Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Pope says, God has time for us!

With my belly better, I searched for other perspectives on the beginning of Advent (something a little less doom'n'gloom). The Pope today challenged us to make room for the Lord in our lives:

Having returned from his pastoral visit to the Roman parish of St. Lawrence Outside-the-Walls, Pope Benedict XVI prayed the Sunday Angelus with 15,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square. In his words to the faithful, the Pope challenged them to be mindful of how the Lord comes into their lives and to make room for him.

Before the praying the Angelus, he noted the beginning, with the First Sunday of Advent, of a new liturgical year. "All of us say that 'we don't have time' because the rhythm of daily life has become, for us, frantic...God gives us his time. We have always little time; especially for the Lord we do not know or, sometimes, do not want to find. Well, God has time for us! This is the first thing that the beginning of the liturgical year makes us rediscover with always new marvel.”

Pope Benedict then explained that God gives us his time “because he entered into history with his word and his works of salvation to open it to the eternal, to make it become part of the history of the covenant. Time is already in itself a sign of God's love: a gift that like every other thing, man is in a position to value or, to spoil; to understand, or to neglect with obtuse superficiality."


The liturgical season of Advent celebrates the coming of God in two moments, the Holy Father explained."First it invites us to reawaken the expectation of the glorious return of Christ; then, as Christmas approaches, it calls upon us to welcome the Word made flesh for our salvation.

“But the Lord comes into our lives all the time,” Pope Benedict reminded the faithful.

Turning to today’s Gospel reading, he said, “Jesus' appeal therefore comes very much at the right time and in this first Sunday it is again proposed with force: 'Be watchful!' Jesus directed these words to his disciples, but also to 'everybody else' because each one will be called to answer for his existence at a time known only to God. This entails the right detachment from earthly things, sincere repentance for one's own errors, active charity towards one's fellow man and especially a humble and trusting faith in the hands of God, our tender and merciful Father."

Read the rest here.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Awaiting Emmanuel

Tonight I find myself curled up on the couch again for the third or fourth time this week. At first I thought I had caught one of those pesky stomach bugs that 5 year olds spread so well. But, after an analysis of my eating habits this week, Wendy and I may have discovered the culprit: eggs. For some reason my body is reacting terribly to eggs. We think.

In any case, this has blessed me with hours of TV watching and internet surfing time. As a news-junkie, I've spent a good amount of my intestinally-sponsored free time watching CNN and reading stuff on the BBC website. None of it seems good.

Yesterday, a man was killed due to the greed, lack of compassion, and disgusting behavior of Long Island Walmart shoppers.

The death toll in Mumbai has hit 195 dead and about 295 injured. And, there are still bodies uncounted.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue with deaths mounting daily.

The conflict in Darfur has no end in sight, with little being done internationally to help.

Riots kill hundreds in Nigeria and the Congo might erupt in all out war.

Thailand is shut down and falling apart.

New York City is on the lookout for a possible terrorist plot.

And the Dalai Lama says sex can only mean trouble.

No the news is not good today.

Which brings me to Advent. Advent is the season of waiting and preparing for the birth of our Messiah in our Church year. Basically it's the four weeks that lead up to Christmas. Tomorrow begins Advent.

As we decorate and shop, as we make travel plans and listen to cheery-Christmas music 24/7, as we wish that we get that Nikon camera we've been longing for (hint, hint) and eat ourselves into obesity, we should stop, take a look around us and take in what's happening.

There are blessings in abundance, yes. I cannot complain, I've been blessed tremendously. As I sit here whining about my belly aches, I look next to me on the couch and there's a beautiful lady bringing me tea.

But, in this time of cheer and blessings, also remember those who have not. Remember those who are going through less-than-cheery moments in history. And remember that although there is tremendous progress and change happening in the world, the images from the video below are eerily similar to images on the news today:

As we await Emmanuel, I sometimes wonder... we've been around for 2000 years since Jesus was born. What have we done with our time?

(Note: sour stomachs leads to depressing posts)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Victims of Mumbai

This attack in Mumbai reminds us of how far from peace any of us really are. Over 160 lives were senselessly lost. It pisses me off, especially since I have no answer for it. Here's a piece from the NY Daily News on a young rabbi and his wife who were killed in the attacks:

Hope turns to despair for Brooklyn family of Mumbai rabbi and wife held hostage

Hope for the rescue of a Brooklyn-raised rabbi and his wife turned to despair Friday on word that the couple were found slain - along with three other hostages - at a Jewish center in Mumbai, India.

The deaths of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, and his wife, Rivka, 28, were confirmed by the Chabad Lubavitcher organization a day after their infant son, Moshe, was spirited out of the building by his nanny.

"Today, he became an orphan," said Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky.

Grimly, the rabbi revealed that Holtzberg called New York as the center was being invaded and warned them, "The situation is not good."

"Then he was cut off," Krinsky said.

Fighting back tears, another rabbi who had been in almost daily contact with Holtzberg called his slain friend "a mensch."

"Tuesday we put the finishing touches on opening a new branch in Bangalore," said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky. "He was the nicest gentleman you can imagine. Never saw him without a smile."

In Crown Heights, relatives were plunged into mourning.

"That's it, it's over," the rabbi's cousin, Abraham Holtzberg said, when he got the unwanted call. "They say there is no one alive."

Exhausted from three days of hoping and praying, Abraham Holtzberg said the couple will be buried in Israel. He said Rivka Holtzberg's parents are in India and already taking care of Moshe, who turns 2 on Saturday.

Mayor Bloomberg also condemned the "senseless and barbaric murders in Mumbai."

"We have lost two New Yorkers," he said. "This is a tragic loss for the Lubavitch community, and for our entire City."

Both Bloomberg and Krinsky singled out the couple's Indian nanny, 44-year-old Sandra Samuel, for praise. "Moshe was heroically rescued from that hell by his nanny," the rabbi said.

Moshe's parents were still inside the center when Indian commandoes staged a daring raid early Friday to save them.

Relatives said their death was a tragic ending to what had been a love story, one that began with an arranged marriage shortly before they moved to Mumbai five years ago.

"They lived together, they died together," said a relative who was too distraught to give his name.

Holtzberg was born in Israel. His parents, Frida and Nachman Holtzberg, moved the family to Brooklyn when he was 12.

The third of seven children, Holtzberg was blessed with a photographic memory and quickly rose to the top of his class at a Crown Heights yeshiva. He later studied in Argentina and served the small Lubavitcher communities in Thailand and China before moving to India.

Rivka Holtzberg was also born in Israel. Her parents, Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg and Yehudit Rosenberg, still live there.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Thanksgiving homily from Deacon Greg

Deacon Greg posted his homily for Thanksgiving. I think it's a beautiful message. I tried to quote some excerpts but you have to read the whole thing to really appreciate it, so I hope Deacon Greg doesn't mind me reposting it all here:

A priest I know likes to say that Thanksgiving is one of his favorite holidays, and not just because of the food.

The church is always filled, he says, and the great thing is that people come to mass today not because they have to…but because they want to.

He makes a beautiful point. There are no rules saying any of us has to be here this morning. I’m sure a lot of people have other things to do -- trips to make, turkeys to stuff, tables to set. Somewhere, there’s a football game waiting to be watched. In the middle of all that, going to mass isn’t required. This isn’t a day of obligation.

