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October 19th, 2003
Extraterrestrial Life and Christianity

ALF says hello
In the middle of the American desert, mankind cups his ear to the cosmos: several highly powerful satellite dishes constantly scan the skies, searching for extraterrestrial radio contact attempts in the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence ) project.
We’ve certainly done our share of talking: Every signal broadcast ever is currently zipping through space, carooming off Jupiter. That is correct?every single professional wrestling match, each reality show, all evidence that Jared the Formerly Fat Subway Guy is a revered figure in this society, all blasting through the cosmos representing who and what we are.
And if someone responds, we want to be sure we’re there to…

October 18th, 2003
Mother Teresa's Visit to Phoenix

“Build my children a house”February 2, 1989. Her skin was tanned and wrinkled. Her hands were large and rough. Despite her short stature, Mother Teresa managed to hush an arena of 15,000 by simply standing up and preparing herself to speak. “Governor,” she said plainly, with authority, ” I want you to build my children a house.”
The only shelter the Missionaries of Charity offered at that time was a gutted gymnasium with folding tables and metal chairs that singed your skin when you sat on them in the 110-degree Arizona summer. Everything in that shelter was either broken or in poor condition. Mother’s children
Her “children” were my “sisters”…

October 18th, 2003
Good Reads from the Next Generation of Writers

I love reading books by my contemporaries. I picked up The Quality of Life Report and The Devil Wears Prada more out of curiosity about their young authors than out of interest in quality, life, or Prada.
As I plowed through these fun, well-written reads, I learned a lot about 34-year-old Meghan Daum (Quality) and 22-year-old Lauren Weisberger (Devil), since both wrote novels closely connected to a significant career-slash-life experience (Daum claims her book is only “32.9%” autobiographical).
Meet Meghan and Lauren
Meghan Daum spins a fictional tale that parallels her move from New York City to rural Nebraska in pursuit of personal and professional fulfillment. Weisberger launches her novel…

October 18th, 2003
God Hears Us Whererever We Are

I’ve never tried it, but I don’t think I can pray at a rock concert or in a crowded bar. Maybe it’s possible if you have good powers of concentration. For me, it’s tough because there are too many distractions.
In a church or chapel though, the atmosphere and silence is calming and makes me feel peaceful inside. There are no distractions, so it’s easier to pray.
The ironic thing is that this isn’t the case, with most shrines I’ve visited. In my experience, the more famous a shrine, the more difficult it is to pray there. And on the feast days (or special days)—as they say in New York, fuggetaboutit.
Do these things really matter? Does it matter if you’ve not visited…

October 14th, 2003
A Conservative's Unhappy Conclusions on the Affaire d'Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh died last week. In a way.
The Rush I knew?my principled companion for three hours a day?is in some very serious legal trouble, under investigation for illegally purchasing painkillers.
I never expected perfection from Rush? but I did expect more of him. As I do the President, I hold Rush to a higher ethical standard than I do, say, Kid Rock .
My roots with Rush
I do not, as much of the media assumes of “dittoheads ,” stand by my radio eagerly awaiting the start of his show so that I may base my political direction upon his say-so. He often says what I think, better than I could ever attempt to.
I’m not the only one who can tell that story: Limbaugh’s voice is one of the most listened-to…

October 11th, 2003
Mass with Pope John Paul in His Private Chapel

Sitting prominently on a shelf in my office is a picture of myself and John Paul II. Its proof of the day I met someone who has given his entire life to faith…and made me think about my own commitment to faith (or relative lack thereof).
And whenever my friend Bill sees the
picture, he always reminds me: “I bet the pope doesn’t have that picture in his office.”
Probably not. But it’s still a day I’ll always remember. Why, I remember it like it was just yesterday…[cue harp music, begin dream sequence].
Woke up, it was a Vatican morningIt’s
7:00am, and I’m walking up to the big Bronze Door of the Vatican. The Swiss guards are standing there, glaring at me like I’m trying…

October 10th, 2003
Non-Hispanic America Realizes Who's Arrived in Town

Times have changed. Have you noticed how different things are today?
As a generic white kid growing up in Southern California, I couldn’t help but notice the prejudice local Latino folks endured. My high school was in a mixed neighborhood, and a lot of white classmates felt it imperative to deride Mexicans from the neighborhood. I heard hardworking, proud people stereotyped as indolent or dangerous; they were caricatured on paper with absurdly large farm hats, and pejoratively called beaners after the staple food of Tex-Mex restaurants.
I didn’t protest.
What whites say and do
But across L.A., other whites were behaving better. Clergy, activists, and Hollywood types were boycotting grapes…

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…

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