29 February 2012

National Crime Prevention Council Offers Tips on School Safety Following News of Ohio School Shooting

After this week’s school violence in Ohio, the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) offered a number of helpful tips about recognizing the potential warning signs of school violence.

According to NCPC, warning signs for potential school violence include:

  • threats to bring a weapon to school,
  • talk about retaliation or a copycat crime,
  • overhearing or seeing a “hit list” at school or online,
  • troubling essays or other disturbing writing,
  • sudden changes in a student’s behavior or mood swings
  • students with difficulty controlling or handling conflict
  • students experiencing bullying or other means of peer isolation,
  • mention of an upcoming anniversary date of a past shooting, and
  • glorification of another school shooter or criminal

For additional information on tips and strategies to prevent school violence, please visit:

NCPC: School Safety and Security Toolkit: A Guide for Parents, Schools, and Communities

Background information:

National Crime Prevention Council

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for Your Law and for the Love behind it.

Msgr. Pope on God’s Law in Our Lives

“There is a danger when we speak of God’s Law, to think of it as we might think of any secular law. We usually think of secular law merely to be some sort of impersonal code written by some nameless legislators or bureaucrats. We have not met them, we do not know them, or necessarily love or trust them. In effect, they are an abstraction in our mind called ‘the government’ or ‘the man’ or just ‘they,’ as in, ‘They don’t want you to park here’ or ‘They’ll arrest you for that.’

“. . . But when it comes to God’s Law we are dealing with something quite different, something very personal, if we have faith. For God’s law is not given by someone we do not know, love or trust. If we have faith, God is someone we do in fact know, someone we love and trust. Further, we believe he loves us and wants what is best for us.”

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on God’s law and its role in our lives.

To access Msgr. Pope's complete post, please visit:

Msgr. Charles Pope: God’s Law is Deeply Personal and Loving (27 FEB 12)

Reflection Starter from Saint Cyprian

“The commands of the Gospel are nothing else than God’s lessons, the foundations on which to build up hope, the supports for strengthening faith, the food that nourishes the heart.” - Saint Cyprian, bishop and martyr

28 February 2012

Federal Agencies Release Environmental Justice Strategies, implementation plans and progress reports

Recently, federal agencies, led by the Council on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, released environmental justice strategies, implementation plans, and progress reports designed to outline steps the agencies will take to protect communities facing greater health and environmental risks.

As part of this process, federal agencies have reviewed their portfolios to assess how their programs, policies, and activities may have disproportionately adverse health and environmental effects. Through this review, they worked to identify strategies, as well as specific programs and initiatives, to reduce environmental or health hazards, ensure access to beneficial programs, and increase community participation in agency decision-making.

Examples of some of these initiatives include:

  • The Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration is finalizing an environmental justice circular to help grantees determine whether there are any minority or low-income populations that may be adversely affected by a transit project or decision. DOT’s Federal Highway Administration is working with the National Highway Institute to revamp their course on environmental justice and Title VI.
  • The U.S. Department of Labor is translating educational materials and hazard alerts into Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese to ensure that minority workers have access to information they need to avoid environmental hazards on the job.
  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is helping to provide green jobs and workforce development opportunities for veterans in minority and low-income communities.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with communities to use Health Impact Assessments, to help proactively address the potential impacts a policy or project might have on minority and low income populations (e.g., in Baltimore, MD, work is under way to evaluate the human health impact of a vacant property redevelopment program).

For more information about Federal agency strategies and implementation plans, please visit:

EPA: Environmental Justice: Compendium of Federal Agencies' Policies, Strategies, Work/Implementation Plans, Guidance on Environmental Justice

This Week’s New England City & Town Weekly Dispatch

To access this week’s issue of New England City & Town Weekly Dispatch, please visit:

New England City & Town Weekly Dispatch - 28 February 2012

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for natural treats, like rays of sunshine on a cloudy day.

A Look at the Ministry of Prison Chaplaincy

"About 2.3 million people are incarcerated in federal and state prisons and county jails in the United States, and nearly five million more are on probation or parole.  The number of those imprisoned has spiked since the late 1970s, and today, the US has a far higher number of prisoners per capita than any nation in the world. The US has about 5 percent of the world’s population and about 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.

"While many inmates do not practice any religion, a significant percentage are baptized Catholics, and the ordeal of life in prison prompts them to seek the counsel of a Catholic chaplain or other Catholic volunteer involved in prison ministry. CWR recently spoke to four Catholics dedicated to prison ministry, who shared their insights on how they bring Christ to those living behind bars."

In a recent report, Catholic World Report examined the ministry of prison chaplains.

To access this report, please visit:

Catholic World Report: Bringing the Lord (22 FEB 12)

Reflection Starter from Johann von Goethe

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” - Johann von Goethe

27 February 2012

Richard Smallwood & Vision: "Holy Thou Art God"

As our Lenten observance continues, I offer Richard Smallwood and Vision, with Vanessa Williams, singing "Holy Thou Art God":

National Invasive Species Awareness Week

This week, the week of 26 February–3 March, is National Invasive Species Awareness Week. It is a week initiated to focus on issues related to invasive species prevention, detection, monitoring, control, and management at local, state, regional, national, and international levels.

For more information related to this observance, please visit:

National Invasive Species Awareness Week

Facebook: National Invasive Species Awareness Week

Background information:

National Invasive Species Council

Additional Items on HHS Mandate

Over the past couple of weeks, there have been a number of news reports and commentaries related to the HHS mandate regarding coverage of sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients:

News reports:

EWTN News: Thousands of women oppose contraception mandate in open letter (23 FEB 12)

Catholic News Service: Revised contraceptive mandate prompts reaction from Catholic groups (16 FEB 12)

Catholic News Service: Obama's revised HHS mandate won't solve problems, USCCB president says (13 FEB 12)

National Catholic Reporter: Bishops are not 'Obama haters,' Dolan insists (14 FEB 12)

National Catholic Register: 12 Attorneys General Intend to Sue Over HHS Mandate (17 FEB 12)

Religion News Service: Lutherans find common with Catholics on Obama mandate (23 FEB 12)

Jewish World Review: Religion divides? Not yesterday in Congress (17 FEB 12)


CatholicVote: Dr. Janet Smith: Thank you President Obama for making Catholics more Catholic… (22 FEB 12)

Chicago Tribune: Commentary: John Garvey: Religious liberty? (19 FEB 12)

Washington Post: On Faith blog: In defense of the Catholic Church (22 FEB 12)

The Catholic Difference: George Wiegel: HHS and soft totalitarianism (15 FEB 12)

First Things: On the Square: Obama Has Stranded the Catholic Left (14 FEB 12)

New York Times: Ross Douthat: Divide and Conquer (13 FEB 12)

National Review Online: Rich Lowry: Kulturkampf as Public Health (17 FEB 12)

Boston Pilot Editorial: Locking the door (17 FEB 12)

Boston Pilot: The HHS mandate in historical perspective (17 FEB 12)

NC Register: Mark Shea: Fr. Robert Barron on Obama's Secular Totalitarianism (17 FEB 12)

Crisis Magazine: The Coming Age of the Laity (22 FEB 12)

Background information:

Pope John Paul II: Encyclial Letter Centesimus annus (on the hundredth anniversary of Rerum Novarum) (1 May 1991)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of health, at whatever stage it is at.

