week's threat. Before you get upset by that slight, Florida, bear in mind this is precisely what has made -- and could keep -- the Rays one of the year's most uplifting stories, the mocking of expectations.

The Rays' acid test comes early: Bouncing back from the precipitous free-fall in the last eight days before the break.

Said Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay's rookie All-Star third baseman: "We would have taken the spot we're in. We're in a great position. We just have to get back to what we were doing."

If they prove resilient, the Rays remain a force because they play with spirit, hit in the clutch, run defenses into mistakes and pitch well. Angels East, in other words -- no shock given Rays manager Joe Maddon's long tenure as Mike Scioscia's bench coach.

The authentic Angels can't deny a postseason complex about Boston: They have dropped nine consecutive postseason games against the Red Sox, getting outscored 69-27 in the process.

There's good reason for calling it postseason roulette. Still, Minnesota would lack the offense to match up with the Red Sox, and the White Sox playoff fate would depend on which of their starters showed up that week.

If the Red Sox play their total game, they are not going to be denied. That complete game plan includes restless general manager Theo Epstein, who keeps a wary eye on the left wrist injury that has kept designated hitter David Ortiz out of Boston's lineup since May 31.

Ortiz appears to be making a steady recovery from that tendon injury, but if there are any setbacks, Epstein is poised to engineer a deal for a big replacement bat, with Web reports that he's got markers on Atlanta's Mark Teixeira.

"I don't believe this team has hit a really good stride yet," Varitek said. "We've had to mix and put a lot of pieces together. We do miss the big man in our lineup."

They haven't, however, missed a big man in their rotation. Curt Schilling (right shoulder) appears to be Boston history, but Daisuke Matsuzaka has reached the Major League second-year heights predicted for him, Tim Wakefield has pitched some of his most consistent knuckleball at 41, Josh Beckett has been his typical ace self, Jon Lester has been inspiring and even Bartolo Colon has contributed greatly.

The sudden burst back to the top -- gaining 5 1/2 games in one week prior to the break -- could have given the Sox the ignition they needed for a dominant stretch and beyond.

An expert at foiling curses, Boston takes aim at the curse of reigning World Series champions and the attendant pressure.

"There is a little bit of that," allows manager Terry Francona. "You have to be ready to answer it every day, and I mean on the field."

The Red Sox have cleared their throats. They're ready for the daily answer, aiming to leave opponents with unanswered daily prayers.

Said Varitek, "I think we have some things to look forward to."

Jesus is my yoke-mate

Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart;and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

- Matthew 11.28-30

Today's Gospel passage from St. Matthew is certainly one that is familiar to most readers of Scripture. I think our focus when reading, praying and reflecting on it is usually on the "come to me" part, the "burdened" part, and the "you will find rest" part. Rightly so! Jesus is promising us something so powerful in this passage - especially if when we hear these words of God we find ourselves particularly burdened.
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There is no shortage of labor and burden in our world today. The economy is making life increasingly difficult for everyone, but especially for those who were on the edge of making it before. Food prices, gas prices, all prices, just keep climbing and certainly our ability to keep up is not matching pace.
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Others of us find ourselves burdened in relationships. Perhaps we are in a period of struggle in our marriage, maybe our family is full of challenging and even dysfunctional dynamics and we find ourselves stuck at the center trying to make sense and find harmony. Perhaps we find ourselves in a work place where the attitudes and actions of our co-workers are in stark contrast to the life of faith we desire and God calls us to.
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Whatever the burden, Jesus says "Come to me and you will find rest." Amen!
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But, how? The answer lies in the parts of this passage that we focus on less often: "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me...and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light." Perhaps it is because most of us tend to be so separated from our earlier agricultural roots, this image of yokes is one that is foreign to us. We may not even be certain what a yoke is. But, I think it is in this image of the yoke that we find the greatest part of this passage.
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A yoke is a heavy wooden harness that fits over the shoulders of an ox or team of oxen. Then the yoke is attached to a piece of equipment that the oxen are to pull. The yoke aids in pulling the heavy burden, or equipment. Now for farmers, especially for farmers in Jesus time, their oxen were among their most valuable possessions. Without them, they lose their livelihood. Without them, there can be no tilling, no plowing, no reaping. And, so just like us with our valuable possessions, they took very good care of them.
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This is where the first part of what is so helpful can be found. When it came time to yoke an ox for the task of the day, farmers didn't go down to Yokes-R-Us and grab one off the shelf. The yoke is custom designed and customed fit so that it wouldn't chafe and damage the ox, but be a comfortable fit so that the ox can complete its task.
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The second thing you should know is that oxen were most often yoked together. It usually took two to complete the very heavy tasks (or burdens) at hand. If an ox were yoked alone, it would simply walk around in circles. There is a balance and strength that comes from being yoked together.
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So how will our burdens be lightened? Jesus is offering us a custom designed yoke; one that was made for us alone; one that fits us; one that will help us lift our burdens and our labors - if we take it on. Jesus offers us a good yoke, meaning one that is carefully shaped so that there will be minimal chafing. Jesus yoke will be kind to our shoulders, enabling us to carry the load more easily. You see Jesus does not diminish the weight of our accountability to God but helps us to bear this responsibility. Jesus has perfectly equipped us to handle whatever we deal with. But, how often do we say "no" to the yoke that He asks us to wear? How often do we think, "I can lift this myself." When we do that, we end up like the ox pulling alone - perhaps we just keep walking in circles.
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The second part, of course, is that He doesn't want us to wear this yoke alone. The yoke Jesus speaks of is not one He imposes but rather one He also wears. Jesus is saying to us, "Become my yoke-mate, and learn how to pull the load by working beside me and watching how I do it. The heavy labor will seem lighter when you allow me to help you with it." We will be able to go in the direction we were intended if we allow Him to be our yoke-mate.
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"Take my yoke upon you...and you will find rest for yourselves." My friends, let Jesus be your yoke-mate!
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May God give you peace.

