Monthly Archives: September 2011
— 1 —
I’m a little late today. I took the day off as I’m still catching up on items that were neglected during a hectic summer baseball season. I drank the last of my coffee (must go shopping before the weekend!) and sat outside in the very chilly morning to pray the Divine Office. Today is the feast day for St. Jerome and I read a selection of his now seventeen hundred year old writings on wisdom as the sun splashed upon the pages from its vantage point between the trees. Had I gone to work I’d have been prepping for yet another meeting. Mornings like this all too rare, and very welcome.
Of course here in Nebraska we’re all looking forward to the big game tomorrow between Nebraska and Wisconsin. Or “the Battle between the Cornhats and the Cheeseheads.” I prefer Herbie vs. Bucky myself.
— 2 —
I couldn’t let the week go by without a word on the events in baseball on the final night of the season. As a Red Sox fan it was a night to forget, of course. In fact the entire month is already being erased from my brain. The collapse is by now well documented so I won’t write of it here. All I can say is that the team I saw play the last few days of the season was not the same team I watched play all summer long when they were the best team in baseball, including the two times I saw them play in person. Injuries had simply decimated the team to the point that the nine I saw on the field Wednesday night may have had “Boston” on their jerseys, but it was not the same team. I’ve also avoided watching or reading about it until last night when ESPN was gleeful to report all of the fallout. It seems the talk radio yakkers in New England want a sacrifice for the collapse and are clamoring for it to be the two men responsible for two world championships over the past seven years, ending the 86-year drought. Big mistake. Theo Esptein (the general manager) brought in the best players available and Terry Francona (the manager) did a fine job with what he had until the injuries just got to be too much. The last I checked, it was the players with bats and balls and gloves in their hands, not Theo and Tito. The players, for all of their efforts, failed. To compound that by tossing out management would be a mistake.
— 3 —
That’s the night from my Red Sox fan point of view. From my vantage point as a baseball fan all I can say is what a fantastic night! This is why this time of year is the best time of year. Two teams that were playing their worst at the end of the year both were eliminated and thus did not limp into the playoffs. The two teams that caught them are playing at their best. All eight teams have a legitimate shot to win. And the five minutes of drama that occurred in Baltimore and then in Tampa back-to-back was among the greatest I’d ever seen. Of course I wish it had happened the opposite way, but that’s baseball. Hell, that’s life. And I appreciate all of my friends and family who called or texted or emailed me to make sure I hadn’t thrown myself on any sharp objects around the house. My wife hid them all. And the advantage to living in Nebraska is the lack of tall building or bridges. Falling three to five stories wouldn’t kill me. It would just inflict more pain.
— 4 —
You probably have seen this incredible site but just in case you haven’t yet do yourself a favor and check it out. Click on one of the numbers, navigate by hitting the + or – sign to get closer or farther away, then use your arrow keys to either get a full 360 degree view or up or down arrow keys to gaze at the stunning ceiling or mosaic floor. This is about the best way to explore and appreciate the Basilica next to actually being there.
— 5 —
This is a pretty good illustration of why I’m not a huge fan of comboxes on the internet. I realize this is a parody, but if you look at any comments posted on YouTube, news sites, or your local paper the lack of civility or decency is astounding. Poor Beaker.
“We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, of killings, of wars, of hatred.
If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other.”
~ Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
The culture of death marches ever on. It’s worse than ever in our nation’s largest city. How did we get here? First, a little background that will make a few people uncomfortable.
“The most merciful thing that a family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” – Margaret Sanger (editor). The Woman Rebel, Volume I, Number 1. Reprinted in Woman and the New Race. New York: Brentanos Publishers, 1922.
“Birth control must lead ultimately to a cleaner race.” – Margaret Sanger. Woman, Morality, and Birth Control. New York: New York Publishing Company, 1922. Page 12.
Those are just two of the many horrifying things she said. You can read even more of Sanger in her own words by doing some research. The scandal isn’t just that she said these things, but that people today ignore them and continue the unabated wholescale slaughter. It’s incredibly sad that so many go mindlessly along with her and her ideas, whether they realize it or not.
And lest you think those ideas died with her, and no one says or things those things anymore, here is a more recent example courtesy of Jonah Goldberg:
In 1992, Ron Weddington, co-counsel in the Roe v. Wade case, wrote a letter to President-elect Clinton, imploring him to rush RU-486 — a.k.a. “the abortion pill” — to market as quickly as possible.
“(Y)ou can start immediately to eliminate the barely educated, unhealthy and poor segment of our country,” Weddington insisted. All the president had to do was make abortion cheap and easy for the populations we don’t want. “It’s what we all know is true, but we only whisper it. . . . Think of all the poverty, crime and misery . . . and then add 30 million unwanted babies to the scenario. We lost a lot of ground during the Reagan-Bush religious orgy. We don’t have a lot of time left.”