A Reflection on Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Human Body

“It is a fact widely acknowledged that man’s common intellectual heritage suffers from a dearth of theological analyses of Sherlock Holmes. Emboldened by the direness of the need, I will overlook the inadequacies of my own pen and turn now to make some small redress of this lamentable paucity.

“Sherlock Holmes is, like any artist, a keen observer of the material world, and he uses his art to reconstruct and anticipate malefactors’ movements by analyzing the physical traces left by their patterns of behavior. Some mistake his art for mechanism, considering Holmes to be a prophetic voice for twenty-first century scientific determinism, able to solve crimes because he knows that the world of men is reducible to mere matter and the physical laws that govern it; the delightful pair of Robert Downey, Jr., Sherlock Holmes movies take this idea to its entertaining extreme. But in Doyle’s vision, his master detective is no materialist; he is merely a man who understands the meaning of the body.”

In a recent commentary, Brother Gabriel Torretta, O.P., reflected on the similarities of the understanding of the human body by Sherlock Holmes and Blessed Pope John Paul II.

To access Br. Gabriel’s complete post, please visit:

Dominica: Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Body (17 FEB 12)

Background information:

Wikipedia: The Adventure of the Empty House

eNotes: The Best of Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Empty House

Love & Responsibility Foundation: JPII: Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body

EWTN: General Audiences: John Paul II's Theology of the Body

Reflection Starter from A.A. Milne

“Time is swift, it races by;
Opportunities are born and die. . .
Still you wait and will not try -
A bird with wings who dares not rise and fly.” - A.A. Milne

26 February 2012

All You Works of the Lord, Bless the Lord - Kenneth Jennings

As our Sunday celebration continues, I offer the Deo Cantamus Chorale singing Kenneth Jennings' "All You Works of the Lord, Bless the Lord":

L.L. Bean Celebrating 100th Anniversary

A recent Sun Journal article profiled L.L. Bean, a Maine-based company well-known for its apparel and its outdoor equipment. The company is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

To access this Sun Journal article, please visit:

Sun Journal: L.L. Bean: The stuff of legend (26 FEB 12)

Background information:


L.L.Bean: 100th Anniversary

Facebook: L.L.Bean

Wikipedia: L.L.Bean

BusinessWire: L.L.Bean Celebrates 100th Anniversary with a Year-Long Mission in Partnership with the National Park Foundation to Re-Ignite America’s Love of the Outdoors (18 JAN 12)

Note: Myrna and I are among L.L.Bean’s many satisfied customer. If memory serves me correctly, I my first purchase from the company was a Swiss Army knife (well over two decades ago).

First Sunday of Lent

Today the Church celebrates the First Sunday of Lent. The assigned readings are Genesis 9:8-15, 3:1-7; 1 Peter 3:18-22; and Mark 1:12-15. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 25 (Psalm 25:4-9).

For one version of the Responsorial Psalm set to music, please visit:

YouTube: Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 25 The Ways of the Lord are Love and Truth

The Gospel reading is as follows:

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."

Reflections on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: First Sunday of Lent (February 26, 2012)

Msgr. Charles Pope: It looked Like the Sun Wasn’t gon’ Shine no More, But God Put A Rainbow In the Sky – A Reflection on the Readings for the First Sunday of Lent (25 FEB 12)

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio: What's Noah's Ark have to Do with Lent?

The Deacon's Bench: Homily for February 26, 2012: 1st Sunday of Lent (25 FEB 12)

The Lectionary: Lent is a time of preparation and renewal (23 FEB 12)

Dr. Scott Hahn: The New Creation (February 26th, 2012 - First Sunday of Lent)

The Word Encountered: Floods and Deserts (First Sunday of Lent B)

Dominican Daily: Word to Life » Sirius/XM Radio: First Sunday of Lent (24 FEB 12)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many opportunities You offer us to spread Your Good News.

Benedictine Nun to Be at Academy Awards Ceremony

Among the many celebrities who will be appearing at tonight’s presentation of the Academy Awards will be a Benedictine nun from a cloister in Bethlehem, Connecticut. Those of a certain age may remember actress Dolores Hart, who appeared in ten movies (including Loving You, Where the Boys Are, Francis of Assisi, and Come Fly with Me). In 1963, Ms. Hart entered the Benedictine order at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut.

Now known as Mother Dolores (she is Prioress of the abbey), she will be at the Oscar ceremony because God is the Bigger Elvis, a short documentary film about her story, received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary (Short Subject). The film is scheduled to be released in April.

Media reports:

Rome Reports: Benedictine nun set to make splash at this years Oscar ceremony (24 FEB 12)

New York Times: A Nun Returns to the Red Carpet (24 FEB 12)

New York Times: Op-Ed Column: Maureen Dowd: Where the Boys Aren’t (18 FEB 12)

Sojourners: Mother Dolores Hart: God is Bigger than Elvis (31 JAN 12)

Entertainment Weekly: Mother Dolores Hart: The Nun Who Kissed Elvis Presley (11 FEB 11)

ABC News 20/20: Leaving Hollywood for a Higher Calling (9 AUG 02)

YouTube: Dolores Hart 20/20 Interview

Background information:

Abbey of Regina Laudis, Bethlehem, CT

Wikipedia: Dolores Hart

The Order of Saint Benedict

Reflection Starter from Blessed Pope John Paul II

“Lent is a season of intense prayer, fasting and concern for those in need. It offers all Christians an opportunity to prepare for Easter by serious discernment about their lives, with particular attention to the word of God which enlightens the daily journey of all who believe.” – Blessed Pope John Paul II (from his message for Lent 2003)

25 February 2012

Mannheim Steamroller: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

It's time for a little Mannheim Steamroller. This is their rendition of the Walt Disney song, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" (from their CD, Mannheim Steamroller Meets The Mouse)

Miscellaneous Items

There have been a number of issues in the news over the past few weeks. Here are a few news items and commentaries related to some of them:

National Catholic Register: 2 Women Defeat Washington Plan B Law (23 FEB 12)

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National Right to Life News Today: Pervasive, not Invasive: The lies told about Virginia’s Ultrasound Bill (24 FEB 12)

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NPR: R.I. Student Draws Ire Over School Prayer Challenge (14 FEB 12)

RI Catholic: School committee votes against appeal in banner case (23 FEB 12)

Providence Journal: School officials: No rush to remove Cranston West prayer banner; ACLU disagrees (22 FEB 12)

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Column: John Stossel: Never Trust Government Numbers (15 FEB 12)

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Wall Street Journal: Opinion: Social Issues and the Santorum Surge (18 FEB 12)

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LiveAction: Planned Parenthood CEO’s False Mammogram Claim Exposed (30 MAR 11)

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“A lie can run around the world six times while the truth is still trying to put on its pants.” – attributed to Mark Twain

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” – attributed to John Adams

Marcellino D'Ambrosio Offers Ideas for a Fruitful Lenten Observance

In a recent post in The Integrated Catholic Life, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio offered number of suggestions for making this year’s observance of Lent a fruitful one.

