Thursday, January 29, 2009

a little kiss

I've had trouble posting anything recently because my focus is on my running. As most of you may know, I am running the NJ Marathon and raising money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. I've been so focused on my running and health - and so far, knock on wood, doing really well - that blogging is down a few steps on the list. In all, my running is taking an hour or two or three out of my day.

But, I'm still surfing the web and finding inspiration. This one comes via Deacon Greg Kandra and tells a great story:

A woman who doctors believed could remain comatose indefinitely recently
revived after her husband asked her for a kiss.

Just ten days after giving birth to her son, Telford, Shropshire resident
Emma Ray suffered a heart attack and collapsed while shopping with her husband,
Andrew. Andrew performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on her, after which she
was taken to a hospital where doctors were able to restart her heart.

“She could wake up the following day, she could wake up in a month, or you
may be left with a sleeping beauty,” Andrew Ray said a doctor told him,
according to the Daily Mail.

Andrew went to great lengths to try and rouse his 34 year-old wife from her
comatose state, playing recordings of their baby son Alexander and of their
daughter Ella and songs from their wedding reception.

“I would speak softly to her, clasp her hand, pinch her fingers, all the
time telling her I loved her or begging her to wake up. By the time I asked her
to kiss me I was approaching my wits' end,” he told the Daily Mail.

He bent over his wife’s hospital bed and said “Emma, if you can hear me,
please just give me a kiss.”“'What happened next was beyond my wildest dreams,”
he told the Daily Mail. “She turned her head towards mine, puckered up her lips
and gave me a little kiss.”

“I couldn't believe it. My heart felt like it was going to leap from my
chest –it suddenly felt like a huge weight had been lifted.”

Doctors who witnessed the kiss were astonished by her response.Emma ray
continued to drift in an out of consciousness. Her brain had been oxygen-starved
after her heart attack, resulting in short-term memory loss.

She was eventually allowed home but requires ongoing rehabilitation for the
brain damage.

“The recovery is awful because I have so little memory,” Emma told the
Daily Mail.Her husband said he was grateful his wife had survived.

“She can walk quite well holding hands now, and at least our kids still
have a mother and I still have a wife,” he said, according to the Daily

Monday, January 26, 2009

Holocaust denier re-communed

I haven't written for almost a week due to work, a high volume of running, followed by extensive exhaustion, traveling, and more running. This has been going around for a day or two. I'm disappointed:

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Jewish officials in Israel and abroad are outraged that Pope Benedict XVI has decided to lift the excommunication of a British bishop who denies that Jews were killed in Nazi gas chambers.

The pope's decree, issued Saturday, brings back into the Catholic Church's fold Bishop Richard Williamson and three other bishops who belong to the Society of Saint Pius X.

The liaison for Vatican-Jewish relations -- Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity -- said he was not consulted.

"It was a pope decision" he told CNN in a phone interview. "I have my opinions about it, but I do not wish to comment on a decision made by the pope."

The Society of Saint Pius X was founded by Archbishop Lefebrve, who rebelled against the Vatican's modernizing reforms in the 1960s, and who consecrated the men in unsanctioned ceremonies. As a result, Pope John Paul II excommunicated the four in 1988.

Within the Catholic Church, many Vatican analysts suggests that in an attempt to heal one rift with ultra-conservative church members, the pope is risking creating a wider gap with those more liberal groups that have fully embraced the changes and reforms.

The church's decision to lift the excommunication comes a few days after a Swedish television aired an interview with Williamson in which the 68-year-old claimed the Nazis did not use gas chambers.

"I believe that the historical evidence is strongly against -- is hugely against -- 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler," he said in the interview, which appeared on various Web sites since its broadcast. What do you think?

"I believe there were no gas chambers," he added.

He added: "I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but none of them by gas chambers."

Prosecutors in Regensburg, Germany, where the interview took place -- and where the pope once taught -- are investigating Williamson's comments on suspicion of inciting racial hatred. Holocaust denial is treated as a crime in Germany.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, who now heads the society, distanced himself from Williamson's position. He told the Italian newspaper La Stampa that Williamson was responsible for his own opinions.

Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee called the move by the Roman Catholic Church "shameful."

By "welcoming an open holocaust denier into the Catholic Church without any recantation on his part, the Vatican has made a mockery of John Paul II's moving and impressive repudiation and condemnation of anti-Semitism," he said.

Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, also expressed disappointment at the pope's decision.

"The decree sends a terrible message to Catholics around the world that there is room in the church for those who would undermine the church's teaching and would foster disdain and contempt for other religions, particularly Judaism," he said. "Given the centuries-long history of anti-Semitism in the church, this is a most troubling setback."

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi called Williamson's remarks "absolutely indefensible."

He said the Vatican's decision to accept Williamson was part of its desire to normalize relations with the ultra-conservative group, and had nothing to do with the bishop's personal views.

But Rabbi Rosen dismissed as meaningless the Vatican's claim that the decision to welcome back Williamson did not mean the pope shared his views.

That explanation "does not resolve the question of how can the pope or the Vatican -- committed to fighting anti-Semitism which the late Pope John Paul II called "a sin against God and man" -- embrace someone who denies or at least minimalizes the Holocaust.

The move has the potential to set back Jewish-Catholic relations, which was strained by Pope Pius XII. The Pontiff during World War II, he is accused by some historians of failing to speak out against the Holocaust.

"While there are still hundreds of thousands of living Holocaust survivors amongst us who carry the scars of the Holocaust in them, to accept back a Holocaust-denying bishop raises questions if the Vatican under Pope XVI has learned the lesson of the Holocaust," said Amos Hermon, who heads the Task Force Against Anti-Semitism at Israel's Jewish Agency.

Some theologians say the decision by the pope -- who said he wanted to unite the Catholic church -- could be counter-productive. "This is not so much an act of grace as a surrender," Vatican analyst Marco Politi told The Times of London.

Pope Benedict was seeking reconciliation, "but the new era has begun with a lie. The pope has made a openly declared and unshakeable anti-Semite a legitimate bishop," Politi added.

The pope has twice visited synagogues, in the U.S. and his home country Germany, but recently stated, according to The Times, that dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims "in the strict sense of the word" was "not possible."

After his 14th birthday in 1941, Benedict -- then called Joseph Ratzinger -- was forced along with the rest of his class in Bavaria, southern Germany, to join the Hitler Youth. However his biographer John Allen Jr., said Ratzinger's family was strongly anti-Nazi.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's a New Day

Martin wasn't dreaming for nothing:

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Martin! and, thank you

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, Jr.!

May each year that we celebrate, bring us closer to your dream.

My friend, Paul, posted King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail. A great read.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

World Religion Day?

I never knew there was one, but apparently this Sunday is World Religion Day. And the Baha'is are going to celebrate:

Baha'i faith celebrates 'oneness' of religions

Milwaukie woman is a national leader in the Baha'i faith

(news photo)

World Religion Day is coming up this Sunday and if you have ever wondered what that is all about, Erica Toussaint can tell you.

The Milwaukie resident, a member of the Baha'i Faith, said the Baha'is began World Religion Day in 1950 as one of the observance days to “heighten public awareness of the concept of one common faith,” a major component of the Baha'i Faith.

On Jan. 18, Toussaint will meet with her local Baha'i Faith group, and on that day their prayers will focus on “the oneness of religion with God.”

There are 600 Baha'i Faith members in the greater Portland area, she said, divided into 22 communities; Toussaint belongs to the NW Clackamas County Baha'i community, with about 25 members.

The Baha'i Faith takes its name from its founder, Baha’u’llah, an 18th century prophet born in Iran, Toussaint said.

Baha’u’llah “means glory of God in Arabic,” she added.

The basic tenets of the Baha'i Faith are a belief in “the equality of women and men and the essential oneness of all the world’s religions. Baha’u’llah believed that all [religious] founders, all messengers, were all great teachers, including Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus and Muhammad. [They were] all inspired by the same God to educate humanity to bring together the unity of mankind,” Toussaint said.

