Sunday, October 29, 2006

Why baseball?

With the St. Louis Cardinals, and the baseball playoffs being a common theme in my posts of late, you may be wondering why someone would care so much about something like baseball, when there are so many important things to worry about. To baseball people, it is next to impossible to explain why they like the game so much. Believe me. I tried last year to answer this exact question for my school's yearbook. I would like to share a paragraph from Ken Burns' book Baseball: An Illustrated History, which is a companion to his Baseball documentary. To me, this statement is a glimpse of the tip of the iceberg:

The historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. has remarked that we suffer today from 'too much pluribus and not enough unum.' Few things survive in these cynical days to remind us of the Union from which so many of our personal and collective blessings flow, and it is hard not to wonder, in an age when the present moment consumes and overshadows all else – our bright past and our dim unknown future – what finally does endure? What encodes and stores the genetic material of our civilization – passing down to the next generation the best of us, what we hope will mutate into betterness for our children and our posterity? Baseball provides one answer. Nothing in our daily life offers more of the comfort of continuity, the generational connection of belonging to a vast and complicated American family, the powerful sense of home, the freedom from time's constraints, and the great gift of accumulated memory than does our National Pastime.”

Saturday, October 28, 2006

World Series Champs!

The Cardinals have won their first world series in 24 years, which also happens to be the first in my lifetime! I am sure that everyone is just as excited as I am!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Stem Cell Debate in Missouri.

Michael J. Fox has been all over the news lately for promoting a candidate from Missouri who is promoting embryonic stem cell research, but there is another ad that hopefully will be drawing just as much attention in the very near future.

Jim Caviezel (Catholic), Everybody Loves Raymond's Patricia Heaton (Catholic) St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jeff Suppan (Catholic), St. Louis Rams Super Bowl winning quarterback Kurt Warner (raised Catholic), and Kansas City Royals player Mike Sweeney (Check out his sweet Catholic website!) are in another ad speaking against embryonic research. You can see it here.

I had seen Heaton on the cover of Catholic Digest before, and obviously Caviezel is sincere in his faith, but I didn't know this about the others. Personally I think this is pretty impressive. Kudos to them!

BTW, Suppan pitched for the Cardinals last night, and they won. God is definitely on our side!
Interesting observation on Sunday's Gospel.
Mark 10:46-52

Every Thursday in my Scripture class we read the Gospel for the upcoming Sunday, and attempt to reflect on it. I do this as a way to get them to pay more attention to the mass. A student today made an interesting observation that I had never really considered.

The student pointed out that the way Jesus' followers rebuke Bartimaeus is almost exactly the way that the Pharisees rebuke Jesus. It is a reminder to "remove the plank from our own eye." We can get so wrapped up in our own righteousness that we are oblivious when we begin to act like those we think are less than worthy. We constantly need to remind ourselves that we are not so great that we don't need help in our own journey to Christ.

Humility is always calling!
What if Noah was here today?

In the year 2006, the Lord came unto Noah, who was now living in the United States, and said, "Once again, the earth has become wicked and over-populated, and I see the end of all flesh before me. Build another Ark and save 2 of every living thing along with a few good humans."

He gave Noah the blueprints, saying, "You have 6 months to build the Ark before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights."

Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard - but no Ark. "Noah!" He roared, "I'm about to start the rain! Where is the Ark?"

"Forgive me, Lord," begged Noah, "but things have changed. I needed a building permit. I've been arguing with the inspector about the need for a sprinkler system. My neighbors claim that I've violated the neighborhood zoning laws by building the Ark in my yard and exceeding the height limitations. We had to go to the Development Appeal Board for a decision.

Then the Department of Transportation demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions, to clear the passage for the Ark's move to the sea. I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it.

Getting the wood was another problem. There's a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the spotted owl. I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls - but no go!

When I started gathering the animals, an animal rights group sued me. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They argued the accommodation was too restrictive, and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space.

Then the EPA ruled that I couldn't build the Ark until they'd conducted an environmental impact study on your proposed flood.

I'm still trying to resolve a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on how many minorities I'm supposed to hire for my building crew. Immigration and Naturalization is checking the green-card status of most of the people who want to work. The trades unions say I can't use my sons. They insist I have to hire only Union workers with Ark-building experience.

To make matters worse, the IRS seized all my assets, claiming I'm trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species.

So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this Ark."

Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched across the sky. Noah looked up in wonder and asked, "You mean you're not going to destroy the world?"

"No," said the Lord. "The government beat me to it."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Beauty of the Struggle.

