31 March 2012

Susan Boyle in her 2009 "Britain's Got Talent" Presentation

In my last year of teaching at Saint Patrick School (Providence, RI), our first grade teach (Kate Weisberger) told me about a YouTube video that contained an inspiration performance by one Susan Boyle at a Britain's Got Talent episode. However, although  subsequently heard many fine comments about the video, I never actually saw it - until relatively recently. This is the video:

YouTube: Susan Boyle - Britains Got Talent 2009 Episode 1 - Saturday 11th April

Parks and Recreation: Approaching Conservation with Community Engagement Focus

“Conservationists are practical souls. After all, the first step in conserving any resource is to measure the gap between what is needful and what is wasteful. To conserve is to count—and there are as many different ways to do it as there are valuable natural resources to save. Parks and recreation leaders, in their stories of conserving and protecting resources, detail approaches as varied as the agencies and regions they represent. And they catalog concrete achievements - the nuts and bolts of inventorying, surveying, measuring, setting policy, applying tools and technologies, and assessing impact.”

An article in the current issue of the National Recreation and Park Association’s journal, Parks & Recreation, examined a number of ways in which parks and recreation leaders approach conservation with a focus on community engagement.

To access the complete article, please visit:

Parks & Recreation: Natural Leaders: Parks and recreation agencies lead their communities in conservation (April 2012)

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:

Public Discourse: A Guiding Principle Revealed (28 MAR 12)

Let Us Walk Together: Thoughts of a Catholic Bishop: Health-care Mandate Puts Ministries in Jeopardy (26 MAR 12)

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Faith & Reason: Richard Dawkins to atheist rally: 'Show contempt' for faith (24 MAR 12)

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EWTN News: Bishops call for immigration reform to relieve suffering, respect families (25 MAR 12)

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Wall Street Journal: Opinion: Planned Parenthood's Hostages (6 FEB 12)

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National Review Online: Pro-Life Aristotle  (19 OCT 11)

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National Catholic Register: Judge Rules on Constitutionality of Defunded USCCB Contract (28 Mar 12)

National Catholic Register: First Freedom Receives Another Blow in Massachusetts Federal Court (28 MAR 12)

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Wall Street Journal Commentary: Mary Eberstadt: Has the Sexual Revolution Been Good for Women? No (24 MAR 12)

Accepting Abundance: Mathematical Proof that Birth Control Fails (22 MAR 12)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of the RCIA and other catechetical efforts that reach out to adult Catholics.

Francis Beckwith on the RCIA

“During Holy Week and Easter Sunday Mass, in Catholic parishes throughout the world, many pilgrims will be received into the Church. Most will have gone through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), a six-month study of the Church’s teachings and practices. This year I have the privilege of being part of the RCIA team at St. Peter’s Catholic Student Center at Baylor University, where as many as a dozen men and women will soon be entering the Church.”

In a recent commentary, Francis Beckwith, president of the Evangelical Theological Society and Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies at Baylor University, reflects on the RCIA process and the blessing it is for the Church and for its participants.

To access Mr. Beckwith’s complete post, please visit:

The Catholic Thing: Catechesis, Conversion, and the Reason For the Hope Within You (30 MAR 12)

Background information:

Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults

Francis J. Beckwith (his web site)

Reflection Starter from Henry David Thoreau

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." - Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

30 March 2012

USFA Releases New Guide: Your Role in Fire-Adapted Communities

The U.S. Fire Administration, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, recently released a new guide for fire service and other community leaders facing the growing national threat of wildland fire. The guide, Your Role in Fire-Adapted Communities, is designed to explain a holistic approach to addressing wildland-fire risk reduction in the wildland/urban interface. The resource was developed by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) under a cooperative agreement with the federal agencies.

IAFC advises that the goal of fire-adapted communities, which are communities that have worked to become more resistant to wildland-fire threats, depends on a strong collaboration between federal, state and local agencies and the public. This new guide was prepared to provide an overview of key concepts in fire-adapted communities and to address specific actions that can be taken to improve individual and community safety.

The guide promotes an environment where individuals have access to critical information and the necessary knowledge concerning the protection of life, property and their communities. This creates an alignment of the community with FEMA’s whole community involvement and individual responsibility to reduce the loss of life and property.

To access the complete document, please visit:

USFA: Your Role in Fire-Adapted Communities

Background information:

United States Fire Administration

U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service

International Association of Fire Chiefs

Federal Emergency Management Agency: Whole Community

Maine Forest Service: Wildland Urban Interface

Rails to Trails Assistance

A number of Massachusetts communities are in the process of or are considering the development of trails along abandoned railroad corridors. Some of these communities are or are considering working with Iron Horse Preservation Society, a nonprofit organization that removes the railroad track, recycles the rails, and develops the trails (using the proceeds from the sale of the tracks).

Media report:

Boston Globe: Searching for quicker path to building recreational trails (29 MAR 12)

Background information:

Iron Horse Preservation Society

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Wikipedia: Rail trail

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for fortitude and other graces You give us to remain faithful to You and what You call us to do.

Jennifer Fulwiler on Faithfulness to One’s Beliefs

“Too often, we examine a moral precept, determine that it is hard, and then leap across a logical chasm to assume that it is therefore false.”

In a recent commentary, writer Jennifer Fulwiler reflected on the challenges of living the moral code of one’s faith, despite its inconvenience.

To access Ms. Fulwiler’s complete post, please visit:

NCR Blog: Jennifer Fulwiler: Are We Seeking Truth, or Convenience? (28 MAR 12)

Reflection Starter from Saint Gregory of Nazianzen

“The grace of a good deed is doubled when it is done with promptness and speed.” - Saint Gregory of Nazianzen, bishop and Doctor of the Church

29 March 2012

National Public Health Week

Next week, the week of 2-6 April, is National Public Health Week. This year’s theme is “A Healthier America Begins Today: Join the Movement!”

This year’s observance is designed to build upon the National Prevention Strategy to encourage more Americans and their communities to take preventive measures to help improve their lives.

