Monday, July 30, 2007

Wake Up and Smell the Incense

Rebecca just sent me this statistic, released on Friday from the Office for Research and Planning in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia:

"There are 1,204,818 registered Catholic parishioners in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. In addition, in parishes where there is a large unregistered population, Pastors estimate that there are another 87,804 unregistered parishioners. There are other unregistered Catholic people living in universities, institutions and other group settings and others who identify themselves as Catholic but are not counted in this report. The most current estimate of all Catholic people (registered and unregistered) is 1,458,642."

That's just NUTS.

1,458,642 Catholics in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia alone....

Not to don those 'ole cranky pants again, but..... what difference are we making?

Why is Philadelphia slowing becoming the murder capital of the country? Why is the "City of Brotherly Love" an expression always said sarcastically these days? What's with all the getting and spending, the bitterness and the laziness and the rampant desecration of the sacrament of my neighbor? What's going on??!!

Could you imagine if all of us, all 1,458,642 of the Catholics here in Philadelphia, were on fire with faith, open to the power of the Holy Spirit, unashamed and giddy at the thought of loving Jesus and serving others as He has served us? Taking time to pray each day..... 1,458,642 souls praying all over the five counties, being still, asking the deeper questions, looking for ways to love and serve God and others... wanting and willing to be become SAINTS! No matter what the cost! I can only imagine...

Oh man, we need to wake up and smell the incense! We are called to be a light to the nations, salt of the earth, leaven in the midst of a flat and tasteless materialistic culture!

The story goes that the Devil appeared to Saint John Vianney one day, the man so renowned for his faithfulness and devotion to the confessional and to counselling others. "If there were three souls like you in the world," the Devil said, "My kingdom would fall."

What the?! Only three saintly souls, THREE open and ready to do the Master's bidding, to follow His lead into Calvary, to run a rescue mission for the lost and lonely hearts out there, and they could take out Satan?


Let's start with 1.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

You Never Know...

Last night ended the series I was invited to offer at my 'ole home parish in Browns Mills, New Jersey. That.... was... fun.

And it was so humbling to come home; to see so many of the faces I knew growing up, some never knowing by name, but by their faithful presence in the pew beside me. And here was this skinny, nerdy kid, now all "growed up" and not so skinny .... sharing faith and reflecting on living the Catholic life. You never know where life will take you! So humbling.... and I'm so grateful for that invitation.

Much has changed from the old L-shaped church with the rickety old pews and creaky wood floors that I grew up in before high school. I remember the smell of the Murphy's Oil and the old missalettes stacked up in the back. I think it was built in the 1920's? Or was it the 1930's? Affectionately known as "St. Ann's in the Pines," it was where I used to kneel and pray and daydream and drift at countless masses as a child. That's where I'd steal furtive glances over to the "blond haired girl" (and she'd glance back!) as she'd walk her little sister to the back of church when I was 12. Yeah, my first crush.

And in the quiet pauses in the liturgy, when soft light streamed through weathered stained glass, in the middle of my daydreaming about a galaxy far far away, or imagining myself on an adventure like Indiana Jones, I'd get that little tug at the heart. I'd sense a Presence just close enough to notice, but waiting for me to discover, to recognize when I was ready. I'd smell the warm wax from the votive candles and hear the bells chime up in the front of church... and through a crowded sea of shoulders and heads now gone silver, I'd see Something happening, some distant and mystical action that I knew was different. Special. Holy...

God bless the parish churches that daily sound those bells and the priests that lift their hands to bless us, Sunday after Sunday and day after day. And to the old men and their meetings, their running of the Bingo and their stories of the War. To the women who are the heart of the Church, whispering their rosaries and thumbing through their yellowed prayer cards and devotional books, bound up and held by rubberbands.

All have sown seeds. All have tilled the fields and worked in some way, though they may know it not, and their ordinary lives are bringing up extraordinary life in the garden of the world. We see you and we know you believe, even in the midst of this culture that is stripping us of the Sacred and Sublime.

On this feast day of the grandparents of Jesus, St. Joachim and St. Anne.... I thank you for guiding me and my generation in unseen ways and inspiring us with unspoken words.

