Ranking God’s Word


It ain’t those parts of the Bible
that I can’t understand that bother me;
it is the parts that I do understand.
~ Mark Twain

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For a Goddaughter on Her Seventh Birthday

Happy birthday, Mary! May God bless you in abundant and and unexpected ways in this next year!

I bought you a gift – one gift in seven years! Not a great track record, I know. When it comes to remembei_014ring birthdays and even your baptismal day, I’m obviously a lousy godfather – sorry about that. It’s no excuse, but for what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure your parents weren’t banking on a steady stream of goodies when they asked us to be your godparents so long ago.

Instead, you can bet they honored us with that grave responsibility because they knew we’d pray for you faithfully, and that we’d do our best to model the faith for you in our own lives. As I’ve told you many times, I do indeed pray for you every day, and God knows I strive hard to stay close to Jesus, so I’d say I’m keeping up OK with the more important parts of my job – and the same goes for your godmother, and then some!

Still, it’s such a privilege to serve as your godfather – and such a delight to see you growing up, even if it’s just glimpses from time to time at church – that I wanted to mark this birthday in a special, unprecedented way.

Your father tells me you’re a voracious reader, but I already knew that – ‘want to know how? When you run up to me after Mass on Sundays, and we talk about what you’re doing, I can tell that you’re world is full of books and stories and ideas – that’s so terrific! And I’m not surprised that your dad tells me that you’re reading chapter books already – that’s great! My own children – your “god-brothers and god-sisters,” as you call them – we’re the same way.

So, I decided I wanted to get you a book – two books, in fact, books that have been important to me, both when I was your age and more recently as a dad.

The first is called From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. It’s about a brother and sister who go on a journey, stumble across a mystery, and then solve it together. The Phantom Tollbooth is also about a journey, but in this case the traveler, a boy named Milo, gets lost and he has to rely on others to help him find his way.

I won’t ruin the books by telling you much more about how the stories go, but I’ll tell e06e4d5c-0987-4942-83d4-ebb91dde90b8you that they have three things in common. First, they’re about adventures that bring people back home again. Second, they’re about the magic of words and imagination. And third, they’re about accepting the wise counsel and guidance of those who care about you. These are all good things, and I think you’ll agree that they make for good reading.

What’s more, I think they’re good ideas to be thinking about as you get ready for your first Holy Communion next year. Like the saints, your own life of faith is already an adventure, and it will only become more so as you get older. Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist will be true Food for your journey, and he will be your constant companion as you make your way home to him. And receiving him in the Eucharist is not all that different from how you already receive him when you listen to God’s word at home and in church. Keep listening, keep opening your heart to him, and keep attentive to how he is speaking to you in your heart.

Finally, just as your mom and dad provide for your every physical need – a home, food to eat, clothes to wear, and stuff like that – God has given you the Church as a mother to provide for all your spiritual needs, including the Sacraments and Jesus himself in the Eucharist. Let your preparation for Holy Communion be a time for growing ever closer to the Church and let your love for her as a mother grow ever deeper. I know your mom won’t mind – in fact, I know she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Of Giving Shots and Making God


“Live the mystery that has been placed in your hands!” This is the invitation and admonition which the Church addresses to the priest in the Rite of Ordination…. For this to be so, there is need for great vigilance and lively awareness. Once again, the Rite of Ordination introduces these words with this recommendation: “Beware of what you will be doing.”
~ Pope St. John Paul II

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Philippine Epiphanies


Whether our life be that of Nazareth, the Public Life or the Desert…
it should cry the Gospel…
~ Bl. Charles de Foucauld

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Paper or Plastic?


I don’t care if it rains or freezes
‘Long as I got my plastic Jesus
Sittin’ on the dashboard of my car.
~ Cool Hand Luke

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Who Prefers To Stay?

PathtoSainthood“Jesus is waiting for you in the chapel. Go and find him when your strength and patience are giving out, when you feel lonely and helpless. Say to him: ‘You know well what is happening, my dear Jesus. I have only you. Come to my aid …’ And then go your way. And don’t worry about knowing how you are going to manage. It is enough to have told our good Lord. He has an excellent memory.”
~ St. Jeanne Jugan

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Jesus Pulls a Fast One

640px-CaravaggioContarelli“The designation of the excommunicated member as a Gentile or a tax collector in verse 17 is odd in view of Jesus’ openness to both groups.”
~ Daniel Harrington, S.J.