Included in this recommendations are:

  • Get up earlier than anyone else in your house and spend your first 15 minutes of the day thanking God for the gift of life and offering your day to Him.
  • Make a decision to read at least some Scripture every day.
  • Even if you can’t get to daily Mass, get a daily Catholic Missal or go online or get Catholic One smart phone app to get a list of the readings used each day in Mass, and read these readings daily.  During special seasons such as Lent, the Mass readings are thematically coordinated and make for a fantastic Bible study!
  • Make it a habit to stop at least five times a day, raise your heart and mind to God, and say a short prayer such as “Jesus, I love you,” or “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” or “Lord, I offer it up for you.”
  • Pray each day for your bishop and all the bishops of the Catholic Church.
  • Pray for your enemies.  In fact, think of the person who has most hurt you or who most annoys you and spend several minutes each day thanking God for that person and asking God to bless him or her.

To access Dr. D'Ambrosio’s post, please visit:

The Integrated Catholic Life: 40 Ways to get the Most out of Lent (22 FEB 12)

Conway, NH, 100th School Day Celebration Serves Local Charities

Students at Pine Tree School in Conway, NH, recently celebrated the 100th day of school by participating in activities that benefited seven local charities.

Media report:

Conway Daily Sun: Pine Tree students celebrate 100th day of school by giving back to their community (25 FEB 12)

Background information:

Pine Tree School

School Administrative Unit #9

Town of Conway

Wikipedia: Conway, New Hampshire

National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month

February is Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month, a national effort designed to raise awareness about abuse in teen and 20-something relationships and to promote programs that prevent it.

Background information:

Teen DV Month

Presidential Proclamation - National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, 2012

Office of Adolescent Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for opportunities for spiritual growth, whether we avail ourselves of them or not.

Joe Heschmeyer on Death and Our Resurrection

“. . . as we went up for ashes, there's a good chance that as he applied them to our foreheads, the priest said, “Remember, man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” a reference to Genesis 3:19.  A friend of mine asked how we, as Catholics, should understand this, in light of our belief in the resurrection of the body.  I'd been thinking about the same thing yesterday.  The short answer is that to believe in the resurrection of the body, you must first believe in death and decay.”

In a recent commentary, Joe Heschmeyer reflected on death as a natural part of life and its role as a gateway to our eternal destination.

To access his complete post, please visit:

Shameless Popery: Remembering You Are Dust, in the Hope of the Resurrection (23 FEB 12)

Reflection Starter from Thomas Jefferson

“If we move in mass, be it ever so circuitously, we shall attain our object; but if we break into squads, everyone pursuing the path he thinks most direct, we become an easy conquest to those who can now barely hold us in check.” - Thomas Jefferson (in a letter to William Duane, 1811)

24 February 2012

"Jesus Hold My Hand"

As our Lenten observance continues, I offer this version of "Jesus Hold My Hand" (this may be a college choir):

Environment Maine Report Examines Effects of Extreme Weather in Maine

While is some discussion among scientists about the type of climate change that has been affecting the planet over the past several years, there is documentation that provides evidence of change. One such report was recently released by Environment Maine, an environmental advocacy organization.

This report, In the Path of the Storm: Global Warming, Extreme Weather, and the Impacts of Weather-Related Disasters in the United States, examined county-level weather-related disaster declaration data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for 2006 through 2011 to determine how many Mainers live in counties hit by recent weather disasters. The report also details a variety of science offerings on the projected influence of global warming on heavy rain and snow; heat, drought and wildfires; and hurricanes and coastal storms.  In addition, the report explores how the damage from even non-extreme weather events could increase due to other impacts of global warming such as sea level rise.

To access the complete report, please visit:

Environment Maine Research & Policy Center: In the Path of the Storm (February 2012)

Background information:

Environment Maine

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for opportunities You place before us to do acts on penance on Fridays during Lent and throughout the year.

Archbishop Charles Chaput on Observing Lent

In a recent homily, Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., reflected on the meaning of Lent and explained the fasting, prayer, and almsgiving that Catholic are called to during the six week preparation for Easter. (Archbishop Charles Chaput is Archbishop of Philadelphia.)

To access this video reflection, please visit:

YouTube: Preparing for Lent

Reflection Starter from Saint Francis de Sales

"Whatsoever happens, never let go; hold steadfastly to God, in peace, trusting His Everlasting Love for you." - Saint Francis de Sales

23 February 2012

Report Examines the Financing of Parks in Urban and Metropolitan Infrastructure

Although public parks play a vital role in Americans’ health and quality of life, they are currently facing a funding crisis. In response, the Urban Institute, the National Recreation and Park Association, and their partners recently hosted a roundtable that explored ways to finance urban and metropolitan parks. Experts discussed urban parks’ largest challenges, including maintaining enormous amounts of land, serving a changing constituency, and addressing competition for public funds. Participants offered possible solutions, such as charging visitor fees, forming new partnerships, and increasing donations.

To access a report that summarizes those proceedings, please visit:

William Fulton: Financing the Future: The Critical Role of Parks in Urban and Metropolitan Infrastructure

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways light enhances our view of Your natural creation, of architecture, and of other features.

Stacy Trasancos on the Role of Faith in Science

". . .  if I had to name the most important issue in science today, it would be something more over-arching. It would be the general issue of metaphysics and philosophy applied to scientific research and interpretation."

In a recent commentary, Stacy Trasancos reflects on the practice of trying to comprehend the mysteries of nature within the context of the mysteries of faith.

To access her complete post, please visit:

Catholic Lane: Why the Believer Knows More About Science (21 FEB 12)

Background information:

Accepting Abundance ( Stacy Trasancos' blog)

Reflection Starter from Saint Francis de Sales

"Our words must come from the heart, not the mouth. The tongue speaks only to the ears. The heart speaks to the heart." - Saint Francis de Sales

22 February 2012

Congress Passes Legislation Enabling Interoperable Public Safety Broadband Network

The Payroll Tax Extension legislation recently passed by the U. S. Congress includes funding for a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network that will, for the first time, allow law enforcement, firefighters and EMTs to have a dedicated communications network so they can talk with one another.  The legislation allocates the 700 MHz D Block spectrum to first responders, and it provides $7 billion in federal grant money for the deployment the network.

This morning, the House of Representatives voted 293-132 in favor of the measure, followed shortly by a 60-36 vote in the Senate to approve the bill, which was the product of House-Senate conference committee negotiations during the last two months. President Barack Obama has vowed to sign the legislation into law shortly after returning from a West Coast trip.

While the focal point of the legislation is to extend the payroll-tax cut and unemployment benefits, the measure includes spectrum-policy language designed to make more airwaves available to commercial wireless operator via FCC auctions — a significant revenue source for the bill — and to address public-safety broadband needs.

Media reports:

Urgent Communications: Congress passes D Block legislation (17 FEB 12)

Urgent Communications: Payroll-tax deal includes D Block, billions for public safety (16 FEB 12)

Background information:

National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Public Safety Spectrum Trust

Executive Office of the President Council of Economic Advisors: The Economic Benefits of New Spectrum for Wireless Broadband (February 2012)

Wikipedia: 3GPP Long Term Evolution

National Public Safety Telecommunications Council

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the holy season of Lent. The assigned readings are Joel 2:12-18; 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2; and Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 51 (Psalm 51: 3-6, 12-14, 17).

The Gospel reading is as follows:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

Reflection on today’s observance:

The Deacon's Bench: Homily for February 22, 2012: Ash Wednesday (21 FEB 12)

Beginning to Pray: On Ashes, Penance and Politics (20 FEB 12)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many spiritual opportunities You will be making available to us during this year's observance of Lent.

