Couple Uses Their Wedding Feast to Feed Refugees

I haven’t been able to verify this story, but it’s been percolating through some alt-media and looks legit. In any case, here’s hoping it’s true, because we need a little hope right now:

A Turkish couple who got married last week invited 4,000 Syrian refugees to celebrate with them.

Fethullah Üzümcüoğlu and Esra Polat tied the knot in Kilis province on the Syrian border, which is currently home to thousands of refugees fleeing conflict in the neighbouring country.

It’s traditional for Turkish weddings to last between Tuesday to Thursday, culminating in a banquet on the last night, but this couple decided they wanted a celebration with a difference.

Hatice Avci, a spokesperson for aid organisation Kimse Yok Mu, told that the charity is responsible for feeding 4,000 refugees who live in and around the town of Kilis, but last Thursday the newlyweds donated the savings their families had put together for a party to share their wedding celebrations with the refugees living nearby instead.


“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.” Matthew 22:8-10

Emmaus Road Publishing & St. Paul Center Merge

Get this book free with your first order.

Get this book free with your first order.

Scott Hahn’s St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology has a new publishing arm, and Emmaus Road Publishing has a new lease on life, thanks to their recent merger. To mark the occasion, they’re offering a free Scott Hahn book with your first order, deep discounts, and free shipping.

The St. Paul Center produces Catholic Bible study lessons, books, and more. Their goal is to teach Catholic to be more scripturally literate as they read the Bible from the heart of tradition. Emmaus Road has an impressive roster of writers, including Hahn, Edward Sri, Patrick Coffin, Matthew Barber, and many others. They’re the publisher of Hahn’s important Letter & Spirit journal, an annual collection of articles on scripture from a Catholic perspective.


Charlie Hebdo and a Broken Europe

How broken is Europe?

This broken:

That’s their response to the murder of twelve of their fellow journalists at the hands of jihadists.

You cannot measure my indifference to the wholly imaginary thing called “Islamophobia,” which, like “homophobia,” is a way to pathologize those who disagree with a dominant narrative. A phobia is an irrational fear. In this case, it’s perfectly reasonable to be concerned about a religious movement that has rained blood on the world since its so-called “prophet” claimed to have the final word of God to man.

There’s nothing gained by sloppy sentimentality at moments like this. Charlie Hebdo and its staff were no friends to anyone of belief. They were cynical, nihilistic, and blasphemous, as is their right in our post-Enlightenment, pluralistic world. This relativistic individuality may or not be a good and healthy  thing, but now isn’t the time for that debate.

What’s obvious is that these writers,editors, and cartoonists were able to offend Christians and Jews without any fear of reprisal. They published one of the most offensive cartoons I’ve ever seen. I’ll link it here, but be warned in advance: it shows Jesus (crown of thorns, holes in his hands and feet) sodomizing God the Father and being sodomized in turn by the “Holy Spirit.”

There’s no deeper meaning in the image: it’s just a child’s outburst.  It’s offensive, yet I never considered killing anyone over it. My religion makes it clear that kind of reaction would be a violation of God’s laws. Islam, however, is considerably less clear on the subject, with both the Koran and the Hadith offering dozens of passages alternately urging violence and peace. And therein lies of the problem of the West’s long and violent interaction with Islam.

The outpourings of solidarity and sympathy in France and beyond show that we are still capable of shock and outrage. Good. We’ll need it.

The other thing we will need is faithA pallid secularism can’t defend against a diseased religiosity. Only a healthy faith can drive out a sick one.

I don’t have any illusions that we’ll see a huge turning to Christ in France. Anti-clericalism has been part of that nation’s very flesh and blood for too long. But there is something deeper in there, down in the bone and sinew: the Christianity that made France great.

All Europe and the secular west has been feeding like a vampire from that Christian heritage for two centuries without acknowledging that Christ is the wellspring of all our values and freedoms. Since that wellspring is the very living water Himself, it will never run dry, but the walls of the well are crumbling. Even the great cathedrals, built as living prayers in stone to last for centuries, are just piles of rock without faith, as the prayers that made them live fade into a distant echo. Europe is hollowed out, cherishing abstract notions and values without any transcendence or roots. It can’t survive long in this state without something breaking.