WYD: Friars Rock!

This is a picture of US Franciscan Friar Gabriel doing a trick on his skateboard at World Youth Day taking place through this Sunday in Sydney, Australia. Maybe I should try this?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The answer is in your hands

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 13, 2008:

Two men were arguing about the wisdom of old Ben who was considered to be the wisest man in the village. “Ben is very wise,” said the first man. The second disagreed. “Ben is not so wise! We're just as smart as he is. I'll prove it to you.” The next day the man went into the woods near his home and captured a small bird. He brought the bird and said to the other man, “Let's go find Ben. I will show you that he’s not so smart.” The two men went and found old Ben, one man holding the small bird between his cupped hands. “Ben, we have a question for you,” he said. “I hold a small bird in my hands. Tell me, is this bird dead or alive?” The man thought his plan was fool proof, if Ben said the bird was dead, he would simply open his hands and show that the bird was alive. If Ben said the bird was alive, he would crush it between his hands and reveal that the bird was dead. This would prove that Ben wasn't so wise after all. Old Ben considered the question for a while and then said simply, “My son...the answer is in your hands.”

My friends, this is the message of our Gospel today. Will our lives be happy, fulfilled, fruitful and wise? The answer is in our hands. “The seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

In Jesus’ times fields were harvested in June and then left barren during the hot, dry summer. By the fall the ground was quite hard. However, the farmers knew that the rain would be coming soon, so in the fall the farmers would plant the crop for the next year’s harvest. The farmers then didn’t plant like modern farmers. Modern farmers plant in three steps: they plough, then sow the seed and then cover the seed with soil. Ancient farmers planted in two steps: the sower would go through the fields scattering the seed all the while he was followed by a ploughman who would plough the seed under the ground. That’s why the seed that fell on the footpaths was useless. The ploughman wasn’t about to plough the footpaths. The seed that fell on rocks couldn’t develop strong enough roots to survive. As far as the thorns were concerned, the Near East has world class thistles. Thistle plants grow over six feet tall. The only seed that had a chance of surviving would be that which fell on good soil. Jesus is inviting each of us today to be that good soil.

And so this causes us to ask, when it comes to Sacred Scripture, what type of soil am I? When I hear God’s word, am I like the pathway where the seed cannot even sprout, or like the rocky ground where the seed sprouts but has no roots, or like thorny ground where the word of God is choked to death by worldly cares, or like the good soil that bears much fruit?

One day Eric was sharing with a group of church people about the turnaround in his life since he started to love the Scriptures. “Two years ago,” he said, “I had no appetite for the Word of God. On Sundays, I would shop around going from church to church to find the priest that gave the shortest homily. My idea of a good Mass was one that took 40 minutes or less! The shorter, the better.” But, once Eric became open to hearing God’s Word; once he became good soil, all of that changed. He became like the writer of Psalm 119 who said, “Had your word, Lord, not been my delight, I would have perished…I will never forget your words; through them you give me life…How I love your word, Lord! I study it all day long. Your word makes me wiser than my foes, for it is always with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, because I ponder your word. I have more insight than all my elders, because I observe your word. I keep my steps from every evil path, that I may obey your word.”

Jesus is calling us all to become people who do not merely respect God’s word, or appreciate it; but who love the Word of God. A priest delivered a homily in 10 minutes one Sunday, which was about half the usual length. He explained to the parish, “I regret to inform you that my dog, who is very fond of eating paper, ate the portion of my homily which I was unable to deliver this morning.” After Mass, a visitor from another church shook hands with the priest and said, “Father, if that dog of yours has any pups, I want to get one to give to my priest.” My friends, if our favorite part of God’s word is when it is over, then we are missing the point.