Fr. George Rutter on George Washington and Catholics

"The eclectic national Presidents Day, homogenizes our veneration of the man General 'Lighthorse Harry' Lee eulogized as 'first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.'  It also neglects Abraham Lincoln, who with the Father of Our Country, made a pair unmatched for virtue and genius appropriate to their tasks in the annals of any nation.

"Both had cause to treat with Catholics who, in Washington’s time, were an exotic minority and who were only beginning their ascendancy in the years of Lincoln."

This day, in addition to being Ash Wednesday, is the birthday of George Washington, first President of the United States under the U.S. Constitution. Although it is often called Presidents Day, the actual name of the holiday celebrated on Monday is Washington's Birthday.

In a recent commentary, Father George Rutter, pastor of the Church of Our Saviour in New York City, reflected on the beginnings of Catholicism in the United States and especially with its relationship with President Washington.

To access Fr. Rutter's complete post, please visit:

Crisis Magazine: The Father of Our Country (20 FEB 12)

Reflection Starter from Blessed Pope John Paul II

"The distinctive mark of the Christian, today more than ever, must be love for the poor, the weak, the suffering." - Blessed Pope John Paul II

21 February 2012

National Center for Safe Routes to School Releases Resource

To highlight the visible results gained by communities and to provide examples of how successful Safe Routes to School programs have tracked progress, the National Center for Safe Routes to School has developed a three-part series of Getting Results resources. Getting Results: SRTS Programs That Reduce Speeding and Distracted Driving, the second installment of the three-part series, was recently released.

Getting Results: SRTS Programs That Reduce Speeding and Distracted Driving focuses on how Safe Routes to School programs in Brattleboro, VT; Greenville, NC; Rockville, MD; Washington, DC; and Alexandria, VA., measured success in reducing the numbers of speeding cars and distracted drivers. The program leaders used a variety of activities to decrease dangerous driving behavior, including installing or upgrading pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, enforcing speed and distracted driving laws and conducting public information campaigns.

The resource offers recommendations, including SRTS programs that aim to reduce speeding and distracted driving should take a baseline measurement of the targeted behavior before implementing any strategic changes so that it can be compared to behavior once those efforts are underway or complete.

Background information:

National Center for Safe Routes to School

This Week’s New England City & Town Weekly Dispatch

To access this week’s issue of New England City & Town Weekly Dispatch, please visit:

New England City & Town Weekly Dispatch - 21 February 2012

Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI for Lent 2012

“Let us be concerned for each other,to stir a response in love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:24)

“The Lenten season offers us once again an opportunity to reflect upon the very heart of Christian life: charity. This is a favorable time to renew our journey of faith, both as individuals and as a community, with the help of the word of God and the sacraments. This journey is one marked by prayer and sharing, silence and fasting, in anticipation of the joy of Easter.

“This year I would like to propose a few thoughts in the light of a brief biblical passage drawn from the Letter to the Hebrews: ‘Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works.’ These words are part of a passage in which the sacred author exhorts us to trust in Jesus Christ as the High Priest who has won us forgiveness and opened up a pathway to God. Embracing Christ bears fruit in a life structured by the three theological virtues: it means approaching the Lord ‘sincere in heart and filled with faith’ (v. 22), keeping firm ‘in the hope we profess’ (v. 23) and ever mindful of living a life of ‘love and good works’ (v. 24) together with our brothers and sisters. The author states that to sustain this life shaped by the Gospel it is important to participate in the liturgy and community prayer, mindful of the eschatological goal of full communion in God (v. 25). Here I would like to reflect on verse 24, which offers a succinct, valuable and ever timely teaching on the three aspects of Christian life: concern for others, reciprocity and personal holiness.”

As we begin the holy season of Lent tomorrow, I offer Pope Benedict’s message for this year’s observance:

Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI for Lent 2012

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the prayers of others offered on our behalf - as an individual or as part of a group.

Msgr. Pope on Our Need for Prayer

“The second Milestone on the Highway to heaven is that we all need help. You didn’t hear about Jesus all by your self. Somebody told you about Him. Faith comes by hearing, and that means we need someone to tell us and teach us about Christ.

“As I write this today, I am powerfully aware that I am the result of prayer. I am aware that the healing, and the gifts the Lord has given me, have come from him, but through others. Yes, we are not believers today just because we’re so good, or so right. We’re believers because somebody has been praying for us, witnessing to us."

In his commentary on last Sunday’s reading, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on, among other points, the dependency each of us has on the prayers, examples, and outreach of others. In turn this serves as a reminder of the need for our own prayers, example-setting, and outreach. We each have relatives, friends, acquaintances, and others who touch our lives who need our prayers and sacrifices, who need us to do our part, whatever that part may be.

As Msgr. Pope reminds us, “An old Gospel song says, Somebody prayed for me. Had me on their mind, took the time and prayed for me. I’m so glad they prayed, I’m so glad they prayed for me.

To access Msgr. Pope's complete post, please visit:

Msgr. Charles Pope: Four Mileposts on the Highway to Heaven – A Meditation on the Gospel of the 7th Sunday of the Year (18 FEB 12)

Reflection Starter from Jonathan Swift

“Some persons, under the notion of weeding out prejudice, eradicate virtue, honesty, and religion.” - Jonathan Swift

20 February 2012

Petra - Salvation Belongs to Our God

As we continue this week and move toward Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, I offer Petra singing "Salvation Belongs to Our God":

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for calling us back to You when we stray away.

Bishop Tobin on the Effects of Atheism on a Person's Life

"It seems that there's been a resurgence of atheism recently, across the nation, and certainly here in Rhode Island. The epicenter of this godless movement, at least for the moment, is in Cranston, Rhode Island, where a fierce battle over a public high school prayer banner has pitted believers against non-believers."

In a recent commentary, Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence [Rhode Island]) reflected on the toll atheism takes on a person.

To access Bishop Tobin's complete post, please visit:

Without A Doubt: The Sterile Life of the Everyday Atheist (16 FEB 12)

Reflection Starter from Golda Meir

"Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement." - Golda Meir

19 February 2012

"King of Kings and Lord of Lords"

As our Sunday celebration continues, I offer this version of " King of Kings and Lord of Lords" (I am not sure which choir this is):

Br. Gregory Maria Pine, O.P., on Improving the Quality of Communication

"With the advent of myriad new modes of social networking, communication has become easier and more instantaneous than ever. It is a great gift to have the means to rekindle old friendships, draw together distant family members, share information, etc. It is no secret, though, that in many cases the quality of conversation has declined. One need only think of the last conversation in which one's interlocutor was giving half of his attention to multiple text messages. This is not to condemn new forms of social media in themselves; they can be used very effectively for any number of constructive projects. Yet, one must ask how these modes of communication can suitably complement human life as an integral whole."

In a recent commentary, Brother Gregory Maria Pine, O.P., reflected on ways to improve the quality of communication, especially in this age of widespread use of social communication.

To access Brother Gregory's complete post, please visit:

Dominicana: Genuine Encounter (15 FEB 12)

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today the Church celebrates the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time. The assigned readings are Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24-25; 2 Corinthians 1:18-22; and Mark 2:1-12. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 41 (Psalm 41:2-5, 13-14).

For one version of the Responsorial Psalm set to music, please visit:

Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 41 Prayer for Forgiveness and Healing

Today’s Gospel reading is as follows:

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them.

They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Child, your sins are forgiven."

Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, "Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming.
Who but God alone can forgive sins?"

Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, "Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, pick up your mat and walk?' But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth" - he said to the paralytic, "I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home."

