Wednesday, March 31, 2010


There's nothing like a classic Beatles' song to shed some light on a contemporary issue...

Here's one of my favorites growing up that seems to be relevant more than ever. Enjoy:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Architect

Did you ever look up at the vast expanse of the night sky and wonder at God's unspeakable power and intelligence to have created such a wonder? Now turn your gaze from the cosmos above to the microcosm that exists on the cellular level within your own body. Every cell is an intricate mechanism lovingly crafted by Our Lord to support and sustain us in life.

Take a look at this amazing video that illustrates some of the operations that we know go on in cells - there's plenty more about molecules, atoms, neutrons, and quarks (uh oh!) that we don't know yet. Our scientific knowledge has progressed incredibly, but many realities that are still mysteries to us are crystal clear to God - He created it all. Buen provecho.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

An Irish Lad's First St.Paddy's Day

For a moment I thought of sharing a green Guinness with my man, but my new-found parental instincts kicked in and decided against that...for this year. I know this picture looks like he's already had a couple Guinnesses, but really it was just a regular nap.

Killo is doing great. He's completely off the oxygen and all his sensors, has grown to 9lbs 7oz and is a happy little guy.  His personality is definitely shining through already as he is generally laid back most of the time, but when he gets fired up (when he doesn't get his food), that Irish temper gets going!

Hope you all had a great St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Open Letter to Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Several days ago I sent an email to the office of Sherrod Brown, the Democrat Senator from Ohio who remains in support of looming healthcare bill. I received an automated response which is all that I expected to receive, but a few elements of that letter set me off. Below is an open letter to the Senator which I have also sent to his offices.

Let's continue to pray and do all we can to stop this bill from passing.

Senator Brown,

Thank you for the reply to my earlier message about the proposed health care "reform". I understand that your office is flooded with communications of all sorts which makes it impossible to respond individually to each one, nevertheless, the automated email your office sent me inadvertently (I presume) provided shining examples of how you have entirely disregarded a large part of your constituency in favor of your politic future with those currently in Washington.

Allow me to explain. You state in your email, "As Congress moves forward on health reform, I will certainly keep your views on this important issue in mind." Emphasis added was by me to show that you have no intention of doing anything other than pressing forward, ramming this obscenity of a bill down our throats and burdening not only us but our children and grandchildren with an unsustainable debt and entitlement program. The majority of Americans do not want this bill. The latest Rasmussen poll shows that 53% of American voters are squarely opposed to the proposed health care bill, with 46% strongly opposed. Only 26% strongly support it. Far from wanting you and Congress to move forward, most Americans want you to stop and start fresh.

What's more, you said that you would keep my views in mind. An article in the Washington Times this morning illustrated that my views, and those of 53% of the populace that gave you a job, vanished from your mind as soon as you were in the presence of President Obama in Cleveland. I quote from that article, "[Sen. Brown] said his office has been flooded with letters, e-mail and telephone messages from Ohioans who have lost their insurance and want the Democratic-led Congress to act." Did the thousands of emails and phone calls your office has received from those opposed to this legislation just slip your mind? Looks like a pony show to score buddy points with power players in DC rather than true representation of the citizens of Ohio. You listen only to those few people (and they are the minority by far) whose opinions are most expedient for you right now.

Let me tell you from personal experience that the present health care system is by no means perfect, but it is the best in the world. I have lived in Italy, and spent considerable time in other parts of Europe and Latin America, and I know firsthand how wretched the socialized-medicine experience is. I currently have an insurance plan that I purchased on my own for my family. This past year my wife delivered our son three months premature and he spent the next several months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, undergoing multiple interventions. My wife also had a couple procedures during that time for complications from childbirth. Both are doing well now, thanks be to God; but I also have our health care providers to thank for the expertise and technical skill they provided, as well as my insurance provider which covered most of our costs once we hit our deductible. Yes, our premiums have already increased and will only go higher next year, yet thought it is a lot of money, that sum pales in comparison to nearly a million dollars in medical expenses that were covered for us. The system is not nearly as run down and evil as you make it out to be, but then again you've been on your Cadillac plan with Congress for so long that you might have lost touch. Serious problems do exist, and we all want to make insurance as available as possible to all Americans, but creating a massive bureaucratic entitlement program is not the solution.