Rather, it is a day of opportunity.

It’s an opportunity to think back on what we have been given…and to give something in return: thanks. Actually, “thanks” is too small a word. We are here to give gratitude. They should call this day “Gratitude-giving.”

We are here to honor, with grateful hearts, what God has done for us.

Very often, in our prayer lives, we spend so much time on our knees, asking for things. Pleading. “God, help me pass this test.” “Keep me from throttling my teenager.” “Help me find a job.” “Protect my son in Iraq.”

The scripture tells us to ask and we shall receive, and to knock and it will be opened. So we ask, and we knock.

But what happens then?

In Luke’s gospel today, 10 people are cured by Jesus of leprosy. Only one comes back to say thank you. Tellingly, the person who comes back isn’t Jewish. But neither was St. Luke. Luke is the only one of the evangelists who was not a Jew. And his gospel was written for those, like himself, who were the outsiders, the foreigners. Christ’s message, Luke tells us, is meant for everyone.

But in the gospel story, not everyone comes back. Only one, a Samaritan, returns to give glory to God. We don’t know what happened to the other nine. Maybe they had turkeys to stuff or football games to watch.

Implicit in this episode is the idea that something is missing. Giving thanks is a vital and necessary part of our relationship with God.

All the lepers were cured. But only one, the one who gave thanks, was saved.

And that is because thankfulness, we discover, is a measure of faith. A measure of our dependence on God, and of our own humility.

But sometimes thankfulness can be hard to express.

Most of us know someone who is having a difficult time this Thanksgiving. The woman who is spending her first holiday as a widow. The father who lost his job and is worried about where he will find Christmas gifts for his children. Those friends and neighbors who are hurting or alone.

Where are the blessings for these and others who are feeling, in a particular way, burdened, afflicted, cursed?

The simple, indisputable fact is this: every breath is a blessing. Every sunrise. Every snowfall. “Bless the God of all,” Sirach exclaims, “who has done wondrous things on earth.” Incredibly, we are part of that wonder, part of God’s continuing creation in the world. And what a blessing to be able to say that!

The German mystic and philosopher, Meister Eckhert, once wrote: “If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is ‘thank you,’ that will suffice.”

That is why we are here: to pray those words, and to make them matter.

So taking a cue from Meister Eckhert, let’s make this something more than a holiday, more than an excuse to have a second slice of pie and take a long nap in front of the television.

Make this very day a kind of prayer. Beginning here, and now.

As the day unfolds, carry that prayer with you. Live it. Give it. This is, after all, a day for giving -- giving thanks. It doesn’t have to end when you say grace over the turkey. In fact, it doesn’t have to end tonight -- God’s gifts certainly won’t. Every beat of your heart affirms an unmistakable mystery: God has given you life. Extravagant, wonderful, painful, challenging life.

Let’s strive to remind ourselves of God’s blessings, wherever we find them, however they come to us. And to give thanks for them, every day, in every moment.

I want to conclude with a little tradition from my wife’s family. Every Thanksgiving, her dad asks one of the kids at the table to read aloud George Washington’s Thanksgiving proclamation from 1789.

It includes this beautiful sentence:

"Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”

That author’s magnificent work – truly the greatest story every composed – is continuing. He has made us a part of it. And that is reason enough for us to be here, on this day of opportunity, not obligation, to tell Him how humbled, and happy, and grateful we are.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving! And remember to pray today!

(Photo courtesy of the NY Times)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Profane Bird in the Freezer

I borrowed this from Wendy's Uncle Barry, a pastor in Texarkana:

A young man named John received a parrot as a gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird's mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity.

John tried and tried to change the bird's attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else he could think of to "clean up" the bird's vocabulary.

Finally, John was fed up and he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. John shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even ruder.

John, in desperation, threw up his hand, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute.

Fearing that he'd hurt the parrot, John quickly open the door to the freezer, the parrot calmly stepped out onto John's outstretched arms and said, "I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I'm sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behavior."

John was stunned at the change in the bird's attitude. As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behavior, the bird continued, "May I ask what the turkey did?"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

When Rabbi Shlomo Amar says pray, you pray!

My friend Adam Who-Should-Now-Seriously-Consider-Becoming-A-Rabbi had the following link from The Jerusalem Post on his Gmail Chat:

Israel's chief rabbis are concerned with the direction that the global financial crisis is taking. So, they're calling for a special day of prayer this Thursday. As one who fervently believes that prayer works, I think everyone should add a prayer to their list on Thursday. When you're saying thanks over dinner with friends and family, say a little prayer for a quick and easy end to this financial crisis:

The country's chief rabbis are calling for a mass prayer rally Thursday in the hope that heavenly intervention will stem the global financial crisis.

With Jewish philanthropists reeling and Israeli businesses preparing to make major layoffs, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger and Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar have decided that this Thursday, the first day of the Jewish month of Kislev, will be a special day of prayer.

"Education and Torah institutions are failing to make ends meet, and many are in danger of closure," wrote the two rabbis in a statement. "Factories and businesses are firing workers, and many household heads are no longer able to support their families. Therefore, we call on the public to pray one hour before mincha [the afternoon prayer] on Thursday in synagogues across the nation."

Monday, November 24, 2008

We got to pray just to make it today

Our President-elect isn't going to Church. The reasons make sense but I would like to think he's at least in heavy-duty prayer mode right now. When you're about to step up to the biggest job in the world, getting some guidance and putting in some extra prayer time can only help. From

Obama skips church, heads to gym

President-elect Barack Obama has yet to attend church services since winning the White House earlier this month, a departure from the example of his two immediate predecessors.

On the three Sundays since his election, Obama has instead used his free time to get in workouts at a Chicago gym.

Asked about the president-elect's decision to not attend church, a transition aide noted that the Obamas valued their faith experience in Chicago but were concerned about the impact their large retinue may have on other parishioners.

"Because they have a great deal of respect for places of worship, they do not want to draw unwelcome or inappropriate attention to a church not used to the attention their attendance would draw," said the aide.

Both President-elect George W. Bush and President-elect Bill Clinton managed to attend church in the weeks after they were elected.

In November of 1992, Clinton went to services in Little Rock, Ark., on the three weekends following his election, taking pre-church jogs on the first two and attending on the third weekend a Catholic Mass with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, with whom he was trying to smooth over lingering campaign tensions.

In the weeks after the contested 2000 election, Bush regularly attended services at Tarrytown United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas, and Al Gore was frequently photographed arriving at and leaving church in Virginia.

On his first day as president-elect, following weeks of Florida recounts and court hearings, Bush went to church with his wife, Laura. They attended an invite-only prayer service on Thursday, Dec. 14, at Tarrytown United Methodist Church. About 300 people attended, including top campaign staff and visiting clergy. During the service, the Rev. Mark Craig, senior pastor at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, told Bush, "You have been chosen by God to lead the people."

Obama was an infrequent churchgoer on the campaign trail, though he did make a series of appearances in the pews and pulpits of South Carolina churches ahead of that heavily religious state's primary.

