31 August 2019

Frank Sinatra: "The Coffee Song"

As this blessed week draws to a close, I offer this version of Frank Sinatra presenting "The Coffee Song":

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of a good night's sleep.

Susanna Spencer on Active Contemplation

"It has been days since I last cleaned the house, perhaps weeks. Dust sits thick on the bookcases. Clutter is strewn about the floor. Life has gotten busy, too busy for my old routine of cleaning on a weekly basis. Homeschooling fills my mornings while my writing and reading work fill my afternoons. I dive into the house cleaning on the warm Saturday morning while the kids play outside and my husband picks up some groceries.

"A familiar loneliness creeps into my consciousness and I cast my mind about for something to fill it. A podcast? An audiobook? Should I call someone while I work? Anything to distract me from the monotony of my house work. But a still, small voice calls gently out to me, reminding me that I am not alone in my work. He calls me to place myself in his presence in my work, to find fulfillment in being with him while I do these little things of my life - He calls me to a kind of prayer called active contemplation in every moment of my day."

In a recent commentary, writer Susanna Spencer reflected on the benefits of active contemplation (including disposing us to be more focused and attentive when we have an opportunity for "true mental prayer").

To access Ms. Spencer's complete post, please visit:

National Catholic Register: Blogs: Susan Spencer: Want to Be Closer to God? Try Active Contemplation (3 JUN 19)

Reflection Starter from C. S. Lewis

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." - C. S. Lewis

30 August 2019

New NFPA Report Finds Significant Decline in Volunteer Firefighter Numbers

From the National Volunteer Fire Council:

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recently published its 2017 U.S. Fire Department Profile report. The report, which is based on data collected via a national survey of fire departments, estimated that there were 682,600 volunteer firefighters in the United States in 2017. That is down significantly from the 814,850 and 729,000 volunteer firefighters that the NFPA estimates were active in the U.S. in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

The volunteer firefighter numbers for 2016 and 2017 are the lowest recorded levels since the NFPA began the survey in 1983. There was no NFPA U.S. Fire Department Profile report released in 2016, and the 2017 report is the first time that the data for 2016 or 2017 has been made available.

It is important to note that these numbers are estimates based on responses to a survey of a sample of U.S. fire departments that is designed to be representative of the overall U.S. Fire Service. Approximately 8.7 percent of fire departments surveyed responded to the survey. Any annual differences reflect both actual changes in what is being measured as well as year-on-year statistical and sampling variability.

According to the report, 83,550 of the 132,250 reduction in volunteer firefighters between 2015 and 2017 occurred in fire departments protecting communities with populations of 2,500 or fewer residents. The NFPA estimates an overall decline of 83,900 firefighters (career and volunteer combined) in those communities, a reduction of more than 20 percent over a two-year span. According to the NFPA, it should be noted that cross sections of data tend to produce less reliable estimates, statistically speaking, than the dataset as a whole because the sample size is smaller. That is particularly true for data in these reports related to smaller communities, where response rates tend to be lower than for communities with higher populations.

In addition to the decline in the number of firefighters serving in the smallest communities, the average age of those firefighters continued to increase in 2017. Fifty-three percent of firefighters serving communities with populations of 2,500 or less were over the age of 40, and 32 percent were over the age of 50 in 2017. This continues an aging trend that has been happening for years among the population of firefighters in small communities.

To access a copy of the complete report, please visit:

NEFA: 2017 U.S. Fire Department Profile report

Background information:

National Volunteer Fire Council

Franz Berwald: "Symphony No.3 in C major"

It's time for some classical music. This is a presentation of Franz Berwald's "Symphony No.3 in C major" (Singulière):


Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the grace to find You in all things.

Transform Your Life with MicroShifts

Gary Jansen was recently struck by the thought of his own mortality. The husband and father of two sons suddenly asked himself, "What if I'm not here next year?" Gary decided to write a book of lessons for his kids that they could apply to their lives. Then he realized these lessons, grounded in the Ignatian idea of finding God in all things, could benefit adults as well. That project became his book MicroShifts: Transforming Your Life One Step at a Time.

As Gary said during a Christopher Closeup interview, the concept of "Micro" shifts is important because he knows from experience that "making small changes in the way that you live, pray, and communicate with people or God can, over time, have big, powerful results."

