How I Imagine Mainstream TV News

NEWS ANCHOR: Coming up, we have an interview with an eyewitness who drove by the site where four Marines were murdered in Tennessee. She thinks she may have seen a car displaying a Confederate flag in the parking lot.


NEWS ANCHOR: Wait, this just in: Police have identified the shooter. His name is Muhamm-

[stops abruptly, listens to earpiece, nods]

NEWS ANCHOR: And now we go to breaking news. Caitlyn Jenner has just chosen a brand of depilatory. Phil? What can you tell us about this?

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.


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.



North Carolina Satanist Killed and Ate Two Victims


“Pazuzu Algarad” and accomplice Amber Burch

A North Carolina man named “Pazuzu Algarad” (he changed it to the name of the demon from The Exorcist) has apparently confessed to murdering two men and eating parts of their bodies during Satanic rituals. The men–Joshua Wetzler, age 37, and Tommy Welch, 26–were then buried in his backyard with the help of two women.

There was also indications of animal sacrifice during Satanic rituals, with “Pazuzu” boasting of eating the “still beating hearts” of animals. The Winston-Salem Journal has more details, and the strong content warning for this one should be obvious.

More details continue to emerge about the lives of Pazuzu Algarad and Amber Burch, the two people arrested on Oct. 5 and charged in the murder and burial of two men at their Clemmons home.

According to a friend of Burch, Algarad’s girlfriend, he claimed to get a high from eating the “still-beating heart” of a sacrificial animal and bragged openly about having killed two prostitutes.

That friend visited the house in 2009 where the couple lived on Knob Hill Drive in Clemmons. Algarad and Burch are each charged with murder in connection with the deaths of two men whose remains were found recently in the couple’s backyard.

As a front-end loader scooped up tires, lawn mowers and other debris from the couple’s yard Thursday morning, Burch’s friend told about conditions inside the house that were so bad she thought she might vomit.

“It reeked of feces and urine,” said the friend, whose identity was confirmed, but who spoke with the Journal only on condition that her name not be used. Her identity has been confirmed with other people the Journal has interviewed in the last two weeks. “You didn’t get a good feeling walking into that house at all. It was dark. It was like a lifeless house. It was creepy.”

When the friend first arrived to visit Burch in 2009, Algarad was completely naked and never put on any clothes during the visit. The excrement on the floor might have been both animal and human, the friend said.

“He was on all kinds of drugs and drink when I got there,” she said. “I’m pretty sure I witnessed him peeing in the corner.” The friend said Algarad’s behavior was “very sexual, very provocative.”

“He commented on a number of occasions that he was trying to get in my pants,” the friend said, adding that Burch “was all for it. I made it clear that that it was not going to happen.”

Burch’s friend said she was only a teenager when she visited the couple’s house on several occasions during those months in 2009, and that the atmosphere was one of partying, loud metal music and drugs.

“At that time I was experimenting with different drugs, and all I knew was, ‘Hey, it’s a party.’ Granted, it took a lot not to throw everything back up.” The one night she actually spent the night, the friend said, “I was woke up numerous times with Pazuzu over me trying to mess with me.”

Burch told her friend that she and Algarad had met through a mutual friend.

“She was living with him for a long time, and she kept telling me about this really weird but super-great guy that she was with. He wasn’t the average person that she would be with. Amber was always a very clean-cut person. After about a month, she quit taking showers. She started to dreadlock her hair. She filed her teeth down to points. She quit shaving. It was not Amber at all.”

Walking into the house, trying not to step in excrement, Burch’s friend saw Satanic sayings written on the walls and filthy dishes piled up with “bugs crawling all over them.”

Algarad bragged about killing two prostitutes, the friend said, adding that neither she nor Burch really believed he had done it.

“The facial tattoos, the Satanism, I never gave it much thought,” the friend said. “I figured he was just trying to psych everybody out.”

The friend said she never saw anyone from the Winston-Salem area at the couple’s house when she was there, and doesn’t know anything about Joshua Wetzler and Tommy Dean Welch, who have been identified as the two men buried in the backyard. She said she and her friends have been wondering about the victims — who they were, and how they might have ended up at the house.

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.


Someone Finally Finds a Good Use for “The Message”

Stopping a bullet:

Rickey Wagoner told police in Dayton, Ohio, that he was repairing an electrical fault in his bus early yesterday morning when unknown attackers approached him and shot him three times.