For more information about National Public Health Week, please visit:

National Public Health Week

National Public Health Week Blog

National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council: National Prevention Strategy: America’s Plan for Better Health and Wellness (June 2011)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for Your healing presence in the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Father Luke Fong on the Sacrament of Reconciliation

“It’s that time of the year again for penitential services organized in parishes dotted all around the globe.  Every year, several weeks before Holy Week, these are organized in a large way so that parishioners can fulfill their ‘Easter duties’ before the solemnity of Easter comes upon us.  My experience has been that there is always a certain sense of dread hanging in the air on both sides of the confessional – on the part of the penitents as well as the confessor priests, and for different reasons.”

In a recent reflection, Father Luke Fong, of the Archdiocese of Singapore, offered some thoughts on the sacrament of Reconciliation.

To access Fr. Fong’s complete post, please visit:

Reflections and Ruminations: Going fishing in the confessional (25 MAR 12)

Reflection Starter from the Dalai Lama

Some time ago, when he was asked “What thing about humanity surprises you the most?”, the Dalai Lama’s answer was as follows:

"Man - because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices his money to recuperate his health. Then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present, and as a result he does not live in the present or the future. He lives as if he's never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived."

28 March 2012

Downtown Fire Destroys Three Buildings in Fort Kent, ME

A major fire destroyed three buildings on West Main Street, Fort Kent, ME, on Sunday, 25 March. Heat from the fire also damaged other nearby buildings. One of the buildings, housing Nadeau’s House of Furniture at 191 West Main Street, dated back to the 1880’s.

Assisting the Fort Kent Volunteer Fire Department were companies from Cross Lake, Eagle Lake, Frenchville, Madawaska, St. Agatha, and St. Francis, as well as from St. Francois and Clair, New Brunswick.

Media reports:

Bangor Daily News: Fire destroys Fort Kent business landmark, threatens other buildings (25 MAR 12)

Bangor Daily News: Fire that destroyed three historic Fort Kent buildings under investigation (26 MAR 12)

St. John Valley Times: Main Street buildings burn in Fort Kent fire (26 MAR 12)

Bangor Daily News: Investigation continues into weekend fire in Fort Kent as community steps in to help (27 MAR 12)

Bangor Daily News: Cause of massive Fort Kent fire may never be known (28 MAR 12)

WAGM-TV: Fort Kent Fire Destroys Five Building, Leaves Ten People Without Home (26 MAR 12)

Fiddlehead Focus: Fire in Fort Kent image gallery

Background information:

Town of Fort Kent

Wikipedia: Fort Kent, Maine

Google Map: 191 West Main Street, Fort Kent, ME

“What Wondrous Love Is This”

As our Lenten observance continues, I offer this Celtic Spirit instrumental version of “What Wondrous Love Is This”:

HUD, VA to Provide Permanent Housing and Support to Homeless Vets

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced that HUD will provide $72.6 million to public housing agencies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to supply permanent housing and case management for more than 10,000 homeless veterans.

This permanent supportive housing assistance is to be provided through HUD’s Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH), a program administered by HUD, VA, and local housing agencies to provide permanent housing with case management and other supportive services for homeless veterans across the country.

These grants are part of $75 million appropriated for Fiscal Year 2012 to support the housing needs of homeless veterans.

Background information:

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness: Using HUD-VASH to End Veterans Homelessness

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness: Veterans

National Coalition for Homeless Veterans

National Coalition for Homeless Veterans: Report on the 2011 Veteran Access to Housing Summit

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: Homeless Resources Exchange

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Homeless Resource Center

Papal Visit to Cuba

Here are a few news items and commentaries related to Pope Benedict’s visit to Cuba:

National Catholic Register: Pope's Visit to Cuba: Historic Visit at Vital Time (25 MAR 12)

Fox News: Pope arrives in Cuba on mission to renew the faith (26 MAR 12)

National Catholic Register: Pope Benedict's Trip to Cuba: Journey to Hostile Terrain (26 MAR 12)

Vatican Insider: Cuban authorities detain many dissidents on eve of Pope Visit (26 MAR 12)

National Catholic Register: Pope's Homilies and Addresses in Cuba - Full Texts (26 MAR 12)

Whispers in the Loggia: "The Purpose Is Pastoral" -- The Pope Goes to Cuba (26 MAR 12)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for establishing Your Church and for the many ways in which You work through it to shepherd Your people.

Joe Heschmeyer on Saint Paul's Vision of the Church

“At or near the heart of the Reformation is a debate over Saint Paul, and how we should understand his writings, particularly his statements about justification in his Epistles to the Romans and to the Galatians.  This is an interesting exegetical question, but in my opinion, it overlooks an obvious reality: St. Paul would never have been a Protestant.  His views on the Church simply wouldn't permit such a thing.”

In a recent commentary that focuses on Ephesians 4:11-14, Joe Heschmeyer reflects on Saint Paul’s views on the Church.

To access Mr. Heschmeyer’s complete post, please visit:

Shameless Popery: Catholicism, Protestantism, and Saint Paul's Vision of the Church (20 MAR 12)

Reflection Starter from John Paul II

“The future starts today, not tomorrow.” – Blessed Pope John Paul II

27 March 2012

Papal Visit to Mexico (continued)

Here are a few additional news items and commentaries related to Pope Benedict’s visit to Mexico:

EWTN News: Mexicans feel hopeful after Pope's words at Plaza de Paz (25 MAR 12)

Catholic News Agency: Pope's Mass is worth the all-night wait for Guanajuato Catholics (25 MAR 12)

EWTN News: At Mexican monument, Pope hails Jesus' kingship of love (25 MAR 12)

Catholic News Agency: Christ's love can transform Mexico, Pope tells children (25 MAR 12)

Annie E. Casey Foundation Reports Increase in Child Poverty

In its recently released annual KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot, the Annie E. Casey Foundation reported that nearly eight million of America’s children live in high-poverty areas (about 1.6 million more since 2000).

According to the Foundation, the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey show that about 7.9 million, or 11 percent, of the nation’s children are growing up in areas where at least 30 percent of residents live below the federal poverty level (about $22,000 per year for a family of four). In 2000, 6.3 million kids, or 9 percent, were living in such communities, which often lack access to resources that are critical to healthy growth and development, including quality education, medical care, and safe outdoor spaces.