He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this."

Reflections on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 19, 2012)

Msgr. Charles Pope: Four Mileposts on the Highway to Heaven – A Meditation on the Gospel of the 7th Sunday of the Year (18 FEB 12)

The Quiet Corner: The church’s social mission must involve the ‘whole man' (16 FEB 12)

by Marcellino D'Ambrosio: "Pick up your Mat and Go Home" - Healing of the Paralytic

The Deacon's Bench: Homily for February 19, 2012: 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time (18 FEB 12)

The Sacred Page: What is Sin and Why Does It Need to Be Forgiven? Thoughts on the Readings of the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time (18 FEB 12)

Dr. Scott Hahn: God’s Great ‘Amen’ (February 19th 2012 - Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time)

The Lectionary: God’s forgiveness allows us to begin a new life (Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time B) (16 FEB 12)

Catholic Spiritual Direction: Going Through the Roof (Mark 2:1-12) (15 FEB 12)

The Word Encountered: Living by Appearances (Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time B)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways You call us to share in Your passion and death (whether we are aware of these opportunities or not, whether we accept them or not).

Bishop Etienne on Our Daily Sacrifices

“Early on in our faith formation, we learn about the cross.  We hear about the cross of Jesus, and all the suffering he endured for our sake.  We learn that Easter only comes after Good Friday.  We learn that the Resurrection and the Life of the Risen Lord only follow the via dolorosa and Jesus’ suffering and death.”

Using the examples of people making great sacrifices for temporal gain, Bishop Paul D. Etienne (Diocese of Cheyenne [Wyoming]) recently reflected on the need to make sacrifices in our faith lives.

To access Bishop Etienne’s complete post, please visit:

Truth in Love: Life Comes Through The Cross; ‘Life’ Lessons (17 FEB 12)

Reflection Starter from Fr. Brian Cavanaugh, TOR

“No matter what has happened, we can never go back and start over. Today, however, we can make a decision to begin anew; do it now!” - Rev. Brian Cavanaugh, T.O.R.

18 February 2012

“60 Minutes” to Air Story on Southeastern Connecticut Employment Initiative

On Sunday (19 February), the CBS News program, 60 Minutes, is planning to air a story on Platform to Employment, a program in Fairfield County, CT, that offers workers to businesses at no cost.

Platform to Employment is an initiative of The WorkPlace (originally the Private Industry Council of Southern Connecticut), one of five Workforce Development Boards in Connecticut.

The Platform to Employment program is designed to address the need for the long term unemployed to return to work and the employer need to recruit skilled workers.  It is a public-private partnership which gives businesses a risk-free opportunity to evaluate and consider hiring candidates during an eight week work experience program.

The WorkPlace offers individuals a four to six week preparatory program that includes skills assessment, career readiness workshops, employee assistance programs, and, coaching. Upon program completion, The WorkPlace works to match job seekers with open positions at local companies and to place participants in positions on a trial basis (paid for by The WorkPlace).  If the company is satisfied with the performance of the candidate, the program expectations are that a full-time job offer will ensue.

Media report:

Connecticut Post: 60 Minutes investigates Bridgeport program (18 FEB 12)

Report preview:

CBS News: 60 Minutes: Preview: Trapped in Unemployment

Background information:

The WorkPlace

CBS News: 60 Minutes

Yanni: Nostalgia

In this video, Yanni and the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra perform "Nostalgia" at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece on 25 September 1993:

Does Public Servant Training Meet Community Needs?

“As my department’s training officer, [it is] my job to make sure that all training needs of my department are addressed. How do we as Training Officers figure that out? We utilize that many resources around us and our knowledge of our departments. We know our departments strengths and weaknesses based on experience, post incident reviews, trade magazines, incidents locally and nationally as well as today’s current trends.”

In a recent commentary, P.J. Norwood, East Haven CT, Fire Department Training Officer and Deputy Chief, offered some insight on ensuring that local training programs meet the needs of the community. Although Chief Norwood was referring specifically to fire, rescue, and emergency medical services, his insights may apply to any municipal agency, whether paid or volunteer.

To access Chief Norwood’s post, please visit:

Fire Engineering: P.J. Norwood: Does Your Training Meet The Communities Needs? (13 FEB 12)

Background information:

East Haven Fire Department

Town of East Haven

Wikipedia: SWOT analysis

South Norfolk County Arc: Autism and Law Enforcement Enforcement Education Coalition

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many good Popes You have sent to lead and guide Your Church through the centuries.

Pope Warns Against Abuse of Power in Finance and in the Media

Recently Pope Benedict XVI visited the Major Seminary of Rome for the occasion of the feast of its patroness, Our Lady of Trust (which is observed today, 18 February). The Holy Father visited the chapel before going on to meet with auxiliary bishops of Rome, superiors of diocesan seminaries and 190 seminarians.

Following the reading of the Gospel, Benedict XVI pronounced a “lectio divina” on the passage from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans in which the Apostle invites the faithful not to conform to this world but to transform themselves and renew their minds in order to discern the will of God, “the good and acceptable and perfect.”

“We can reflect upon the Church today,” he said in his off-the-cuff remarks. “There is much talk about the Church of Rome, many things are said. Let us hope that people also talk about our faith. Let us pray to God that it may be so.”

The Pope then went on to refer to the force of evil which, in today’s world, also emerges “in two great powers which are good and useful in themselves but easily open to abuse: the power of finance and the power of the media. Both are necessary, both are useful, but so subject to misuse that they often go against their true goals.”

Today “we see how the world of finance can dominate mankind. Possession and appearance dominate and enslave the world. . . . Finance is no longer a tool to promote well being and to support the life of man, but a force that oppresses him, one which almost has to be worshipped.” The Pontiff called on his audience not to conform to this power. “Be non conformists. What counts is not possession but existence,” he said. Christians must not bow to this power, but use it as “as a means, with the freedom of the children of God.”

Turning then to consider the question of public opinion, Benedict XVI highlighted how “we have a great need of information, knowledge about the truth of the world; but there is a power of appearance which in the end counts even more than reality itself.” Appearance “overlies the truth and becomes more important. Man no longer pursues the truth but wants above all to appear.” Here too “there is a Christian non conformism. . . . We want not appearance but truth, and this will give us true freedom."

“Christian non conformism redeems us and restores us to truth. Let us pray to the Lord that He may help us to be free in this non conformism, which is not against the world but is authentic love for the world."

(from the Vatican Information Service)

Reflection Starter from Lawrence Cunningham

“[Saint] Francis’ capacity for a very specific love for others was rooted in his apprehension of two fundamental biblical ideas. The first is the statement in Genesis that every person is made ‘in the image and likeness of God’ (Gn 1:26). The second is in the New Testament refinement of that idea deriving from the fact that Jesus was the Son of God. The consequence of the Incarnation is that every person is ennobled and dignified by the fact that Christ became human and took on flesh. Every person is an image of Christ. To honor an individual is to honor that Christ who said that ‘whatever is done to the least is done to Himself.’ (Mt. 25:40).” - Lawrence Cunningham

17 February 2012

NFPA Releases Study of Volunteer Firefighter Injuries

The National Fire Protection Association, in response to a request from the National Volunteer Fire Council, has released an analysis of volunteer firefighter injuries from 2008-2010. The report provides a breakdown of the estimated number of volunteer firefighter injuries that occurred by type of duty and nature of injury, as well as compares volunteer firefighter injuries to that of all firefighters (volunteer and career combined).

