Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Walking while Reading, and vice versa

Two of my great pleasures are reading and taking my 4 mile walks around NY whenever I can. I feel completely renewed after either or both experiences. I am able to combine the 2 pleasures by listening to books while walking, using unabridged books that I have downloaded from Audible.Com. The main drawback is that I occasionally get distracted and have to go back in the recordings, but I sometimes do the same with printed books. I just finished listening to Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin's brilliant study of Lincoln and his collaborators. Now I am engrossed by an entirely different kind of book, The Lighthouse by PD James. Pleasures are always welcome but for me this is clearly a 2 for 1.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Traveling in the 4th Grade

A good friend of mine asked me to be one of the far flung people to fill out the travelogue for his 4th grade niece. It has just been forwarded to me by another friend in Knoxville and now I am to list the delights and highlights of NY. This is a terrific way for a 4th grade class in Ohio to develop curiosity about the larger world (not to imply, Joe, that there is anything inadequate about Ohio). Parochial, narrow minded New York kids like myself had very little interest in anything beyond maybe Ireland and the five boroughs which we arrogantly thought were the extent of all that was fascinating in this world. Now all these year separated from my own 4th grade, and having visited many wonderful parts of the world, I am almost embarrassed to be back in my 4th grade hegemony - Really, there is no place like New York.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Advent Time

As we were driving back to NY from my brother's Thanksgiving dinner over the George Washington Bridge, I had thoughts about what some of the people at the dinner had done with their time in life, in all cases a shorter time than mine. People have come and gone, dealt with illnesses and deaths, headed off to college or graduated, married and had families. I am sort of a visitor in most of these lives, only meeting them at family occasions like Thanksgiving. I have another track of time - my own - which seems to move too quickly. Advent sends us back to the birth of Jesus, and to the end of the world, to the time of ancient Israel and to our own time. Advent tells me that it is all the same event, same one moment but that our limited human minds have to carve it up into past, present and future. I get the sense that we are invited to trust that God is holding us always, however we feel at the moment, and that trust is the substance of our faith.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving 2005

Even though I will be spending the afternoon and evening around a festive table with my brother, his wife and his 3 great kids, I find it strange this year to be in this season. I have many reasons to thank God for gifts that are incredibly generous and blessed, but I feel only anxiety and shame when I look at the world that this country is controlling. The war, violence, torture and disregard for the thoughts of other nations all combine in a witches brew of poison and bad will. I am afraid that the leaders of the US have brought shame and disgrace upon a whole nation and the people now realize what has been done in their name. Somewhere, we can pray, there is a corner to be turned, a book to be opened, a common sense to be restored. Perhaps. Perhaps not likely.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Jimmy Carter is on the phone

This morning I had the privilege of sitting in and listening as 2 editors of Busted Halo (Paulist Young Adult Ministry), Mike Hayes and Bill McGarvey, interviewed President Carter. It was a terrific interview with excellent questions and great insights from the former President who has a new book out right now. He talked about the destructive effect of fundamentalism in religion and in politics, especially as relevant to the occupation of Iraq. He also shared generous insights into his own faith, including the custom that he and Roslyn read a page of scripture each night and how that has confirmed and strengthened their 60 year marriage. Carter is truly a man of peace and human rights who is not hesitant to witness his commitment and devotion to the Prince of Peace.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


I remember that many years ago I flew from the barren Holy Land to Italy. I recall thinking very much about the apostles, Peter, Paul and the other early Christians who also traveled to Italy from the Holy Land (without, of course, the ease of my flight). Surely somewhere in this migration was a recognition that beauty needed to be added to the virtues of Christianity. Natural beauty in Italy would have been such a new experience, while the lovely early art and architecture must have impressed them, as it still does to us today. I thought of the role of beauty in our lives of prayer, faith and worship, as I roamed the magnificent Fra Angelico Exhibit at the MET the other day, and renewed those thought as I walked back and forth to the museum through the autumnal splendor of Central Park.

Friday, November 18, 2005

A hero and a Marine

Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha, a Marine veteran and long time military supporter who voted for the war in Iraq, has called for withdrawal of US troops. This move is now solidly established in the national debate, thanks to his moving, even tear-filled dissent. Better than any other politician, he identified the US military operation as the focus and the cause of the turmoil in Iraq. He also argued that we owe it to the targets of the insurgency - US troops - to bring them home and stop endangering them in this useless occupation. John Murtha has entered that Hall reserved for statesmen of conscience.

Monday, November 14, 2005

When ?