"For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it."

- Isaiah 55:10-11

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Going Home

Well, my home parish has invited me back to lead the Triduum for St. Ann next week. The mission runs in the evenings from Monday to Wednesday (July 23-25). If you're in that neck of the woods, feel free to stop in!

I'm very excited, despite the fact that Jesus said "Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place." (yikes) ... and then they tried to throw Him off of a cliff. Nah, I'm not nervous.... because South Jersey has no cliffs! Hah Ha! That's right, we're flat-landers! The Pine Barrens, where I used to wander as a youth, has to be one of the flattest, most monotonous, and deeply beautiful stretches of God's green earth I've ever seen.

What a gift and an honor to be invited home! To offer some reflections on living a life of faith, of seeing this world of wonders, and each other, as gifts as well. Not to say the talks won't challenge us too... Would it be the Gospel if it didn't stir us up, shake us from our comfort zones, expand our horizons and call us to a journey into the deep, perhaps into Mordor itself! It's all about conversion, turning around, facing His Face again, and letting Him look deeply into our hearts. Please say a prayer that I voice the sweet summons of the Gospel, and only what He wants to be spoken. May the words of St. John the Baptist become my mantra: "He must increase, I must decrease."

Anyhoo, we'll be heading over to Jersey this weekend.... back to the home turf, the 'ole stompin' grounds. I hope to visit one of my old haunts to get ready for the mission (no, not Alba's Pizza, home of the greatest Sicilian Pie ever crafted by human hands). I mean White's Bogs, that desert of pine trees and cranberry pools that formed me; the Fortress of Solitude that made my brother and I look not only up to the Creator but down to the Master Dreamer Who showed us the intricately carved beauties of His works. And in those wild and wide open vistas, in all kinds of weather, we treasured the gifts the Master Painter gave us.

I'm looking forward to the smell of the cedar water, the shrill cries of the red-winged black bird, the egret, and the laughter of the chickadee. I couldn't tell you how many hours we spent wandering those quiet places, and every season turned a new page; the tundra swans in early winter, the warblers in the spring, swimming in the clear back lake, and driving the dirt roads in the summer, laughing and singing John Cougar Mellencamp, as the sun tipped and set the heads of the white pines ablaze on the horizon, like matches to warm the cool and scented night. The bogs became a book we knew well, and we weathered every page.

So what's your story? What are the pages in the book of your life? Do you ever go back to read them from where you are today? There are lessons we can learn from our past, every moment like a stone we can hold and polish smooth with our thoughts and prayers. Were there wounds and sorrow? Thoughtful prayer can smooth them over. Is there loss and regret? Grace can fill up the deepest valley. Was there joy that has since been left untapped? Reflecting in that pool of memories can bring refreshment again. Our youth still belongs to us, and each experience is uniquely our own and belongs to no one else. So going home, like going on vacation, is a chance for reflection, growth, and gratitude. Let's seize the opportunity! In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast.... you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it."

Check out Michael Hogan's beautiful pictures of the Pine Barrens!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

NOISE - This Week's Radio Show

Hello All,
Here's the skinny from tonight's radio show:

Teresa Tomeo is a talk-show host, motivational speaker, and media consultant with more than twenty years of experience as
a journalist in television, radio, and print media. Teresa hosts the nationally syndicated radio talk-show The Catholic Connection produced by the Ave Maria Radio Network and heard on 125 stations through EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Satellite.

"As parents, educators, and consumers of the media, we have to get our media usage — and that of our families — under control. Otherwise, the media will control us, if it isn’t doing so already. In her new book, NOISE, Teresa Tomeo, a veteran broadcast journalist in both the Catholic and secular markets, makes a compelling and irrefutable case about the dangers of our dominant media culture — and the adjoining liberalism and immorality that comes with it."

Buy Teresa Tomeo's book NOISE here:

Resources for Balanced News:
Zenit News Agency from Rome
Catholic Exchange Web Portal
Catholic World News

Send in Your Questions about Harry Potter

In preparation for next Tuesday's radio show, (we'll be pre-recording this Thursday) I wanted to put out a request for any questions you might have on the Harry Potter books or movies and their impact on you or those you know. Is it dangerous, delightful, concerning, or a real quest that you or your kids have enjoyed and look forward to?

