Saint O’the Day: St. Sebastian (20 Jan)

This is a special saint for me as his memorial day is my birthday.

Please download and share this presentation – PDF

I’ve included a special prayer on the final slide. This is an excerpt from the USCCB “Prayer for Migrant Children” which I found linked through the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s  “Prayers of Light” which were offered on the eve of the US Inauguration. 

01_20_17_st-sebastian_st-o-day-2

Sun(Fun)day Night – U.S. Presidential Candidates as Shakespeare Characters

Happy May! I hope that it has been a fun day for you on this Sunday.

Just a quick post tonight as I still have much to do before bedtime.

With the recent celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death  , I thought it would be fun to share this clever article observing a connection between each of the U.S. presidential candidates (current and withdrawn) and familiar characters from Shakespeare’s great works.

I won’t spoil the fun for you by listing any of the connections here. I will say that discovering which character Donald Trump connects to is well worth the read!

Have a great week!

Friday FunLink – “On This Day” Podcast

Happy Friday! I hope your day is as bright and warming as mine is here in Central Ohio.

I’ve written a number of times about how much I enjoy listening to podcasts. And I’ve shared a number of ones that I particularly enjoy.

I’m walking at least 13,000 steps a day for health and enjoyment and a good podcast or two to stream on my smartphone makes all the difference. As I mentioned previously, I really, really, REALLY like streaming via Pocket Cast on my Android device. I paid a few bucks for it, but it has been well worth it!

The podcast I recently found that I listen to daily is “On This Day.” Each day of the week, Dave Schultz posts a 10 minute or so look at the major historical events which happened on this day. The podcast is no frills – respectable production, decent music and reliable posting. So far, I’ve heard only Dave – no dramatic involvement by others.

And this is fine, because Dave can certainly pick interesting, relevant and clever events to highlight each day. He’s an engaging storyteller who shares details and an occasional audio clip to supplement the historical stories of the day. For example, on April 4th, as he told of the final hours of MLK, he played tape of a sermon Dr. King preached about a year before. In this clip, which I’d not heard before, King speaks of how he hoped he’d be memorialized. This sermon has historical relevance as it was played at MLK’s funeral in early April of 1968.

While I enjoy this podcast on my own, I could easily see how a middle or high school history teacher might assign his or her students to listen to it. All of the content that I’ve heard (since I started listening a few weeks ago) is appropriate for teens and the subject matter seems non-controversial.

Enjoy the weekend and this day on which Jackie Robinson became the first African-American Major League Baseball player.

 

Stuff You Should Know: Powerful Video on U.S. Wealth Inequality

To say that the internet and devices to access it are powerful tools is a gross understatement. Not being a guy who can crunch numbers, but who is nevertheless interested in data and statistics, I am grateful that the internet offers ways to find, present and then communicate data to the world.

A favorite recent example of this threefold use of data is this “interactive heatmap” infographic displaying the most common birth date in the U.S.  (the answer to the question is below the image):

Birthday Heatmap

The answer? September 16th!

Data and presentation tools can be used for much more than answering trivia questions. In the hands of skilled practitioners, data can be used to show the need for social, political and economic change. Take about six minutes to watch this video, which clearly shows how much wealth the “one percent” in America holds. Perhaps more interestingly, the video also shows how vastly different the actual wealth distribution is from either what the public thinks it is or what people surveyed think it should be.

 

So what can you and I do about this? Honestly, I don’t know.  What I do know is that this massive disparity cannot be sustainable for much longer. And that remedying it will take significant courage, sacrifice and commitment to fairness and justice. Do we the people have what it takes?

Fear or Love & My Trip to the 2012 Iowa Republican Caucus

On the eve of the much anticipated (and hyped) 2016 Iowa Caucus, I’ve been thinking about how I got the once-in-a-lifetime (for a non-Iowan and non-politico) chance to witness the Iowa Caucus the last go-round in 2012.  For me, one who follows politics like some people follow sports, it felt like going to game 7 of the World Series. Just being on the ground at the political focal point for the U.S. and even international media was a thrill.