To access the complete report, please visit:

Annie E. Casey Foundation: KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot on Children Living in High-Poverty Communities (2012)

Media report:

Portland Press Herald: Report sees rise in Maine child poverty (20 MAR 12)

2011 Data Book Profiles on Key Indicators of Child Well-being:

2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book: Connecticut

2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book: Maine

2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book: Massachusetts

2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book: New Hampshire

2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book: Rhode Island

2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book: Vermont

Background information:

Annie E. Casey Foundation: 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book: State Profiles of Child Well-being (2011)

Annie E. Casey Foundation

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 - 27 March 2012

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the great variety of ethnic cuisine we have available here in the U.S.A.

Father John Higgins on Seeing a Man Brought Back to Life

“Who doesn’t enjoy a good BBQ with friends? When I was asked to a young couple’s home for a Young Adult Ministry Home Mass and BBQ I packed my Mass kit and off I went. I arrived about 6:00 pm with a hearty appetite and was greeted by about 15 young people. Then the phone rang and everything changed. I had to drive about 10 miles to a hospital where there was an emergency call.”

In a recent commentary, Father John Higgins (Campus Minister and Religion Teacher at Bishop Garcia Diego High School, Santa Barbara, CA) reflected on a recent incident involving an apparently dead person coming back to life.

To access the complete post, please visit:

Saint Peter's List: Fr. Higgins: The Man I Saw Brought Back to Life (25 MAR 12)

Reflection Starter from Mother Teresa

"One filled with joy preaches without preaching." – Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa)

26 March 2012

Celtic Woman: "Ave Maria"

As our celebration of the Annunciation continues, I offer Celtic Woman singing "Ave Maria":

Partnership for a Drug-Free America Offers Parenting Resource

In its current newsletter, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America offers a new resource, “Six Parenting Practices: Help Reduce the Chances Your Child will Develop a Drug or Alcohol Problem,” designed to assist parents, guardians, and other caregivers who play an active role in helping prevent substance abuse in their families.

Among the tips:

1. Build a warm and supportive relationship with your child.

2. Be a good role model when it comes to drinking, taking medicine and handling stress.

3. Know your child’s risk level.

4. Know your child’s friends.

To access the complete resource, please visit:

Treatment Research Institute and The Partnership at Drugfree.org: Six Parenting Practices: Help Reduce the Chances Your Child will Develop a Drug or Alcohol Problem

Background information:

Partnership for a Drug-Free America

Papal Visit to Mexico

Here are a few news items and commentaries related to Pope Benedict’s visit to Mexico:

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Pope arrives in Mexico, denouncing violence (24 MAR 12)

Whispers in the Loggia: "God Wants Us To Be Happy Always" (25 MAR 12)

National Catholic Register: Pope's Address to Youth in Guanajuato - Full Text (25 MAR 12)

USA Today: Tens of thousands gather for pope's Mass in Mexico (25 MAR 12)

National Catholic Register: Pope Benedict and Mexican Children: an Invitation to Protect Those Who Will Inherit World (25 MAR 12)

Vatican Radio: Pope: Laity are not second class citizens (26 MAR 12)

The Annunciation of the Lord

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. The assigned readings are Isaiah 7:10-14, 8:10; Hebrews 10:4-10; and Luke 1:26-38. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 40 (Psalm 40:7-11).

The Gospel reading is as follows:

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you."

But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end."

But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?"

And the angel said to her in reply, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God."

Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.

Reflections related to today’s celebration:

Crossroads Initiative: St. Bernard of Clairvaux: Annunciation and Mary's Fiat

Dr. Edward Sri: Our Lady’s Life Before the Annunciation (24 MAR 11)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for our children and for the many ways in which You bless them and surround them with Your mantle of love.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker on Being a Catholic Christian

“Living in the Bible Belt has its moments. There’s a gritty reality to the religion in the South, and fairly often you feel like  you really are living in a Flannery O’Connor story.

“One of the crunchy parts of living here are the ‘separated brethren’ who seriously ask, ‘Are Catholics Christian?’ It’s a difficult question to answer, not because there is no answer, but because the answer is on the one hand so obvious, yet if the question is being asked you realize that the answer is not obvious at all. In fact, you realize that the person asking the question is only doing so because he already truly believes that Catholics are not Christian.”

In a recent commentary, Father Dwight Longenecker (parish priest at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Greenville, SC) reflected on what it means to be a Catholic Christian.

To access Fr. Longenecker’s complete post, please visit:

Standing on My Head: Are Catholics Christian? (24 Mar 12)

Background information:

Dwight Longenecker - Catholic priest and author

Reflection Starter from Gerald R. Ford

"I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your President by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your President by your prayers. And I hope that such prayers will also be the first of many. . . . Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a Government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule. But there is a Higher Power, by whatever name we honor Him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice but mercy." - Gerald R. Ford (in his address upon assuming the presidency after President Nixon's resignation, 9 August 1974)

25 March 2012

Fr. Fleming on the Sacredness of the World Around Us and Our Role In It

“Lent is a time for keeping our eyes open to discover the daily graces we so easily miss in our busy, distracted lives. Catholic Christians believe that the world itself has a sacramental nature, revealing always and everywhere the presence and grace of God among us.”

In his posted Lenten reflection today, Father Austin Fleming (pastor of Holy Family Parish in Concord, MA) offered two quotations that can strongly remind us of the sacred nature of the world around us and our share in it.

To access Fr. Fleming’s complete post, please visit:

A Concord Pastor Comments: Praying 10 Minutes a Day: Fifth Week/Sunday (25 MAR 12)

Our Lady Aparecida

“The Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida in Aparecida, Brazil is the greatest Marian pilgrimage site in the world. It receives more pilgrims that the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe or Our Lady of Lourdes.”

In a recent commentary, Dr. Taylor Marshall wrote about a shrine that many people are not aware of.