Weddington offered a clue about who, in particular, he had in mind: “For every Jesse Jackson who has fought his way out of the poverty of a large family, there are millions mired in poverty, drugs and crime.” Ah, right. Jesse Jackson. Got it.
There’s more, including a breathtaking statement by writer Nicholas von Hoffman to “…get rid of the thing before it turns into a monster.”
One more, from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2009:
“Frankly I had thought that at the time [Roe v. Wade] was decided there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”
And all this time the pro-choice crowd has been telling us it’s about choice. I guess their “choice” is to eliminate the “little monsters that they “don’t want to have too many of.”
You may remember earlier this year when New York City released data that showed over 41% of all pregnancies ending in abortion. What it didn’t show was that 60% of those babies were African-American.
New data on New York City’s abortion statistics reveals an abortion ratio almost twice the national average. The report, provided by the New York City Department of Health at the request of the Chiaroscuro Foundation, a New York City non-for-profit organization that supports alternatives to abortion, said that of 225,667 pregnancies in 2009, there were 87,273 abortions.
Abortion rate statistics show that the zip code with the highest abortion ratio in the city, 67%, is in Manhattan’s Chelsea-Clinton neighborhood, followed by rates of 60% in two Jamaica, Queens zip codes and in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village and Central Harlem-Morningside Heights neighborhoods.
The five zip codes with the lowest abortion ratios are on the Upper East Side, in Lower Manhattan, on the Upper West Side, and in Borough Park, Brooklyn. While there are several mostly white neighborhoods among the highest rates, there is not a zip code with less than 57% white residents according to 2010 census data among the lowest rates. About 60% of African-American women’s unborn babies were aborted, 41.3% for Hispanic women, 22.7% for Asians, and 21.4% for Caucasians.
The data revealed that in 2009, 48,627 of the 87,273 abortions in New York City, or 56%, were repeat abortions. 33,401, 38%, were paid for by Medicaid.
The demographic breakdown of the fifteen zip codes with the highest rates versus the fifteen with the lowest rates of abortion is here. What immediately jumps out at you is the disparity between the white and black population.
It would seem that Margaret Sanger is getting her wish after all. Her every racist eugenic fantasy has come true.
The survey they took is here. You’ll want to read the conclusion because it flies in the face of everything a pro-choice politician, Planned Parenthood supporter or the media will tell you.
Overall, voters say that the current rate of abortion in New York City is too high, particularly among the African American community. However, prior to being informed, voters’ perception of the abortion rate is significantly lower than reality. (Note: they thought it was only 25.7%. The national average is 23%.) Despite the fact that New York City voters tend to be pro-choice (Note: 67% of those surveyed identified themselves as pro-choice; 29% as pro-life.), they approve of several measures to reduce the rate of abortions such as providing information on the procedure and options to women, parental consent for minors, and a 24 hour waiting period before an abortion can be performed. They also oppose using state tax dollars to pay for abortion and oppose forcing health care workers to assist in abortions against their conscience.
To everyone who called me a racist for opposing President Obama’s economic policies I ask this question: would it be fair of me to state that anyone who is a supporter of Planned Parenthood is a racist? Why not?
I’ll tell you why. Because both are intellectually lazy and stupid arguments. I don’t believe everyone who is pro-choice or pro-Planned Parenthood is a racist. But I do believe the vast majority of you are misinformed and naive, much like the NYC voters who underestimated the abortion rate of their city by a wide margin. Next week I’ll be publishing a post that will demonstrate the truth of my statement with much clarity.
Sanger’s not the only one with blood on her hands. It’s on all of us.
NYC 41 Percent is on Facebook.
Gregory Pfundstein takes a look at one of the zip codes with the lowest rates of abortion and finds a reason for hope amidst the darkness. You’ll want to read it all. Mary, Mother of the Unborn, pray for us.
I always become a little melancholy this time of year. Summer is turning to autumn which means the long winter lies ahead. Baseball season will soon be over (the Red Sox seem determined to end it early this year), and while we will have football to get us through half the winter, it will end in the numbing cold of late January leaving us several weeks before spring training and the boys of summer arrive once more.
But why be so blue? After all, it is among the prettiest times of year. Leaves are turning, there is a clean crispness in the air, and if one is lucky they can catch whiffs of hearth fires burning. I grew up knowing there were four seasons in a year, but really just believed in three: baseball season, football season and (to a lesser extent) basketball season. After becoming a Catholic I learned about another calendar: The Liturgical Year. And, in the Church’s liturgy, it’s the second round of Ordinary Time.
