Lectionary Gospel – Laetare (Fourth) Sunday of Lent – March 6, 2016


Google Slides

Since this Sunday’s gospel is the familiar Parable of the Prodigal (or Lost) Son and because it’s Laetare Sunday,  I thought I’d do something different with the illuminated gospel this week.

You’ll notice two translations/versions of the story. Slides two and three are the liturgical NARB version while four and five are from The Message Bible. I tried to include art which seemed to best fit with each version.

And, as a special bonus, here’s an excellent, exegetical sermon and two songs about this parable:

Bishop Baron’s Weekly Homily: “The Prodigal Son Returns”

“Apple Pie” by Flannel Graph

“Now You’re Back” by Justin Roberts

Disclaimer – Since I don’t seek to profit from these files, I don’t cite the source for each of the images found through a Google Search


Friday FunPost – Using Games and Virtual Reality to Teach Compassion

Today’s Friday FunPost is less “ha ha” funny and more of a thoughtful, potentially inspiring type of fun. I’m chaperoning our Freshman Retreat today and in a more reflective space than on most Friday afternoons.

The other morning this word and reflection arrived in my inbox from the good brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist:


“The prevailing reason why Jesus did what he did and said what he said was his compassion for others. Compassion, which literally means “to suffer with” another person. Compassion is not just to observe suffering, but actually entering the suffering of another.” -Br. Curtis Almquist

I shared this with my students that day as another reminder of how compassion is one of the core values essential for one who follows Jesus the Christ. We’ve been talking a lot about compassion and empathy lately in class. This essential conversation, accompanied by prayer, is a clear antidote to the widespread fear, scapegoating, nativism, racism, and generalized hostility in our social and political conversations these days.

Today I read about two tech facilitated ways to help others grow in compassion and empathy. First, Tech Crunch offers a solid overview of how Virtual Reality is expanding classroom learning in a variety of ways. After describing how VR has been and continues to be used for mainly for simulations – especially scientific and historical ones – the author suggests this creative and constructive usage:

Perhaps the most utopian application of this technology will be seen in terms of bridging cultures and fostering understanding among young students, as it will soon be possible for a third-grade class in the U.S. to participate in a virtual trip with a third-grade class in India or Mexico.

This may sound simplistic and minor, but I think it’s only a beginning of how we will soon be able to leverage VR for a wide variety of educational outcomes. We often assume that we can only use VR from our own exclusive perspective to explore myriad locations, time periods, simulations, etc. After all, everything I see with my eye-brain connection is filtered through only my own reality. The true power of VR is that it will allow me to see what the world looks like from others’ perspectives. And if the simulation is created with thoughtful skill this could engender greater empathy in me.

For example, what if the VR headset caused me to see all writing as a dyslexic person does every day? Or maybe it could show me the hallucinations and “voices” that plague a schizophrenic in his or her daily life. At the very least, it will allow us to take on the persona of someone quite different than ourselves and see, first-hand, the world through their eyes.

Even before VR becomes widely available in our classrooms, a growing genre of video games exist which allow us to experience life from a different perspective. In an article glibly titled “Video Game Psych 101:Empathy Games” we learn how:

Biofeedback video games feed off players’ physiological responses, impacting gameplay in new and interesting ways. But what happens when developers create games designed to evoke a specific emotional or psychological response?

Empathy games attempt to answer that question. These video games aspire to enhance a player’s understanding of an outside perspective, particularly those pertaining to real-world struggles and inequalities, through interactive experiences.

This genre includes the groundbreaking game from a few years ago – Dsy4ia. While this particular simulation engenders empathy towards a specific life experience, this type of game could be created to illustrate any number of situations. And, combined with the increasing power of VR, the possibilities for tech facilitated education for compassion and empathy is limited only by our imaginations.


A Song and A Band to Know – “Apple Pie” by Flannel Graph

Having a subscription to Spotify has completely changed the way I listen to music. Obviously, I haven’t bought a CD in a long time and I can stream music from my smartphone, iPad, and/or any internet-connected desktop.  In a broader way, it’s allowed me to diversify what I listen to. No longer do I listen to the same album over and over again – like I did with whatever exciting new CD  (or cassette tape before that) I bought.  Instead, I do much more exploring of genres I like  rather than just playing bands or singers with whom I am already familiar. 

A still very “Indy” duo I found recently via Spotify is Flannel Graph. According to the rather limited info about them on the web (no Wikipedia page yet – I just checked) it’s a young woman singer and young guy guitar player both of whom are from a small town in Montana. By far their most popular song on Spotify is “Five Foot Three” with about 197,500 plays so far. It’s a cute song about how the singer is “small, but mighty” with a video worth watching.

It seems that while Flannel Graph are not explicitly a Christian band (as this word doesn’t seem to appear anywhere on their home page), biblical stories inform a number of their songs. Their first full album is entitled “Ribs of Adam” and it contains a few songs with clear connections to the Bible. This focus is even more apparent on their 2013 EP “Five Foot Three” which includes a thoughtful reimagining of Psalm 23 entitled Saints Out of Sailors. 

