NCR columnist and Eco Catholic blog editor, Rich Heffern interviews Douglas Vakoch is the Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, Calif. Vakoch researches ways that different civilizations might create messages that could be transmitted across interstellar space, allowing communication between humans and extraterrestrials even without face-to-face contact.
Marge Martin* is a widow in her mid-fifties. She is a beautiful princess in the eyes of this admirer and a witch in the mind of some others in our small community. Few people see what I see. In realty, she probably is somewhere in between. Like all of us, this woman has flaws and is a sinner. Nevertheless, this is a woman I have come to love and I would give her the world if I could.
The power of forgiveness
I’ve known Marge for nearly six years and one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from her is the power of forgiveness; both forgiving oneself and being forgiven by the one we hurt. We are called to live the challenge of “The Lord’s Prayer.” Still, in the incident I am about to refer to without mentioning the details, if I were not forgiven, I don’t think I could have forgiven myself.
SAN MATEO, CALIF. -- In mid-July, Catholic circles in the Bay Area were buzzing with the news about Msgr. Robert McElroy of St. Gregory Parish in San Mateo. The fifth-generation San Franciscan had just been named an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese.
It is not unusual for locals to express great pride when one of their own -- someone who’s been a priest and pastor for decades among them -- receives a promotion to the hierarchical ranks.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- A breathless hush filled the overflowing room at Mount Manresa Jesuit Retreat House here as Jesuit Fr. Dan Berrigan slowly approached the podium. Organizers and audience seemed painfully conscious there wouldn’t be many more times this 89-year-old Catholic peace icon -- whose life has been punctuated with countless arrests and prison time, and guided by an unyielding commitment to Christian nonviolent resistance -- would appear in a public forum.
Now frail and bent, he carried with him to the front of the room not only more than a solid half century of peace work but also many associations with other peacemakers, including his late brother, Philip, and, on the 30th anniversary of her death, the cofounder of the Catholic Worker movement, Dorothy Day.
The Nov. 29 talk was billed as Berrigan’s reflection on Day. But as with any other Berrigan talk, it would cut to the essence and contain a message for his audience. And what would this peace message on this evening be?
Nine years before President Abraham Lincoln offered his immortal words dedicating the killing fields of Gettysburg, Pa., in 1863, Augustus Tolton, an infant slave, was baptized by Fr. John O’Sullivan at St. Peter Church in Brush Creek, Mo. It was the practice of pious Catholic slave owners to have their slaves baptized Catholics.
They wait. Wives and husbands, children, siblings, parents. They wait, hoping, praying, the knock on the door never comes -- the knock that means their loved ones are coming home for the final time in a flag-draped casket. So many families have seen the men and women they love go off to war over and over, in the longest wars the United States has ever fought.
Crushing poverty, acute family dysfunction and fear are reasons teenagers leave home for a life on the streets. Some 2 million U.S. teens a year experience a period of homelessness. This often leads to drug abuse and addiction, prostitution, and even death. The streets are no place to call home.
Where can homeless teens find safety, food, warmth and love? Where can kids in crisis find a pathway to hope, health and education?
LANSING, MICH. -- Joel Poliskey is graduating this spring with a physiology degree from Michigan State University. As part of an elite Medical Scholars program, he was admitted to medical school as a freshman and every semester has been on the dean’s list. Ten hours a week are spent riding with the Michigan State cycling team -- he is their fastest rider. Yet in spite of these accomplishments, Poliskey says that his best moments in college have been those he spends in the little Catholic parish right across the street from his house, St. John Student Center.
“We have a saying here that we study at Michigan State, but we get our education from St. John’s,” Poliskey said. He estimates that he spends more than 20 hours a week participating in St. John Student Center activities, whether leading the Catholic men’s group at his house, teaching the catechism on campus, or spending late nights praying the rosary in front of the tabernacle.
As warm September days gave way to a crisp October, most college students across the country heard something about the Sept. 22 suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi. The 18-year-old jumped off the George Washington Bridge in New York when fellow freshmen streamed a video on the Internet of Clementi in a homosexual encounter.
Gay college students, including some at the nation’s 230 Catholic colleges, held candlelight vigils to remember Clementi and bear witness to the agony that gay young people often live with every day.
University of Notre Dame senior Brandon Buchanan said he couldn’t imagine how painful and humiliating it must have been to be “outed” as Clementi was. He came out on his own. “I honestly don’t think Notre Dame people think it [anti-gay bullying and suicide] could happen here,” he told the student newspaper, The Observer. “I would disagree.”
TÜBINGEN, GERMANY -- Hans Küng has always held to his progressive theological views. He believes that the present crisis in the church shows that he was right. The whole Roman system is in question, he maintains, though neither the Vatican nor the majority of the bishops yet realize it.
We are sitting in the arbor at the end of the veranda of his house above Tübingen, looking out at the gorgeous view across the Swabian hills. He muses, “My critics said, ‘He always repeats the same thing.’ But we have the greatest crisis since the Reformation. What alternative was there? We need to go on again in the line of the [Second Vatican Council].”