The imperative of fraternal correction is alive and well

Every September, the Congregation for Bishops in Rome hosts a seminar for newly ordained bishops from around the world; the seminar is widely known, at least sotto voce, as “Baby Bishops’ School.” I have a modest suggestion for the curriculum: Everyone attending the seminar should be given a copy of the classic World War II novel, “Twelve O’Clock High,” which is far less a story of B-17s over Europe than a lesson in paternal, masculine leadership.

About halfway through the book, when General Frank Savage has dramatically reversed the disastrous morale of the 918th Heavy Bombardment Group by ignoring an order and hitting a difficult target, a once-skeptical lieutenant (and Medal of Honor winner), Jesse Bishop, admits that he’s misread the fiery commander and asks Savage if he’d “mind very much kicking me in the tail?” Bishop bends over, Savage obliges — and then asks the youngster to do him a favor: “All right, Jesse ... I want you to be the one guy in the group that doesn’t believe I’m a general. That door is always open. Any time you think I’m not doing so hot, come in and tell me. Let me know what the boys are thinking. I need you plenty, and I’ll count on you to keep me straightened out.”

Grace for the graduate: a leap of faith, a new beginning

Dear Graduate,

I know how you’re feeling: light headed and faint hearted.

You’re trying to process the culmination of four long years that flew by, trying to smile pretty and keep it straight — left hand takes diploma, right hand shakes, tassel flips from right to left.

You’ve managed to master biochemistry and the sociology of the cafeteria, Professor Martin and two inexorable roommates, and yet, these simple instructions have you feeling criss-crossed.

Recognize and nurture your golden seeds

Your life can change in a moment.  Someone comes along and says something that alters your path.  A friend points to a gift that you didn’t know you had or a stranger suggests an alternative you didn’t know existed and suddenly – or gradually – your life changes.

Some years ago, while I was doing research on how people find their callings, I met a Franciscan priest with an interesting story. 

Father Damian was happy in his priesthood. He had been a Franciscan for almost 30 years and was confident he would live the rest of his life as a priest.

When I asked him how he found his calling, he smiled the way a person does before telling you something important. He didn’t have to search for an answer. He knew immediately.

It’s about faith, not extremism

The Department of Homeland Security recently included “single issue” anti-abortion advocates in a category of “right wing extremists.” While I suspect they were referring to the likes of the Atlanta bomber, Eric Rudolph, rather than to peaceful, outspoken pro-life proponents, there is no doubt this characterization will be mishandled and abused by both media and pro-choice organizations.

Add to the Catholic anti-abortion stance, our opposition to embryonic stem cell research and euthanasia, it becomes a reasonable bet that orthodox Catholics will be bearing the “right wing extremist” tag often in the next few years.

As these attacks escalate, we must knowledgeably present our positions on these subjects whether in everyday conversations, letters to the editor or even radio call-in shows — all the while not being intimidated by name-calling and unfair generalizations.

Let the music begin

The neighborhood dogs and the disposition of my neighbors toward me haven’t been the same since I took up the violin again.

When played well, it is heavenly. When played poorly, it grinds on people and sends dogs howling.

Why did I go back to it?

William Shakespeare gives us our first reason “why music was ordained! Was it not to refresh the mind of man after his studies, or his usual pain?”

It is one thing to come home after a hard day’s work and listen to soothing music, yet another to create it.

A mother’s love and compassion

Mass and receiving Jesus are highlights of my day. During the week I go as often as possible.

Before Mass recently I prayed that God would show us His presence in a concrete way in our lives. I was surprised in the ways God answered that prayer. I saw it in the courage of a woman who cantored for the first time in our church. Her gentle voice added as much to the Liturgy as did the guitarist, who also played beautifully. I saw God’s presence in the pride of the cantor’s family. I saw it the reverence in which the Mass was celebrated.

I saw it most profoundly in the interaction between a mother and her son.  

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