It’s rather poignant that the #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie) slogan looks so much like “Jesus is Charlie.” As much as the people of Charlie Hebdo disdained Christ, they found themselves at the foot of the cross nonetheless, as we all do. Their deaths are tragic, grotesque, and enraging, but they needn’t be futile. There is meaning even in tragedy.

For now, from across the sea, in a nation that doesn’t forget how much we owe the French, all I can do is offer a prayer for peace in these dark times. May families of the victims find consolation and comfort, and may St. Joan watch over them, strengthen them, and guide them. And may the love and blessings of Our Lord Jesus Christ be a light in their darkness.

Bishop Undergoes Amputation

photo1036A statement from the Diocese of Trenton:

Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., Diocese of Trenton, underwent surgery, Dec. 29, in a Trenton area hospital to remove his left foot, ankle and part of his lower left leg reaching halfway between the knee and the ankle. The surgery was needed to address several serious infections brought about by diabetes.

Bishop O’Connell’s surgery was described as successful by his surgeons, and his recovery is going well. He will remain in the hospital for a brief period of observation, and then will be moved to a local rehabilitation center. He is expected to make a full recovery, and will be fitted for a prosthesis at a time to be determined by his doctors.

We ask members of the community to pray for Bishop O’Connell in the coming weeks and months, as he recovers and completes his rehabilitation. Anyone wishing to send a card or note may do so at the following address: Most Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., The Chancery, Diocese of Trenton, 701 Lawrenceville Rd., Trenton, NJ 08648, Attn: Office of Communications. To send via email, write to

St. Anthony of Padua and St. Josemaria Escriva, pray for the speedy recovery of your servant David.

A Newark School Changes Lives With the Rule of St. Benedict

My story on The Rule, a documentary about the remarkable St. Benedict’s Prep, is up at the Register:

From its founding in 1868, St. Benedict’s Prep was the place where generations of Catholics, many of them immigrants, sent their boys to be educated. It was a “white working man’s prep school in a white working-class city,” according to Tom McCabe, author of a history of the school called Miracle on High Street (Fordham University Press, 2010). Run by monks of the Order of St. Benedict, it was both a school and an abbey. Over time, the composition of the city changed. The white Catholic population fled the city. The black population increased. Enrollment dropped from 814 in the early 1960s to the low hundreds after the riots.COL_lede-255x160

The school could no longer function as it had, so the monks began recruiting black youth from the neighborhood, with benefactors providing their tuition. Many of the students were capable, but they came from family and education backgrounds that didn’t provide them with the tools to succeed.

Some of the monks were uncomfortable with the change and shocked by the decline of the city, particularly after the riots. Benedictine Father Edwin Leahy, the headmaster, was a young monk at the time, and he said that many of his brothers were “petrified,” wondering if the blacks “would do to us what we did to them.”

The monks were divided. Some wanted to close the school and relocate the abbey. Others, many of whom had been educated at St. Benedict’s and found their vocations there, resisted. They felt this was where they needed to be. As Father Leahy said: “What I had gotten I wanted other kids to have.”

When the abbot failed to get the two-thirds vote needed to relocate the monastery, he closed the school in 1972. A lot of factors went into the closing, from declining enrollment to cost, but McCabe has said, “I would argue that the school closed over race.”

Read the rest.



Three Nuns Raped, Decapitated

Xaverian missionary sisters Lucia Pulici (age 75), Bernadetta Boggian (79), and Olga Raschietti (82) were raped and murdered at their convent in Bujumbura, Burundi over the weekend. (The Xaverian Missionaries are denying the rapes, which were  reported by Godefroid Bizimana, Deputy Director General of Burundian police. It’s currently unclear whether two or all three of the nuns were decapitated.)

Pope Francis offered his condolences, saying “Il loro sangue versato diventi seme di speranza per costruire l’autentica fraternità tra i popoli.” (Roughly, “May their blood be a seed of hope for building authentic brotherhood among peoples.”)

