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August 15th, 2002

Have you talked to your Mother today?
You might want to contact her.
She’s been waiting for you.
She loves you very much, and would like to know how your day went.
She will listen to tales of traffic snarls, snarling customers, and snarling bosses all day long if you let her. She wants to know if your lunch was soggy or if the new girl has smiled at you yet.
Your Mother will listen without interjecting the opinion that you really should get the toilet clean, get married, get a child. She loves you with or without these things.
She’s older than you are, and knows better, but waits quietly until asked for advice.
Your mother is aching to hold you, for this woman knows sorrow. She is never closer than when you are bleeding…

August 10th, 2002
Your Summer Romance Could Be Divine

Men and women of a certain age were simply unable to reach maturity without attending some social event that featured the soundtrack from the movie Grease, particularly that portion in which the phenomenon of the summer romantic fling is celebrated (or, more specifically, as the song goes: “Oh, those su-um-mer nigh-igh-ights…….”). This was John Travolta’s—and, quite possibly, America’s—finest hour.
I’m not precisely sure what it is about summer that makes us more apt to release our phone numbers to the opposite sex; perhaps we’re simply trying to avoid the loser status of the one-seat line at the roller coaster.
What I do know is that you can also…

August 1st, 2002
23 Defect at World Youth Day in Toronto - Right in Front of My Face

The Cuban exile now living in Canada told the Cubans at the World Youth Day celebrations in Toronto: “If there is any way I can help you at all, please let me know.”
Ismael Sambra spoke these words to a group of young adult Cubans at a picnic I attended during the pope�s visit there. I thought Sambra was just showing some northern hospitality.
I totally missed it. Actually he was offering passage on Toronto’s underground railroad for freedom-seeking Catholic Cubans. Political asylum. The picnic was July 27. On July 28, it was reported that some 23 of the 200 Cubans attending World Youth Day had defected.
Ismael Sambra, in interviews, said he was coordinating safe housing and legal aid for them…

July 27th, 2002
Trust Takes a Plunge

The lake was warm. I dropped into the water and pushed off from the dock. I swam into the sunshine, floated, and waited for Steve. He swam near and pointed down. He motioned to my mask and snorkel. He said, “Look.”
I hesitated. I slid my chin beneath the water. Then, my lower lip. Soon, my snorkeled mouth was submerged and my mask tickled the lake’s surface. I peered into the water. I saw fish and underwater flora and, for the first time in years, wasn’t worried about what lurked beneath the waves.
Going down
I’m not afraid of the water. Indeed, since childhood, I have known how to swim and swim well. During adolescence, however, my eyesight floundered, and soon I couldn’t read a…

July 21st, 2002
Being Happy with the Things You Own

Once upon a time, I owned one bowl and one spoon. I carried them from meal to meal?eating, washing, drying – and allotted them their own shelf in my otherwise empty cupboard. It was a low-maintenance lifestyle: I rode a bike, wore used clothes, and slept atop a futon. I aimed to own nothing. In my mind, having possessions blocked me from true happiness.
Let’s be clear. I’m not a communist. Rather, I hate commercialism and the all-powerful push to shop. I believe I am a godly creation whose worth doesn’t depend on funky sunglasses or shoes that blink. In fact, my worth is augmented when I resist the urge to own. And I have resisted. Or, at least, I did?before I got engaged.
Take this blender……

July 18th, 2002

You feel for Moses. He walks through the desert for forty years leading his Jewish people to the Promised Land, and in the end, he never gets to live there.
Move the scene a few thousand years later. Susan B. Anthony, a Quaker, led the struggle to secure voting rights for U.S. women. For some 37 years�from 1869 to 1906�Anthony appeared before every Congress to ask for passage of a suffrage amendment. In 1872, she and three of her sisters were arrested for voting. Anthony was frequently scorned, arrested, and hung in effigy. She died in 1906 at the age of 86 never having voted legally.
In 1920 Tennessee became the 36th and final state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment, also known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.…

