Saturday, December 31, 2005


I am still with friends in DC. We just returned from breakfast at a new place right off Ct Ave and we all came up with the highest praise for it: "Its just like a NYC coffee shop." Their 2 year old tucked into eggs and pancakes and charmed all the staff. Tonight is a major non-event but I do want to send along all my best for a blessed 2006 to all my readers and anyone else who shares life so generously with me. The passage of time is always a gift, yet a bit of 2 edged sword as it really confronts us with the transitory qualities of this life. We are in transit and now a new section of the journey opens before us. God's blessings.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Washington in the Rain

I am in DC visiting some friends and re-visiting my long lost youth by spending time with their terrific 2 year old, Paul Alexander. Yesterday his father and I took him for his longest walk yet. He was deteermined to walk as long as we could and completely disdained a stroller his dad brought along as bak-up. Today is raining here, the newspapers seem low in big news, and people are quiet. Nice time to be in the capitol of the free world, or the world's only remaining superpower, or the epicenter of a vast imperial megaforce. I will not bore you about whch of those 3 options I would choose or use. Besides I am staying across the street from home of intelligence czar, John Negroponte, and ev erything we say, write or think over here is being carefully recored for security of the nation, no doubt.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

End of Year, End of Time

The main complaint I have about this whole season is now coming to the forefront everywhere: the lists of the best of____in 2005, and the predictions of 2006. I love everything else about this time. Tomorrow I am off to DC to spend a few days with friends and then back via Baltimore to see some other friends. There is also a nice post-holiday feeling, at least around Jan 2nd or 3rd, of getting back to normal (whatever that might be). I am hoping the thinly disguised US withdrawal from Iraq picks up speed and support, and that our domestic problems receive more attention (not very hopeful about that with this crowd still in power). I also pray for all who read this and for those in need of prayer, for all I have offended and for all the lost good that I could have done or helped with. But, in the end, we are rescued and have been brought home and the feasts of the Savior's birth and Epiphany will nourish us all in faith and spirit.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas and Thanks

Whenever I prepare a homily for Christmas or Easter, I am very aware of all the people who are making their once or twice Mass visit for the year. I will try to say something of a warm welcome (welcome back, if possible). I will also talk about our need for a Savior, about why we don't see to be able to do it all on our own. I am also so aware on these feasts of the overwhelming gratitude that I have for so many people in life. I think that Christmas is very much a time of warmth because, even in all its confusion, we are able to celebrate that Savior and the gratitude that calls out for expression. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Subways Running

The city here is almost back to what passes here for normal. Almost everyone can agree that the strike reminded us, maybe especially here in NYC, of how fragile we are and vulnerable our connections are. Four of the five boroughs are on islands. Bridges and tunnels are life lines, while public transit is the life blood. New York exists in some other category because of its size and hustle, but also because it is one of few remaining places in America where you can see and enjoy people out walking the streets and avenues 24/7. For now, at Christmas, we have received a reprieve from chaos. A reprieve or deliverance on a huge urban scale to prepare us to welcome the Savior who is our deliverance from all that is evil and deadly.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Safe Journey for You

If you are now about to begin a Christmas journey, you will be in my prayers and in those of many, many believers. This morning some good friends called me at the beginning of their drive from Baltimore straight through to Boston. I have been thinking of them during the day and will call shortly to see how they made out. We all have some nervous moments whether we or loved ones are on the road, in the air or on the tracks. So we pray and hope that these trips and the reunions of friends and family that await them will be richly blessed with Christmas Grace.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

New York On Strike

Talking last night to a small restaurant owner was a sad experiences as he told of all the loses in parties and customers he was sustaining after just one day of the transit strike. My brother is also in that business but fortunately at this time of year they do their catering out to offices, colleges, etc. Yet my sympathies are with the workers who have very difficult lives, working down in the tunnels of NY. It is especially outrageous that a multi-billionaire mayor is calling them criminals for striking. People are walking and coping but it is estimated that area business is down 40 million per day at the height of the season. Tragic all around.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I office in my room at the Paulist House

Today I learned a new word, or rather a new verb, at breakfast with one of most brilliant people I have ever known. He showed me how to use office as a verb, as in, "I office with a group of dentists." As they say, some new everyday...Thank you, Denver.

