Wednesday, December 23, 2009

You Learn Something New Every Day

At least I do.

A priest friend of mine, Fr. Robert Zwilling of the Diocese of Belleville, sends out a weekly e-mail that explains a little bit about this or that theological topic, liturgical season, etc.

This week's message explained why there are traditionally three Masses (with three different sets of readings) celebrated at Christmas.

Father Robert, with some help from the Angelic Doctor, explained:

There are actually three Masses: at midnight, dawn, and during the day. They were mystically connected with aboriginal, Judaic, and Christian dispensations, or to the triple "birth" of Christ: in Eternity, in Time, and in the Soul. St. Thomas Aquinas goes into more details:

“On Christmas Day, however, several masses are said on account of Christ's threefold nativity. Of these the first is His eternal birth, which is hidden in our regard. and therefore one mass is sung in the night, in the "Introit" of which we say: "The Lord said unto Me: Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee." The second is His nativity in time, and the spiritual birth, whereby Christ rises "as the day-star in our [Vulg.: 'your'] hearts" (2 Peter 1:19), and on this account the mass is sung at dawn, and in the "Introit" we say: "The light will shine on us today." The third is Christ's temporal and bodily birth, according as He went forth from the virginal womb, becoming visible to us through being clothed with flesh: and on that account the third mass is sung in broad daylight, in the "Introit" of which we say: "A child is born to us." Nevertheless, on the other hand, it can be said that His eternal generation, of itself, is in the full light, and on this account in the gospel of the third mass mention is made of His eternal birth. But regarding His birth in the body, He was literally born during the night, as a sign that He came to the darknesses of our infirmity; hence also in the midnight mass we say the gospel of Christ's nativity in the flesh.”  -Summa Theologica III:83:2

Now I know. And so do you.

Good Publicity

A couple of my co-workers, Corrina Gura and Matt Yonke, are featured in a story in today's RedEye that looks at opinions on abortion among young adults. Corrina is also on the cover (see right).

Considering The Gomer Pyle Axiom of High and Low Expectations, we can't help but be pleased with the story.

As we noted on our website today, it makes perfectly clear that 37 years after Roe v. Wade, abortion is still headline news, and pro-lifers will never be cowed into silence.

A Chesterton Advent Calendar, Part VII

After today, our office will be closed until January 4.

Thus, I won't be working until January 4.

Thus, I won't have a lunch break until January 4.

Thus, I won't be blogging until January 4.

So, I'll have to include not only today's installment of the Chesterton Advent Calendar (explanation here) but also those for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well.

23 December

Fortunately, however, being happy is not so important as having a jolly time. Philosophers are happy; saints have a jolly time. The important thing in life is not to keep a steady system of pleasure and composure (which can be done quite well by hardening one's heart or thickening one's head), but to keep alive in oneself the immortal power of astonishment and laughter, and a kind of young reverence. This is why religion always insists on special days like Christmas, while philosophy always tends to despise them. Religion is interested not in whether a man is happy, but whether he is still alive, whether he can still react in a normal way to new things, whether he blinks in a blinding light or laughs when he is tickled. That is the best of Christmas, that it is a startling and disturbing happiness; it is an uncomfortable comfort. The Christmas customs destroy the human habits. And while customs are generally unselfish, habits are nearly always selfish. The object of the religious festival is, as I have said, to find out if a happy man is still alive. A man can smile when he is dead. Composure, resignation, and the most exquisite goo dmanners are, so to speak, the strong points of corpses. There is only one way in which you can test his real vitality, and that is by a special festival. Explode cracker in his ear, and see if he jumps. Prick him with holly, and see if he feels it. If not, he is dead, or, as he would put it, is "living the higher life." —Illustrated London News, 1908

24 December

Almighty God to all mankind on Christmas Day said He:
"I rent you from the old red hills and, rending made you free.
There was charter, there was challenge; in a blast of breath I gave;
You can be all things other; you cannot be a slave.
You shall be tired and tolerant of fancies as they fade,
But if men doubt the Charter, ye shall call on the Crusade –
Trumpet and torch and catapult, cannon and bow and blade,
Because it was My challenge to all the things I made." —A Christmas Song for Three Guilds

25 December

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down —A Christmas Carol

Season's greetings! Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Chesterton Advent Calendar, Part VI

Explanation here.

22 December

Religion has had to provide that longest and strangest telescope - the telescope through which we could see the star upon which we dwelt. For the mind and eyes of the average man this world is as lost as Eden and as sunken as Atlantis. —The Defendant

Monday, December 21, 2009

Who Knew

...that John and Yoko recognized that the Neo-Malthusians' fear-mongering blather about overpopulation was exactly that?

"Oh, I don't care."


[HT: Creative Minority Report]

A Chesterton Advent Calendar, Part V

Explanation here.

21 December

Christ commanded us to have love for all men, but even if we had equal love for all men, to speak of having the same love for all men is merely bewildering nonsense. If we love a man at all, the impression he produces on us must be vitally different to the impression produced by another man whom we love. To speak of having the same kind of regard for both is about as sensible as asking a man whether he prefers chrysanthemums or billiards. Christ did not love humanity; He never said He loved humanity: He loved men. Neither He nor anyone else can love humanity; it is like loving a gigantic centipede. —Twelve Types

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Chesterton Advent Calendar, Part IV

Explanation here.

18 December

When, in "[A] Christmas Carol," Scrooge refers to the surplus population, the Spirit tells him, very justly, not to speak till he knows what the surplus is and where it is. The implication is severe but sound. When a group of superciliously benevolent economists look down into the abyss for the surplus population, assuredly there is only one answer that should be given to them; and that is to say, "If there is a surplus, you are a surplus." And if anyone were ever cut off, they would be. —Charles Dickens

19 December

The writer writes these words before Christmas; some readers will read them after Christmas: an awful thought. For I always dimly and dumbly think of life after Christmas as of life after death. I hasten to add that I believe that both will occur. I also add that, as becomes any healthy man, I fear death, but do not fear Christmas—no, not even if it result in death. But I do unconsciously count them both as the end of something and all days beyond them as comparatively vague and visionary. Whenever the year is ending I feel that the world is ending, and I desire to make a good end. I think the best end ever made by mortal man—better than Nelson shot through his stars or Douglas hurling the heart of Bruce—was the death of Faber, who confessed and received all the sacraments of his Church, and on being told he had an hour to live, said: "Then I can hear the last number of 'Pickwick,'" and died hearing it. —Illustrated London News, 11 January, 1913

20 December

Meanwhile, it remains true that I shall eat a great deal of turkey this Christmas; and it is not in the least true (as the vegetarians say) that I shall do it because I do not realise what I am doing, or because I do what I know is wrong, or that I do it with shame or doubt or a fundamental unrest of conscience. In one sense I know quite well what I am doing; in another sense I know quite well that I know not what I do. Scrooge and the Cratchits and I are, as I have said, all in one boat; the turkey and I are, to say the most of it, ships that pass in the night, and greet each other in passing. I wish him well; but it is really practically impossible to discover whether I treat him well. I can avoid, and I do avoid with horror, all special and artificial tormenting of him, sticking pins in him for fun or sticking knives in him for scientific investigation. But whether by feeding him slowly and killing him quickly for the needs of my brethren, I have improved in his own solemn eyes his own strange and separate destiny, whether I have made him in the sight of God a slave or a martyr, or one whom the gods love and who die young—that is far more removed from my possibilities of knowledge than the most abstruse intricacies of mysticism or theology. A turkey is more occult and awful than all the angels and archangels. In so far as God has partly revealed to us an angelic world, he has partly told us what an angel means. But God has never told us what a turkey means. And if you go and stare at a live turkey for an hour or two, you will find by the end of it that the enigma has rather increased than diminished. —All Things Considered

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Chesterton Advent Calendar, Part III

Explanation here.

