Bench Seat

It’s kind of an iconic image: the cool 50s car with a bench seat.  The driver with his arm around the girl next to him.  I lament that so few modern vehicles are equipped with a bench seat in front.  However, considering the poor driving habits of people fiddling with a phone or GPS or some other digitized distraction, it may be a good thing to keep both hands on the wheel.

Still, even though our vehicles have bucket seats, I like the idea of my arm around my wife when we’re out for a drive.  So I’ve come up with the next better thing.  Where’s the one place you go with your wife where there’s always a bench seat?


I like sitting in the pew next to my wife.  We can hold hands and I can even put my arm around her as we listen to the homily (really, Father, we are paying attention!).  And hey, who said that when passing the peace you can’t exchange a holy kiss with your wife?

Going to Mass with your wife is one of the best dates I can think of.  There’s music, you get to listen to entertaining and edifying stories, and the food?  Heavenly!  And you don’t have to tip the wait staff.

So the next time you go to Mass, sit a little closer to your wife and hold her hand.  And when Father asks you to share the sign of peace, go ahead and kiss your wife.  Then turn around and smile and shake hands with the folks behind you.

Of course, once in a while one of our kids might scrabble in-between us, but, as the song goes, “don’t forget folks,  that’s what you get folks, for making…”



There is a scene in a BBC miniseries, “Return to Cranford” (the cleverly titled sequel to “Cranford”), in which one of the main characters is lamenting the inevitable destruction of their idyllic Victorian village by encroaching technology (the railroad).  In a conversation with her brother she sadly remembers a tale she was told in her childhood, of someone receiving a box with the instruction that it was never to be opened.  Being inquisitive (and to move the tale along) the person opens the box, and before it can be closed again every evil and detritus thing that can plague humanity flies out of the box.  Her brother, seeing the horror on his sister’s face, waits a moment and then quietly says that the last thing that remained in the box, at the very bottom, was hope.

I feel a little like Pandora now, having been witness to legalized abortion, growing acceptance (sometimes forced acceptance) of same-sex marriage, and of branding with the hot-iron searing saying that Catholics belong to a “bastardization of the faith.”

Hope, that “thing with feathers that perches in the soul” (thank you Miss Dickinson), is not prayer, but an adjunct to prayer and “an opposite to despair” (thank you Father Hardon).  A glimmer of what may be.  We are human after all, and our frailties, faults, and sinfulness are all obvious to our Lord, who sees, knows, and after all that, loves.  And I think he loves us enough to allow us to hope.

I have, in my mind, two “take aways” from the previous President.  The first, a reply to a question put to him about abortion and when human life starts he said “that whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.”  So not feeling comfortable about knowing when life begins, but feeling completely comfortable with ending life with destroying human life anywhere within the 9-month gestational period is perfectly ok?  Talk about “not my president!”

The other thing he said, and this really sends shivers down my spine, was “God bless Planned Parenthood.”  He asked the Creator of Life, the Supreme Good, to bless the murder of babies!

This present darkness, to borrow a brilliant phrase from Frank Peretti, has a gloom to it that makes it difficult to find joy.  It feels impossible sometimes to hold your head up, to bask in the ever present sunshine, regardless of the spewing madness of Mordor.  THe repression of rational thought, the disregard for natural law, and the lack of recognition of a Redeemer and Judge makes it hard to hope.  But prayer, that gift we can do so easily and ever so easily forget to do, sometimes provides the feeling of a mothers embrace, or a fathers promise that everythings going to be all right.

The box of horrors that Pandora was given was opened long ago.  I feel sometimes that my generation took the box, broke the hinges, ripped off the lid and used it as a Frisbee.  But I strive to remember that regardless of how the box is handled, regardless of the fear, horror, and suffering that has been unleashed, there is, and always has been, and always will be, hope.

Please remember to pray for our President.

“How Can You Say There Are Too Many Children?”

Can you be blunt and still tell the truth with love?

Can you be aghast and horrified and still love?

Can you be bewildered and ashamed and still love?

Yes, I’m talking about abortion.

There was a March for Life rally across America not long ago.  At least I think there was.  If the only news you read is on Internet news sites or NPR, you probably missed it.

On the morning of the first day of the March for Life, I turned on NPR news to check out their coverage.  They were playing a recording of a woman who was representing the March for Life.  She said that the committee in charge of the Women’s March, held the week previous (you no doubt heard about that!), told the March for Life folks that they could not participate in the Women’s March.  The recording was cut off and the host of the news show came on, who then asked his guest, one of the organizers of the Women’s March, if this statement was true.  The guest said that the March for Life woman was completely wrong, that nothing like this had happened, and that she obviously had her facts wrong.  The host then curtly mentioned that the “anti-abortion” march starts today, and that was the end of the story, and presumably about the only coverage they provided for the March for Life.

On MSN, Yahoo, the Star Tribune, SFGate and other popular sites, murder, mayhem, and Brad Pitt’s divorce were prominent.  If you wanted to find out about the March for Life you had to search for it.  News about the Women’s March was first and foremost during that event.




Summer, Winter, or anytime reading

Every year, at one season or another, some well-intentioned soul comes up with a list of books that they think everyone should read.

Being a well-intentioned soul myself (and a former librarian), I couldn’t resist adding my own list to the pile.

Last Spring my wife and I taught a literature class for the homeschool group we belong to, Regina Caeli.  The focus of our choices was the concept of divine mercy.

Jenna chose books in which divine mercy permeated the writing and fairly leapt off the page:  Corrie Ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place,” an amazing true story about her horrifying experience in World War II, and A.J. Cronin’s “Keys of the Kingdom,” about a priest setting up a mission in China and learning tolerance and compassion.

My choices, a little more off-beat, challenged the reader to find the concept of divine mercy.  These, and a few other titles, are my recommendations for anytime reading.

Shane, by Jack Schaefer – The second-best western I’ve ever read.  Very little gunplay, but with incredible dramatic tension, especially between two men and a stump!  The teens in my group loved this book.  They were especially impressed by Shane’s compassion in a key moment in the book.

War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells – Everybody knows the story, but have you ever read it?  “Rule Brittania!” comes crashing down, saved in the end by…  If you don’t know, then you haven’t read the book, so I’m not going to spill the microbes here (oops!).

A Canticle for Liebowitz, by Walter M. Miller, Jr. – An oddly reassuring book that shows that the Catholic church will endure, regardless of the megatonage of nuclear weapons that obliterate civilization.  The smartest and most Catholic science fiction book ever written.

The Smiling Country, by Elmer Kelton – My own personal favorite work of fiction.  A little rough around the edges, but the best western I’ve ever read.  An aging cowboy in the prettiest part of Texas dealing with the intrusion of internal combustion machines.  An amazing cast of characters (his best friend’s name is Snort Yarnell), a touching and realistic romance, and no gunplay.  Guys: the end will make you cry, and that’s a good thing.  Wives: buy this book for your husband.

Yeah, I used to be a librarian.  But that didn’t keep me from liking good books.