Non-Seasonal Sentimentality and Nostalgia

I was nearly overcome with nostalgia as I read of the secret FBI investigations of activist and subversive groups. What delights of memory were mine when reading that the FBI has been watching the "semi-communist" Catholic Worker groups. It took me right back to the good old days of youth, of L.Patrick Gray, HR Haldemann, Nixon's enemies, and the whole brilliant conspiracy that brought down a government and changed history. But evidently not enough change! Don't you wish that these new, young agents had at least gone out and rented a copy of All The President's Men and watched their nonsense as it unraveled on the earlier attempt. To all those of us who wallowed in Watergate: We're Back! Eric Lichtblau of the Times is doing outstanding work these days and may yet redeem the reputation of the paper from its entanglement with the Woman of Mass Destruction (Maureen Dowd's characterization of former Times reporter, Judy Miller).

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Overdue Setbacks for Bush

It is good news that the Congress is finally saying NO to some of this administration's frightening efforts to limit the civil liberties of the people. Since 9/11, they have claimed such rights and have not really made it a safer environment, according to the report card of the former members of the 9/11 Commission. They have waged war, slaughtered thousands of Iraqis and Afghans, caused the deaths of more than 2000 US military, and utterly failed in stopping terrorism, as in Madrid, Bali, London etc. Bin Laden still roams freely. The Hussein trial is a farce. Good for Congress on the Patriot Act and on the uproar about the secret surveillance.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Peter Singer, Merchant of Death

Peter Singer is still, as far as I know, a professor of Ethics at Princeton. He has consistently taken the current elite notions of human life to their logical conclusions. for example allowing parents to end the lives of babies who are not well suited for life in his brave new world. Singer is taken very seriously and is published in many places which accord him the honor of someone who speaks from a well informed ethical perspective. His recent article, linked here in Foreign Policy, on the future of life is a incisive and horrifying prediction of where our society is heading. I urge you to read this short prediction and then reflect on how the front page news about the fraudulent stem cell experiments in South Korea impacts on the arrogance of his confident prophesies. Without judging the inner life of the man or the contours of his conscience, I can only call his long-held views one of the very few instances of pure, uncomplicated evil in our world.

Foreign Policy: The Sanctity of Life

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Gift to Moslems and Christians

An obviously wealthy Saudi businessman has just donated 20 million to Harvard and the same to Georgetown to foster university inspired Moslem-Christian relations. I know something about the current Georgetown efforts under the incredible and inspiring leadership of Dr. John Esposito. These efforts will take time to reach vast masses of Christians or Moslems but they do immediately send signals and they will provide skills and understanding for future leaders. These gifts are truly enlightened and progressive. May the benefactor and his family be blessed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Execution of Tookie Williams

Although the United States often asserts a kind of moral purity and even an exemption from the degrading practices of other peoples and nations, this is a nation very much steeped in violence and slaughter, as are many other nations that do not wave alleged clean hands. With the slaughters of Native Americans, slavery, the Civil War, the wretched treatment of immigrants in our history, we are one of the very few countries still holding executions. Whatever the sincerity of Tookie Williams repentance, whatever the good or ill that he has done, whether before or after his conversion - the killing of Williams in California accomplishes absolutely nothing, except to stoke the vengeance of some and to add greatly to the face of violence that this land offers the world today at home and abroad.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Jesuits and Baghdad

The astute Dexter Filkins recounts the story of the Jesuit College in Baghdad and the enormous impact it has on even current Iraqi life. As he tells, the Jesuits never engaged in any proselytizing and Moslem students were not compelled to attend Catholic classes or services. The legacy of these Jesuits, many of them American, now stands in tragic contrast to US presence in Iraq and the Middle East today. Pray for the Jesuits of Iraq and their students and for a change in current US tactics and policy.

Boys of Baghdad College Vie for Prime Minister - New York Times

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Two officers on our New York Police force have murdered in recent days. One was a husband and devoted father of 2 small children and a very popular officer on the force. The most recent was a single son who took loving care of his parents and his dead sister's kids. These deaths bring an awful chill over the city, even in the midst of the Christmas celebrations for most. We are made very conscious of the precarious status we enjoy on the planet and how the greatest dangers we face are usually from our fellow travelers on life's pilgrimage. The close survivors will never have the fullness of life again and their days will be always interrupted by small reminders of their loss: the sight of an NYPD car or uniform, a Christmas light, a strange noise in the night and just the haunting massiveness of the city we love and fear.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Christmas Cards

Many years ago I became an unrepentant drop-out in the annual Christian Card exchange. It is nice to hear from people, especially those with whom this is the main or only contact. But so many cards are just signed, or imprinted. The form letters help but its hard to read them all before the next Christmas. I do try to call, visit or write people close to me at this season and I am probably acting a bit like a Christmas Grinch. Yet I do love the season and all its lights and good will.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Podcast - THE word of 2005

