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January 17th, 2009

In this second installment of his video blog from Washington DC during inauguration festivities, contributing editor Marc Adams visits the Inauguration Superstore.

January 15th, 2009

mlk_innerThe record spins. The needle hits the vinyl. A rhythmic tune bursts out from the speakers and penetrates my soul. At the same time, the emotional lyrics capture my young imagination. As I stare at the record sleeve, I’m transported to a time I have never known, a place far from home, and a struggle of monstrous proportions. While most kids today learn about the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in their elementary school classes, I first heard about this great champion of civil rights from a Motown record. And from this introductory lesson, I began to see how his legacy lives on in my life and how his example challenges me to reflect Christ to others.

I grew up in a biracial family in the largely white area of Orange County, CA. My parents made a special effort to create a loving home and supportive environment for my younger brother and I, always emphasizing that our African American and Caucasian background gave us “the best of both worlds.”

I Want My…

But at the age of five, race was the last thing on my mind. I was enthralled with music. I watched MTV nightly back when their programming consisted primarily of music videos. I listened to the radio constantly. I even started sounding out tunes on the piano that I had heard from movies. But nothing beat lying down by the record player and listening to all of my parents’ old records. My mom’s collection gave me the best of classic rock while my dad had stockpiled what seemed to me to be every Motown record ever made.

It was in my dad’s collection that I stumbled on Stevie Wonder’s song “Happy Birthday” from his Hotter Than July album. The song—released in 1980—was a passionate call for the national recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday, years …

January 14th, 2009

In the run-up to the inauguration, residents of the District of Columbia and surrounding areas are clamoring to capitalize on the flood of people who are expected to descend on the city in just a few days. Some people are hoping to make quick cash by renting their homes for astronomical sums (in some cases thousands of dollars for only a few nights stay). In this first installment of his video blog about life in DC leading up to the inauguration, Marc Adams explores the morality behind hitting visitors who want to share in the historical moment with exorbitant prices. Should people feel a sense of guilt or is it simply capitalism at work? Two people in a DC neighborhood give their take.

January 14th, 2009

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A family member of mine recently said, “Shellie, I’ve accepted that you are working in the sex industry.”

My thought? “It’s about time.”

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When I look at my life, even I must admit that it is really sex filled. I am a teen-mom coordinator for a local Nashville nonprofit. That pretty much consists of trying to encourage 13 to 19-year-old “grown-way-too-soon” young women to use biblical insights, my advice based on experience (I myself am a sex abuse survivor with a history of promiscuity) and a little common sense when it comes to making sexual choices. I speak pretty frequently on a book that I wrote in 2004, Inside of Me: Lessons of Lust, Love and Redemption . (I think the title that is pretty self-explanatory.) Oh… and then there’s the porn thing.

No, I am not an ex-porn star, but I do spend a lot of time on the periphery of that culture. You see, I am a blogger for XXXChurch.com, a website that serves as an online ministry to porn addicts. Yeah, I’m sure a few of you are gasping. I am pretty used to that by now. It’s an odd “ministry,” but trust me, no matter how taboo it is and continues to be — especially and unfortunately within the Church — it is needed.

According to SafeFamilies.org, 2006 porn industry revenue was $13.3 billion in the U.S alone. Ten percent of people admitted to downloading porn, 28 percent of those being women. Seventy percent of men between 18 and 34 visit at least one pornographic site per month. (See sidebar for more statistics.) Oh, but here’s the real shocker (at least it will be for some of you): In 2001, over 37 percent of pastors said that porn was a struggle for them; over half of evangelical pastors admitted to viewing pornography. Twenty-nine percent of born-again adults believe it’s OK to view movies with sexually explicit behavior.

Some of these stats may be staggering, but this is something that should not …

January 12th, 2009

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There has been constant discussion in our news media about the continuing conflict between Israel and Palestinians in the tiny strip of land on the Mediterranean known as the Gaza Strip. In an earnest effort to both understand better and take action, Marc Adams, a contributing editor at Busted Halo, began an online conversation with a group of former Jesuit volunteers, friends and family. His initial questions regarding how to deal with the crisis have generated a rich dialogue about what we, here in the US, can and should do about the situation in Gaza.

Much of the email correspondence centered on how to understand the facts on the ground — including our media’s portrayal of the state of affairs versus the reality — and what people can do to help foster peace in the region.

