Showing posts from 2007

Good Talk and the Goal of Art

One of my favorite Christmas traditions, after a short night of sleep, staying up into the wee hours with my wife's family in NY state, nestled in that warm house in the cold, quiet of Montgomery, are my late morning talks with my father-in-law.

It's St. Stephen's Day, December 26, and like clockwork, I go for coffee and donuts (vanilla iced with sprinkles for the womenfolk) and make it back just as he stirs (the ladies won't be up for another hour). Then the talk begins, slow and rambling at first, like a rain stream. Then a clear path is cut by a strong river of serious thought, as we sip our coffee and look out on Eager Road.

Our topics string together like a strand of lights, the classic bulbs, big, bright, and heavy-laden. Then we sit back and watch the glow before the Christmas tree, from the couches in the living room. Our thoughts launch out and hover in the air - on music, books, theology, faith, the world as it is... as it was.... as it should be.

This morning w…

The Christmas House

Do you get all goosey when you see Inflatable Christmas Lawn Art? Does the glow of lights on an otherwise drab house set your heart pumping? Do you find yourself driving the long way home from work in the winter just to catch some extra yuletide wattage? Well we've got the house for you! Getting there is a real journey, but for those intoxicated by Christmas lights and 6 foot Frostys, you can't beat the "CHRISTMAS HOUSE."

It's nestled, oddly enough, on a dark street in a quiet little town called Washingtonville, NY. The house to the left has a porchlight and a wreath, the neighbor to the right is cloaked in shadowy shrubs. But it would take a city of Wal-Marts to beat out the brightness of the CHRISTMAS HOUSE!

And that's just the outside of the house... Every room inside is loaded to the gills with Christmas doodads and whatzits. Classic stuff too; trains, little villages, a hall of thematic trees like the Irish Tree, the Sports Tree, the Penguin Tree, and... t…

A Scandalous Love

For a little reflection this Christmas Eve, I'd like to direct our eyes to some achingly beautiful, wonderfully scandalous passages in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Here's a book that I think is too often passed over as heady, theologically dense, or something only for CCD teachers, sisters, priests, academics or theology students to ponder. But the Catechism is for believers, all believers, to leap into, pour over, pray over, and chew on as an essential part of one spiritually nutritious breakfast! The word catechism comes from the Greek root meaning simply "an echo." And that's all it is - an echo of the Truth and Beauty and Goodness of salvation given to us in the Bible. So here we go... chew slowly and enjoy!


457 "Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again... Closed in the darkness, it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Savior... Are the…

Finally! The Hobbit is Coming to the Movies!

Just heard on Fr. Roderick's podcast "Daily Breakfast." An agreement has been made between New Line Cinema, MGM, and director Peter Jackson! There will be 2 separate Hobbit films, filming begins next year! More later!

Seeing and Serving Christ in the Poor

My guest tonight was Katie Sullivan, Director of the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry, which serves our suffering brothers and sisters in three locations: Kensington in Northeast Philadelphia, PA, Wilmington, Delaware, and Camden, NJ.

"The Franciscan Volunteer Ministry is a group of lay men and women, living in community, who dedicate themselves to ministry in the Church in collaboration with the Franciscans of Holy Name Province. Based on the Gospel message to express love in action, it provides an environment that fosters service to the marginalized, personal and interpersonal development, spiritual growth, and an active prayer life."

We had a great conversation on Katie's own journey to join in the mission of the Franciscans, as well as sending out a challenging message for all of us to live the Gospel in a new and radical way. The podcast of our show will be up by the weekend!

Here is the list of needs for St. Francis Inn that Katie mentioned on the air:

- p…

I Love Darkness

I've always loved darkness. The crisp, cold dark of winter, the thick, warm darkness of sleep, the pre-dawn darkness that shrouds the morning. Sound creepy? Nah... it's creative. Think about it. All things good, true, and worthy of our contemplation spring from darkness.

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss...

It seems darkness is the prerequisite of light. The very stars we love to count sprang from the dark womb of the universe. The flowers and trees we marvel over were born in the seed crushing stillness under the earth; in the wet, dark fodder of fecundity that lies beneath our feet.