There are a few things that distinguish the Baha'i Faith from other religions, she said, the first being that there are no clergy, and there are few established churches.

“Everyone is responsible for his or her own service — this is an independent investment of faith, we have no congregational mentality,” she said, noting that Baha'is pray together in “devotional meetings that are neighborhood based,” usually in other members’ homes.

Fast growing religion

There are about 160,000 Baha'i Faith members in the United States, and that number is growing so quickly that the National Spiritual Assembly “took a step back to systematically figure out how to welcome new believers. We then embarked on a 25-year-devlopment program world-wide.”

That led to the training process that is currently underway to form children’s classes and classes for junior youth, ages 12 to 14.

Baha'i roots

Toussaint said her Baha'i roots go back to 1912, when her grandfather, then a Unitarian minister, heard the son of Baha’u’llah speak about the Baha'i Faith.

“He became a Baha'i and had one child, my grandmother, who became a Baha'i, and then my mother, who became a Baha'i. My mother made sure I had every opportunity to study every religion, so when I turned 15, I formally became a Baha'i,” she said.

Toussaint attended Milwaukie schools, and noted that she was the only Baha'i in high school, and “took pride in being different.”

She did not think when she was a teen that there would be so many of the Baha'i Faith in the area, she said.

Toussaint added, “I think people are looking for unity. I am a Baha'i, because these teachings are deeply spiritual, clearly moral and make so much sense. It is a practical way for all mankind to truly live as brother and sister. I practice these teachings in order to experience the commonality and richness of the human family.”

Baha'i Faith members elect nine-member councils locally, regionally and nationally to guide followers, Toussaint said, and communities meet once a month to “pray, consult and hear from the local council.”

She noted that founder Baha’u’llah used the number nine, the highest single digit, “symbolically, as a sign of unity.”

Toussaint is beginning her ninth year on the nine-member National Spiritual Assembly, to which she was elected in 2000.

“We all knew a long-serving member was retiring, but when my name was called I was overwhelmed. The Baha'is have a great deal of respect [for the National Spiritual Assembly board] because they govern with love and vision."

For more information about the Baha'i Faith visit the Website at

Monday, January 12, 2009

Oh, the things you'll do for Jesus

I found this in the NY Daily News this morning:
Taking a leap (and dive) of faith in Greek tradition

Monday, January 12th 2009, 5:21 AM

Now that's faith.

Paul Apostolakis braved the frigid, whitecapped Hudson River Sunday in his lifeguard trunks to retrieve a gold cross thrown in by the Rev. John Romas of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.

The diving ceremony off Pier A in Battery Park was part of an annual church ritual that commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.

Whoever retrieves the cross is thought to have good luck for the year.

"Like Father tells me, I do this for God, and he's going to be there for me," said Apostolakis, 20, of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

The deep-freeze dive has been a tradition since St. Nicholas was founded in 1916.

The church, which was located on Cedar St. in lower Manhattan, was destroyed on 9/11.

Its temporary home is at Sts. Constantine and Helen Cathedral in Brooklyn.

Three men who'd planned to participate in the cross dive backed out, leaving Apostolakis as the sole swimmer.

The Rider University student is a member of the school's diving team and has fished the cross out of the water at four previous celebrations.

"It wasn't as cold as the other years," he said modestly. The air temperature Sunday afternoon was 30 degrees, according to

His mother, Pauline Apostolakis, watched proudly from the shore.

"He likes to keep tradition," she said.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ein Keloheinu!

Last night, Adam and I went to Shabbat Services. You will be reading about our trip at Worship, Gotham! soon.

In the meantime, enjoy the Ein Keloheinu as done by a Harlem Gospel Choir from one of my favorite movies, Keeping the Faith:

Friday, January 9, 2009

Anyone up for a little B'nai Jeshurun?

We have posted our upcoming schedule on Worship, Gotham! so that anyone interested in joining us on our visits through the holy city of New York knows where we'll be each weekend. So, far we've just listed tonight's visit but hopefully we'll set up the schedule in advance so you can plan accordingly.