Lastly, you bring up the issue of a women's right to choose whether to abort her child or to keep it. I know this email will not change your stance on abortion, but I would like to at least point you to something that I hope you would take the time to read. If you really do have an open mind about this and are willing to engage in an informed and objective conversation about the topic rather than spouting cliches and meaningless cultural platitudes, then you will look at Bethesda Post Abortion Healing Ministry. They are entirely non-political and purposely stay out of the public eye so that they can work one-on-one with the women and men whose lives have been devastated by the loss of their children to abortion. They do not proselytize - those wounded by abortion come to them seeking healing. In your misguided effort to be "pro-woman" you only set women up for suffering, depression and regret. Granted, not all women experience those things, but most do. Abortion is not a solution to a problem - it's a problem that needs a solution. Peer reviewed medical studies show that suicide rates among post-abortive women are drastically higher than among the rest of women. Shouldn't that be enough to make one pause and think? Again, are you really pro-woman or do you conveniently ignore this vast community of real women deeply wounded by abortion?

I have looked at your website and I appreciate your invitation. I will continue to return and hear what you have to say throughout this legislative process. I hope that you have the courage to not be swept away by the tides of political expediency in Washington, but rather to boldly represent your fellow Ohioans and their views. I'm sure it was pleasant to fly on Air Force One with the President amidst all the trappings of power, but in a week or two you will have to board another plane and return to the citizens of Ohio. Please make a decision that we can be proud of and one that we can live with. Vote no on the current health care proposal.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

All the Beautiful People

The Disturbing Truth of Abortion

The horror and tragedy of abortion has never really been a secret, but sometimes we catch glimpses of the motivation of those who inflict this suffering on vulnerable girls and women. The clip below is an upcoming documentary that tells that story and gives and inside look at the multi-billion dollar industry abortion has become. This movie is intense and contains some graphic pictures related to abortion, so be forewarned.

After having experienced the pregnancy and birth of my son, Killian, all these issues hit home much more than ever before. More than ever, we must double our efforts in defense of the unborn and in outreach to those who have been harmed by the lie of abortion providers.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Misdialed call connects woman who had scheduled an abortion to pro-life help

.- An Indiana woman who inadvertently dialed a pro-life group instead of a Planned Parenthood clinic about her appointment for an abortion instead found the support she needed to decide to bring her child to term.
The story was recounted in a March 9 report from David Bereit, National Director of 40 Days for Life.
A young woman in Indianapolis, Indiana, named as “Erin,” had sent her children to school and childcare at a friend’s house when she noticed she was late for her abortion appointment at Planned Parenthood.
Though she thought she was calling Planned Parenthood to see if she could still have the abortion, she misdialed the number and instead called the cell phone of 40 Days for Life Indianapolis.
Joseph, the man who answered her call, tried to calm the woman. He took her name and number and said that a counselor would call her back.
The counselor, Elizabeth, called back and begged her not to hang up. She told Erin she had not reached Planned Parenthood and asked if she was a Christian.
When Erin said she was, Elizabeth told her God’s grace was at work in the “wrong number,” 40 Days for Life reports.

Monday, March 8, 2010

"And the Word was made flesh; and dwelt among us."

A few years ago in college seminary, one of my classmates introduced me to the song "I Can Only Imagine" by MercyMe. I'm not a big fan of "praise and worship" music, but this song in particular helped me to appreciate more deeply one of the most stunning, yet often overlooked, realities of our lives as Catholics: Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist.

This song is a reflection on what it will be like to enter the heavenly presence of God after a life of serving him here on this earth. The awe, the excitement, the humble gratitude for Christ's redemptive sacrifice on the cross, the overflowing joy...What a glorious day that will be.

But the lyrics should lead us to reflect on what our sentiments are every time we come before Our Lord in the Eucharist. Though veiled behind the species of Bread and Wine, Jesus Christ is truly present there before with all of his Divinity, just as in Heaven. Are we flooded with wonderment, reverence, love, joy, excitement? We don't really have to wonder what it will be like to enter the presence of God at the end of our lives, because we have that experience every time we come before him in the Tabernacle.  This period of Lent can be a great time to grow closer of Our Lord in the Scripture and in the Eucharist. He's has given us the chance to experience here on earth what it is to enter his presence.