To access Dr. Marshall’s complete post, please visit:

Canterbury Tales: Which Unknown Marian Shrine Has More Pilgrims than Guadalupe and Lourdes? Answer: Brazil's Our Lady of Aparecida (24 MAR 12)

Background information:

Tradition in Action: Our Lady Aparecida

Apparitions and pictures of Virgin Mary: Our Lady of Aparecida

Steve Green: “What Wondrous Love is This”

As our Sunday celebration continues, I offer this version of “What Wondrous Love is This,” sung by Steve Green at a concert at Loma Linda Concert University:


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:

CitizenLink: Pro-Life Caucus Discusses Abortion in ObamaCare (22 MAR 12)

CitizenLink: The “Abortion Premium” in ObamaCare (21 MAR 12)

National Right to Life News: ADF joins lawsuit against Rhode Island governor’s power grab (22 MAR 12)

Catholic Herald (Commentary): The term ‘feminism’ has too much baggage for pro-lifers to reclaim it as their own (14 MAR 12)

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USCCBlog: Catholics Care. Catholics Vote: The Question of Conscience (21 MAR 12)

National Catholic Register: Catholic Colleges Upset by HHS Rule Requiring Student Health Plans to Comply With Mandate (21 MAR 12)

The Constant Convert: Contraception and Understanding: Rebuilding the Foundation (16 FEB 12)

National Review: The War on Men (19 MAR 12)

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Catholic Lane: The New Face of Natural Family Planning (19 MAR 12)

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On the Culture: Immigration: The Contested Principle (19 MAR 12)

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Christian Science Monitor: Will Trayvon Martin case spur rethinking of Stand Your Ground laws? (22 MAR 12)

Christian Science Monitor: Gun nation: Inside America's gun-carry culture (11 MAR 12)

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National Review: ‘No Wi-Fi’: The Real Sign of Our Times (23 MAR 12)

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Today the Church celebrates the Fifth Sunday of Lent. The assigned readings are Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 5:7-9, and John 12:20-33. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 51 (Psalm 51:3-4, 12-15).

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

YouTube: Psalm 51 Create a Clean Heart In Me O God

The Gospel reading is as follows:

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me. I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? 'Father, save me from this hour?' But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name."

Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it and will glorify it again."

The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, "An angel has spoken to him."

Jesus answered and said, "This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself." He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

Reflections on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: Fifth Sunday of Lent (March 25, 2012)

Msgr. Charles Pope: The Cross Wins, It Always Wins. A Meditation on the Gospel of the Fifth Sunday of Lent (24 MAR 12)

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio: Unless a Grain of Wheat

The Quiet Corner: Those who reject the world will discover their inner worth (22 MAR 12)

The Deacon's Bench: Homily for March 25, 2012: 5th Sunday of Lent (23 MAR 12)

Rev. William D. Oldland: "Unless a Grain of Wheat Falls into the Earth and Dies" (6 APR 03)

The Lectionary: A grain of wheat must die to produce fruit (22 MAR12)

Dr. Scott Hahn: The “Hour” Come (March 25th 2012 - Fifth Sunday of Lent)

The Word Encountered: Repentance and Eucharist (Fifth Sunday of Lent B)

Dominican Daily: Word to Life: Sirius XM: 5th Sunday of Lent

Thank You, Lord,

Thank you, Lord, for the opportunities You give us to meet You in the persons were encounter each day.

Pat Gohn on Praying Saint Patrick’s Breastplate

“For the Christian, joy in all its flavors - silly or sublime - is a supernatural spillover from the graces of baptism. Indeed, baptism creates a profound connection to the deepest joys and fellowship of the Holy Trinity, felt most palpably by mere mortals in the presence of Christ.

“Patrick, as evidenced by his preaching and his prayers, knew the source of his joy. . . .

“St. Patrick's Breastplate is a powerful Trinitarian prayer and I highly recommend its efficacy, especially in Lent. Whenever I feel I may be faltering, or dealing with any kind of difficulty, oppression, or spiritual battle, it invigorates me. I invite you to pray it and reflect on it.”

In a recent commentary, Pat Gohn reflected on Saint Patrick’s Breastplate as a prayer for Lent, as a prayer for living life.

To access her complete post, please visit:

A Word in Season: Praying St. Patrick's Breastplate (14 MAR 12)

Reflection Starter from Mother Teresa

“There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in - that we do it to God, to Christ, and that’s why we try to do it as beautifully as possible.” - Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa)

24 March 2012

Marty Robbins: "Cool Water"

It's time for a Western tune: Here is Marty Robbins singing "Cool Water":

Christian Football

Pastor Tim Davis, of Westside Bible Church, Victoria, BC, recently offered these examples of “Christian Football” in action:

  • Quarterback Sneak - Church members quietly leaving during the invitation.
  • Draw Play - What many children do with the bulletin during worship.
  • Half-time - The period between Sunday School and worship when many choose to leave.
  • Benchwarmer - Those who do not sing, pray, work, or apparently do anything but sit.
  • Backfield-in-Motion - Making a trip to the back (restroom or water fountain) during the service.
  • Staying in the Pocket - What happens to a lot of money that should be given to the Lord's work.
  • Two-minute Warning - The point at which you realize the sermon is almost over and begin to gather up your children and belongings.
  • Instant Replay - The preacher loses his notes and falls back on last week's illustrations.
  • Sudden Death - What happens to the attention span of the congregation if the preacher goes "overtime."
  • Trap - You're called on to pray and are asleep.
  • End Run - Getting out of church quick, without speaking to any guest or fellow member.
  • Flex Defense - The ability to allow absolutely nothing said during the sermon to affect your life.
  • Halfback Option - The decision of 50% of the congregation not to return for the evening service.
  • Blitz - The rush for the restaurants following the closing prayer.

Cambridge, MA, to Receive APHA Policy Innovation Award

The American Public Health Association (APHA) recently announced its selection of six health departments, including the Cambridge, MA, Public Health Department, to receive funding to advance an innovative policy approach in response to a critical public health problem in their community.

The award program is designed to strengthen a health department’s capacity to reduce health inequities through policy and improve their ability to engage community partners in the policy process. With support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Public Health Improvement Initiative, each health department will receive between $25,000 and $40,000 and no-cost technical assistance from APHA for a period of 10 months.

The selected health departments will be required to develop, implement and/or evaluate the innovative public health policy strategy they submitted for the award. APHA plans to work closely with the health departments to identify emerging and promising practices that can be replicated in other communities. APHA also plans to highlight the work of awardees by sharing information about their activities through various communication channels, and by developing resources, such as case studies, for health departments interested in adopting similar approaches.