Still, if you're looking for a good time tonight, Adam and I will be trekking to Shabbat Service at Congregation B'nai Jeshurun. We will be attending the service at 7:30pm.

Join us!

Throw the baby away

Christian wades into a controversial topic:

I recently had a conversation with someone about Down Syndrome. The issue of "making a decision" during the pregnancy came up. They said that it might be best if the baby didn't make it to term. I whole-heartedly disagree. Everyone deserves a chance. Did you know, by the way, that about 92% of the pregnancies diagnosed as Down Syndrome end in an abortion? I'm not here to judge a couple or an expectant mother going through this. The news must be devastating and I can't begin to imagine what that is like. I'm just deeply saddened that the Down Syndrome babies don't get a chance to live.

Then, I was reading this morning and read about a "cancer-free" baby being born in the UK. Essentially, the baby was created in-vitro, tested for the the gene linked to breast and ovarian cancer, and implanted when it cleared the test.

If the embryo had been found to carry a cancer-linked gene, she probably would have been discarded. Disgusting:

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The first child in Britain known to have been screened as an embryo to ensure she did not carry a cancer gene was born Friday, a spokesman for University College London told CNN.

Genetic screening allows lab-fertilized embryos to be tested for genes likely to lead to later health problems.

The baby girl is the first child in Britain known to have been screened as an embryo to ensure she did not carry a gene linked to breast and ovarian cancer.

She was screened in a lab, days after conception, for the BRCA-1 gene. People with the gene have a 50-80 percent chance of developing breast or ovarian cancer in their lifetimes.

British newspapers have dubbed the girl the "cancer-free" baby.

"This little girl will not face the spectre of developing this genetic form of breast cancer or ovarian cancer in her adult life," said Paul Serhal, a consultant at University College London Hospital and Medical Director of the Assisted Conception Unit.

"The parents will have been spared the risk of inflicting this disease on their daughter. The lasting legacy is the eradication of the transmission of this form of cancer that has blighted these families for generations."

Yet not everyone is thrilled with the idea of testing embryos for genes that could cause health problems later in life, a process known as preimplanatation genetic diagnosis.

"This is not a cure for breast cancer," said Josephine Quintavalle, co-founder of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, which describes itself as group that focuses on ethical dilemmas related to reproduction.

"This is simply a mechanism for eliminating the birth of anybody (prone to) the disease," she said. "It is basically a search-and-kill mechanism."

She opposes the procedure because embryos found to carry disease-causing genes often are discarded. She says that is essentially murder.

"They will be destroyed," she said. "They will never be allowed to live."

Doctors in Britain and elsewhere increasingly test embryos for genes that are certain to cause illnesses such as cystic fibrosis or Huntington's Disease.

What's different about the girl born Friday is that she is the first infant known to have been tested in Britain as an embryo for a gene that is merely likely -- not certain -- to cause disease.

In the United States, geneticists are free to test for any condition for which they can develop a probe -- and they're free to look for genes that are certain to cause diseases as well as genes that merely may pose problems later in life.

Quintavalle opposes any form of in-vitro fertilization where embryos are "killed," she said. But she is particularly troubled by the idea of screening an embryo for the BRCA-1 gene because carriers of the gene do not always develop the disease, and the disease is not always fatal.

"The message we are sending is: 'Better off dead than carrying (a gene linked to) breast cancer,'" she said. "We have gone very much down the proverbial slippery slope."

Peter Braude, one of the top British experts on the genetic testing of embryos, said he understands the ethical objections but focuses on the benefits.

"There has always been a vociferous group in opposition," he said. But "there are people who can benefit and I think they should be allowed to do so."

In fact, he argues that the procedure actually prevents abortions because it takes place on a three-day old embryo in a lab. Only embryos that lack the defective gene are implanted.

"I don't think you can equate eight cells in a dish to an embryo or a child," said Braude, head of the department of women's health at the King's College London School of Medicine.

For many couples, the alternative to testing an embryo is to conceive a child naturally and test the fetus weeks or months into a pregnancy. Some couples opt for an abortion when such testing reveals a defect.