So send in any and all thoughts, questions, or concerns you'd like answered on the air to or simply post a comment here at the Heart of things blog! (


Here's a set of resources and articles on Harry Potter (pro and con)

Steven D. Greydanus on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Greydanus article on Gandalf and Harry Potter

No Catholic Consensus on Harry Potter

Michael O'Brien on Potter and the Pope

Jimmy Akin on Harry Potter and Pope Benedict

Book for Catholic Families on Harry Potter

Imagining Faith With Kids: Unearthing Seeds Of The Gospel In Children's Stories From Peter Rabbit To Harry Potter

Amy Welborn, Speaking of Harry, etc.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Harry Potter

And now on the lighter side....

Ah summertime, it allowed me the chance to see a movie Thursday at 1:10pm. It was me, an 80 foot screen and six other people. I made the brilliant decision to have a "kids snack pack" for only $23 instead of the adult equivalent popcorn and drink, which was about $26 dollars.


There's been boatloads of print (real and cyberish) on the so-called blessing and curse of the Harry Potter sensation, now nearly a decade long and going strong. The 5th movie opened this Wednesday at the witching hour, midnight.

The first book in the series by J. K. Rowling "apparated" in the late 90's and took the genre of children's literature by storm. "This is unheard of," the literati exclaimed. "Children are reading on purpose! And these books have so many pages! WHA'S HAPPENIN'?!!"

The first of the films materialized, I believe, in 2001.... and the literati said "Oh no! Now they'll just wait for the movie! The renaissance of reading is over!"

But alas, the kids didn't just sit on their butts playing video games, waiting for each new novel to be cinema-ized. They lined up at midnight outside of Border's and that other bookstore and wore hip wizarding gear. And then they READ all 967 pages before dawn the next day! And then they sat on their butts and played video games.

Now, unless you've just stumbled out of the woods and discovered the "media," you know that this series about young wizards and witchs in training, who attend a School for the Magically Gifted, has become a real stumbling block for many. It's about magic, it's got spells in it, and creepy Dark Lords, and murder and ghosts and stuff.

In the Catholic Church, we find a mixed bag of believers. Some think Potter is a murky distraction from the clear path of virtue, right and wrong, good and evil. Others think that even in the murkiness there is much that kids can learn and grow from, even as Harry grows older and we hope wiser with each new installment in the series (the final chapter being released this July 21.) Harry's life and his choices help kids in the real world as they fuddle through the feelings that young muggles muddle through (that was really fun to write).

All in all, it's complicated stuff. On July 24th, we'll be talking about it in greater depth on the radio show, the Heart of Things. (Tuesdays, 5-6PM @ 800AM or

I have to say here and now that my own perspective on Mr. Potter is changing a wee bit. Now I've only read the first book and selections of a couple of others, and I've seen the film versions. I've also read a bunch of pro and con articles on Harry. I thought the idea of Magic as this neutral power the kids could tap into to control others was a bit dangerous at first; still do in some ways. I get annoyed when Harry and Co. consistently break the rules and work it all out in the end. And maybe someone can post their thoughts here, but what is the goal of this School for Witches and Wizards? What is the mission of a wizard/witch when he/she grows up? It's not exactly a superhero thing is it; to fight for truth and justice and defend the defenseless?

Their powers seem a little too self-serving to me. Is the attraction for kids the ability to make things float, become invisible, fly around on a broomstick, and get revenge on those who pester them? If that's it, well, then I can see how that's a pretty normal desire that every kid feels at some point. When I was young, it wasn't so much that I wanted to defend the city of Metropolis from the bad guys as it was to have the powers that Superman had.

Anti-Potters say that the books stir up an interest in the occult and witchcraft. I don't think well formed, grounded kids will want to become witches, BUT this is a problem. Because although this is fiction, there are witches in this world. Wicca is a real pagan practice and a well researched study of it will draw up some disturbing discoveries. On the flip side, there are no covens for those coveting Superman's powers. There is no literature on how to master the art of leaping over buildings in a single bound, or deflecting bullets with your chest. I think that's a key distinction. Kids can dabble in witchcraft if they wanted to, on the internet and many bookstores, but you won't find many gatherings of little caped wonders trying to overcome their fear of kryptonite.