Turning to the sports calendar it’s playoff time and the World Series is on deck. Whether your team is alive or not it is the most exciting time of the baseball season. And the young college football season has kicked off, too. But one can’t ignore the specter of the winter that lies ahead.
Or that’s how I used to be. And that’s why I embraced the liturgical calendar so much. Sure, Ordinary Time sounds well…ordinary. But it’s anything but ordinary. It, and winter, is a time of preparation before the new year, Advent followed by Christmas, will soon arrive.
“We are an Easter people, and alleluia is our song.” – Pope John Paul II
Regarded as the “bleakest” of the seasons, winter serves essentially as the adagio of the calendar year. It stands in much the same place as does the Third Movement of Beethoven’s Ninth. Far from being weak, it prepares us, through sorrow, for glory. I no longer find it to be so bleak.
This second period of Ordinary Time (the first part of Ordinary Time is sandwiched between Christmas and Lent) focuses on the importance of the Christ event for the life of the believing community. It celebrates the presence of Christ’s Spirit in the members of his body and looks to the fulfillment of the kingdom that is to come. This period of Ordinary Time not only ends the Church’s liturgical year but also heralds in the new. It shares with Advent a deep concern for the final (The Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell) nature of the Christ event and helps us to view all that happens to us with the eyes of faith. It is in this season that we look back (Pentecost), look around (the continuation of Christ’s mission on earth, the Sacraments, and grace), and look forward (the four last things). By using this approach to examine our lives during this period of Ordinary Time, we uncover a call to urgent living. We come face to face with our own mortality. Seeing that we have only one life to live and that we have no idea when our own final hour will come, a sense of urgency to live our life the best way we know how gradually arises in our hearts. It reminds us that where our treasure is, there also we will find our hearts. (Matthew 6:19-21).
This call is not a call to compulsive living. It does not mean busying ourselves with our work and leaving no time for our relationships with ourselves, others, and God. Living life with urgency does not mean fitting more and more into less and less increments of time. It asks us only to allow God to accompany us in our daily tasks. The call to urgency means that we take a good look inside our hearts and ask ourselves what matters most to us in life.
And here’s where at long last I’ll get to my point.
“Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded together…” – Charles Dickens (Great Expectations)
While I can safely be accused of reflecting on events throughout the year, it is without a doubt during autumn that I do it the most. I don’t know why, but it’s always been that way. And even moreso since I became Catholic over eighteen years ago and began to follow the readings from Scripture at daily Mass. This year is shaping up to be no different. Every year on earth brings more exposure to saying goodbye it seems. I suppose this makes sense as I am getting older. Whether by indifference or due to death, the parting of ways is increasingly prevalent. We grow up, grow old and grow apart. The embers of friendship cool and grow cold, much as the temperatures do outside. Good friends are diagnosed with illnesses that are unpredictable at best.
Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
T.S. Eliot, “East Coker” (The Four Quartets)
Facing this reality we may find ourselves reflecting upon our own lives. Of things we did do or should have done. I don’t do this to endlessly beat myself up, but this self-examination is important to assist one in accepting God’s grace, forgiving oneself (often the hardest person in the world to forgive) and moving forward with life. These are “lessons in humility” as Don Henley sang in “The Genie” in 2001 that help us to go forward and answer that call to urgent living that I mentioned earlier.
And the past comes back to smack you around
For all the things you thought you got for free
For the arrogance to think that you could somehow
Defy the laws of gravity
These are lessons in humility
Penitence for past offenses
That is always the part no one likes to think about. Not just judgment from God or from others, but having to judge ourselves. It’s not often pretty, but in the end it bears fruit because we dare to look at that man or woman in the mirror with intensity and honesty.
“I should have gone to confession before driving class tonight. You never know the date or the hour,” my oldest son quipped this week, paraphrasing St. Matthew when describing the capabilities of the other person he was partnered with in his weekly driver’s education lesson on the streets of our town. Apparently she’s more than a little erratic.
Life is often erratic. It’s not all smooth sailing. In the end we make most of our own waves that crash into the boats of other lives and sometimes bounce back harder into our own. Or sometimes they happen for reasons not known to us, but we still have a choice as to how we’ll react to them.
This week I received an email from a dear friend of mine that confirmed she had been diagnosed with cancer. Without giving her away I will quote something she wrote because I found a deep strength within it:
I am past the panic and pity party. I really and truly have turned it all over to God. I have many wonderful friends and family that are praying. And so am I. … My heart and soul are in a better place. I do have cancer. I will have to have surgery. Anything beyond that isn’t certain. … Decisions to be made after we get all the data we need. Plus side, it is early…you can’t even feel the mass. Caught on mammogram. Make your wife stay current with hers. … Also on the plus side, I have some of the most amazing friends. Angels disguised as humans. Anyway, one can never ever get too many prayers so keep them flowing, please.