Diagnosing an embryo genetically typically involves fertilizing an egg with a sperm in a lab, testing the resulting embryo and implanting it in the mother if no defects are found.

Braude agrees that testing for diseases that may not be fatal -- or may not manifest themselves for decades -- raises thorny ethical questions.

"How serious does it have to be before you throw away an embryo?" he asked. "Are you prepared to throw away a 16-week embryo for Huntington's, which will not manifest until age 40?"

In Britain, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority determines the conditions for which geneticists can test. It has approved testing for more than 60 conditions since it was established in 1990.

The authority approved testing for the BRCA-1 gene in 2008.

Dr. Mark Hughes, who founded a genetics clinic in the United States, said he likes the idea of an authority that regulates what tests can be performed -- the system in place in Britain -- but believes that parents who want to test for genetic abnormalities should be allowed to do so.

At his Genesis Genetics Institute in Detroit, Mich., Hughes carries out about two tests a month for BRCA-1 or BRCA-2, a related gene.

"The couple is the best one to be making these decisions, because they live with these diseases," he said.

"When it hits your family over and over again, many couples are saying: 'Enough of this. Let's prune this out of our family tree forever.'"

He rejects the notion that parents will use genetic testing to remove all imperfections from children.

"You can get up on your high horse and say people are looking for perfect children, but let's give these families more credit," he said. "They just want one that has a fighting chance of not having a disease."

Hughes said he doubts genetic screening will ever be used to test all babies. That's partly because it costs the equivalent of about $11,755 -- 8,000 British pounds -- to screen embryos.

It's also because the process is very complex.

"It's gotten easier to do now than it was 19 years ago," when Hughes did his first test for cystic fibrosis, he said. "But it has not exploded, not burst onto the medical field like some technologies do.

"No one would use these technologies for a trivial reason. It's too much effort," he said. "Not just the money -- it's so many hoops to jump through for a couple that would prefer to make their baby on vacation rather than in a clinic."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Worship with us!

Adam and I were joined by two friends this Sunday when we attended Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

My thoughts on the visit are available at Worship, Gotham!

On a related note, our friends, the follower of Meher Baba and the lapsed Catholic, seemed to enjoy their Worship, Gotham! visit. If you'd like to join us sometime, let us know.

Worship with us!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The American Muslim on Gaza

I hadn't realized that The American Muslim had already posted his own thoughts on Gaza last week. Excerpts here:

It’s not just the Israeli’s whom we Muslims should be focusing on. I have received email after email giving notice of planned protests, denunciations, etc. and quite frankly I have to admit I’m a little disappointed to put it mildly. Why is it that every time something happens in Gaza we Muslims can’t see the 800 pound Gorilla in the room?

Allah (swt) knows that I am not denying the brutal onslaught on the Palestinians committed by the Israeli government, but Allah (swt) also commands me to use my reason and to be patient before I react in pure unadultered emotion as some of us are.

Many innocent civilians have been killed in the latest flare up. Over 300 dead and over 1000 wounded Palestinians at this point, and I think at most 5 Israelis have been killed or injured. So of course the disproportionate nature of victims prove that this is a heavy handed response, but the keyword that we fail to acknowledge as we
condemn Israel is the word response.

What are the Israeli’s responding to? That is the question we Muslims never ask. We love to deal exclusively in the effects of a situation but rarely engage in the causes behind them.

We have to call Hamas to account here. They are not the victims. They refuse to deal in a manner in which is honorable, peaceful, and justified. They fired rockets in Israel, they broke the cease-fire, and the cowards purposefully ensure that they do so from civilian compounds so that when the Israelis respond the amount of civilians that are killed are maximized.

Let’s be realistic, if Israel had in mind that they wanted to kill Palestinians indiscriminately they would just do it. They obviously have the capability and the so-called Muslim world wouldn’t do anything about it. It’s all a game these countries play. No one actually cares about the Palestinians or Muslims around the world suffering until Israel does something big enough to give them a stage for political posturing.

