I had an oddly poignant experience on Twitter yesterday — I know, the last place you’d ever expect to encounter something poignant.
I was going through the list of people I follow and was removing those who are just trying to sell something, as well as all the self-proclaimed “marketing gurus,” “life coaches,” and political pundits. Just part of the necessary pruning and cleaning one occasionally must do in the world of social media platforms. Nothing new there.
But in the midst of this utterly banal chore, I came to the Twitter profile of Ginger, a Catholic woman whose profile picture I only vaguely remembered seeing before and whose posts I hadn’t seen in quite awhile. Opening her profile, I saw that her last several posts were from mid 2009 and were about her rapid decline from lung cancer. In one, she expressed how hard it was for her to deal with the shock of having just been diagnosed by her physician as “terminal.” A few posts later, her comment stream just . . . ended.
I Googled her name and saw that she died that summer, not long after her last post, mourned, no doubt, by many grief-stricken family and friends. She was only 41.
This brought back the sad memory of another Catholic woman I knew quite well and very much admired — a vibrant and vital young wife and mother of just 44 — who also died of lung cancer in September of that same year. A pang of melancholy rose up in me at that still-painful remembrance.
Gazing at Ginger’s picture, the mouse cursor poised over the “unfollow” button in her profile, I was moved by the realization that, even though she had died some time ago and I would therefore never see any further posts from her, still . . . by pressing “unfollow,” I would be, in a certain sense, letting go of her. It seemed strange that it should occur to me that way — after all, I never knew her personally. I was only aware of her existence through Twitter — a dim and superficial awareness of someone, to be sure. But still, there had been the slightest of connections there, albeit nothing more than pixels on a screen.
In that moment, an image from the movie Titanic arose in my mind; the one in which Rose is lying on a piece of floating debris holding on with one hand to the now dead Jack, almost entirely submerged in the frigid water. As she lets go of his hand, he sinks slowly into oblivion. True, those two were illicit lovers. In Ginger’s case, well, she was someone I had ever even met or spoken to before, much less known personally.
And yet, for a few brief, uncanny moments, my mind was pervaded by that poignant image of Rose letting go of Jack’s hand.
I pressed “unfollow,” and in so doing said a kind of electronic “goodbye” to a sister in Christ I never knew, except through the medium of an ephemeral, tenuous, and insignificant collection of pixels on my computer screen. And then, I said a prayer for the repose of her soul.
How strange, it seems to me, and how perfectly fitting at the same time, that the Lord makes use of even something as casual and (seemingly) inconsequential as Twitter to remind the members of His Body of their connection to each other.
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen.
(Originally published on February 2, 2011.)
UPDATE: About a month after I wrote this piece, I was speaking at a Catholic parish, and Ginger’s grieving husband came up to me to say how touched he had been to read it. We embraced. I can’t begin to explain how hearing his words made me feel.
Over the last 25 years that I have traveled around the country speaking at Catholic parishes I have had the occasion to listen to countless sermons from countless Catholic priests. Some of those sermons were limp and lackluster, a great many were quite good — rich in scriptural and practical wisdom and insights — and a few were so compelling that they remained in my mind. This sermon is one of those. Perhaps some of you will agree with me.
This sermon contains no flashy rhetoric. In fact, quite the opposite — the delivery is calm and sedate. But its content was electrifying. I know, I was present in the church, sitting in the back pew, and I saw how it caused everyone in the church to catch his breath (“can he really be saying these things?!”) and listen.
The uneasiness of the parishioners was palpable. I was actually surprised that no one got up and stormed out or stood and shouted defiantly at the priest. After Mass I told him, “I’ve been Catholic for 52 years now, and that was one of the most courageous sermons I have ever heard. Thank you for being willing to stand up and say what you said.” I was told that day by a parish staffer that there were many Catholic Democrats in the congregation. I wonder if this message will affect the way they vote in two weeks.
The priest is Father John Fitch. The church is Epiphany Cathedral in the Diocese of Venice. And the subject of his sermon is, of all things, politics. Politics and moral issues and how so many Catholics today have become more Democrat than Catholic and more Republican than Catholic. It’s a powerful message. I hope you’ll not only listen to it and think about it but also share it.
