Showing posts from September, 2006

God Bless You, Grandma Donaghy

Early this morning, a beautiful soul left this world...

Ellen Donaghy was born and raised in Scotland, and traveled to America over 60 years ago. She never went to college, and after she was married, never worked outside the home. And she never lost that Scottish brogue we loved so much to imitate. She gave birth to ten children, and they were her life. I'm so proud to say that I'm a part of that legacy, now in its third generation.

In Scotland, they called her "Nellie." She worked in a men's clothing store after school. She survived the German blitz of World War II, and she saw many of her friends and loved ones die in those bombings. She prayed every day, a rosary never far from her hands, and the name of Mary was always on her lips. Nellie met Frank and they were married, and their new life took them across the sea to America, leaving behind all they ever knew.

When I was a teenager, one Sunday out of four was spent at Grandma Donaghy's. We'd sit in the h…
Rooted in the Real I remember sitting in the musky stillness of the upstairs room at my grandmothers, on a pinewood floor, digging through the books in the cedar closet. I found an old copy of the Hobbit one day, and the brilliant trilogy set put out by Ballantine. The art on the covers drew me in. It was weathered and worn down by my aunts Ellen and Eileen, voracious readers of J.R.R. Tolkien in their own teen years. Sunlight slipped through white linen curtains, splashed on the floor, and spilled over the yellowed pages. And the world of Middle-Earth, with its maps of mystical lands, mountains, valleys, rivers and ancient cities, came alive. I felt somehow, from the beginning, that this would not be a journey away from reality, but a path leading right to the very heart of it. Are our stories merely fantasy, or are they rooted in the Real? Does God speak through our subcreations? Is the eternal plan, the battle of good and evil, the ring of truth, the power of Beauty bound to any…

Where Do Wars Come From?

"Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions."
- James 3:16—4:3

I'm convinced that the lectionary readings, those chosen by the Church for the liturgy, are inspired. This Sunday's reading sinks perfectly into the space in our hearts that is now an open wound; that space where the specter of war clamors.

God gives us what we need just when we need it. James goes straight to the heart of things in today's second reading. We learn there that no treaty or ceasefire, no program or policy can end the violence in our world. Only a conversion of our hearts can do that. Only the turning of our face towards the Face of the God of peace can bring real peace. That's it.…

Benedict XVI, Faith, Reason and Islam

For light and truth on such an important issue, I'm posting the following in full from
ROME, SEPT. 23, 2006 ( As the furor over Benedict XVI and Islam died down, people started to realize that the Pope was a victim of phrases taken out of context and reactions deliberately inflamed. In fact, this was what many Church officials and prelates were saying from the start.Rather than being an attack on Islam, "What emerges clearly from the Holy Father's discourses is a warning, addressed to Western culture, to avoid 'the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom,'" noted Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi on Sept. 14. The Jesuit explained that the Pope was criticizing modern culture for trying to exclude religion."A reason which is deaf to the divine," concluded the Pontiff in his Sept. 12 address at the University of Regensburg, "and which relegates religion to t…