17 December

Damn it, I sometimes think the only English thing left in England is cherry brandy. —The Quick One

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Chesterton Advent Calendar, Part II

Explanation here.

16 December

Comfort, especially this vision of Christmas comfort, is the reverse of a gross or material thing. It is far more poetical, properly speaking, than the Garden of Epicurus. It is far more artistic than the Palace of Art. It is more artistic because it is based upon a contrast, a contrast between the fire and wine within the house and the winter and the roaring rains without. It is far more poetical, because there is in it a note of defence, almost of war; a note of being besieged by the snow and hail; of making merry in the belly of a fort. —Charles Dickens

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This Is *So* Not Surprising

The Bullwinkle Approach continues to yield astonishingly predictable results.

[HT: Mark Shea]


A Chesterton Advent Calendar

Yesterday I mentioned two friends of mine, the late Frank and Ann Petta, whom I knew through the Chicago Area G. K. Chesterton Society.

Every year in the mailing advertising the group's annual Christmas Party, Frank would always send along "A Chesterton Advent Calendar", a sheet containing excerpts from Chesterton's writings — one for each of the ten days leading up to Christmas, and for Christmas Day itself. Some of the quotations are directly related to Christmas; others not so much.

Why, you may ask, didn't he include a Chesterton quotation for each day of Advent?

Beats me. That's just the kind of sui generis fellow Frank was.

For the next few days, I'll be including these quotations herein, with references whenever possible.

15 December

Here am I, Father Christmas; well you know it,
Though critics say it fades, my Christmas Tree,
Yet was it Dickens who became my poet
And who the Dickens may the critics be? —The Turkey and the Turk

Monday, December 14, 2009

Catherine Doherty, Servant of God

Today is the 24th anniversary of the death of Catherine Doherty.

Her Wikipedia entry begins:

Servant of God Catherine Doherty (August 15, 1896–December 14, 1985) was a social activist and foundress of the Madonna House Apostolate. A pioneer of social justice and a renowned national speaker, Catherine was also a prolific writer of hundreds of articles, best-selling author of dozens of books, and a dedicated wife and mother. Her cause for canonization as a saint is under consideration by the Catholic Church.

An amazing life story, hers.

Born in Russia, she and her family were nearly killed during the Russian Revolution. A website dedicated to her cause for canonization explains its impact on her:

The Revolution marked Catherine for life. She saw it as the tragic consequence of a Christian society’s failure to incarnate its faith. All her life she cried out against the hypocrisy of those who professed to follow Christ, while failing to serve him in others.

After fleeing Russia, Catherine went first to England, and then to Canada. In the early 1930s, she founded Friendship House in Toronto, the major goals of which were service to the poor and working for interracial justice.

As the movement spread, new Friendship Houses opened in Canada (in Ottawa and Hamilton), and others in the US: in New York (Harlem), Chicago, Washington DC, Portland, OR, and Shreveport, LA.

A couple friends of ours, the late Frank and Ann Petta — whom I met through the Chicago Area G.K. Chesterton Society — lived at the Chicago Friendship House during its early years, and knew Catherine personally. They often talked about how logical of a step it was for them to go from being active in the struggle for interracial justice and the civil rights movement to being involved in the pro-life movement.

Although I never had the privilege of meeting Catherine Doherty myself, I suppose having friends who personally knew her is the next best thing.

We owe her a debt of gratitude for all that she did to spread the love of Jesus Christ to others.

  • A list of Catherine Doherty's writings and talks is available here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"Without Stain"

In honor of today's solemnity, it never hurts to remind ourselves what Holy Mother Church teaches (and what she does not teach) about the Immaculate Conception:

It’s important to understand what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is and what it is not. Some people think the term refers to Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb without the intervention of a human father; but that is the Virgin Birth. Others think the Immaculate Conception means Mary was conceived "by the power of the Holy Spirit," in the way Jesus was, but that, too, is incorrect. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what "immaculate" means: without stain.

It's interesting to note that the Church places greater importance on this day, when she commemorates the conception of Mary in the womb of St. Anne, than on the day she commemorates Mary's birth — celebrated, appropriately enough, nine months from today, on September 8.

In honor of the celebration of Our Lady's Immaculate Conception, I've included below what is, in my opinion, the most cogent paragraph ever written on Marian devotion.

It's from The Everlasting Man, my favorite work of G. K. Chesterton.

Given that we're in the midst of Advent, it's also rather timely:

If the world wanted what is called a non-controversial aspect of Christianity, it would probably select Christmas. Yet it is obviously bound up with what is supposed to be a controversial aspect (I could never at any stage of my opinions imagine why); the respect paid to the Blessed Virgin. When I was a boy a more Puritan generation objected to a statue upon my parish church representing the Virgin and Child. After much controversy, they compromised by taking away the Child. One would think that this was even more corrupted with Mariolatry, unless the mother was counted less dangerous when deprived of a sort of weapon. But the practical difficulty is also a parable. You cannot chip away the statue of a mother from all round that of a newborn child. You cannot suspend the new-born child in mid-air; indeed you cannot really have a statue of a newborn child at all. Similarly, you cannot suspend the idea of a newborn child in the void or think of him without thinking of his mother. You cannot visit the child without visiting the mother; you cannot in common human life approach the child except through the mother. If we are to think of Christ in this aspect at all, the other idea follows as it is followed in history. We must either leave Christ out of Christmas, or Christmas out of Christ, or we must admit, if only as we admit it in an old picture, that those holy heads are too near together for the haloes not to mingle and cross.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tortured Arguments for Torture

Several months ago, I posted a comment on an entry on Subvet's blog in which he asked the question, "What is torture and why is it not justified?"

I had intended to post what I had written here as well, but a few days later, Anthony was born, and then it must have slipped my mind until I noticed recently that I still had a draft for a post with the title "torture".

Anyway, I began by saying:

The short answer is that torture is wrong because it's intrinsically immoral.

(I realized afterward this sounded a bit tautological. Instead of saying "wrong", I should have said "not justified". *)

The next commenter, one Abnpoppa, began with this:

Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn if it is immoral.

Well then!

Gee, I can't see how that way of thinking could lead to any problems.

He then said:

I'll water board your mother until the oceans run dry if it will save one American or one soldiers life.


Now, because Comic Book Guy destroyed Professor Frink's prototype for a sarcasm detector, it's never made its way onto the market. But at times like this, one could really come in handy.

I'm assuming Abnpoppa is engaging in hyperbole — not the part about the oceans running dry, which is obviously is hyperbole, but about waterboarding my mother — and that if push came to shove, he wouldn't actually waterboard my mother if he believed that by doing so it might save one American or one soldier's life.

On the other hand, maybe not. Maybe he really would have no qualms about waterboarding my mother.

(As an aside: note that Abnpoppa implicitly admits that waterboarding is, in fact, a form of torture — a point that many defenders of waterboarding are, to say the least, reluctant to acknowledge. **)

But let's just assume it is hyperbole.

Well, in that case, if Doing Whatever It Takes to save the lives of the good guys is the justification for torturing terrorists in order to extract information, why stop at torturing only terrorists themselves?

If the first attempts don't get them to tell us what we need to know, why *not* bring in their mothers — or wives, or daughters — and make the terrorists watch while we torture them too?

After all, if the debate about torture is not a debate about morality but rather a debate about utility, then why impose limits on ourselves? If, by torturing terrorists' relatives, we could conceivably have more success extracting information from them than by merely torturing the terrorists themselves, why not do it?