What follows is a small sampling of that continuing discussion. I have added some reflections based on the seven years I lived and worked in the region — including Gaza — as well as my continuing efforts as an activist for peace and human rights, which have brought me back to the area several times since then, to work with a variety of grassroots groups. Below that are resources and links to other voices on the war, and suggestions for practical ways in which people can get involved and help to make a difference.
In Marc Adams original email he wrote:
“As what seems to always be the case, Israel has responded to deadly rocket attacks against its people with (what seems to me) brutal overpowering by its military against many innocent civilians in Gaza. Can someone please explain to me why there can’t be a cease-fire? Does anyone have any good ideas of what I or we can do as citizens of the US to help end this dire situation? It’s so frustrating to hear President Bush give unwavering support of Israel and to see President-Elect Obama remain silent. In my view, BOTH sides (Israel and Hamas) are at fault and the sooner everyone can admit to

January 11th, 2009

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Millions of singles made a New Year’s resolution to be more proactive about their love lives. Sound like you? If you want to find that special someone in 2009, it’s going to take some effort. (Amazingly enough, Mr. or Ms. Right will probably not intercept you between your car and your office, or jump into your path as you walk bleary-eyed for your morning coffee.)

While I know that the guys out there are looking for love, too, it’s usually women who spend the most time worrying about their odds of marriage, wondering if there’s something wrong with them. And it’s no wonder: Women read articles in the newspaper about how being too smart or too funny or earning too much money scares men off. That kind of nonsense is enough to drive anyone nuts!

On the book tour for my first book, Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women, I traveled all around the country speaking to groups of SWANS® — Strong Women Achievers, No Spouse — about the sociological trends that were making it possible, now more than ever, for a woman to have a rewarding career and a fulfilling personal life. Energetic, passionate, intelligent and honest women shared their experiences with me (including many on this website), and time after time, they asked me for my advice.

Where do you meet men who are interested in smart women?
How should we talk about our jobs when we first meet a guy?
What can I tell my mother to make her realize times have changed and being single at 30 isn’t so terrible?

As professor of sociology teaching courses on the American family, my students would often ask for my guidance about their futures, too:

Should I go to the prestigious graduate school program I got into, even though my boyfriend doesn’t want me to leave the state?
What kind of career can I have that will allow me the flexibility to have a family as well?

These were all excellent questions—but there has been no advice specifically geared toward smart women. Most self-help books on dating …

January 6th, 2009

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One of the most common (and frequent) questions Busted Halo gets from people is, What exactly does the Catholic Church teach about oral sex? It is an understandable question that is not easily answered with a simple yes or no response. The fact is, the Church’s teachings can’t be compartmentalized into questions on only one form of sexual expression. In order to understand what the church says about oral sex, one must first be aware of the Church’s teachings on the nature and purpose of all sexual expression.

First and foremost, the Church reserves all sex for marriage. This is not simply a way to restrict our natural sexual impulses, but rather to use them for what they were properly intended, namely for procreation of children and to build unity between husband and wife. Even Pope Benedict has spoken openly of his concern that limiting the Church’s attention on sex to “just moral prohibitions” can lead people to “have the impression that the church’s real function is only to condemn and restrict life. Perhaps too much has been said and too often in this direction—without the necessary connection to truth and love.”

While you won’t read any definitive lines in the Catholic Catechism when it comes to oral sex, the church does draw some directives from its traditional teaching on sexuality to provide some guidance. Many people are surprised to hear that even within marriage, the church makes a distinction between oral “sex” and oral stimulation. If we define oral sex as orally stimulating the male partner to orgasm, then the church would prohibit that even for married couples.
Getting Specific
Two books that offer specific directions about the Catholic Church’s teaching on oral sex are Christopher West’s Good News about Sex and Marriage: Answers to Your Honest Questions about Catholic Teaching (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publications, 2000) and Vincent Genovesi’s In Pursuit of Love: Catholic Morality and Human Sexuality (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1996).

Christopher West is a popularizer of the “Theology of the Body” based on Pope John …

January 4th, 2009
January 3rd, 2009

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Emilie Lemmons, a writer and mother of two (although as she would say “not necessarily in that order”), is someone few people outside of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area probably know. If you read her blog, Lemmondrops, however, you had a window into the daily struggle and heart-wrenching experience of a woman who shuddered at the possibility of dying too young from cancer with two young children in tow.

