31 July 2010

Father Leo - Seminary Teacher and Chef

Roman Catholic priests deal a lot with spiritual food, but Father Leo Patalinghug (Director of Pastoral Field Education, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland) works with food of a more earthly nature as well. He is a chef with his own Internet-based cooking show, Grace Before Meals.

This weekend's edition of PBS's Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly is re-running an interview with Father Leo and why he says food is very much part of his priestly ministry (originally broadcast on 4 September 2009).

To view this interview, please visit:

PBS: Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: Father Leo

To read more of the interview with Father Leo  and watch him talk about his television cook-off with celebrity chef and restaurateur Bobby Flay, please visit:

PBS: Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: Father Leo Extended Interview

Praying for work: Parish groups support the unemployed

"Rich Brouillette was among the thousands of people across the country and the state of Massachusetts who lost his job during the current economic downturn.

"When he lost his job, he utilized numerous sources to pursue job leads and other helpful job search information - including unemployment support groups that have formed at local parishes.

"'There were a lot of people, including myself, who needed help at the time,' said Brouillette, a parishioner at St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Westford. 'For me, it was important to get the spiritual piece and to have fellowship with the men and women who joined us.'

"Several parishes of the Archdiocese of Boston, including St. Catherine's have formed networking and support groups that have helped professionals like Brouillette through the job-hunting process. Groups have also formed at parishes such as St. Ignatius Loyola in Newton, St. Athanasius in Reading, and St. Robert Bellarmine in Andover."

For the rest of this article from the Boston Pilot, visit:

Boston Pilot: Praying for work: Parish groups support the unemployed

29 July 2010

Report Links School Leadership to Improved Student Learning

Learning From Leadership: Investigating the Links to Improved Student Learning, a recently released report, considered to be the largest in-depth study of school leadership to date, demonstrated that education leadership has a strong impact on student achievement, as measured by student test scores.

The study, commissioned by the Wallace Foundation and carried out by the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (University of Minnesota) and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (University of Toronto), showed that leadership makes its mark largely by strengthening a school’s “professional community” – an environment where teachers work together to improve classroom instruction.

It also found that rapid turnover of principals reduces student achievement. In addition, the study showed that although the principal remains the central source of leadership in schools, the highest performing schools operate by a “collective leadership” that involves many interested players, including parents and teachers, in decision-making.

To view the complete report, visit:
Wallace Foundation: Learning From Leadership: Investigating the Links to Improved Student Learning (July 2010)

A Reflection from Saint Francis De Sales

Today’s “Daily With De Sales” reflection from Salesian Father Francis J. Klauder:

Be careful and attentive to all the matters God has committed to your care, but if possible do not be solicitous or worried; that is, do not burden yourself over them with uneasiness or anxiety. This worry only disturbs reason and good judgment and prevents you from doing well the very things you are worried about...A job done anxiously and hurriedly is never done well; we must do things with coolness and calm.

Two Firefighters Die in Bridgeport Fire

Two Bridgeport, CT, firefighters died, and three others were injured in a fire in a three-story wood frame residential building at 39-41 Elmwood Avenue.

Lieutenant Steven Velasquez and Firefighter Michel Baik were on the third-floor of the fire building, checking for hot spots and conducting a search for possible occupants, when they sounded their personal alarm safety systems to alert other crews that they were in trouble.

Built as a two-family house in 1909, a third-apartment had been added, a move that was done without a building permit.

Media Reports:

WTNH-TV: 2 CT firefighters perish, probe begins (25 JUL 10)

Connecticut Post: Bridgeport blaze leads to 2 firefighter deaths (26 JUL 10)

Connecticut Post: Did firefighters' oxygen tanks run out? (25 JUL 10)

Connecticut Post: Neighborhood in shock as news spreads of firefighter deaths (24 JUL 10)

Connecticut Post: House in fire lacked permits for apartment conversion (26 JUL 10)

WTNH-TV: Firefighter died of smoke inhalation (26 JUL 10)

Connecticut Post: The paper trail connected with firefighters' breathing equipment (27 JUL 10)

WTNH-TV: Bridgeport's illegal apartment problem (28 JUL 10)

WFSB-TV Slideshow: 2 Bridgeport firefighters killed in line of duty

Background Information:

Bridgeport Fire Department website

Facebook: Bridgeport Fire Department

Bridgeport Firefighters Local 834

Wikipedia: Bridgeport, Connecticut

Google Map: 39-41 Elmwood Avenue, Bridgeport, CT

A Reflection on Waiting

Emilie Wolf, Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception Associate, Paterson, NJ, offers a reflection on "Waiting":

I think sometimes we get confused. And one of the things we confuse is waiting and anticipation. In Luke we read about Annah, the widowed woman who lived her life in prayer and fasting in the temple, waiting... What does that mean?

I remember visiting my parents in Santa Fe early one summer. My Dad asked one if his mechanics is there would be a dance at the Pueblo that weekend. "No," was the reply. Late that Friday evening the man called and said, "We will dance this weekend. You can come. But you can tell no-one."

To read the rest of this reflection, please visit:

  Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception: Waiting

27 July 2010

BlackBerry-linked Officers Find Suspect in Providence Bank Robbery

Within two hours of a Providence, RI, bank robbery, a suspect was apprehended due, in part, to a department policy and a federal grant that has equipped officers of sergeant rank and above with BlackBerries.  Investigators were able to copy the pictures from surveillance cameras and send them department-wide so that supervisors in other sections of the city could show them to patrol officers.

