Columnists and contributors
Jack Shaughnessy Sr., hall of famer, cheerful giver
Sports fans love to debate whether a particular professional athlete's accomplishments over a long period of time are worthy of the particular sport's hall of fame. Within the Catholic Church, I like to think that we have our "eternal hall of fame" made up of the saints in heaven. At a more local level, each diocese and each parish has been made up of "hall of famers" that have defined great role models and leaders from each community of faithful disciples.
Why complicate something so simple?
Apostolic exhortations tend to be quickly forgotten. When was the last time you perused "Ecclesia in Africa" (1995) or "Pastores gregis" (2003)? Like great books, they seem to remain part of the "canon" of what faithful Catholics read, only because they both are highly relevant and greatly beloved. Probably only two of the 15 exhortations of John Paul II have this status. For guidance on Catholic family life, nothing is better than "Familiaris cosortio," cherished as much now as when it was written in 1981; and "Christifidelis laici" (1988) remains one of the best explanations of the lay apostolate.
The Christmas spirit
During the four weeks before Christmas we celebrate Advent, the time of preparation for the coming of Christ. While the Advent season in the Church is a quiet period of prayer and reflection, in the secular world the month before Christmas is a busy, noisy time. Nonstop advertising encourages us to buy, buy, buy and not just for others. There is a subtle message that we can also buy for ourselves. Shops sprout Christmas decorations right after they remove those celebrating Halloween. Radio stations play nonstop Christmas music. Every TV series has a special Christmas episode and cable television runs back-to-back Christmas themed movies. While the Christmas music is a combination of secular tunes and classic Christmas carols, the made for TV movies almost never mention the reason for the season. However, this does not mean that they are ignoring the spirit of Christmas.
Father Paul Soper
Pastoral Planning notes: It's not rocket science
The change in velocity (delta-v) of a rocket is equal to the exhaust velocity of the propellant times the natural logarithm of the total initial mass of the rocket divided by its final mass after the propellant has been expelled. This is called the ideal rocket equation. This is rocket science. I like rocket science. And parish based evangelization is not rocket science.
From earth to heaven... or Cooperstown
Halls of Fame are a dime a dozen. Every high school has one. So, increasingly, do middle schools. Are grammar schools next? Every profession maintains one, save perhaps for the world's oldest. Should you be any such proud honoree you are free to exult even if the distinction -- plus a buck -- will no longer buy you even a good cup of coffee.
Father Robert Barron
C.S. Lewis and the art of evangelization
Two famous men died on November 22, 1963. The first did so in the most dramatic way possible, assassinated in the full glare of publicity on the streets of Dallas; the second in relative obscurity, in the upstairs bedroom of his simple home on the outskirts of Oxford, England. John F. Kennedy's legacy has, of course, been enormous, but I wonder whether C.S. Lewis has actually, in the course of these past 50 years, had a greater impact on the culture than his counterpart. When he died at the age of 65, Lewis's reputation was on the wane, but he has enjoyed an extraordinary posthumous vogue, as two successive generations have delighted in his literary criticism, his novels, and above all, his clever and incisive Christian apologetics.
David and Angela Franks
An apocalypse of joy
The leaves are down. The year is old. Between fall and winter waft up the homey smells of Thanksgiving and Advent, with the warmth of indoors and the tea. An oaken and mellow delight, seismic with all the thunder of melancholy.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe
Grumpy and grateful
I don't know what's wrong with me, but lately, I've been slipping into grumpy too much and too fast. Sure, my life is stressful -- full-time work, full-time family, part-time lots of other things. Too much to keep up with, too much to do, and too much I'd like to do but can't. Never enough time, or money, or energy. But despite my share of the real burdens we all have, I know that I have so very much to be grateful for.
The gift that keeps on giving -- A-Rod
In the mad, mad, mad, mad world of the unsinkable Alex Rodriguez these are the best of times. There he sits at the epicenter of that narrow universe he has so long occupied with occasional degrees of dominance. And yet never before has it been quite so unequivocally ..."all about Him."
Dwight G. Duncan
Free contraception for everyone at whose expense?
November has brought us two federal appeals court rulings that the contraceptive mandate, a regulation under Obama's Affordable Care Act requiring employers over a certain size to provide insurance for free contraceptives, morning-after pills, and sterilization, most likely violates religious freedom as codified in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The D.C. Circuit ruled on Nov. 1 that the mandate placed a substantial burden on the religious practice of the Girardi brothers, who as conscientious Catholics are opposed to contraception and who co-own a grocery chain called Freshway Foods. The Court held that the government had not demonstrated that there was a compelling government interest that was advanced for the regulation in the least religiously-restrictive way possible, as the law requires. The brothers were therefore entitled to a preliminary injunction against the mandate.