Before her diagnosis, Lemmons wrote for the Catholic-based paper The Catholic Spirit, of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis/St Paul. The Spirit, as it is known in Catholic media circles, is an exceptional Catholic newspaper that really values its journalistic integrity — it doesn’t just do fluff pieces on “nice Catholic stories.”

Lemmons was at the heart of that kind of truthfulness — bishops and church officials often questioned how she could ask such a tough question when she was supposed to be “on their side.”

Joe Towalski, her editor at the paper, remarked: “Emilie, of course, was on the church’s side. But she never felt she had to sacrifice good journalistic principles in telling the Good News, and she was a big reason The Catholic Spirit was named the top large-circulation diocesan newspaper in the country for its work in 2003, 2005 and 2006.”

One piece in particular focused on Catholic identity on college campuses. She told the story straight. Notre Dame is doing the “Vagina Monologues” and Boston College officials are clashing with an abortion rights group on campus. More traditional-minded Catholics were lamenting the loss of Catholic identity, while academicians argued that the colleges that were Catholic enclaves were not respected as complex centers of thought. And her piece included a human rights angle about how faculty members who did not espouse Catholic teaching were dismissed at some schools.

When she became pregnant with her second child, Lemmons, 40, was diagnosed with cancer, a soft-tissue sarcoma that eventually would spread and take her life. The mother of a 2 year old and a 9 month old baby turned her attention towards motherhood and dealing with cancer …

December 30th, 2008

As I write about William F. Buckley, I can’t help thinking of my dad. They were alike in many ways, and my father introduced me, through the TV screen, to Buckley. I once told Buckley that he’d played a huge role in the formation of my political thinking—as I’d been watching “Firing Line” since it appeared on PBS when I was 9 years old—and he said, “Well, that’s a frightening thought.” Of course, it was a frightening thought. Why was a 9-year-old watching a political debate show led by this devout intellectual with the vocabulary of a… well… the vocabulary typical of no one at any education level? Cause of my dad. My atheist dad.

My father may have been against religion, but his ethical example, his dignity, and his love and respect for nature and his fellow man were spiritual practices if ever I’ve seen them. I know I got part of whatever religious core I have though him. And he and the author of “God & Man at Yale” shared many values.

Bill Buckley is best known for starting the magazine National Review, and, largely through that publication, for leading a revitalization of conservative politics in America. But there has always been a tension within conservatism between what Buckley represented and what at one time called itself the “Know Nothings” — anti-intellectual, often anti-immigrant, populism.

The conservatism William F. Buckley stood for was a heartfelt belief in individual liberty, collective responsibility and a healthy respect for traditions. His was not a politics of fear. It was a thoughtful and a decent politics. One that he was more than happy to defend against reasonable opponents.

Buckley’s “Firing Line” was no relative of the modern split screen scream-fest, with surrogates of Left and Right speaking from memorized talking points, bullying their way to dominate the audio feed. On “Firing Line,” Buckley maintained a level of politeness that approached serenity. You finished watching an episode feeling edified, rather than feeling bolstered in an already-fixed position.

And Buckley’s politeness was not the false platitude of a politician’s …

December 30th, 2008

Yankee Stadium (1923-2008)

The champagne was all over my shirt and Derek Jeter stood there laughing. I had just played his accomplice by interviewing Darryl Strawberry in the corner of the locker room so that Jeter could spray him in the face with champagne moments after the Yankees had clinched the American League’s Eastern Division in 1996. Later that year, they won the World Series for the 23rd time in their history, and an even bigger celebration ensued.

A few years before I began covering the locker room for WOR Radio, I was a young cub radio reporter following around WFAN’s Yankee beat reporter, Suzyn Waldman. Down in the bowels of the stadium we’d see all kinds of strange things. One year we heard the click-clack-click-clack-cliiiick… as Don Mattingly ran and dragged his metal cleats on the stadium concrete, making sparks. John Wetteland used to roller blade down there with a hockey stick and tennis ball, checking us reporter types into the walls. Charlie, the keeper of locker and press room gate, would check our credentials every night without a word. I used to think he was older than baseball itself.