Loving God’s word, being good soil, all begins with our openness. Can we surrender to God’s word? Can we believe in our hearts that there is nothing more important than God’s word? Can we be people who pledge to live as St. James calls us to, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only…The one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what they do.”

What type of soil will we be? The seed of God’s word has been placed in each of us again today. Will it grow and be fruitful? Or will it wither and fade? My friends, the answer is in our hands.

May God give you peace.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Who Am I Casting Crowns

Religious life in the age of Facebook

Where have all the young people gone?

By Richard G. Malloy JULY 7, 2008

Why aren’t young men and women entering religious life today? A long list of answers has been floating for years among vocation recruiters, novitiate staffs and religious communities. Among them: young adults today are commitment-phobic; a “spiritual but not religious” stance makes religious life too constricting; families are smaller and less likely to support someone choosing to enter religious life; the average age in most communities has risen to a point where a young person is actually entering a retirement home, not a novitiate; the church after the Second Vatican Council has failed to inculcate in young adult Catholics a sense of commitment to the institutional church; young women (and some young men) are alienated by the patriarchal and/or hierarchical nature of priesthood and the church; celibacy is incomprehensible in our overly sexualized age; the horrific and pervasive evidence of sexual and financial scandals in the church makes the young look elsewhere as they choose professions and careers; there are deep intellectual and cultural confusions over the meaning(s) of God, Jesus, church, salvation and priesthood.

The list could go on, but the facts remain: in 1965 there were 45.6 million Catholics and 48,992 seminarians in the United States studying for the priesthood, while in 2006 there were 69.1 million Catholics and only 5,642 seminarians. Similar or more severe declines have been registered in the number of people becoming men or women religious.

After 15 years of interacting with college students (the past five years living in a student dormitory), I can identify certain cultural currents running through the lives of young adults. Like riptides, hidden but strong, these pull persons in their 20s far from the shores of religious life. Such cultural phenomena are off the radar of men and women religious today, mostly because the cultural world of the young people we would hope to attract to our communities differs so much from our own. As a cultural anthropologist, I was taught that good fieldwork reveals what everyone knows but no one in the host culture talks about. What follows are several truths that many young adults know but seldom express to their elders. Some of these cultural currents are not readily apparent to them, though when I have run these ideas by young adults, I have met with wide agreement.

1. One’s culture consists of what one knows. Today’s young adults do not know very much about Jesus, the church, the faith or religious life. In fact, young adults do not know many things that used to be common knowledge among Catholics, and they often know more about other faiths than they do about their own religious tradition. When one excited young woman ran up to me and exclaimed, “I’m going to study Buddhism. It’s so cool!” I said, “Wow. Did you ever think of studying the religion that teaches that God became what we are so we could become what God is”? “Ooh, that sounds cool. What one’s that?” she asked. “Catholicism,” I answered, the faith in which she had been baptized and confirmed.

Culturally, we are the stories we tell. Too easily we assume that young adult Catholics know who St. Francis or St. Ignatius was, but we assume such at our peril. Today’s young adults know Harry and Hermione better than Jesus, Mary and Joseph. One student I spoke to last year thought Vatican II was the name of a pope!

Also problematic are the general intellectual abilities of today’s young adults. Most college students today would balk at the workload the Jesuits threw at high school students in the 1970s. In our first year we read the Documents of Vatican II; in sophomore year, the Dutch catechism. Today’s reading lists for Theology 101 at most universities are decidedly lighter fare. Students will not or cannot plow through Rahner.

This makes the act of intellectually synthesizing the various modes of truth present in Catholic tradition quite difficult for the average student. To argue that analogous conceptions of truth are not equivocal, but in fact more meaningful than univocal truths, stuns young adults, if they can follow the reasoning. To grasp that the Gospel infancy narratives may be true, even though the stories themselves are not historically or scientifically accurate, is a real task for those educated in a culture that leaves little room for nuance. Young adults have intellectual difficulty coming to terms with the intricacies of our faith tradition. In the 1950s and 1960s, older teens and young adults knew what the beatific vision was, and many yearned to see God face to face (1 Cor 13:12); today all we have given them (or all they have paid attention to) is Facebook.com.

2. In the past one entered a novitiate with people who were culturally similar and found the process easy. In the 1950s and 1960s, for example, most seminarians had attended similar Catholic high schools, and most were young adults unencumbered by other life commitments. Entrance was rather easy: you told a member of the order at your school that you were interested in joining, and in most cases you were in. No longer.

Most people thinking of entering religious life today are much older than in previous eras; they are of various ages, and as a group they are more diverse. They are concerned about what will happen to their 401(k) account, cell phone contract, apartment lease, car, dog and more. To enter a novitiate, they are being asked to break off a set of adult relationships and responsibilities that might be five, 10 or 15 years old.