Here’s how it happened: During the 2011-2012 school year, I worked for a major educational publisher in a role which took me to Davenport, IA every week. Even though I worked closely with the technology department in that school district, it was a pleasant surprise that I struck up a warm friendship with Rudy, who was assigned to the same project as I. During one of our many conversations, I learned that he was a leader for the Republican Party in his mid-sized town Muscadine – about 45 minutes down the Mississippi from Davenport.

I don’t recall whether he outright invited me, if I strongly hinted for an invite, or just invited myself to the caucus meeting. Regardless, I met him at the school used for the meeting at about 6:30 pm on January 3, 2012. The fund-raising spaghetti dinner was wrapping up, so we went directly to the gymnasium with the other caucus-goers.

By the time the program started, the bleachers were full and people stood against the walls. I estimated at least 400 people and maybe even more. After introductions of those running the proceedings and some “housekeeping” items, the surprisingly informal presentations started. Each person running for the GOP nomination had a proxy speak on his or her behalf. I remember clearly the remarkable range of formality offered by these representatives. At one end were a few seemingly unprepared presenters who didn’t speak clearly, rambled, and generally didn’t sell their candidate effectively.

I gasped when a presenter, representing the VIP end of the spectrum, stood and spoke for Texas Governor Rick Perry. It was none other than the infamous, controversial, former Ohio Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell.  He offered an impressive testimonial for Perry and surely caught the attention of the Iowans present. I imagine most of them didn’t know what I did, as an Ohioan – Blackwell was demolished in the governor’s race in 2006 during which he earned just 37% of the vote!

At the conclusion of this assembly, we filed out and headed to classrooms grouped by precincts. Rudy, the leader for the Social Studies classroom in which we met, introduced me as a guest “from the important swing-state of Ohio.” I thought to myself- although these Iowans have a huge role in the primaries, we Ohioans have a bigger role in the general election. Ballots, like the one pictured above, were handed out. After each of the 40 or so people in the standing room only gathering marked and folded the papers, these were collected and counted. Soon after Rudy announced the totals. While I don’t remember the exact numbers, I do recall that Rick Santorum won our room and the state by just a few votes over eventual nominee Mitt Romney.

After the main event of the evening was completed, the under card of participatory democracy commenced. The voters in the classroom were invited to write down issues they would like to have considered for the GOP platform discussed at a statewide meeting that spring. These slips were collected and read aloud. Some people spoke briefly on a few of the issues before the room voted by voice and hands on the most pressing ones. The suggestions chosen by the cell in our room were then passed up in the Iowan GOP body politic. After a brief closing, I headed into the dark, cool, yet dry winter night, grateful for the chance to witness and vicariously participate in one of the most important political traditions of our nation.

The 2016 caucus held on Monday, Feb 1st will be more closely watched than what I experienced four years ago. We’ve talked often in my religion classes about how much fear, anger, and hostility is being put forth this election cycle by candidates of both parties. An article posted last week by popular Catholic blogger and author of “Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life,” Elizabeth Scalia caught my eye. In it Scalia asks the provocative question: Are your decisions born of fear or love? She writes:

Why is everyone so afraid? Don’t we realize that fear is the foundation that supports so much of our sin? I’m stupid, and sometimes I will not be afraid when perhaps I should be. But I’d rather be stupid, naive and bumbling, than so afraid, all the time.

Everyday, I ponder the Sacred Heart of Jesus before me, “abode of Justice and Love … enriching all who invoke thee …” and I realize that every concern can be placed into that huge heart, and left there, in complete trust.

Nothing is safe or pure. Everyone will have a turn (or several) in the crucible. But the Sacred Heart is a self-immolation, never consumed. It is there, in the crucible with us. What is there, then, to fear?

I pray that, as the second reading of today’s mass proclaimed, faith, hope and love will win over fear and anger in Iowa, the U.S. and our broken world.