Perhaps the biggest treat was being able to walk down the clubhouse ramp, come out of the dugout and step onto the field to interview players before game time. It was magical to be standing where so much of Yankee history had taken place. The white façade around the stadium and the rumble of the #4 train in the distance were different from a player’s-eye view. Old Timer’s Day brought the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto and Reggie Jackson to the field for interviews and a few laughs. The pinstripes would make my eyes cross sometimes, watching them blur around the bases or shagging flies. There were days I thought about watching my first game with my dad, from the cheap seats in the left field bleachers, never expecting to ever be as close to the action as I now was. It was pure magic in a stadium filled …

December 30th, 2008

David Foster Wallace was a famous writer, which is not that common anymore. He wrote “Infinite Jest,” arguably the most important novel of the past 20 years, and certainly the one that took America’s avant-garde out of its incessant postmodern navel-gazing. He was probably more famous for his essays, which were published in magazines like The Atlantic and Harpers. He had another novel too, and various collections of short stories and non-fiction. He studied philosophy when he was younger and those who know said he could have been one of the most important mathematical philosophers of his generation. He also sweated a lot, which is why he always wore a white bandana in interviews and at readings.

And he was really good at tennis. Really, really good. He was nationally ranked as a junior player, and some of his best essays were about tennis players, including one of his last, for the New York Times sports magazine, Play. This is one of the many things that Wallace was better at than me, but I didn’t realize that I ought to be impressed by this until the first time I played tennis, which was against my girlfriend on our first date. I had no idea that a game with two people grunting at each other—neither of which ever looked like they could take me—could be so strenuous, or so difficult, or so beautiful. But it was. Well, at least, it could have been. It was certainly strenuous and difficult, but there was nothing particularly beautiful about me regularly swatting tennis balls into the baseball games on the other side of the tennis court.

Wallace’s writing was like this. It looked simple, at times even too conversational. His sentences would run on, or they’d end with prepositions, or he’d try to excuse his digressions by literally writing “sobutanyway” to bring us back to his point. And then there were the footnotes, which showed up in his articles and his fiction, and would sometimes go on for pages, about the chemical makeup of …

December 30th, 2008

I had a TV in my room from a very early age, giving me control over the cultural influences that entered my world. Using my command of the dial, the most subversive thing I watched in my atheist home might have been a sweet little show that has been loved now for generations: Davey & Goliath.

Son of a Lutheran minister, Dick Sutcliffe started his career as a journalist, but soon found himself working for the church, as assistant editor for The Lutheran magazine, then with the radio division, then television. Sutcliffe, as director of Lutheran radio and television ministry, was one of the first religious officials to realize the potential of television, starting in the late 1950s. When church leaders told him to put together a new TV show — a typical sermonette type of thing — he had a different idea. How about taking advantage of this new medium to give kids some good entertainment, so the moral and religious messages would go down easily.

Sutcliffe’s next inspiration was to turn to Art Clokey, a former religious education student who had created the wholesome but quirky stop-motion animation phenomenon, Gumby. With Sutcliffe writing the scripts, Davey & Goliath was born.

Davey was a spunky little boy (the opening sequence has him launching a bottle rocket) and Goliath was his talking dog — though only Davey (and we) could hear him speak. While much of the content in each episode of Davey & Goliath was typical children’s show stuff — basic lessons like, honesty is the best policy — there was another message, week after week: that God loves you and you are expected to honor that love by behaving responsibly.

Davey & Goliath was given to stations for free and categorized as public service programming. In those days there were strict rules from the FCC requiring networks to air a lot of public service programming. So they showed Davey & Goliath regularly on TV, to meet their quota.

I can’t say what affect the near-daily dose of Davey

December 30th, 2008

It was a long shot but I thought I’d give it a try.

Tony Hendra was making the publicity rounds for his latest book, a novel, The Messiah of Morris Avenue and I was searching for a different angle from which to cover it. Two years earlier—just after the release of Fr. Joe, the New York Times bestseller in which Hendra chronicled his own journey back to Catholicism—I had done an extensive interview with him for Busted Halo and I was hoping to do something other than the usual Q&A this time around. The blurb on the back of Messiah provided all the inspiration I needed:
“I was prepared for my usual serving of sharp Tony Hendra satire; I was not prepared for his sensitive and highly convincing exposition of the true teachings of Jesus Christ. I love this book.” — George Carlin
Hendra—a well-regarded satirist who is probably best known for his role as Ian Faith, the band manager in This is Spinal Tap—had mentioned that Carlin was an old friend in our first interview. He had even remarked (only half jokingly it seemed to me) that he believed Carlin would return to the Holy Roman Church on his deathbed because, no matter how hard he tried to expunge it, Catholicism was deep in Carlin’s DNA.