The Cambridge Public Health Department is planning to use its award to develop a workplace domestic violence policy at the health department and create a step-by-step Employee Domestic Violence Policy Implementation Guide with companion DVD to help other workplaces develop policies.

Background information:

Cambridge Public Health Department

City of Cambridge

Wikipedia: Cambridge, Massachusetts

American Public Health Association

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the awesomeness of the interconnectivity of all creation.

Fr. James Schall, S. J. on a Totalitarian Ecology

“The pope is a German. He likes to see things well taken care of. He cites St. Francis who told his monks that when they planted a vegetable garden, they were to plant in it also many flowers. As I have often said, we need beauty more than we need bread. The earth should be filled with parks and gardens.”

In a recent commentary, Father James Schall, S. J., Professor of Political Philosophy at Georgetown University, reflected on the the thought that reducing human numbers is the way to keep the world going.

To access Fr. Schall’s complete post, please visit:

The Catholic Thing: Totalitarian Ecology (20 MAR 12)

Background information:

Father Schall's Website

USCCB: Seven themes of Catholic Social Teaching

Pope Benedict XVI: Message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace 2010 ("If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation")

Reflection Starter from Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

23 March 2012

State of Vermont Receives EPA Smart Growth Assistance

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that Vermont has been one of five selected recipients of the Smart Growth Implementation Assistance (SGIA) program nationwide. This program is designed to offer assistance to help understand new or cutting-edge development issues in five areas of the country, and then replicate that assistance to other places facing similar challenges.

In the fall of 2011, the state of Vermont experienced major damage to roads, houses, and businesses due to flood impacts from Tropical Storm Irene. With this SGIA assistance, EPA is planning help communities in the Mad River Valley recover from flood damage, become more resilient to future natural disasters, and plan for future growth.

In addition to helping the selected recipients with their development challenges, the program aims to create models that can catalyze similar projects across the country, identify common barriers to more environmentally and economically sustainable communities, and create new tools other communities can use.

Background information:

EPA: Smart Growth Implementation Assistance

Partnership for Sustainable Communities

EPA Region 1 (New England)

Eden's Bridge: "Be Thou My Vision"

As our Lenten observance continues, I offer this version of “Be Thou My Vision,” by Eden’s Bridge:


Computer System Issues

We have had limited publishing ability for the past few days due to serious computer system issues. These have been corrected, and we are up and running again.

Kudos to Kore Computer Services (North Providence, RI) for their fine service on the system!

(Disclaimer: Corey Vecchiarino, one of the Kore Computer owners, is Myrna's grandson.)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of laughter.

Cardinal Wuerl on the Contributions of Women to the Church

“For the month of March, the Holy Father’s general intention is that the whole world may recognize the contribution of women to the development of society. The liturgical calendar for this  month celebrates the courage and fidelity of women. In the first week, the Church celebrates the feast of the martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity and on March 26, the Solemnity of the Annunciation. During this month, our minds turn toward the great gift of what Blessed John Paul II in his letter Mulieris Dignitatem calls the feminine genius and its positive impact on the life of the Church and society.”

In a recent commentary, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, reflected on the contributions of women to the Church.

To access Cardinal Wuerl’s complete post, please visit:

Seek First the Kingdom: The Gift of the Feminine Genius (9 MAR 12)

Background information:

Pope John Paul II: Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women) (15 August 1988)

Reflection Starter from Colossians

"Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance; be slaves of the Lord Christ." - Colossians 3:23-24 (from Monday's Divine Office Evening Prayer [Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary])

22 March 2012

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 - 20 March 2012

Cantus: "Simple Gifts"

"Just because," I offer Cantus singing "Simple Gifts":

Reflection Starter from Philippians

"For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work. Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life. . . ." Philippians 2:13-16 (an excerpt from the reading in yesterday's Evening Prayer, Liturgy of the Hours).

20 March 2012

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the beautiful display of stars and other heavenly bodies You provide for us.

Msgr. Pope on Piety

“In the modern world the word ‘piety’ has come to be associated with being religious. And while it does have religious application, its original meaning was far wider and richer. The English word ‘piety’ comes from the Latin pietas, which spoke of family love, and by extension love for one’s ancestors,  of one’s country, and surely of God. Cicero defined pietas as the virtue ‘which admonishes us to do our duty to our country or our parents or other blood relations.’”

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

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

Msgr. Charles Pope: What is Piety? And How Does a Lack of Piety Spell Doom for Us? (18 MAR 12)

Reflection Starter from Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

“Nothing is so often irretrievably missed as a daily opportunity.” - Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

19 March 2012

Keep America Beautiful Announces “Record-Setting” Goal: Recruit 4 Million Volunteers To Activate Great American Cleanup 2012

Keep America Beautiful (KAB) recently announced a goal of recruiting four million volunteers to support its Great American Cleanup 2012 initiative that begins this month.

The Great American Cleanup is called the country’s largest community improvement movement that launches more than 30,000 programs with 1,200 affiliates and participating organizations convening millions of volunteers. Volunteers participate in a variety of activities focused on waste reduction, recycling, beautification, and community greening.

To support this call to action, KAB has declared the first-ever “National Day of Action” on Saturday, 28 April 28, with activities taking place in nearly all 50 states.

For more information about this initiative, please visit:

Keep America Beautiful

Facebook: Great American Cleanup

"Joseph's Song"

As our celebration of Saint Joseph continues, I offer this version of "Joseph's Song", written by Michael Card and performed by Gabe Hughes of Hughesvelle:

Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The assigned readings are 2 Samuel 7:4-5, 12-14, 16; Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22; and Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 89 (Psalm 89:2-5, 27, 29).

The Gospel reading is as follows:

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.

Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ. Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

Reflections on this day and on Saint Joseph:

Pope Paul VI: Homily on the Feast of Saint Joseph, 1969

John Paul II: Apostolic Exhortation: Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways You call upon us during the holy season of Lent to examine our relationship with You.

Fr. James Farfaglia on Sin and Confession

"This Sunday, our attention is being directed toward an understanding of the reality of sin.  Let us recall the words of this Sunday's gospel narrative: ‘And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed’ (John 3: 19-20).”