If we really wanted to pontificate in a meaningful way we would reign in Hamas and
call them to account for the role they played in the deaths of all the innocents on both sides. These thugs who claim to represent a noble cause are anything but. If they were really warriors or Mujahadeen as they play on TV they would face the Israeli Army in battle directly and not involve civilians. The same goes for all the other so-called clerics and groups that have issues with the West and Israel. No true Muslim would purposefully target civilians and other non-combatants, but that’s not how these thugs act is it?

. . .

In war there will always be collateral damage and it is unfortunate, however we
have to critically look at this people, would the level of deaths be so high if Hamas didn’t use civilian dwellings as bases of operation? If you fire a rocket from an apartment building for example and are fired upon in return obviously everyone in the building is now in danger and at risk of dying too.

This is the major problem that we fail to acknowledge, protest against, and pontificate against. Hamas, Hezbollah, and all the other groups do this on purpose. We are all pawns in their game. They are the true murderers, they set our people up so they can be killed. They use Mosques, homes, schools, etc. to draw fire against the innocent and to them the blame for the dead should be placed.

I can’t stress this enough, Muslims wake up, wake up you sleeping giant! We will never advance any goal or ideal as long as we are blind to those who do us harm within our midst. It is perfectly normal, virtuous, and right to mourn the dead Palestinians and call Israel to account for their heavy handed response to the thugs called Hamas, but it is not normal, virtuous, or right to continue to be silent about the Israeli civilians who are killed and live in a state of fear also. It is not normal, virtuous, or right to continue to be silent about how Hamas set the Palestinians in Gaza up to be killed, these deaths were intentional on their part, and if we really cared about justice in the Middle East we would acknowledge their role in the bloodshed as well.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Rabbi Andy Bachman on the Gaza situation

Rabbi Andy Bachman posted his thoughts on the Gaza situation:

As Israel’s incursion into the Gaza Strip moves well into its second week, most of us watch from the sidelines or a distance with a heavy, heavy heart over the loss of innocent life. No one deserves to die who has not brought death on to him or herself, least of all an innocent child. So to be fundamentally clear: even those of us who support Israel’s efforts to break Hamas and seriously damage its ability to torment Israeli towns with terror mourn loss of every innocent life and grieve with those families. In addition, our hearts go out to those terrified by bombs dropping in homes,
on streets, in mosques.

But Israel’s war, I believe, is a just war.

When Israel pulled out of Gaza, tearing deeply at the fabric of its own society to uproot families there (a disengagement I strongly favored and still do) the entire world was able to see if it chose to look that Israel was willing to risk the unity of the
nation to take fundamental steps toward peace. The Hamas leadership took the
exact opposite steps, took no risk, brutally murdered its own in waging violent
and bloody civil war with the Palestinian Authority, and continued on its self-destructive path of trying to wage existential war against Israel. Never has it seriously addressed Israel’s justified existence; never has it accepted
Israel’s RIGHT to exist; and never has it seriously sought to make peace.
Rather, it has embarked on a hundred years plan, to wear down the psyche of the
Israeli population with terror, kidnapping, and the selling of a religio-fundamentalist viewpoint that completely de-legitimizes any Jewish claim to the land.

It’s truly depressing.

. . .

And, I’d point out to people willing to read the situation: the West Bank is relatively calm, not only because of security but because the PA was defeated by Hamas in
Gaza and the PA has given tacit approval to Israel’s operation. Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia–each of whom bear as much as or more responsibility for the continued statelessness of Palestinians by not working harder in partnership with Israel for peace (how did all those weapons get into Gaza?)–have given Israel tacit and at time explicit approval for these operations.

Israel will continue to be portrayed as illegitimate; blood-sucking; heartless; amoral; genocidal; racist–you name it. It’s a rhetoric that has lost most of its meaning, sadly, because for years and years people are more comfortable talking and pontificating than holding leadership accountable not only in Washington, DC or on the college campus but in Gaza City and Ramallah.

Remember Ehud Barak’s quote: If I were a Palestinian youth, I’d fight the occupation, too. That is the man who is leading Israel in this war. Despite war’s brutal reality, when Hamas wakes up from its delusional nightmare that Israel has no place in this world, it will in fact find an incredible capacity for making the necessary sacrifices as a nation to live in peace.