Combo Flatter
My gears started churning. Carlin’s endorsement of Hendra’s novel seemed to me to be the perfect opportunity to get an interesting conversation started. Rather than a straight interview, what if I could convince both men to let me record a conversation between them about their thoughts on God, faith and Catholicism? Combining the wit, intelligence and honesty of Carlin—who had frequently placed religion and the Catholic Church in his comic crosshairs—and the recently returned prodigal Catholic (Hendra) would surely result in an incredible piece for Busted Halo, right?

I immediately contacted Hendra about the idea and he seemed intrigued as well but said he’d have to check with Carlin to get his thoughts on it. My imagination began to conjure up elaborate plans for how to promote …

December 30th, 2008

“Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition… This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports!”

That voice, heard each and every weekend for over 40 years, was the voice of James Kenneth McManus, better known to most as Jim McKay of ABC’s Wide World of Sports, a sports variety show, if you will, that covered both mainstream popular sports and obscure sports from the hinterlands of the world. When Roone Arledge, the legendary TV executive, offered McKay the job, he said, “I think I should tell you, this job will involve a certain amount of travel!”

Sure enough, McKay logged over five million frequent flyer miles covering everything from auto racing to ping-pong, lumberjack competitions to barrel jumping, and he took it all seriously. Something different happened every week on “Wide World of Sports” and McKay was the guy who would tell you all the inside information. I was astounded when I heard McKay say in an interview: “We had no research people. I’ve never had a research person, except on the later Olympics that I covered. What I’d do was look in the Encyclopedia Britanica, you’d be surprised they even had an article on even some of the obscure sports. And then we’d get there three days ahead of time and start talking to everyone we could find. It was just a scramble.”

McKay covered the police beat for the Baltimore Sun after graduating from Loyola College of Maryland. When it launched a TV station, because of McKay’s college background in dramatics and debate, he landed a job as host of a variety show on sports, current events and news. Then on to New York to host another variety show, called “The Real McKay.” It was abruptly cancelled, but gave him a respected name in the business, leading to Arledge’s tapping him for the Wide World of Sports gig.

McKay noted, “A lot of it was sports that people had never seen before on television …

December 30th, 2008

During the nearly sixty years he graced stage and screen, Paul Scofield was a man who had little use for self-justification, and even less use for self-promotion. His press-shy ways created something of a vicious cycle. The less frequently the celebrated British actor consented to interviews, the more frequently such interviews tended to revolve around the question of why, say, he didn’t make himself more available to the media. Or, why he had chosen to appear in so few popular films. Or why, unlike so many of his peers, he had not been knighted.

It would be more correct, however, when we speak of peers, to say that Scofield had none. He was sui generis—universally admired by the Burtons and Oliviers of the English theatre, but sharing none of their swagger, and none of their taste for prestige. Scofield eschewed Hollywood. He remained married to the same woman for 65 years, and they lived only a few miles from the town where he had grown up.

There was, too, that lingering matter of knighthood. It had in fact been offered to him. He declined it—three times, exposing the vanity of the whole ordeal and revealing a bit of his uncommon soul by asking, “If you want a title, what’s wrong with ‘Mister’?”

Even so, it was as a “Sir” that I, and so many others, first came to know Mr. Scofield. In 1966, he appeared as Sir Thomas More in Fred Zinnemann’s classic film version of Robert Bolt’s play, “A Man for All Seasons.” Scofield was ideally suited for the part. He had, for one thing, originated it six years earlier at the Globe. And he was blessed with the reasoned demeanor and sure, stentorian voice that were necessary for Bolt’s More, whom the author framed as a paragon of principled dignity in an unprincipled time.

Scofield deservedly won an Academy Award for his enduring portrayal. He also indelibly shaped my image of a man we consider a saint …

December 29th, 2008

Speeding down the road, it seemed like just another day at work. My camera person Maxine and I were heading out to interview a woman for a special Thanksgiving feature on the BBC. Max and I had been on several shoots together over the previous six months, and this was no different. But as we hurtled along, in anticipation of our next television adventure, conversation somehow migrated to a feature we had done in the middle of summer, with a woman we both had come to admire and respect in the 20 minutes in which we’d gotten to know her.

“I heard that Lucy — I think that was her name — passed away recently,” Max said. “Lucy?” I questioned. I could hardly believe it. “Yeah, Lucy Stokes, I believe it was.” Max responded. For a moment, my heart sunk. It seemed like just days ago I had been in this woman’s living room, interviewing her about her struggle to buy groceries. And now, gone? It didn’t seem right. She was such an incredibly nice lady who made us strangers feel like a part of her family.