CBS Sunday Morning ran a segment this morning about Dean Karnazes, the Ultramarathon Man. Dean is currently running 50 marathons in 50 days in all 50 states. He is doing this with the mission of kindling a desire for physical activity in those who see him, and as I watched this article he made a very interesting and very Catholic point.

Dean stated that we [Americans] have become too comfortable in our lifestyles and our lives. He said we need to struggle a little bit to be truly happy. He said he feels the best when he must confront the struggle and the suffering of his marathons. Gee, have we ever heard anything like this before?

The redemptive power of suffering; what a wonderful lesson! Christ has shown us that suffering is a part of life, and rather than being someone that causes resentment for this world, is something that allows us to encounter the divine. In our suffering we realize the limitations of this world and yearn for the next. I always find it amazing when lessons like this pop up in popular culture, and people are amazed by them, because they are so "revolutionary." "Revolutionary" meaning not what we are used to. Thank you Dean Karnazes for reminded us of one of Christ's beautiful lessons which we so often overlook.

Friday, October 20, 2006

"The Big Guy's got quite a paint brush."

That quote from The Truman Show set the tone for my day today. It was very foggy as I drove to work this morning, and as I topped a small hill I got a face full of the sun rising over a mountain, only you couldn't see the mountain because of the fog. All I saw was an amazingly beautiful top half of the sun illuminating all the fog and making the sky glow. I wish I had had my camera, because I can't really describe it, but my point is not about the sun. My point is about God.

Sometime over the course of four years in college, I was given the blessing of understanding the transcendentals of truth, beauty, and goodness, and I am ever grateful for it. I find myself constantly being touched by these three things, and today was a plethora of beauty (and yes I know what a "plethora" is).

I love the skies here in rural Arkansas where there is no pollution. I love the Jazz Ensemble at my school, because they are excellent. I love to soak up the beauty of my wife and my son. I love all of these because the God who lovingly created them is exceedingly good. Amen! Alleluia!
"The Church teaches that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, can be known with certainty from his works, by the natural light of human reason." - CCC 47.

I told you on opening day that you needed to root, root, root, and aren't you glad you did. While the rest of the world gets more and more wrapped up in football, I will be paying attention to a real sport!

Follow them through the World Series on the blog of one of the Cardinals outfielders, John Rodriguez.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Misunderstood Apostle: Judas.

Pope Benedict XVI concluded his Wednesday audience lectures on the twelve Apostles yesterday with who else, Judas. This is very interesting to me, because I have always thought (and attempted, often vainly, to explain to others) that I we should be careful about judging Judas. After all someone had to do it.

Those who wanted Jesus dead (i.e. the devil) were afraid of what they had to do. They knew that Jesus' followers would not be too keen on their plans, so they needed a scapegoat. They needed someone to do their dirty work, and Judas fit the bill. Had there been someone else around, they might have chosen that person. And after all, Judas had help. The Holy Father points out that the Gospels "insist on another aspect." John tells us that "the devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over" (John 13:2), and he even goes on to say that "after he took the morsel, Satan entered him" (John 13:27).

This point really stuck out to me after seeing the Passion of the Christ. It was very, for lack of a better word, freaky to me and seemingly the rest of the theater when the demon shrieked at Judas. How clearly could any of us have been thinking if that is what we were up against? In the face of that kind of torment, anyone would have serious difficulty making an important decision. We are lucky though. Most of our important decisions do not regard the life and death of a loved one, let alone God himself. Judas did not have this comfort. What would we have done in this situation? Who can say.

The Holy Father reminds us that Judas' betrayal "led to the death of Jesus who transformed this tremendous torment into a space of salvific love and in self-giving to the Father." "In fact, when we think of the negative role Judas played, we must frame it in the higher way with which God disposed the events."

God's plan is not our plan. God can save us, especially when we cannot save ourselves.
Happy Feast Day!

Today is my son's first feast day. Today, please keep his life and vocation in your prayers.

St. Isaac Jogues - Pray for us!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Kevin Spacey as St. Benedict

The pictures of the saints that were included in the Lives of the Saints book that I had when I was little have forever been burned into my mind. Today I came across the same picture of St. Benedict that was in that book, and it reminded me of something. I have always thought that this picture of Benedict looks a lot like Kevin Spacey. If anyone out there ever feels like making a movie about Benedict, I think you have your man.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Rest in peace Matthew Covey.

A classmate of mine from Steubenville died this weekend. He had been a pretty good friend of mine my freshman year. He was an amazing guitarist and was always in a good mood. Please keep his soul and his family in your prayers.

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord.
- And let perpetual light shine upon him.