The process too has grown complex. I have taken to describing the process of admission to the Jesuits, for example, as long, difficult and often uncomfortably invasive. We do want young people to “make it.” But some are put off by the sheer complexity of interviews, psychological testing and the introduction to prayer and spiritual direction.

3. One’s culture is a set of relationships, a base upon which one makes life choices and commitments. Among all their relationships, young adults know few young religious sisters, brothers or priests. A daunting fact of vocation recruitment today is that those doing the recruiting are no longer 10 or 15 years older than the person being recruited; the recruiters are decades older. How many 50-year-olds seek out 75-year-olds with whom to go to a movie or dinner? Why would a 30-year-old want to join a community where the youngest members are 50 or 60? Two recent books, Googling God, by Mike Hayes, and Young Adult Catholics, by Dean Hoge, reveal how radically different young adults’ relationships are, not just with the church, but with much of culture and society, when compared with those of people who came of age in earlier decades.

Also, a study released in 2008 by the Pew Forum indicates that fully one in three Americans who were baptized as Catholics no longer identify themselves as Catholic and increasing numbers of young people choose no religious affiliation at all. This is a significant change from the 1950s and 60s.

4. Young adults live in a media world unfamiliar to most priests and religious. DVD’s, Facebook, Myspace, Halo 3, Wii, cell phones, Madden football—these are the constant companions of young adults, as familiar to them as Notre Dame football, “The Bells of St. Mary’s” and foreign missionaries were to Catholics of the 1950s and 1960s. When we tell a young person we do not know how to take a picture with a cell phone, we are communicating not only that we are “out of it,” but that we fall on the spectrum somewhere between imbecilic and incompetent.

5. Young adults experience gender issues, sexuality and the relational world very differently than most priests and religious. From sexual experimentation in their preteens to cohabitation while in college and to comfort with issues of sexual diversity, the experience of young people has changed significantly in recent decades. A president having an affair in the Oval Office? That was front-page news when today’s young adults were in middle school. The attitudes of a typical priest or religious on such matters seem anywhere from archaic and prudish to insensitive and uninformed to young adults whose parents, peers and professors preach not just tolerance but wholehearted acceptance of a wide range of sexualities and lifestyle choices. A church that condemns such sexual choices and practices is seen by a large majority of today’s educated Catholics not as prophetic but as narrow-minded and prejudiced.

Many men, socialized in a culture where women are considered equal, are reluctant to embrace a profession that routinely relegates women to second-class status. With women running corporations and universities, serving as Speaker of the House and campaigning to become president of the United States, many Catholics find incomprehensible a church declaration that one cannot even discuss the ordination of women. A cultural worldview that champions the elimination of sexism has little sympathy for a church that enshrines sexism as a practice supposedly instituted by Christ. As we obstinately refuse to ordain women, we are ordaining fewer and fewer men. The two phenomena may be more closely linked than we realize or are willing to admit.

6. Issues of money and race are significant but rarely discussed in religious communities. More and more young adults say they must work off a crushing student debt before they can even consider entering religious life or getting married. Recruiters from the founding religious orders of many Catholic institutions find that potential candidates from these same schools often take as much as a decade to pay off their student loans, making it difficult for them to consider the possibility of a vocation.

Other sensitive issues concern race and class.Many religious orders are overwhelmingly white and decidedly upper-middle-class in taste and temperament. Latino and African-American Catholics who look into religious orders in the United States see communities where contemporary music is unknown, ethnic foods are rarely served and communication styles reflect middle-class backgrounds. Prospective candidates who grew up in homes where incomes were near or below median family income are often put off by the L. L. Bean lifestyle of some male religious. On the other hand, young women from semi-affluent backgrounds cannot imagine how they could survive on the meager stipends most religious women receive for personal spending, often much less than $100 a month. When I told one Jesuit that median family income in the United States was $48,200, he denied it and argued, “If that were true, how could people afford to go to our schools?” His reply showed a social and cultural myopia often present in our communities.

A study of “best practices” of those religious institutes that have successfully accepted and integrated persons of diverse backgrounds would be helpful. The Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, of which I am a member, counts only three African-American Jesuits as members and no Latinos from poor inner-city families. Both a Latino from Camden, N.J. (per capita income $12,739), and a Georgetown graduate from adjacent Cherry Hill, N.J. (per capita income $38,284), will face cultural challenges when trying to form community in a novitiate.