As Eliot continued in East Coker:
Old men ought to be explorers*
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.
(*I would change the first line to read “Older men and women ought to be explorers.”)
My friend is an explorer. She is a prime example of one who is being still while still moving.
This represents one of the paradoxes of the liturgical calendar. For those of us who utilize it, our experience is, at one and the same time, both forward moving and cyclical, an image of an upward spiral. We are journeying upwards towards God through a series of cleansing, transformative and unitive experiences. We are reminded that our journey to God is not merely an individual venture, but one of an entire people: explorers finding their end in their beginning. And that’s nothing to be melancholy about.
Note: There Is a Season: Living the Liturgical Year, by Dennis J. Billy and published by Liguori Publications was used while researching portions of this post.
— 1 —
Like the rest of the world (or so it seemed) I was less than enamored with the changes rolled out by Facebook mid-week. It wasn’t so much the news feed changes that bothered me. But what did bother me was the Twitter-like feed that now resides in the upper left-hand corner. It’s too much information and it seems to have removed any illusions we may have yet had about privacy on Facebook. Because now I can see any comments or posts that my friends make on their friends’ walls, even if I don’t know these people from Adam. Today they announced even more changes coming down the pike and while they are techno-geeky cool, it just proves that the latest and greatest technology is not always a great thing. I seem to recall that I was on MySpace for about a year about six or seven years ago and found it to be a nightmare of a user interface and experience. Facebook was so appealing because it’s design was so simple. What they appear to be doing is creating MySpace 2.0 with their new profile visual timeline. While I already had a Google account and did sign up for Google+ I’m not sure I wish to start over. But I do think my days on Facebook are now definitively numbered.
— 2 —
The state of Red Sox Nation as we head into the final days of the 2011 season. Not ready to jump, but looking down into the abyss and considering our options.
— 3 —
Quote of the Week: “For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”
Some will recognize this quote from the historical Old Testament Book of Ruth (1:16b). I had never heard it until I met the woman who would become my wife. She first shared it with me when we were engaged. I remember thinking “now there was a woman who was devoted to her husband! My fiancé must really be expressing how she feels about me.” Well…yes and no. Because in this particular passage Ruth is saying this to Naomi, the mother of Ruth’s deceased husband. Naomi is herself a widow and is trying to get Ruth to leave her by returning to Ruth’s own country and to find a new husband and get on with her life. Ruth will have none of it, and instead is devoted to this poor old widow and decides to stay with her. Ruth chooses Israel, the living God, and her mother-in-law. Now that’s devotion!
— 4 —
I hadn’t thought much of this passage other than when I would encounter at Mass through the years. Recently I made the decision to do some in-depth study of the Psalms in order to write a series of meditations, or stories, which will be based upon them. The Book of Psalms, or Psalter, has been called the Prayer Book of the Church. This book of songs, prayers, and poetry is the hymnal of ancient Israel. Throughout the centuries monks and nuns, peasants and popes have sung, chanted and prayed these songs to God. I do the same when I’m able to join the Church in praying the Liturgy of the Hours. Because of this I’ve become more familiar with them and enjoy their richness. So I have set about doing some research with the goal of sharing some writing of and inspired by them. There is so much beauty in the Scriptures, but I think it has been purposefully overlooked or dismissed (as most real beauty oftentimes is) because of an agenda that automatically rejects anything having to do with Christianity. The lyricism and wisdom contained in the Psalms completely blows away anything contrived by the likes of Deepak Chopra or any of the other “spiritual” gurus I see quoted often. People often reject anything bible-related out of hand because of “the bad parts.” And yes, there are some harsh things in the Bible. To Kill A Mockingbird or Huckleberry Finn contain some scenes rife with racism amongst their pages of wisdom and beauty. Shall we reject these classics, too?
So why did I start with Ruth? For some background, really. The Psalms are connected with David in that he is believed to have composed several and did pray many of them. And to learn about David I decided to begin by learning more about his great-grandmother. A faithful, loyal, devoted, protective, selfless woman named Ruth.
— 5 —
I first read about Fr. Robert Barron’s ambitious project about Catholicism about two years ago and have been anxiously awaiting its release ever since. Slowly the anticipation was built over the past several months as snippets were made available on YouTube. Two weeks ago the book and a 10-DVD set were released. The book follows the script and is fantastic by itself, but to really get a sense of the inherent beauty, breadth and depth of the Catholic faith you have to watch the series. Beginning last Tuesday, a group of friends of mine are coming over each week to watch each 50-55 minute episode, which were filmed in high definition and features 5.1 surround sound. This made the use of the Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem Mass over the imagery at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem all the more compelling.