May he rest in peace.
- Amen.

(I want to clarify that this is not a suicide. He died from "cliff jumping" off of a bridge into the Ohio River. This is something that countless Franciscan students have done in the past for fun. There have never been any accidents of this magnitude before.)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Big Family Haters - my #1 Pet Peeve

I was reading this article from the AP on the small increase in the US in larger families. 11 percent of births in 2004 were to women who already had 3 children, up from 10 percent the year before. That's hardly a world-changing event, but I like the direction of the change. The article is pretty balanced as well, even gets a plug in about a Roman Catholic family that refused to have birth control and wanted to have a big family. They totally miss the boat, however, on people who plan and try to have large families - like my wife and I and many of our friends from Steubenville are already putting into practice.

This article mentioned one of the things that makes me absolutely crazy about people in our world today - summarized by "the gasp," "the stare," and "the head shake." It's those middle-aged femi-crazies who stalk supermarket aisles waiting for innocent, unsuspecting women under 35 who have the unmitigated gaul to love their God, love their husband, and believe in the goodness of life enough to manifest if by having more than three children. These goulish keepers of infertility, jealousy, and the culture of death sneer, lift up their noses, and scoff at the obvious ignorance of those who clearly don't realize that pregnacy is just another way for men to enslave women and that children are a curse to the planet that will steal all its precious resources that need to be saved for baby pandas. And that's if they don't come over and tell you just how "irresponsible" you're being.

These people, honestly, make me just want to punch a hole in the wall. The absolute arrogance, the smug confidence in something so antithetical to the very essence of humanity and truth! It's insane! And they stand there like it's the most natural thing in the world to hate children, to think that the future is hopeless, and to have three condos, two cars, four dogs, and not a single person to truely pass on the goodness you've received from God. It makes me so irrationally angry I can hardly stand it. The only time I ever encountered one of these people I had to leave the store I was so angry I was actually bristling with fury. If any of these people try to say something like that to my wife...well, let's just hope for everyone's sake that doesn't happen.

I don't like sounding like Ann Coulter. The fact that this class of people evokes a reaction in me as close to hate as anything I am aware of in myself is not a good thing. Righteous anger is virtuous, but is a path that must be trodden upon with wisdom. Christ drove the money-collectors from the temple, and you better believe if one of these snippering snobs approached my wife or family with their gospel of lies, the "driving out" process would be vigorous indeed. We are not called to "tolerate" darkness, but to dispell it with the light of truth. Love the sinner, hate the sin.

Clearly, I hold nothing against those who don't have kids or those married persons who choose, for legitmate reasons, to not have a large family, or anyone who is actually infertile. I'm against those who have choosen the road of death and despair and are actually surprised when people don't want to follow them down it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Hail to the Victors! A Fan's Tribute (before disastor strikes...)

It's been a long journey for me as a Maize and Blue fan, and I can't say there haven't been times when I wished I could just shut down the part of me that loves this team. They're a frustrating bunch, seeming to savor the sweet scent of victory, but too greedy to keep it to themselves. They blow fourth quarter leads and undefeated streaks like it's their job, maybe they just want more face-time on ESPN Classic.

But not this year! Harkening back to the Glory Days in '97 (yes, I still have the hat and the shirt from that championship run), the Winged Helmets are flying all over the field, looking like a team that could challenge for the title come January. The best part of it is that we've got that blitz-the-hell-out-of you attitude back again, the one that dares you to drop back and throw, because we can probably get to the fifth step of your drop before you do. Umm, it feels so good!

It's hard not to have the weight hanging there, in the back of my mind like the Swords of Damocles waiting to end the dream at one fell stroke. I can't help the worrying, it's genetic. My dad, the only one in the family with actual ties to Ann Arbor (engineer, graduated back before we started counting time in "years") can't watch the games anymore, they ruined too many Saturdays. I wish I had the strength of will...I can't count to number of Saturday nights I've spent, wishing to God that I could find that part of my stomach that seemed to have fallen out back in the family room by the TV. Always took at least a day to remember that life would go on, that rankings weren't everything, and I could wear all that Michigan apparell again when the season was over.

So, do I think we're going to blow it again this year? Hard to tell, but I think the ulcers are on their way. I'm just so scared that Ron English is going to lose his mind and go into "prevent defense" (more like prevent-your-team-from-winning-defense), that Lloyd will call a 1 yard pass on fourth and 5, and that the demons of the past are all-too unexorcised from the Big House.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wife Carrying - This is Getting Serious.

This is one of the best things I have ever seen, and it's just the thing to re-re-restart my blogging career. Here's an except from the authoritative site on the subject, and watch out for those crafty Estonians!