But of course, the debate about torture must be a debate about morality. And that's why hearing a defense of torture that begins with, "I don't give a damn if it is immoral" ought to raise a red flag.

* I'm aware that some Catholic thinkers have attempted to argue that torture is morally permissible under certain circumstances. I can't say I've done an exhaustive study of such arguments, but what I have read I have found lacking, not to mention troubling, especially in light of the fact that in Veritatis Splendor 80, Pope John Paul II writes that "physical and mental torture" are among the acts that are "intrinsically evil".

That doesn't leave much wiggle room for torture apologists, does it?

** On this topic, a couple items are worth a look: "This Is What Waterboarding Looks Like", an account of waterboarding as it was used by the Khmer Rouge, and "Believe Me, It's Torture", Christopher Hitchens' account of being waterboarded.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Campion, the Seditious Jesuit"

Today is the feast of one of my favorite saints, the great English Jesuit Edmund Campion, who was hanged, drawn, and quartered on this day in 1581 because he audaciously refused to renounce the Catholic faith—an act of defiance that, in Elizabethan England, not infrequently proved hazardous to one's life.

Apropos of this, I can't help but call to mind a quip by Oscar Wilde (whose death — and, far more importantly, deathbed conversion to Catholicism — 109 years ago) was commemorated yesterday.

The Catholic Church, Wilde remarked, is "for saints and sinners alone — for respectable people, the Anglican Church will do."

Monday, November 30, 2009

Novena to the Immaculate Conception

For the past several years, St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Chicago has hosted a Novena to the Immaculate Conception.

The Novena consists of a nightly Rosary and a Mass in which the homily focuses on a particular aspect of Our Lady—Cause of Our Joy, Health of the Sick, Mother of Fairest Love, etc. And, as is the custom at SMA, other priests hear confessions before (and, as it inevitably happens, during) Mass.

This Advent custom is something we always look forward to, as Jocelyn and I attended most nights of the Novena—shortly before we started dating—during our senior year of college ten years ago, when it wasn't nearly as well attended as it has been in recent years. (St. Mary of the Angels is also the church where we were married.)

This year's celebrants include Cardinal George, Bishop Joseph Perry, Bishop Francis Kane, Fr. Frank ("Rocky") Hoffman, and the one and only Fr. Richard Simon.

With our increasingly large family, it's harder for us to go as often as we'd like, but we're always able to make it at least one of the nights. If you're in the area, I'd encourage you to do the same—or, better yet, to go more often.

The Novena starts today, November 30, the feast of the holy, glorious and all-laudable Apostle Andrew the First-Called.

The full schedule is here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Life Imitating Art Imitating Life

A few weeks ago I discovered that dialing a phone number within the 773 area code now requires dialing 1-773 before the number.

I totally missed the memo on this.

Still now I only remember to do it about half the time, and thus my ear is not infrequently subjected to a really annoyingly loud beep that reminds me of my memory failure.

Apropos of this, I can't help but call to mind a scene from the Simpsons episode, "A Tale of Two Springfields".

You can watch it here — the scene runs from about 2:25 to 3:15.

In Honor of Tomorrow

...because tomorrow is Thanksgiving and Eucharist means "Thanksgiving":

(HT: The Ironic Catholic via Catholic and Enjoying It!)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Well, Not Quite...

So yesterday afternoon, Lucy (our four-year old) was in the kitchen, and wanted to tell something to Cecilia (our five-year old), who was in the dining room. So she asked Joey (our two-year old) to go and get her.

To which I asked, "Lucy, why don't you just go and tell her yourself?" She replied, "Because big people are supposed to tell little people what to do. That's what Mommy said."

I couldn't help but laugh out loud at the discrepancy between what she remembered about what she had been told and what she had actually been told.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Do Something Beautiful about Death

Yesterday, we attended the visitation for one of Jocelyn's relatives who died suddenly while visiting family in the Philippines.

The week before last, we attended the funeral for the brother of a friend of ours who had been sick for some time.

I always have a hard time talking to surviving family members at times like these, because I'm never sure what to say. It's for this reason that I was particularly touched this morning when I read Father Anthony Brankin's reflection in this week's bulletin [PDF], because it's exactly what I needed to hear.

Our local parish, St. Odilo, is the National Shrine of the Poor Souls. And, this being the month of November—the month of the Poor Souls—Fr. Brankin wrote about how and why we pray for the dead.

These thoughts in particular spoke to me:

We can actually do something for those who have died. Rather than stand by helpless and mute in the face of the death of our loved ones, Our Lord has provided a means for us to help them.

Has your father or mother died? Your spouse? Your grandparents? Your best friend? Perhaps (or probably) they are in Purgatory. Can you imagine their joy in Purgatory when Our Lord comes to them and tells them that you gained a plenary indulgence for them and they can now enter heaven. That’s how I imagine it.

And not only did we help them get to heaven by our prayers and indulgences, we help ourselves by feeling their very living presence in the very act of praying!

What a great month - November - a month that provides us so much opportunity for meditation on death, as well as an opportunity to do something beautiful about it.

These thoughts are what I needed to hear because they reminded me about what the Catholic Church is all about—namely, that there is really only one reason why the Church exists, and that is to help her children get to heaven.

And we, as her children here on earth, have it as our calling to assist her in her duty, despite any feelings of unease (or worse) we may encounter along the way.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"What Does It Mean, Really, to Be a Catholic?"

Reading Bishop Thomas Tobin's letter to Rep. Patrick Kennedy, I couldn't help but call to mind this comment posted a few years ago by Dale Price on Amy Welborn's old blog in regard to a column by another member of the American episcopate:

Holy Deus Lo Volt, Batman!

Usually I need coffee reading a bishop's column. This is like eating the beans straight from the bag.

To see a bishop publicly rebuke a Catholic elected official in his diocese who blathers that it's no big deal that he disagrees with the Church about abortion is, to say the least, a breath of fresh air. All the more so now that one of his congressional colleagues has floated the idea that the Catholic Church should be stripped of its tax-exempt status.

Here's hoping there will be more shepherds like Bishop Tobin who will lovingly yet firmly tell the pro-choice elected officials in their dioceses that they need to go to Canossa.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


I said last week I'd be posting pictures of the kids in their Halloween costumes.

And so:

The oldest four, as you can tell, are the four seasons. Joey, on my lap, is wearing a sun for Summer; Cecilia, as a flower, is Spring. Teresa is a Snowman for Winter, and Lucy is a tree with leaves-in-the-process-of-changing-colors for Autumn.

Jocelyn did an admirable job making their costumes, no?

And I'm Frankie Valli. Get it?

Mine was not exactly the world's best costume — all I did was search for some Frankie Valli pictures, and, with the help of a wig, tried to appear not entirely unlike him.

Jocelyn resurrected one of her costumes from yesteryear — to wit, Super Joce. And A.J. was a pumpkin:

And here's a picture of the kids in their costumes — once again, made by Jocelyn — at the Saints Party they attended last week:

Friday, October 30, 2009

Who's Afraid of Halloween?

In the original version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (or rather, in the original version of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) the entry for Earth consisted of one word: "Harmless".

In the revised edition, it was amended to: "Mostly harmless".

Much the same could be said of the evolution of my attitude toward Halloween.

When I was a lad, I can't recall having any awareness that Halloween was about anything other than innocent fun.

Then, at some point in childhood, I remember hearing some news report around Halloween time about Devil's Night in Detroit. That's not good, I thought.

And now, for the past several years, I've grown increasingly aware of the impossible-to-miss anti-Halloween sentiment among many Christians, both Catholic and Protestant.

This astounds me.

