Did Manti Punk Us?

The drama ensuing from Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend story being a hoax is going to leave a blight on Notre Dame. Take a gander at this story on deadspin and tell me what you believe so far.

Here’s what I think: I think that the idea of being a celebrity is way too engrained in the lives of talented millennials. In other words, it wasn’t enough for Manti Te’o to be a star linebacker, he had to be more than that. He had to be larger than life. I’m hoping that’s not the case, as Notre Dame is standing by Manti’s story that he was the one taken advantage of here by someone who played on his emotions. Perhaps the ruse embarrassed him so much that he didn’t want to lose face? Other reports say Manti was in on it and if that’s true, than we have a megalomaniac on our hands.

The question that remains us why? Our consumeristic society can tell us something here, because even when we have enough it is never enough. Stars have to be superstars and what’s the difference between a model and a supermodel anyway? Sports stars like Terrell Owens and Tim Tebow have dominated headlines during the week but them often fell flat own game day. So far, we can’t say that about Te’o with the exception of the Alabama game. Yet, it is all too easy to feel like we were taken for a ride by someone. We wanted to believe in the power of inspiration and maybe that much is real, but to now find out that what was behind the inspiration is nothing more than a cheap joke, is stunning and sad.

On a retreat once, I had someone who was clearly making up stories, most likely for attention, but also because the person was mentally ill and off meds. Whenever people get a bit of attention these days it seems that they must bask in the limelight to the tenth power. The need to maximize stardom is well at the heart of this case, I think, and that is something Notre Dame should well pay attention to, because that addiction may have gotten them hooked as well.

Notre Dame and Manti Te’o are back in the headlines and I wonder if Manti, while he says he is embarrassed, isn’t still taking all of us a bit more further down the tracks of celebrity? Perhaps we are still feeding the addiction of celebrity, even while we are feeling robbed.

And maybe, just maybe Manti is laughing all the way to the bank.

How Many Husbands Do You Have?

So Fr. Edward Beck who you might know from Good Morning America, led us in evening prayer last night. He reflected on the woman at the well and left me considering the question that Jesus truly leaves the woman with which is “Who are my other husbands?” What tempts us, seduces us, takes us away from what we truly think is important?

I apparently have lots of “husbands” as my time is quite often divided between many things that I participate in. But I was able to be converted last night and to realize that I need to come to that water of refreshment. That I have so many “husbands” that I have no time for God, no time for my spouse, no time to excel at one calling and not twelve.

Perhaps, I’m being to harsh, I thought. Perhaps it’s not “no time” but “time spent that where I am not present and attentive.” If I were to be attentive I may indeed find that living water that will never let me thirst again.

Needless to say it was a rich, reflective time for me.

But then, it happened…

I walked out of the Basilica on the Notre Dame Campus and there it was…

God’s grandeur. The grass was not only a deep, deep green but each blade seemed distinct and unique. The behemoth trees were filled with a vibrancy of bark and leaves and the veins that ran through each individual leaf.

In the distance the setting sun called to me…don’t miss this…don’t miss this. And I didn’t with the swirling clouds and the colors of blues and pinks and reds and purples enveloped the midwestern sky on the lake’s horizon. The lake itself was teeming with fish and clear water and ducks floating effortlessly on the pond’s surface but working those webbed feet below furiously. Even the basketball courts were alive with God’s grandeur where the nets intertwined from each hoop, swaying in the breeze hoping to be the goal of the player who’s swish shot animates the net’s snapping voice.

I was truly alive and all was grace. That Amazing Grace where a single moment of blindness turns to sight once again.

We can all be the woman at the well with our divided lives, filled with unsatisfying husbands that leave us unsatisfied and moving from one unsatisfying partner to another without notice for what truly brings us to life.

Today may we pray that we can notice that the whole world is filled with God’s grace and our lives, when we take the time to be present to what we are doing and where we are right now without notice of what’s next.

Can you meet Jesus at the well and leave your husbands behind and drink deeply of that refreshing water that never makes you thristy again?

And if I go before ye, play this at my funeral…and remember all those who made a difference

This is from a 1997 tour of Ireland of the Notre Dame Folk Choir and it was their last song of the tour. I’m not a grad but I’ve always admired the student’s and their dedication to the liturgy. You can see the realization from some of the seniors that it’s all over–they won’t be singing together after this moment. Look at the faces of these young lads and see the exchanges of hugs and the hand holding and the tears shed. This is a Campus Minister’s dream to forge such a bond.

In many ways they bring me back to my own college days at Fordham when I was part of the Emmaus Retreat Team with their campus ministry. I’m beginning to put together retreat teams in Buffalo and I hope I can create a similar bond like the one that was created amongst my classmates. I can remember after leading a year’s worth of retreats (6 in total), that our student team members travelled up to our retreat house for one final evening together. We held hands as we prayed and sang and laughed and remembered a great year, a year that would not have been the same without the experience of being “on the road to Emmaus.”

While the miles separate me from many of those people, I’m in touch with almost all of them to this day. They clearly made a difference in my life as a Catholic, as a minister today and as someone who hopes to make a difference in the lives of others. I’ve been a retreat director for years and have had strong bonds with many of the team members but none could ever equal the kind of bond that we had that wonderful Senior Year of college at Fordham. It’s hard to equal the kind of bond we had living in close proximity and then sharing on such a deep level with one another.