I had the great honor of meeting Ms. Lucy Stokes by way of a story on the international food crisis I was producing for the BBC back in June. The point of the story was to look at how the global rise in the price of food was affecting the low-income population of Washington, D.C. and the United States as a whole. Lucy, a 70-year-old grandmother, invited Maxine and me into her home to interview her about how the price rise was affecting her and the people she tried to help as a volunteer.

That’s one of the things that I really admired about her. There was no mistaking that Lucy herself was a direct victim of the economic downturn, a senior on a low fixed income living in public housing who depended on food stamps and food pantries. But she wouldn’t let the title of “victim” define her. She actively volunteered for the …

December 29th, 2008

Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ, who died at 90 on December 12, was the scion of a legendary family (his father, John Foster Dulles, was Secretary of State); one of the most famous American converts to Catholicism (his conversion came after reading philosophy at Harvard and then, memorably, spying a tree in springtime bloom); and widely considered to be the “dean” of Catholic theologians in the United States, respected by both traditionalists and progressives. His Eminence, Avery Cardinal Dulles to the world, however, was to many Jesuits, “Avery,” and he took himself none too seriously, as befits a serious man.

Funny stories abound about the Jesuit, made all the more amusing for the man’s exalted status in the church universal and his august family background. Famously humble, he often declined to say the name of Dulles Airport when in Washington, DC. One morning a young Jesuit deputed to drive the great theologian to his flight asked him, “Father Dulles, which airport are we going to? National or….”

“The other one!” Avery said. And it seemed appropriate that when the tall lanky priest received his traditional red biretta from Pope John Paul II on becoming a cardinal (the only American Jesuit ever afforded this honor) it toppled off his head and landed in the pope’s lap. He once mistook the house dishwasher for a washing machine (for clothes) and, well, I’ll tell that story another time.

His sense of humor was all the more delightful coming from such a patrician sensibility. When one Jesuit remarked that St. John Berchmans, one of the early Jesuit saints, said that Jesuit community life was his greatest penance, Avery responded, “Well I wonder what his community thought about him .”

Avery was unfailingly generous to me during the few years I knew him. When one of my first books was published, he not only furnished the publisher with a “blurb,” he also sent me, unbidden, a typewritten letter on a plain sheet of paper with a brief list of helpful corrections. He was a longtime teacher, he said somewhat apologetically, …

December 29th, 2008

A young political operative who charmed a beautiful woman to marry him for his intellect despite his dough-boy appearance, Tim Russert ended up hitting it big as the moderator of a struggling Sunday morning talk show that most people considered fodder for softball questions.

That was before Russert came along and made a trip to the dentist a more enjoyable experience for the politicians who sat across from him. His impeccable preparation made Russert a journalist whom Democrats and Republicans alike both feared and respected.

When Arnold Schwarzenegger thought their friendship would mean an easy interview, his wife Maria Shriver, a lifelong colleague of Russert’s, told him to prepare more. “Tim doesn’t give anyone, friends included, a free pass,” she said.

Russert’s hardnosed style came directly from his father’s lunch-pail background — he was a Buffalo garbage collector — and his own educational training by the nuns and the Jesuits. He spoke of Sister Mary Lucille as a great influence alongside presidents and governors. The young nun with a penchant for Democratic President John F. Kennedy pushed Russert to get into Canisius High School in Buffalo, a prestigious Jesuit school usually reserved for upper-class elites. Russert indeed found his way there, and later to John Carroll University in Cleveland. He always claimed the nuns and the Jesuits “taught me to read and write but also how to tell right from wrong.”

Meet the Press made Russert famous, but it was his work for Catholic Charities and the heartwarming autobiographical sketch of his relationship with his father, Big Russ and Me, that touched the hearts of millions and showed his true colors as an old softy, despite his staccato, pit-bull journalism.

His son Luke was always the pride of Russert’s life. Never shy or embarrassed about his Catholic faith, Russert longed to have his child blessed by the pope. Upon meeting John Paul II on an NBC trip, Russert told the pontiff that his wife was pregnant. The pope invited him to return to Rome for a blessing after the baby was born. Naturally, the pope’s …

December 25th, 2008

Return to the Advent calendar.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:8-14
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