Sometimes this involves a change in habit, but it can also mean a change in perception. For instance, Gary gained a new view of the connection between our bodies and souls after a challenging period several years ago. "For a long time," he recalled, "I thought I was going through a bad depression. I was struggling through work, through life, through my relationships. I got so tired one day that I actually fell asleep and got eight hours of sleep. Before that I was getting four and a half, five maybe."

Gary woke up the next morning feeling like a new man. He was more energetic and hopeful than he had been in a long time. His body's weariness, he realized, had affected his mind and soul, so he began paying more attention to the small changes he could make that could have a big impact.

Another major player in Gary's approach is St. Ignatius Loyola and his spirituality that searches for God in all things. Gary said, "If there was garbage on the street, St. Ignatius would say, 'Where's God in the garbage?' We can find God in sunsets, in flowers, in times when we feel in love with people and the work that we're doing. But what about those times we're going through the garbage of life? . . . Once I started embracing the Ignatian spirituality of trying to find God in all the good stuff, and all the bad stuff too, that was transformative."

It's not easy to take such a transcendent view of life, but Gary once had an encounter with a homeless man that drove this point home. This man is seen as "the town drunk" and often gets aggressive with people. He approached Gary for money, but Gary didn't have any so he began to move away. Then he noticed the homeless man's eyes.

Gary said, "I had this vision of him as a little boy. I don't know what happened to him since then, but at some point his mom held him or a nurse held him and showed him love. Maybe he was a kid that felt ostracized. Maybe he was in a really bad situation at home. Once I started trying to say, 'What if that was me?' . . . there was . .  this change in perception. Everybody out there was, at one point, a child and there was a lot of hope there. And at some point something changed. . . I'm not asking you to be a doormat to people. But at the same time there's an opportunity to take a step back and live with compassion. One of the ways to do that is to imagine this person was a child at some point, and to uplift that and value that."

This essay is a recent "Light One Candle" column by Tony Rossi, Director of Communications, The Christophers; it is one of a series of weekly columns that deal with a variety of topics and current events.

Background information:

The Christophers

Reflection Starter from C.E.M. Joad

"It has been left to our generation to discover that you can move heaven and earth to save five minutes and then not have the faintest idea what to do with them when you have saved them." - C. E. M. Joad

29 August 2019

Pope Francis on Wasting Food

"In a [recent] meeting with members of the Federation of European Food Banks . . ., Pope Francis warned against food waste, which he said shows a lack of concern for others.

"'Fighting against the terrible scourge of hunger means also fighting waste. Waste reveals an indifference towards things and towards those who go without. Wastefulness is the crudest form of discarding,' he said[atthe meeting].

"'To throw food away means to throw people away,' the pope added. 'It is scandalous today not to notice how precious food is as a good, and how so much good ends up so badly.'"

A recent Catholic World Report article reported on the Pope's message regarding food wastage.

To access the complete report, please visit:

Catholic World Report: Pope Francis: Wasting food shows a lack of concern for others (18 MAY 19)

Acadian Music from the Band Vishtèn

Various music traditions have developed over the years in different culture groups. One example is the tradition of Acadian music.

In this example, the Canadian folk music band Vishtèn offers a presentation of Acadian music:

Addressing 911 Non-Emergency Issues

"An ambulance's wailing sirens, a fire truck's flashing lights: These are a constant feature of urban life, as ubiquitous as a Starbucks on every corner or a traffic jam at 5 p.m.

"But nearly a third of the times an ambulance or a fire truck speeds by to answer a 911 call, there is no actual emergency. The number of 911 callers who don't need to go to a hospital emergency department sits at around 30 percent, according to Kevin McGinnis of the National Association of State EMS Officials.

"The 'false alarms' are more than an annoyance; they are a drain on the public purse, a frustration for responders and often an unhelpful source of assistance for the caller. It's a problem that's been around almost as long as 911 systems have. What is changing is the approach some cities and counties are taking to the way emergency medical services are delivered. Namely, a number of EMS officials are working to align their services with other community health goals. For instance, instead of automatically dropping a 911 caller at a hospital's emergency department, an ambulance could, when appropriate, be rerouted to bring a person in distress to a sobering center, an urgent care clinic or a warming center. 'Frequent flyers' - those who call 911 more than once a month - could be enrolled in a program that would help them address their chronic health conditions. Health issues that aren't truly an emergency could be triaged by a nurse watching via an iPad in a call center when the call comes in.