Smelling September

I don't know where you are, reading this right now. But right now, in southeastern Pennsylvania, USA, the leaves are beginning to lose their grip, the wind is breathing cooler, and the earth smells soooo good. We have a cycle of seasons; they rise and fall from spring to winter like the very lives we live. And every season is a chance for us to taste again the sweetness and the sorrow, to pass through ourselves a life in miniature; to hear again that "still sad music of humanity." From the green fire of a youthful spring, to the ripe joys of summer, and into the contemplative colors of fall... we prepare ourselves for the quiet sleep of winter. I love the fall most of all. The very air has such a richness to it; the leaves are burning in a last shout of glory, and their earthy incense is a melancholic fragrance. It draws us into our past. The burnt gold of the evening horizon, the red-rimmed maple trees, the barren branches with their hundred tiny fingers, stretching o…
With Christians, a poetical view of things is a duty. We are bid to color all things with hues of faith, to see a divine meaning in every event. - John Cardinal Newman This quote of Cardinal Newman's reveals the key for the interpretation of all reality. We are a mysterious harmony of flesh and spirit. We are not merely of this earth, but have, as it were, one foot in eternity. This truth should have its echo in the hollow of our chest. It explains the ache we feel in the face of death. It defines the pull in our hearts for immortality. In the words of Pope Benedict, "We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God." This poetical view, this vision that pierces through flesh and bone to reveal the spirit, this is the lens through which we are called to perceive the world! It is a specifically Catholic vision, a sacramental vision; it shows us that external signs hold inner truths. In a certain sense, everything is…
Beautiful reflection from today's Magnificat entry by a Spanish priest, Fr. Carron. Thought I'd share the WHOLE THING... below: "Who do you say that I am?" "Unless each of us is fascinated by Christ, it is impossible for nothingness not to prevail even in us. We have not solved the problem; the drama goes on living in each one of us. The struggle is fought out in our hearts every day, in the personal, mysterious dialogue between the "I" of each of us and the fascination that is Christ. Without the victory of this fascination, we are finished... We reduce reality to appearances and so we live a relationship with reality that has done away with the Mystery, the "Something that is within every something." We can all see how true this is by simply asking ourselves what happened this morning. How many of us, as we looked at reality today, said, "You" to the Mystery that makes reality and that makes the "I" that woke up this m…
A Mother StandingAt the cross her station keeping,Stood the mournful Mother weeping,Close to Jesus to the last.Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,All His bitter anguish bearing,Now at length the sword had pass'd. These are the first two stanzas of the "Stabat Mater," a powerful hymn written in the Middle Ages and sung in a mournful chant on today's Feast, Our Lady of Sorrows. It reflects upon the suffering of Mary as she stood by the Cross of her Son. The Latin phrase stabat mater means "mother standing." In the wake of the awful anniversary of 9/11 and countless other global tragedies, today brings before our eyes the place of ultimate suffering; Golgotha, Calvary, the Cross. Here, Love itself was crucified. But at that very place where we so often fear to go, or are tempted to flee, the place of suffering, pain, and injustice, a Mother is standing. I think about the many images taken from recent news stories, where the young are slain through meani…
The Problem of Evil Ever since the first sin of dis-obedience at the dawn of creation, there has been dis-integration in the world. Di-vision, dis-order, de-struction, and di-abolical designs are all around us, and within us. Don't you feel it?Suffering and Death aren't merely theological ideas for scholars to ponder. The wounds are in you and me. The definitions of these Two Towers of human experience are written in our flesh and bones. Why must it be this way? Why do we fight and grasp and tear at each other? Why do bad people seem to succeed and the good suffer unjustly? Deeper still is the question "Why is there suffering at all? Why is there evil?" And why is it distinctly a human thing to ask why? There are no books on coping with tragedy in the animal kingdom. Zebras don't ponder the problem of evil. If we are just bipedal fleshy parts of this creation, like super-apes, then why do we sigh for vindication and justice? Deeper still for immortality, for Som…
Echos of the One I have learned more from the shine in a dewdrop on the petal of a wildflower than from man and all his theories his grasping after power I have read more in the falling leaves That tumble, wilt, and bear new life Than ever in the pages of man scratched in haste and full of strife I have listened in the cool night's breath To symphonies more grand Than orchestras assembled fair For the feeble notes of man But through the words and wood and paint though cracked and frail they be I see with trembling fingers a trace of eternity We frame with fallen hands the echo of the One we reach to catch in song and stone the Heart of our True Home And though it's but an icon a shadow before the sun I'll write and shape and sing as well my echos of the One

As Fall Returns and Nature Sings

Here's one of my favorite poems from William Wordsworth:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. -Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

- William Wordsworth


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I Love Pope Benedict... Because of words like these, addressed to the Canadian Bishops yesterday in Rome: In our increasingly secularized societies, which you yourselves have experienced, the love that flows from God's heart toward humanity can be unperceived or even rejected. On imagining that removing himself from this relationship constitutes, one way or another, a solution for his liberation, man becomes in fact a stranger to himself, because "in reality, the truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light" ("Gaudium et Spes," No. 22).By their lack of interest in the love that reveals the fullness of the truth of man, numerous men and women continue to estrange themselves from God's dwelling to live in the desert of individual isolation, social brokenness and the loss of cultural identity.[Translation of French original by ZENIT]3. Within this perspective, one sees that the fundamental task of the evangeli…
Guess Who?"I'm sure you'd agree that it's one of the most spiritually powerful works of the twentieth century, and I think one has to be a Catholic to really appreciate it. It's a living hymn to mercy, humility and the power of Divine Providence. It isn't a fantasy epic but an epic of virtue." - Carmelite Sister, Northeastern USA Hmm.... curious? In 1997, voters in a BBC poll named it the greatest book of the 20th century. The academics and the literati were furious. Another poll was taken, and then another. They all pointed to the same book. In 1999, customers chose it to be the greatest book of the millennium. PS - a millennium equals 1000 years. It's "The Lord of the Rings." How astounding! How ridiculous! Isn't that the book about hobbits, wizards, elves and dwarves written by an obscure English professor in the days before MTV? What has that got to do with us? Have we lost our minds? I would wager that the millions w…

