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January 27, 2015

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Scientific discovery: When it snows a lot, there’s more snow than when there is no snow

2015 storm 5The dire warnings were so dire they could only be described as “dire:” Meteorologists predicted so much swirling snow for January 27 that Connecticut’s National Public Radio chapter cancelled its fund-raising event, which was slated to feature a panel of world-renown Emily Dickinson scholars discussing the topic, “Why Working Mothers No Longer Read 16th-century German Poetry To Their Five-Year-Year-Old Children, And The Devastating Consequences For American Culture.”

Wine and cheese would be offered, with suggested donations of $200 for a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and a mere $100 for a block of Canadian Cheddar. The chapter expected standing-room-only crowds.

The board of directors debated the decision all the way up to 8:30 p.m. the previous evening. One director inflamed passions when she said: “This move may be considered imprudent by some,” prompting her rival’s uncontrolled rage: “I hope we don’t get too emotional about this.” Still another startled all with the NPR equivalent of slipping off his shoe and banging it on the table: “Let’s maintain unity.”

Analysts fear heads will roll. A totally new board may take the helm within the next three decades.

In another development, a 58-year-old man with a bum arthritic left shoulder braved the wild and shoveled his driveway. He was almost three-quarters done — and feeling obnoxiously proud of himself — when the driver of a Bobcat finished the job, unasked and free of charge.  The driver, obviously a communist, gave the arthritic 58-year-old a thumbs-up sign when finished and trolled for other opportunities.

The 58-year-old, a clergyman who can’t kick his journalism addiction, walked the neighborhood and took some pictures. Here are some.

Before the shoveling …

2015 storm

After much of the shoveling …

2015 storm 2

The neighborhood …

2015 storm 4

We New Englanders know everyone else hates our team.  Luv you too …

2015 storm 3

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December 26, 2014

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Is martyrdom marketable?

Slice another pie and mix up more stuffing. The religious festivals tramp on like salivating cholesterol monsters. The Feast of St. Stephens comes on December 26th, the same date as Boxing Day in the former British Empire and Wren’s Day in Ireland. It’s also the Second Day of Christmas (remember the thirteen-day season) and Rummage-through-the-leftovers Day. Because we can.

The Feast of St. Stephens is the most intriguing because it celebrates the first Christian martyr. Underscore the italicized word: We celebrate the hour a mob stoned someone to death. How gauche. How morbid.  How … non-modern to our techno-savvy minds. No business school offers martyrdom courses and no goal-oriented, five-year plan begins with the following words: “I will take the following practical steps so that I can be jailed, tortured, and possibly murdered …”

Yesteryear’s martyrs focused on eternity (where will I be a thousand years from now?); today’s pragmatists dwell on the here and now. After all, medical advances have pushed life-spans into the eighties – and I need a raise – so eternity is rendered irrelevant.

Four sisters

Catholic sisters who were beaten, raped, and killed in El Salvador in 1980,

And yet martyrdom won’t let go. It sneaks into our irreligious world and reminds us that there is more to life than bits and bytes. We admire the successful, especially those who spread their success to others: Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, among others. But we don’t hold them in awe. We reserve reverence for Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Martin Luther King, Oscar Romero, the four Maryknoll sisters and missionaries killed in El Salvador in 1980, and the six Jesuit priests killed there in 1989 – along with their housekeeper and her daughter.

Our irresistible awe of them serves as Eternity’s reminder: “I’m still relevant – and your lengthened life is still temporal. No fair hiding from me.”

A fifth-century North African bishop, Fulgentius of Ruspe, knew all about the martyr’s life. He was hounded in years of persecution.  This is what he preached on one Saint Stephen’s Day:

Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of his soldier. Yesterday our king, clothed in his robe of flesh, left his place in the virgin’s womb and graciously visited the world. Today his soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.

Our king, despite his exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet he did not come empty-handed. He brought his soldiers a great gift that not only enriched them but also made them unconquerable in battle, for it was the gift of love, which was to bring men to share in his divinity. He gave of his bounty, yet without any loss to himself. In a marvelous way he changed into wealth the poverty of his faithful followers while remaining in full possession of his own inexhaustible riches.

And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the king, it later shone forth in his soldier. Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by his name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbor made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.

Now at last, Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he delights in the glory of Christ, with Stephen he exalts, with Stephen he reigns. Stephen went first, slain by the stones thrown by Paul, but Paul followed after, helped by the prayer of Stephen. This, surely, is the true life, my brothers, a life in which Paul feels no shame because of Stephen’s death, and Stephen delights in Paul’s companionship, for love fills them both with joy. It was Stephen’s love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul’s love that covered the multitude of his sins; it was love that won for both of them the kingdom of heaven.

Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defense, and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey’s end.

My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.

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December 24, 2014

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Mary & Joseph: Walking through the unknown toward destiny

We can take as our models Mary and Joseph, who had the right to be the two most confused people in history, who were confronted with something utterly baffling, but did what God was asking of them, anyway … Mary and Joseph do three simple but essential things: they listen, they trust, they love.

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December 20, 2014

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Gotta hand it to him: He’s consistent

Let’s tip our hats to the oft-infuriating Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky: He is a true, government-keep-your-mitts-off libertarian. Thus he supports re-opening US relations with Cuba, which puts him at odds with many of his GOP colleagues. He and Marco Rubio are now throwing barbs on Twitter.

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December 13, 2014

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Catholic Bishops: End Fossil Fuel Addiction

Roman Catholic bishops from around the world have called for a binding international agreement that would wean humanity from fossil fuels, citing protection of the poor as a major reason.  Here is their statement: Catholic Bishops͛ statement in Lima on the road to Paris Introduction – from COP20 to COP21 We Catholic Bishops from all […]

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December 8, 2014

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Catholic Theologians’ statement on racial justice

Almost 200 Catholic theologians signed on to a “statement of commitment to racial justice.” It is posted on the Catholic Moral Theology” web site and it speaks for itself.  Here’s a paragraph, followed by a link: The season of Advent is meant to be a time when Christians remember the birth of Jesus Christ, when God […]

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December 8, 2014

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Wisdom from the Jesuits: Climate change signals a vapid spirituality

Jamie Today, S.J., displayed Ignatian Spirituality at its finest in his November 15th piece at Ecojesuit, “Healing a broken world from our communities: Thinking and praying on the gift of creation.”

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December 6, 2014

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Evangelical Response to Eric Garner Decision: The System Failed

Once again, the popular image of a Rush Limbaugh faith crumbles. Christianity Today surveyed postings from Evangelical advocates after a grand jury declined to indict New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose choke hold evidently contributed Eric Garner’s death. Almost all the leaders were disheartened.

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November 30, 2014

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Ferguson and complexity

I have thoughts about events in Ferguson — but they’re based on hearsay and semi-impressions from thousands of miles away. They wouldn’t be worth much if I articulated them on a blog. However, Mark Shields and David Brooks explored the incident’s complexity and pointed out that not all was obvious.  I found that they spoke […]

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November 24, 2014

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Nap time is over

My lament over the 2014 mid-term elections doesn’t always harmonize with the nation-wide liberal blues. Perhaps that’s because I’m an old-style, New Deal political liberal with a traditional theology and time-honored family values, at once more progressive and conservative than today’s cultural reformer. I mourn of hidden elephants, orphaned Democrats, and a ghettoized intelligentsia. My […]

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