Our lives began in darkness. We squirmed and struggled, wound and wrapped up in tiny balls of pulsating blood, brain, bone and tissue, and spirit breathed fresh into that darkness from God, in the wombs of our mothers. Our spiritual birth comes so often from the darkness of doubt and of fear, leaping up fr…

When You Gotta Go....

I was perusing through a closet for something the other day and found an old sketchbook of mine from art school. This is a cartoon I did around Christmas, circa 1990! I call it "When You Gotta Go, You Gotta Go."

I suppose it was a remnant of one of my deepest childhood questions on the plausibility of Santa and his ability to make it round the globe without a pit stop. Other thoughts considered the possibility of built-in plumbing on the sleigh, but I won't bore you with those blueprints...

White Christmas

Oh you just can't beat Bing Crosby's voice in this classic.... it's like butta'!!

Thanks a Million (I mean.... 20,000)!

It was on December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, that I put a hit counter on my blog. I'm pleased to say that in the year that has passed since then, (and we'll round off the hits in that first half a year without a counter) there have been over 20,000 visitors to The Heart of Things Blog!! Woohoo! So thanks for stopping by, for passing stuff on, and for the sporadic comments. They are always welcome!


Teaching keeps me pretty busy, but I am hoping to publish a book soon (soon meaning "before death") encapsulating the most reflective of these reflections... skipping the random allusions to YouTube videos, cheese, and HomeStarRunner... well, maybe we'll keep the silly stuff in there for good measure.

Would you read a book like this? With a few hundred one to two page reflections on God, Life, and Everything in Between? I hope so. I figure that's what I like; short and sweet, but meaty enough to get me through the day. The podcast is comi…

Random Stuff I've Been Meaning to Share

1. iPods are amazing.
2. Podcasts are FREE... and amazing.

What's an iPod? Well, officially, an iPod is a portable media player (music, videos, movies, even photos) designed by Apple and about the size of a pack of gum. It was first launched on October 23, 2001. I have a video iPod that now holds EVERYTHING... family photos, music from Springsteen to Mozart, John Cougar to the Crouching Tiger soundtrack! Talks by Peter Kreeft, Bishop Sheen, Scott Hahn, Christoher West, Scripture readings, episodes of Lost, Scrubs, the Office! Gregorian Chant, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Barry Manilow (yes, real men listen to Barry!), U2, Dave Wilcox, Greg Brown, Charlie Brown Christmas Album, Movie sound bytes that make me laugh, and... and.... lots of stuff! Like podcasts....

What's a podcast?
A podcast is like a broadcast, only one that you the listener can actually control. You can pick it, play it, pause it, or peruse it at your leisure. You can listen to a podcast just like you listen to your mu…

New Narnia Trailer is Out!

The new trailer for the next Narnia movie, Prince Caspian is out! Have a look! May 16 is the release date...

Baby in a Box...

A POWERFUL little video from to prepare our hearts for the Right to Life March in D.C. next month. Please be sure to pass this link along! Beautiful... and subtle in its efforts to lead us to the truth about Life.

Grace Upon Grace

Well, I'm blogging while my Immaculata students take their final exam. Is that irresponsible? Heck no, 'cause they're a group of amazing young people who can take a test despite the feverish click and clak of these keyboard keys! Yeah!

It's been an awesome experience, teaching at a University level this semester. And the provident convenience of Immaculata U. being just 7 minutes and 32 seconds from Malvern Prep was another convenience. I'm looking forward to next semester already, though the Christmas break will be nice.

This was a course on Marriage and Family, with a strong emphasis on the Theology of the Body. We read the thoughts of Pope John Paul II, Mary Healy, Christopher West, we critically watched film clips, listened to popular music, and had discussions on the meaning of being human, the reason we are alive, the battle between love and lust. What better way to spend a Tuesday night from 7:15 to 9:45 I ask you!? To be honest, being home with Rebecca would…

Nothin' Says Christmas Like an Archway Cookie!