The people who should know something about words and their use, The Oxford University Press, publishers of The New Oxford American Dictionary, have announced their selection of PODCAST as the new word of the year. It beat out some formidable contenders like "bird flu." I have not used podcasting primarily because I listen to books but I am very impressed by the way it allows the spoken word to travel along with the listener. Especially wonderful in this season when we celebrate the feast of the Word Become Flesh. You have heard me write before about the first rate web site,, which is now about to offer podcasts of its great articles and interviews. Hear the Word and the words this season.

Cardinal Schonborn and Evolution - Again

At this link, sent to me by a scientist friend, there is a wonderful catechesis by the Cardinal on the Christian doctrine of creation. His earlier article in the NY TIMES fed into the fury that is raging here in the USA about Creationism, Intelligent Design and Darwin. Here he sets forth the uniqueness of the Christian understanding of the creation, and in no way can be spinned as anti-evolution. This talk is worth your study. It is apparently the beginning of series of such talks at the Cathedral of St Stephen in Vienna. "In the Beginning God Created..."

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Leaders and Their Deceptions

The United States has apparently painted itself into a terribly lonely corner, with even our allies wondering in shock about the reports of camps where the US (or its surrogates) routinely torture prisoners. At the same time, Osama is as free as ever and the members of the 9/11 commission warn that we have not updated our security in face of terrorism. Most compelling of all was the speech in the Senate by John McCain, who knows something about torture, arguing that it doesn't work, makes enemies, endangers our own troops who might be taken prisoner and is a violation of all human decency. The denials by Condi Rice are obviously deceptive and do not honestly answer the mounting questions. Of course, war is hell, and terrorism is a constant threat but now we have no one who really supports us and we, though very powerful, are becoming the sad monster on the planet.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Umberto Eco on Christmas

Umberto Eco has abandoned the Church, yet he obviously still has a deeply symbiotic relationship with it. The Name of the Rose alone testifies to his incredible and intimate knowledge of the inner life of the Catholic Church. And his reflection on Christmas, as always with his words, startles us into a new way of seeing the familiar (follow the link in the title of this entry). I also loved his dialog with Cardinal Martini of Milan some years ago.

Actors Who Also lead US

Today I am suggesting that you try these 2 links to read the views of Martin Sheen and Bradley Whitford about the war, US policy and repression of dissent in the US. By wonderful coincidence these two fine actors have done superb work on the hit, West Wing. And now we see that in so-called real life, they are also deeply thoughtful and committed Christians who are not afraid to put their Christian beliefs into practice, even in the political but very moral array of dilemmas that face us because of the actions of this Administration. I have long enjoyed their work on West Wing, now I also salute their moral leadership.

The Blog Bradley Whitford: Get The IRS Out of My Church The Huffington Post

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Narnia and CS Lewis

I have following the pre-release coverage of Narnia with special interest because a good friend is the head of Walden Media which has co-produced it along with Disney. Some of the secular elites have already gone on the attack because they resent the obvious Christian allegorical elements and the way that Christian groups are using it as a teachable moment. Some of these critics show their hand which reveals a strong animus to CS Lewis and his brilliantly articulated Christianity. Although Lewis has the misfortune to die of natural causes on the day JFK was killed, he lives on and his books are still big hits. Most of his writing is a compelling witness and argument for Christianity and are as widely used today as ever. Peter Steinfels has a good column in the New York Times today about these conflicts. I am looking forward to enjoying Narnia.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Wise Words on Vatican and Gays in Priesthood

The link here should take you to a very wise editorial in the new issue of The Tablet, a British Catholic Weekly. So much is being said about what the documents means, and what it doesn't say, and how it might be interpreted that I have found this editorial to be the best commentary thus far.

- Welcome to the Tablet

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Gift

A family in Philadelphia just made a donation in my honor to Sloan Kettering where I receive my cancer treatments. This is a couple I have known through my campus ministry and I married them quite a few years ago. They are the great parents of triplets - 2 girls and a boy. The hospital notified me of the gift and I was very moved by the love and appropriateness of the gift. I will call them them this weekend and tell them that some people who know me are a bit miffed at Sloan for keeping me going so long but they are the welcome exception :). In fact, I will thank them very profoundly for their thoughtfulness now and over the years. Their thoughtfulness and kindness sets a real tone for early Advent.