Read the entire text here.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The good Lord needed him now

A friend forwarded this article about the recent tragic passing of a priest. He died trying to help others and this piece is, as my friend said in the email, a celebration of his service:
Grief for 'the Flying Priest'
By Jonathan Mummolo

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Michael C. Kelly, the pastor at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Purcellville, had a number of techniques for bringing people into the flock.

There was his disarming sense of humor, reflected in the signs he put on the doors of the confessional booths, which read, "Your Name Here." There was his knack for attracting attention, such as when he'd ride his homemade airplane-style bicycles through town, earning him the nickname "the flying priest." And there were his everyday actions, parishioners said, which exemplified the message of giving and self-sacrifice ubiquitous in his sermons.

Kelly, 53, died this week doing one final good deed. While driving to the funeral of another priest, Kelly pulled over in the Hamilton area about 9 a.m. Wednesday during a fierce wind storm to remove a fallen tree from the road so no one would get hurt. That was when he was struck and killed by another falling tree, authorities said.

To the mournful congregation of more than 1,700 families, Kelly's act was the exclamation point on the end of years of devoted service.

"The angels swooped down and carried him off," said a damp-eyed parishioner, Ruth Showalter, outside the Loudoun County church yesterday. "That was him. He got out there for people."

Kelly's father, John F.J. Kelly, put it another way.

"The good Lord needed an outstanding priest," said Kelly, 80, of Foneswood, Va. "He needed him now."

. . .

He walked several paths before finding his calling, congregants and relatives said, serving in the U.S. Navy — where he attained the rank of boatswain's mate, 2nd Class — studying history at what was then Mary Washington College and later working alongside his father as a private weapons and security consultant for the military. He was ordained in 1995, but his love of the military and history never faded. He was a Civil War reenactor, playing the part of a Union soldier from a Massachusetts unit known as the "Irish Brigade."

His gift, parishioners said, was his ability to combine those experiences into a powerful message and manner. In the confessional booth, congregants said, he had a gentle demeanor, encouraging people to "be merciful on yourself." When called for, he could be firm, and he often repeated the slogan "Improvise, adapt and overcome" — a popular saying among Marines — to those facing challenges. After preaching, he implored churchgoers to "continue the march."

. . .

Kelly, who also served at St. James in Falls Church, St. Ambrose in Annandale and Sacred Heart of Jesus in Winchester, had a reach that extended beyond the walls of the church's gleaming white building. Around town, he was famous for riding bicycles that he crafted to look like World War I and II-era fighter planes and appeared with them in parades.

In the afternoons, he would often ride from his residence at the church and wait on the corner for passing school buses full of waving, giggling children who lit up when they saw the flying priest.

"All the kids would be waving, waving waving," said Janice Rees, a staff member at the church. "You'd see the occasional pickup truck full of workers heading home, looking curiously, like, 'What the heck was that?' "

. . .

In a homily last weekend, Kelly, whose funeral is Tuesday, cited a Bible passage that conveyed how giving "completes" an individual. Although they were shocked and saddened, those who knew him said the way he died was not a surprise.

"You never had to ask for help," said parishioner Sheila Cowling of Leesburg. "He was there."

Read the whole story here.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year! (and Jesus getting circumcised day!)

Happy New Year! And, as the Title of this post says today is also the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus Christ! I never heard of that, but it's true. So, umm, reflect.

This year my resolutions list includes some things that may be considered impossible but since resolutions are almost always forgotten after a month or two, I figured why not?

Here's my list:
1) Complete the NJ Marathon in May and raise $1132 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
2) Become a superhero.
3) Complete the Urbanathlon.
4) Lower my cholesterol naturally.
5) Travel to and explore the Pacific Northwest.
6) Double our 2008 contribution to charity.
7) Complete 100 consecutive push-ups by July.
8) Save twice as much money as we saved in 2008.
9) Write and finish a book. Any book. Seriously.
10) Hang out with my family more often.