"There is a new program that, in a number of localities, is helping get the job done: community paramedicine. Although the concept first appeared in health literature nearly two decades ago, it started to gain real-world traction about five years ago. Since then, the adoption momentum has been increasingly swift.

"Community paramedicine programs, sometimes referred to as mobile health care, work to address the underlying causes of why someone called 911. . . ."

A recent article in Governing Magazine examined the some of the benefits of community paramedicine programs and some of the challenges related to implementing these programs.

To access the complete Governing report, please visit:

Governing: How Cities Are Bringing 911 Into the 21st Century (August 2019)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of the prophetic ministry in Your Church.

Kevin Considine on an Unofficial Apostle of Christ

"Mark's Gospel tells a particularly striking healing story, that of a man suffering a fate worse than death. This man is 'possessed with an impure spirit,' and he has no name and no identity.
Something horrifying happened to this man, and his mind, body, and spirit have been overthrown. He has little, if any, control over himself and instead reacts to forces outside his power to master. This man, made in God’s own image, can no longer see that image in himself nor in anyone or anything else. All he sees is darkness and nothingness. All he hears are lies and hostile voices in his head. All he feels is rage, pain, and humiliation. . . . How he survives is unknown. All we know is this hopeless man is incapable of being fully human as God intended.

"It is here that Jesus enters into this situation. He does not run away. He does not assault, torment, or ignore the man. Instead, Jesus carefully reaches through the spiritual smog surrounding the man and seeks to bring him back to life. Jesus helps the man to recognize himself, to know his own history and family, and to remember that he is a child of God. . . .

"Understandably, the man wants to leave this experience behind. He recognizes that Jesus is different and seeks to follow him, to sit at his feet. The townspeople also want to forget. They are amazed and frightened by Jesus and the cleansed man. They want both to move on. So the man asks Jesus if he can come with him.

"But Jesus refuses to let the man come with him. Instead, he instructs the man, 'Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.' . . ."

In a recent commentary, writer Kevin P. Considine reflected on how this man became an unofficial apostle of Jesus.

To access Dr. Considine's complete essay, please visit:

U.S. Catholic: The unofficial apostle of Christ (August 2019)

Reflection Starter

"You'll never plough a field turning it over in your mind." - Irish Proverb

28 August 2019

On the Parking Garages of the Future

". . . As America’s dependence on personal automobiles started increasing in the 1950s, local governments began mandating the number of parking spaces required when developers erected new apartments, offices and shopping centers. In urban areas where land was more expensive, that often necessitated the construction of multilevel garages . . . . Using perhaps excessive formulas, more space was often allocated for parked cars than for people. Decades later, mandatory parking minimums have resulted in a glut of spaces in the center of large cities. This is an issue nationwide. . .

"But many cities . . .  have begun to lower or eliminate mandatory parking minimums. . . . The National Parking Association (NPA), a trade group of lot operators, supports the relaxation of parking requirements for developers, saying that strict minimums not only add to construction costs but also lead to slower development and excess capacity. . . .

"Lurking behind this evolving consensus is the eventual prospect of autonomous vehicles, and how they would shift the calculus around ride-hailing services. . . ."

A recent Governing Magazine article examined various issues related to municipal and private parking garages, including options related to converting them for other uses.

To access the complete Governing report, please visit:

Governing: The Parking Garages of the Future (August 2019)

HUD Report: Understanding Encampments of People Experiencing Homelessness and Community Responses

"Cities, suburban communities, and rural areas across the United States have seen in recent years the rise of groups of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness together. The term encampment is widely used by journalists and researchers to describe these groups, but other terms include tent cities,homeless settlements, and homeless camps. Although their existence is not unprecedented, media reports suggest that the number of encampments has increased sharply in recent years (National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, 2017).

"People experiencing unsheltered homelessness may perceive staying in an encampment as a safer option than staying on their own in an unsheltered location or in an emergency shelter; however, encampments can create both real and perceived challenges for the people who stay in them as well as for neighbors and the broader community. As community leaders seek to develop and deploy a response, they often are called on to balance multiple, sometimes competing priorities and demands from a diverse group of stakeholders, including community residents, business owners, public health and safety officials, and advocates for disadvantaged populations - as well as the people living in the encampments."