I'm serious. (And I promise to post a more substantial reflection soon, not that enough of these cookies aren't substantial. Just been real busy with teaching, grading, podcasting, blah, blah!) We ran a few errands Saturday after a beautiful Mass on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. As I zipped through the aisles of Acme, seeking out the 2% milk (though I'm partial to the scandalously retro Whole Milk; feels rebellious just typing it!) I passed by a display of Archway cookies. This was an almost religious experience for me. I don't know why but I often forget about my friends at Archway throughout the rest of the year. Well, once in the middle of summer I had a craving for those massive iced oatmeal cookies and some cold milk. Wow. So if you're out and about this season, look for the "cashew nougat cookie-ball looking things" - they are amazing!

An O'Henry Christmas - Review

"The poorer you are the more Christmas does for you."
- O.P.
The little stage in Lansdowne's 20th Century Club is intimate; a theater in the round, and all of us gather 'round a cluster of crates and a barrel lit within with faux fire. But the real warmth comes from the characters that soon appear; Marguerite, Agnes, Fran, Grover, Hal, Dinty, Guido the cop, and finally, the master storyteller - O.P. In their rags and wrinkled suits, they are the poor, and it's Christmas Eve, and this is where they'll hold their vigil. It's Howard Burman's play, "An O. Henry Christmas," playing this weekend and next in Lansdowne, PA (details following).

On a railroad spur, on the tattered fringes of New York City, 1893, a group of homeless souls carrying nothing but their own mental baggage, have clustered about this fire seeking its heat for their bodies and, perhaps subconsciously, some warmth for their souls. Suddenly, a stranger appears. In an exchange for f…

Blogging, Believing, and the Blessed Mother - An Interview with Mark Shea

This week's show was an interview with Mark Shea, a popular Catholic writer, speaker, and blogger. In addition to being co-author of the smash bestseller A Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions About The Passion of the Christ, he is also the author of The Da Vinci Deception: 100 Questions About the Facts and Fiction of The Da Vinci Code (Ascension), Making Senses Out of Scripture: Reading the Bible as the First Christians Did (Basilica), By What Authority?: An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition (Our Sunday Visitor) and This is My Body: An Evangelical Discovers the Real Presence (Christendom Press) An award-winning columnist, he contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register.

Mark is know nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio and he is also a guest each Tuesday on "Heart, Mind, and Strength" radio with Dr. Gregory Popcak. He has also appeared num…

Saved in Hope - Pope's New Encyclical

Pope Benedict's new encyclical is here!


"It is not science that redeems man: man is redeemed by love."

"Whoever is moved by love begins to perceive what “life” really is. He begins to perceive the meaning of the word of hope that we encountered in the Baptismal Rite: from faith I await “eternal life”—the true life which, whole and unthreatened, in all its fullness, is simply life."

"In our encounter with the God who in Christ has shown us his face and opened his heart be for us too not just "informative" but "performative" — that is to say, can it change our lives, so that we know we are redeemed through the hope that it expresses?"

"A first essential setting for learning hope is prayer. When no one listens to me any more, God still listens to me. When I can no longer talk to anyone or call upon anyone, I can always talk to God. When there is no longer anyone to help me deal wit…

This Golden Compass Points Due South

Ah, the compass. Even those of us who have never actually held one know instinctively that to do so would be a comforting thing, a reassuring thing, a good thing. Because in the event that we should become "lost" the compass would serve as a guide to getting us "found" again.

I love the fact that the needle of a compass points north. Well, not true north, they say, but pretty darn near true north. I love north. I love saying the word north! It reminds me of the high and lofty, the cold and unreachable, the North Star, the cap of the world, Mount Everest, stuff like that. Growing up, when July would roll around, my brother and I would always look forward to heading north to Maine. Once the old gray Chevy truck (affectionately known as the Babe) was loaded up, the very act of turning off of the back roads of Browns Mills and slipping onto the ramp that led to 95 North brought a certain rush of excitement. For us, heading north meant a journey into clarity, and a certa…

Deer in the Fence

I was driving out of Malvern Retreat Center about two weeks ago, from a meeting that took me into the twilight time of the day, when a massive buck came leaping across the fields that buffer Malvern Prep's campus from the road. It was a powerful, agile creature, bounding like Mercury over the grass, and straight for my car. I was spellbound for a moment, then looking to my right, I saw traffic approaching. I honked my horn and they slowed. To the left, more cars were coming; they too saw the deer and soon a window was open for this beautiful creature to slip through. And slip it did.

