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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…

August 22nd, 2003
Finding Marguerite's Dream in the Red Rock Desert

Ash Wednesday, 1932
An art student stands on the avenue in New York City in 1932, looking up at the Empire State Building, recently completed.
Most people from around the world have been impressed by the mammoth structure, awed by its ramrod straightness. Inevitably some visitors think of King Kong.
But on that day Marguerite Brunswig, en route home from Ash Wednesday mass, saw in the building’s art decco structure something unusual—the bulging form of a Cross. And it spun in her head the idea of a cruciform, almost-Gothic church built in the manner of these massive modern buildings (she passed Rockefeller Center on the way to her 85th St. apartment).
Seventy plus years later I—adopted New Yorker, priest,…

August 20th, 2003
Acts of kindness and human nature collide in the Blackout

On August 14th, it seemed as though New York City had become a world where many of the usual rules didn’t apply�from walking in the middle of the street to offering a stranger a ride in your car. People tried selling flashlights for $50 apiece and water for $5.
But more than anything else, we probably used our feet to get us farther than we’d gone in a long, long time.
No need to rush…
There are only 12 blocks between my office and my boyfriend Andy’s apartment building in Times Square, but it took me a half hour to navigate my way through the maze of hot cars, horns blaring, and hot bodies pushing up against each other.
When I entered his darkened lobby I almost collapsed.
But I needed him to sign me in to get

August 19th, 2003
Discovering Our Powerlessness Without Electricity

We were at the third gas station before we knew we were screwed .
“No gas-no power!” a red-faced woman with a thick Newfoundland accent shouted as we pulled the car up to the pumps. Her hands sprayed sweat as she waved her cell phone wildly. “No power anywhere!”
My companion-an acquaintance on a hot day’s business trip to Montreal and back?blinked. She had driven 250 miles with me, a native Montrealer, as her navigator and, as the gas gauge jiggled at a quarter of a tank, she clearly needed direction. We had 110 miles left to go. How would we get home?
“We’re hooped!” the Newfoundlander wailed. She leaned against her dirty red pickup and sighed. The highway-side…

August 17th, 2003
A Mexican-American Woman, an African-American Woman, and an Afternoon Walk

Every human being has dignity and should be treated with respect.
It’s easy, isn’t it?Easy it should be to understand this concept. Not only does the Catholic Church teach it (Human Dignity). We are taught on the playground and in school from a young age to be respectful of one another.
It has been a concept that I have tried to model in my life. I thought of it as a way to be accepting, loving, and always seeing Christ in others. And this teaching had not challenged me in many ways because I have always thought of myself as an easy-going, very-accepting sort of person; that was until last week…
Interpersonal traffic accidentLast week, I stepped out of my new home near the lake in Chicago. I was prepared with…

August 17th, 2003
Canada Brings Gay Marriage to the World - Is the World Ready?

By all accounts, Gay Pride Week in Toronto was different this year. Normally, the festivities draw thousands of tourists to the capital of Ontario and the annual parade?that took place on Sunday June 29?can attract hundreds of thousands. This year, however, tourism was down. SARS paranoia, it seems, still spooks Toronto’s image. Hotels normally filled with Gay Pride revelers remained half empty.
It’s not just SARS, though, that has changed Toronto’s Pride celebration: it’s marriage. On June 10, the Ontario Court of Appeals ruled that the province’s marriage laws were unconstitutional because they prevented same-sex partners from marrying. While the court’s…

August 17th, 2003
The Muddy Emotions Watching a Toddler in the Terrible Twos

Did you see that kid in the Wal-Mart a while back, the two-year-old flailing about red-faced and sobbing in the shopping buggy?
He might have belonged to me.
PDA’s—public displays of agitationA few months ago we reached a point where we couldn’t step foot in any public place without my son going through some degree of meltdown. He found endless things worth getting hysterical about—not being allowed to play in the clothing racks, the strange smell wafting through the public restroom. I reacted uselessly, hissing hushed warnings, threatening immediate trips home.
It was just so embarrassing, the public display of it all, the other shoppers’ dirty looks.
Much worse, I was growing uneasy…

August 14th, 2003
The Divine Possibilities of SCUBA for Two

We were on our honeymoon when Steve suggested I take a dive. SCUBA diving’s great, he explained. “The water, the fish-you’ll love it!”
I wasn’t so sure. In all my years of swimming, I always believed that the water’s surface was the place to be. What if I got cold or lost in the waves?
Steve, a certified SCUBA diver, thought I was nuts. And chicken. And he was right. For all the complaints of chill and disorientation, I was really afraid of being underwater and, of course, drowning. For the rest of our honeymoon and during the next year, Steve nagged me to dive. He said it was too divine an experience to miss.
Snorkel this
I took the plunge and, pathetically, snorkeled in our bathtub…

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