For the complete Providence Journal article, visit:

Providence Journal: BlackBerry-linked officers find suspect in Providence bank robbery

26 July 2010

Council of Chief State School Officers Releases Core Teaching Standards for Public Comment

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) recently released for public comment new draft core teaching standards. The release of the standards signals the beginning of the public comment period which will run until 15 October 2010, during which time CCSSO seeks broad input from the education community and the public at large.

The Model Core Teaching Standards: A Resource for State Dialogue (Draft for Public Comment) was developed by a committee of the Interstate Teacher and Assessment Support Consortium convened by CCSSO. This committee included practicing teachers, teacher educators, and state education agency staff. These standards comprise a set of principles of effective teaching, revised from the 1992 model standards, and designed to demonstrate a new vision for teaching. The 2010 model core teaching standards are intended to help policymakers and educators achieve their education reform goals.

In updating the model core teaching standards, efforts were made to ensure they align with other national and state standards documents that were recently revised or released. Specifically, these standards have been reviewed to ensure compatibility with the recently-released Common Core State Standards for students in mathematics and English language arts, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards accomplished teaching core principles, the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education accreditation standards, the National Staff Development Council professional development standards, and the Interstate School Leader Licensure Consortium 2008 Policy Standards and CCSSO's companion document Performance Expectations and Indicators for Educational Leaders.

Consistency among all these professional standards is meant to ensure an orderly, logical, continuous set of expectations for teachers from beginning through accomplished practice, as well as the conditions necessary to support professional growth along this continuum. It also is designed to increase the probability of building systems of teacher development and support that begin with recruitment and preparation and run through all of the different levels of teaching, as well as related leadership roles.

"I hope that members the professional education community will take the time to critically review these draft standards and provide input so they truly reflect what teachers should know and so policymakers will know what needs to change in order for teachers to be supported in their quest to reach the new vision laid out in the standards," Gene Wilhoit, CCSSO Executive Director, said in a prepared statement.

The draft standards will be circulated until 15 October 2010 to gather comments and feedback which will be used to refine and finalize the standards. Individual and focus group feedback is planned.

To download and review the document and to submit comments, please visit: 

CCSSO: Model Core Teaching Standards

To view a video webcast of the release, please visit:

Model Core Teaching Standards Webcast

St. Francis de Sales: Try to Nourish the Spirit of Gentleness

A reminder from Saint Francis de Sales: "Try to nourish within yourself the spirit of gentleness, of holy joy and humility, which is the most apt path toward union with God. Do not get upset about this or that but walk in the way of union with great confidence in the mercy of God, Who will lead you by the hand right to your heavenly home. In the meantime, keep well clear of arguments and avoidable disputes."

25 July 2010

The Seed

The Seed (Author Unknown)

A successful Christian business man was growing old and knew it was time
to choose a successor to take over the business.

Instead of choosing one of his directors or his children, he decided to
do something different. He called all the young executives in his
company together.

The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued."I am going to give each one of you a SEED today - one very special SEED. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO"

To read the rest, please visit:

     The Seed

24 July 2010

"Amazing" Off the Wall Golf Shot

Praise the Lord for the many ways He encourages us to use the creative abilities He has given each of us.  Here is a golf example from the 2010 British Open:

     Pastor Tim: Amazing Off the Wall Golf Shot

23 July 2010

The Christophers: Farm Fresh Feast

Today's "Three Minutes a Day" reflection from the Christophers:

July 23, 2010

Farm Fresh Feast

A handful of chefs are busy - on a truck with a stove, a smoker, refrigeration and a sink. It’s time for Dinners at the Farm.

The brainchild of Connecticut chefs Drew McLachlan and Jonathan Rapp, the events serve up gourmet meals from local foods. The tab paid by diners benefits local non-profits.  Some 160 people turned out for the first dinners held in 2006, netting $17,000 for charity. These days, dinners happen three days in a row each month for four months.

“It’s a win-win to have local produce, local meats and so forth, as well as you’re helping something local out,” says Brian Carey, a contractor, who attended two dinners. Adds Pauline Lord, whose farm served as a host, “It’s such a great combination of elements.”

Each of us is created to contribute just the right ingredient to make the world around us a better place.

"To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one. . . wisdom, and to another. . . knowledge. . . to another faith. . . to another gifts of healing." (1 Corinthians 12:7,8,9)

Prayer: You give us from Your bounty, Eternal Father. May we reverence the works of Your hands.

For more information about Dinners at the Farm, visit:

      Dinners at the Farm

(This year's Dinners at the Farm will be held at Barberry Hill Farm in Madison on the first two weekends in August and at White Gate in East Lyme on the last two weekends in August.)

Hampstead, NH, Seeks to Capitalize on Recyclables

Hampstead, NH, in a pilot program, is encouraging residents to bring their bulky recyclables to the Derry transfer station in an effort to maximize profits from recycling commodities (e.g., copper wire from stripped down power cords, scrap metal wrestled from appliances, quantities of cardboard and newspaper sold to the highest bidder).