You can read about why Fr. Barron launched this project here. A trailer for the series is below.
There are few things as enjoyable as sitting outside on a cool autumn twilight and enjoying a glass of bourbon, whether with company or in solitude. It is one of the many small things that makes this my favorite time of year.
Southern writer Walker Percy wrote a terrific essay titled “Bourbon, Neat” that I became aware of while reading Michael Baruzzini at First Things this morning. I admit that the title is what caught my eye: “Walker Percy, Bourbon, and the Holy Ghost.” I mean, how could I not read something with that headline? Baruzzini delivers with a provocative column on the question of how to be in a particular time and place. It is all too easy to fall prey to the hustle and bustle of the world where we run around but accomplish little, or feel overwhelmed and numbed by the overpowering media messages of the day. It’s easy to get lost. What to do?
Percy slyly suggests that bourbon is the answer. No, not in the sense of drowning sorrows in alcoholic stupor, but in recognizing that it is in concrete things and acts that we are able to be in the world.
What he is talking about is something I’ve written of before as well. Moments. Of being, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well, right where we are and finding ways to do things that keep us grounded in that place and time where we have been placed by God. A gifted writer I once knew referred to this as marking the moment. Percy’s choice was to enjoy a bourbon. Baruzzini offers other ways, all of them worthy, to make the moments real.
Looking to the concrete helps us discover the Christian notion of sacramentality. It is in water that we are born again; it is with bread and wine that we encounter Christ in the flesh in today’s world. It is these things that make our Christianity more than an academic exercise. So Percy would answer Barrett’s question by saying: just do it. It is Wednesday afternoon and you are a Christian: sing a song of praise, or go to Mass and eat God’s flesh. You are a loving husband, so kiss your wife. You are a father: play catch with your son or help him with his homework. You are a man at the end of a day of work: make a cocktail. If you want to be these things—a husband, a father, a son of God—there are things to do to make it real.
You can read the whole Percy essay here (and I encourage you to do so as it’s not that long). I’ve pulled a few of my favorite bits from it and placed them below.
Ever have a piece of writing literally sing to you? This one did. Bravo, Mr. Percy.
What, after all, is the use of not having cancer, cirrhosis, and such, if a man comes home from work every day at five-thirty to the exurbs of Montclair or Memphis and there is the grass growing and the little family looking not quite at him but just past the side of his head, and there’s Cronkite on the tube and the smell of pot roast in the living room, and inside the house and outside in the pretty exurb has settled the noxious particles and the sadness of the old dying Western world, and him thinking: “Jesus, is this it? Listening to Cronkite and the grass growing?”
If I should appear to be suggesting that such a man proceed as quickly as possible to anesthetize his cerebral cortex by ingesting ethyl alcohol, the point is being missed. Or part of the point. The joy of bourbon drinking is not the pharmacological effect of the C2H5OH on the cortex but rather the instant of the whiskey being knocked back and the little explosion of Kentucky U.S.A. sunshine in the cavity of the nasopharynx and the hot bosky bite of Tennessee summertime—aesthetic considerations to which the effect of the alcohol is, if not dispensable, at least secondary.
Bourbon does for me what the piece of cake did for Proust.
1935: Drinking at a football game in college. UNC versus Duke. One has a blind date. One is lucky. She is beautiful. Her clothes are the color of the fall leaves and her face turns up like a flower. But what to say to her, let alone what to do, and whether she is “nice” or “hot”—a distinction made in those days. But what to say? Take a drink, by now from a proper concave hip flask (a long way from the Delta Coke bottle) with a hinged top. Will she have a drink? No, but that’s all right. The taste of bourbon (Cream of Kentucky) and the smell of her fuse with the brilliant Carolina fall and the sounds of the crowd and the hit of the linemen in the single synthesis.
As Baruzzini writes in the final paragraph of his article, bourbon was for Percy a way to be for a moment in the evening. It “incarnates the evening” and marks the shift “from the active workday to a reflective time at home.”
So tonight after work, shut off the television and the SmartPhone. Play with your kids. Sit on the porch with a book. Or a bourbon. Talk with your spouse, significant other, your neighbor, or with God. Do something to mark the moment in your life. Reflect upon your day if even for a few minutes. Then, as Baruzzini writes: “Praise God, and be.”
“Everything around her is a silver pool of light …”
The best three minutes of your day today via The Washington Post:
Twenty-four hours after surgery to fix her cleft lip, a little Brazilian girl’s face is still swollen and painful.
But the look in her eyes when she sees her new face in the mirror for the first time is hard to mistake.
To see and be seen, both physically and metaphorically, is so integral to being human, so that without these doctors she might have been relegated to a life where people look away. If you’re ever seeking a charity to support, please consider Operation Smile. Another way that you can help these beautiful cleft affected children is to send cleft bottles to orphanages through great organizations like Love Without Boundaries.