Those of you who follow the goings-on in the world of Catholic radio might be interested to know that after having the privilege of hosting the Thursday edition of EWTN Radio’s “Open Line” show for five great years, I will soon be leaving “Open Line” to take over hosting duties of a new daily show called “Right Here, Right Now,” produced by Immaculate Heart Radio.
This new one-hour show will focus on my interactions with the callers who can ask questions and make comments (some Catholic radio shows only allow listeners to ask questions, but not comment). “Right Here, Right Now” is a show about you – what’s important to you, what’s on your mind, and what makes you think. My goal is to meet listeners where they are and take it to the next level!
To be on the show, please call toll-free: 888-701-5992.
“Right Here, Right Now” airs Monday through Friday from 1:00 – 2:00 Pacific (4:00 – 5:00 ET). You can listen online at www.ihradio.org (click “listen live”) or click the link below for a complete list of IHR stations.
Starting today, it will begin airing across the rapidly expanding Immaculate Heart Radio Network on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, as I finish out the month doing my regular Thursday “Open Line” show. Then, starting October 1st, I’ll step away from “Open Line” and “Right Here, Right Now” will begin airing, M-F, across the entire EWTN Radio network of over 200 AM & FM stations across the U.S., as well as via Sirius-XM Satellite Radio, and globally via shortwave.
I’ll have more info and show updates for you soon, including a forthcoming link to where you can hear archived shows. And if you’d like to listen to any of my “Open Line” shows from the past few years, they are archived at the St. Gabriel Radio website.
Do you know what Congressman Paul Ryan identifies as the single most dangerous problem the U.S. faces right now? If you guess “the economy” or “debt” you would be wrong. His answer might surprise you when you listen to this free audio download of an eye-opening interview he did last year with the Envoy Institute.
A committed Catholic, Congressman Ryan is now the GOP candidate for vice president for the 2012 presidential election. Early last year, before he rose to his current prominence, he granted an interview with the Envoy Institute in which he explained candidly what he sees as America’s single greatest challenge today, and how he proposes to confront that challenge and, in so doing, begin the process of curing the country’s dire political, social, moral, and economic ills. You will probably never guess what he identifies as the hidden obstacle to true freedom and equitable prosperity. But you don’t have to guess, because you can download the interview right now free and start listening in moments.
This is welcome and not entirely unexpected news, given Father Barron’s meteoric ascendancy in the Catholic media world, especially on the strength of his impressive tour-de-force video series “Catholicism” and accompanying book. With a doctorate in sacred theology from the Institut Catholique de Paris, a slew of scholarly yet accessible books on the Catholic Faith, and 20 years of experience as a professor of theology at Chicago’s Mundelein (University of Our Lady of the Lake) Seminary, he is well suited to take the helm at this prestigious school. One may forgiven for wondering if his star will continue to rise, transiting, perhaps, into the episcopal firmament. God knows we need many more effective, indefatigable, and doctrinally orthodox teachers of the Faith. As far as I am concerned, when it comes to Father Barron, ad astra!
Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac quotes it, and an English politician named Algernon Sydney (d. 1683) is said to have also proclaimed it in slightly different wording. But neither man was responsible for originating this idea. Actually, the ancient Greeks appear to have coined the phrase.
Interestingly, most people assume that the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves” is from the Bible. It’s not — though there is an early patristic example of its usage. St. John Chrysostom (A.D. 349-407), the renowned Archbishop of Constantinople, expresses this idea in his Homily on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans. He explains how this principle is true (though not in the sense that men can “earn” their salvation), insofar as God grants all human beings sufficient natural revelation to know He exists and to seek Him diligently. Speaking to the Catholics of his day, he warns:
Let us then watch our own conduct on all sides, and afford to no one ever so little handle. For this life present is a race-course and we ought to have thousands of eyes on every side, and not even to fancy that ignorance will be an adequate excuse.
For there is such a thing, there certainly is, as being punished for ignorance, when the ignorance is inexcusable. Since the Jews too were ignorant, yet not ignorant in an excusable way. And the Gentiles were ignorant, but they are without excuse. (Rom. i. 20.)
For when thou art ignorant of those things which it is not possible to know, thou wilt not be subject to any charge for it: but when of things easy and possible, thou wilt be punished with the utmost rigor.
Else if we be not excessively supine, but contribute our own share to its full amount, God will also reach forth His hand unto us in those things which we are ignorant of. And this is what Paul said to the Philippians likewise. “If in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you” (Phil. 3:15).