Witchcraft and wands, spells and sorcery can be confusing and misleading for kids, for we need clear lines in our symbols and mythic elements, don't we? Traditionally and scripturally, witches and sorcery have been associated with the human desire to access divine powers and control them, to know and manipulate the future. To dominate another's will. This is not our task as human beings. We've got to let go and let God.

But to get back to these novels..... I'm discovering that it's merely a tool for Rowling, and there's seems to be no clear agenda to get kids interested in witchcraft. The heart of Harry Potter is indeed about power, but the question for each character is "what do I do with that which is given to me?"

It's a great question.

I'm watching Harry grow up and into a good kid. He loves and protects his friends, he often stands up for the marginalized. He respects honesty and truth. He hates evil. And in the swirling cauldron that is this young life, deep down he really wants to be good. He really does.

I haven't quite written a review here of the movie I saw Thursday, but let it be said that there are some real Christian themes running like a ribbon through this film. I could see it again.

A spoiler for those who haven't read the book.... At the end of the Order of the Phoenix, Harry comes to realize why he's been wrestling with anger so much, and feeling so out of sorts. He has a mental connection with the Dark Lord, and indeed the Lord Voldemort is worming his way into Harry's young heart. The words of his godfather, Sirius Black (who is one cool character I have to say), come back to Harry as he wrestles with this demonic possession in the climactic final minutes of the movie:

"Harry, there's no clear set of good people and bad people in the world. There's light and dark in all of us. What matters is which one you act on."

Now that sounds like St. Paul to me, on the inner war that we all must deal with. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the "heart has become a battlefield between good and evil."

Bearing down with the weight of his malice, Voldemort whispers "You are weak, and you will lose... everything."

But Harry wins, and not with a more powerful spell or potion, but with the Deeper Magic that made the world. In a moment of clarity, and pity, Harry shuffles off the Dark Lord, who vanishes in a puff of sand, with a simple word:

"You're the weak one. And you will never know love or friendship. And I feel sorry for you."

Now that's power.


Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld

Friday, July 13, 2007

What Does the 'Kingdom of Heaven' Look Like?

We've all grown up with pictures of Heaven in our heads; white robes, floppy little wings, Clarence, fluffy clouds, a harp maybe, Warren Beatty in a running suit, big shiny gates attached to.... more fluffy clouds?

One of the daily Gospel's this week was from Matthew 10. Jesus is sending out the 12 Apostles (like the 12 tribes of a New Israel) and He tells them to pass this on: "As you go, make this proclamation: 'The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.'"

Great! It is? Where would that be? As we look around, heaven is not always clearly seen. At least, not the vision of heaven that perhaps we thought heaven was...


I'm half way through Pope Benedict's new book (it's fantastic). With nearly every page I find myself pausing and going "whoa... I never thought of that before." The Pope weaves together both Old and New Testaments like a fisherman weaving his net, and according to one article I read, he's catching some new readers. Ones who never saw this quiet scholar with the heart of a father coming. A section I recently read talks all about what this "Kingdom of God" (aka Heaven) really looks like.

Here's what it's not:

- It's not a time shrouded in the future when we imagine all the people, living life in peace... woohoo aahaahaah... (little Lennon there)

- It's not a castle in the clouds, where nobody shouts or talks too loud.... although there is a lady all in white, who holds us and sings a lullaby ;) .... (Les Mis, anyone?)

- It's not even, primarily, a place where Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims finally accept each other and we all just get along..... (...Rodney King?)

- and finally, the Kingdom of Heaven is not a palace with pillars, banners, and trumpets with the whole gaggle of humanity toting togas and sort of fanning God as He sits on a golden throne. (He likes to stoop down low and wash our feet, remember?)

The Pope says that the Kingdom of Heaven is.... a person. It's Jesus.

St. Edith Stein, that pillar of intellect and sanctity who was born Jewish, then became an atheist, then found Jesus, became a nun and was later killed in Auschwitz (what an amazing roller coaster ride that was!); she knew this truth about the Kingdom, that it's a person not a palace.