In the mid 1980s my wife, two young daughters and I lived in a poor urban neighborhood on the outskirts of Quito, Ecuador. While running water and electricity were erratic, trash pickup took place every day save Sunday. As was customary each day for all of us in the neighborhood, one spring morning I placed our small container of garbage on the sidewalk just outside the front door. Just as I was turning to go back inside, I could see an elderly indigenous woman approaching with a scruffy, malnourished dog a step or two behind her. She was dressed traditionally in many layers of skirts, a colorful (if very worn) top and brown bowler hat. Before I could say "good morning" to her she nodded, reached for the garbage pail and began to search through it. I froze for a second, trying to find the right words: "Senora, please stop! We have food inside." "Do you need money?" I was quite sure she was Quechua speaking, but Spanish was the best I could do. Before a single word made its way to my lips she had found part of a chicken carcass (skin, grizzle and a tiny bit of meat still attached) and put it in the plastic bag tied to her belt. I still had no words. For her part, she looked up at me with a small smile to counterbalance her sad eyes and quietly said, "Le agradezco, Senor." (Thank you, sir) and moved on to the next household. I never saw her again, but I know for certain more light filled that spring morning than I could have ever imagined.
JFK after 50 years
On Nov. 22, 1963, the seventh grade at Baltimore's Cathedral School was in gym class when we got word that President Kennedy had been shot. A half-hour later, while we were climbing the stairs back to 7B's classroom, Sister Dolorine's voice came over the p.a., announcing that the president was dead. Walking into 7B, my classmates and I saw something that shocked us as much as the news we'd just heard: our tough-love homeroom teacher, a young School Sister of Notre Dame, was sobbing, her faced buried in her arms on her desk.
A new form of dating; a new society
The entertainment industry does exceptionally well in highlighting the advantages and thrills of falling in love. What it doesn't do so well is to give people clues as to how to stay in love. This shouldn't surprise us because falling in love is a lot of fun and it doesn't take a lot of work. But this one-sided emphasis on the hormonal and emotional phase of love -- while overlooking the sacrifices and graces necessary to sustain a relationship -- is a recipe for disaster; both for couples and society at large. Perhaps, this is why more people in recent years are giving up on marriage altogether.
Sister Marian Batho, CSJ
A moment of thanks for a lifetime of service
"Where would we be without the Sisters? They taught me and formed me in the Catholic Faith. Their sacrifices made me the person I am today."
It's time to catch up on various, stray issues and questions while waiting for baseball's Hot Stove Season to warm up. With the defanged Yankees suddenly pussyfooting the scene, they once so dominated it may never quite come to a boil this year. You need a desperate team with a nutty owner to drive the process and all the usual suspects appear to be wising up.
Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk
Sex, truth and the illumination of our guilt
Guilt has gotten a lot of bad press recently. We live in an age where guilt is practically always something bad, something to get past with the help of a shrink. Particularly when discussing sex, people will declare that religion and morality do nothing more than make people feel guilty. Andrew Aaron, a sex and marriage therapist in New Bedford seems to subscribe to this view: "Through centuries," he writes, "religious education has associated sex with what is wrong and sinful rather than what is sacred. Instead of an expression of the divine, sex is suspiciously regarded as weakness of the flesh. The result of this influence is that sexuality, a natural part of being human, is tainted with shame, guilt, and ambivalence."
At this time of year, as we reflect upon our many blessings, I know that I count among my own blessings the many people that are Catholic Charities -- those we serve and those who serve. Our staff of 600 full and part-time professionals is ably supported in their work by nearly 3,000 volunteers, donating well over 200,000 hours of service over the past year.
Kevin and Marilyn Ryan
Sell a painting, feed the poor
Often strident voices demand in the name of Christ that the Vatican could sell its precious paintings and use the funds to feed the poor. There are hungry people all over the world. Some reports claim that in our wealthy nation one in six Americans goes to bed hungry. Visitors to Delhi, India and Sao Paulo, Brazil report their shock at the hoards of beggars in streets or favelas constructed of tin and scraps perched on dangerous ravines.
Cardinal Dolan -- Recognizing the right leader at the right time for the USCCB
This week in Baltimore, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) elected Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville to a three-year term as the USCCB president, succeeding Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. Archbishop Kurtz had served as the conference's vice-president for the past three years and his election this week followed the usual pattern of a vice-president ascending to the presidency.
Now that baseball is done we are free to sit back and savor the merry mayhem of the National Football League although it can be argued -- and will be here -- that the biggest game of the season has already been played, although who won or lost surely depends on your point of view about many things.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe
The falconer's apprentice
Our family has a bit of a reputation for pursuing the unusual. But in the 30 years of often off-beat activities and interests, I think we've reached the pinnacle mix of both odd and amazing we're ever likely to reach. In the last three weeks, after more than a few years of talk and over three years of active preparation, our now 17-year-old son has acquired both his falconry apprentice license--and his immature red tail hawk.