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Stay With Your Vehicle

Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away.
~ Cat Stevens, “Father and Son

It was all over so quickly.

University_of_Notre_Dame_Golden_DomeFirst Years moved onto campus at Notre Dame today, including our son – so exciting! However, unlike those coming to South Bend from out of state, we’re only 20 minutes away, so despite the momentous occasion, it was a pretty typical morning for us. At first.

I was up early as usual, made the coffee, and went for a run. Nancy and the other kids were rousing by the time I got back, and I saw a light under Ben’s door telling me he was up as well.

There was a rush for bathrooms and showers, some hurried breakfasts and lots of last-minute lunch-packing and homework-finishing. Since I had the morning off to help Ben move, I engaged in a bit of daddish banter – commenting about current events, nagging the kids about doing their dishes, giving Ben a heads-up about the Roger Ebert documentary showing on campus in a couple weeks – acting like everything was normal, everything was the same.

But it was different, and I knew it in my gut. Plus there was an unusual trickle of siblings coming by Ben’s room to bid him farewell. “Good-bye, Ben,” said Katharine, his littlest sister, “have fun at college.” Cecilia stopped by Ben’s room as well. “See ya’, Ben,” she said. “I’ll miss you.”

“I won’t be far,” he said, grinning. Yeah, I suppose.

Once the high-schoolers made it out the door, and Nancy herded our three grade-schoolers toward her car, it was just Ben and I. We got to work and loaded up our dilapidated Plymouth Voyager.

“Do you think I’m bringing to20140814_122120_resizedo much junk?” he asked.

“Maybe,” I replied. “I can always come pick up the stuff you don’t need. That’s one nice thing about being from town.”

We were done loading by 8:00, but Move-In didn’t start until nine. I drifted upstairs to my computer. Ben plopped down at the piano in the living room and worked his improvisational magic. I checked email and The Weather Channel, but mainly I listened to Ben’s music. What a gift he has. What a privilege to have been privy to it over the years.

At about 8:15, Ben called up to me. “Hey, dad! What are you doing?”

“Stalling,” I said from the landing, my eyes welling. “Why the hell did you have to grow up?”

“‘Nothing I could do about it,” came the laconic reply. “It’ll be OK, dad.”

Ben let me drive to campus – which might’ve been a token of filial deference, but I knew better.  By not driving, he gained complete oversight of our musical backdrop – Animal Collective, some Jack White, “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys.

“I heard Coldplay is in the running for the Super Bowl halftime this year,” I said, trying to sound relevant.

“Who cares?” he replied. “They’re just a Radiohead ripoff.” So much for relevance.

Up north on Eddy Street, a cut over to Notre Dame Avenue, and then straight toward the Dome. We were directed to the DeBartolo parking lot and maneuvered into the queue for Alumni Hall. Don, one of the volunteer parking ushers, came over with a parents’ packet for me. “Alumni was my dorm,” he said as he pumped our hands. “Welcome to Notre Dame!”

When it was our turn, we continued the crawl up Notre Dame Avenue toward the statue of Our Lady of the University in the Main Circle. Another volunteer usher beckoned me to the curbside right in front of the dorm. Immediately, we were swarmed by returning Alumni Hall residents (i.e., “Da20140814_121725-1_resizedwgs”), and the usher came over to my window. “Your son can unload, and the guys will help him carry it all to his room,” he said, adding firmly, “and I’ll need you to stay with your vehicle.”

Stay with my vehicle? No father-son moment of transporting his past into his future? No profound parting words? Not even a firm handshake and a “God bless you, son”?

Nope. I tried to assist, but the Dawgs kept saying, “That’s alright, sir, we can get that. That’s alright, sir.”

Pretty soon, I glimpsed Ben walking away amid a stream of new dorm mates. The traffic usher, with a wistful smile, motioned me along and encouraged me to go park in lot ‘C’ by the Joyce Center. When I looked back one more time, I heard the usher murmur, “He’ll be alright, sir.”

Yes, he will.

The Lighter Side of Suicide

gk cThe strangest whim
has seized me. . . . After all
I think I will not hang myself today.
~ G.K. Chesterton

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Of Head Nods, Hat Tips, and Empty Crosses

hat_thumb[7]“As a sign of respect, the hat is briefly removed or raised when one passes in front of a Church, an act of homage to Our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament, or in the presence of a passing funeral procession, in recognition of the deceased as created in the image and likeness of God.”
~ Marian T. Horvat

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