Friday, April 29, 2016

Beauty In The Weathered-- The Common Year Theme for April

 Yeah, yeah, I know. April is almost over. But better late than never, right?

The Common Year presents the April theme of Beauty in the Weathered.

I especially like David Rausch's contribution. It has a universal message for us all. Don't judge!

"It's one thing to judge a person's actions but most of us usually take it a big step farther-- we put ourselves in the position of God. We cast judgment on the person. We look down on them. We judge their heart and question their character. But we do so without the ability to see what God sees-- that people are more than just a collection of their worst moments."

Read the entire contribution HERE.

The message of Jesus to not judge is commonly misunderstood today. The important warning to not accuse in our thoughts and to not put ourselves above others, has morphed in the minds of many to mean we should not acknowledge a right and wrong. This is absurd and must be the subject of another post.

David Rausch has reminded us that the most disagreeable of people, those engaging in the most unbecoming of behavior, are all still loved by God to an infinite degree. Who are we to look down on anyone? We can, of course, object to a person's behavior, but that is entirely different from identifying the behavior with the person, who is a unique and treasured child of God. He has beautiful qualities even if they are not evident. If we can't see the beauty in an individual, it is because we do not know him well enough. We must acknowledge that fact if we are to truly love our neighbor.

It might help to recall in our own lives the stupid, thoughtless things we have said or done. Would we want those times to identify who we are? As Christians we are called to give others the benefit of the doubt. Yes, just as we would like others to give us.

The poor are all around us. Some of them are even wealthy. And the Lord, Jesus, is present in each one. May we never fail to recognize him and give to him the dignity he deserves. Because Jesus is always there in what Mother Theresa has described as "the distressing disguise of the poor."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

I love Peggy Noonan's writing. She always hits the nail right on the head.
Her recent opinion piece, "That Moment When 2016 Hits You" is one such example.
Hopefully, you can read the entire essay HERE. If not, I suggest you subscribe to :-)
Here is a snippet:
I was offended that those curiously quick to write essays about who broke the party were usually those who’d backed the policies that broke it. Lately conservative thinkers and journalists had taken to making clear their disdain for the white working class. I had actually not known they looked down on them. I deeply resented it and it pained me. If you’re a writer lucky enough to have thoughts and be paid to express them and there are Americans on the ground struggling, suffering—some of them making mistakes, some unlucky—you don’t owe them your airy, well-put contempt, you owe them your loyalty. They too have given a portion of their love to this great project, and they are in trouble.
Yes, there is an ugliness in the current election cycle.  There is the boorishness of Donal Trump. The foolishness of Bernie Sanders. The smugness of Ted Cruz. And the barking dishonesty of Hilary Clinton. I am appalled at the insensitivity to persecuted Christian refugees in the Middle East and the contempt directed at immigrants, legal and illegal.

Noonan describes her friends' reactions to what is going on. And then how she herself came to end up in tears. "Because too much is being lost. Because the great choice in a nation of 320 million may come down to Crazy Man versus Criminal."

Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, and Carly Fiorina had the potential to be great statesmen. But the voters have rejected them in favor of louder candidates. Yes, there is Ted Cruz. Yes, Ted. He loves the Constitution. He loves this country. But he lacks the skills of great oratory and the masses are preferring the circus act over real ideas.

Is moral relativism to blame? If there is no truth, are there no ideas to reference? No principles to invoke? Is it all about what's-in-it-for me? Or has the average politician become so materialist, so lustful for power, so slimy that the transparency of Donald Trump trumps everything else one might want in a candidate. 

Were I not a Christian I could look at this election cycle with despair. But my God reigns and I know he has a plan.  Perhaps we are being given the candidates we deserve. A case could certainly be made for that.

But it is with not a little consternation that I realize I may indeed need to decide to vote for either the Liar or the Lunatic.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Glory of God Is All Over Everything!!

Is it here, really? Is it Spring????

For the life of me, I cannot understand how one could regard this kind of natural beauty and remain an atheist. Seriously? This was an accidental arranging of molecules? And they all happened to arrange themselves, each organism independently, to all form living things of such exquisite beauty, all at the same time??

The glory of God is all over everything!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Vatican Invitation to Bernie Sanders

Much has been made of Bernie Sander’s visit to the Vatican to speak at a conference of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Members of both sides of the political spectrum fretted over the question of exactly from where the invitation originated.

Those on the left reveled in the speculation that perhaps Pope Francis approves of Sanders’ candidacy for president, and perhaps the invitation originated with him. Conservatives, especially pro-lifers, refused to believe that the Holy Father would extend an invitation to the radically pro-abortion Sanders.

Where did the invitation come from? Margaret Archer, president of the Pontifical Academy of the Social Sciences, denied that the invitation had originated with the Academy.  She told Bloomberg News that, “Sanders made the first move for obvious reasons.”  She even said specifically that Sanders “made the first move two or three days ago.”  And that “she did not know whom he or his representatives contacted.” She considered the invitation a “breach of protocol.”

Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of the Social Sciences, replied, “This is not true and she knows it. I invited him with her consensus.” Sorondo later added that the invitation, “…does not signify any support of the campaign.”