July 18th, 2002
The sad reality of garbage and cities

Toronto stinks. Or at least it has since June 26, when the 6800 City of Toronto Outside Workers went on strike . This means that, until union and employer agree on a new contract, garbage collectors will be picketing the city instead of picking up its trash.
This isn’t good. Torontonians toss nearly one million metric tonnes of garbage each year and, unless local businesses and residents pay for private removal, much of it will be rotting on sidewalks for the next few weeks. Needless to say, no one’s impressed. July in Toronto means heat and smog ; if the trash stays put, World Youth Day pilgrims might have to wrestle rats for a seat in the shade.
Is recycling still cool?
One million metric tonnes of garbage…

July 5th, 2002
The Importance of Being Real

At the movies, do you stay until all the credits have rolled by?
Everyone knows that behind-the-scenes folks in the movie industry get the short end of the stick. Directors and producers are not (for the most part) the household names that actors are. The recently released film Simone takes on the inflated sense the public has of movie stars and the value we place on fame in our society.
Al Pacino plays film director Stanley Turansky, all washed up after several bombs. His last chance is in big trouble when the star actress walks out claiming he’s impossible to work with. Because of his reputation Turansky can’t get any other actress as a replacement and it appears his career is over.
Enter Hank. A computer…

July 1st, 2002

There’s only one thing worse than waking to a blaring alarm clock five days a week, flailing away at traffic, flailing away at co-workers, flailing away at management, peeling Saran Wrap away from warmish tuna salad in the middle of the day, and trundling home as night falls to start all over again: Not doing it.
I know a few people who are between projects right now, and for the most part there is pluckish perseverance and pseudo-bragging about arising at the hour of The Price Is Right . But I’ve been there, and I know the sinking stomach, the shrinking checking account, the 3 a.m. conversations with the ceiling tile: Aren’t I good enough? Why did they let me go? Did I really do the right thing when I…

June 29th, 2002

I’ve been listening to the stories of young immigrants lately.
To me they sound to me a lot like the classic tales of the spiritual journey of life. Not so religious really, but they are all about awakening.
L. arrived here five years ago from Iran, the young wife of a physician husband taking up his medical residency. Before two years had elapsed she and her husband had divorced, not exactly what anyone had scripted for this adventure. Yet she calls the divorce “the best thing I ever did.” She decided not to go home to Tehran. Maybe it has something to do with the opportunities she has here as a woman in this more secular and open culture. Yet still she misses her home and family and sometimes thinks about…

June 19th, 2002
Where did those pesky wedding traditions come from?

Summer’s here and weddings abound. While there’s nothing wrong with love, there’s plenty amiss with weddings. It’s a pressure cooker. Bride and groom are attacked with advice and guided towards pricey options. Money vanishes. Fights brew. It’s no surprise why couples elope.
Still, weddings are rituals and most couples follow the rules: the traditions. But what are wedding traditions and where did they come from? Are they real traditions or are they just money-grabs by the enormous wedding industry – Let’s take a look at a few.
Satin and silk
Hold on to your lace: the white dresshas only been a fixture at weddings for two hundred years. Before the nineteenth century,…

June 17th, 2002
The Ups and Downs of Natural Family Planning

In my budding feminist years, Natural Family Planning seemed as useful as tossing a grenade into a dance hall and hoping no one would get hit. It was birth control at its most non-existent: a protective shield without the shield. At the time, I assumed the Catholic Church promoted it in order to keep women pregnant. Then, I did my homework. I learned the facts, got married, and came to view Natural Family Planning as a feminist’s dream.
Bring On The Dream
Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a method of birth control that teaches women to use their menstrual cycle to avoid pregnancy. It’s simple biology: during a normal menstrual cycle a woman’s body will menstruate, prepare for ovulation and possible…

June 5th, 2002

“Do not bother to adjust your (TV) set. We control the vertical. We control the horizontal.”
-cheesy , deep-voiced narrator on “The Outer Limits.”
Ever see that old show, “The Outer Limits”? Basically, it’s a poor man’s “Twilight Zone ” (now there was a show!). The intro for The Outer Limits begins with a narrator who says this mumbo jumbo about controlling your TV set, while a bunch of wavy lines appear on your screen. Mr. Cheesy goes on to say that any attempt to adjust the picture on your screen is fruitless, and then what follows is a bad, poorly-acted, black-and-white “suspense” show. Basically, the narrator is announcing the…

June 4th, 2002
A response to the bishops' recent proposals on the sexual abuse crisis