For the complete story from the New Hampshire Union Leader, visit:

Union Leader: Hampstead recyclables will add to Derry's trash treasure (23 JUL 10)

22 July 2010

A Look at Fire District Consolidation in RI

Although there have been studies and other discussions about the potential benefits of merging fire districts within Rhode Island towns, there have only been a few actual consolidations. A Providence Journal article looks at some of the issues involved:

Providence Journal: Fire district consolidation? It’s like talking about the weather (19 JUL 10)

18 July 2010

Still Another Reflection on Today's Gospel Reading

From Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio: "Today's gospel relates the story of Martha and Mary.  Did you ever quietly wonder why Martha got gently corrected for working hard and Mary praised for sitting on her posterior? Is the Lord endorsing laziness?"

To read Dr. D'Ambrosio's reflection, visit:

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio: Mary and Martha - Meet the Lord Everyday!

At the end of his reflection, Dr. D'Ambrosio suggests rsing what Saint Augustine of Hippo had to say on Martha and Mary:

Saint Augustine of Hippo: Martha and Mary

Quote about Time

"The chief beauty about time is that you cannot waste it in advance. The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you, as perfect, as unspoiled, as if you had never wasted or misapplied a single moment in all your life. You can turn over a new leaf every hour if you choose." - Author Unknown (sent to me by Steven and Becca Rapelje, DeerLake Video)

Another Reflection on Today's Gospel Reading

In oday's "Daily Ignatian Reflection" from the Magis Institute, Mr. Joseph Simmons, S.J., provides another reflection on today's Gospel reading:

Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.  We are confronted in this Sunday's Gospel with one of Christ's stingingly simple truths: no amount of our fretting, fussing, or toiling will earn God's love.

I remember well the weekend I entered the Jesuit novitiate back in 2006.  A second-year novice and now dear friend introduced us new men to the ins and outs of the community kitchen.  He pointed out several small tasks that needed to be done daily - refilling the orange juice pitcher, wiping down the counters, cleaning the food trap in the dishwasher, etc.  Don't expect thanks for these deeds here, he cautioned.  Instead, he wryly offered, "your reward will be another jewel in your crown in heaven." We fifteen first-year novices laughed at this. Surely pettiness would not set in with such a good, generous group!

Anyone who has lived in community, or with a family, knows the sundry day-to-day chores and tasks that need attention to keep a home running smoothly.  And anyone with Martha-like tendencies knows how easy it can be to become petty, resentful, and frustrated when we compare our output with others'.  "I'd love to take a break, Lord, but if I don't do this, no one will," we tell ourselves, toiling with quiet indignation.  "I'd have time to pray if other people pitched in here and there."

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.

In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, we learn that the Enemy of human nature knows how to discourage us by twisting our good desires.  Like many Christians who desire to serve God and neighbor, Martha's sense of duty and charity turn sour when she compares her devoted service with Mary's apparent sloth.  Are there petty fixations or comparisons with others that block that 'better part' of sitting with Jesus?  Do any of our good works get twisted, becoming obstacles to charity and devotion?

Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.  Jesus' invitation to Martha, as it is to us today, is to hold our daily work and toils - even what is necessary - in a healthy balance with that 'better part'.  Do we do works out of generous freedom, willing to rest with the Lord when He calls?  What is the Lord inviting me to this Sabbath? 

A Reflection on Today's Gospel Reading

Today's assigned Gospel reading is from Saint Luke (Luke 10:38-42):

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me."

The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."

In today's "Salesian Sunday Reflection," which is adapted from L. Fiorelli's (ed.) Sermons of St. Francis de Sales, we read this reflection based on this Gospel reading:

"Today’s readings exhort us to listen to the Word of God. St. Francis de Sales has much to say about actively listening to the Word of God. Here are a few of his thoughts:

"Martha was anxious and upset about many things while Mary had no care but to listen to Jesus’ words. Our Lord reproved Martha because she was anxious, not because of her care for His needs. She had mixed motives. On the one hand, she desired to serve Our Lord. On the other hand, in busying herself with many tasks, she was anxious to appear as the perfect hostess. Since Jesus wanted Martha to listen to Him as Mary did, one dish well prepared would have sufficed to meet His needs.

"Our Lord makes it very clear that we must not only hear His words but also listen to them with the intention of making them profitable to ourselves. To profit from the word of God, we must let ourselves be moved by it in the depths of our heart. It is by listening to God’s word with the heart that we receive good inspirations. The heart comes alive and ever gains new strength and vigor.

"However, it is difficult to listen to the Word of God with our hearts when our hearts are filled with anxiety. God is full of care for His creatures, but with peace and tranquility. Yet, our care tends to be anxious. Birds stay caught in nets because they flutter wildly. So it is when we desire to escape an anxiety. Resolve to do nothing that your desire insists on until your mind has regained peace. Gently put yourself in God’s hands. Try calmly to moderate your desire according to reason. Our life consists in the today, this present moment in which we are living. Use with care all that is given you. Be free of all other care and leave the rest to Our Lord, who takes tender care of us and will surely provide sufficiently for your needs when you listen to His words and inspirations."

"Wear it Out Loud" T-shirt Project in Milton, VT

The 2009-2010 school year closed with strings of T-shirts on display around Milton, VT, by Milton High School students. These are a result of the "Wear it Out Loud" T-shirt project, a joint effort by the school and Milton Community Youth Coalition to promote comprehensive health.

For the Burlington Free Press article about this project, visit:

Burlington Free Press: Wearing it out loud in Milton (7 JUL 10)

Williston, VT, Marks First Week of Local Ambulance Service

After years of providing EMS first response service, the Williston, VT, Fire Department recently began providing transport service as well.