To be sure, the rampant commercialization of Halloween is not exactly a crowning cultural achievement, and there are ample examples of costumes that one would be hard pressed to argue are not imprudent to wear (for one of various reasons).

But to argue that any sort of observance of Halloween per se is wrong is not a little ridiculous, especially considering that Halloween is, yea, a Christian holiday -- and, even more specifically, a Catholic holiday.

I'd be hard pressed to come up with any clearer thoughts on the day than those Sean Dailey articulates here:

Anyway, today is Halloween, a most glorious holiday. A good Catholic holiday, for this is the day that we honor the age-old truth that the devil, like all who are besotted with pride, cannot stand being mocked. So we mock him, with silly costumes and mischievous pranks and door-to-door begging, and have a wild old time doing so. Tomorrow we go to Mass to honor the saints in the Church Triumphant and ask their intercession for us in the Church Militant; and we will spend the rest of November offering up suffrages for the poor souls in Purgatory -- the Church Suffering. But tonight, we celebrate our mortality ... while not forgetting that even in death we retain hope in the Resurrection.

Today I also came across an eminently sensible article by Helen Hull Hitchcock that is well worth a read. Therein, she offers some historical background about Halloween customs and traditions, and thoughtfully addresses some of the common prudential concerns many Christian parents have regarding Halloween.

Perhaps needless to say, our kids will be going trick-or-treating tomorrow night, because, as Hitchcock rightly points out, it's simply "fun".

And I should also point out that they are also participating this year in what is commonly offered by many Catholic parents as an "alternative" to Halloween: to wit, a Saints Party.

I'm planning to post pictures of them in both sets of costumes next week.

[Cross-posted at Catholic Dads]

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Parish Websites

Fellow Catholic Dads blogger Rob Kaiser writes:

Let’s face it, most parish websites are pretty awful – and I don’t mean full of awe. A lot of it has to do with throwing up an online billboard or having created a site 5 to 10 years ago and not having updated it. Whatever the reason, a lot of our parish websites are in need of help.

So here are questions for you to help change the situation. Answer as many or few as you are able.

1. What are some parish websites that did it right?
2. How is your parish website? What does it do well? How could it be improved?
3. What is required for a parish website to be considered “good”?
4. What should a parish site definitely avoid?
5. What has a parish site done that really made you say “Wow!” – good or bad?

Please don’t be shy – your answers could help parish website developers as they search the web for answers.

I commented thusly:

When I visit a parish website -- either my own or one I've never visited before -- there is usually one of two reasons (or both, I suppose) why I do so:

1. To find out Mass and confession times
2. To find out about upcoming events

I'd be willing to bet that a not insignificant percentage of people who visit parish websites do so for the same primary reasons.

In my opinion, then, a parish website should display these things on their home page in such a way that they're impossible to miss.

Now, on the other hand, I have numerous pet peeves about certain website features generally, which I think should be avoided. Here's a partial list:

1. Intro pages -- useability studies consistently show people don't like them.

2. Pages/features that don't load properly in Firefox (due to the webmaster only testing them in IE). Friends don't let friends use Internet Explorer.

3. Flash animation -- it's annoying. Plus, for users who have Flash Block (a Firefox add-on), it doesn't show up.

4. Playing music (even if it's good music) immediately upon opening a page -- far more annoying than Flash animation.

5. Dead links due to the webmaster moving a page and failing to include redirect code on the old page -- I'm told this is one of the cardinal sins of web design. This has happened to me twice recently whilst looking for articles on Catholic Exchange, and I find it maddening. (After that I tried the Wayback Machine, but struck out there too.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fire Found to Be Very Hot

How could anyone have ever known that there's a connection between early exposure to TV and later problems with attention span?

Call it the perfect storm of parenting. Who doesn’t want to believe that there is a magical, wondrous, no-parental-guidance-required product that will turn their kids into Mensa members? The combination of our lack of time, our paranoia over our kids performance, and our faith in technology primed this generation of parents to accept the clever advertising around "Baby Einstein" as truth...

I've never seen any of the Baby Einstein DVDs, and as far as I know, our kids haven't, either.

We did buy one of the Holy Baby DVDs a few years ago when our two oldest girls (now ages 5 and 6) were younger, but it was only watched a few times—largely, as I recall, because they weren't much interested in it.

Just as well.

[Cross-posted at Catholic Dads]

Monday, October 26, 2009

Law & Order: "Anti-Choice Propaganda"?

Last week I found out via my friend Jill Stanek (you know, Jill "Worst Person in the World" Stanek) that Friday's "ripped from the headlines" episode of Law & Order was to deal with the murder of a late-term abortionist in his church.

For several years, I used to watch Law & Order quite a bit, until I realized that there are Much Better Things To Do than watch TV with any frequency. But since this episode dealt with work, I decided to watch it.

Now, bearing in mind the Gomer Pyle Axiom of High and Low Expectations, I'm of the opinion that whenever the MSM deals with abortion, we have to set the bar very low.

That said, going into it, I feared Jill would be right—i.e., that "the show will throw ideological bones to both sides but ultimately come down favoring pro-aborts".

Yet after watching it, I don't think pro-lifers could have expected to have as many bones thrown to us as there were. I posted a comment on Jill's blog indicating as much, and noted that I'd also be curious to see what strident pro-aborts have to say about it—suspecting that the episode may cause not a few of them to work themselves into a lather about how Law & Order is "selling out" or something.

Sure enough, today, in a post titled "Is Pro-Life the New Gay?" (which includes the episode itself) Jill notes that indeed, some pro-choicers aren't happy.

Quoth Kate Harding at Salon:

"Law & Order's" anti-choice propaganda

On Friday night's "Law & Order," the abortion debate was represented by two separate, yet equally important, groups: The anti-choicers, who believe fetuses' rights trump women's, and the pseudo-pro-choicers, who are conveniently persuaded to agree with them by the end of the episode.

That sound? It's my head exploding.

To which Jill responds:

Kind of like a late-term baby being aborted, Kate? Not quite. Read Kate's review for descriptions of more surprising pro-life apologetics in the show, even on minor rape.

What's up? In a town bent on stirring controversy, does Hollywood now think the pro-life view is in, hot - the new gay?

Or perhaps NBC is trying to recoup lost mainstream viewers?

Or most likely, since L&O's previous 2 episodes dealing with abortion slanted way left, this was its attempt at balance?

Whatever, I'll take it.

Me too.

Friday, October 23, 2009

More Questions Than Answers

Regarding my post on Bishop-elect Sirba earlier this week, Anonymous commented thusly:

I hope that Bishop-elect Sirba is an inclusive leader, and not exclusive, as so many of the church hierarchy seem to be leaning. What is his position on Vatican II, and is he a forward thinking bishop, not backward, as in this world of changing demographics, a leader in the Catholic church must be to be effective, not living with his head in the sand, and moving towards excluding parishioners who do not fit the stereotype of a 1965 Catholic.

I'd have to say that Anonymous' comment has me asking more questions than giving answers.

First, I'm not sure what is meant by the hope that Bishop-elect Sirba is "an inclusive leader, and not exclusive". And what recent specific actions or remarks by what individuals in the American episcopate are supposedly "exclusive"?

What is Father Sirba's position on Vatican II? I'd venture to say that he, like most other priests ordained during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II — who, as a bishop, was himself so instrumental in the Council, and whose papal writings are thoroughly imbued with the 16 documents of same — is firmly committed to upholding the truths articulated by the Council Fathers therein.

What's more, I can't think of a single American bishop who believes Vatican II to be anything other than "a great gift to the Church", as John Paul II himself rightly called it. (As an aside, I'd also recommend this fine article by George Sim Johnston titled "Open Windows: Why Vatican II Was Necessary".)