" Tired of football, basketball or other boring sports? Well, come to Finland for the ultimate world sports event: The Wife-Carrying World Championship.

In 1992, the people of Sonkajärvi decided that it was time to revive some long-forgotten traditions: back in the late 1800's there was in the area a brigand called Rosvo-Ronkainen, who was said to have accepted in his troops only those men who proved their worth on a challenging track. In those days, it was also a common practice to steal women from the neighbouring villages.

So that's how this small town in central Finland became the focus of attention of world media and sportshusbands and wives. From year to year a large number of competitors, public, and media from Finland to Canada attend the annual Wife-Carrying rendezvous in Sonkajärvi, doubling the population of the town for the weekend.

The Wife-Carrying World Championship is becoming increasingly popular. If he were alive today, old Rosvo-Ronkainen would have faced tough competition from husbands from as far away as Estonia, Norway, Ireland, or the United States of America. And being fit would just not be enough for Rosvo's troops taking into consideration that qualifying Wife-Carrying competitions are already being held in Estonia, Sweden, Denmark, the USA, and South Korea..."

Also on: ESPN, Wikipedia,

The dreaded "Estonian style carry" - dominating competition since 1994:

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Happy Feast Day!

What kind of Steubenville students would we be if we didn't wish the blogging world a happy feast of St. Francis. May we all be inspired by his humility.

St. Francis of Assisi - Pray for us!
"M" for Media Vendetta

The attorney for Florida Rep. Mark Foley, who is accused of sending inappropriate emails to young boys serving as pages, said yesterday that Foley had been molested by a clergyman when he was younger. The article linked above also goes on to mention that he was a Catholic from Boston.

Let me start by saying that, if this did happen it is a terrible tragedy, just as it is that it has happened to so many others. We certainly should be able to (and do) hold our priests to a higher standard. They of all people should know better than to commit such a sin.

This one report is all I have heard, and have heard nothing yet to contradict it, so I am giving Foley the benefit of the doubt and assuming that this really happened. Now, does that mean that he has an excuse for doing these same things with young boys. Absolutely not. Anyone who has been through this is another person who should know better, because they know first hand how devastating it can be to a person. I know people who have gone through sexual abuse as a child, and they did certainly did not turn to that when they got older. They turned to Christ.

What frustrates me most about this is that it seems that the media is now going to use this to shift the blame from Foley onto the Catholic Church. With all of the media's focus on "tolerance" of all, it is still mind-boggling to me how they can lead the charge on one of the last socially acceptable prejudices.

Pray for our Church, and that the hearts of the uneducated are not turned away by these things.

Monday, October 02, 2006

It's time to start looking even more awesome in your Catholic masculinity!

Lionheart Apparel is a new Christian men's clothing company. It was founded by Tarek Saab, a contestant from the Apprentice, and a Catholic U graduate. His products are t-shirts and hats with Christian symbols as logos.

Besides clothing, the company's website has other points of interest.

The "Man of the Month" is currently a musician named Creede Williams. This part of the site includes an interview with him about stayin faithful in fame, and samples of his music.

In the "Lion's Den," each Sunday "features an article from notable Christian men on topics related to Christian manhood." This week's is "Memory or Manhood?" by Kevin Vost, Psy.D.

It is definitely worth checking out.
Viva la Parenthood Revolution!

ZENIT included this article in its weekly wrap-up. It discusses the deline of mother/father families. I would have liked to link to the article, but ZENIT articles do not have their own permalinks, so here it is:

Decline of Mom-and-Pop Families
Kids Left Behind as Parenthood Is Redefined

NEW YORK, SEPT. 30, 2006 ( Family structures and parenthood roles are being redefined without sufficient consideration for the needs of children. This is the warning of a report just published that describes worldwide trends in family law and reproductive technology.

"The Revolution in Parenthood: The Emerging Global Clash Between Adult Rights and Children's Needs" is published by the Commission on Parenthood's Future. The commission "is an independent, nonpartisan group of scholars and leaders," active in the area of the family, according to a press release on the Web site of the Institute for American Values. The New York-based institute is one of the organizations behind the commission.

The author of the report is Elizabeth Marquardt, a member of the commission and author of the book, "Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce."

The report finds that worldwide trends in law and reproductive technologies are redefining parenthood in ways that put the interests of adults before the needs of children. "The two-person mother-father model of parenthood," it states, "is being changed to meet adults' rights to children rather than children's needs to know and be raised, whenever possible, by their mother and father."