A recent paper issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Policy Development and Research was designed to document what is known about homeless encampments as of late 2018, based on a review of the literature produced thus far by academic and research institutions and public agencies, supplemented by interviews with key informants. This paper is part of a larger research study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research. The study's goal is "to contribute to our understanding of homelessness, including the characteristics of homeless encampments and the people who stay in them, as well as local ideas about how to address encampments and their associated costs."

To access a copy of the complete report, please visit:

US HUD: Office of Policy Development and Research: Understanding Encampments of People Experiencing Homelessness and Community Responses, Emerging Evidence as of Late 2018 (January 2019)

David Phelps: "You Are My All in All / Canon in D"

As we continue to live this week, I offer this version of David Phelps presenting "You Are My All in All / Canon in D":

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways in which You reach out to those who have fallen away from the Faith.

Gail Besse on a Holy Hour Bringing Hope to Parents of Fallen-away Catholics

"A holy hour of Eucharistic adoration recently brought hope and comfort to parents worried about their grown children's spiritual welfare.

"Mary and Paul Alciere of Hingham, Massachusetts, married 65 years and the parents of six, planned the holy hour.

"'So many children who were raised Catholic don't attend Mass now or have left the Church. They're divorced, living with boy/girlfriends. . .'” said Mary. 'I'd been thinking for a while this needed to be done.'

"The service that she and Paul designed drew more than 50 parents to St. Paul Church in Hingham, a Boston suburb, on a Saturday morning."

In a recent commentary, writer Gail Besse reflected on this holy hour and its effects.

Aleteia: Gail Besse: This holy hour brought hope to parents of fallen-away Catholics (11 JUN 19)

Reflection Starter from St. Augustine of Hippo

"If God seems slow in responding, it is because He is preparing a better gift. He will not deny us. God withholds what you are not yet ready for. He wants you to have a lively desire for His greatest gifts. All of which is to say, pray always and do not lose heart." - Saint Augustine of Hippo (whose memory the Church celebrates today, 28 August)

27 August 2019

On Priests Teaching in Schools, Prairie Habitat Revival, Autonomous Vehicles, and Other Items

A number of articles/posts have recently been published on a variety of subjects worth considering.

To access some of these, please visit:

The Republican (Springfield): 'I'm no better than anybody here;' Police officer returns home to Massachusetts, inspired to help keep kids in Worcester off the streets (24 JUN 19)

National Catholic Register: Blogs: Fr. Dominic Bouck: Why Priests Should Teach in Schools (11 APR 19)

CityLab: Why Aren't Cities Getting Ready for Autonomous Vehicles? (30 MAY 19)

Christian Science Monitor: Prairie habitat revives - with a boost from ranchers (14 JUN 19)

BBC: Travel: The invention that saved a million ships (20 JUN 19)

The Register Citizen: Is There Really a Town Called Jerusalem and a Graveyard Under Candlewood Lake? (16 JUL 19)

Pew Research Center: How Pew Research Center estimates illegal immigration (12 JUL 19)

The Deacon's Bench: A Message for Every Priest and Deacon: 'Medics Go to Those With the Wounds' (7 JUL 19)

The Discoverer Blog: 25 Classic American Landmarks To See Before You Die

Lewiston Sun Journal : End of the road for Volkswagen Beetle (9 JUL 19)

Marie Hare: "The Jam on Gerry's Rocks"

Music of various types has been interwoven into the history of the United States (going back to the original thirteen colonies). One of these songs is "The Jam on Gerry's Rocks", presented here by the Marie Hare:

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of those who have been patient with us in our learning, our errors, and in times of our lives.

Br. Cornelius Avaritt, O.P., on Saint Monica

"It can be said that mothers do it all when it comes to their children. They raise them by taking care of their physical, material, emotional, and spiritual needs. They, of course, have the help of their husbands to assist in fulfilling these needs, but ultimately it is the maternal grace given to them by God that helps them fulfill these needs. Mothers in turn grow in the virtuous life especially the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, by responding to this maternal grace. Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Monica, who exemplifies what it means to be a mother of great faith, hope, and love." 

In a recent commentary, Brother Cornelius Avaritt, O.P., reflected on Saint Monica as a model for all mothers.