But when we are not willing to do even what we are masters of, we shall not have the benefit of His assistance in this either. . . . For this reason then, when [Cornelius the Centurion] was doing the whole of his duty with sincerity, God added unto him that which was lacking also (c.f., Acts 10:1-4).
The American actor James Farentino died yesterday at the age of 73. He is perhaps best known for his deft portrayal of Saint Peter the Apostle in the landmark mini-series-movie “Jesus of Nazareth.” Personally, having re-watched that excellent, moving, and instructive film countless times since its release in 1978, I’ve always felt that he so thoroughly “became” Saint Peter in this role that, to this day, when I think of the Apostle himself, Farentino’s face and shaggy, craggy features are what I see in my mind’s eye. (British actor Robert Powell, similarly nailed the role of Jesus uncannily well.) Farentino’s portrayal (watch a video clip here) will forever remain the image of Saint Peter that inhabits my imagination — at least, that is, until I am able to meet the Galilean Fisherman himself, face to face.
I never knew much about Mr. Farentino’s personal life, though I did see him crop up in other movies, here and there. This morning, as I read through a few sparsely detailed online stories announcing his death, I was saddened to learn that he had a tumultuous personal life. I don’t know if he was Catholic, though I assume he was, even if just nominally, given his Italian surname and that he was born in 1938, an era when non-Catholic Italian American’s were relatively rare. In any case, I mourn his passing. He was a talented actor, and he enriched my own life through his work in “Jesus of Nazareth.”
I hope he went to heaven. Maybe, who knows, at the last minute he encountered the Lord and cried out to Him, “Domine, quo vadis?” (“Lord, where are you going?”). My prayer is that Jesus smiled at him and, forgiving him his sins, turned toward heaven and said, “Veni et vide” (“Come and see”).
Eternal rest, grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish.
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back. (Luke 6:31-38)
January 22, 2023
Can you believe it is already the year 2023? I’m still writing ’22 on everything! It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting in the first grade and celebrating the change to a new century.
I know we really haven’t chatted since Christmas, Mom, and I’m sorry. Anyway, I have some difficult news to share with you and, to be honest, I really didn’t want to call or talk about this face to face.
But before I get to that, let me report that Ted just got a big promotion, and I should be up for a hefty raise this year if I keep putting in all those crazy hours. You know how I work at it. (Yes, we’re still struggling to pay the bills.)
Little Timmy’s been okay at kindergarten, although he complains about going. But then, he wasn’t happy about the day-care center either. So what can we do?
He’s been a real problem, Mom. He’s a good kid, but quite honestly, he’s an unfair burden on us at this time in our lives.Ted and I have talked this through, and we have finally made a choice. Plenty of other families have made the same choice and are really better off today.Our pastor is supportive of our choice. He pointed out the family is a system, and the demands of one member shouldn’t be allowed to ruin the whole. The pastor told us to be prayerful and to consider all the factors as to what is right to make our family work. He says that even though he probably wouldn’t do it himself, the choice really is ours. He was kind enough to refer us to a children’s clinic near here, so at least that part is easy.Don’t get me wrong, Mom. I’m not an uncaring mother. I do feel sorry for the little guy. I think he heard Ted and me talking about this the other night. I turned and saw him standing at the bottom of the stairs in his PJ’s with his little teddy bear that you gave him under his arm, and his eyes were sort of welled up with tears.
Mom, the way he looked at me just about broke my heart, but I honestly believe this is better for Timmy, too. It’s just not fair to force him to live in a family that can’t give him the time and attention he deserves.
And please, Mom, don’t give me the kind of grief that grandma gave you over your abortions. It’s the same thing, you know. There’s really no difference.
We’ve told Timmy he’s just going in for a “vaccination.” Anyway, they say the termination procedure is painless. I guess it’s just as well that you haven’t seen that much of little Timmy lately.
Please give my love to Dad.
I’m in the final phase of selecting the logo for my new radio show “Right Here, Right Now.” Please take a look at the logo options below and, in the comments section, tell me your 1st & 2nd choices by the designated number (below each version). I’ll be deciding very soon, so your help now will be much appreciated. Be sure to click the image to see it larger and less compressed.
Please pick the numbers you like best and also tell me your overall impression of the logo design as a whole (i.e., too feminine? too masculine? just right? etc.).
Here are the two finalists.