Until recently even the most ardent opponents of the Iraqi was were reticent in calling for a quick withdrawal and instead called for a deadline and timetable for the return of US troops. I don't know obviously what might happen in Iraq if we leave soon, but I sense it is becoming our only option. Since 9/11 we have been waging a war against terrorists but look at how successful they still are: Jordan, London, Madrid, Bali. We are just about as impotent in Iraq as we are in the global war on terrorism. So once again we must love now promptly to remove ourselves and thereby remove one of the main sources of the radicalism that festers because of what we do. Simply put: as bad as things can be in Iraq and other places, we only make them much worse.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Go To Hell

Dover, PA will now suffer for its sin of supporting evolution in the public school curriculum. At least that is the judgment pronounced by Pat Robertson. The Rev had just finished up with his Taliban style call for the assassination of the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, when the election returns for the school board in Dover prompted him to warn the residents that God will not look kindly on their errors. We are always eager to talk about Islamic extremists and Islamic terrorists but the very same US government officials bide their tongues when their supporter Rev Robertson calls out for blood and vengeance. How do you think the world views American religious behavior when a perverse human monster like Robertson has a following, a grand media pulpit, and the silent acquiescence of the highest officials in this administration?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Fra Angelico

Today I visited the Fra Angelico exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum. Paintings and other works of art are assembled from all over the world. It is an inspiring visit that merits anyone's visit. The artist is sublime and the exhibit reminds the viewer how much of his imagery is stamped on the Christian imagination. He was also a Dominican friar of deep faith and was beatified by Pope John Paul II.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art - Special Exhibitions: Fra Angelico

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Day After

Here we re-elected the mayor and he won easily, spending about 70 million of his own dollars in the campaign. He could probably have swamped his poor opponent if he spent only $100.00. Across the river 2 multi-millionaire candidates spent their own money is a similarly lavish and very nasty race. Senator Corzine won and now become a governor who will get to appoint his successor in the Senate. Endless money reserves, but not much genius or insight marked any of these campaigns.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Running New York

Literally. Thousands of marathoners are heading to the finish line in Central Park. Its a warm day here and may be uncomfortable for some runners. They are all over the city for the past 2 days and a welcome insight into the human spirit. The training, fortitude, sheer endurance - all make me feel both inadequate and a bit grateful that I don't feel the pull to it or anything quite like it. I do love exercise and these days, for me, that is largely my regular 4 mile walks around Manhattan and Brooklyn. I feel very renewed physically, spiritually and psychologically by my walking regime, and can really miss it when weather or some other factor interferes. The other meaning of "running New York" will be decided on Tuesday's election for mayor. Little doubt about Bloomberg's dominance in the polls and especially in his own personal money spent. And across the river, the NJ race for governor is a close one between two incredibly wealthy men. Some say this wealth makes them all less susceptible to any form of bribe, but I continue to lament the acquisition of a personal fortune as the prelude to public service.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Early NY mornings

A few times a week, I walk to a neighboring parish to celebrate the 8 am Mass. These mornings have been a wonderful gift and very energizing. Millions of people on their way to work, deliveries of everything imaginable on a island that produces little for its own sustenance, and then the homeless and others who wandered through the night. Today I figured out that my round trip morning journey is about 1.66 miles. Today there was the startling presence of bands of runners from all over the world, in town for the NY Marathon. My walk is the best preparation for an early Eucharist, and the walk back a perfect thanksgiving for the mass and for life.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Watergate the Second?

Some friends, at least one generation or two behind me, have been asking me if the present crisis in the White House and the nation feels like Watergate. It really does. Things are unraveling. Coverups after the crime become the first to be exposed. A huge dishonesty lies at the heart of the Bush case for Iraq. Will it end the same way as it did in 1974? Probably not exactly, but I do sense that a crime(s) and the vast network of lies and deceits is beginning to come apart. As during Watergate, the lack of real alternatives fades into lesser consideration as the enormity of the deceptions are laid bare. Of course history does not repeat itself. But there is a strong sense that we have been here before.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Random and Scattered...

Just returned from a week in Washington DC where I was presenting a course to our 4 Paulist novices in their first year of formation. Then I had the chance to spend some time with 2 wonderful friends and their little boy who took me to the park on a beautiful fall day.
Also followed the withdrawal of Harriet Miers and now the nomination of Judge Alito. I walked by the White House where I met Cindy Sheehan and then by the Federal Courthouse which was surrounded by massive media because Scooter Libby's indictment just came down from the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. Iraq continues to be the horror of these years and is no doubt the root reason for all the dishonesty that is just slightly revealed in the indictment of Libby. We live in a nation at war with an external enemy and a nation at war with itself. Not an easy time.