The real questions before is whether that encounter with Him after our death will be one of long-time friend whom we saw often, or rather that of a long-lost acquaintance we hardly knew. Let's get to know him now.

Go visit him and see for yourself what it will be like to come before your Lord...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A New Kind of Bishop

Here's a fantastic article about St. Ambrose of Milan, the saintly bishop and mentor of St. Augustine. His life, his qualities, and the story of his journey are just as much a motivation for all of us as they are simply amazing. The lessons of humility, sacrifice, and love for Christ are well suited to the current liturgical season as we strive to grow closer to Jesus.

Enjoy this tidbit and happy Lent!

St. Ambrose marked a new era for church and state relations.
The crowd that gathered in the church in Milan that day late in a.d. 374 was confused, fearful, and angry.
The Christian community in the city had been bitterly divided for decades between the followers of Arius, who taught that Christ was not divine but merely a creature, and those who defended the teaching of Rome that Jesus was both man and God, equal to the Father in all respects.
Earlier in the year, the bishop of Milan had died after nearly twenty years in office. He was a committed Arian who had secured his position by political appointment, not through the customary election by the people and clergy of the city. His tenure was marked by such oppression of orthodox Christians that many of the faithful clergy had left the city.
The governor of the area, a man by the name of Ambrose, was very concerned that rioting—and perhaps even violence—might accompany the election. He believed it was his duty to keep order as best he could, so he decided to speak to the assembly to urge them to be peaceful.
In his few years as governor, Ambrose had won broad admiration and respect for his wisdom and fairness. Though an orthodox Christian himself, he was trained in law and had remained aloof from theological controversies. Apparently, while he was speaking to the assembly, a young voice rang out from the crowd, “Ambrose for bishop! Ambrose for bishop!”
The effect was electric. Spontaneously, people on both sides of the theological divide recognized that Ambrose was the solution to the challenge they faced. Those who held that Jesus was both God and man knew that he and his extended family were staunch, if quiet, supporters of this truth. The Arians knew that, whatever his views, Ambrose would treat them fairly and not seek revenge for the abuses of his predecessor.
To his shock and utter surprise, Ambrose was elected bishop of Milan by acclamation. No one knew it then, but this was one of the most important episcopal elections in the history of the church.
No Looking Back. Certainly, it was a completely life-altering event for Ambrose. Until that day, he was a young man on the rise, a man with an almost unlimited political future. He came from an aristocratic family, had the right connections in the imperial court, and was a brilliant lawyer. Remarkably, he set all that aside. Accepting his new office without regret, he immediately set about making himself into a bishop.
His biographers tell us that he took two early steps that had profound consequences. First, he gave away his money. While this may sound simple and commonplace, it was not. Ambrose was a wealthy man and heir to a wealthy family. At that time, some men sought episcopal office because it often brought opportunities for building a fortune. This was nowhere more true than in Milan, which was one of the principal cities of Italy, having replaced Rome as the seat of government. For Ambrose to embrace a simple life spoke volumes to his people and provided a new model for the clergy.
The second thing he did was to begin an intensive, lifelong study of Scripture. Like many lay Christians, then and now, Ambrose had a general acquaintance with the Bible and with theology. He was humble enough to acknowledge that this was not adequate for the bishop of Milan. And so he became a student of sorts, not only reading widely in the Bible itself but also absorbing the lessons of the great scholars of the day. What he learned, he shared, not only by educating his clergy but also by preaching to his community.
Master of Humility. We know little enough of the details of Ambrose’s first months and years as a bishop, and almost nothing directly of his personal struggles. Even St. Augustine, who knew him fairly well and claimed that it was through Ambrose that he was brought to God, said that he knew nothing of Ambrose’s private trials and doubts. Instead, he saw someone widely admired as an exemplary bishop and a Christian who seemed “a very happy man.”
But Ambrose’s own writing reveals something else. Later in his life, he wrote a long essay for his priests on the demands and responsibilities of ministry. One of its themes—a theme that emerges in his sermons and letters as well—is the importance of humility. The priest must take Christ, the “master of humility,” as his model, Ambrose stressed. From this humility flow the modesty, chastity, and good manners that characterize the man of God. Indeed, Ambrose admitted that he refused on two occasions to admit men to ministry because their physical mannerisms showed that they lacked humility.