ADDITION (Monday Morning):

After publishing this post last night, I discovered this wonderful quote by Fr. Richard Rohr from the Center for Action and Contemplation. He’s dedicated this entire year of daily reflections to the them of love. Yesterday he remarked:

The passion of Pope Francis is to again make merciful love the foundation, the center, and the goal of Christianity. Love is not just the basis on which we build everything, but it’s also the energy with which we proceed, and it’s then the final goal toward which we tend. Love has two lovely daughters, twins called grace and mercy. Like identical twins, they are often indistinguishable: Grace is the inner freedom to be merciful. Mercy is grace in action. And both are the children of love.

 

Friday FunLink 2: Sheryl Crow & Stephen Colbert Songs on This Week’s Debate

OK, so maybe the Friday FunLink on the words used by the candidates in the debates wasn’t really that much fun or funny.  So, here’s a bonus post- complete with music too!

Singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow sang the national anthem at the debate, so The Huffington Post ran an article summarizing the debate through Crow’s songs.  My favorite paragraph, with some (maybe too) obvious connections is:

Senator Sanders frequently and importantly mentioned the issue of climate change starting in his introductory statement. Senator Sanders stated that “climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, and we have a moral responsibility” to address it. Later in the debate, he deemed climate change “a major crisis.” “All [he] wan[ts] to do” is develop sustainable energy. In fact, when considering the candidates’ debate remarks on the environment as a whole, all seem ready to get out those solar panels to “soak up the sun.”

Stephen Colbert, on his Late Show, the other night, had a funny segment about campaign songs. After listing popular musicians who didn’t want candidates using their songs in rallies and similar, he offered a song that candidates from either or both parties could use as desired:

I think my favorite part is when Colbert and Jack Black rattle off the incongruent elements of “Americana” ala “We Didn’t Start This Fire.”  Since they offer this song to any candidate with no strings attached, I wonder if anyone will take them up on it?

Friday FunLink – What Did The Presidential Candidates Say?

I go out of my way to not offer partisan political perspective at this blog. As we’re still quite early in the 2016 presidential campaign (less than 13 months to go!) and still in the “sporting” stage of the race, sharing these links is hard to resist.

The journalists over at NBC News (yes, they’re still a leading news source) analyzed both the Republican and Democratic debates to determine and compare the most commonly used words. The entire article is worth a read (especially for the methodology in this survey), but here’s the lists with the number of mentions. (I list the Democrats first b/c they were the most recent and the article presents them first too):

Democrats

  • Obama – 34
  • Wall Street – 25
  • Syria – 22
  • Climate Change – 22
  • Russia – 16
  • Banks – 16
  • Iran – 14
  • Gun – 42
  • Marijuana – 11
  • Education – 10
  • China/Chinese – 13
  • Immigration – 9
  • Inequality – 9
  • ISIS/ISIL – 5
  • Small business – 4
  • Marriage – 3
  • Trump – 3
  • Obamacare – 2
  • Planned Parenthood – 1
  • God – 3
  • Terror – 3
  • Border – 2
  • Abortion – 0
  • Faith – 0
  • Religious liberty – 0
  • Amnesty – 0
  • Radical Islam – 0

Republicans

  • Obama – 34
  • Clinton – 27
  • Iran – 26
  • ISIS/ISIL – 22
  • Border – 20
  • God – 19
  • Immigration – 18
  • Terror – 15
  • Education – 11
  • Abortion – 10
  • Russia – 9
  • Obamacare – 9
  • China/Chinese – 8
  • Amnesty – 8
  • Planned Parenthood – 8
  • Small business – 5
  • Radical Islam – 4
  • Religious liberty – 4
  • Banks – 2
  • Wall Street – 1
  • Syria – 1
  • Gun – 2
  • Climate change – 0
  • Inequality – 0
  • Marijuana – 0

Here’s a visual representation for the Republican debate.  The one for the Democrats is above.

image

For comparison, here’s the word cloud showing what Pope Francis said in his prepared addresses, homilies, etc during his recent US visit:

Words Pope Francis Used the Most During His Visit