7. American society may not be producing people who are able to live religious life. Perhaps more problematic are the cultural deficiencies of American upper-middle-class families. In The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids (2007), the psychologist Madeline Levine describes children (often from economically comfortable families) who are in deep emotional distress. One young woman Levine describes is a “cutter,” who wears a long-sleeved T-shirt with a thumbhole in the sleeve. She is covering up a forearm into which she has repeatedly carved the word “empty” with a razor. Too many of our young are empty. The anorexic cheerleader; the star football player contemplating suicide; the nerdy genius at Stanford filled with a numb, nameless rage because she did not get into Harvard; the aimless young man living in his parents’ basement with only video games to look forward to; the legion of others who suffer from “failure to launch.”
If these are in deep distress, how much better off are the young adults who are “making it”? Problems ranging from serious addictions to attention deficit disorder permeate the young adult population. Older novitiate programs did not have to deal with these, at least not on the level or with the frequency that they do today.

Nonetheless, there is some hope. Whenever I find myself wondering about the viability of religious life in the United States or the future of the church, I read up on the history of the church at the end of the 15th century. Do we think things look bad now? Then popes were presiding over sexual intrigues and murders in the Vatican. The little friar Savonarola was setting the match to the “bonfire of the vanities,” until he himself became fuel for the flames. Corruption was rampant in the church. Yet in the wake of that era there emerged St. Ignatius Loyola, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of ├ívila. May our troubled times produce such sanctity.

Richard G. Malloy, S.J., author of A Faith That Frees (Orbis, 2007), is assistant professor of anthropology at Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia, Pa.
This article originally appeared in the July 7, 2008 issue of America Magazine (www.americamagazine.org)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Learn from me

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 6, 2008:

One of the famous Aesop’s Fables tells of a dispute between the sun and the wind over which of the two was stronger. One day a person dressed in a coat was walking down a deserted country road. The sun said to the wind, “Whoever makes that person remove the coat faster will be the winner.” The wind agreed and decided to go first. He blew and blew, but the more he blew, the tighter the person held on to the coat. Finally, exhausted, the wind gave up. Then the sun took over. It merely shone in all its glory. Within minutes, the person took of their coat. Aesop said that the moral of the story was this: you can achieve more by gentleness than by violence.

In our world today, gentleness is not as highly regarded as it once was. There was a time when the best compliment you could receive was to be called a gentle person. Our own word “gentleman” testifies to this reality. Today, however, it seems in our culture that violence is more popular than gentleness. Just look at the media. The average child spends 25 hours a week watching television, more time than they spend in school or engaged in any other activity except sleep. It is estimated that by the time an average child is 18; they will witness 200,000 acts of violence, including 40,000 murders. One study concluded that teens who watch more than one hour of TV a day were four times more likely to commit aggressive acts in adulthood. And just listen to the titles of the four most popular video games today: “Super Smash Bros. Brawl,” “Battlefield,” “Grand Theft Auto” and “World of Warcraft.” It shouldn’t be surprising that our world and even our families reflect the violence of our age.

How different from what Jesus taught us. He said, “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.” As we heard in our first reading today, Zechariah foretold the gentleness of Jesus, “Your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, he is meek…and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.” A beautiful example of the gentleness of Jesus is the way he handled the woman caught in adultery. Jesus was gentle not only with the woman, but also with her self-righteous accusers. He didn’t shout or rave. He didn’t yell or scream. He simply bent over, gently, and wrote in the sand with His finger. His action stood out like a clap of thunder in the silence of a summer’s night.

Jesus taught us to be gentle also. He held up for our imitation the shepherd in the Parable of the Lost Sheep. He didn’t beat the sheep or drag it home. He placed it gently on his shoulders. Or the father of the Prodigal Son. The father didn’t shout at his wayward son. He didn’t hassle him; he hugged him, loved him and welcomed him home.

Joseph Lahey tells this story of himself in Guideposts magazine. As a child, Joseph ha a crippled back, twisted and distorted. Fully clothed, he could pass for all right, but when he took his shirt off, it was very noticeable. Joseph hated his deformed back. As a boy, one day he stood in line at school waiting to be examined by the school doctor. He always dreaded the moment when the doctor would say, “Remove your shirt.” Finally the terrible moment came. Joseph fumbled with his buttons, his hands shaking badly. At last, his shirt was off. The doctor looked at him and then did something very unusual. He walked around the desk, held the boy’s face in his big hands, looked right at him and said, gently, “Do you believe in God?” “Yes sir,” Joseph responded. “Good! The more you believe in Him, the more you believe in yourself.” The doctor went back to his desk and wrote something on Joseph’s chart before stepping out of the room for a moment. Joseph was curious what the doctor had written, so he quickly looked at the chart. Under the heading “Physical Characteristics,” the doctor had written, “Joseph has an unusually well-shaped head.” Joseph couldn’t believe his eyes.

That brief episode in Joseph’s life took place many years ago, but the boy never forgot the gentleness and the encouraging words of that kind doctor. Today’s Gospel contains a similarly important invitation for all of us. We are invited today to learn from Jesus because He is “gentle and humble of heart.”