The issue of where he worships is, of course, fraught. For about two decades, Obama and his family attended Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ. But, with the public disclosure earlier this year of incendiary sermons at Trinity by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama and his wife, Michelle, in June resigned their membership in the large South Side congregation.

At the time, the then-Illinois senator said that he didn't want his "church experience to be a political circus" and expressed regret for the unwanted attention members of the congregation had received, noting that some reporters had taken church bulletins only to call sick members and shut-ins.

During the campaign, Obama returned to Chicago to attend the South Side's Apostolic Church of God on Father's Day Sunday to give a speech aimed at the black community on the importance of fatherhood and family.

A number of Washington, D.C., churches of different denominations and traditions are now competing to become the spiritual home of the new first family. The Obama aide said the family "look[s] forward to finding a church community in Washington, D.C."

(Photo courtesy of The St. Petersburg Times)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Christ the King Sunday

Today is Christ the King Sunday. An old college friend, Paul, posted today's Gospel and reminds us that Christ is sometimes found in the neediest:

From Matthew 25:

Jesus said to his disciples:

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.

"And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

"Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’

"Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’

"And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’

"Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’

"He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’

"And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

City to Faith-based Shelters: Stop!

I've been hearing about this for a while now but didn't think they were going to actually do it. I don't quite understand the rationale but apparently NYC is ordering churches to stop providing beds to homeless people. Here's the story I got from

NYC Churches Ordered Not to Shelter Homeless

NEW YORK (AP) -- City officials have ordered 22 New York churches to stop providing beds to homeless people.

With temperatures well below freezing early Saturday, the churches must obey a city rule requiring faith-based shelters to be open at least five days a week -- or not at all.

Arnold Cohen, president of the Partnership for the Homeless, a nonprofit that serves as a link with the city, says he had to tell the churches they no longer qualify.

He says hundreds of people now won't have a place to sleep.

The Department of Homeless Services says the city offers other shelters with the capacity to accept all those who have been sleeping in the churches.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Leaving Soccer to Become a Priest

It's an all-soccer weekend for me. The MLS Cup is on Sunday and I've been wearing the NY red Bulls scarf everywhere. So, here's an article just for Adam-Who-Is-Destined-To-Become-A-Rabbi, an article about Soccer and Religion!

Faith-Based Initiative

For Chase Hilgenbrinck, a Professional Soccer Career Was a Dream. But Priesthood Was a Calling.

By Kathy Orton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 20, 2008; E01

Chase Hilgenbrinck sat in his apartment in Chile, clutching the phone, full of nervous energy. He was about to make a call that would change his life forever. After spending more than two years agonizing over his decision in solitude, Hilgenbrinck finally decided he was ready to tell someone of his intention to become a priest.

That September 2007 day, the first person he called was not his mother, father, brother or girlfriend, but the vocations director of the Peoria, Ill., diocese, a man he had never met.

"I was nervous on the phone," Hilgenbrinck said. "I couldn't believe the words that were coming out of my mouth."

Father Brian Brownsey was thrilled to receive the call. It's not every day a professional soccer player phones to say he wants to join the priesthood.

Though many professional athletes have gone into ministry, usually with Protestant churches, most do so after their careers have ended. Few leave during their prime. Hilgenbrinck, a 26-year-old defender, had signed his first MLS contract earlier this year after four years of playing professionally in Chile. He had made it, achieving a dream he'd had since childhood. And now he was leaving it all behind to serve God.

Starting with his seventh-grade teacher, people had been telling Hilgenbrinck that he should become a priest. He was flattered, of course, but he really didn't think priesthood was for him. He wanted to play soccer.

Hilgenbrinck was raised in a devout Roman Catholic family in Bloomington, Ill. He and his brother Blaise were altar servers at Holy Trinity Church and attended Catholic schools through junior high. When it came time for high school, they had a decision to make: attend the Catholic high school with their friends or go to the public high school where they could continue their budding soccer careers.

With his family's support, Hilgenbrinck chose soccer over his religious education, a decision that contrasted with the one he would make more than a decade later. He believed the public high school provided him with the best opportunity to earn an athletic scholarship to college.

"That's what my future was at that time," Hilgenbrinck said.

Clemson offered him a scholarship and Hilgenbrinck picked the Tigers mostly because he felt their program would prepare him for a professional career. The ACC is widely considered the best soccer conference in the country, and Clemson is usually one of the stronger teams.

It wasn't only his soccer career that took off at Clemson. Being on his own for the first time, Hilgenbrinck discovered new depths to his Catholicism. He became actively involved in the Catholic student organization. As a freshman, Hilgenbrinck volunteered to lead his teammates in a prayer before each game.

"I grew up Catholic, but it was an inherited faith," he said. "I believed because my parents believed. . . . It was [at Clemson] that I didn't have to be there [at church]. I didn't have to believe anything. It was then that I really made the faith my own. I would say that's the first step toward what I am doing today, although at that time I still didn't feel that I was called [to be a priest], nor did I want to be."

With no offers from the MLS after college, Hilgenbrinck headed to Chile on a one-way plane ticket, hoping to catch on with a team there. At first, he was miserable. Homesick and lonely, he turned to the one constant in his life outside of soccer, his faith.

"That was really when I saw Christ as a friend more than this godly figure that I can't touch," he said. "My faith now became not just something that I should do and what I started to enjoy, but it was now my rock."

With more free time on his hands than he knew what to do with, Hilgenbrinck set a goal of reading the entire Bible. He read books on Catholicism, particularly those by Scott Hahn and Karl Keating that his parents gave him. He also prayed regularly.

"It started out a lot with me doing all the talking and me trying to say everything that I needed to get out," he said. "But it was in the silent times of prayer, whenever I shut up, it was like, 'Okay, now feel this.' . . . This idea of the priesthood kept permeating my heart. It was just there all the time."

The way he describes it, Hilgenbrinck's call to the priesthood came gradually. It is not like he woke up one day and God told him to become a priest.

"No miracles happened here," he said. "It was just I felt that way, and it progressively got stronger every single day for two years."

At first he resisted. He did not want to be a priest. All he could think of were the negatives. To begin with, he'd have to give up soccer. But that wasn't even the biggest obstacle for him.

"I can't be married," he said. "I can't have kids, and that was scary because I'd always envisioned myself as a married man."

Besides, he loved playing soccer. He was doing well with his team in Chile, Nublense. He figured he could just wait until his career was over before he had to make a decision. Then he read Hahn's book, "Rome Sweet Home" and came across the line, "delayed obedience is disobedience."

"That just spoke to me so clearly," he said. "Not only as just something I was reading that helped me along, but I took that as a sign because I was really struggling with that at the time. . . . That definitely gave me the strength to say, 'Okay, I'm not going to wait until my career is over.' "

In time, all the barriers he put up fell away, and Hilgenbrinck realized he was destined to become a priest. But before he told his family and friends, he wanted to make sure the church would accept him. He called Brownsey and began the extensive application process, which included written exams, essays, background checks, fingerprinting and evaluations by three psychologists.

"They do want to make sure they're making the right decision," he said. "Obviously, with the scandal that we've had in the Catholic church in the past few years, that mistake doesn't want to be repeated. So there's going to be a rigorous screening process for anybody who really feels called to this."