The motive is not yet known, but police suspect it may have been a robbery “by a mentally unbalanced person,” and have detained two suspects.

Burundi, a largely Christian country, is one of the poorest places in the world. Catholics make up 60-65% of the population.

More on the sisters:

Olga Raschietti had just turned 83 years old and had been in Kamenge, Burundi, since 2010. According to the statement, Olga declared in July, 2013,: “I am about to turn 80 years old. In my last trip to Italy, my superiors were uncertain whether to let me leave. One day, during worship, I prayed, ‘Jesus, Thy will be done; But you know that I still want to go.’ In my mind I heard these words with crystal clarity: ‘Olga, you think you are to save Africa? Africa is mine. Nevertheless, I am glad that you are going. Go and give your life.’ From that moment on, I no longer doubted.” Sister Olga’s brother told ANSA News today: “She died for her vocation, and despite the pain at the human level, as a Christian I am proud. She is already in heaven.”

Lucia Pulici would have turned 76 today. She was born on September 8, 1939 in Desio, near Milan and became a missionary in 1960, at the age of 21. Last October, according to the statement, she said: “Now I am returning to Burundi. Though at my age I am physically weak and limited, inwardly, I think I can say that my drive and desire to be faithful to Jesus’ love expressed in the mission is very much alive. The mission helps me to tell Him in my weakness, ‘Jesus, look, it’s my gesture of love for you.’”

Bernadette Boggian was 79 years old and had been working in Burundi since 2007. The order’s statement relates that in August 2013, on the eve of her departure for the new Burundi, she had written: “We need to nurture in ourselves a gaze of sympathy, respect and appreciation of the values of the cultures, traditions of the people we meet. This attitude, besides giving peace of mind to the missionary, helps us more easily find the appropriate language and gestures to communicate the Gospel. Despite the complex situation and conflict in the countries of the Great Lakes, I seem to sense the presence of a Kingdom of love that is being built, growing like a mustard seed.”

May their faith and willingness to serve people in the worst part of the world shine like an example to all of us.

Two Parenting Stories From the Country That Used to Be America

Hardened Criminal #1: Stay-at-home suburban mom lets kids ride scooters on her cul-de-sac. Pain-in-the-ass neighbor calls to complain. Idiot cops fail to tell neighbor to get bent, and instead arrest the mother for child endangerment: overnight in jail, orange jumpsuit, 18 hours behind bars and all.

Hardened Criminal #2: Working, lower-income mom gets daughter a laptop so the daughter has something to do while she waits in McDonald’s for mom to finish her shift. Laptop gets stolen. Daughter asks if she can play in a nearby park with fresh air and cool water rather than soaking up the atmosphere in the nation’s primary fat factory. Mom gets daughter a cell phone so she can check on her and then let’s her go play. Mom is arrested for child endangerment and daughter is given to social services. Watch the video here and read the story here.

My entire childhood is now illegal. My parents, and the parents of most kids raised in the 1970s, would be put in jail today.

You know, it’s not that we didn’t have cranky neighbors in the 1970s who would call the cops on playing kids. It’s that the cops were not stupid enough to respond, or if they did, it was just to say “Move along down the street so you stop bothering the crazy lady and I can get back to my donuts.” The idea of a parent being cuffed, stuffed, booked, printed, charged, and held would have be incomprehensible. Neighbors would have shown up at the police station to yell at cops. No one would have thought this was a proper application of force.

When I was growing up we had an old lady in my neighborhood who freaked  if a foot touched her lawn. It’s just that no one paid any attention to her. (She was totally bonkers, screaming in German and running out her door as though she sat at the window watching and waiting. Did we torment her by deliberately stepping off the sidewalk and onto her lawn?, we were once asked by a parent. The question offended me. Of course we did.)

What happened to us?