Humbly Receive

Humbly ReceiveThis Sunday's second reading was such an intimate one. So much of the imagery from the first chapter of James is spousal imagery. It awakens in our hearts that longing for communion, for union with Another."Dearest brothers and sisters: All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change. He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls."
- James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27Amazing! The God Who made the world descends, stoops low, pours out, gives Himself, sows the seed of His Love deep in the soil of our hearts. The Greek word for this is kenosis, to empty oneself. What a miracle of Love that the God of the universe would do this! And yet when we search our hearts we discover that this is the very definition of Love. We have a gli…
Just Plain Sad (This one is a little edgy. You may need to adjust the volume.) We attended Mass this past Sunday at a packed church in NJ, and just three or four pews ahead of us sat a distraction of biblical proportions. Now most of the time, I actually close my eyes during the Mass. It's just me. I guess it helps me focus on the readings, that rich prelude of God-breathed human words that tick off in our missalettes until the Massive Explosion of Divine Love comes in the words of the Consecration; the Eucharist! "BEHOLD THE LAMB! Look up!" But when we settled into our pew and I saw this, I couldn't get it out of my mind. There was a man in front of us, with his spouse and two small children. He wore a t-shirt, and on the back of it, in massive bold letters were the words "Will Sell Wife For Beer." Now.... there are tacky t-shirts out there. They grow exponentially tackier as the environment around us increases in the number of persons (like one more …
The Adventure Begins... It's September, the day after Labor Day, and you know what that means. It means it's time to leave for work at least half an hour earlier than you lazily did all summer. Why? Because... THEY'RE BAAAAAACK!! Today, moms and dads across the land had to resort to all manner of tactics to resurrect their offspring at ungodly hours and herd them into large brightly colored rectangular machines. It's a Herculean effort, and some I'm sure grasped at the only incentives they could see to quiet the storm: "It's only 179 days 'til summer." or "Think about snow days." Today I had to iron again. I had to pick out a "tie" to wear. Today dozens of adolescents will pour into my sleepy-peaceful-quiet-all-summer-classroom. Today I will say again words like "homework" "test" and "due this Friday." Today I become, once again, "Mr. Donaghy" (pronunciations may vary). I do love teac…

NJ - It's Not as Bad as It Sounds

We're in NJ on a rainy Labor Day weekend. This is my home state, and I have to say I had a blast growing up in this land of pine trees and blueberries; Browns Mills, NJ! Now New Jersey, as we all know, gets a bad rap in the movies and is often stereotyped in jokes. We don't mind the sarcasm; it just makes us stronger! Little does the world know that we have much to be proud of! Including hundreds of strip malls and Taco Bells! So here are some facts about the Garden State that (might?) amaze you! - New Jersey is a peninsula. - Highlands, New Jersey has the highest elevation along the entire eastern seaboard, from Maine to Florida. - New Jersey has more race horses than Kentucky. - New Jersey has more Cubans in Union City (1 sq. mi.) than Havana, Cuba. - New Jersey has the most diners in the world and is sometimes referred to as the Diner Capital of the World. - North Jersey has the most shopping malls in one area in the world, with seven major shopping malls in a 25 square mil…
Ah, Those Unplugged Days! I gave a retreat yesterday for a high school faculty, a wonderful group of Catholic school teachers and staff. As part of the modern routine before a presentation, the request was made for everyone to "silence" their cell phones. When I got up to lead the retreat, I asked everyone to take those little pieces of metal and plastic out again and hold them up. Cell phones, pagers, beepers, Blackberries, Blueberries, a ton of gizmos went up and hovered in the air. I think about 8 people out of 65 were NOT holding something up. We looked around in amazement. Fifteen years ago, I said aloud, there was nothing. We are a "plugged in" people, there's no denying it. And trust me, I'm one of the biggest technoholics around. But there are moments when we need to get unplugged. Escape. Become invisible, unreachable. We need the tonic of solitude and silence (remember Maine!). I say this first and foremost to myself. Yes, cell phones are hand…