Many cleft babies in third world countries suffer severe malnutrition and often die from not being able to get enough nutrition in their first year. If cleft bottles are not available and they are not in most developing countries including China,these children are given milk with a spoon or an eye dropper which is very time consuming and difficult.
These types of palate correction operations can take as little as 45 minutes. Yet there are those who are justifying the aborting of children in the womb because of this with such frequency that the British government is fighting to suppress the statistics of the frequency in which this occurs. And a cleft palate is a less common reason used to justify killing children. Here in America we have our own reasons of course, which are then used to accomplish things the way we do best: through litigation. Imagine being this child (his name is Bryan) and growing up one day to learn that your parents wanted you dead so much that they sued under Florida’s wrongful birth statute after you were born. (Wrongful birth? How upside down have we become?)
The time spent for an actual abortion procedure takes 5-10 minutes for first trimester procedures, and 15-20 minutes for second trimester procedures, depending on gestation, with an additional 3-5 hours for paperwork, blood draw, lab tests, counseling, etc. Plus 20-30 minutes of in-clinic recovery time. And the rest of your life to think about it.
While it is true that his parents didn’t give him up for adoption or worse, leave him to die, I can’t imagine the shock they had when Bryan was born missing three limbs after being told repeatedly by their OB-GYN that the ultrasound showed everything was normal. Some have even argued that they “had” to say they would have had him aborted in order to sue and win their case. This, however, is called perjury. Pray for this family.
His handicap in this life won’t be his lack of limbs. It will be his parents reminding him over and over that he’s “not normal.” To Bryan and his parents I wish to introduce the inspirational Nick Vujicic and the other members of The Butterfly Circus.
After this year I can no longer say emphatically that good movies are not made anymore. I’ve ranted and railed against Hollywood for the past few years about the dearth of great movies. Can you blame me? Endless sequels, comic book movies filled with noise and CGI, or stupid comedies involving mall cops or the Fokkers. The only movies I’ve gone to with any regularity and interest are the Narnia films, the Harry Potter series (which ended this year), or the occasional Pixar film with my younger children (Get Low, released a year ago, was very good). I got so desperate to see something a year ago that I went to my first action movie in ages. Yes…I went to The A-Team. For two hours I had my senses assaulted and tucked my intelligence away, but I admit I had a good time. It was mindless fun and I was familiar with the characters having grown up watching the original television series in the early 80s. But day-umm that movie was LOUD.*
*(I realize that I am beginning to resemble Abe Simpson in my mannerisms. I can assure you I enjoy a movie that’s well done, including action films. Most of the public I suspect goes to the theater to escape the drama of real life. I go to the theater seeking a little more.)
The past year, however, has seen the release of movies that are much, much better.
Sadly, nary a one of them came to a movie theater within 50 miles of me, some coming no nearer than an art house theater in Kansas City. If you missed them, you may want to catch them on DVD/Blu-Ray/Netflix. They are based upon true stories (The 5th Quarter, Of Gods and Men); real people (There Be Dragons, Life In A Day); or upon themes that transcend our every day lives and stretch the philosopher in all of us (The Tree of Life).
Of the following, I have the first two on DVD. So far I’ve only had time to watch Of Gods and Men. It is without a doubt one of the most poignant and beautiful movies I’ve ever seen. It is the anti-action film, which is probably why no one saw it. I plan to write more about it soon but I want to watch it at least one more time before I do. I’m very much anticipating the release of The Tree of Life on Oct. 11. Few movies have intrigued me more than this film by Terrence Malick.
Another that caught my eye was Life In A Day, which arrives on DVD on November 8. A unique film put together by Ridley Scott in partnership with YouTube, this film is a representation of what all of “us” were doing on one day, July 24, 2010. Judging from the reactions of those who saw it, especially the naysayers, I will have more to say about this film once I see it.
I await word of the DVD-release date for There Be Dragons, released in May 2011.
This leaves the final release for theaters this year: The Way. This film project is a labor of love between real life father and son Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. Tom (Sheen) is an American doctor who goes to France following the death of his adult son (Estevez), killed in the Pyrenees during a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago, a Christian pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain, also known as the Way of St. James. Tom’s purpose is initially to retrieve his son’s body. However, in a combination of grief and homage to his son, Tom decides to walk the same ancient spiritual trail where his son died in order to understand his son better. While walking The Camino, Tom meets others from around the world (three in particular), all broken and looking for greater meaning in their lives.
During his travels, Tom discovers the meaning of one of the last things his son said (in a flashback) to his father: that there is a difference between “the life we live and the life we choose.”