When he finally broke the news to his parents -- he had not wanted to get their hopes up until he was sure the church would accept him -- they were shocked.

"It probably took me, it seems like a long time, but probably 20 seconds before I even said anything," Mike Hilgenbrinck said. "I think [his first words were] probably 'Oh my gosh, Chase, I'm so proud of you.' We're so supportive of that decision. It's just an honor that one of our sons was chosen by God to become a priest."

Even as he was pursuing the priesthood, Hilgenbrinck had not given up on his dream of playing on an MLS team. He signed a contract with the Colorado Rapids in January, but was cut for salary cap reasons. Then in March, the New England Revolution brought him in for a tryout. The team offered him a short-term contract, one that lasted only until midseason.

Hilgenbrinck had been wrestling with whether he should tell the team of his intentions or keep quiet. When the Revolution made its offer, he saw it as another sign. He appeared in four games, starting one, before telling the team in early July he was leaving for the seminary.

"I will say it's a bit unusual to hear that from a player," said Mike Burns, the Revolution's vice president of player personnel. "It's not the norm, that's for sure."

Burns said the Revolution would have happily kept around the left-footed left back.

"He was just a guy you could depend on," Burns said. "He was a consummate professional both on and off the field. He came to play every day and gave you everything he had."

Snuggled into the Catoctin Mountains near the Maryland-Pennsylvania border, Mount St. Mary's in Emmitsburg is a quiet, contemplative place. The 200-year-old school, the second-oldest Catholic university in the country, educates lay students as well as future priests. Hilgenbrinck will spend the next six years studying philosophy and theology with the other 22 first-year seminarians.

His arrival created a bit of a fuss around the usually staid seminary. Though he has received more media attention than any of his classmates, Hilgenbrinck has been welcomed by them unconditionally, according to Monsignor Steven Rohlfs, the seminary's rector.

"He's very popular with the men, and they consider him just one of the guys," Rohlfs said.

"It's too early to tell [if Hilgenbrinck will make a good priest], but he has all the external signs of it. He has a desire to want to do what God wants him to do. He's prayerful. He's energetic, and he has a pleasant personality and is a hard worker."

Hilgenbrinck's days are too hectic to allow him time to lament the void left by soccer. When his schedule allows it, he trains with the Mount St. Mary's team. He competed in the Rector's Cup, a soccer competition among the seminaries. But it's not the same as being on the field with an MLS team.

"Yes, of course" he misses soccer, he said, wistfully. "I definitely do, and getting to the point that I was at, playing professionally, that was always the dream, where I wanted to be."

Nonetheless, Hilgenbrinck appears content and at peace with his decision. He says he has no regrets about becoming a priest. Nor would he have wished his journey to this point would have gone differently.

"I feel very blessed to have lived the life that I have leading up to this point, and in no way would I trade it to do even what I am doing now," he said. "I feel blessed that the Lord allowed me to fulfill my dreams before pulling me into His plans for me. Not only is His will perfect, but His time is perfect as well. The timing of my call was meant to be exactly when it happened."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Harlem kids play lacrosse

My former school in on this week:

Lacrosse 110th Street

At New York City's Future Leaders Institute in Harlem, students, who previously hadn't even seen a Lacrosse stick, are learning the game.
At New York City's Future Leaders Institute in Harlem, students, who previously hadn't even seen a Lacrosse stick, are learning the game.
Caitlin Moscatello for TIME

"If we're integrated, then why aren't there any white kids here?" That's what seven-year-old Jahseem Maxwell wanted to know, when his second-grade teacher, Lindsay Korn read to the class from Toni Morrison's Remember (which includes a brief history of integration). Despite the historic U.S. election occurring on the same day he asked his question, the world outside his classroom at the Future Leaders Institute just off Harlem's Malcolm X Boulevard didn't seem much different from the 1950s reality described by Morrison.

Peter Anderson, the school's director, has made the same observation. The townhouses on the blocks alongside the school sell for up to $3.5 million, but he knows the children in those homes won't be coming to his school, where 96 percent of the students are black, and more than 70 percent qualify for reduced or free lunch programs. According to Anderson, some of the students live in homeless shelters, and about half are raised in the projects, mostly by single parents.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the 24 children in Korn's class had never seen a lacrosse stick before she introduced one. The predominantly white sport popular at Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic universities requires two things New York City public schools don't have: money and fields. But given the election, it was, after all, a week of firsts. "All of our students were excited about the election," said Anderson. "For us educators, Obama's victory means that when we tell these students that they can do anything, it's not hyperbole." And so, on an unseasonably warm Friday afternoon, 35 middle-school students showed up to learn how to play lacrosse.

Nevermind that they'd never seen a lacrosse game, much less played in one; Anderson believes in giving students a lacrosse stick and the chance to play their way to a better education. "Ideally, I want to see about 60 percent of the kids who started with us at go on to boarding schools or private schools," says Anderson. Enter Korn's father, Rick, a former player who helped coach his own son to the Division-I level; Bob Turco, a Harlem-born lacrosse coaching legend who played his way to Washington and Lee University in the '70s; and Ross Turco, Bob's son and former high school All-America and D-I player who now coaches at Peddie, an elite boarding school in Hightstown, New Jersey. The well-connected trio, along with the school's director of advancement, Michael Pages, have volunteered to hold practices twice a week, using donated equipment.

"This is about your will," Bob Turco said to rookie players as they gathered around him on the school's small turf playground. "Your will to accomplish something you don't understand and just say, 'I'm going to prove I can do this.' " With the backdrop of classic Harlem brownstones behind them, the students split into lines and learned basic skills, such as passing and scooping the ball, while Turco called out instructions. "I never see them listen to anyone like this," said Anderson from the sidelines. "This is really something."

As the school director's vision unfolded in front of him, the line between the impossible and the inevitable seemed to fade for the second time in a week. Many of the students had come to school Wednesday after going to the voting booths with their parents, while others had stayed out late to listen to Obama's victory speech broadcast over loudspeakers near 125th Street. That same day they wrote letters to the president-elect. "I want to change things, too", wrote Fortune Nbumbo, 7. Tatiana Jones, 9, told Obama, "You open the door not just for me, but for everybody." For the students at FLI, the definition of leadership is clearer than it's ever been, and the playing field, even if it's a patch of turf between two brick walls, is slowly leveling out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why the NY Red Bulls will win

I know a lot of folks in our country don't follow futbol (soccer). But that's their loss, really.

This Sunday the NY Red Bulls will play the Columbus Crew in the MLS Cup (the Championship game of United States soccer).

The NY Red Bulls had a less than mediocre season, but somehow just made the playoffs in the 8th spot. They've played well in the playoffs, picked up some momentum, and had ludicrous amounts of luck to make it to the Finals.

The Columbus Crew is generally a better team, but one the Red Bulls beat 2 games to 1 during the regular season.

AND, the NY Red Bulls have Danny Cepero at goal. I believe Danny is the reason they made it this far.

Danny Cepero was thrown into the position of goalkeeper on October 18th due to the first choice goalkeeper's suspension for using illegal substances. That game was against... oh yeah, The Columbus Crew!

And, wait, Danny Cepero scored a goal in that game. Yes, the goalkeeper scored a goal!