At first it brought to mind the old Far Side cartoon "Nature Scenes We Rarely See" - where a beautiful buck is leaping over a fallen log with his antlers an inch from another tree branch (and we imagine the awkward pain of the next two seconds when the two meet). The grounds of the Retreat Center were surrounded by a high, green, chain link fence. The deer cut to the right away from my car an…


Wednesday before the Thanksgiving holiday found me in Wawa (our convenience store/deli) this morning. I was preparing meself a wee cup of Kona coffee (it's some kinda Hawaiian blend, a little nutty flavor, my favorite), when I heard a song playing through the store. I had never heard it before, but instantly knew I loved it. You know what I'm talking about? I didn't know the artist or even the words, it was playing so low. But I instantly knew it was one of my songs.

You know what I mean. It had that melody, the kind that speaks in my native tongue, that language that needs no parsing and no tense. It is always Now. Always Then. Always shimmering with the possibility of What Will Be.

As far as I'm concerned, good music is an invitation to contemplation. It's a kind of sacramental, wrapping truth and beauty in melodic clothes.

So I stood there as the three people ahead of me had their stuff rung up; bagel, pack of gum, milk, coffee. And all the while I was gettin…

August Rush Movie - Lookin' Good!

"It's all around us... only some of us can hear it.""Only some of us are listening." Wow, movie trailers are so often high octane, high adrenaline and packed with emotion. Perhaps that's why I LOVE THEM! This looks like a film with a powerful message. Just heard of it today and I'm looking forward to seeing it! Here's the official website.


This is a special request from Catholic Exchange.

Keep One in Theaters, Get the Other into Every Catholic Home
Thanksgiving Weekend is a critical weekend for two sets of Catholic filmmakers. While the team at Metanoia Films appeals to Catholics to keep Bella in theaters this coming weekend, the filmmakers at Catholic Exchange appeal for a blockbuster response to our multi-award winning DVD, Champions of Faith: Baseball.

Just as important as ticket sales for theatrical releases, DVD sales support and sustain films released straight to video and in this instance will enable Catholic Exchange to create more films featuring cultural icons who embrace and affirm our beloved Catholic faith.

Call 1.877.263.1263 if you'd like to order. Here's sampling of the reviews for Champions of Faith:

"A nine-inning faith classic!"
– Bishop Ignatius Catanello, Archdiocese of Brooklyn

"A great testimony to how rich our lives can be…

My Wife the Actress!!

Rebecca auditioned a couple of months ago in our local community theater, and POW! she got the role of a dying woman wearing a plaid scarf! How cool is that! Here's the write-up from the theater's website, cut and pasted for your viewing pleasure! __________________________________________ "An O'Henry Christmas" opens at Celebration Theater on November 30th.Jack Rowe as "O.P" spins a tale to down-and-out travelers Amanda Williamson and Rebecca Donaghy(woohoo! emphasis added) in Celebration Theater's "An O'Henry Christmas". The show opens November 30 and runs thru December 16 in Lansdowne at the 20th Century Club on 84 S. Lansdowne Avenue. The story takes place on Christmas Eve, 1893, when a mysterious storyteller enters an abandoned railroad spur on the outskirts of New York City and joins a rag-tag group of seemingly lost souls. In exchange for food, " O.P." entertains his new friends with a series of charming tales that tr…

The Red Pill or the Blue Pill?

The Matrix was a film trilogy that captivated many (including me!) a few years back, by tapping into the deepest questions we have as humans: Why are we here? Is there more than just this life? What is the Truth of our origins? Where can I find it?

Unfortunately, as the series moved forward, it became a tangled cacophony of too many philosophies and theologies. In the end, it was just another brand of gnosticism wrapped in shiny 20th century special effects (oh but what sweet special effects!)