She said "In the heart of Jesus, which was pierced, the kingdom of heaven and the land of earth are bound together. Here is for us the source of life."

Our longing for love finds its home in a Sacred Heart, not gilded halls. This Kingdom has been misrepresented. I don't want golden streets as much as I want to kneel at His feet. Can I get a witness?

So let's hear this word of Jesus today as a word for us to come closer to Him, the One Whose love drove Him to take on a body for us. And a heartbeat that will never ever stop beating for us. Think about that one for a minute. Whoa.

"The kingdom of heaven is at hand" means here I am! Come and see!

Amen! Thy Kingdom come!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sorrow Wide and Deep

I've been consistently silent about what I'm ready to share today. It's kind of ironic that this blog, this year of sharing thoughts and experiences on the web, has been called the Heart of Things, and yet all the while something at the very heart of our life has been hushed over. It's a source of suffering that I think, in retrospect, has fueled all of these reflections on God, life and everything in between.

This weekend, I was reading in Pope Benedict's book, Jesus of Nazareth, about God's great kenosis, or self-emptying. The Pope talks about how God has been pouring Himself out in super-abundance for us since the beginning, even before Jesus. Our God Who is Love has always made this move, this condescension; to get down to our level, to speak our language, to give us His hand as a Father coming down to caress his child's face. All of this simply so that we could know and love Him, see Him for Who He is.

Pope Benedict said that each descent of God (into the Garden of Eden at the breezy time of the day, the Burning Bush before Moses, the mouths of the prophets, and especially and definitively in Jesus Himself) was a movement that left God.... vulnerable.

By giving us His Name, there was the risk of us misusing it. By becoming man there was the risk of men ignoring Him. By becoming our very food in the Eucharist, there was the risk that we would rather taste something else, some fruit that might even be poison for us. But in all of this, God took the risk anyway; He became little so that we might become big in the best sense of the word.

In the lonely hollow of our hearts, there is an infinite amount of space. It's here where Love seeks to find a home. So each of us has this capacity, this dwelling place for love. Many of us have this space occupied and expanded by the love of friends, then a spouse, and finally in the blessing of children. Entering into each of these loves makes us vulnerable. We have to take a leap of faith and trust that love will be returned, or that we in turn will give real love, give of ourselves.

Four years ago, my wife and I took that leap into marriage. It's elated and expanded our hearts, and I believe we are bigger and better for the love we've found in each other. But in these years, a cross has come and set itself up, looming right in the very center of our life together. It's the cross of infertility.

Now if the cross means contradiction, than I can't think of a more custom fit cross than this one. Rebecca has dreamed of motherhood since she was seven years old. I mourn the loss of little ones who will have her eyes, my height, her heart, my humor (?)... We long for children. When we were first married, we volunteered to live as house parents at a wonderful home for crisis pregnancies. My wife, me, and up to twelve pregnant ladies! It was a treasure to watch the little lives grow, and the women who might have chosen abortion found a safe haven where they could fall in love with their squirming little bundles of joy. But in the midst of this nearly two year mission, we discovered we were incapable of having a baby ourselves. To add to this irony, Rebecca was working during the day with pregnant women in a PPD program.

It seems, after surgeries, doctors, consultations and counselors, that having our own children would be nothing short of a miracle (and we're still counting on Pope John Paul II for that one). Since we've moved on from Mother's Home, we've continued seeing doctors and seeking answers on the quest to have a family. We've met with the adoption branch of Catholic Social Services, we've sought advice from our priest friends, Catholic bioethicists, physicians, etc. It's been a real emotional roller coaster, and there's so much more to share.

For now, I just wanted to open this door that I've been keeping neatly shut. This is my little kenosis. It's not easy sharing this cross. It glares up at us from the over 19 cribs of friends who've just had babies, and from the 9 new sets of beautiful eyes of nieces and nephews just born in the last four years in our own families. But it's time to open the wound. I'm not sure where this will go, but I will from time to time share more of our story.