So, on Sunday, at 3:30pm EST you'll find me wrapped in my NY Red Bulls scarf, glued to ABC, watching the MLS Cup, and cheering on the soon-Champion NY Red Bulls.

You're invited to join me, otherwise, leave a message.

(Photo courtesy of

Monday, November 17, 2008

After a day full of tragic stories...

...sometimes you need to take a break and watch Justin Timberlake in spandex and high heels:


Sunday, November 16, 2008

One year ago today...

I lost an old elementary school classmate.

This is a class picture of us in the 1st Grade. I'm in the second row, third from left, wearing the red sweatshirt. Sam is seated in the front row, third from left, wearing a red sweatshirt.

I remember Sam being full of energy and crazy ideas. He grew up to be a professional skater and computer engineer.

A group of us, including Sam, met for a reunion back in the Spring of 2007.

We all said we wanted to meet up again as a group, to hang out more. A couple of people were able to, but most of us couldn't get our act together to actually make it happen. Time passed.

Then, a year ago, I got an email from my classmates telling me that Sam had died in a bicycle accident on the Manhattan Bridge. That week we met up again for his memorial service.

The picture above is a pic from our reunion back in the Spring of 2007. Sam is the one in the hat, looking cool.

It's sad. He was 27 years old.

Today we all remember Sam in our own way.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The New Star Trek Trailer

It looks better on the big screen, but here is the only version I have found so far. I can't wait!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Walking the drive-through

Wendy and I went to see Quantum of Solace tonight. It was a good "in-between" movie. It was basically a vehicle to help Bond work out his demons from the last film. I'm looking forward to the next one.

I think the Star Trek trailer before the movie was worth the price of admission alone! I'm excited. (can't find the trailer online but will post it as soon as I find it)

But, this post is really about sharing the camera phone pics I took of Wendy and a random woman standing in line at the McDonald's drive through.

We waited a couple of minutes to get some ice cream for Wendy.

Then, she and the woman behind us decided to crouch down and pretend they were driving cars. I couldn't get a picture quick enough but this was my attempt.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Protests outside the Mormon Church

I found this article on The New York Times website. There have been numerous protests by gay rights activists outside Mormon churches, including one in NYC last night. According to the data, Mormons were big funders of the Yes on Prop 8 vote.

I think, however, that protests outside a church, any church, will do little more than to get media attention at this stage. First, although the Mormon church actively sought to pass this piece of legislation, it's not the New Yorkers that voted in favor of Prop 8. I even wonder how much funding came from NYC?

Second, although I am disgusted by the vote, I don't think protesting outside a church is going to change anyone's mind inside the church. The Yes on Prop 8 campaign was not entirely truthful, but that's how political campaigns are run. They raised more money than our side and obviously ran a better campaign.

And, finally, I think a big reason this piece of legislation passed was due to the silence and lack of commitment by the Obama-Biden campaign. Towards the end of the presidential campaign, Barack Obama and Joe Biden both mentioned in almost a whisper that they opposed Prop 8. But, they did nothing to campaign against it. In a sad way, they probably felt they couldn't. The major presidential candidate who is already being labeled as too liberal would have difficulty shaking off that label if they actively campaigned against Prop 8. 59% of Catholics voted for Obama in California. But 64% of Catholics voted FOR Prop 8. Weekly church-goers who voted for Obama, supported Prop 8 with an 84% of the vote. 70% of African-Americans who voted for Barack Obama, voted Yes on 8. Read more here and here.

So, I don't think protesting the churches will actually get us anywhere except on TV and it may help to build the anti-gay marriage coffers in the long run. Instead we should focus on building a campaign for the next proposition, for the next court battle, try and get the President-elect's support, and raising more money now.

Gay Activists Rally Outside Mormon Temple in NYC

NEW YORK (AP) -- Carrying signs reading ''Love not H8'' and ''Did you cast a ballot or a stone?'', a large crowd of gay-marriage supporters gathered outside a Mormon temple to protest the church's endorsement of a same-sex marriage ban in California.

The rally Wednesday night outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple came hours after gay couples exchanged vows for the first time in Connecticut amid cheers and tears of joy.

The milestone did not ease the sting of a major loss for gay-marriage supporters last week. Gay activists planned protests across the country over the vote that took away their right to wed in California.

In the Upper West Side of Manhattan, demonstrators chanted ''Shame on you!'' outside the temple. Leaders of the Mormon church had encouraged members to support passage of California's Proposition 8, a referendum banning same-sex marriage.

''I'm fed up and disgusted with religious institutions taking political stances and calling them moral when it's nothing but politics,'' said Dennis Williams, 36. ''Meanwhile they enjoy tax-free status while trying to deny me rights that should be mine at the state and federal level.''

Church spokesman Michael Otterson said that while citizens have the right to protest, he was ''puzzled'' and ''disturbed'' by the gathering since the majority of California's voters had approved the amendment.

''This was a very broad-based coalition that defended traditional marriage in a free and democratic election,'' Otterson said, referring to the numerous religious and social conservative groups that sponsored Proposition 8.

Organizers of the rally estimated at least 10,000 people participated. Police said they could not give a crowd estimate.

Gay-marriage advocates said they were planning nationwide demonstrations this weekend in more than 175 cities and outside the U.S. Capitol. A Seattle blogger was trying to organize simultaneous protests outside statehouses and city halls in every state Saturday.

Earlier in Connecticut, Jody Mock and Elizabeth Kerrigan emerged from Town Hall in West Hartford to the cheers of about 150 people and waved their marriage license high. The couple led the lawsuit that overturned the state law.

''We feel very fortunate to live in the state of Connecticut, where marriage equality is valued, and hopefully other states will also do what is fair,'' Kerrigan said.

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 10 that same-sex couples have the right to wed rather than accept a 2005 civil union law designed to give them the same rights as married couples. A lower-court judge entered a final order permitting same-sex marriage Wednesday morning. Massachusetts is the only other state that allows gay marriages.

Connecticut officials had no information Wednesday on how many marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples. According to the state public health department, 2,032 civil union licenses were issued between October 2005 and July 2008.

Like the highest courts in Connecticut and Massachusetts, the California Supreme Court ruled this spring that same-sex marriage is legal. After about 18,000 such unions were conducted in California, however, its voters last week approved Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment.

Gay rights groups said Wednesday they may ask California voters to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage if legal challenges to Proposition 8 are unsuccessful.

The California vote has sparked protests in several states, many targeting Mormon churches. Some have been vandalized.

Activists also are aiming boycotts and protests at businesses and individuals who contributed to the campaign to pass Proposition 8.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Priest who disagrees with the Bishops on Prop 8

Lots of Point/Counterpoint today. From the LA Times, a story on Father Geoffrey Farrow who recently came out as a gay man and spoke against Prop 8:

Gay priest is true to his faith, at odds with his church

Steve Lopez
October 26, 2008

So who is this Catholic priest from Fresno who stood up and spoke out against Proposition 8, putting his career on the line? As a gay man who finds the church's views on homosexuality so objectionable, why has he been a priest for more than 20 years and subjected himself to such moral conflict?

After reading my colleague Duke Helfand's story about Father Geoffrey Farrow and his recent career-suicide from the pulpit, I was curious.