I'm also not sure what is meant by the hope that Bishop-elect Sirba "is a forward thinking bishop, not backward". Taken at face value, by itself, this is a sentiment that I (and, one hopes, every Catholic) would share. But I'm not sure what exactly this comment is getting at.

Finally, at the risk of sounding obtuse, I must admit that I'm not sure what are the stereotypical features of a 1965 Catholic. If Anonymous had said a 1955 Catholic, I think I would have had a pretty good idea of what he/she meant.

But as it is, I'm left scratching my head.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Everything You Know about the Catholic Church, Science, and the Middle Ages Is Wrong

Mark Shea introduces this post, titled "The Age of Unreason", thusly:

Mike Flynn is like a walking encyclopedia of arcana about medieval science and philosophy. Yesterday, I read aloud to my wife and son most of his reply to some dude who was emitting the normal credal agitprop about the Dark Ages and Christian hatred of science and reason. If it had been a boxing match, the ref would have stopped the fight. You come away, not just laughing, but shsking your head thinking, "Poor Mr. Walker really deeply believes in his own intellectual superiority. Yet... how? What conceivable reason can he have, if he read Flynn's evisceration of his astoundingly ill-argued regurgitation of Atheist Triumphalist Talking Points, to feel anything but humiliation, embarrassment, and a driving urge to remove that wretched excuse for an essay from the web and recant in sackcloth and ashes for the sin of just pure ignorant wrong dumbness and arrogance?

My 14 year old is taking a writing class. He asked, "Why do I need to know how to argue about stuff?" I tell him, so you won't serve as a warning to others like Mr. Walker here. The man's gutted corpse is hanging from a tree branch and he's still talking as though he is Way Smarter Than You. You don't want to look a fool like that.

Thou wouldst do well to read it.

I must admit that I laughed out loud when I read that Flynn characterized Giordano Bruno as "the L. Ron Hubbard of his day". I also had to chuckle at one of the comments posted by someone else:

You didn't mention St. Macrina and automata.

I love St. Macrina. As she was on her deathbed, she cheered up her little brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa, by holding a Socratic dialogue with him. He later recorded this as "On the Soul and the Resurrection", as well as in The Life of St. Macrina.

Anyway, in the middle of all this, St. Greg points to how atheists of his day said automata proved there wasn't God or a soul, and St. Mac went into how automata indicated there was. Awesome moment in girl geek history.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bishop-elect Paul Sirba

I learned last week that Father Paul Sirba has been named the Bishop of Duluth by Pope Benedict XVI.

Father Sirba officiated at the wedding of some good friends of ours ten years ago, and later served as the pastor of Maternity of Mary Parish in St. Paul, MN, where my parents were married, and where one of my aunts currently serves on the Parish Council. I have heard nothing but good things about him. All indications are that he is a holy priest who will be a holy bishop.

Apropos of this, we had Mass offered at our office's St. Joseph Chapel today, and one of the intentions the celebrant offered was for our bishops, "who have such a difficult job".

And how.

It's so perilously easy to complain about "the bishops" — especially when it's to say they're not doing "enough" (whatever that means).

But how often do we pray for them?

[HT: Michelle at made for JOY]

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Twofer Tuesday

Because I haven't much time to write today, and because I'm over a month late in plugging my friend and co-worker Matt Yonke's latest article at Called to Communion, I shall (mostly) forego the former and wait no longer to do the latter.

Titled "Hermeneutics and the Authority of Scripture", it's about, well, hermeneutics and the authority of Scripture. Check thou it out. He also talks about the article in a podcast here.

I also happened to reread a post on Matt's blog recently about an apparently up and coming evangelical pastor named Mark Driscoll who preaches a "high octane Calvinism" that leads to an "uber-masculinity that ends up beating up anything that does not find its essence in Dudeness" (both quotes are Matt's words), which ends up getting some things dreadfully wrong, especially about sex. It's also worth a read.

Another Bubble Zone Update

We learned on Friday that Mayor Daley intends to sign the free-speech choking Bubble Zone ordinance.

In an attempt to justify his decision, the Mayor remarked, "There has to be some civility left in our society."

How ironic. The mission of sidewalk counselors is to try to prevent mothers from having their children killed — and, in the process, sparing them a lifetime of pain and regret — and they're the ones who are uncivil?

Watch No Greater Joy, our documentary on sidewalk counseling, and judge for yourself:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bubble Zone Update

The City Council passed the Bubble Zone ordinance yesterday by a vote of 28-13. It will go into effect November 17 unless Mayor Daley vetoes it.

Since last week, we've been encouraging people (regardless of where they live) to call his office and ask him to oppose it. So many people have called that when you call his office now, instead of having a real, live person answer the phone, it goes to an automated menu which asks you to press 1 if you're calling about the Bubble Zone. It then allows you to vote no by pressing 2.

You can — nay, should — make your voice heard by calling 312-744-3300 between 8:00am and 5:00pm CDT.

Here's the video of the press conference at the conclusion of our protest yesterday — at which 150 people showed up:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

If You Happen to Be Near Chicago City Hall Tomorrow

Join our Bubble Zone protest!

"Do You Support a Woman's Right to Choose?"

Note: I had intended to cross-post the following entry on Friday (I had originally posted it on the Generations for Life Blog that morning), but in my exuberance at the big news of the day, it slipped my mind. So I'm posting it now.


This morning as I was waiting to catch the train to get to work, I was approached by a guy named Robert Marshall, who is planning to run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Roland Burris. He asked if I would sign a petition to put his name on the Democratic primary ballot.

So I asked him the first question I ask anyone who tells me he's running for office:

Do you support a woman's right to choose?

The first question I used to ask was: "Are you pro-life?" But I soon realized that this is the wrong question to ask, because

Monday, October 5, 2009

"What Went Wrong?"

In the post-mortem following the crashing and burning of Chicago's doomed Olympic bid, the question a lot of people are asking is, "What went wrong?"

It seems to me the answer can be summed up in four words, à la James Carville:

It's the corruption, stupid.

John Kass offers a slightly longer explanation, and in so doing offers manfully to take the blame.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I would be doing cartwheels right now, but for the fact that I'm incapable of doing cartwheels without looking like a complete idiot.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chicago City Council Committee Votes to Choke Free Speech

I'm still waiting on details, but I just found out from one of our attorneys that the Chicago City Council's Human Relations Committee passed a "bubble zone" ordinance this morning.

Now it goes to the full City Council next Wednesday. If it passes there, we'll sue.

Here's more background from our press release this morning:

Members of the Pro-Life Action League and attorneys from the Thomas More Society will attend the Human Relations Committee meeting of the Chicago City Council TODAY at 9:00 AM Wednesday, Sept. 30. The Committee is considering an amendment to the Municipal Code to prohibit picketing within 50 feet of any medical clinic. These organizations strongly suspect this amendment is aimed at preventing pro-life people from praying and reaching out to clients of abortion facilities with information on alternatives to abortion.

Pro-life activists routinely stand on the public sidewalk at the entrances to abortion clinics in Chicago to offer information to anyone seeking services at the abortion clinics. The groups know of no incidents of intimidation, harassment or threats as referred to in the amendment introduced on Sept. 9 by Alderman Vi Daley (43rd Ward).

Both the Thomas More Society attorneys and the Pro-Life Action League contend that the amendment is unconstitutional.