For the complete article from the Burlington Free Press, visit:

Burlington Free Press:  Williston marks first week of local ambulance service (7 JUL 10)

Williston Fire Department website:

Williston Fire Department

17 July 2010

Maine and Massachusetts to Receive Federal Funding to Turn Around Persistently Lowest Achieving Schools

The U.S. Department of Education has announced that Maine and Massachusetts will receive funding to turn around their persistently lowest achieving schools through the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program. These funds are part of the $3.5 billion that is being made available to states from money set aside in the 2009 budget and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“When a school continues to perform in the bottom five percent of the state and isn’t showing signs of growth or has graduation rates below 60 percent, something dramatic needs to be done,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a prepared statement. “Turning around our worst performing schools is difficult for everyone but it is critical that we show the courage to do the right thing by kids.”

The $13,139,919 made available to Maine and the $58,691,435 made available to Massachusetts is being distributed by formula to the state and will then be competed out by the state to school districts. In order for a school district to apply for these funds, it must have a state-identified “persistently lowest achieving” or a Tier III school — a school that has failed to meet adequate yearly progress for two years and is not identified as a persistently lowest achieving school.

However, Tier III schools can only receive funds once all of the state’s persistently lowest achieving schools have received funds. The applications of Maine and Massachusetts, which include their lists of persistently lowest achieving schools, as defined by the state, can be found here: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/sif/summary/index.html.

School districts will apply to the state for the funds. When school districts apply, they must indicate that they will implement one of the following four models in their persistently lowest achieving schools:

* TURNAROUND MODEL: Replace the principal, screen existing school staff, and rehire no more than half the teachers; adopt a new governance structure; and improve the school through curriculum reform, professional development, extending learning time, and other strategies.

* RESTART MODEL: Convert a school or close it and re-open it as a charter school or under an education management organization.

* SCHOOL CLOSURE: Close the school and send the students to higher-achieving schools in the district.

* TRANSFORMATION MODEL: Replace the principal and improve the school through comprehensive curriculum reform, professional development, extending learning time, and other strategies.

Once schools receive SIG funds, they will be able to begin to spend them immediately to turn around schools this fall. States may apply to the Education Department for a waiver to allow them to spend funds over a three-year period. An additional $545,633,000 has been provided for SIG in 2010 and will be awarded to states to fund additional schools in the 2011-12 school year. The department has also made a request for an additional $900 million for the program in the 2011 budget.

16 July 2010

New Hampshire Approves Contract for Beacon Communities Projects for Berlin, Nashua, and Plymouth

New Hampshire Governor John Lynch and the Executive Council have approved an $8.5 million contract that will allow work to begin on the Beacon Communities Project, a partnership between state and local communities that will put people to work cutting energy costs for homeowners, businesses, and taxpayers.

Representatives from the state government have worked with local communities, energy experts, and businesses to develop the model project, which was awarded a $10 million energy stimulus grant. Nashua, Berlin, and Plymouth will be New Hampshire's first three Beacon Communities.

The Beacon Communities Project will allow the communities of Nashua, Berlin, and Plymouth to embark on large-scale energy efficiency projects, which will be designed to save homeowners, businesses, and taxpayers on energy costs.

Through this project the three communities will have easy access to the technical expertise they need to implement comprehensive energy saving projects in their municipal buildings and in businesses and homes in their communities. The program is also designed to leverage private financing, utility programs, and other partnerships to stimulate investment in energy improvements and create jobs for local contractors and related businesses.

The $8.5 million contract, funded through a federal grant, is with the Community Development Finance Authority.

For more information:

New Hampshire Beacon Communities Project Summary

Bobby McFerrin: Ave Maria

A presentation of "Ave Maria" with Bobby McFerrin:

      Bobby McFerrin: Ave Maria

A Reflection Coming from Today's Office of Readings

The first psalm reading from today's Office of Readings begins:

Save me, God, for the waters have reached my neck. I have sunk into the mire of the deep, where there is no foothold. I have gone down to the watery depths; the flood overwhelms me. I am weary with crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes have failed, looking for my God. (Psalm 69:2-4)

I suspect many are the people who feel this way during these times.

Then, a bit later in today's Office of Readings comes this reading from 2 Chronicles:

After this the Moabites, the Ammonites, and with them some Meunites came to fight against Jehoshaphat. The message was brought to Jehoshaphat: "A great multitude is coming against you from across the sea, from Edom; they are already in Hazazon-tamar" (which is En-gedi). Jehoshaphat was frightened, and he hastened to consult the LORD. He proclaimed a fast for all Judah. Then Judah gathered to seek help from the LORD; from every one of the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD. Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem in the house of the LORD before the new court, and he said: "LORD, God of our fathers, are you not the God in heaven, and do you not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations? In your hand is power and might, and no one can withstand you. Was it not you, our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and gave it forever to the descendants of Abraham, your friend? They have dwelt in it and they built in it a sanctuary to your honor, saying, 'When evil comes upon us, the sword of judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you, for your name is in this house, and we will cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save!'"

All Judah was standing before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their young sons. And the spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel, son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the clan of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly, and he said: "Listen, all of Judah, inhabitants of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat! The LORD says to you: 'Do not fear or lose heart at the sight of this vast multitude, for the battle is not yours but God's. Go down against them tomorrow. You will see them coming up by the ascent of Ziz, and you will come upon them at the end of the wadi which opens on the wilderness of Jeruel. You will not have to fight in this encounter. Take your places, stand firm, and see how the LORD will be with you to deliver you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not fear or lose heart. Tomorrow go out to meet them, and the LORD will be with you.'" Then Jehoshaphat knelt down with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD in worship. Levites from among the Kohathites and Korahites rose to sing the praises of the LORD, the God of Israel, in a resounding chorus.