Despite the philosophical fogginess in these films, there were some incredible "teaching" moments. One of my favorites happens in the initial conversation between Neo (the Chosen One who slowly discovers his purpose) and Morpheus (the sage character who leads Neo out of the darkness of deception).

Morpheus: ... Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know, you can't explain. But you feel it. You felt it your entire life. That there'…

Mother Teresa - Saint of Darkness

This week on the Heart of Things Radio Show, my guest is the co-founder of Mother Teresa’s priestly order, Fr. Joseph Langford.

He began his long association with Mother Teresa while studying theology in Rome. In 1983, she invited him to be the co-founder
of her priests’ community, the Missionaries of Charity Fathers. He resides at the community’s motherhouse in Tijuana, Mexico. We'll discuss his new book "Mother Teresa: In the Shadow of Our Lady."

"In recent weeks, the once-private, inner thoughts of Mother Teresa have been at the center of media attention… and scrutiny. Thanks to thirty thousand pages of documents gathered for her canonization and most recently the public release of her personal correspondence to her confessors, the Nobel Prize winning Catholic nun - admired for her work among the poor - has been the subject of critical debate. Did Mother Teresa believe in God? Was she in torment over a loss of faith? Did she cease to pray? Was she a hypocrite? Thes…

Fire, Frost and Gold

This is the season! Even in the rush to work, I'm sure you've been captured by the beauty in the fields, the forests, the city blocks lucky enough to have even a few trees. They are passing through their death throes, shuffling off in a blaze of glory their leafy cloaks... and lifting up their branches to embrace the winter chill.

It's beyond beautiful.

So yesterday morning on the way to work, I stashed the camera, and as I pulled onto Malvern's campus, the sun peeked up from the eastern rim of the sky and poured out fire on the sleepy earth. I took a few pics beside the edge of Black Friar Pond. The page to view them is here. Enjoy! And keep your cameras ready.... this weekend looks like the peak!

Zoom Zoom!

Woohoo! My brother-in-law Tim Byrons was mentioned in the BMW Car Club of America Show in Stowe, Vermont! They gave his car a nice shoutout on the webpage here. Go Tim!

Amongst the other notables: - A Malaga 1973 3.0CS with 7,500 original miles owned by a reclusive collector who graciously allowed it out to visit (but not play) with a number of other picture-perfect CS coupes.

- Tim Byron’s spectacular 1988 635CSi.

- Dave Haviland’s time warp 1952 Azure Blue performance-tuned Beetle.

- A bevy of Bimmers, Porsches, Mercedes, Audis, VWs. The senior BMW present was Frank Bombardier’s red 1958 Isetta 300.

Answering Atheism

My guest last night on the Heart of Things radio show was Tom Hoopes, executive editor of the National Catholic Register. We spoke of contemporary waves of Atheism in the cultural spotlight, from Richard Dawkins to the Golden Compass. Here are some resources, and the podcast will be uploaded soon for your listening pleasure!

Answering Atheism
Turkey Day Apologetics (coming to National Catholic Register soon!)
Married (with a lot) of Children by Tom Hoopes
Apostles to the Slavs - Pope John Paul II

Ginny Owens - I am Nothing

A Drop of Morning Dew

"Before the LORD the whole universe is as a grain from a balance or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth."- Wisdom 11:22. Rebecca and I went to the 8:30 at Holy Cross this weekend. We needed to get an early start to the day! This church has a massive stained glass window just behind the altar. It's actually an entire scene (the morning of the Resurrection) with three basic panels capturing different moments from that immortal Morning. I found myself drifting into it during the Mass. The reading was from Wisdom 11. Sometimes a line from Scripture can just take you places... "For you love all things that are..... And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you? But you spare all things, because they are yours, O LORD and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!" The video embedded above was taken a couple weekends ago in NY at the in-laws. Again, I was heading out the doo…

Bella - A Review

There's been tons of talk lately in the press and Catholic circles about the new film "Bella." It won the Toronto Film Festival's People's Choice Award as well as the praise of our own Cardinal Rigali. Now with that kind of variety, this film is worth a look!