Note that the IOC makes its decision in two days. If the city council is taking measures like this now, one can only imagine what sorts of tricks they'll try to pull — under the guise of ensuring "safety" and "security", natch — to restrict demonstrations near Olympic venues come 2016.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Back Protest the Bid

So I find out yesterday that an anti-Olympics rally is to take place at 5:30 this afternoon outside City Hall. Family obligations being what they are, I regret that I shan't be able to attend. But I have a feeling many, many will.

Of course there are lots of famous (and famously wealthy) people who Back the Bid, but I can't honestly recall talking to another human being in real life who hopes Chicago gets the nod three days hence.

One thing I noticed when looking at the list of sponsors of tonight's rally (including, but not limited to, groups like Green Party Chicago, Chicago Answer, and the International Socialist Organization) is something I've noticed several times before regarding opposition to the Olympics in Chicago: it consists of a broad coalition of folks, and is one of the best examples in recent memory of a truly populist cause.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Oh. My. Goodness.


Because, you know, it "would harm Chicago's chances" might prevent a small number of people from becoming really rich.

[HT: Matt Yonke]

"Even Jesus Hates You"

There has been much written in the pro-life blogosphere of late about the diabolical character of the Northern Illinois Women's Center abortion facility in Rockford, Illinois.

Just last week, the Catholic League sent a letter to the city's legal director asking that he take "appropriate action against the Center to put an end to such needless provocation" regarding a poster displayed in the center's window depicting Jesus showing His middle finger, and with the inscription "Even Jesus Hates You" below it. (The next day, the office ordered that the poster be removed.)

I know one of the pro-lifers who regularly prays outside this abortion clinic, and I happened to talk to him a few months ago. Almost anticipating what I was thinking, he told me that a lot of people tell him they would never want to pray outside an abortion clinic like this, where the evil is so palpable.

On the contrary, he said he'd rather pray outside a place like this rather than, say, the $7 million "Abortion Fortress" of Aurora — some 70 miles away — whose outside appearance completely masks the evil within (not unlike a "whitewashed tomb").

He told me, "When you see a rubber chicken on a crucifix, it makes you want to pray harder."

I hadn't thought of it that way.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hosting the Olympics = A Boon for Tourism?

Mmmm...not so much:

The dampening effect the games have on host-city—and host-nation—tourism in the periods before and after the big event (not to mention the shut-down-city effect during) has been cited by numerous observers. Officials at Atlanta's Fernbank Museum of Natural History and the Atlanta Botanical Garden, for example, say they had significant declines in attendance for 1996, the year of the Atlanta games. The slump is usually presented as a bump in the road to the gloriously increased tourism that's sure to be the games' lasting legacy. But some of the folks who study this stuff, including Mark Rosentraub, a professor of sport management at the University of Michigan, call that a fantasy. Rosentraub says the Olympics is "a good thing to do" if you manage it properly and don't build a lot of infrastructure. But it's not going to have a long-term impact on the host city's economy, and "there's no evidence that it results in a sustained increase in tourism."

A fascinating read on this subject is the Olympic Report [PDF] by the European Tour Operators Association (2006, updated in 2008), which came to the conclusion that "there appears to be little evidence of any benefit to tourism of hosting an Olympic Games, and considerable evidence of damage."

Read the whole thing.

[HT: The Dutchman]

Monday, September 21, 2009

One of the Best. Paintings. Ever.

In honor of today, the feast of St. Matthew, behold Caravaggio's The Calling of St. Matthew:

If you've never seen the original, add it to your own personal List of Things I Must Do Before I Die. It's in the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, which is home to two other [!] Caravaggios as well, both of which also feature St. Matthew.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I Defy Anyone watch this and not be moved:

Background on Team Hoyt here.

[HT: Rick at Catholic Dads]

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Case Study in the Two Phases of History

This Globe and Mail article about sex-selection abortions in India serves as yet another reminder that Mark Shea was on to something when he identified the Two Phases of History.

The Two Phases of History, you may recall, are:

1. What could it hurt?
2. How could we have known?

From the article:

But $100 on the birth of a girl – or even $2,500 at her marriage – means nothing to the country's wealthiest families. And that is where the gender gulf is yawning most deeply. The richest neighbourhoods in the country – the wealthy farming areas of the Punjab, the middle-class areas of Mumbai and other cities, and here, the leafy neighbourhoods in the south of the capital – have the biggest gaps.

High-caste families in urban areas of the Punjab have just 300 girls for every 1,000 boys, researchers financed by Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) reported last year. In South Delhi, it's 832 girls born per 1,000 boys; in the state of Haryana, home to the high-tech hub of Gurgaon, it's 822. (In “normal” circumstances, demographers expect to find 950 to 1,000 girls born for every 1,000 boys).

Conventional wisdom has long held that as India develops – as more families struggle their way into the middle class, more girls go to school and more women join the work force – traditional ideas about the lesser value of girls will erode. The incentive to abort them would fall away.

Instead, the opposite has happened, and the reasons – and solutions – have government and activists stumped.

[HT: JivinJ]

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Life Saved

I'm reposting below this entry I posted one year ago:

Today, September 14, will always hold a special place in the hearts of Jocelyn and me.

On this day in 2002, we had our first save. (For those of you unfamiliar with sidewalk counseling, a "save" happens when a mother, just steps away from entering a clinic where she has an abortion scheduled, decides instead to choose life for her baby.)

This was an especially fitting date for this manifestation of God's infinite goodness, as September 14 is the feast of the Triumph of the Cross.

For several months, we had gone on Saturday morings to stand outside of an abortion clinic on Chicago's northwest side (which, incidentally, is to be the site of a 40 Days for Life prayer vigil starting next week) to join others in prayer for the abortion-bound mothers, and for the sidewalk counselors who speak to them to warn them of the dangers abortion poses to them personally.

On this particular day, we had just finished praying the rosary, and were about to head home. Just then, one of the veteran sidewalk counselors spoke a few words to an abortion-bound mom who had just arrived with another woman, and hastily called for Jocelyn and me to come over. Both women spoke only Spanish.

The sidewalk counselor knew only a few Spanish words, but knew that Jocelyn and I spoke more than she did. (Neither of us is fluent, to be sure, but I speak it better than I understand it, and Jocelyn understands it better than she speaks it, so between the two of us, we can communicate with someone who speaks only Spanish fairly well.)

I don't remember what I said to this woman -- her name was Blasa -- but it was clear that she did not want to have an abortion. All I remember is that we offered to bring her to a place where she could get real help (a pregnancy resource center just around the corner).

Just steps away from the abortion clinic entrance, it took less than a minute for Blasa to decide that she was going to keep her baby.

The Nun Run, Part 2

I wrote last month about my friend Alicia Torres' humdinger of an idea to collect pledge money for her participation in Chicago's Half Marathon, which will help pay off her student loans so she can enter religious life.

She ran the half marathon yesterday, and that afternoon the pamilya and I attended a party in her honor at the home of some friends of ours. One of the additional fundraisers at the party was a raffle for a vacation in Vail, for which Jocelyn asked if we could buy some tickets (for $5 apiece or 5 for $20). At those prices, and considering it was going to a good cause, how could we not choose the economically more viable latter option? And so we did.

We weren't able to stay long, and it wasn't until after we got home that (a) I saw that there had been a nice article (and accompanying video on the Tribune site) featuring Alicia's "Nun Run" in yesterday's Chicago Tribune, and (b) we got a call from our friends telling us we won the raffle!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

To the Surprise of Exactly No One, the Chicago City Council Backs the Bid

The first five words speak volumes:

Giving themselves a standing ovation, aldermen eagerly jumped onto Mayor Richard Daley's Olympics bandwagon Wednesday, unanimously approving a measure that places the responsibility for cost overruns on taxpayers if Chicago hosts the 2016 Summer Games.