In the early morning they hastened out to the wilderness of Tekoa. As they were going out, Jehoshaphat halted and said: "Listen to me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Trust in the LORD, your God, and you will be found firm. Trust in his prophets and you will succeed." After consulting with the people, he appointed some to sing to the LORD and some to praise the holy Appearance as it went forth at the head of the army. They sang: "Give thanks to the LORD, for his mercy endures forever."

At the moment they began their jubilant hymn, the LORD laid an ambush against the Ammonites, Moabites, and those of Mount Seir who were coming against Judah, so that they were vanquished. For the Ammonites and Moabites set upon the inhabitants of Mount Seir and completely exterminated them. And when they had finished with the inhabitants of Seir, they began to destroy each other. When Judah came to the watchtower of the desert and looked toward the throng, they saw only corpses fallen on the ground, with no survivors.   (2 Chronicles 20:1-9,13-24)

A strong reminder, indeed, that the battle (including the struggle of everyday life) is the Lord's! May I (and each of us) "not fear or lose heart."

Give thanks to the Lord, for his mercy endures forever!

New Hampshire Beach House is a Place for Vets to Reconnect

Armed services veterans and active duty members and their families stay free at Ocean Boulevard home in Hampton Beach, NH:

New Hampshire Union Leader: Beach house is a place for vets to reconnect

12 July 2010

A Thought from James

As a follow-up to yesterday's Gospel reading about the Good Samaritan, "it just so happens" that the reading in today's Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours is from James 2:12-17:

"Speak and act as people who will be judged by the law of freedom. For the judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,' but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

Yet Another Reflection on the Story of the Good Samaritan

Father Austin Fleming, pastor of Holy Family Parish, Concord, Massachusetts, offered the following reflection on the story of the Good Samaritan:

"Were I a screenwriter, I’d love to write a screenplay for the story of the good Samaritan. I think it would make a very good short film.

"I’d keep the story in its own first century Mediterranean setting and I’d open with an aerial shot, zooming in on a band of highway muggers walking away from a limp, half-naked, wounded body on the road that goes from Jerusalem to Jericho.

"Cut then to a scene in a simple inn where an innkeeper is waiting on two customers, seated at different tables, each having dinner. From the innkeeper’s conversation with them we learn that one is a priest and the other a Levite."

To continue reading Father Fleming's  homily, please visit:
Father Fleming: "Who is my neighbor?" (Homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Another Reflection on the Story of the Good Samaritan

 Deacon Greg Kandra, from the Diocese of Brooklyn, NY, offers a homily for today's observance of the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time:

"If you visit the Holy Land, there is a museum that opened about a year ago that is getting a lot of attention, and attracting a lot of visitors. It stands on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho - the very same road mentioned in today's gospel. The museum holds various religious artifacts and mosaics. But what may be most intriguing is that it sits atop an archeological dig. Beneath the museum is the foundation of an ancient inn - dating back to the Byzantine era, and possibly even beyond. The museum's name says it all: it's called the Inn of the Good Samaritan.

"Which leads me to wonder: where did the parable in today's gospel come from? Could it have a basis in truth? Did Jesus witness some act of kindness like that, or hear about it?

"It's impossible to know. And, of course, it's not important if the story is literally true. Because what matters in the parable of the Good Samaritan is the larger truth it reveals about Christ's message, and the answer to the haunting question, 'Who is my neighbor?'"

To continue reading Deacon Greg's homily, visit:

Deacon Greg Kandra: Homily for July 11, 2010: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

11 July 2010

A Reflection on the Good Samaritan

Today's Daily Ignatian Reflection from the Magis Institute (Sunday, 11 July 2010; 15th Week in Ordinary Time), by Father Rob Kroll, S.J.:

"Today's Gospel presents us with the beloved story of the Good Samaritan, an important parable for us who are well- off in many ways; materially comfortable, physically healthy, emotionally fulfilled, and psychologically balanced etc... Our neighbor, says Jesus is every human being whose suffering we encounter on a regular basis.  We come across many types of suffering people as we travel the roads of life: the homeless man with the cardboard sign on the roadside, the lonely relative isolated in the hospital or nursing home, the friend struggling with depression or divorce, the unemployed son or daughter struggling to barely get food on the table, the colleague whose ignorance of the faith or lack of a personal friendship with Christ leaves her vulnerable to sin and a victim of the prevailing cultural values.  Are we neighbor to these people?

"The priest and Levite do not mistreat the robbers' half-dead victim, stealing whatever the robbers overlooked or verbally abusing the man. They simply pass by on the opposite side, much like the rich man Dives ignored the beggar Lazarus at his gate each day. But are not sins of omission as frequent and serious as the active sins we commit, if not more so?

"As he encounters the suffering of a Jewish man, the Samaritan could have rationalized a course of inaction: 'I'm too busy to stop' or 'Those Jews disdain us Samaritans - he's my enemy.' But instead, moved with compassion, he approaches the victim and then cares for him. When faced with the suffering of others, do we experience compassion in our hearts and then do something to help relieve their pain? Often the gesture needed is very small: a kind word, a listening ear, a smile, a brief explanation of a Catholic doctrine or practice."