The song to know, which I find simultaneously clever, creative and moving, is Apple Pie – a modern adaptation of the Parable of the Lost Son in Luke’s gospel. The lyrics are poetic and the pairing with the playful, folksy melody is inspired. 

 Apple Pie

by Flannel Graph

I told my dad I didn’t love him anymore 
And I grabbed all the cash 

And I ran and slammed the door 

And I spent it like 

Yea, I spent it like a movie star 

Yea, I spent it right 

I spent it right in all bars 

And I was so hungry 

So thirsty 

The ladies, they adored me 

And the men all wished to be me 

They burned with all their jealousy 

I had everything that a man like me should buy 

And I lived like a King in America with Apple Pie 

But my heart was small 

And my world was smaller than before 

And my fence was tall 

To keep out the people who were wanting more 

I knew a girl 

Oh, Katie was her name 

She was quite the whirlwind 

And she wanted to state my claim 

And she said 

Oh baby 

Oh maybe 

You and me could get married 

And we’ll settle down and bury all the warrants in our history 

But all the party lights went out 

And I was left alone 

And the amount of money that I had 

Was the amount of love I was shown 

And I had nothing 

Oh nothing 

Yea, I had nothing 

Yea, I had nothing 


But I had something 

Oh, I had something 

Oh something 

Oh, I had something 

Oh, I had something 

Oh, I had something 

Oh, I had something 


So I gathered up all of my pride 

And I hitchhiked to a town where my dignity had died 

And he was waiting 

Yea, he was waiting 

And he ran and kissed me

I love the last line. That’s the heart of the parable, right?

In the spirit of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, I’m planning on playing this for my students when we talk about grace, forgiveness, mercy – especially during the upcoming season of Lent.  Perhaps you might as well? 

Friday FunLink: The League of Kitchens & Colbert

Yes, the FunLinks are back b/c this is the first Friday in a few weeks that isn’t Christmas or New Years Day. And, I’m back at school after a long week needing a bit of levity now that winter has truly arrived.

Stephen Colbert had a great guest on Monday night. She’s the creative founder of The League of Kitchens – an idea whose time has come.  I won’t spoil the fun of the two segments linked below. I will say that Stephen has found a worthy comedic partner in the hostess of his workshop. Bon Appetite!


Friday FunLink – Trio of Funny Star Wars Videos Edition

Today’s the day we’ve all been waiting for – my daughter’s 12th birthday!

OK, so if you don’t live in my home, you’ve likely been counting down to this day as the first time in a decade we’ve had a brand new “Star Wars” film. Maybe you’ve already seen it by now?

I have my tickets in hand (on my phone actually) for the 9:05 pm showing this evening. VERY excited that just 12 hours from now my son (who was four years old when “Revenge of the Sith” was released) and I will be back in the fun and fantasy of this beloved film universe.

While there’s no shortage of funny “Star Wars” videos in cyberspace (in fact I posted one here last week), I discovered these three which I find pretty funny:

Steven Colbert (yes, I’m a fanboy) makes no secret of his mad love for “Star Wars” and “The Lord of the Rings.” But until the other night, no one knew of his personal involvement in the casting of “The Force Awakens”


He’s also begun a Twitter campaign to muddy the waters of the spoilers flooding the internet:


Here’s a clever variation on a theme from a rival late night show:


And speaking of clever, here’s a panoply of puns from across the pond:


Finally, for some non-video inspiration, here’s “57 Inspirational Quotes from George Lucas and Star Wars” One of my favorites, since it relates to mindfulness:

16. “A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind…. All his life has he looked away…to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless.”

“-Yoda notes how Luke simply cannot keep himself focused on the present moment, but is instead always looking to run before he can walk. (Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back)”

Friday Good News! The Hug Lady and Good Political News

You don’t need me to tell you that this was a bleak week in the news. Rather than share a jovial Friday FunLink, I thought I’d share two inspirational stories from the Washington Post’s weekly “The Optimist” email. I hope these stories bring you joy, inspiration, and hope during this Advent season.

First, from Texas is 83 year-old Elizabeth Laird, aka The Hug Lady. For a dozen years she’s been giving hugs to soldiers departing for or returning from war. The past ten years she’s been struggling with breast cancer and is now in the hospital receiving intensive (and expensive) treatment. Her son, Richard Dewees, put out a request for help and…

set up a GoFundMe page to help with the medical costs. He asked for $10,000. It has raised $72,316 from more than 2,000 people in just three days. Dewees, 64, knew his mother was beloved –he’s shared her with her military sons and daughters for years now — but he said “he’s stunned.”

A few comments left by donors are published in the article. The love and gratitude expressed is heart-felt:

“Ms. Elizabeth, you gave us just an ounce of humanity before we spent the next year of our lives in a place that was tantamount to hell and devoid of humanity… The gift you gave us upon departure is immeasurable.”


“I love her, I deployed teary eyed and scared, (secretly) worried my almost two year old daughter would forget me [sic] she whispered in my ear that everything would be ok [and]  meant the world to me. I wish I had millions to give her.”