What a bunch of utterly shameless sycophants, the lot of them.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Breastfeeding in a Pornified Culture

"I just don't think it's proper for women to show their breasts out in public unless they're on the beach."

So said some middle-aged guy who happened upon a group of mothers taking part in a "nurse-in" in Lincoln Square Plaza last Friday in support of a fellow breastfeeding mom who was harassed (sadly, by another mom) earlier in the week.

On the one hand, this guy's comments are boorish, obnoxious, and stupid.

But on the other hand, I have to give him credit for being so up-front about his "issue" with nursing. I've heard not a few times from my beloved wife that people have told her they're "uncomfortable" with her nursing in public, but invariably the objectors fail to subsequently explain why, precisely, it disrupts their comfort level.

I'm of the opinion that nursing in public is often perceived to be indecent because it is (and has been for quite some time) done relatively rarely, due in no small part to the recommendations of a Herd of Indepdendent Thinkers who decided in the middle of the last century that the idea that babies should be fed formula somehow marked a crowning achievement for human civilization.

I say "relatively rarely" in reference to the portrayal of women's breasts as sexual, which is surely the norm in our pornified culture.

In essence, then, to the modern mind, whose perspective our boorish commenter articulates to a T, the "real" — i.e., the belief that women's breasts are primarily for nursing her children — has been replaced by the "counterfeit" — i.e., the belief that women's breasts are primarily, if not exclusively, sexual.

(As an aside: Much the same can be said of contraception and its impact on people's attitudes toward sex. To the modern mind, the "real"—i. e., the belief that openness to having a child is an essential component of sex—has been replaced by the "counterfeit"—i. e., the belief that contraceptive sex is the norm.)

It follows that those of us who believe the opposite—that the real is actually the counterfeit and vice versa—are often considered daft.

My sense is that were public nursing to be done ubiquitously, this wacky popular notion that it is indecent would wane.

[HT: R.M. Schultz via Carrie W.]

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Search for a Unique Third-Class Relic of Mother Teresa

As September 5th was the twelfth anniversary of the death of Blessed Mother Teresa, I'm reposting here this entry I originally posted on that date two years ago:

For some time, Mother Teresa has had a special place in my heart, likely stemming from my great fortune at being part of the crowd at a papal audience at Castel Gandolfo with Pope John Paul II, of happy memory, two days after she died, at which he paid tribute to his dear diminutive friend.

We named our first daughter after her. It’s especially fitting that we did so, since Teresa was born on January 21, 2003 (January 21 is the feast of St. Agnes; and Agnes was Mother Teresa’s baptismal name -- although we didn't know that at the time our Teresa was born!), and 2003 was the year she was beatified.

A few months ago I had lunch with a friend of mine whom I hadn't seen in three years. I guess you could say Jan and I were "colleagues", although I'm generally inclined to think the word "colleague" sounds hifalutin.

At any rate, she and I are both former Religion teachers at Good Counsel High School in Chicago, where she also served as our department chairman for two years. (The school closed in 2003; the building now houses a charter school.)

During the course of our conversation, Jan asked me if I had ever heard the story about the time Mother Teresa had visited Good Counsel. I said that I remembered some of the teachers mentioning something about it one time, but I was sketchy on the details.

As it turns out, Mother Teresa once visited the school for some sort of convocation on religious life (presumably sponsored by the Felician Sisters, who operated the school and whose Mother of Good Counsel Province motherhouse was located next door).

One of the Felician sisters in attendance at the convocation had the foresight to recognize that Mother Teresa would surely one day become a saint, and so, after the event, this sister took the chair in which Mother Teresa had sat, put some sort of identifying mark on the underside of it -- with masking tape, as I recall -- and put it in a storage room. For, were Mother Teresa to become a saint, the sisters would then have their very own third-class relic.

After it was announced in the fall of 2002 that Good Counsel would be closing the following spring, the sister who had stored Mother Teresa's chair contacted Jan about it, because she couldn't remember where she put it! By that time, Jan had left GC and taken a teaching job in another state, but she called another former of colleague of ours -- Nancy, also a Religion teacher -- and told her about the missing chair/third-class-relic-to-be.

Nancy was teaching freshmen that year, and so decided to elicit the help of her charges in looking for said chair. So, she led them on what could, in a manner of speaking, be considered a mini-pilgrimage -- it was, after all, a quest for a relic -- and dispatched them to search the nooks and crannies of the school.

Sure enough, they found the chair. I'm told it's now in safe keeping at the Felician Sisters' motherhouse.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Two Powerful Commercials

A couple months ago, whilst manning a display booth for the Pro-Life Action League at an event at St. John Cantius, I ran into a fellow from the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office of Evangelization, who mentioned that his office was preparing to implement the Catholics Come Home campaign.

I had heard only good things about CCH, so I was really glad to hear that. Now I find out via Mr. H. at All Hands on Deck! that the first phase of the program will include airing a series of commercials on local TV stations in December and January.

Their best known — and amazingly cool — ad, "Epic" is here:

Also excellent is another one called "Movie":

Thursday, September 3, 2009


(HT: Mark Shea via Matt Yonke)

This video reminds me of a joke:

What did the Calvinist say after he fell down the stairs?

"I'm glad I got that over with."

Monday, August 31, 2009

Marriage and the Eucharist

Yesterday the pamilya and I attended the wedding of some friends of ours. Not only for our kids but also for Jocelyn and me, this was our first time attending a Syro-Malabar wedding, which was celebrated at the Cathedral Church of St. Thomas in Bellwood, IL.

I might have guessed that the wedding would be celebrated within the context of a Mass (especially considering it was on a Sunday afternoon), but since I was not entirely familiar with the Syro-Malabar tradition, I figured we'd better go to Mass Sunday morning, lest we be lax in our observance of the Third Commandment.

Lo and behold, not only was the wedding — which was in all respects a most beautiful and joyous occasion &mdash celerated within the context of a Mass, but the priest's homily focused on precisely why it's entirely fitting for the Sacrament of Matrimony to be celebrated in the context of the celebration of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

The main lesson I took away from it is one I'd not considered before. In the same way, the priest noted, that at the words of consecration, even though the appearance, shape, texture, etc. of the bread and wine remain, they are no longer bread and wine — rather, they are the Body and Blood of Christ; so too when a man and woman are joined in the Sacrament of Matrimony, although they still appear to be two distinct individuals, they no longer are — rather, they have become one.

I'd have to say it was one of the better homilies I've heard in some time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

FDA Puts the Brakes on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Trial

Earlier this year I wrote about the FDA's decision to approve a Geron Corporation embryonic stem cell trial in humans, for which I was interviewed by CBS2 News. (You can see the hopelessly biased story here.)

After the interview, off-camera, I remarked to the reporter that I hoped no spinal cord injury patients would end up getting hurt as a result of this trial, but given the tendency of embryonic stem cells to form tumors, I couldn't see much reason for optimism.

Now we find out that the trial is being "delayed". And, given Geron's history of snake oil salesmanship, the rapacious hucksters may never get their chance.

Meanwhile, advances in adult stem cell research continue apace.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Our Tax Dollars at Work

Not far from of our office, on Cicero Avenue, about two blocks south of Peterson Avenue, is this sign:

There's another such sign about a mile west of Haus Jansen, along 26th Street, just east of Harlem Avenue.

I've seen several other such signs around Chicagoland recently. No doubt there are hundreds (thousands?) more elsewhere around the country.

For them that don't know, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is what most of us call simply "The Stimulus". And so, as a result of these signs, we now know that some of the $787 billion of our tax dollars are being used to fund repairs on state and local roads (not to mention the signs themselves).