(Father Kroll is associate director, Demontreville Jesuit Retreat House, near Lake Elmo, Minnesota)

How do I respond when someone is in need, and I am in a position to help?

I'm remembering a couple of incidents this past week - minor incidents, but incidents in which I did not respond.

The first was a burglar alarm that started going off in the middle of the morning while I was doing something in the kitchen. It was coming from the direction of the rear of the house, and sounded close. I'm usually very good about promptly calling these in; most of the time they are accidental, but a couple of times there was a break involved. This time, though, I ignored it.

A little later that day, I was going to the bank to make a withdrawal, and, on this walk, I reflected on how unlike me it was to ignore somthing like that. As I was starting to head back, I noticed a lady bent over picking something up in the bank parking lot. I ignored that until I saw a gentleman bendiing down to help her. I looked again and saw that she had apparently dropped a roll of quarters, and the two of them were picking them up. I continued walking, and then I thought - how unlike me.

This was twice within an hour or so, and I really don't have a good explanation for why I didn't act. I only know I was very disappointed with myself.

May the Lord guide me in appropriately responding in situations that come before me.

Rye, NH, Firefighters Back Up Town Lifeguards

Rye, NH, firefighters are teaming up with town lifeguards to improve beach safety.

For the complete article from the Portsmouth Herald, visit:

Portsmouth Herald: Rye Fire Department backs up town's lifeguards (11 JUL 10)

Ministry Uses Water Sports to Reach Out to At-risk Youth

The Christian ministry, In His Wakes (which is based in North Carolina), has been ministering to at-risk youth in the Windham, Maine, area. This ministry uses water sports to help at-risk youths overcome challenges in their lives.

To read the complete article from the Portland Press Herald, visit:
Portland Press Herald: Ministry uses water sports as a steadying influence

Background information:
In His Wakes

09 July 2010

07 July 2010

The Declaration – Then and Now

The Declaration – Then and Now

by Stephanie Raha, Editor-in-Chief of The Christophers

July 5, 2010

Happy Independence Day! This great national holiday means so much more than Red, White and Blue celebrations with parades, picnics, fireworks and family get-togethers. At some point during the day, call to mind that on July 4, 1776, the 13 British colonies in America chose liberty and changed history.

Our founders risked their lives to make the American Revolution possible. The Declaration of Independence and later the Constitution of the United States were magnificent documents filled with power and promise. They set in motion a nation of great ideals, energy and accomplishment.

Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration, later said, “The American war is over, but this is far from being the case with the American Revolution. On the contrary, nothing but the first act of the great drama is closed.”

He was right. Those founding documents, as profound as they were, had flaws which led inexorably to another war for the liberty of slaves whose rights had been ignored. So yet another generation took a stand to fight – and often, die – for what they believed.

“Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. …” When President Abraham Lincoln said those words in 1863, he was referring to the Declaration of Independence. His address at the dedication of the national cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in the middle of the Civil War, has come to be almost as well known as the Declaration which he treasured as both a living document and a moral imperative.

Take time to read the Declaration. The words with which Lincoln identified are the same ones most Americans relate to today:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” It concludes: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Most of the signers suffered for their support of America’s independence. Some even died along with many other patriots on the battlefield. The Civil War claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands. And many more died during the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and now in Afghanistan and Iraq. Liberty comes at a price.

Democracy is a difficult, dangerous business for every generation. But if we want to insure, as Lincoln said, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” we need to commit ourselves to the cause. May God grant each of us the courage to stand up and speak out for peace, justice and truth – whatever it takes.

(This essay is this week's "Light One Candle" column, written by Stephanie Raha, Editor-in-Chief of The Christophers; it is one of a series of weekly columns that deal with a variety of topics and current events.)

05 July 2010

Connecticut Law Allows Towns to Take Over Abandoned Cemeteries, but Provides No Funding

Connecticut has joined a number of states enacting laws that let towns acquire abandoned cemeteries if they cannot find the legal owners or heirs and if no burials have taken place for generations, but the law provides no funding.

For more information, visit:

The Day: Old Montville burying ground among forsaken cemeteries (5 JUL 10)

Reflection on Saint Thomas

Saturday was the feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle.

Here is a reflection from a homily by Father John Denburger, OCSO, given on that day - a meditation from a point of view I don't think I've considered before (Fr. Denburger is a  Trappist priest from the Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, NY.):

"Thomas had missed out badly; he was somewhere else when Jesus appeared to the disciples. We are not told where. Perhaps, in his grief he had to get away from the others; the atmosphere in that upper room had become so heavy that it was unbearable. When he was told of Jesus appearance, Thomas was dumbfounded. I think he was also angry, embarrassed and like a child stamping his foot, he made his demand. 'Unless I see, unless I touch....I will not believe!'

"Now eight days later, Thomas is present and Jesus takes up his challenge: 'Thomas, put your finger here..bring your hand...put it in my side!' I think poor Thomas was ready to die of fright at that moment. The gospel account does not tell us if Thomas touched the Lord but we do hear his response - one of awe, one of belief: 'My Lord and my God!'

"There is a period of eight days separating those two events; I can help but wonder what went on between Thomas and the others during that time. Did he hide? Did they take him aside, badger him, try to prove that Jesus had appeared to them? What was going through Thomas’s mind? Did he wonder if he would ever see Jesus as they supposedly had? It could have happened that in a kind of despair that he went off by himself never to return.

