Archive for the ‘People and culture’ Category

I’ve been thinking on and off about last Sunday’s Gospel reading, where a lot of Jesus’ followers left him after hearing some teachings they found difficult. When Jesus asked his closest friends if they would be leaving too, Peter said there was nowhere for them to go, that Jesus had the words of everlasting life.

Note that Peter did NOT say, “We don’t WANT to leave.” Imagine if what Peter meant by his response was that he was experiencing a strong urge to “head for the hills,” just like the others who left. Yet, despite the hardships that came with the call to discipleship, he knew in his “gut” that staying was what he “had” to do, even if it was not what he “wanted” to do.

Too often, I think, our consumer culture tells us that we should do whatever we want to do from moment to moment. The result? A fair amount of narcissism and self-seeking, to put it mildly from my perspective. It has been increasingly difficult for people to make good on lifelong commitments, whether this is to a spouse/life partner, religious life, etc. All such commitments carry with them hardships to the individuals involved, and it is difficult sometimes to make the decision to invest oneself in the effort to work through the hardships to come to a deeper and more mature appreciation of the commitment, especially if there is not similar resolve from the spouse/partner/community. With the headwinds of our culture buffeting us from all sides, telling us if something is not going to our satisfaction, we can throw it away and get a new one, it is no wonder that people these days find it difficult to make and be faithful to lifelong commitments.

I pray that as I continue to live my own commitment, I will continue to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus through the hardships yet to come. May it be so for you, as well.

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Palin out!

Very surprising news…I wonder what is really going on… Can’t imagine that quitting like this would bode well for a future in elected office…I bet she ends up on talk radio or Fox News…

Alaska’s Palin is leaving office this month – Kansas City Star

Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska rattled the political world Friday by abruptly announcing that she will resign from office at the end of the month.

However, Palin — a Republican — left open the possibility she would seek a run for the White House in 2012.

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

How about another “nunly”  topic?  The traveling exhibit on Catholic Sisters in America is on display in Cincy until the end of August. Here an excerpt from a brochure on the exhibit’s web site:

WOMEN & SPIRIT: Catholic Sisters in America reveals the mystery behind a small group of independent American women who helped shape the nation’s social and cultural landscape. First arriving in America nearly 300 years ago, throughout periods of struggle and controversy, sisters established schools, hospitals, and colleges, and provided other social services that have served millions. Through their enduring legacy and persistent vision, the nation’s promise of equality and opportunity continues to be extended to all Americans, regardless of faith, color, nationality, or economic status.

The exhibit will also be traveling to other cities over the next couple of years, so if you can’t make to Cincinnati before it leaves there, you are not out of luck… I’m thinking it might be a nice stop to break up my trip to North Carolina for vacation next month…if my traveling companion agrees, of course.

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I just added www.detroitblog.org to my blogroll. The entries are not particularly frequent, but they are extremely well written and offer a glimpse into the lives of real Detroiters who “keep on keeping on” in the face of tough times. Sure, it might be more fun to follow the antics of a lying, flamboyant former mayor or the bizarre behavior of some city council members, but the people this anonymous blogger writes about are are a big part of what I love about Detroit.

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So, as I squeeze a bit of school work between the wash and dry cycles of my laundry, I thought I’d take a short break to share with you Rome’s bit of wisdom commemorating International Women’s Day…

Vatican: Washing Machine Liberated Women – World news | Newser

The Vatican’s newspaper appears to have come out in support of the washing machine as God’s greatest gift to women in the 20th century, Reuters reports. A weekend article in l’Osservatore Romano suggested that the time-saving gadget polls ahead of birth-control and suffrage in liberating the fairer sex. It’s called “The Washing Machine and the Liberation of Women—Put in the Detergent, Close the Lid and Relax.”

I must admit that I wouldn’t want to go back to the days our elder sisters describe…standing over vats of scalding water, risking fingers and hands operating huge mangles. However, I can’t seem to put the washing machine over the right to vote or to work outside the home as the most significant contribution to the liberation of women.

I don’t know about you, but my experience with time and labor saving technologies is that once I begin to reap the benefits of these technologies, the bar is raised and I am expected to add additional work to my already full plate. Is that your experience as well?

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Here a couple of excerpts from articles in the National Catholic Reporter that appeared soon after the announcement that the Vatican was undertaking an “Apostolic Visitation” of women’s religious orders in the U.S. The first is from Sr. Joan Chittister’s regular column. I found her take on the shift within many U.S. women’s communities to be quite helpful as I ponder the journey we are on.

If they really mean it, it’s about time | National Catholic Reporter

And all the while they went on “giving their lives to God” in prayer and with communities of strangers while they ministered on the streets, opened rural spirituality centers, taught and lectured and developed spirituality programs and retreats, ran half-way houses for battered women and day-care centers for Alzheimer patients. They had no desire to be “a higher vocation.” They simply set out to be an authentic one.

Most of all, they went on doing those things years beyond the work life of the average person. They exhausted themselves administering programs, pounding the pavement, providing hospitality, keeping priestless parishes operating, working to protect the environment, and caring for the newly abandoned underclasses in order to take the church where the church of this time needed to be. They began the outreach of a whole new church in the United States.