To access Br. Cornelius' complete post, please visit:

Dominicana: The Virtuous Mother (27 AUG 19)

Reflection Starter from J. R. R. Tolkien

"'I wish it need not have happened in my time,' said Frodo.

"'So do I,' said Gandalf, 'and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'" - J. R. R. Tolkien (in The Fellowship of the Ring)

26 August 2019

Guy Mitchell: "Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania"

Over the years, a number of songs have been presented that relate to various geographical locations - cities, states, countries,and so forth. One such song is "Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania." This version is presented by Guy Mitchell:

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the blessing and beauty of various hues of color.

Richard Marcantonio on the" Miracle of the Nuns"

"In November 1950, three nuns found themselves in the Arctic Circle, in a Russian gulag (or prison camp) named Vorkuta. Found guilty of proclaiming the gospel of Christ, they were assigned to work in a plant there that made bricks.
"Chapter 18 of the book of Wisdom recalls another prison camp, where Hebrew slaves made bricks for their Egyptian masters. But it also recalls that the Lord, a fierce warrior, bore into the doomed land the sharp sword of his inexorable decree, filling every place with death (Wisdom 18:14-16).
"No one saw Vorkuta as doomed, and death already filled it; more prisoners died there than in Auschwitz. Further, no one had mistaken the nuns for fierce warriors, but perhaps they knew a different art of war. All the camp's commandant knew was that these nuns were troublesome. They refused to work, claiming that anything they did to support Communism was tantamount to working for the anti-Christ.
"Dead nuns make good martyrs but poor slaves, so the commandant did not want them killed; he wanted them to change their minds. . . ."
In a recent commentary, Deacon Richard Marcantonio reflected on a miracle that occurred in Vorkuta when the commandant continued his efforts.
To access his complete article, please visit:
Faith & Culture: The Miracle of the Nuns (July 2019)

Reflection Starter from St. John Paul II

"Each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ." - Pope Saint John Paul II

25 August 2019

"Jerusalem, My Happy Home"

As we continue our Sunday celebration, I offer this version of The Schola Cantorum of St. Peter's in the Loop presenting "Jerusalem, My Happy Home":

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today the Church celebrates the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time. The assigned readings are Isaiah 66:18-21; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; and Luke 13:22-30. The Responsorial Psalm is from Psalm 117 (Psalm 117:1-2).

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

YouTube: Psalm 117 - Go Out To All The World

The Gospel reading is as follows:

Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, "Lord, will only a few people be saved?"

He answered them, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, 'Lord, open the door for us.' He will say to you in reply, 'I do not know where you are from. And you will say, 'We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.' Then he will say to you, 'I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!' And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last." 

Reflections on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Salesian Sunday Reflections: Twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time (August 25, 2019)'

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 25, 2019)

Community in Mission: Sober and Serious about Salvation - Homily Notes for the 21st Sunday of the Year (24 AUG 19)

Crossroads Initiative: Narrow Door to a Universal Church

The Deacon's Bench: Keeping balance, living with grace: Homily for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (24 AUG 19)

The Sacred Page: Will Many Be Saved? Readings for the 21st Sunday of OT (20 AUG 19)

The Sacred Page: Will Only a Few Be Saved? (The Mass Readings Explained) (19 AUG 19)

St. Paul Center: Gateway to Life: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time 

Word on Fire: The Narrow Gate (Cycle C * Ordinary Time * Week 21)

Catholic News Agency: Pope Francis: Mary helps Christians enter heaven through the 'narrow gate' (25 AUG 19)

National Catholic Register: Sunday Guide: Striving for the Narrow Gate (20 AUG 19)

Spirituality of the Readings: Heaven's Gate (21st Sunday of Ordinary Time C)

In Exile: The Agony in the Garden - The Place Where Angels Strengthen Us (21st Sunday of Ordinary Time C)

Let the Scriptures Speak: Insiders And Outsiders (21st Sunday of Ordinary Time C)

The Word Engaged: Consoling Hope (21st Sunday of Ordinary Time C)

Historical Cultural Context: Insiders & Outsiders (21st Sunday of Ordinary Time C)

Thoughts from the Early Church: Commentary by Anselm of Canterbury (21st Sunday of Ordinary Time C)