"In all this there is a lesson or two we might learn for our own faith journey. The Lord did not appear immediately to Thomas even with his demand. God is not a puppet we control or a lackey who jumps at our every wish. God in His wisdom comes when He wills, answers how He wills. And in the waiting we learn what it means to believe, what it means to trust. In the Rule of Saint Benedict, the monastery is called a school of the Lord’s service - and school is not always easy. There are difficult lessons that take time, patience and above all, reliance on God’s grace. As believers, we are always in the school of the Lord’s service. Graduation only comes with death!

"I would like to believe that sometime later Thomas came to see that the Lord had sustained him during those days of waiting. I would like to believe that Thomas realized that it was the grace of the Risen Lord that brought him back to that room. Unseen, the Lord was present all along, leading Thomas out of his anger, his embarrassment into a deeper faith and a more profound peace.

"In our journey of faith, may we come to see, to know deeply that all along our own unique journey, the unseen Lord is leading us, gracing us with faith and hope. Here in this Mass, very shortly, you and I will touch the Lord and He will touch us in Holy Communion - this is never a casual touch. It is much much more - we place our lives in Him and He places His life in us. Like Thomas brought to the room on the eighth day, so the Lord has brought us here for this most sacred act. Of that, there is no doubt! 'Harden not your hearts.' (Ps 95) Can you hear His voice: 'But who do you say that I am?'"

For more information about the Abbey of the Genesee (Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance), visit:

     Abbey of the Genesee

04 July 2010

What did Lincoln say at Gettysburg?

Deacon Greg Kandra (from the Diocese of Brooklyn) has shared this film clip from the 1935 movie, Ruggles of Red Gap, and it definitely fits right in with our celebration of Independence Day:

     The Deacon's Bench : What did Lincoln say at Gettysburg?

     YouTube: Ruggles of Red Gap - Gettysburg Address

Cambridge, MA, Review Committee Reports on Perceived Police Racial Profiling Case

Last July in Cambridge, MA, a dispute between a black Harvard University professor and a white sergeant from the Cambridge Police Department attracted national attention.  The dispute occurred after police responded to a report of a possible break-in at the professor’s home. Because the door had been jammed in a recent break, the professor's limousine driver driver forced the door open so the professor could enter. the sergeant arrived on the front steps while the professor was in the kitchen.

The dispute that followed led to the arrest of the professor on disorderly conduct charges (charges which were later dropped).
It also led to intense national scrutiny on the Cambridge Police Department and its relationship with minorities in the community, and it led to a national discussion on racial profiling.

In September, the Cambridge Review Committee was formed to identify what might be learned from the experience of that July encounter and to make recommendations to the city and the larger national police community. That report, entitled Missed Opportunities, Shared Responsibilities, is now complete and has been released (see link below).

Even before the report was released, the Cambridge Police Department began looking at several aspects of their community relations process. This includes including training, relationships with the community, and communications.

One of the main aspects of the training relates to legitimacy in the community. This training is helping officers understand how the public perceives their interaction with the police and how this perception can be just as important – and in some cases more important – than the actual outcome of the interaction.

The police commissioner has also begun reaching out to several people in the city to begin the process of forming a community advisory group. One focus of this group will be to assist the department in increasing its sensitivity to Cambridge citizen perspectives on community safety and policing. The department has also begun to explore alternative dispute resolution and mediation techniques to address negative interactions citizens may have with officers.

The police department's leadership also is aware it needs to improve the way it handles communication, both internally and externally. The department has hired a communications professional, and, with his assistance, has launched a Facebook page (Cambridge Police Department) and Twitter account (@CambridgePolice) to reach out to a people who receive and exchange information through social networking. The department is also training its senior command staff in communications issues.

This entire response is a work in progress for the Cambridge Police Department, and the entire process has led to other police departments, in this region and beyond, examining their own procedures.

For more information:

Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas Press Conference Remarks (30 JUN 10)

Cambridge Review Committee Final Report: Missed Opportunities, Shared Responsibilities (15 JUN 10)

Related media reports:

Prayer Celebrating This Nation's Freedom

This was shared with me today:

"Lord God Almighty, in whose name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant, we beseech thee, that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

(from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979 edition)

03 July 2010

Happy Independence Day!!!

As we prepare for the celebration of Independence Day (which, unfortunately, too many people only know as the Fourth of July), it might be good to reflect on what this holiday is all about.

In the summer of 1776 as the Second Continental Congress was meeting in Philadelphia, several threads were in play. There was already active warfare going on between the colonies and England.

This warfare had been preceded by events such as the burning of the British revenue schooner, HMS Gaspée, in Narragansett Bay, RI, in June 1772, and a raid by colonial militia on Fort William and Mary in Portsmouth Harbor, NH, in December 1774. Then came the event in Lexington, MA, that was to trigger what came to be known as the "shot heard 'round the world" as approximately 77 colonists assembled against a force of some 700 British troops who were marching to seize weapons and munitions they had heard the colonists were storing in Concord. To this day, no one knows who who fired the shot that triggered the exchange of fire (or even whether it was fired intentionally or accidentally), a skirmish that killed eight of the colonists.

This was followed by a larger battle in Concord, where the British troops met a force of approximately 400 colonial militia (the "minutemen" that many of us have read or heard about). After this battle, the British began retreating toward Boston, and, as they did so, they were fired upon along the route by a militia force that had now grown to about 4000.

Thus began the American Revolution in earnest. There was more fighting in New England (in Massachusetts [including Maine, which was then a part of Massachusetts], Rhode Island, and Connecticut), but the war (and most of the fighting) spread to the Middle Colonies and then to the Southern Colonies.