Could someone explain to me why the good people of Boston, Charleston, Dayton, Louisiana, Washington, Houston, Kingston, Texarkana, Monterey, Faraday, Santa Fe, Tallapoosa, Glen Rock, Black Rock, Little Rock, Oskaloosa, Tennessee, Hennessey, Chicopee, Spirit Lake, Grand Lake, Devils Lake, or Crater Lake (for Pete's sake) should have to pay for roads to be repaired in Illinois?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bike Helmets

I just posted this on the Catholic Dads Blog:

My parents came in from Minneapolis yesterday, and they'll be staying with us for the next week. (Happily, this will allow them to join us for the St. John Cantius Parish picnic this Sunday, which The Dutchman posted about yesterday.)

Knowing that our eldest daughter Teresa just learned to ride a bike a couple weeks ago, my mom had cut out a column for me that recently appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune by one of my favorite writers, James Lileks, in which he reflected on his experience teaching his daughter to ride a bike:

No parent can teach a child to ride a bike without being overwhelmed with the accursed metaphorical nature of it all: You hold them as they practice, then take your hands off as they gain skill. You trotting alongside, ready to intercede should gravity make a play for your fragile little egg. Watch the turns. Don't overcompensate. Keep your speed up. The skill is soon mastered, and she's riding by herself. You stay there. She rides away, makes the turn, comes back.

"You know what this is?" I said, patting the frame. "Freedom."

She rolled her eyes. From what?

Oh, it'll come to you. And it'll take you away. The moment I saw her pedal away I foresaw the nights I'd worry when she was late pedaling back to the house, after a glorious twilight tour of the world we want her to explore. The bike became the car; the car became college; college became the Future, where there aren't helmet laws and you're not leaning up against the car in the parking lot, thinking, well, worst-case scenario, I have Band-Aids in the glovebox.

But there isn't an alternative. You teach them to ride; you teach them to go. You hope they wear a helmet and brake when the sign says stop.

Read the whole thing—you'll be glad you did.

Interestingly, I had intended a few days ago to post an entry here on Catholic Dads about the whole helmet issue, and this column has prompted me to do so today.

On the one hand, it seems to me that the push for kids to wear helmets when they first learn to ride a bike is a bit silly, and is merely one of the consequences of living in an outrageously litigious society.

On the other hand, as a dad who is concerned for the well-being of his children and who wants them to acquire good safety habits early on — and, I must admit, as someone who regularly wears a bike helmet himself — I can see the value in it.

I should also point out that Jocelyn's (my wife's) feelings on the matter are unambiguous: she's pretty insistently pro-helmet from the get-go. And so, considering my own ambivalence on the matter, I've gone along with her.

I would be curious to hear from my fellow Catholic Dads on the helmet issue:

At what age, if any, do/did/will you insist your kids wear bike helmets?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

EEOC to Catholic College: Drop Dead

I can't say as I'm surprised:

Feds Accuse Catholic Belmont Abbey College of Sexual Discrimination for Not Covering Contraception

So much for separation of church and state.

Thankfully, the BAC powers that be aren't backing down.

From the article:

"As a Roman Catholic institution, Belmont Abbey College is not able to and will not offer nor subsidize medical services that contradict the clear teaching of the Catholic Church," said Belmont Abbey President William Thierfelder. "There was no other course of action possible if we were to operate in fidelity to our mission and to our identity as a Catholic college."

After faculty members filed complaints with the EEOC and the North Carolina Department of Insurance, Belmont Abbey says the EEOC told the school in March 2009 that it would close the file on the discrimination charge, as it had not found the school's decision in violation of its statutes. But the agency later reversed itself, and issued a determination letter to the school on August 5 affirming that the ban amounted to gender discrimination, because it pertains only to women.

"By denying prescription contraception drugs, Respondent (the college) is discriminating based on gender because only females take oral prescription contraceptives," wrote Reuben Daniels Jr., the EEOC Charlotte District Office Director in the determination. [emphasis added]

Aside from presenting us with a clear example of bureaucracy run amok, Daniels' comment also provides with what could rightly be called a "teachable moment".

He noted that only women take oral contraceptives. This, of course, begs the question prompts the question: Why is there no contraceptive pill for men?

The redoubtable Dr. Janet Smith explains why in her talk "Contraception: Why Not":

There's a wonderful book out by Dr. Ellen Grant called The Bitter Pill. She was very much in on distributing contraceptives in the 60's in London, but she saw woman after woman coming in with different pathologies that she found were pill-related high blood pressure, blood clots, cysts in the breast, all sorts of things.

So, she said, "I'm not going to prescribe these anymore." She looked into this and she discovered, that when they were first testing for the pill, they were trying to find a male contraceptive and a female contraceptive pill.

And in the first study group of males, they found that there was some slight shrinkage of the testicles of one male, so they stopped all testing of the male contraceptive pill.

You might notice that there is no such thing in the first study group of females. Three females died and they just readjusted the dosage.

Let's read that again:

And in the first study group of males, they found that there was some slight shrinkage of the testicles of one male, so they stopped all testing of the male contraceptive pill.

And this:

You might notice that there is no such thing in the first study group of females. Three females died and they just readjusted the dosage. [!]

Smith continues:

Now, I don't know what that tells you, but it tells me that there's something sinister going on here. Women are still dying from the pill.

If you look at the insert in any set of pills, you can get this from a pharmacist if you can't find it elsewhere, it says such things as the pill will cause blood clots, high blood pressure, heart disease, greater increase of some kinds of cancer, infertility.

Now, these are very small percentages where this happens, but there are some sixteen million women in the United States on the pill. Sixteen million.

And even a very small percentage is still a very large number of women. Not to mention the day by day side effects. These always fascinate me.

Most women, in fact, 50% of women who start on the pill, stop within the first year because of unpleasant side effects. So, these side effects are really largely those of the sixteen million who continue, so you can imagine how bad they must be for the 50% who stop.

It's not Belmont Abbey College that's mistreating women.

It's the Pill.

Is There a Pattern Here?

This reminds me of this.

[HT: Christina Dunigan at Real Choice]

Monday, August 10, 2009

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Nun Run

A friend of mine and fellow Loyola graduate Alicia Torres is planning to enter religious life as a Franciscan Sister. But before she can do that, she needs to pay off her student loans.

To help do that, she's come up with a fantastic idea:

Ave Maria! Welcome to The NunRun. Maybe you are familiar with this Catholic catchphrase, but instead of a weekend of young women visiting several convents to discern (prayerfully seek) whether they are called to become nuns themselves, I am taking the NunRun to a literal level!

This September 13, myself and a group of generous friends will run the Chicago Half Marathon
–13.1 miles along the beautiful lakefront–with the goal of raising funds to help me remit my educational debt so I may enter Religious Life!

Training is in full swing, and every day I try more and more to surrender to God’s mercy and grace. As you read through the pages on this site, I invite you to learn a little more about me, my friends, the Laboure Society and the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels on Chicago’s West Side.

As I try to learn more and more what humility truly is, I ask you to consider supporting me! I cannot say how important prayer support is, and your prayers for this effort are invaluable and most crucial. If you are in a position to support the NunRun financially, please visit Donate Today!

When I began to consider this endeavor, the words of St. Paul came to mind. His ability to use athletic imagery to help us understand the Spiritual journey is amazing! “Do you not know that in a race all runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.”

Through your prayers and support, and above all God’s Divine Mercy and Providence, like Paul I aim to run to obtain the pearl of great price: freedom to give myself totally to Christ as a Religious Sister!

If you feel so inclined to help Alicia get one step closer to becoming a Franciscan Sister—and believe me, she'll make a great one—please consider making a donation to the Laboure Society in her honor.