In a recent commentary, Father James Farfaglia, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Parish,Corpus Christi, TX, reflected, in light of this past Sunday’s Gospel reading, the reality of sin and the freeing power of the sacrament of Reconciliation.

To access Fr. Farfaglia’s complete post, please visit:

The Happy Priest: Sin, Confession, Freedom and God's Mercy (18 MAR 12)

Reflection Starter from Saint Cyril of Jerusalem

“Our actions have a tongue of their own; they have an eloquence of their own, even when the tongue is silent. For deeds prove the lover more than words.” - Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (whose feast day is 18 March)

18 March 2012

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:

Matthew Warner: Obama's Political Calculation (and NEW VIDEO on HHS Mandate) (9 MAR 12)

National Catholic Register: Religious Liberty, Blood Transfusions, Cigarettes and Contraception (10 MAR 12)

Truthiness will Set Us Free: My Countering of the Guttmacher Institute, the Affordable Care Act, and the "98% of Catholic Women (10 FEB 12)

National Catholic Register: First Secular Business Sues Over HHS Mandate (16 MAR 12)

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Washington Post: In climate wars, radicalization of researchers brings risks (5 MAR 12)

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New York Times Op-Ed: It’s About Immigrants, Not Irishness (16 MAR 12)

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National Right to Life News: Ultrasound Law: “Pro-Women and Pro-Information” (9 MAR 12)

LifeSiteNews: How some kids with a van are changing the pro-life movement (7 MAR 12)

National Catholic Register: Subsidized Abortions Will Be Offered in State Health Exchanges (16 MAR 12)

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Catholic Online: Lands Drenched in Innocent Blood: Boko Haram Declares War Against Christians (9 MAR 12)

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Catholic Lane: The Nature Of Marriage Is Not Defined By Popular Whim (5 MAR 12)

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Catholic News Agency: Vatican prevents complete website shutdown (8 MAR 12)

ZDNet: Anonymous hacks Vatican website (7 MAR 12)

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The Deacon's Bench: Splitsville: bowling alleys and churches part company (10 MAR 12)

“The Deer’s Cry”

As our Sunday celebration continues, I offer this version of “The Deer’s Cry” (a version of "The Breastplate of St Patrick”), produced by the Patrician Brothers:

Catholic Bishops Call For Prayer For Religious Liberty

The Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), at its recent meeting in Washington, called for a nationwide prayer campaign for protection of religious freedom and conscience rights from several threats, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that forces employers, including religious ones, to provide contraception/sterilization in their health plans.

“We call upon the Catholic faithful, and all people of faith, throughout our country to join us in prayer and penance for our leaders and for the restoration of our First Freedom - religious liberty - which is not only protected in the laws and customs of our great Nation, but rooted in the teachings of our great Tradition,” the bishops said in “United for Religious Freedom” a statement issued on 14 March. “Prayer is the ultimate source of our strength - for without God, we can do nothing; but with God, all things are possible.”

To support the effort, the USCCB has posted prayer resources at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/resources-on-conscience-protection.cfm.

The full text of “United for Religious Freedom,” prayer campaign resources, and related information on religious liberty and conscience rights, may be accessed at http://www.usccb.org/conscience.

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Today the Church celebrates the Fourth Sunday of Lent. The assigned readings are 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23; Ephesians 2:4-10; and John 3:14-21. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 137 (Psalm 137:1-6).

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

YouTube: Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 137 "Amidst sorrow in exile, could I forget you, Jerusalem?"

The Gospel reading is as follows:

Jesus said to Nicodemus: "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

Reflections on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: Fourth Sunday of Lent (March 18, 2012)

Msgr. Charles Pope: Your Love is Lifting Me Higher. A Meditation on the Readings for Laetare Sunday (17 MAR 12)

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio: John 3:16 and Grace

The Deacon's Bench: Homily for March 18, 2012: 4th Sunday of Lent (17 MAR 12)

The Quiet Corner: Authentic faith is a lifelong process guided by beliefs (15 MAR 12)

The Lectionary: God sent his Son into the world as an act of love (15 MAR 12)

Dr. Scott Hahn: Living in the Light (Fourth Sunday of Lent)

Father Thomas Rosica: Nicodemus’ search for the “Soul of Theology” (13 MAR 12)

The Word Encountered: Being Saved by God’s Kind Favor (Fourth Sunday of Lent B)

Dominican Daily: Word to Life: Sirius XM: 4th Sunday Lent (B)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways You are working through bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated men and women religious, and the laity to spread the Good News of Your Gospel message.

St. Patrick Is Still Evangelizing

“You never know who God is going to bring into your life. This past week I had an amazing experience of God while waiting for my dinner.”

In a recent post, Mark Hart wrote about an interesting pre-Saint Patrick’s Day evangelizing experience.

To access Mark’s complete post, please visit:

LifeTeen: An Irish Blessing – A Story about Saint Patrick’s Day (16 MAR 12)

Reflection Starter from Padre Pio

“Do not be discouraged if you work much and reap little. . . if you would think how much only one soul is worth to Jesus you would make no complaint at all.” - Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)

17 March 2012

Celtic Thunder: "Heartland"

As our celebration of Saint Patrick's Day continues, I offer Celtic Thunder performing "Heartland" (one of the songs in their recent CD, Heritage):

Background information:

Celtic Thunder

Major Fire Strikes Former Holyoke, MA, Paper Mill

A multiple fire heavily damaged a former paper mill, the former American Writing Paper Company’s Old Mount Tom Division Mill, at 16 Water Street, Holyoke, MA, on Thursday, 15 March. The mill was in the process of being dismantled when the fire occurred.

The initial alarm was transmitted at approximately 1630 hours. The Holyoke Fire Department was assisted by companies from Amherst, Chicopee, Easthampton,South Hadley, and Westover Air Reserve Base.