One bullet struck the 49-year-old’s right leg and the other two hit him in chest, reports the Dayton Daily News.

Sgt. Michael Pauley said the two bullets fired into Wagoner’s chest were “stopped” by a modern translation of the Bible called The Message carried in his front pocket.

“There was obviously some kind of intervention involved in this incident, because he probably should not be here,” Sgt. Pauley said.

“God’s on Rick’s side,” added Lillie Brown, a long-time friend of Wagoner’s.

The Message is a colloquial translation of the Bible created by Eugene H. Peterson because reading is hard.

Here’s the way it translates the beginning of John:

1 The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
in readiness for God from day one.

3–5  Everything was created through him;
nothing—not one thing!—
came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn’t put it out.

And Matthew 6:7-13:

“The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.

Why yes, it is both brain-scramblingly bad and fitfully heretical, but at least it saved Rickey Wagoner’s life, and for that we should give thanks.


Chick-fil-A Does A Good Thing

A strong piece of Christian witness: the manager and employees of a Chick-fil-A in Alabama handed out several hundred free sandwiches to drivers stranded on the road in a snow storm.

Those of us in the north are looking at the couple of inches of snow that paralyzed the south and wondering, “What the heck is wrong with you people?,” but it’s no joke down there. They’re not accustomed to or prepared for this weather, and people are spending hours and hours stuck in cars on the road and sleeping in schools and offices overnight as the region grinds to a standstill.

One Chick-fil-A owner was trapped as well, so he walked the mile to his store and then brought food back to others:

“We cooked several hundred sandwiches and stood out on both sides of 280 and handed out the sandwiches to anyone we could get to – as long as we had food to give out.”

The staffers braved the falling snow and ice and Chick-fil-A refused to take a single penny for their sandwiches.

The meal was a gift – no strings attached.

So why did they give away their food?

This company is based on taking care of people and loving people before you’re worried about money or profit,” Pitts says. “We were just trying to follow the model that we’ve all worked under for so long and the model that we’ve come to love. There was really nothing else we could have done but try to help people any way we could.”

The Chick-fil-A also allowed anyone who wanted to sleep on a bench or a booth.

I have Chick-fil-A on my Facebook feed, and every post they make is barraged by gay “marriage” zealots braying at the company for their alleged “hate” because the owners oppose same sex unions and run their stores in keeping with their Christian principles. (For example, all stores are closed on Sunday.) Feeding the hungry for free: that’s an interesting definition of “hate,” isn’t it?

God bless these folks. This is how it’s done.

Newsify [App o’ the Mornin’]

RSS feeds are essential to my work. It’s the only way to track hundreds (sometimes thousands) of headlines as I try to keep abreast of several major subject areas: games, technology, religion, archaeology, and science. Dozens of RSS readers, both PC and mobile, have passed through my life in the last decade or so. Sometimes we’d see each other for a while. There were good times, laughter, the thrill of new love. But they always ended in tears and heartbreak, and a “It’s not me, it’s you” speech.

After using MobileRSS, Feedler, Pulse, and Flipboard, I settled on Newsify (free: iOS). It handles the newspaper-style layout far better than the over-hyped Flipboard, but still manages to integrate a sidebar that allows rapid switching between groups and feeds. This is it, folks: a find as important as plutonium and s’mores … combined! The last mobile news reader you’ll ever need. At least until the developer breaks it with a new “upgrade.”

Newsify works because it’s both simple and powerful. You can syn with either Feedly or via cloud, and the instantly populates the reader with folders and feeds. The app works well on a Touch or iPhone, but it really shines on an iPad. Navigation among folders and feeds is a snap with the slide-away sidebar. It’s easy to choose all folders, individual folders, individual feeds, starred items, or unread content.

Newsify loads all the items faster than any similar app I’ve used. The headlines and summaries are laid out in either an unending scroll, or newspaper style format. Full text loads super-fast in a window. It’s easy to push stories off to Facebook, Twitter, Pocket, or any number of other services. I find it works perfectly to glances over headlines, identify the stories of interest, and then send them off to Pocket for later reading.

It’s very attractive and readable, with the ability to modify fonts and colors, but without the fussy graphical flourishes that tend to slow down apps. Items can be marked as read as you scroll by them, or in batches, or not at all. It works exactly the way I want it to work: fast, simple, powerful.