Farrow agreed to meet me for lunch in the middle of a schedule that's gotten very busy since he became persona non grata to his employer. He's been asked to appear all over the state for rallies against Prop. 8, which would amend the California Constitution to say marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

Father Farrow, who was suspended by his bishop two weeks ago, strolled into the lobby of the Kyoto Grand Hotel in downtown Los Angeles wearing the collar.

"I'm still a priest," he said over lunch, though he fully expected to be disciplined for speaking to his congregation about Prop. 8 and wouldn't be surprised if he's ultimately fired.

For the moment, he's staying with friends in Los Angeles. Farrow, 50, doesn't know what he'll do after the election. He was suspended without pay and said his medical benefits run out at the end of the month.

Farrow, who lived in Cuba until the age of 4, grew up Catholic in Florida and knew as a teenager that he was gay. He dated girls "to keep up appearances" but was miserable about it, and he began questioning his faith.

"If God is omnipotent, why is there evil in the world?" he asked himself as body bags returned to the U.S. from Vietnam.

He looked into agnosticism and atheism, neither of which offered the answers he wanted. In his first year of college in Florida, he studied philosophy, read Cicero and mused on the meaning of history, civilization and the nature of God.

"I have a hunger for the transcendent," Farrow said. "This is too precise," he said of man and the universe, "to be a coincidence." And so he became a believer, once more, in the church he had been "carried to in diapers."

When I told Farrow that as an agnostic, I don't understand that leap, he described God as love and faith as trust.

"Trust is fundamental of all human relationships," he said. "Part of the attraction of the relationship with that person is that you're always familiar with them and yet always discovering them."

I love and trust my wife, I said, but she's real and doesn't need to prove that she exists.

"Precisely," Farrow said with a smile, as if I'd described his relationship with God.

When his family moved from Florida to Redondo Beach in the 1970s, Farrow, still closeted as a gay man, joined St. John's Seminary in Camarillo.

Is it possible, I asked, that becoming a priest was a way of avoiding coming to terms with his sexuality? Farrow had, after all, once prayed to God to "please make me normal, please make me normal."

"That's a valid question," he said, but he believes he was addressing his spiritual rather than sexual identity in becoming a priest.

Wasn't it a suffocating compromise? I asked. He had given himself over to a church that has, despite moderating its views in recent decades, condemned homosexuality and marginalized gays, even though in Farrow's opinion a sizable percentage of priests are gay. Farrow conceded that he has considered church teachings "monstrous," especially given the history of violence and suicide victimizing gays. But he said he has always believed in the church, if not in the men who led it. It's like loving a family member despite a falling out, or loving your country even as you doubt its leaders.

"I'm not happy with the current administration," Farrow said, "but I haven't shredded my passport."

I asked if he'd had any relationships while serving as a priest.

Yes, he confessed. He seemed near tears and stopped short of sharing the details. But he said it had ended.

I wondered again how anyone could go through such an ordeal and remain committed to a church that considers it a sin for a gay person to act on biological urges. Whom do you even talk to for help? I asked.

"There are a lot of clergy who deal with this," Farrow said, telling me many priests in the Fresno diocese are gay. "You speak to each other."

But that's a form of silence as well as hypocrisy, and Farrow was increasingly troubled by his double life. Not long ago, he saw a woman crying in a church hallway and asked what was wrong.

"My son just came out to me," she said. "I was having a dinner party and I told him he couldn't bring his boyfriend."

"Do you know what you just did?" Farrow asked her. "You just told your son he was not as important to you as your dinner guests."

Farrow then had his epiphany when he was asked by a Prop. 8 supporter in Fresno to speak up in favor of the measure. He knew he couldn't and that in fact he had to do just the opposite.

"I am morally compelled to vote no on Proposition 8," he told his congregation, saying he had to break "a numbing silence" about church prejudice against homosexuals.

Among the critics in his own parish and beyond, there are those who quote the Bible to condemn homosexuality and gay marriage.

"The Bible is not a book, it's a library written over 15 centuries," Farrow told me, suggesting that Christianity has and should continue to evolve. "People who approach scripture in a literal fashion are attempting to manipulate God himself."

To Farrow, condemning gay and lesbian marriage is as offensive as the condemnations of interracial marriage not too many decades ago.

" 'Think about the children,' they said, and they're doing the same with this," Farrow said indignantly. "If a child is raised in a home where he's loved, that's a good home."

So why not just quit his job rather than wait to get fired?

Farrow said he still sees the church as home, and believes his new mission is to force this issue whether he's wearing a collar or not.

"They said I've caused scandal to the church," he said. "I think the real scandal is the thousands of gay and lesbian children who feel abandoned by the church of their baptism."

When he was in seminary, Farrow interned as deacon at St. Vincent's Medical Center and worked with terminally ill patients. As the end nears, Farrow told me, people say the things they never could utter. They are "more alive than ever . . . because they realize the futility of fear." He found them all contemplating the same questions.

"Were you true to your conscience? Did you do what you felt was right?"

And one more.

"What do you have in the end but the love you gave away?"

California Bishops on Prop 8

This is an excerpt of the statement the Bishops of California put out back in August:

A Constitutional Amendment to Restore the Definition of Marriage

"Only the rock of complete and irrevocable love between man and woman is capable of acting as a foundation for a society that can be home to all human beings."
—Pope Benedict XVI, addressing the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, May 11, 2006

The issue before us with Proposition 8 is "marriage"—an ancient, yet modern, human institution which pre-exists both Church and government. Marriage, history shows us, is intrinsic to stable, flourishing and hospitable societies. Although cultural differences have occurred, what has never changed is that marriage is the ideal relationship between a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation and the continuation of the human race.

On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that the current law defining marriage as between a man and a woman is unconstitutional. This radical change in public policy will have many profound effects on our society, because it

Discounts the biological and organic reality of marriage—and how deeply embedded it is in our culture, our language and our laws and ignores the common understanding of the word marriage; and because it diminishes the word "marriage" to mean only a "partnership"-a purely adult contractual arrangement for individuals over the age of 18. Children—if there are any—are no longer a primary societal rationale for the institution.

As teachers of the faith, we invite our faithful Catholics to carefully form their consciences. We do that by drawing on the revelation of Scripture, the wisdom of Tradition, the experience and insights of holy men and women as well as on what can be known by reason alone.

Crystallizing the teaching on marriage, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1603, 1604) proclaims:

God himself is the author of marriage. The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures, and spiritual attitudes. The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life.

With all this in mind, we, as bishops, offer counsel to our Catholic people in California in their response to this radical change in California's public policy regarding marriage.

First, same-sex unions are not the same as opposite-sex unions. The marriage of a man and a woman embraces not only their sexual complementarity as designed by nature but includes their ability to procreate. The ideal for the well being of children is to be born into a traditional marriage and to be raised by both a mother and a father. We recognize that there are parents who are single and we laud them for the great sacrifices they make in raising their children.

Second, we need to recall that marriage mirrors God's relationship with us-and that marriage completes, enriches and perpetuates humanity. When men and women consummate their marriage they offer themselves to God as co-creators of a new human being. Any other pairing-while possibly offering security and companionship to the individuals involved—is not marriage. We must support traditional marriage as the source of our civilization, the foundation for a society that can be home to all human beings, and the reflection of our relationship with God.