Recently both men sat down with Tim Drake of The National Catholic Register for a brief interview and talked about the film and their faith.
Was it difficult to do a movie that looks favorably on God?
Emilio: It wasn’t, for me. For others, it was. When we pitched it to studio representatives, you could see their eyes glaze over. They’d say, “It’s about spirituality.” So we decided to shoot it digitally and independently. I believe this movie plays between Glenwood and Newark. Beverly Hills and New York can take a walk. Hollywood makes a lot of garbage. We know because we’ve been in some of it. There are less and less movies to go to — films without overt sexuality and language that won’t make me blush. We’re all tired of what’s coming out of Hollywood. Word of mouth will help this film make it.
What was the genesis of your reversion to the Catholic faith, Martin?
Martin: It began after my illness in the Philippines while filming Apocalypse Now. I began going to church because I was afraid of dying. Then I stopped going for a long time. My eyes were first reopened when I was in India filming Gandhi. Then, in 1981, while in Paris, I read the book The Brothers Karamazov. I had been given the book by director Terrence Malick. The book kept me up. After reading it, I went to see a priest and told him I wanted to come home. He looked at me with eyes that said, “This is what I do.” He told me to return the next day at 4pm, as he had a wedding at 4:30pm. He told me not to be late. I went to confession with him and wept. I came back to a Church that was very different. I left a Church of fear and returned to a Church of love.
What do you see as the film’s key message?
Emilio: We live in a culture that’s dominated by a media which tells us we need to be richer, thinner and prettier. What I love about this film is that these characters reach land’s end, and they are fine being who they are. They are imperfect and broken, but God loves them exactly as they are.
Martin: The genius of God is to dwell in the deepest recesses of our being. When we realize that we are loved and belong to this community and understand that we are truly loved exactly as we are, then we’ll discover fire the second time — only we’ll own the fire.
I guess I need to amend my original statement. After this year I can no longer say emphatically that good movies are not being made. They just aren’t shown in theaters anymore.
Jennifer Fulwiler has been publishing her 7 Quick Takes Friday since October 2008. I’ve been thinking of doing the same for several months but don’t know that I can come up with seven each week. So, in my efforts to introduce some casual brevity I’m limiting myself to five. I’ve found dozens of other blogs or sites that do “Five For Fridays” or even a “Friday Five”, but almost all of them involve questions to answer, or the same formats, etc. I prefer to do as Jennifer did and just free form it. So here we go.
— 1 —
Fall is obviously in the air here in the Midwest. Two nights ago my neighbor covered her tomatoes in blankets in anticipation of a frost that didn’t come…but will soon. My week began with planting grass seed over some bare areas in the backyard, the scars that remain from having our utility lines buried beneath the ground last spring. A summer full of baseball and other activities had pushed my summer to-do list to the fall, and my weekends are full until the snows come. So far I’ve built a ten-foot cedar privacy fence for the patio, aerated and overseeded the yard, replaced a side gate, and done a few more things that escape me now. Now I just need some sunshine and a little warmth for awhile to nurture this new grass along.
— 2 —
Quote of the Week: “Man needs wisdom, but what he needs and what he buys are two different things. Wisdom may cry at the gates, but man is too busy at the mall to hear.” - Anthony Esolen
— 3 —
Watching the Nebraska football team each week on the Big 10 Network has been great. During the first week’s game against Tennessee-Chattanooga I thought to myself that it was great to see this game for free, whereas in years passed I would have paid $40 on pay-per-view to check out the new team, new offense, etc. and then cussed myself afterwards for blowing the money on a mediocre game. Thank you Big 10. And thank you Big 12 (or is it nine now?) Commissioner Beebe for making it all a reality.
— 4 —
— 5 —
A palate cleanser after #4: For reasons I cannot explain, I imagine that this video, and the characters within, would make Flannery O’Connor smile.
During the days leading up to the tenth anniversary of the horrors of 9/11, I made it a point to shut off the news. I didn’t want to watch the usual hand-wringing and politicizing of those events. Instead I spent time in prayer and reflection, because deep inside I’m still very angry about it. Angry about what the terrorists did, and angry about what became of our country in almost the immediate aftermath.
On Sunday morning before going to Mass, I wrote a quick note on Facebook about my early morning hours on my backyard patio.
During the Office of Readings I came across this passage from Psalm 66:
You let men ride over our heads;
We went through fire and through water;
But then you brought us relief.
This caused me to pause as all the images from that Tuesday ten years ago came flooding back.
And then as if on cue, my reflections dissolved as the sirens of Lincoln’s finest drowned out the squirrels and the birds. They were responding to a local call.
Relief does come.
Relief does come if we let it or in how we choose to find it. And so I got through the day unscathed.