In the words of a famous Catholic blogger and author, Amy Welborn, whose blog is called "Open Book," a blog is just that, an open book for others to read and share thoughts on. I think it makes us more vulnerable, but that also makes it the front porch to communion.

A new tag on my blog site listed as "infertility" and "The Struggle" will be the quickest way to find more of our sharing on this. Everyone has their cross. I ask for your prayers that we get the grace to keep carrying ours, and we'll pray for your daily walk as well. God is good and God is with us all. This I know!

Could You Do Me a Favor?

Well friends, it's been over a year now with this here blogging initiative. Thanks for the feedback over the last 12 months, to those who've posted comments here at the actual blog, and to all those who have replied to the blog posts that have gone out through the Mission Moment e-mail. There are now over 360 different reflections posted and archived on the Heart of Things blog! From topics as varied as beauty, Beyoncé, and the Bible, to C.S. Lewis, family, and the Theology of the Body. I've talked about Tolkien, trust, truth, and TV... weakness, witness, and wonder (my favorite topic). Now I wanted to ask a favor. If ever in the course of this year, some random thought has touched you, made you go "hmmpph..... yeah, I concur!", or led you to pass the thought on to someone in your address book, then I'd ask you to consider nominating my blog at the prestigious "Blogger's Choice Awards" website (yes, I'm serious). Many Catholic bloggers out there have had their work chosen and it's a great witness to the yearning we all have for truth and faith and meaning in life. It's also a way to get the word out there to others about the kind of writing you find at this blog, The Heart of Things. So, the nominating is easy. Just visit ... and follow through the 3 easy steps for nominating a blog. It's much appreciated!! Thanks again for the e-mails and support from those of you reading The Heart of Things blog. Peace and Prayers, Bill Donaghy

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Quick Thought on Quick Decisions

Friday's Gospel was from Matthew 9:9-13:

"As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him."

I love it.

It takes me forever sometimes to make a decision. I mean the big ones. Breakfast at a diner, easy. I don't even look at the menu anymore.

But with those biggies.... I often peruse the poolside way too long, as if the water will get warmer the longer I wait. But sometimes I do get the grace to respond to the grace to just JUMP IN.

Sometimes we wait too long. We wait until all the reports are in. Then we wait even longer, because we need to verify those reports, and then get them copied for the "committee" to look over and then form a "follow up report"....

Aboulia is defined as the loss or impairment of the ability to make decisions or act independently.

Did you ever have a case of aboulia? Did you ever get stuck in your own head, doing mental gymnastics, spinning the wheels when it was high time that you just made that stinkin' decision?! I have, many times.

"Follow me." And he got up and followed him." Matthew was swift. He had skills. As the psalmist sings, "My heart is ready Oh God, my heart is ready."

That's trust. I used to stink at it. I still have my stinky days, but I'm living and learning. Because with every invitation of grace, I recall that He is trustworthy. I didn't die the last time (well, except in the proverbial death-to-self way). And even if I should die in this new adventure He calls me into, so be it. Look at the history we have of those who followed Him, died, and we're raised to New Life! A life beyond anything we could ever have cooked up, a life far better than the one that forever falters along the edge of the Poolside of Life, wondering what it's like to really swim.

In the immortal words of Carrie Newcomer (sweet folksinger and dang good lyricist) : "Sometimes you just close your eyes and jump, you don't think too long or maybe you just won't. Sometimes you just follow your heart, don't analyze too long or maybe it might just be gone."

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Wacky Wacky Stuff

A friend just sent me this CRAZY tune on the Lord of the Rings. Hilarious, and the clips from the films is well done too! Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Tony Melendez Plays for the Pope

Maybe you've seen this classic footage of Tony, the beautiful soul, born without arms because of thalidomide taken during pregnancy, who played for Pope John Paul II in LA, 1987. Here are two songs of his, and halfway through you'll see the actual film of John Paul II coming down to embrace Tony after he played. Be sure to read the synopsis of Tony's amazing story in the sidebar of the video.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Catholic American or American Catholic? Church and State on Today's Radio Show

Gerald Russello was my guest on the Heart of Things Radio Show this evening. He is a Fellow of the Chesterton Institute at Seton Hall University and editor of University Bookman, as well as the editor of "Christianity and European Culture: Selections from the Work of Christopher Dawson." He lives in Brooklyn, New York. As promised, here are some links to his new book, an article and more! Gerald's new book "The Postmodern Imagination of Russell Kirk" -

His article on "Tearing Down the Wall" -

More on Russell Kirk -

More on G. K. Chesterton - More on the University Bookman -

"Can I Get a Witness?" - The Feast of St. Thomas

I heard a preacher once who made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It was years ago; a Saturday as I remember. I was in my dorm room at Overbrook flipping through radio stations when I came upon the burly, gravelly voice of a man on fire.