The analysis found that strain, sprain, and muscular pain are the leading types of injuries for volunteers at the fireground, while wound, cut, bleeding, and bruise came in second. These types of injuries also account for the largest share of injuries for all types of duty. The major causes of volunteer firefighter injuries are fall, jump, slip, and trip, followed by overexertion and strain.

To access the complete report, please visit:

NFPA: An Analysis of Volunteer Firefighter Injuries, 2008-2010 (January 2012)

New Exhibit at Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, Providence

The Museum of Natural History and Planetarium in Roger Williams Park, Providence, RI, will open a new exhibit on Saturday. "Space Weather: Living with a Star" is designed to take visitors on an exploration of space weather – the cosmic equivalent of winds, clouds, storms and hurricanes – and the sun’s existence in this ever-changing environment.

While at the Planetarium, visitors may also view its latest multimedia planetarium show, Journey to the Stars, being shown daily at 2:00 and 3:00 PM from Saturday, 18 February, through Sunday, 26 February.

During this week, the museum is open from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM. It is located in Roger Williams Park, 1000 Elmwood Avenue, Providence

Planetarium admission is $3.00 (which includes $2.00 museum admission), cash or check only. Children younger than age 4 are not permitted in the planetarium.

For more information, please visit:

Roger Williams Park: Museum of Natural History and Planetarium

Background information:

City of Providence

Wikipedia: Providence, Rhode Island

Innovative Alternative Energy Sources

A recent editorial in Business Insider offered some thought starters with some innovative alternative energy sources that are currently being used.

To access this editorial, please visit:

Business Insider: 10 Innovative Energy Sources To Help Break Our Fossil Fuel Addiction (2 FEB 12)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of our conscience and the many ways You touch our thoughts and our hearts through this gift.

Carl Olsen on Three False Depictions of Jesus

"Albert Schweitzer, in the opening pages of his famous and influential 1906 book The Quest of the Historical Jesus, wrote, 'And so each subsequent epoch in theology found its own ideas in Jesus, and could find no other way of bringing him to life. Not only epochs found themselves in him. Each individual recreated him in the image of his own personality.'"

In a recent commentary, Carl E. Olsen, editor of Ignatius Insight, reflected on some false depictions of Jesus.

To access this post, please visit:

Ignatius Insight Scoop: Three False Christs: The Myth, the Mortal, and the Guru (15 FEB 12)

Reflection Starter from Marian Wright Edelman

“We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.” - Marian Wright Edelman

16 February 2012

Gary Valenciano: "Lead Me Lord"

"Just because," I offer this version of Gary Valenciano's "Lead Me Lord":

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many people You inspire to share their conversion stories, which, in turn, encourage others -  those in the Faith and those who may be considering the possibility of (re)turning to the Faith.

The Conversion Story of Dr. Anders

"I grew up an Evangelical Protestant in Birmingham, Alabama. My parents were loving and devoted, sincere in their faith, and deeply involved in our church. They instilled in me a respect for the Bible as the Word of God, and a desire for a living faith in Christ. Missionaries frequented our home and brought their enthusiasm for their work. Bookshelves in our house were filled with theology and apologetics. From an early age, I absorbed the notion that the highest possible calling was to teach the Christian faith. I suppose it is no surprise that I became a Church historian, but becoming a Catholic was the last thing I expected."

In a recent commentary, A. David Anders, Ph.D., reflected on his conversion to the Catholic faith.

To access the complete post of Dr. Anders, please visit:

The Coming Home Network: A Protestant Historian Discovers the Catholic Church (13 FEB 12)

To access his website, please visit:

Calvinist to Catholic: A. David Anders, Ph.D.

Reflection Starter from Fay T. Vincent

“Baseball teaches us, or has taught most of us, how to deal with failure. We learn at a very young age that failure is the norm in baseball and, precisely because we have failed, we hold in high regard those who fail less often - those who hit safely in one out of three chances and become star players. I also find it fascinating that baseball alone in sport, considers errors to be part of the game, part of the its rigorous truth.” - Fay T. Vincent, eighth Commissioner of Major League Baseball

15 February 2012

American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (both part of the U.S.Department of Health and Human Services) are encouraging participation in Million Hearts, an initiative designed to prevent heart attacks and strokes and to empower everyone to make heart-healthy choices. The initiative’s goal is to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes in the U.S. over the next five years.

CDC: American Heart Month

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways in which You work through human activity to continue Your work of creation.

Msgr. Pope on Why We Need the Church

“There is a line from the Book of Hebrews that says this: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb 10:24-25). The teaching is clear, we must come together each week for Mass and learn to live in deep communion with one another. We are not meant to make this journey alone. We need encouragement and exhortation, food for the journey,  company and protection.”

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on why Catholics need the Church.

To access Msgr. Pope's complete post, please visit:

Msgr. Charles Pope: Woe to the Solitary Man – A Brief Meditation on our Need for the Church (14 FEB 12)

Reflection Starter from James Allen

“A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed-seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.” - James Allen

14 February 2012

President Releases 2013 Budget Proposal

President Obama recently released the Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2013. This document contains the Budget Message of the President, information on the President’s priorities, budget overviews organized by agency, and summary tables.

To access a copy of this budget proposal, please visit:

The White House: Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2013

This Week’s New England City & Town Weekly Dispatch

To access this week’s issue of New England City & Town Weekly Dispatch, please visit:

New England City & Town Weekly Dispatch - 14 February 2012

Valentine's Day

For those celebrating Valentine's Day his year, I offer this version of Elvis Presley singing "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You":

Happy Valentine's Day, Myrna.

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for events that remind us of the importance of loved ones in our lives.

Bevil Bramwell, OMI, on the Divine Office

“The Second Vatican Council’s teaching on the Divine Office says:  ‘Christ Jesus, high priest of the new and eternal covenant, taking human nature, introduced into this earthly exile that hymn which is sung throughout all ages in the halls of heaven. He joins the entire community of mankind to Himself, associating it with His own singing of this canticle of divine praise.’ The sheer grandeur of this vision of the prayer that we know as the Divine Office is overwhelming.”

In a recent commentary, Father Bevil Bramwell, OMI, offered a reflection on the Divine Office, also known as the Liturgy of the Hours.

To access Fr. Bramwell’s post, please visit:

The Catholic Thing: The Divine Office (12 FEB 12)

To access online versions of the Divine Office, please visit:

The Divine Office

Universalis: Liturgy of the Hours

On a personal note, I attempt to pray portions of the Divine Office each day (sometimes using my dad’s breviary, which I inherited [thank you, Lord], and sometimes using online versions). At a minimum, I prefer to include Morning Prayer, the Office of Readings, and Daytime Prayer (and, once in a while, Evening Prayer). Occasionally I am able to include all three, but it typically is one or two periods..

Reflection Starter from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” - Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa)

13 February 2012

The Challenge of Controlling Invasive Species

“The control of invasive species is becoming an increasingly important management consideration - and a challenge - for many park and recreation agencies.  Depending on the type of species (plant, animal, or insect), the presence of invasive species in parks can impact recreation opportunities for the public, destroy native wildflowers and wildlife, result in significant economic damage, and generally provide a huge headache for land managers and the public.”