When asked who initiated the contact, Monsignor Sorondo repeatedly declined to answer. This is the key question. Sanders definitely received an invitation and he is not being dishonest in saying so. But did someone in his campaign contact the Pontifical Academy first? Why would Monsignor Sorondo not answer that question directly when asked more than once?  Adding to the confusion, the Daily Beast reported that Sorondo volunteered “…Perhaps the others [candidates] would have been interested but they did not request to come.” said of the controversy, “The office of the Pope moved to distance the pontiff from the visit. Father Frederico Lombardi, the Pope’s spokesman, said Sanders had been invited ‘not by the pope but by the Pontifical Academy of the Social Sciences.’”

Did the Sanders campaign ask for an invitation? That would explain why Monsignor Sorondo declined to answer the question of who initiated the contact. Is this a conflict between Margaret Archer, the president of the Pontifical Academy, and the chancellor, Monsignor Sorondo? Perhaps Monsignor Sorondo chose to invite him without consulting Margaret Archer and does not want to admit it?

We will probably never know, although Monsignor’s comment that the other candidates “did not request to come, “ raises some questions.

We do know that the invitation did not come from Pope Francis.

Contrary to earlier reports, Senator Sanders was able to meet the Pope.  The New York Times reported that a personal secretary of the Holy Father told Sanders that if he were in the foyer of the Casa Santa Marta, where the pope resides and where Senator Sanders was staying, at 6:00 AM, when the pope would be heading to the airport, he could speak briefly with him.

The Holy Father said of the meeting, “This morning when I was leaving, Senator Sanders was there…He knew I was leaving at that time, and he had the courtesy to greet me.”

No photos were permitted at the meeting.

The Times reported that the Holy Father said, “I shook his hand and nothing more. If someone thinks that greeting someone means getting involved in politics,” (laughing), “I recommend that he find a psychiatrist.”

Friday, April 15, 2016

Blaise Meets His Great-Grandma!!

We recently traveled to Florida to introduce Blaise to his Great-Grandma. Mom (my mother-in-law) could not keep her eyes off him.

Mom could talk of nothing else. How adorable he is! How intelligent he looks! How strong he is. Truly exceptional. :-) Of course, she got no argument from us.

Blaise was the star of the dining room. Not only did he absorb all of Mom's attention, everyone there wanted to watch Blaise. Come over here, they would gesture to my daughter. Bring him to see us. And, on the rare occasion that he was crying a little, they would all holler advice, You need a rocking chair, Honey!

There is something so very special about having four generations of family all in one place. The parent child bond is very powerful, as is the grandparent-grandchild bond. When the great grandparent is added, the generational ties feel all the more precious. I guess it is because quite often the great-grandparents are not around when a baby is born and that connection is felt only in pictures and stories.

Since Great-Grandma lives in Florida, there was the mandatory trip to the beach....Blaise's first glimpse of the ocean.

All covered up! Of course!

Then back to Grandma's at dinnertime. She could scarcely take her eyes off him. It was adorable.

Blaise will not remember this trip. But one day he will see this picture of his great-grandmother, his grandfather, his mother, and himself as an infant. 

Four generations in one photo. Heirloom material. We all agreed it was a trip well taken.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Cursive Writing-- Is It Valuable?

Should cursive writing no longer be taught in the schools? I have read with alarm this suggestion. There are so many important uses for cursive writing. There are lists and notes to write. What would constitute a signature if we no longer used cursive?

Handwritten notes and letters have a unique role to play in human communication. A handwritten thank you note is more meaningful than an email or a text. Emails and texts are, by their very nature, abbreviated and to the point. Such messaging is convenient, efficient, and very useful. 

But a letter written in cursive serves a much broader purpose. The handwriting itself is personal. We still recognize the handwriting of those close to us. Because a letter is not intended to communicate quick information, its content is also considerably different from electronic communication. When I write a letter to one of my children, I talk about incidental events of the day: what I've done, what I will be doing, activities of other family members, the weather, random thoughts, etc. It's a kind of snapshot of what is on my mind on that particular day. A letter is very personal, very warm, and very reflective of the writer's thoughts and even of the writer's feelings toward the reader.

Today's Wall Street Journal contains a fascinating piece by Robert Lee Hotz entitled "The Power of Handwriting." The article discusses the results of studies comparing the effectiveness of notes taken by college students using a laptop and notes taken by hand. Those typing their notes record about 33 words per minutes, while those handwriting them only get about 22. But those using the longhand notes remember more of the material, even a week later. Part of the reason may be that those typing tend to record what they are hearing verbatim, while those using longhand do not.

For me, I think typing notes would be difficult and less effective for another reason. My notes always take on a kind of outline form. A main topic starts at the left margin and subtopics are indented. That kind of form is time consuming, if you're typing. You have to use tabs and hyphens and who knows what the laptop might think you're trying to do and thus mess up the format you're trying to use. (I find computers are the most aggravating when they are trying to be "helpful.")

Anyway, so note taking is another useful way to use cursive handwriting that just may be more helpful than tapping those full sentences out on your laptop.