He was preaching to a gathering in a church somewhere in the city, and suddenly, I was a part of the congregation. He started slow and steady, in a thick, southern rumble, black and smokey. My hand stopped spinning the dial.

"... Now the next Sunday," it broke in... "Thomas was at church....(uh huh, amen, gushed the crowd)... "Ya see, Jesus had appeared after the Resurrection... but Thomas was outside a church that Sunday (mm hmm, oh no).... Now y'all know the difference in ya life when you at church, and when you away from church?" (oh yes, amen!).... "Well the next Sunday, Thomas was at church... and the doors were locked. Can I get a witness? And Jesus.... well, He just showed up...." (This brought a surge of amens and alleluias). "Jesus didn't knock on the door. He didn't use a key. He didn't get a usher to lead Him down the aisle.... HE JUST SHOWED UP!" (amen!!)

"Now Jesus has a mind to show up at church when He gets ready. After all, the thang belong to Him! He can show up anytime He want to!!" (amen!! preach it!)

"And Jesus said "now peace be with y'all" and He looked at Thomas and said "Now come here Thomas...." (amen, oh yes He did!) "Now Thomas..... I heard all a dat BIG talk you been making..... now come on over here. Put ya hand in my side. Put ya fingers in the nail prints in my hands!" (glory be, amen!) "No longer doubt but BELIEVE!..... and Thomas just stood there.... shaking." (laughter) "And do you know what he said? He didn't say 'Lemme get my Biology 101 notes... he didn't say... let me talk to my.... psychiatrist!" (oh no) "You know what he said? ..... (a hush came over the congregation, and I listened wrapped to the radio)


It's funny that I remember all of this so well, I had thrown a tape in and recorded most of it, but I've since lost the tape, years ago. The preacher went on to witness to the power of faith, and his voice slowly rose to a bellowing cry, a lion's roar, and he ended by nearly chanting something like the Apostle's Creed. It was insanely moving. I couldn't help but get caught up in that fire and spirit.

Now Thomas is one of us. Heck, all the saints are. We often gild them over with shiny marble and peaceful plastic smiles, but all of them lived this very life. Many were distraught at times, upset, doubtful, anxious, troubled. But they persevered, didn't they? I admire Thomas for this very reason; because he questioned, and seemingly not out of disrespect or just to be "doubtful"... He wanted more. He wouldn't settle for a blind faith, or for words only. He went deeper, he probed into the purported miracle, quite literally, and pushed into the Mystery. He moved beyond the here say, the reports, the gossip. Some can and do believe without this digging in, and in all truth "blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe." Blessed are those who can receive the gift with open arms and open minds. But I think in our modern age, a Thomas makes it easier for many of us; he paves the way for the wondering to walk and the doubtful to dig a little further. Here's a saint for the modern age.

But are we willing to go as far as Thomas did? He didn't end as the Doubtful, but the Daring. He stepped up and proclaimed that Divinity was now dwelling in Humanity. He cried out in faith that God was in the flesh, right before him!

Can we do this, or will we stay mired in our doubt or worse, indifference? Can we approach Jesus, the Wounded Healer, and stretch out our trembling hands? If we put our finger into his wounds He will pull us further in. Give Him an inch and He will take our hearts.

Are we willing to let go of the past and see that now, all things are new? Let's walk behind Thomas today, and ask for the courage to say with him, "My Lord... and my God!"

Talking to Your Little Ones About the Big Topic of Sex

A much repeated sentence we hear at our Theology of the Body retreats and courses is "I wish I heard this when I was younger!" ...