In the February 2012 issue of the National Recreation and Park Association journal, Parks & Recreation, Richard J. Doleshis, NRPA Vice President for Conservation and Parks, offers some considerations related to the challenge of controlling invasive species, a challenge faced by park and conservation agencies throughout this region.

To access this Parks & Recreation article, please visit:

Parks & Recreation: Controlling Invasive Species: Important Conservation Priority or Waste of Time and Money? (February 2012)

Background information:

National Invasive Species Management Plan

National Recreation and Park Association

Thank You, Lord

Thank you Lord, for weekend respites from our work (and, for those who work weekends, the equivalent during the week).

Dougherty and Gobry: The Church Is Right on Birth Control

“ . . . the Catholic Church is the world’s biggest and oldest organization. It has buried all of the greatest empires known to man, from the Romans to the Soviets. It has establishments literally all over the world, touching every area of human endeavor. It’s given us some of the world’s greatest thinkers, from Saint Augustine on down to RenĂ© Girard. When it does things, it usually has a good reason. Everyone has a right to disagree, but it’s not that they're a bunch of crazy old white dudes who are stuck in the Middle Ages.”

In a recent commentary related to the current controversy regarding the HHS contraception mandate, Michael Brendan Dougherty and Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, of Business Insider, reflect on concerns raised by Pope Paul VI in his 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae.  They remind us that Pope Paul warned of four consequences if the widespread use of contraceptives was accepted:

  • a general lowering of moral standards,
  • a rise in infidelity and illegitimacy,
  • the reduction of women to objects used to satisfy men, and
  • government coercion in reproductive matters.

To access this commentary, please visit:

Business Insider: Time To Admit It: The Church Has Always Been Right On Birth Control (8 FEB 12)

Background information:

Humanae Vitae - Encyclical Letter of His Holiness Paul VI on the regulation of birth (25 July 1968)

Reflection Starter from Thomas Edison

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” - Thomas A. Edison

12 February 2012

Highlighting Lesser-known Contributions of the African American Experience

In an effort to expose listeners to the contributions of lesser-known Black Americans, Tina Gaffney tells their stories in her Audio Journal program, The African American Experience.

Audio Journal is a nonprofit radio, cable, and online broadcast service based in Worcester, MA. Through daily newspaper readings and other programs, it strives to inform and empower people who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise unable to read print and visual materials. It also works to increase employment opportunities for legally blind individuals through training and associated services.

To access a Worcester Telegram & Gazette article about this initiative, please visit:

Telegram & Gazette: Actor highlights unsung contributions (12 FEB 12)

Background information:

Audio Journal

"Salvation Belongs to our God"

As our Sunday celebration continues, I offer this version of "Salvation Belongs to our God" (I am not sure which choir this is):

Happy Birthday, Abe Lincoln

Today is Abraham Lincoln's birthday. Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States, is considered by many people to be one of the greatest Presidents the U.S. has had.

In observance of this celebration, a recreation of a debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas was recently held at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, CT. To access a Norwich Bulletin article on this recreation, please visit:

Norwich Bulletin: Lincoln, Douglas fire up Norwich crowd (11 FEB 12)

For the official White House biography of Abraham Lincoln, please visit:

The White House: Abraham Lincoln

For a chronology of Abraham Lincoln's life, please visit:

Northern Illinois University Libraries: Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project: Abraham Lincoln Chronology

For a series of pictures of Abraham Lincoln, please visit:

Fox News: Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth President of the United States

# # # # #

A selection of quotes from Abraham Lincoln:

"A capacity, and taste, for reading, gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others. It is the key, or one of the keys, to the already solved problems. And not only so. It gives a relish, and facility, for successfully pursuing the [yet] unsolved ones." (from an address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, 30 September 1859)

"The old general rule was that educated people did not perform manual labor. They managed to eat their bread, leaving the toil of producing it to the uneducated. This was not an insupportable evil to the working bees, so long as the class of drones remained very small. But now, especially in these free States, nearly all are educated - quite too nearly all, to leave the labor of the uneducated, in any wise adequate to the support of the whole. It follows from this that henceforth educated people must labor. Otherwise, education itself would become a positive and intolerable evil. No country can sustain, in idleness, more than a small percentage of its numbers. The great majority must labor at something productive." (from an address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, 30 September 1859)

"Every man is proud of what he does well; and no man is proud of what he does not do well. With the former, his heart is in his work; and he will do twice as much of it with less fatigue. The latter performs a little imperfectly, looks at it in disgust, turns from it, and imagines himself exceedingly tired. The little he has done, comes to nothing, for want of finishing." (from an address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, 30 September 1859)

"When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion, kind, unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted. It is an old and a true maxim, that a "drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall." (from an address given to the Springfield Washington Temperance Society. 22 February 1842)

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." (from his Second Inaugural Address, 4 March 1865)

HHS Contraception Mandate Update

Despite an “accommodation” offered by the Obama administration on the HHS contraception mandate, opposition to this rule continues to strengthen.

Media reports:

National Catholic Register: U.S. Bishops to White House: 'Rescission of Mandate Only Solution' (10 FEB 12)

Catholic News Agency: White House fails to call Catholic bishops for mandate talks (9 FEB 12)

LifeSiteNews: Southern Baptist leader: If Obama mandate isn’t changed, Christians will go to jail (8 FEB 12)

Rhode Island Catholic: Concerned Catholics protest HHS mandate (9 FEB 12)

National Catholic Register: EWTN Files Suit to Block Contraception Mandate (9 FEB 12)

Chicago Tribune: White House defends contraception rules as criticism mounts (8 FEB 12)

The Hill: Healthwatch: Obama administration struggles to contain uproar over birth-control rule (8 FEB 12)

Reuters: Obama shift seeks to defuse birth-control fight (10 FEB 12)

New York Times: Bishops Were Prepared for Battle Over Birth Control Coverage (9 FEB 12)


Standing on My Head: United We Stand (10 FEB 12)

Diocese of Providence: Statement of Bishop Tobin on HHS Mandate (2 FEB 12)

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission: On the Obama administration’s abortion rule (7 FEB 12)

Msgr. Charles Pope: Understanding Oppostion to the HHS Mandate (Part 1): Why the Church Won’t Pay for Contraceptives. (6 FEB 12)

The Deacon's Bench: “Accommodation” (10 FEB 12)

National Catholic Register: Jimmy Akin: Don't Be Deceived! Evil Obama Policy Now Even MORE Evil! (10 FEB 12)

The Deacon's Bench: “Most people are both-and, not either-or…” (9 FEB 12)

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today the Church celebrates the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The assigned readings are Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46; 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1; and Mark 1:40-45.

The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 32 (Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 11).

For one version of the Responsorial Psalm set to music, please visit:

YouTube: Psalm 32 I Turn To You Lord by P Kelly

The Gospel reading is as follows:

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, "If you wish, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, "I do will it. Be made clean."

The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning the him sternly, he dismissed him at once. He said to him, "See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them."

The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

Reflections on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 12, 2012)

Msgr. Charles Pope: Losing our Leprosy (In Four Easy Steps) – A Meditation on the Gospel for the Sixth Sunday of the Year (11 FEB 12)

Dr. Scott Hahn: Made Clean (February 12th 2012 - Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio: Lessons from the Leper

The Quiet Corner: Moral loneliness separates us from our faith (9 FEB 12)

The Lectionary: The healing ministry of Jesus opens gates of heaven (9 FEB 12)

The Word Encountered: Living by Appearances (Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time B)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, that we can turn to You in time of trouble.