What does this mean concretely for us in the week ahead? First, it means we should try to respond to people as the sun did in Aesop’s fable – with gentleness and warmth. Second, it means we should try to respond to those who have wronged us as Jesus did with the woman caught in adultery; and as the father of the Prodigal Son – with compassion and understanding. Third, it means we should try to respond to people with heavy burdens just as the doctor did with young Joseph – with tenderness and sensitivity.

Let me conclude with a prayer. I invite you to close your eyes and pray silently with me. Lord, during the week ahead, help us to remember the gentleness and warmth of the sun in our dealings with one another; help us to remember the tenderness of the doctor as we meet people who are weary and burdened; help us to remember the words of Jesus, Your Son, who said, “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.”

May God give you peace.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Red Sox Nation

As if last night's victory wasn't enough, here's another tidbit that really made my day:

Conn. is a Red Sox state?
HAMDEN (AP) -- Connecticut baseball fans are not fickle, but for the first time in five years the Red Sox have edged the Yankees in a poll of fan popularity.

The Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday shows that 41 percent back Boston while 40 percent support the New York Yankees.

The New York Mets have the undying love of 9 percent of the fans polled.

Fairfield County remains Yankee territory while Hartford County and eastern Connecticut are a big part of Red Sox Nation.

Coincidentally, the Red Sox open a series against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night.

About 43 percent last year said they root for the Bronx Bombers, while citizens of Red Sox Nation comprised about 37 percent. Another 10 percent were New York Mets loyalists.

R&R: Ranting and Raving

You know, if you wanted to keep a loved one's body, after they have died, in your home - maybe propped in a chair or seated on a table, you would be thought very strange.

If you wanted to take the deceased body of your loved one and break it into pieces and give a little bit to everyone so they can remember the deceased, you might even be jailed. Imagine if you said after the funeral, "I'd really like you to keep Johnny's hand." Or foot, or knee, or whatever!

If you thought, I'm going to take the body of my deceased loved one and chop it up into small pieces and place each piece in a locket and make necklaces for everyone who loved him - they'd lock you up!

Maybe your idea would be to thrown the body of your loved one into the sea or a pond or a lake or a beautiful field and let them become food for the many creatures who live there, people would consider you a barbarian and sick.

Maybe when you don't know what to do with the body of your loved one, you'l just stick it in a container and send it to Good Will with the rest of the "junk" you don't need.

And yet, this is exactly what so many people are doing each and every day! I am always shocked and sickened to see and hear the way people treat the cremated remains of their loved ones.

If any of my scenarios seem bizarre or strange or even impossible to you, I want you to know that each of them are stories that we hear all the time here in parish life. Even the one about Good Will. Someone dropped off the remains of their loved ones in an urn at Good Will. The manager there was going to put it out on the shelf for $15. Luckily, a good Catholic working there brought them to us instead and we interred them in our cemetery.

What set me off today? Reading this story in today's newspaper:

Cremated remains part of fireworks show

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — One of the fireworks bursting above the city this year will contain a bit of cremated remains — a fitting tribute, organizers say, to the man who ran the annual event for 40 years.

Meredith Smith died in February at age 74. About a half-teaspoon of his ashes will be in a fireworks shell that will create a white burst in the sky for the finale of the show, set for Thursday night.

"I can't think of a better way," said family friend Kevin Moss.

He also will be memorialized through hundreds of T-shirts referring to the tribute as "the last shot."

Smith, a school maintenance worker, was a trained pyrotechnician. His widow, Charlotte, said they started the fireworks shows as a community service and sometimes paid for them themselves.

"Meredith felt like the people in this area didn't get the opportunities that other people got, and so he wanted to give them the opportunity," she said.

The release of the ashes shouldn't harm public health, said John Althardt of the Health and Hospital Corp. of Marion County.

"I think that whatever a family can do to remember their loved one ... is great," he said.
The fireworks will be shot over the White River.

According to Indiana law, cremated remains may be disposed of on the property of a consenting owner, uninhabited public land or in a waterway.

Unreal!!! I have never been a fan of cremation anyway - I'm spending my life trying to avoid The Flames; I can't imagine the last act my body would go through would be harsh flames. Add to that the images from the holocaust of burning in ovens. I just don't like it.

But, I have to support the fact that the Catholic Church allows cremation. But, what is not permitted is any treatment of the body - whether in tact, or burned - with anything other than honor and dignity. Human remains must always be treated with respect and interred - either in the ground, or in a mausoleum or collumbarium. There is NEVER an option to scatter, keep, or otherwise dispose of them.

I often remind people who say, "I want to stay close to the person," what happens when you are no longer around? When you are no longer there to care for the remains of that person? Do they end up in the attic? The basement? Flushed down the toilet? Or donated to Good Will?