Media reports:

WSHM-TV: Fire at former factory expected to burn all night (15 MAR 12)

Springfield Republican: Holyoke fire consumes former paper mill off Water Street (16 MAR 12)

WWLP-TV: Massive Holyoke mill fire ruled accidental (16 MAR 12)

WSHM-TV: Owner of Holyoke mill speaks about accidental fire (16 MAR 12)

WGGB-TV: Another Historic Paper Mill Destroyed by Fire in Holyoke (16 MAR 12)

Springfield Republican Photo Gallery: Fire engulfs Holyoke mill on Water Street

WWLP-TV Photo Gallery: Vacant building fire in Holyoke

Springfield Republican Video: Holyoke Firefighters Battle A Mill Fire on Water Street

FIREGROUND360°: Water St Mill Fire | Holyoke, MA

Background information:

Holyoke Fire Department

IAFF Local 1693, Holyoke Fire Fighters

City of Holyoke

Wikipedia: Holyoke, Massachusetts

Google Map: 16 Water Street, Holyoke, MA

University of Massachusetts Library Special Collections and University Archives: American Writing Paper Company

A Saint Patrick’s Day Offering

“Saturday is St. Patrick’s Day, so here’s a collection of videos that may tangentially have something to do with St. Patrick, the holiday, or Ireland.”

In a recent Mental Floss post, Miss Cellania offered some videos related, in some way, to Saint Patrick’s Day.

To access her complete post, please visit:

Mental Floss: The Late Movies: St. Patrick’s Day (16 MAR 12)

Forest Service Report Shows Forest Growth in North Outpacing Other Parts of Country

U.S. Forest Service scientists recently released an assessment that shows forest land has expanded in northern states during the past century despite a 130-percent population jump and relentless environmental threats.  At the same time, Forest Service researchers caution that threats to forests in the coming decades could undermine these gains.

According to the report, forest coverage in the United States has increased by 28 percent across the twenty-state region that includes the six New England states.

Forested land currently accounts for 42 percent of the northern land area. Population in the region rose from 52 to 124 million people during the past 100 years, while northern forest coverage expanded from 134 to 172 million acres. Total U.S. forest land remained essentially unchanged during that time.

"While it's heartening to see our northern forests thriving in great times of change, we should also use this report as a reminder to remain vigilant about working together across all lands to make sure these positive trends continue," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell in a prepared statement.  "Forests have rebounded over the last century, but there are significant threats that could undo many of the gains.  Forest Service research including a study released in 2010, have already indicated this.  Our future research will delve more deeply into those threats.”

The assessment is an initiative of the Northern Forest Futures Project, a cooperative effort of the Forest Service, the Northeastern Area Association of State Foresters, and the academic community.  The project is examining how trends and choices may impact the landscapes of northern states. Partners in the cooperative hope ultimately the project influences decisions regarding the protection and sustainable management of public and private forests.

Outlined in the report are current conditions, recent trends, opportunities, and threats affecting the most densely populated and forested part of the country.  This information is designed to lay the groundwork for a 50-year outlook on northern forests, which the Forest Service plans to release in 2013. 

The report shows that Maine, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York, and West Virginia have the greatest total volume of timber among northern states – more than 20 billion cubic feet each. Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, and West Virginia have the highest average volume per acre of timberland – more than 1,900 cubic feet per acre.

According to the report, these trees benefit rural and urban communities by protecting soil from erosion, reducing energy consumption, collecting carbon emissions and providing clean water.  Forty-eight percent of the North’s water supply originates on the forests that cover 42 percent of the land.

In its economic evaluation, the northern forest assessment states that about 441,000 people work in the forestry, logging, wood products, and pulp and paper industries – accounting for about 40 percent of all U.S. jobs in these sectors.

To access the complete report, please visit:

U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station: Forests of the Northern United States (January 2012)

Background information:

Northern Forest Futures Project

Northeastern Area Association of State Foresters

U.S. Forest Service

USFA Releases Civilian Fire Fatalities in Residential Buildings Report

Since the beginning of 2012, there have been a number of fatal residential fires in the New England states. These include fires in New Britain, CT; Fort Fairfield, ME; Shrewsbury, MA; Haverhill, NH; and Essex, VT.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) recently issued a special report examining the characteristics of civilian fire fatalities in residential buildings. The report, “Civilian Fire Fatalities in Residential Buildings (2008-2010),” was developed by USFA’s National Fire Data Center and is based on 2008 to 2010 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System.

According to the report:

  • Ninety-two percent of all civilian fatalities in residential building fires involve thermal burns and smoke inhalation.
  • The leading specific location where civilian fire fatalities occur in residential buildings is the bedroom (55 percent).
  • Fifty percent of civilian fire fatalities in residential buildings occur between the hours of 10:00 PM and 6:00 AM. This period also accounts for 47 percent of fatal fires.
  • Thirty-six percent of fire victims in residential buildings were trying to escape at the time of their deaths; an additional 35 percent were sleeping.
  • "Other unintentionally set, careless" actions and "smoking" (each accounting for 16 percent) are the leading causes of fatal residential building fires.
  • Approximately 44 percent of civilian fatalities in residential building fires are between the ages of 40 and 69. Thirteen percent of the fire fatalities in residential buildings were less than 10 years old.

To access the complete report, please visit:

USFA: Civilian Fire Fatalities in Residential Buildings (2008-2010) (February 2012)

Background information:

U.S. Fire Administration

FEMA: National Fire Incident Reporting System

New England Youth to Compete in Irish Dancing World Championships

A number of student from the New England states will join some 5,000 other competitors in the 2012 World Championships of Irish Dancing (An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha) in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The event runs from 31 March to 8 April.

Media reports:

Portland Press Herald: 'At St. Patrick's time ... they're instant heroes' (17 MAR 12)

Boston Globe: Salem Irish dancers to compete for World Championships in Belfast (16 MAR 12)

The Irish Echo: Belfast readies for Irish dance championships (22 FEB 12)

Background information:

An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha

IDTANA- New England Region

New England Oireachtas - 2011 (including World Qualifiers)

New England Irish Dance Message Board

Irish Central: New England Regional Irish Dancing Championship Top 5 Girls Ladies Solo Results 2011 (22 NOV 11)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the great example Saint Patrick is for each of us.

Saint Patrick and the New Evangelization

“On St. Patrick"’s Day, everyone is Irish. The celebration is an example of the presence of a Christian memory in the West. However, as we tumble toward the abyss in what many call a post-Christian culture, the real heritage of the Apostle to Ireland might be lost if we do not stop and examine his message and mission.”

In a recent commentary, Deacon Keith Fournier reflected on the example of Saint Patrick for us in this age as we carry out the New Evangelization called for by Blessed Pope John Paul II.