I saw it yesterday with our Head of School, Fr. Flynn, and 26 of the boys from Malvern Prep. And I loved it. I can't say enough about how refreshing it was to be served a banquet of real, virtuous love from the Big Screen as opposed to the usual dollar menu of vice, compromise, distorted sex and violence. Where other films would go when their lead characters are young, attractive, male and female.... the movie Bella halts. Instead, it opens up the possibility that there exists a deeper love, a purer love, a love that isn't just about jumping in the sack. Wow! Who knew?

And yet the love between Jose and Nina is real, gritty, painfully honest, and shows to what depths the human heart can go when we beco…

Tonight's Radio Show - Interview with Author Joseph Pearce

"Joseph Pearce has written acclaimed biographies of Hilaire Belloc, Oscar Wilde, Roy Campbell, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, among many other works. He is currently editor of the Saint Austin Review and Writer in Residence and Associate Professor of Literature at Ave Maria University."

We'll be discussing his new book Small Is Still Beautiful

For a wonderful resource on Joseph, his life and his works, visit this Ignatius Insight link. Additional information about Joseph Pearce is available through Mars Hill Audio.

Ignatius Press books by Joseph Pearce:

Flowers of Heaven: One Thousand Years of Christian Verse (editor)
Literary Giants, Literary Catholics
Tolkien: Man and Myth
Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc
Literary Converts
Tolkien: A Celebration
C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church
Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G. K. Chesterton
The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde

A New Podcast Episode is Up!

I've uploaded last week's interview with Christopher West, which was a powerful conversation on the Theology of the Body, human love, and insights into his new book The Love That Satisfies: Reflections on Eros and Agape. So feel free to tune in to my podcast site and listen via the computer, or subscribe through iTunes to download to your iPod! Woohoo!

A beautiful excerpt from the Pope's encyclical:
"Nowadays Christianity of the past is often criticized as having been opposed to the body; and it is quite true that tendencies of this sort have always existed. Yet the contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. Eros, reduced to pure “sex”, has become a commodity, a mere “thing” to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man's great “yes” to the body... The apparent exaltation of the body can quickly turn into a hatred of bodiliness. Christian faith, on the other hand, has always considered man a unity in duality, a…

Lost in Love: The Trinity and the Human Person

Eternal Trinity... mystery deep as the sea, You could give me no greater gift than the gift of Yourself. For You are a fire ever burning and never consumed, which itself consumes all the selfish love that fills my being... - Saint Catherine of Siena I always get a little annoyed when a priest or deacon gets skittish about preaching on the Trinity, and jokes about how confusing the Trinity is, saying things like "When I'm through preaching on the Trinity, you'll probably be more confused than you are now!" And everyone sort of chuckles in that soft church laugh/chuckle kind of way. Then we buck up for a homily that anesthetizes more than it obfuscates (oh man would my old English teacher be proud of me for that line!) But is the Trinity some sort of Divine Puzzle? Did God reveal Himself to us as some sort of enigmatic algebraic equation that only Einsteins could figure out? Or is it perhaps that our approach, our trying to "grasp" this 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 formu…

Dumbledore is Gay - A Catholic Response

Well, this is interesting news.

According to a CNN article posted today, the world famous British author J.K. Rowling, while wrapping up a brief "Open Book Tour" of the U.S., was asked by a young fan whether Dumbledore, the old wizard mentor of Harry Potter, finds "true love."

"Dumbledore is gay," the author responded.

Gasps and claps erupted in the audience. Huh?
OK... is that a yes or a no?

Amidst the shock and applause that fanned out over the fans at that sitting, I wonder if anyone saw the irony here. The hollow space of the unanswered question. Now with the ripples and the waves on the water caused by this comment, will we ever get to see the answer reflected?

Rowling was said to have regarded her Harry Potter series as a "prolonged argument for tolerance" and urged her fans to "question authority."

Oh boy...

But I'd like the answer to the question about finding "true love."

Dumbledore is gay? What does this mean? How will t…