You know you would never be able to do any of those things with an intact body, because we have laws about the disposal of a deceased person in this country. But those laws don't apply when it comes to cremated remains? Why? We need laws to assure that our beloved dead are treated honorably.

I cannot imagine anything more disgusting or dishonorable than literally exploding the body of your loved one as a crowd of people watch.

I pray for Meredith Smith for this dishonor being done to her. I pray for all those who have died and have not had their bodies treated with honor and dignity.

Thus end my rant!

We hold these truths...


One tradition I like to hold to is to read the Declaration of Independence out loud on July 4th. It is a wonderful experience. I hope you try it:
.
IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
.
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

John Hancock
New Hampshire:Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts:John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut:Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York:William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey:Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark Pennsylvania:Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware:Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland:Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia:George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina:William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina:Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Georgia:Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Some facts to ponder

This from the email files:

Everyday more money is printed for Monopoly than the US Treasury.

Men can read smaller print than women can; women can hear better.

Coca-cola was originally greenIt is impossible to lick your elbow.

The state with the highest percentage of people who walk to work: Alaska

The percentage of Africa that is wilderness: 28% now get this.. The percentage of North America that is wilderness: 38%

The cost of raising a medium sized dog to the age of eleven: $6,400

Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.

The first novel ever written on a typewriter: Tom Sawyer

The San Francisco cable cars are the only mobile National Monuments

Each King in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history:
Spades - King David
Hearts - Charlemagne
Clubs - Alexander the Great
Diamonds - Julius Caesar

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle. If the horse has one front leg in the air, the person died as a result of wounds received in battle. If the horse has all four legs on the ground,that person died of natural causes.

Only 2 people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, John Hancock and Charles Thomson. Most of the rest signed on August 2nd, but the last signature wasn't added until 5 years later.

Most boat owners name their boats. What is the most Popular boat name requested? Obsession.

What is the only food that doesn't spoil? Honey.

Which day are there more collect calls than any other day of the year? Father's Day.

In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes. When you pulled on the ropes the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on. Hence the phrase."Goodnight, sleep tight."

It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the brides' father would supply his son in law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the honey month, which we know today as the honeymoon.

At least 75% of people who read this will try to lick their elbow.

Don't delete this just because it looks weird, believe it or not, you can read it:
I cdnuolt blveiee that I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdgnieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinvervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is tahtthe frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcusea the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh!

The Jubilee Year of St. Paul

FRIAR'S CORNER, July 6, 2008:

Pope Benedict has declared this to be a Jubilee Year of St. Paul. This special year began last Sunday with the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul and will continue until the same feast day next June. This year commemorates the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of St. Paul which historians estimate at somewhere between the years 7 and 10 A.D.

In decreeing this special year, the Pope said that St. Paul, “was set apart for the Gospel of God, to spread the announcement of divine grace that, in Christ, reconciles man with God, with himself and with others.” The Apostle of the Gentiles, said the Pope, “was anything but a gifted speaker,” and hence “the extraordinary apostolic results he was able to achieve are not to be attributed to brilliant rhetoric or to refined apologetics and missionary strategies. The success of his apostolate depended above all on his personal involvement in announcing the Gospel of Christ with total dedication to Him, a dedication that feared no risks, difficulties or persecutions.”

“From this,” he continued, “we can draw a very important lesson for all Christians: The activity of the Church is credible and effective only in as much as those who are part thereof are ready to pay their faithfulness to Christ in person. ... If such willingness is lacking, then the decisive argument of truth upon which the Church depends also fails. ... As in the beginning, today too Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves ... like St. Paul.”

So what can we do to commemorate this saint during this jubilee year? Well, the Holy Father is encouraging people to make pilgrimages to sites related to the saint. Those who make such a pilgrimage will receive a Plenary Indulgence for doing so. The trip that our parish is sponsoring in November to Italy will visit some of these sites and thus fulfill the requirements for this indulgence.

Secondly, read the holy words that God inspired St. Paul to write and are part of the New Testament. Paul is the most significant person in the New Testament, after Jesus of course. Of the 27 books of the New Testament, 13 of them are the Letters of St. Paul. The story of his conversion and his early apostolic activity makes up more than half of the Acts of the Apostles.

I suggest that we all make this a part of our spiritual journey this year. Let us all pledge to spend some time with St. Paul and get to know him better. Here is a suggested reading list by month that will take us on a wonderful journey with this great saint. I’m going to suggest starting with Acts of the Apostles to get an overview of his journey of faith and then a journey through his letters:

· July 2008: Acts of the Apostles (chapters 6-28)
· August 2008: Letter to the Romans
· September 2008: First Letter to the Corinthians
· October 2008: Second Letter to the Corinthians
· November 2008: Letter to the Galatians
· December 2008: Letter to the Ephesians
· January 2009: Letter to the Philippians
· February 2009: Letter to the Colossians
· March 2009: First Letter to the Thessalonians & Second Letter to the Thessalonians
· April 2009: First Letter to Timothy
· May 2009: Second Letter to Timothy
· June 2009: Letter to Titus & Letter to Philemon

There are also some good web resources for this year. Visit:
http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/paulineyear/
http://www.annopaolino.org/

I encourage everyone to embrace this beautiful year dedicated to St. Paul.