Third, we need to remember that we are all children of God possessed of human dignity and that each of us is created in God's image. Protecting the traditional understanding of marriage should not in any way disparage our brothers and sisters—even if they disagree with us.

Fourth, we must pray and work for a just resolution of this issue which is so important to the well being of the human family.

Fifth, as citizens of California, we need to avail ourselves of the opportunity to overturn this ruling by the California Supreme Court. On the November general election ballot, there will be Proposition 8 which reads: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." That language simply affirms the historic, logical and reasonable definition of marriage—and does not remove any benefits from other contractual arrangements.

The American Muslim on Prop 8

Here's an opinion from a blogger I follow, The American Muslim. I agree with most of his piece, though I do think the wording of "civil union" v "marriage" has to be resolved. "Civil unions" though affording the same rights is not the same as "marriage." And yes, wording does matter.

Remember that "separate but equal" afforded African-Americans the same rights and access as whites. But it was not enough and it was not OK.

Read on:

Ordinarily, I don’t speak on GBLT issues. It’s not that I don’t have an opinion, but I never figured how it could pertain to my blog’s intent, however, I have changed my attitude and included my scope to include any and all issues out there. Which brings me to this prop 8 ruling.

I have to admit, I do see things from the GBLT perspective. I believe that this whole debate is a civil rights issue, not in the vein of the civil rights movement as many GBLT groups claim, but one nonetheless.

As an American, I have a hard time accepting that one citizens tax dollars should afford them more rights than anothers simply because of their beliefs and or sexual orientation.

I believe everyone regardless of ideology or background should be afforded equal rights across the board.

However, there has to be compromise on both sides.

I understand the faith communities points well as I too adhere to what my scripture tells me about same sex relations. BUT I believe that members of faith communities are being a wee bit hypocritical in their lopsided application of said scriptural mandates. If we are to be so anti same sex relations, then we should be just as harsh for adulterers, criminals, liars, etc.

We cannot have it both ways picking and choosing our hot-button issues at the moment swatting at gnats using our religion as a tool to propagate against those things that make us uncomfortable.

I believe scripturally that we have to afford people the CHOICE to be who they want to be no matter how sinful we as individuals may believe them to be. God Alone is the Ultimate Judge.

Now as it relates to our Republic, we have to make up our minds as to what we want. Do we want a Theocracy or a Democracy? If we want a Theocracy than we should expect to govern as such. That means shutting down all bars, clubs, etc. Shutting down Hollywood and ensuring swift punishment to all who fornicate, steal, cheat on their spouses, collect taxes, etc. Then we have to pick one religious law over anothers? Will we be a Christian Theocracy where divorce and re-marrying is illegal? Or an Islamic Theocrary, Judaic Theocracy, etc.

But if we want a Democracy than we have to accept that our laws must represent all people no matter their differences and as long as they do not commit any crimes.

Marriage has religious implications, but who has the monopoly on that word in the faith community? When we use that word which faith group has the unique right to define what that is? Does it involve a Priest, Rabbi, or Imam? This sacred rite, should not be confused with the legal rights that are given afterwards. Even after your ceromony you still have to have a license issued by the State. No religious leader can issue you a license, only the state can. Some people just go straight to the state and forgo religious rites alltogether. Is there a legal difference?

This is where I believe there can be compromise. I believe the GBLT community should leave the word “marriage” alone. Go straight to the legal heart of the matter and fight for a civil union. I mean the whole point is to get the same legal rights as a heterosexual couple right? Who cares if us religious folk don’t agree with the “sanctity” of what you legally want to have. I don’t agree with many things that are legal, some don’t agree with my disagreement, but that’s what America’s all about. We don’t have to agree on anything ever, but as long as we have the same rights, we can agree to disagree.

And that is something I think we can all agree with.

Keith Olbermann on Prop 8

I usually think Keith Olbermann is a kook, but his commentary on Prop 8 makes sense.

I don't think he'll be winning any points from the religious conservatives but his argument on love is a good one. Essentially: Just give people the same chance to love that you have!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

It's the last thing we needed, but I guess we did it. Somehow we voted another Irishman into the White House. God help us all:

Monday, November 10, 2008


I'm a sap, I know. So, it should come as no surprise when I say that I teared up watching this short film from The Responsibility Project on Deacon Greg's blog:


Sunday, November 9, 2008

The most popular bus driver in NYC

Here's a great story of a man who fought his demons and won. David Abramski was a drug-addict living on the same block I once lived on but managed to turn his life around and is now the most popular bus driver in New York City. Congratulations David!

Meet New York City's most popular bus driver


NYC Transit bus driver David Abramski, formerly homeless, is recipient of award for being most popular driver.

David Abramski found redemption behind the wheel of a city bus.

For a decade, he begged for spare change outside stores and at subway stops to buy booze and drugs.

He scavenged garbage cans for food and slept in a homeless encampment in a train tunnel beneath Riverside Park.

Today, the 51-year-old is a dutiful civil servant, an NYC Transit bus driver who was just named one of the fleet's most popular operators.

"It's a great honor," he said. "I never expected it."

Last year, 21 riders - all unaware of Abramski's personal journey - wrote or called the agency to praise his good-natured treatment of passengers. No other bus driver got as many commendations.

Abramski "is so pleasant, he makes up for all the rude ones," one woman wrote. The praise prompted NYC Transit President Howard Roberts to give Abramski an award at the agency's headquarters.

Abramski, still remembered on the West Side by his street name "Hollywood," is soft-spoken but brims with youthful exuberance.

In the mid-'80s, Abramski was a 29-year-old bicycle messenger and musician with rock-star dreams. He lived in a single-room-occupancy hotel on 107th St. that charged $80 a week for a shared bathroom and kitchen.

The only child of strict parents, he rebelled early and often, he said. He started smoking marijuana at 14 and branched out from there to crack, which was then ravaging the city.

"That's a killer," he said. "I went downhill from there. Whatever savings I had - I think it was something like $600 - went like that."

He was soon evicted for nonpayment of rent and moved into Riverside Park, which teemed with the homeless, many of them drug addicts, alcoholics or mental patients.

After being caught in a police "scoop" of the homeless, Abramski went underground. A ventilation shaft in the park led to a freight tunnel and a concrete ledge 20 feet above the tracks.

"I was a mole person for a while," he said. "I made camp under there. We had a little community."

Daniel Entin, director of the small Nicholas Roerich Museum near the park, had many conversations with Abramski, who, he recalled, would discuss politics and spoke French with another employee.

"He was different than everybody else," Entin said. "You meet people on the street, and some are bitter and aggressive. He was always open and friendly, even loving with people."

The gap between the wayward son and his mother eventually narrowed a bit and, one day, he was invited to move back to her upper West Side home if he quit drugs. At age 40, Abramski was ready to change.

"I had finally hit my bottom," he said. "You couldn't go lower than living under Riverside Park in a tunnel."

A substance abuse program wasn't necessary, Abramski said, thanks to a series of harsh winters. He opted to spend weekends underground, surviving on stockpiled food - without drugs.

"I figured if I could live without it for a couple of days, I could do it," he said. "I could stop."