Dr. Michael Barber on Online Scripture Study Resources

In an interview with writer Brandon Vogt, Dr. Michael Barber (Professor of Theology, Scripture and Catholic Thought at John Paul the Great Catholic University and Research Fellow for the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology) offered a number of suggestions for using online resources to assist with Scripture study.

To access this interview, please visit:

The Thin Veil: Interview with Dr. Michael Barber - Scripture and New Media (9 FEB 12)

Background information:

Dr. Barber’s blog: The Sacred Page

Reflection Starter from the Christophers

"It's better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." - The Christophers

11 February 2012

Sha Na Na: "Unchained Melody"

Time for Sha Na Na (in anticipation of Valentine's Day?): In this video they sing "Unchained Melody":

“Where Did I Put . . .”

“Several days ago as I left a meeting at our church, I desperately gave myself a personal TSA pat down. I was looking for my keys. They were not in my pockets. A quick search in the meeting room revealed nothing.”

This week’s issue of the DeerLake Weekly Letter had a short fun story related to memory, or, rather, the loss thereof.

To access this story (with its embedded video of Tom Rush singing the “Remember Song”), please visit:

DeerLake Weekly Letter: Where’s the Keys?

Two New England Communities In National Geographic List of World’s 25 Best Ski Towns

Two New England communities have been included in National Geographic’s recently published list of the world’s 25 best ski towns. North Conway, NH, and Stowe, VT, were chosen to grace this list of “classic ski towns.” Criteria for inclusion on this list included good skiing and snowboarding, ski heritage, amenities, and culture.

To access the complete list, including related commentary, please visit:

National Geographic: World's 25 Best Ski Towns

To access the two New England entries, please visit:

National Geographic: World's 25 Best Ski Towns: North Conway, New Hampshire

National Geographic: World's 25 Best Ski Towns: Stowe, Vermont

Media reports:

Conway Daily Sun: Ski town: According to National Geographic, North Conway is one of the best (11 FEB 12)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of laughter.

Msgr. Pope on the Questions Asked by Jesus

“One of the bigger mistakes people make in reading Scripture is that they read it as a spectator. For them Scripture is a collection of stories and events that took place thousands of years ago. True enough, we are reading historical accounts.

“But, truth be told these ancient stories are our stories. We are in the narrative. . . .”

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on our active participation in scripture by meditating on the questions asked by Jesus.

To access Msgr. Pope's complete post, please visit:

Msgr. Charles Pope: 100 Questions Jesus Asked and You Ought to Answer (10 FEB 12)

Reflection Starter from William Jennings Bryan

“Some skeptics say, ‘Oh, the miracles. I can’t accept miracles.’

“Well consider this then. One may drop a brown seed in the black soil and up comes a green shoot. You let it grow and soon enough you’ll pull up a root that is red. Now you cut that red root and you find it has a white heart.

“Can anyone tell me how this comes about - how brown cast into black turns up green with red underneath and white inside? Yet you eat your radish without even thinking of it as a miracle. . . . Everyday is a miracle - a miracle of life that sustains our hope!” - William Jennings Bryan

10 February 2012

Massachusetts Given Waiver From No Child Left Behind Law

The U.S. Department of Education has announce that ten states, including Massachusetts, will receive flexibility from the burdensome mandates of the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). In exchange for this flexibility, these states have agreed to raise standards, improve accountability, and undertake essential reforms to improve teacher effectiveness.

States receiving waivers no longer have to meet 2014 targets set by NCLB, but they must set new performance targets for improving student achievement and closing achievement gaps. They also must have accountability systems that recognize and reward high-performing schools and those that are making significant gains, while targeting rigorous and comprehensive interventions for the lowest-performing schools. Under the state-developed plans, all schools will develop and implement plans for improving educational outcomes for underperforming subgroups of students. State plans will require continued transparency around achievement gaps, but will provide schools and districts greater flexibility in how they spend Title I federal dollars.

Media report:

New York Times: 10 States Are Given Waivers From Education Law (9 FEB 12)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways, spiritually and physically, in which You touch us with Your healing.

World Day of the Sick

Tomorrow, 11 February (the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes), is the 20th World Day of the Sick. This year’s theme is “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” (Luke 17:19).

“On the occasion of the World Day of the Sick, which we will celebrate on 11 February 2012, the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, I wish to renew my spiritual closeness to all sick people who are in places of care or are looked after in their families, expressing to each one of them the solicitude and the affection of the whole Church. In the generous and loving welcoming of every human life, above all of weak and sick life, a Christian expresses an important aspect of his or her Gospel witness, following the example of Christ, who bent down before the material and spiritual sufferings of man in order to heal them.”

In his annual message for this observance, Pope Benedict XVI focuses on upon the “sacraments of healing,” the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation and that of the Anointing of the Sick, which “have their natural completion in Eucharistic Communion.”

To access the Holy Father’s message for this year’s observance, please visit:

Message of the Holy Father on the Occasion of the Twentieth World Day of the Sick (11 February 2012)

Reflection Starter from Mother Teresa

“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.” - Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa)

09 February 2012

Six New England Communities To Get EPA Smart Growth Assistance

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced that six New England communities will receive EPA technical assistance through the “Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities” program.  Simsbury, CT; Fall River, Holyoke, Northampton, and Roxbury, MA; and Burlington, VT, were among 56 communities in 26 states that will designated to receive technical assistance under this program.

Each community will receive the assistance from EPA-funded private-sector experts.  The technical experts will work with the communities on actions they can take to improve the economy, the environment, and quality of life.  Examples of this type of assistance include improving pedestrian access and safety, incorporating green infrastructure, or conducting an economic and fiscal health assessment.

Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities is a project of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities among EPA, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Department of Transportation. The interagency collaboration is designed to coordinate federal investments in infrastructure, facilities, and services to get better results for communities and use taxpayer money more efficiently.

Background information:

EPA: Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities

Partnership for Sustainable Communities

EPA Region 1 (New England)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the beauty of flowers, individually and part of a larger group.

Fr. Najim on Doing a Monthly Spiritual Checkup

In a recent video reflection, Father Michael Najim (Vocation Director of the Diocese of Providence and chaplain at La Salle Academy, Providence, RI) offered some thoughts about doing a monthly spiritual checkup.

To access Fr. Najim’s video post, please visit:

Live Holiness: A Spiritual Checkup (8 FEB 12)

Reflection Starter from Dan Stone

To be a leader of excellence in major events, you must also be a leader of excellence in minor ones. True excellence is a continuous condition, not an on or off event. If you have the value of excellence in your core, it is not necessary to strive for excellence in a certain situation, for excellence will surely exude in all that you do as part of your natural behavior pattern. When in search of excellence, start from within." - Dan Stone

08 February 2012

Portland, ME, Bans Cigarette Litter

The Portland, ME, City Council recently amended the city’s littering ordinance to include tobacco products among the waste that’s illegal to throw away in any public place. The amendment includes a $100 fine and is scheduled to take effect on 7 March.

Media reports:

Portland Press Herald: Portland: Kick butts problem (8 FEB 12)

Bangor Daily News: Toss a cigarette butt in Portland, get a $100 fine (7 FEB 12)

Background information:

Portland, ME, Litter Ordinance Amendment

Keep America Beautiful: Cigarette Litter Prevention


City of Portland