After reviewing the latest proposals from the U.S. Catholic bishops, I was pleasantly surprised with many of their recommendations. However, the writers of this document still don’t get it.
Don’t get me wrong, many of the U.S. bishops have gone above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to speaking out in favor of the victims, accepting questions from people in their diocese, and working for healing for the church at large. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C. is one bishop who I immensely respect. Recently at a young adult gathering, McCarrick answered many questions about the scandal with great candor and empathy for a church that needs healing and openness. And there are other…

June 3rd, 2002

Twenty years ago this past week a 27-year old Chinese-American man and a few of his friends walked into a Detroit bar to celebrate his bachelor party. A few hours later Vincent Chin was dead.
Who and what killed Vincent Chin on June 19, 1982? Was it uncontrolled anger? Drunkenness? Racism? A baseball bat run amuck?
Just a fight in a bar?
Two white men – Ronald Ebens and his twenty-something stepson Michael Nitz?got into a fight with Chin, were expelled from the bar, and eventually pinned him down at a nearby McDonald’s where Ebens cracked Chin’s skull with a baseball bat.
Vincent’s last words were “It isn’t fair.”
At the time Detroit residents were confronting automobile…

June 2nd, 2002

This Saturday I went back to my old apartment and finished packing my things to move them to my new apartment. Clothes, books, file folders, even an old computer. But there was something, actually someone, I left behind — my husband.
I’ve made an agonizing but clear decision to separate from my husband after 11 years of marriage, the last five particularly rocky and difficult. We’re two good people, one with more years of Catholic education than the fingers on her two hands, who just couldn’t make the relationship work.
Our early days were filled with joy, the joy of listening, of singing together, telling stories and laughing late into the night. We did car trips really well and enjoyed…

June 2nd, 2002

As someone who has dated people that he has worked with, I speak from experience. It’s the best of times and the worst of times.
Here’s the upside:

Smooches during the day are always good.
You always have someone to go to lunch with.
Work schedule conflicts are minimal.
Someone understands your plight when you complain about the boss.

Of course there’s always the downside:

Need to always look good at work.
Never get any work done because you’re daydreaming about what she’s doing.
She tells people about how romantic you are and the guys think you’re a wuss.
Getting that massage from your honey gets dirty looks from the boss.

Seriously, it was really hard to stay focused at work…

June 1st, 2002
The Strains of Starting Over

It’s November and the leaves (of what are not palm trees and cactus) are still green. I must be in Texas. For the first time in four years, winter is closing in and I am not in Iowa–the place where I went to school. Leaving college means not only climate change and nostalgia for the scene at the bar on Wednesday night, but deeper dislocation as well.
My friend Marcy used to say that she could tell who had just come into our house while she was sitting in the living room by the different noises we all made: kicking off shoes, sighing, singing, slamming. If community is a group of people who are custodians of one another’s stories, I do not see the custodians of my stories every day anymore. Instead, I talk to them…

June 1st, 2002
Back to the Rosary

I’ve never found the rosary particularly helpful to my prayer.
Truth be told, most of the time when I pray, I use my own words. Having learned that prayer is conversation with God, I need not only to speak to God but also to listen intently. I need to sense where God is guiding me in my life, where God is working in my life.
There are those times when it all feels like bunk. I feel like I’m talking to the wall, to myself, like God isn’t around. I end up feeling empty inside, alone. Is God deaf? Maybe my wife who’s a sign language interpreter would have better luck signing my prayers?
But I’ve had moments of great clarity during prayer too. I’ve had things explained to me a thousand times…

May 28th, 2002
How much money should the Catholic Church pay, or not pay, to settle current sex abuse claims?

How about $0?
Now, before you get into your car and head over to my place to tar and feather me, please rest assured that I, like you, believe that the Catholic Church owes a very great deal to every victim of sex abuse. I just happen to think that cash is a fast and easy way out for the Church and its victims.
By the same token, it seems to me that any cash settlement will neither erase the pain nor simplify the spiritual lives of those affected.
When has the doling out of cash ever promoted healing?
Somehow, with all this talk of millions, it seems that spirituality, compassion, and God have all been shoved to the wings. Instead of an honest attempt at seeking change in the way it enriches the lives of its parishioners, we now have…

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