The second, which was originally meant to be a private communication to colleagues, is from Sr. Sandra Schneiders, an eminent scholar on religious life. Her analysis seems to be much in agreement with what Joan said in her piece. Might I add in response to Joan’s characteration of comtemporary religious as on a journey to greater authencity, that this journey, if truly authentic, is rarely as smooth and linear as some might expect or hope. The road to integrity, authencity, wholeness is fraught with uncertainty, mistakes, heartbreak, and yes – great grace, knowing that we are utterly dependent on God. For some, the fact that such journeys can be messy and not all wrapped up in a tidy, predictable package is unnerving. I, for one, would rather have others let me worry about my own unnerving journey than try to put me back into the tidy little package that eases their discomfort but robs themselves and others of the witness of a real, authentic religious life lived with honesty, openness and integrity.

So here’s an excerpt from Sandra’s communication:

We have given birth to a new form of religious life | National Catholic Reporter

In my work on the renewal of Religious Life over the last eight years I have come to the conclusion that Congregations like ours [the kind represented by LCWR in this country] have, in fact, birthed a new form of Religious Life. We are really no longer “Congregations dedicated to works of the apostolate” – that is, monastic communities whose members “go out” to do institutionalized works basically assigned by the hierarchy as an extension of their agendas, e.g., in Catholic schools and hospitals, etc. We are ministerial Religious. Ministry is integral to our identity and vocation. It arises from our baptism specified by profession, discerned with our Congregational leadership and effected according to the charism of our Congregation, not by delegation from the hierarchy. We are not monastics at home. We are not extensions of the clergy abroad. Our whole life is affected by our ministerial identity: searching out the places (often on the margins of Church and society) where the need for the Gospel is greatest (which may be in Church institutions but often is not); living in ways that are conducive to our ministry; preaching the Gospel freely as Jesus commissioned his itinerant, full time companions to do. Our community life and ministries are corporate but not “common life” in the sense of everyone in the same place at the same time doing the same thing.

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I’ve been noticing for several weeks now that the post that has been getting the most hits on this site is the one I wrote last June about the Furry Convention in Pittsburgh. I can’t for the life of me figure out why that somewhat frivolous post has generated so much traffic on this blog. Anyone care to offer an explanation? Real or fake…we can just have fun with this one…


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ZENIT – Benedict XVI’s Message for Media Day

Check out the above link to Pope Benedict XVI’s message for World Communications Day (January 24.)  The title of the message is: “New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship.” It’s good to see that he is knowledgeable about the ways people are using these technologies. Proud to be a blogger and Facebook citizen today!

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Important note…this is NOT an endorsement of any candidate, simply a reflection on the climate for dialogue within a nation that is deeply divided and polarized.

One of the things I really dislike about election years is the vitriol that is usually spewed forth in an attempt to get people to vote for particular candidates. This year is no exception; but must it be that the voting public will always reward the candidate whose campaign launches the most mean-spirited attacks? We shall see… This excerpt from an article in “America” voices part of what bothered me as I tried to listen to speeches at the RNC:

Unfortunately, “Sarah Barracuda” failed to show the same courtesy, humility and nonpartisan respect that has characterized the Obama campaign. Whereas Barack Obama has disagreed with John McCain solely on policy issues without casting aspersions on his character and has refused to declare open season on Bristol Palin, her pregnancy and the rest of the Palin family, Sarah Palin did not hesitate to mock Obama’s role as a community organizer…

….As I watched the sea of faces light up mostly at Palin’s insults and rarely at her plans for the future, I wondered what the opposing camp would have to say.

This afternoon, Obama responded to Palin’s jabs: “I’ve been called worse on the basketball court.” When pressed about Palin’s record, he told reporters: “I’ll let Gov. Palin talk about her experience. I’ll talk about mine.”

America | The National Catholic Weekly

By the way, I’d like to note that in many ways, Jesus was a community organizer, and we all know that Pontius Pilate was the Governor. (credit for this quip belongs to someone else)

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In my recent post about our autonomous vehicle team, I was commenting about how impressed I was with these students. The “Millennial Generation”, or those born from around 1982 to around 1998, are the primary age demographic I see in my engineering classes at the university. Here are some of the characteristics of these young people, as listed by Neil Howe and William Strauss in their book “Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation”:

  • special
  • sheltered
  • confident
  • team-oriented
  • achieving
  • pressured
  • conventional

Of course, most of us older folk know that these young people run circles around us with their tech-savvy skills and their use of social networking sites and text messaging. And I’ve heard some adults of my generation wonder if online networking masks an inability to establish and grow in “real” relationships.

If that is true in general, then we must have an extraordinary cohort of students at my institution, because so many of them are thoughtful, articulate, open-minded, and hard-working. I for one have been able to expand my circle of relationships because of what I’ve learned from them.

If we in religious orders fail to recognize the opportunities for outreach that these folks are demonstrating for us, then shame on us!

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