Another story from the same (pre-Thanksgiving) “The Optimist” email is a follow-up about Larry Hogan’s, Maryland governor, treatment for an aggressive cancer. This minute long video will bring a smile of joy to your face:


Here’s to a good weekend and a happier week next than this one ending.




Sun(Fun)day Noon – Congrats to Hawks & Supercut of Motivational Coaches from Movies

It’s early on this Sunday, but I have a few fun posts in mind for today. So, I thought I’d get an early start (and I’m not quite ready to settle in to my grading/planning for the day).

Congrats and kudos to the @hartleyfootball team for winning last night and making it to the semi-finals for their division in the state of Ohio.

Hawks Football

Coach Birchfield is exceptionally skilled at motivating his players, students and colleagues. But just in case he needs some inspiration from legendary movie coaches, here’s a great supercut of all-stars:

In case you’d like some more movie coach fun, check out the results of this recent “tournament” determining which coach is the most motivational of all time.


Happy 1 Year for Us! – Birthday Wishes from Stephen Colbert

It’s hard to believe it’s one year ago today that we launched this blog! During those 365 days, it has grown to nearly 215 posts and hopefully educated, entertained, and inspired our readers.

One thing you’ve likely learned is that I’m a big fan of Stephen Colbert. A week or so ago, he offered a birthday song and video to his awesome band-leader Jon Bautiste. And it is a birthday song for almost everyone as it is customized at a special YouTube channel. Here’s the generic one (in case the person of your birthday wishes is not represented in their extensive playlist of videos):

In case you’re wondering why I chose the name above – my wife (Erin) celebrates her birthday on Monday. If she reads this, I guess I now can’t surprise her with it!

#amcathalm – Twitter Hashtag for Learning About American Catholics

This isn’t a post to do self-promotion of the Twitter feed that I use for school related items. But, just in case you’re wondering, it’s @hartleyrkrelig .

No, it’s to invite you to follow a hashtag on which I post interesting info each day – #amcathalm . While I can’t claim credit for the source material – that belongs to Emily Stimpson and Brian Burch – I do add images and boil it down to all of the characters that fit.

Why, here’s the post for Sunday the 8th of November:

Amcathalm Image

Oh yeah, I HIGHLY recommend you purchase it either in print or ebook.

It’s the first thing I read each morning (after my prayer materials of course)!

Everyday Miracles: Water

Inspired by this wonderful song, I’m beginning a new feature – Everyday Miracles.


When we become more mindful and not distracted, we begin to truly see the amazing aspects of this creation the Creator has made. This feature will reflect upon those “everyday miracles” which are around and within us.

I was encouraged in today’s reflection by an article in The Conversation entitled “The Universe’s Most Miraculous Molecule.”  The author, a professor of medicine, thoughtfully shares some facts about water which we might often miss:

Even more remarkably, water is practically the only substance known to man that, as it cools from its liquid to solid state, actually expands. Virtually every other substance becomes denser as it “freezes,” but thanks to this remarkable property, ice cubes float in our drinks. More importantly for living organisms, lakes and other bodies of water freeze from the top down.

How about that form of water which will likely fall from the sky in a month or so?

The adage that no two snowflakes are alike seems hard to believe until you consider the fact that the patterns in which water molecules freeze vary depending on temperature and humidity. When you add the fact that the average snow crystal contains about 10 quintillion (10 followed by 18 zeroes) water molecules, it is easy to see why the number of possible combinations is unimaginably large.

Wow! That’s a ridiculous amount of H20 molecules in a snowflake! So how much total water is there on earth?

As a result, even though the Earth holds enough water to make a sphere about 860 miles in diameter, only a tiny percentage of this water is easily accessible to human beings, and increasing shortages loom in the future. Some scientists have predicted that, as some point in the 21st century, fresh water will become a more valuable commodity than petroleum.

For me, another miraculous aspect of water on earth is that it is constantly recycled. Although the origin of water itself on earth is not fully understood, we know that water is not added to the earth’s water cycle we learned about in elementary school. This means that the H2O molecules in the water composing the cold glass of herbal ice tea on my desk to my left has been cycled through rivers, reservoirs, taps, clouds, droplets of vapor, and even other living creatures – for millions if not billions of years!

The H2O I consume or inhale physically and intimately connects me to aspects of our planet, universe and countless living beings which existed long before me. And when I exhale, the H2O vapor in my breath, will be absorbed into the cycle elsewhere and recycled again and again long after I leave this part of creation. Is it any wonder that we use water in the foundational Christian Sacrament of Baptism? Much like the Holy Spirit which is in us and around us and connects, water does as much.

So, I’ll gratefully drink my tea and give thanks for water and the Holy Spirit for, as the author-doctor of the above article concludes:

A saying often misattributed to Albert Einstein claims there are two ways to lead a life. The first is as though nothing is a miracle, and the second is as though everything is a miracle. Water is entirely natural, hugely abundant and so necessary to life that our cells are bathed in it. Yet it is also so remarkable that, as a physician and scientist, I regard it as little short of miraculous.