“So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13.13)

Love, Fr. Tom

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

This is Jeopardy!

One of my closest friends, Joe Parodi, will be a contestant on Jeopardy! tonight. I am so excited and I hope that you watch. One of the best comments I have heard was from one of our teens, who said, "Hey, his name almost spells 'Jeopardy!'"

Anyway, here is Joe:

And, you can even watch a video intro of him at: http://www.jeopardy.com/videoplayer_howdies07.php?path=http://www.jeopardy.com/howdies/s24_5496/5496_Parodi

Best of luck Joe!!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Gve the girls a break

This is one thought-provoking article about the situation of teen pregnancy in Gloucester, MA. It certainly doesn't change anything with the issue of teenage sexual activity, but it is really interesting if it perhaps signals a shift away from abortion. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, Jun. 26, 2008
By NANCY GIBBS

You know you've found a perfect cultural touchstone when everyone brushes past it on the way to opposite conclusions. The tale of the Gloucester High School "pregnancy pact" has exposed many culprits, many causes and much confusion over what it actually tells us about anything larger than the luck and judgment of 18 now infamous teenage girls.

When my TIME colleague Kathleen Kingsbury first quoted Gloucester High principal Joseph Sullivan as saying that the reason pregnancies at his school quadrupled this year was that a group of sophomore girls "made a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together," the story made headlines from here to Australia--but no one could agree about what it meant. If only Massachusetts hadn't rejected federal funds for abstinence-only education, lamented Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. If only the school health clinic had been allowed to dispense birth control pills, countered its medical director, Dr. Brian Orr, who resigned over the contraception ban. If only No Child Left Behind hadn't diverted funds from better health education, charged Gloucester mayor Carolyn Kirk. If only Mars had not been in Leo in the eighth house, suggested Monica at Astrology Mundo, who had predicted a flare-up of teen sex around the summer solstice. The culture was an irresistible target, after movies like Juno "glamorized" unwed motherhood; if only the school's "marauding narcissistic sluts" hadn't followed the toxic example of movie stars and the Spears sisters, wrote some bloggers, who longed for the return of the scarlet letter.

I wonder if the critics would be so quick to condemn if they viewed the story another way. There is certainly troubling anecdotal evidence that some of the girls set out to get pregnant together. But other girls talk about a different kind of resolution. What if the "problem" in evidence at Gloucester High has more to do with the rejection of abortion than the acceptance of teen pregnancy?

It is easy for a school to know how many students give birth each year, but--especially in a heavily Catholic town like Gloucester--it is impossible to know how many pregnancies are terminated. Birthrates are not the same as pregnancy rates, and the national trends in both tell an interesting story. While 750,000 teens become pregnant every year, that is the lowest level in 30 years, according to the Guttmacher Institute, down 36% from a peak in 1990. Abortion rates have fallen even faster; since the late 1980s, the abortion rate for girls ages 15 to 17 has fallen 55%, and this year the overall U.S. abortion rate is at its lowest level since 1974.

At the same time, we are in the middle of a baby boomlet; the 4.3 million babies born in 2006 were the most since 1961. And among teenage girls, though the birthrate has generally been falling for the past two decades, it did rise 3% in 2006 for girls 15 to 17. No one can quite explain why this is.

Which brings us back to Gloucester. What if the visible leap in pregnancies is part of a different trend, which the national studies confirm: not necessarily more kids having sex or more girls getting pregnant but instead more of those who do deciding to have the baby rather than abort it? Consider Lindsey Oliver, a Gloucester student who says she found herself pregnant despite being on the Pill. She told Good Morning America that she made her own pact with friends to help them get through their unplanned pregnancies together. She and her boyfriend, a 20-year-old community-college student, talked about trying to do the right thing in a difficult situation.

Whether a girl--or a woman--decides to end a pregnancy or see it through is as complex an emotional and moral and medical calculation as she ever faces. But I wonder if some soft message has taken hold when the data suggest that more women facing hard choices are deciding to carry the child to term. This has been the mission of the crisis-pregnancy-center movement, the more than 4,000 centers and hotlines and support groups around the country that aim to talk women out of having abortions and offer whatever support they can. If not in Hollywood, then certainly in Gloucester, teen parents and their babies face long odds against success in life. Surely they deserve more sympathy and support than shame and derision, if the trend that they reflect is not a typical teenager's inclination to have sex but rather a willingness to take responsibility for the consequences.