Turned down for several jobs, Abramski resumed working as a messenger. After about two years, NJTransit hired him as a part-time bus driver. A year later, he landed a job with NYC Transit, where he just marked his eighth year.

In June, Abramski married his girlfriend, Barbara Alice. The couple lives in Union City, N.J., with their dog.

"Now, I'm the boy my mother and father always wanted me to be," he said. "Nice and clean-cut, upstanding, with a job."

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Obama supporters wander aimlessly

An old political friend sent me this. Hilarious!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Prayer for the Unemployed

Deacon Greg posted this Prayer for the Unemployed. Pray:

O Saint Joseph, we pray to you for those who are out of work, for those who want to earn their living or support their families.

You who are the patron of workers, grant that unemployment may vanish from our ranks;
that all those who are ready to work may put their strength and abilities in serving their fellowmen and earn a just salary.

You are the patron of families, do not let those who have children to support and raise lack the necessary means.

Have pity on our brothers and sisters held down in unemployment and poverty because of sickness or social disorders.
Help our political leaders and captains of industry find new and just solutions.

May each and every one have the joy of contributing, according to his abilities, to the common prosperity by an honorable livelihood.

Grant that we may all share together in the abundant goods God has given us and that we may help underprivileged countries. Amen.

-- Catholic Prayerbook

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Letters to President Obama from Fourth Graders in Harlem

A teacher at my old school is blogging at the Huffington Post and posted letters to Barack Obama from her fourth graders. Having taught these kiddos as their reading teacher, I'm proud of them and miss them dearly. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Dear President Obama,

I am so happy you are our new president! And it is not just because you are black, it is because you have some great ideas! And I wanted to be a singer, dancer, and actress but you open new doors for me. You open the doors for everybody. Now I think that now I can be the first female black president! And we went from black people not being able to vote and that changed and then black people never got a chance to be president but you changed that. And for that, it is like you are my and the whole world's hero!

Love (a 9 year old),

P.S. I won't put TV before homework.

Dear President Obama,

I want to say you are the bomb. I love all your speeches. Even my grandma does. I feel sorry for your grandmother but she's there up in heaven watching over you. When you get to the white house you will have our help.

I'm so happy that you are becoming president. Can you make a change about the cops? They need to pay more attention at the Lincoln Tunnel.

Write back.

Your friend,

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Law never trumps love

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
-Dalai Lama

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
-Jesus in Matthew 7:12

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

And so it is

What happened tonight is incredible.

This is a great country and I hope Barack Obama will be a great President.

Pray for him.

God bless

How about the fact that there may be millions of children in the US who grow up with a Black President. And to them that'll be totally normal. That's pretty incredible.

God bless the next President (whoever that may turn out to be)!

Monday, November 3, 2008

My vote

[This probably sounds somewhat disjointed and lacks the substance I really wanted to include but I blame it on Saturday Night Live's Monday night programming.]

Tomorrow I am waking up at 6am, throwing on some sweats and heading to my polling site. I will vote.

My decision on who to vote for did not come easy this year.

I am a fan of John McCain. I've wanted him to win in the past and was hoping he would earn the Republican nomination this year. He did, but under a different persona. The McCain of 2000 was someone who the Republican Party wanted to see torn apart. The McCain of 2008 became the flag-bearer for his Party. The guy who rassled with the evangelical right in 2000, buddied up to them in 2008.

I was initially excited by John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin. I thought it was brilliant. And, in some ways, it was. She had a record of independent reform, incredible approval ratings in Alaska, and she's got charisma. Unfortunately, she turned out to be like any other politician - bending the truth on her record and a bit of a shady record on managing state employees. She also lacks the economic and foreign affairs knowledge I would hope a candidate for the office should hold.

During the Democratic primaries, I did not support Barack Obama. Unfortunately, I found out only after he cleared the last hurdles that I was a closet Hilary Clinton supporter all along. There are many issues where I disagree with Barack Obama - gay marriage (which I fully support and he does not), global warming, immigration, and Social Security. There's something in my gut that doesn't trust Obama - something about his inexperience and centrist babble. I think I'm actually more of a supporter of Joe Biden than I am of Barack Obama. Sure Joe says silly things every other day - but he knows his stuff and says what he means (even when he doesn't mean to do it).

In the end, my vote goes to someone I can't entirely 100% support - Barack Obama. But I give my vote with the hope that all the talk, all the hype, and all the expectation is something he can live up to.

At my school today I took a very informal poll asking, "Who do you think will win the Presidential election tomorrow?" as part of our Social Studies lesson on Election Day. Approximately 100 Kindergarteners and First Graders participated with the following results: Obama 53% - McCain 47%.

Tomorrow, remember to vote. Vote with hope. And then pray.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

New York's Holy Day

Today is one of New York City's Holy Days: Marathon Sunday.

Today, over 30,000 come from around the world to run 26.2 miles through every borough. World class champions and everyday first-timers are all out there at the same time, running the same race.

As they run down 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, they're introduced to churches, synagogues, mosques, and an international crowd that has no rival. The noise they will hear as they hit 1st Ave in Manhattan for the first time, will give them a boost of energy that will hopefully last 'till the end.

On Marathon Sunday almost 3 million New Yorkers and visitors hit the streets to support the runners. People from around the world and different faith backgrounds supporting runners from around the world and different faith backgrounds.

On Marathon Sunday, everyone is a New Yorker, and that's all that matters.

God bless New York City today.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Praying for those elected

George Weigel wrote a piece in the Denver Catholic Register suggesting that we pray for those elected. Please do.

Praying for those to be elected

There will be much to ponder, once this interminable electoral cycle comes to an end. Why has so much of the campaign seemed like a prolonged episode of “American Idol,” with candidates trying to sell their personal “narratives” rather than their ideas and policies? Why did Pastor Rick Warren, rather than talented, veteran journalists, raise the questions that many Americans would like to explore in considering their new president: questions of the candidates’ character, compassion, intellectual roots, and moral depth? What does the non-stop cable news cycle do to our national ability to pause and think seriously?

Earlier this year, at the height of the primary season, a senior producer in the network news business told me that, while a political junkie, she was appalled by what she had experienced within many campaigns: the carefully crafted, poll- and focus group-driven manipulation of the electorate’s emotions, in what amount to a variant on the sleazier forms of advertising. Isn’t there something more to running for president than appealing to consumer tastes? And then there’s the media’s own fixation with “gotcha,” which further fuels the vacuity of political conversation and debate.

Truth to tell, campaigns are rarely pretty, if you’re interested in ideas rather than spasms of feeling. 1960 is supposed to have been an exception—our age’s answer to Lincoln and Douglas—but few today remember that Kennedy and Nixon spent an inordinate amount of time during their debates arguing about two rocks off the China coast, Quemoy and Matsu. Still, these past two years seem, at the moment, to have been singularly devoid of a serious exchange of ideas, and singularly dominated by sound bites.

So, with the end in sight, let me suggest that it’s time to pray: to pray for the candidates, because whoever is inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2009, is facing a world of trouble; to pray for ourselves, that we refrain from tribal voting and make wise and prudent choices; and to pray for our country, that we grow up a bit more in the years ahead.

Read the article and the Litany of St. Thomas More here. And pray.