Initially many of the colonists were not really thinking of independence. Rather, they were protesting unfair British rule of the colonies, while others did not have strong feelings about the conflict. However, as the war dragged on, there was a growing movement for independence. The delegates to the Second Continental Congress were aware of this, and many were part of the movement.

In May of 1776, Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a resolution stating that the United Colonies were free and independent states. The Congress appointed a committee (including Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams) to follow up on this. The committee, with Jefferson doing most of the writing came up with a document that put forth a number of reasons for separation from Britain.

Even more than that, this document starts off with a list of natural rights and goes on to state that governments are set up to protect these rights, and that, if a government violates these rights, the people have a right to abolish that government and create a new one.

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . . ."

Then this document lists a number of grievances to show that the British government had violated these rights, and, finally, the document declares that the colonies are now free and independent states.

This document, which we now call the Declaration of Independence, was approved by the Continental Congress on the 4th of July and was actually signed by the delegates on the 2nd of August.

"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

Unfortunately, too few students learn much about this Declaration, what went into its development, and what this means to them. Fortunately, there is a movement in many states, including here in New England, to focus better on civics instruction.

Civics, a branch of social studies, focuses on the role of citizens and their relationship with their government. This includes studying how the system of government works and encouraging students to get involved.

One strong proponent of civics education is recently retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Last summer I sent him a note to thank him for and to encourage his promotion of civics education.

An excerpt from this note:

"I . . . want to thank you in a special way for your promotion of civics instruction, something I think is so very important.

"I grew up in Southington, Connecticut, and the local high school did offer a civics class. However, the only students required to take the class were those in the 'general' course of studies.  Those of us in the college preparation or other courses did not need to, and very few did.  I chose to because I thought it was important to understand how our government worked on the various levels and with its various related elements, and I am grateful to this day.

"Many years later, I began teaching language arts and social studies to 7th and 8th grade students at St. Patrick School in Providence, RI.  As part of my social studies curriculum (the focus of which, during these two years, was supposed to be U.S. history) for those fifteen years, I made sure to include a civics segment (usually about 10-15% of the course).

"Although the school is now transitioning to a high school and I am no longer part of the faculty, I am glad I chose to put as much effort into it as I did.  On reflection, I believe there were ways I could have done better, but I do hope the seeds that were planted and nurtured bear fruit.  One thing is for sure – the classes I spent on civics-related subjects usually brought forth more discussion than just about anything else, and it often took me longer to get through this material than it did for other subject matter.

"Thank you for your recent encouraging words related to civics education and for your commitment to this cause.  I wish you well in this.  May your efforts bear much fruit for the students and other people of New Hampshire, of New England, and throughout the United States."

During these times a lot of American citizens are taking the country and its leadership to task in many ways - and there are many things that need to be corrected in this country. But we must not forget that there is a lot right with it. There are many good people throughout this great nation who have a lot of good ideas and a lot of enthusiasm. There are many good people who have a strong love for this nation and everything it stands for. There are many good reasons to have hope - and one of the best reasons in the nation's motto (which many people do take to heart): "In God we trust."

Happy 234th birthday, United States of America!!!

For more information about the Declaration, visit:

National Archives: The Charters of Freedom: Declaration of Independence

To continue this celebration:

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir: You're A Grand Old Flag

Reflection Starter from the Annunciation of the Lord

While reflecting on the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary (the Annunciation of the Lord) this morning, I was picturing Mary just bopping around attending to her duties.

There are two traditions related to this - one is that the archangel, Gabriel, appeared to her while she was at the local well, and the other is that Gabriel appeared to her while she was at home. I don't know which - if either - is true, but I suspect she was attending to some duty or need.

Anyway, all of a sudden this strange figure appeared and invited her to become the mother of Jesus. I can imagine her being overwhelmed with a variety of different emotions during this event. She did, however, accept this invitation.

While I don't expect an angel to appear before me with an invitation from the good Lord, I am often extended one just the same. This same son of God, the Lord Jesus, whom Mary carried as a little baby, often has called and continues to call me (and others) to spend some time with Him.  It may be for a visit in a chapel before the Blessed Sacrament, and it may be at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This same Jesus is just as real there as he was as a little baby in Bethlehem, as a young boy growing up in Nazareth, as an itinerant preacher going throughout the Holy Land, as the crucified Savior on the cross, and as the One seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven.

How do I respond?

02 July 2010

A Reflection Starter from Saint Francis De Sales

"When you are sick, offer to Our Lord all your grief, pain and weakness, and beseech Him to join them to the torments He suffered for you. Obey your doctor, take your medicine, food and other remedies for the love of God, remembering the gall He drank out of love for you. Do not refuse sufferings to obey Him, yet desire to get well so as to be able to serve Him. If it should be God's will, prepare yourself for death, to praise Him and to be happy with Him forever. Remember that while bees are making honey they live and feed on bitter food. Likewise, we can never perform acts of greater sweetness and patience, or create the honey of excellent virtues, better than when we eat the bread of bitterness and live amid afflictions. Just as the best honey is gathered from the blossoms of thyme, a small, bitter, herb, so also virtue practiced in the bitterness of the most vile, low and abject humiliations is the most excellent of all." - Saint Francis De Sales, as given in Daily with De Sales - July (http://www.oblates.org/spirituality/daily_with_desales/july.php).