To access Deacon Fournier’s complete essay, please visit:

Catholic Online: St. Patrick: Saint for the New Evangelization and Missionary Model for Today (16 MAR 12)

Reflection Starter from Monica Baldwin

“The moment when you first wake up in the morning is the most wonderful of the twenty-four hours.  No matter how weary or dreary you may feel, you possess the certainty that, during the day that lies before you, absolutely anything may happen.  And the fact that it practically always doesn’t, matters not a jot.  The possibility is always there.” - Monica Baldwin

16 March 2012

U.S. Department of Education Awards Charter School Grants to States to Increase Public School Options

The U.S. Department of Education has announced the award of three charter school grants, totaling $54.8 million, to increase public school options in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Jersey. Minnesota will receive a five-year grant and New Jersey and Massachusetts will each receive three-year grants, based on available funding, under the FY 2011 Charter Schools Program state educational agency (SEA) competition, which provides funds to states to create new high-quality charter schools and disseminate information about existing charters.

The Massachusetts grant totals $12,125,950 ($3,209,161 in the first year, $5,382,448 in the second year, and $3,534,341 in the third year).

The purpose of the Charter Schools Program is to increase financial support for these public schools, build a better national understanding of public charter schools, and increase the number of high-quality public charter schools across the nation. Altogether, the program will invest $255 million in fiscal year 2012 through several grant programs administered by the Charter Schools Program to:

  • support charter school efforts to find suitable facilities,
  • disseminate information about successful charter school practices,
  • replicate and expand high-quality charter schools, and
  • help plan and implement public charter schools.

For more information about the Charter Schools Program, please visit:

U.S. Department of Education: Office of Charter Schools Program

Background information:

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: Massachusetts Charter Schools

New England City & Town: Education Issues: Charter Schools

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for those time when I have been the recipient of alms-giving in whatever form it took. Thank you for providing for my needs (and more)during those times.

Msgr. Pope on Afflictions Ailing Our Society

“In ancient Greek mythology the dog Cerberus guarded the entrance to Hades (the misty and gloomy underworld, the abode of the dead), permitting anyone to enter but none to leave. Cerberus is usually depicted as a three headed dog and some have tried to link this to his seeing the past, present and future.”

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on the Greek mythological images of Hades and Cerberus as they apply to what ails our culture today (with specific attention to secularism, materialism, and individualism).

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

Msgr. Charles Pope: Cerberus – the Mythical Three Headed Dog as an Allegory for What Ails Us. (13 MAR 12)

Reflection Starter from J. C. Watts

“Character is doing the right thing when nobody's looking.  There are too many people who think that the only thing that's right is to get by, and the only thing that's wrong is to get caught.” - J. C. Watts

15 March 2012

Psalm 19

As our Lenten observance continues, I offer this depiction of Psalm 19, with background music by Hillsong United:

Allie Terrell on Understanding Other Faith Traditions

“With all of the hobbies to pick from, I choose to spend my free time studying lies. Everything from why Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate holidays to why Hindus eschew cow. Of course, these are factually true, in that those practitioners do believe those things, but as a belief for Catholics, they are not. As Catholics, the differing views espoused by other denominations or faiths can be striking; they are misguided at best, outright falsehoods at worst.”

In a recent commentary, writer Allie Terrell reflected on the importance of knowing more about religion in general to better understand and defend our own faith and to be able to participate more fully in the community at large.

To access her complete post, please visit:

Ignitum Today: Studying Lies (29 FEB 12)

Flood Safety Awareness Week

This week, the week of 12-16 March, is being observed as Flood Safety Awareness Week.

For specific flood safety awareness information, please visit:

National Weather Service Forecast Office - Boston: Flood Safety Awareness Week

Facebook: US National Weather Service Boston MA

Background information:

Flooding – History and Causes Factsheet

Flooding – What to Know Factsheet

Ready.gov: Floods

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for opportunities You place before us to show mercy to others.

Saint Peter Chrysologus on Lenten Practices

This week’s Office of Readings included a homily by Saint Peter Chrysologus, bishop and Doctor of the Church, that touched on practices we associate with Lent:

There are three things, my brethren, by which faith stands firm, devotion remains constant, and virtue endures. They are prayer, fasting and mercy. Prayer knocks at the door, fasting obtains, mercy receives. Prayer, mercy and fasting: these three are one, and they give life to each other.

“Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them; they cannot be separated. If you have only one of them or not all together, you have nothing. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others you open God’s ear to yourself.

“When you fast, see the fasting of others. If you want God to know that you are hungry, know that another is hungry. If you hope for mercy, show mercy. If you look for kindness, show kindness. If you want to receive, give. If you ask for yourself what you deny to others, your asking is a mockery.

“Let this be the pattern for all men when they practice mercy: show mercy to others in the same way, with the same generosity, with the same promptness, as you want others to show mercy to you.

“Therefore, let prayer, mercy and fasting be one single plea to God on our behalf, one speech in our defense, a threefold united prayer in our favor.

“Let us use fasting to make up for what we have lost by despising others. Let us offer our souls in sacrifice by means of fasting. There is nothing more pleasing that we can offer to God, as the psalmist said in prophecy: A sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; God does not despise a bruised and humbled heart.

“Offer your soul to God, make him an oblation of your fasting, so that your soul may be a pure offering, a holy sacrifice, a living victim, remaining your own and at the same time made over to God. Whoever fails to give this to God will not be excused, for if you are to give him yourself you are never without the means of giving.

“To make these acceptable, mercy must be added. Fasting bears no fruit unless it is watered by mercy. Fasting dries up when mercy dries up. Mercy is to fasting as rain is to the earth. However much you may cultivate your heart, clear the soil of your nature, root out vices, sow virtues, if you do not release the springs of mercy, your fasting will bear no fruit.

“When you fast, if your mercy is thin your harvest will be thin; when you fast, what you pour out in mercy overflows into your barn. Therefore, do not lose by saving, but gather in by scattering. Give to the poor, and you give to yourself. You will not be allowed to keep what you have refused to give to others.”

To access the Divine Office (including the daily Office of Readings) online, please visit:

Divine Office - Liturgy of the Hours