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March 17th, 2004
Missionary Bishop St. Patrick Was No Leprechaun

How much of what we do on St. Patrick’s Day is actually associated with the man St. Patrick? Turns out very little, actually.
Green beer? Leprechauns? Pinching? “Paddy” would say “Blarney—I wasn’t even born in Ireland!”
To the Irish in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a traditional day for spiritual renewal and offering prayers for missionaries worldwide. In Ireland, the day is celebrated by attending mass and praying for missionaries. All businesses are closed (except restaurants and pubs) and people celebrate most of the day like we would celebrate a lesser holiday.
Missionary man
At the age of 16, British-born ethnically Roman Patrick was captured by Irish…

March 16th, 2004
A preview of Joan of Arcadia second season

TV geek that I am, September starts me salivating for new shows and returning favorites. On top of my must-see list this year is the second season of Joan of Arcadia, the CBS series about Joan Girardi an ordinary teen who has an extraordinary relationship with God. Joan has carved out a unique niche among television critics and viewers not only because of its engaging storylines, emotional and spiritual depth and frequent laugh-out-loud humor but also for its ability to portray a God who is not limited to conventional notions of the divine. As the show’s credits make clear, God appears to Joan in various guises both modern and traditional, including Cute Boy God, Little Girl God, Old Lady God–it is a…

March 14th, 2004
Green Eggs and Ham... a Lenten Reflection

I am Sam
Sam I am
That Sam-I-am!
That Sam-I-am!
I do not like
that Sam-I-am!
Do you like green eggs and ham?
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
What do Green Eggs and Ham have to do with Lent? Well besides the fact that Dr Seuss’ birthday falls during Lent this year, and that the story’s antagonist is (accidentally I’m sure) named after God “I AM”, I’d like to propose that this classic children’s story, much like the scripture we’re reading at mass now, shares a sense of overwhelming invitation.
The Gospel readings we hear this Lent are used particularly with those preparing to enter the church at Easter, the candidates and catechumens in…

March 14th, 2004
Garden State explores the lives of over-medicated young adults

In an opening scene of Zach Braff’s film, Garden State , a plane is spiraling downward to its fiery doom, while in the cabin Braff’s character Andrew Largeman calmly adjusts the air control nozzle above his seat. Upon awakening from this bizarre dream Largeman’s nightmare comes to life when his father phones to inform him of his mother’s death and he reacts by quietly heading off to his job as a waiter at a Chinese restaurant.
Jarring contrasts like this are at the heart of Garden State, a brash, moving and wickedly funny dark comedy that Braff, a veteran of NBC’s Scrubs , wrote and directed himself. In his directorial debut, Braff tells the story of twenty-somethings who are lost…

March 14th, 2004
The Comics on Busted Halo

Hey thans man. No problem. Why d’ya do that? you know he’ll just buy booze…

March 13th, 2004
A High School English Teacher on Her Vocation

I’m a high school English teacher. When I share this with others, they usually respond with some variation of the following: “Wow. That takes courage.”
It’s an accurate observation, but it’s only half the story.
Yes, teaching does require chutzpah: you’re on stage, a performer. More than that, you are the playwright and director. Invariably, you’re also your own worst critic. And it’s a performance that takes place in front of an often reluctant audience.
Exposed!It’s an intense experience, being on display. I don’t just mean physically, although that’s certainly true; I recall my embarrassment when I arrived at school one day and…

March 12th, 2004
Parental Guilt Trip Ends at Right Destination

A few years ago my mother said, “Today is Good Friday. Why don’t come to church with me tonight?”
Oh no, I thought. Not the church talk again.
“Mother,” I explained for the hundredth time, “I don’t need church to feel close to God. It’s all here.” I patted my heart. As usual, she wouldn’t accept that reply.
“Would it kill you to visit God once in a while?”
Parental guilt tripsI pondered her request. While I considered myself a spiritual person, I never felt the need to attend church. But Mother’s request came the day before she was flying to Phoenix to spend Easter with my sister. That triggered my paranoia.
What if her plane crashed?…

March 6th, 2004
Solidarity As a Tool Against Terror

Spring arrives, and young people’s hearts turn to?terrorism.
On screen
It must have been just about the 21st day of March 2004 that I walked into the Columbus Circle subway station, approached a Metro Card vending machine, and instead of being cheerfully asked whether I wanted to refill my card or purchase a new one, I was told the following:
“If you see something, say something.”
That’s our problem
Actually this has actually been the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s security slogan for months, but after the 3/11 Madrid train bombing it suddenly appeared on every vending machine and in every train car. Where it remains until today, trying to get us to think differently about…

March 4th, 2004
When Hollywood Plays with Hate and History

Seeing Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was a profound experience. I left the theater with very mixed feelings.
The film reflects Jesus’ willingness to embrace his own humanity to the degree that he would endure the worst that human cruelty has to offer. It reminded me in a very powerful way of what I already knew: that Jesus lived and loved so radically that the powers of his time had to stop him.
It also left me with a deep unease. There is material in this film for the believer’s reflection, but the hateful portrayal of a group of people who have already borne so much of the world’s hate may render that material polluted at best.
The Passion in the past
It is important to keep in mind that…

March 3rd, 2004
Sexuality Is More Than What We Do Beneath the Sheets

Sex sells.
Or so they say. But I think “they” are wrong.
I think what they mean is that partly naked people, a hint of genitalia, and the bright (though often illusory) promise of sexual intercourse sells.
We limit sex or sexuality tragically when we talk about it only in terms of our private parts and intercourse (wonderful as they may be). Our sexuality, this most beautiful gift from God, is the very energy that allows us to be in relationship with others. Sexuality informs all aspects of being a self—social, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical.
Can you relate?From the moment of our birth we are drawn into relationships with other people. A newborn instinctually roots for food from…

March 1st, 2004
14 Psychics, an Election, and the Virgin Mary's Dating Service

Crystal Ball v. Gore
On the evening of the 2000 election, I sat before Judith Regan Live watching a psychic make a prediction about the outcome.
“We won’t know who won for a few weeks,” he said. “It will be a virtual tie. It will come down to one state, and it will be very, very close, but the winner will be Bush.”
I laughed; Judith laughed. The psychic did not.
The Catechism and my misfortune
I’ve long avoided having a psychic consultation. For one thing, the Church frowns upon them.
“All forms of divination are to be rejected,” states the Catechism. “Recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and other human beings?They contradict…

February 28th, 2004
Knowing the Entire Me

As my husband Scott and I packed up our apartment to move, I came across a box of my old diaries. I could barely lift it. It held twenty-seven volumes, my life from the sixth grade to adulthood.
Flipping through the diaries, I was pulled pleasantly back into my past. But along with this nostalgia came a needling feeling of loneliness. And I started to wonder something: how much does Scott really know me?
I looked at the box of diaries. How much of all this can anyone know?
Insider knowledge One of the most amazing things about marriage is the insider knowledge that you acquire about your spouse. After being married to Scott for a year and a half, I can describe the minute variations in his breathing as he falls asleep. I can…

February 28th, 2004
Don't Wait for the Video of Your Life

There I was, flying 13,000 feet in the air without an airplane.
I was plummeting 120 miles per hour toward the earth, with my arms and legs outstretched. I was skydiving . Just prior to that, I had raced through several hours of training. I knew the eight steps required to check my parachute, and what to do if I needed to pull my reserve. Needless to say, I had a lot on my mind.
Surprisingly, the one thing I didn’t really have much time to think about was skydiving itself, since the activity is not necessarily conducive to full, present-moment awareness. You have too much to think about to fully experience it.
What a fittingly ironic metaphor for life. In our most profound moments (our wedding day, receiving our Country…

February 27th, 2004
Scratching That Home-Improvement Itch

What is it about falling leaves, the scent of smoke in the air, and pumpkins propped on the front porch that turn me into the Tasmanian Devil of decorating? I’m usually oblivious to the latest home fashions. Do the pillows need plumping? Does the armoire need waxing?
No. Well, maybe. But who cares?
Come every autumn, however, my interest in home and hearth experiences a drastic shift, and my long dormant nesting instinct suddenly kicks in, just in time for winter. Maybe it’s the glow of the harvest moon, the morning frost on the windows, or the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot that awaken my critical eye. Who knows? Before I can say Trading Spaces, my modest little townhouse seems to morph overnight from…

February 25th, 2004
Long Awaited Catholic Soul-Searching with Mixed Results

The two reports released Friday, February 27, 2004, on sexual abuse by the Catholic clergy are unprecedented in the history of any institution.
When the reports, one conducted by the National Review Board of the U.S. Catholic Church, the other by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City (commissioned by the Board), conclude that�over the last fifty years�4% of Catholic priests (10% of the seminary class of 1970!) have had credible accusations of sexual abuse against them by minors, there is no such similar study of comprehensive numbers to compare it to in any other profession. Both reports note this with caution.
And there are other difficulties�not enough attention was paid to victims.…

February 19th, 2004
How far does a girl have to go to find a spiritual home?

“Ok, now make a right at Lenape in .6 miles” I said, squinting at the passing street signs as if by brute concentration I could make the next sign read, “Lenape.” “I don’t know,” my roommate anxiously replied, glancing at the odometer. “I think we’ve gone more than .6 miles, and I don’t see it.” I returned my attention to the Map Quest print out, fumbling through the pages, “Maybe it was that last street that didn’t have a name…” Welcome to another Sunday morning in central New Jersey. 16 months ago, fate (and a job) led me, a 28 year-old Catholic, from the rolling cornfields of northern Indiana to the Garden State. There…

February 19th, 2004
Or, How I Cleaned My Way to Cosmic Harmony

I’d been cleaning for weeks. It started the week before Thanksgiving; I had nine coming for Thanksgiving dinner and was damned if I didn’t have a clean and organized apartment (or at least living room) to show off to my family and friends. So I cleaned and cleaned and having met my goal of a tidy living room, I found myself still cleaning.
And loving it.
I was liberated with every bag of garbage tossed. An organized closet became a cause of celebration. To the dust bunnies hidden in dark corners for years, I was the Terminatrix with a vacuum hose.
I could feel the newfound vitality rushing through my body. First one corner then another, then a whole room. I couldn’t sleep after the bedroom was done; I…

February 19th, 2004
Sacramental Somersaults Show An Openness to Change

All marriage as moral danger?
“Nothing is so powerful in drawing the spirit of a man downwards as the caresses of a woman,” St. Augustine said in the fifth century. Like many spiritual thinkers of his time, St. Augustine did not believe in the sacredness of sexuality or of women—let alone marriage.
Today you might hear something similar said about the moral dangers of gay marriage drawing down the sacred spirit of heterosexual marriage in our society. However, since the Catholic Church has so thoroughly changed its opinions on heterosexual marriage since the time of St. Augustine, one speculates if the Church might one day adapt its teaching to welcome gay members to the sacrament of marriage.…

February 19th, 2004
Same Sex Marriage and the Ailing State of Our Families

Of soccer and marriageMarriage is the union of man and woman aiming to form a family. That’s its essence—its minimum requirements—and we have a fundamental rule that goes with that essence—we can only recognize marriages between a man and woman.
As a society we could change that rule.
We could also change the rules of soccer to allow players to use their hands to control the ball.
But then the game would no longer be soccer. I don’t know what you’d call it (rugboccer?), but the essence of soccer would be lost and, most fans would agree, the game would be ruined.
The same goes for marriage and the family: change the essence, and they no longer exist. They would be ruined.
The diseaseThat assumes,…

February 18th, 2004
Will the Message of Lent and Mel's Movie Trickle Down to Our Hearts?

With the much hyped anticipated opening of Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ on the first day of Lent 2004, Christians were offered two ways of observing the beginning of Lent this year—with ashes or celluloid.
Or perhaps both. Both the traditional reception of ashes on Ash Wednesday and Mel’s new movie are touching the psyche of thousands of American believers and not a few non-believers.
Getting your ash in gearI can neither applaud nor criticize Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ because I haven’t seen it. However, something has been bothering me about the hype surrounding this movie; and I have a continuing curiosity about the thousands who troop to church…

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