It is not difficult to see here something of Ambrose’s personal spiritual challenges. He was a man bred to rule, highly educated, trained in the law, and naturally adept at commanding others. It would have been easy for him to be arrogant and demanding, yet St. Augustine and others described him as being gentle and patient, a bishop who impressed them by the countless hours he spent counseling and comforting his people. This genuine humility could have been achieved only by deliberate effort and through conscious sacrifice.
Scripture Comes Alive. St. Augustine, no mean speaker himself, tells us that he was in awe of the eloquence of Ambrose’s preaching, which was widely renowned. Ambrose undoubtedly had formal training as a public speaker, but he was quite successful at adapting these skills to the pulpit. We do have edited copies of a number of his sermons, but unfortunately, these plain texts are somewhat ordinary and do not convey the presence and power that so impressed the people who saw and heard Ambrose in person.
His preaching often focused on the Old Testament, for he loved to tell and comment on the great stories of the men and women of the Hebrew Bible. One of his favorite themes concerned the virtues and the ways in which these stories illustrated one virtue or another. He admired the wisdom of Joseph and the courage and justice of Job.
Unlike some other teachers of the early church, and perhaps because of his former life, Ambrose was not inclined to use his preaching for lofty theological speculation. Instead, the figures of the Old Testament became real men and women in his sermons.
Once, for example, he wondered aloud why Eve gave Adam the forbidden fruit. Especially after eating it herself, she must have known that it was sinful to do so, Ambrose said—but surely, she could not have given Adam the fruit to harm him, the man she loved. He speculated that perhaps Eve did it because she realized that she could no longer remain in paradise, but she could not bear to be parted from Adam!
Whether or not this is a compelling interpretation, no other preacher of Ambrose’s time had such sensitivity to human frailty.
Best of Bishops. But there was another side to Ambrose, a much sterner side. He took his responsibilities as bishop very seriously, and some of those responsibilities required him to defend the church and the faith.
After his election, the Christian community in Milan remained in factions. The Arians were strong and had considerable support in the emperor’s household. There was also a powerful party that was opposed to Christianity and favored a return to pagan worship. Ambrose was invariably a leader among the bishops of Italy in defending the church against both of these groups.
These, however, were not the only challenges. In Roman culture, religious practice and worship were elements of civil society. One responsibility of government was to support the temples and ensure that worship was properly conducted for the good of the state. And so, when the emperor Constantine became a Christian early in the fourth century, the natural assumption was that the church would enjoy the protection of the emperor but would also be subordinate to him. By the time Ambrose became a bishop, it was clear that this old pattern could not be continued. In order to be faithful to the gospel, the church had to be independent of imperial control.
No one was more responsible for defining a new relationship between church and state than Ambrose. He was canny and diplomatic in his relationships with a series of emperors, but adamant in witnessing to the gospel. When the great emperor Theodosius, a pious Christian, suppressed a rebellion in the east by slaughtering thousands of women and children in a fit of temper, Ambrose quietly and firmly wrote privately to him to say that he could not attend Mass until he had done public penance.
The emperor’s admiration for his bishop was so great that he did the penance—no small tribute to Ambrose’s holiness and pastoral skill. Indeed, Theodosius later said, “There is no bishop in the empire worthy of the name, except Ambrose.” And several years later, it was Ambrose who preached at the emperor’s funeral.
Ambrose died quietly on April 4, 397, after serving as bishop in Milan for nearly twenty-three years. The ancient church in the West recognized him as one of its four great teachers, or doctors. Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great are the best known, but Ambrose deserves to be remembered as well. By his wholehearted embrace of God’s plan for his life, he not only set a model for bishops but also showed what all Christians are called to be: humble, loving, and courageous lifelong learners in the school of the Lord.
Robert Kennedy holds a PhD in medieval studies and teaches at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.