And then The Anchoress wrote about Story Corps. And I watched their videos. And the floodgates opened wide.
Relief does come and it will continue to come. In the meantime we all deal with things as best we can. I love what this group of creative people are doing to help us all get through it.
My favorite thus far:
It only took me a week to change my mind. For a few weeks now I had planned on scrapping this blog and going offline, keeping my writing to myself while I continued in the wilderness where God had led me in order to refresh myself and regroup. I always knew I’d emerge (and write) again, I just didn’t know when. It wasn’t my time(ing). So for months I’ve written less, read more, and listened a LOT.
Last week I announced I was shutting this space down (Finis) and was making preparations to pave the way for a new blog once I was ready to return. However, after spending more time in silent contemplation I realized that a new blog wasn’t the answer. I already had my home established here. But it needed something more than just a new coat of paint and an online facelift. It needed a homeowner who was ready to be authentically himself. I needed to have the courage to be who I am. Not just a father, a husband, a friend or a writer. I was being all of those things already. But what I was holding back was the one thing I identify myself as more than any other: a Catholic. I’m not always a good one, but I’m working at it. One way is by not being afraid to write about it or include it in my stories when it’s warranted.
And so I’ve revamped some things, redecorated a bit (and am still working on a few changes), have also placed the blog on Facebook, took a deep breath and opened wide the comment boxes.
Right now I’ve probably begun to make a few longtime friends and readers uncomfortable, and this may be the final thing they ever read from me. So be it. But while I would never ask them to be any less than who they truly are, why should I be asked to do the same?
So why am I doing this now?
I’ve watched some in the human family go out of their way to eliminate faith and morality of any kind from the public square and conversation. Those who do cite them are shouted down as rascist, anti-science, anti-reason, homophobic, xenophobic, blah blah blah. I watched breathlessly a few weeks ago as a protester in Spain got in the faces of girls praying at World Youth Day and screaming at them that he’d like to “crucify them all.” I watched images such as this:
There were more, many worse than this, but you get the idea. And you get the idea of the courage displayed by those young people in the face of such ugliness and hatred. Of course, the media ignored this.
And finally I finished reading a book that contained an excellent conversation between its protagonists on the differences in the philosophies of natural law versus nihilism, utilitarianism, and the like. In short, on the dignity of the individual versus the survival of the fittest and the “thinning of the human herd.” It is a problem that has been with us for centuries and it bubbles to the surface now and then. It exploded across the world in the 1930s and 40s. If we are not vigilant it may do so again. We cannot ignore it. As Chesterton said, “There is no new news. Just old news happening to new people.”
So what does this mean? Will there be dramatic changes here? Nope. Nothing more than my willingness to step out and write about those things that affect me. For while I’ve attempted to do that since launching this blog in June 2008, I’ve always held a part of me back. In many respects it was the largest part of me, and probably the most powerful. I did so because I didn’t want to offend. Well to hell with that. I can be an offensive guy.
But while an occasionally offensive person I’m not profane, and there is a difference. I am a man who appreciates beauty above all, and that is probably the biggest change you will encounter here. For if you stick with me and continue reading that is what I aim to bring to the table the most. The beauty that surrounds us every day and that we all too easily miss or dismiss because our focus is elsewhere. We miss a lot, you and I. But just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Dante wrote that beauty is the prime attraction of the human soul. My aim is to focus upon it more, but still be a goofball now and then, too.
At an early morning bible study at my parish this morning we were asked the following question: Where is your leadership today? This prompted me to ask myself: How am I reflecting this? What leaders have influenced me? On my way to work I thought about all the people who have influenced me in my life. There are many. I can honestly say I received something from almost each and every person I’ve ever encountered. I couldn’t begin to list them all here. And then a question came to me. Would I be on anyone’s list who was asked a similar question? It’s a very sobering thing to consider while driving to work.
In the musical Les Miserables, Jean Valjean has a similar conversation with himself where he must confront the truths about his own life and identity while an innocent man’s life hangs in the balance.
Can I conceal myself for evermore?
Pretend I’m not the man I was before?
And must my name until I die
Be no more than an alibi?
Must I lie?
How can I ever face my fellow men?
How can I ever face myself again?
My soul belongs to God, I know
I made that bargain long ago
He gave me hope when hope was gone
He gave me strength to journey on.
And so who am I? Well certainly no man’s fate lies in my hands as yet other than my own. But I am, as I state in the first line of the “About Me” page of this blog, a Catholic-husband-father-Red Sox fan 24/7/365. The fabulous video put together by Joseph Koss below says it best. I hope you stay with me and visit now and then. I’ll still be my subtly sarcastic self on occasion, but we’re also going to explore some beautiful things together.
Sept. 14 – The Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross