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October 4th, 2003
Why Getting the Devotion Card Punched Isn't Enough

Catholics believe in the “real presence of Christ” in the Eucharist, but as a concept I think it’s short-sighted at times. Not to knock the Eucharist as something that isn’t special or important, but I think that this literal definition of Eucharist doesn’t go far enough.
When I participate in Mass or Eucharistic adoration, I focus and meditate on the Jesus that is truly present in this sacrament. But sometimes in the process I keep Jesus at arm’s length where I can sit in splendor and adore him without challenging myself to go beyond a one on one relationship with him. I end up placing Jesus in a nice tidy box where I can control him, allow him to be present only in a way that is comfortable…

October 1st, 2003
THE RETURN OF THE KING fulfills the spirit of Tolkien

As many of us had hoped, director Peter Jackson and his commendable crew offer moments of great terror in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King . Fantasy finds a new realism. Shelob the Great Spider is ever-so believably portrayed. The fires and lava of Mount Doom splash across the screen in marvelous intensity. We feel the heat.
But there is also great beauty and majesty. We feast our eyes on the great city of Minas Tirith.
Yet be prepared for the most inspired and majestic grandeur of all: our tremendously gifted director, screenwriters, cast, and crew have bestowed on us the full, deep humanity of the protagonists’ heroic witness. In The Return of the King we experience for ourselves, however vicariously,…

October 1st, 2003
A Last Blast of Joy Over the Fiestas Patrias in Chile

The sheer amount of food is nauseating—a typical plate consists of beef, pork, chicken, sausage, potato salad, rice, corn salad, tomato salad, and a glass of wine. After an extensive grilling process, the traditional Chilean celebration of Independence Days is a vegetarian nightmare and a steak lover`s dream.
In order to properly demonstrate their patriotism, Chileans take two holidays (as well as spending the previous days in work parties) to bring the family together, eat obscenely large meals, and celebrate Chilean music, customs, and ideals.
The holidays naturally led me to reflect on the meaning of my two years as a Jesuit Volunteer here in Arica, as those years draw to a close. But I get ahead of myself……

September 29th, 2003
A Harbor for the Spiritually Alive to Talk about Sex

In an article I read from The Washington Monthly (reprinted in the recent Utne Reader on “Erotic Intelligence” ), author Elizabeth Austin suggests––and you sense she thinks she is making a very bold suggestion––that the “rule” on Third Date Sex be modified.
Dating couples might wait a whole “six or eight­­­––maybe even ten—dates to make up our minds” about whether or not to either have sex or stop seeing each other.
You’ve come a long way, babyAs I read Austin’s article, the stunning contrast between the lived experience she described and the proclamation of sexual norms from the pulpits of our Catholic churches (“no…

September 26th, 2003
We Didn't Know What We Were Missing

“In the year 2000,” writes Tom Wolfe , novelist and Grand Poobah of non-fiction, “in the era of hooking up, ?first base’ meant deep kissing (tonsil hockey), groping, and fondling; ?second base’ meant oral sex; ?third base’ meant going all the way; and ?home plate’ meant learning each other’s names. Getting to home plate was relatively rare, however.”
The phenomenon, this whole business of “hooking up,” so intrigued the seventy-year-old Wolfe that he slapped the term across the dust jacket of his most recent book. But is a hookup really so worthy of all this Wolfian disdain ? If he’s willing, she’s willing, and no one’s…

September 26th, 2003
Finding the Divine Through Loving What We Do

My neighbor owns two tanker trucks and supplies water to houses that don’t get a regular supply. He’s constantly working on the tankers with his helpers, opening up the tanker’s parts, and usually getting his hands dirty.
It’s hard, physical labor and it’s blue-collar work. But you can see that he loves what he does for a living.
Following your bliss or bitterness
If you love what you do, chances are you’ve experienced the sense of goodness and joy when you work. It’s like when you feel close to God, a feeling of peace.
About three years ago, when I was working late, two janitors came in to clean the office. Both of them were so cheerful, it was infectious. I felt that it was…

September 18th, 2003
New Book on a Spiritual Approach to Finding Your Direction

Getting a Life: How to Find Your True Vocation by Renée LaReau, Orbis (2003), 158 pages.
It seems to me life improves drastically after you hit 30.…

September 17th, 2003
Lessons for Teacher and Student at an NYC High School for Girls

At a Catholic high school for girls in New York City, I have the amazing and demanding task of teaching 16 year old girls—who believe that they are sophisticated and much more worldly than I am—Catholic morality.
My students claim that peer pressure is not a factor in the decisions they make. Yet they all wear the same labels, listen to the same music, and buy into whatever Madison Avenue (located not far from my school) is selling teenagers that day. And they believe that their decision to have sex or to drink is completely their own.
And they definitely don’t understand that today they are choosing to be the person they will become in the future.
Who are you becoming?So it is a challenge to teach the fundamental…

September 17th, 2003
Father-Daugther Tips from Today's Silver Screen

Raising kids today is more challenging than it has ever been. Kids today just aren’t as young as they used to be. I don’t have any scientific research to back this up, but I do have two specimens under my roof who give me all the proof I need.
To wrangle young people these days, a concerned dad needs to be two steps ahead, and not afraid to admit he needs help. But how to learn? Where to turn? A resourceful, modern-day dad like me immediately knows where to go for sound, practical parental guidance: The Movies.
With my teenage son, it’s a bit easier, since it wasn’t that long ago that I myself was a young dude. But with my preteen daughter, it’s more of a struggle. I have little or no experience…

September 12th, 2003

Entire wars have been fought over it, British lords beheaded, Spanish mystics incarcerated, principalities set on fire, and now it travels the internet in search of friendships to destroy.
It is religion.
And then there’s something about e-mail that sometimes erases our better judgment from our brains, we automatically copy and paste and hit send… and sometimes, just sometimes, what we have just catapulted into cyberspace could be…
even more destructive than a virus…
So forwarding an e-mail that deals with religion could forever change our relationships with those on the other end of our electronic tethers.
And in real time…So… just in case this happens to you……

September 12th, 2003
From Tourist to Journalist on the Caribbean Island of Antigua

Recently I took a trip I approached with both anticipation and dread .
The marrying kind “We’re getting married,” my friend Kay had said when I picked up the phone. Before I could utter a word, I found out the location was Antigua . And any thought of
begging off and just sending an extravagant gift to compensate immediately vanished.
Lately burn out and health issues had taken me out of the realm of the harried frequent flyer. The Caribbean was the perfect destination get me to shed my new land-lover ways. My fascination with the West Indies goes way back. Unlike other places I’ve traveled, the ease and familiarity I feel there is wondrous to me.
I like to think it’s my ancestors welcoming…

September 11th, 2003
Giving Birth on September 11th

I’m an optimist. I can find a positive spin in any situation. I’ll admit, though, my gift of optimism failed me last year on Tuesday, September 10, a day shy of the one-year anniversary of September 11, 2001 . I was in charge of leading the opening prayer at our staff meeting that week, which I dreaded. I tried to remind myself and my colleagues of God’s presence even in the day ahead by saying, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
But I didn’t feel like rejoicing. I was hoping to somehow not have to enter into the sadness of the day. I didn’t want to be reminded of the pain, suffering and darkness of a day that I associated with death. A knot was…

September 11th, 2003
Visiting the 9/11 Memorial at Shanksville, PA

Shanksville, PA, Sept. 7, 2003—About ten miles off the Pennsylvania Turnpike (about 80 miles before you get to Pittsburgh), Shanksville is small town America incarnate. It must be the mostly unlikely place imaginable for the U.S. to come face-to-face with Al Qaeda.
But that happened here on September 11, 2001, when United Flight 93, angling down at high speed, turned and hit a field outside town with such force that there was no piece left of it larger than the cab of a pickup truck. A plume of black smoke hung over the town. Pieces of the aircraft were thrown back into the air, some landing as far away as the other side of the mountain.
Tending to the memoryLocal people told me this when I came to visit the temporary memorial…

September 7th, 2003
The Unexpected Trail to Peace

I didn’t know it would be Las Vegas—I didn’t know at the time the capital of sin would give me back my sanity.
Code ex-boyfriend blueI guess I couldn’t know this because I wasn’t personally aware my sanity was missing. I didn’t learn this until after the fact when friends assured me that yes I was going a little nutty but only to a level that was slightly amusing to them, since I’m usually the rational one of the bunch.
On their disaster threat level chart my wackiness was only a code blue since the cause of my temporary insanity was basically a man. Or more appropriately the lack of one particular man in my life and my constant wavering on whether he should be let back in…or continue…

September 3rd, 2003
I'm Staying in the Non-Profit World Because I Want To

It took me by surprise when my two very successful cousins, who both recently graduated from law school, said to me, “You’re going to have to stop doing this volunteer stuff because you’re making us look like money-loving consumer freaks.”
In a way, this statement affirmed my decision to stay another year (instead of going to grad school) at Campus for Human Development, the homeless adult day center in Nashville, TN, where I’ve worked the past year as a Jesuit Volunteer. And it put down their decision to be lawyers.
Catholic guilt?
But I think they missed the point. What I’ve come to realize this year is that it is important that we just do what we need to do to make it, try to do…

September 2nd, 2003
Nobody Drove Me to the Convent

“There I was, there I was, there I was… in the Congo .”
It was the first thing my friend Vinci blurted out after, “hello,” at our recent reunion. About ten years ago we were roommates and “There I was, there I was, there I was…” was the soundbite we picked up from some cheesy commercial.
An avalanche of images came rushing back. Words have such a power to bring up images…and ideas.
Father-what-a-waste
Like “Father-what-a-waste,”
a phrase someone I know had recently used about her boss, a Jesuit priest. I know it was only meant as a joke, but, really, you wouldn’t call your best friend’s husband, “Mr.-what-a-waste,” would you?…

September 1st, 2003
A Journey to Italy, a Reminder of Catholic Roots

They say you can’t go home again. In my case, its usually because someone has changed the locks on the door—so that I, literally, can’t go home again.
And being the transient that I occasionally find myself being, I got a chance to go to Italy this summer and visit my ancestral home—a tiny city in the Abruzzo region called Villa San Angelo; population 500.
There’s a little house there, among a bunch of other little houses (villas, by definition, have lots of little houses). And it’s such a cool connection to the past.
Before moving to America, nearly everyone in my family had been born in this house. My aunts and uncles, my grandpa, my great-grandpa, you get the idea. Just standing outside…

August 30th, 2003
Art's power to transform reality

Art has the power to transform us into something better, something greater, so long as we don’t merely place it on a pedestal. On my recent trip to Nicaragua, several images revealed the sensitivities of my heart in a way that I did not expect.
The streets in Leon, Nicaragua, were filled with youngsters hawking everything from small trinkets to newspapers to water. As we made our way to the Cathedral, other small children found their way to us, asking for food or money. Even in the Cathedral, there were dozens of people begging. I felt uncomfortable. My friend Ken, remarked that “we’ve learned to ignore the poor at home.” Here it wasn’t so easy.
Where’s Jesus?I decided to focus…

August 29th, 2003
Nothing to Do During the Blackout, New Yorkers Did Well

The power actually browned out—gradually—in our section of midtown Manhattan on August 14 at 4:10 p.m. But before ten full minutes had elapsed, everything was completely gone.
Like for most of those affected, the information came in slowly. We assumed it was just our immediate neighborhood. Then we heard it was the whole City. Then: New Jersey and Connecticut too.
Soon we got our ‘D’ batteries from the local newstand and got the full report off the radio—fifty million people across the Eastern Seaboard up to Toronto and Ottawa in Canada.
New Yorkers, of course, remember the infamous Blackout of 1977, when looting caused panic and millions of dollars in damage. No one knew if a similar fate awaited…

August 26th, 2003
Was It Just Me and My Possible Tumor - or Not?

It started with a simple physical. The doctor was almost done when, feeling my neck, she exclaimed, “Hello, what’s this?”
This turned out to be a lump , the size of a strawberry, nestled on my thyroid. It didn’t occur to me that it might be something to worry about. That is, until she called for another doctor’s opinion. They had never seen a lump that size before, which started my heart pounding like a Ricky Ricardo bongo solo.
Then she referred me to an oncologist.
Now I was worried
But I discovered that the fear of cancer was not foremost on my mind. Instead, I found myself thinking, “I may be sick and I’m alone.” That part, about being alone, was almost as scary as…

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