The revolution in parenthood described in the publication comprises a variety of issues: high divorce rates; single-parent childbearing; the growing use of egg and sperm donors; support for same-sex marriage; and proposals to allow children conceived with the use of sperm and egg donors to have three legal parents.

A legal revolution

The report gives a number of examples of far-reaching legal changes in families, often introduced with a minimum of debate.

-- In Canada the law allowing same-sex marriage also included a provision that eliminated the term "natural parent" in federal law, replacing it with "legal parent." With that law, the locus of power in defining who a child's parents are shifts precipitously from civil society to the state, with the consequences as yet unknown.

-- In Spain, shortly after the legalization of same-sex marriage, the government changed the format of birth certificates for all children. In the future they will read "Progenitor A" and "Progenitor B," instead of "mother" and "father."

-- In India guidelines on assisted reproductive technology issued in June 2005 state that a child born through the use of donated sperm or eggs will not have any right to know the identity of the genetic parents.

Pressure for other, more radical, changes is also under way.

-- In New Zealand and Australia, law commissions have proposed allowing children conceived with use of sperm or egg donors to have three legal parents. The proposals fail to address what would happen if the three parents break up and feud over the child.

-- There is increasing support from influential legal commissions and legal scholars in Canada and the United States for the legalization of group marriage arrangements such as polygamy and polyamory, which involves intimate relationships of three or more people.

-- In Ireland a commission on human reproduction proposed that couples who commission a child through a surrogate mother should automatically be the legal parents of the child, leaving the woman who delivers the baby with no legal standing or protection should she change her mind.

France is one of the few countries resisting the rush to change family law. A parliamentary report on the family and the rights of children, issued last January, stated that "the desire for a child seems to have become a right to a child."

The French report also recommended not legalizing same-sex marriage. Among the reasons it gave was concern about the identity and development of children when the law creates a situation in which there are "two fathers, or two mothers -- which is biologically neither real nor plausible." The parliamentary report insisted on the need for a medical justification for assisted procreation, and that the ban on surrogacy should stand.

Adults first

In "Revolution in Parenthood" author Marquardt explains that the changes in parenthood and family structures are leading to clash between children's and parent's interests. "This redefinition," she warns, "increasingly emphasizes adults' rights to children rather than children's needs to know and be raised, whenever possible, by their mother and father."

"A good society protects the interests of its most vulnerable citizens, especially children," Marquardt's report contends. But the core institution of parenthood is being fundamentally redefined, often in a way that orients it primarily around adults' rights.

A common thread in many of the changes is an alleged "right to a child." The desire for a child is indeed "a powerful force felt deep in the soul," admits Marquardt, and the inability to bear a child of one's own is often felt as an enormous loss. "But," she adds, "the rights and needs of adults who wish to bear children are not the only part of the story."

Adoption has long been available for parents unable to bear children. But the use of assisted reproduction methods has transformed the situation, leading to the deliberate separation of children from their biological mothers and fathers. Biology is obviously not everything, the report notes, but at the same time it does matter.

Family structures are also crucial for children. Studies on the lives of children of divorce show enormous negative consequences for them, not sufficiently considered when no-fault divorce was introduced.

The first generation of donor-conceived children are now reaching adulthood. They were mainly conceived by married heterosexual couples using donor sperm. Marquardt cites a number of cases where the children are now speaking out about the powerful impact on their identity when adults purposefully conceive a child with the clear intention of separating that child from a biological parent. The young people often say they were denied the birthright of being raised by or at least knowing about their biological fathers.

In fact, many of these teen-agers and adults are now forming organizations and are using the Internet to try to contact their sperm donors and find half siblings conceived with the same sperm.


One issue raised by the offspring of donor children is that the informed consent of the most vulnerable party, the child, is not obtained in reproductive technology procedures that intentionally separate children from one or both of their biological parents.

"Revolution in Parenthood" observes that in recent decades a powerful consensus among social scientists has emerged about the benefits of marriage for children. The current redefinition of parenthood, the report says, is reshaping culture and legal systems "in ways that contribute to further deep uncertainties in the meanings of fatherhood and motherhood."

For example, in the United States at least 10 states allow someone with no biological or adoptive relationship to a child, and no marital relationship to a child's parent, to be assigned parental rights and responsibilities as a psychological or de facto parent.

"In law and culture, the two-natural-parent, mother-father model is falling away, replaced with the idea that children are fine with any one or more adults being called their parents, so long as the appointed parents are nice people," the report comments.

These changes will have far-reaching consequences for the family, children and society. "Those of us who are concerned," concludes the report, "can and should take up and lead a debate about the lives of children and the future of parenthood."