The Wonderful Dominican Nuns of Summit

My story on the fundraising efforts for the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey is up at Our Sunday Visitor. You should go read it! Here’s a bit:

Within the walls of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey, rows of simple crosses mark the graves of sisters who have gone before. It’s a potent symbol of life in the monastery, where women enter cloistered life intending never to leave, even in death.

These Dominican nuns have been in this place of peace for almost 100 years, sustaining the Church every day through their prayer and devotion. And while many religious orders are facing an aging religious population and steady decline, these sisters have seen the opposite trend.

In the past 10 years, 12 new women have entered the life, seven have stayed, and a steady stream of new young women visits to discern whether or not this is the life for them.

With more women visiting to discern whether or not they have a vocation to cloistered life, the Dominican sisters find themselves with a happy problem: The monastery has run out of room.

Read more.

Some of my pictures of my day the nuns, who gave me the rare honor of a tour, are posted here.

You can donate to their fundraising efforts here. And you really should.

The Ashes! They Burnses!

So this story flitted across my feed today:

Ashes Burned and Blistered Parishioner’s Foreheads

On Ash Wednesday, parishioners of Saint Joseph’s church in Newtownshandrum, Co Cork received their cross ashes on their forehead as many Catholics around the world did, but something different happened at St. Joseph’s.

The parishioner’s foreheads began to burn and blistered where the ashes marked their foreheads.

When Father Baker realized what was happening he stopped using the ashes at once.

“It was while I was placing the ash on the foreheads of parishioners that people began complaining about a burning sensation on their foreheads.

“I was surprised by it as I was dipping my thumb in the ashes but did not have any sort of reaction to it myself.“Once I was made aware of it, I ceased giving out any more ashes and alerted the parishioners from the altar that they should immediately remove the ashes from their heads.”

The ashes have since been sent to a lab for investigation into what could have caused the burning and blistering of the parishioners skin.

Father Baker insists this was not a supernatural event.

I want to focus on that last sentence for a minute.

I’m not sure if the word “insists” is an accurate reflection of Fr. Baker’s statement or a writerly interpolation, but it seems likely that a priest, looking to reassure a stricken and possibly jittery congregation, would hold firm to the idea that there is a perfectly natural explanation to the experience.

Something caustic probably got in the ashes. This is, all things being equal, the most likely explanation. I doubt God was singling out a bunch of hapless Irish Catholics for a little vampire-style punishment on Ash Wednesday. That would just be too outre.

“It burns!”

Probability, however, is not certainty. There was a time when a priest would have looked at this experience and the “natural/not natural” assumption would have been about 50/50. Why so quick to insist, when encountering something strange in a faith where the supernatural is an integral part, that nothing supernatural is going? The priest is part of a supernatural experience every single day. Is it so outlandish that a penitential event might begin with something a little extra-penitential?

I’m not saying it is, mind you. But I found it interesting that the initial impulse is to dismiss the supernatural completely and seek a wholly materialistic explanation. It’s not how we’ve always thought about these things, so I wrote a little bit about it in this post:

Our Ancestors Weren’t Idiots


Note to Readers: My blogging has been and will continue to be erratic. I’m down to typing mostly with one hand, and my arthritis, in the absence of the extremely expensive medicine that I’m having trouble getting (thanks Obamacare!), is making my life unpleasant. There’s just not a lot of me left over right now.


Advocacy Group Claims the Vatican is Full of Winos

And I sure hope they’re right.

The Wine Institute, a group that promotes the California wine industry, has released the results of a study* saying the Vatican consumes more wine per-capita than any other country in the world.

The average Vaticanian sucks down 74 liters of wine per person: double that of Italy and France.

Most of this, obviously, is due to sacramental use, but the overall individual wine consumption is believed to be higher because the population is older, male, and eats in community: three factors that increase wine use.

Also, Catholics like our wine, and we’re damn proud of the fact. None of that “Jesus really used grape juice at the last supper” nonsense for us.

I mean really: grape juice?


*Yeah, yeah, I know: Studies Show Most Studies Are BS, especially when they’re from an “advocacy” group looking to grab some ink. Wine consumption, however, is pretty easy to quantify, and we do use the stuff by the barrel.