Have you had a group like that in your life? A grouo that was so tightly connected that you almost couldn’t think of doing something without calling at least one of them and even today when you get back together with them, it is like the hours were few since you last got together. Who are those people in your life that touched you so deeply and brought you to that place where you realized that not only were you there with one another but you were there with Christ?

“Cautiously Optimistic”

After seeing what the fallout has been regarding President Obama’s speech I’ve seen several people who would never think about being supportive of the President speaking at a Catholic school now saying that they are “cautiously optimistic” about the possibility of Catholics working alongside him to limit abortions. I find this to be sound discernment and even mature. Let’s face facts, we really don’t have much history of any President really helping us change the minds of women–even though some have worked on the legislative element of this issue. President Obama’s overture seems to be breaking new ground–and that, as Catholics, should give us hope.


Vatican Paper: Obama invites us to work in common effort

David Gibson quotes L’Osservatore Romano today:

The newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said the president also confirmed that pushing for a more liberal abortion law would not be a priority of his administration. The comments came in a L’Osservatore report May 18, the day after Obama spoke at the university in Indiana.

“The search for a common ground: This seems to be the path chosen by the president of the United States, Barack Obama, in facing the delicate question of abortion,” the newspaper said.

It said Obama had set aside the “strident tone” of the 2008 political campaign on the abortion issue.

“Yesterday Obama confirmed what he expressed at his 100-day press conference at the White House, when he said that enacting a new law on abortion was not a priority of his administration,” it said.

The newspaper, which was reporting on the Notre Dame commencement for the first time, acknowledged the controversy caused by the president’s appearance at what it called “the most prestigious Catholic university in the United States.”

“Yesterday, too, as could have been predicted, there were protests. But from the podium set up in the basketball arena, the president invited Americans of every faith and ideological conviction to ‘work in common effort’ to reduce the number of abortions,” it said.

I guess the Pope’s paper is run by a bunch of heretics too? Would anyone dare to say that they are a bunch of people who are “killing our children?”

More moderate voices are arising. Thank God for that. After all, if President Obama is suggesting that we stop women from aborting by offering them viable alternatives than I think it’s time we took him up on the help he’s offered–as opposed to stating that he’s trying to hoodwink us.

President Obama’s Big Speech

One word: WOW! Even some very staunch pro-lifers who disagreed with President Obama’s speaking at Notre Dame had to admit that he made a great speech today. Even engaging the abortion issue directly in it and Catholicism’s influence on his own life. You can see that portion of the speech below as describing it or even quoting it does not capture its power.

Some thoughts: I agree totally with President Obama’s words here about working for common ground with those who disagree with us. I would also say we have but no other choice but to do this as there is a diversity of opinion out there on many issues, not merely abortion. A colleague and I were speaking after mass today and I thought he made a good point about reducing these arguments to mere opinion. That somewhere there is a need for us to identify where we are being led by what we believe is truth. Some will say that all truth is subjective –that things differ in essence based on their context. I would say that we can cite several examples where that is most certain–but also we can cite at least a few where it is far from the truth as well. Therein lies the difficulty in working on issues of life with people who hold differing ideas about truth’s objectivity.

So where does that leave us? I think President Obama’s words about doubt and about certitude ring somewhat true here. While I know that I truly believe in many of my convictions, I also know that I have been humbled by thoughts and ideas where I was clearly mistaken. In the moments where I believe my more rooted convictions have held and led by the teachings of my church where I have found the fullness of truth residing, I’ve also found another principle at work. That principle is humbleness.

Truth doesn’t need ME. Truth will be revealed despite whether I defend it or not. Truth comes to all people, albeit more slowly to some, and often slower to me and God’s mysterious revelations remind us that we are not God. That we do not know everything. As Merton famously said: “The fact that I believe I am doing your will does not mean I actually am doing it.”

However, people of good will can take some comfort in the mystery, in the knowing of our own imperfect knowledge, in the knowing that we are not God by following more of Merton’s famous words.

“I believe that the desire to please you (God), does in fact, please you.”

Today I pray that we all, despite the courage we all have in following our convictions in the desire to please our God, may be able to more graciously listen to one another in humbleness, express ourselves in charity and forgive one another with love.

As the graduates of Notre Dame head into the big bad world, may they know of my prayers for their lives as young adults and beyond. And as the President heads home after inspiring all of us with his words may he find peace and continue to have the desire to please God–and may that lead him to see all human life as sacred. Amen.

All eyes on South Bend

Today’s the day. Notre Dame’s commencement ceremony in which President Obama will give the address and receive an honorary doctorate of Laws. Devout Catholics of all different persuasions are split on this item. Some, like myself, believe that President Obama should be allowed to speak at Notre Dame despite his pro choice viewpoints. Others think he should be shown the door. Still others have no problem with him speaking but detest that he’s getting an honorary degree.

The sideshow is sure to be in full effect as the nutty end of the pro-life faction is sure to be out in full force. They unfortunately always steal the show from those who do the real work of the pro-life cause and who do it quietly and still effectively.

Regardless some thoughts:

I always respected the fact that Catholics–and most especially, the Bishops, would target issues they abhor over individuals. We always seemed to welcome conversation even with those who disagree with us. Bill McGarvey did a good job of pointing that out in his column on BustedHalo recently.

The controversy surrounding Obama at Notre Dame that rages on among Catholics has made that point painfully clear. Admittedly, as a Georgetown graduate, my first thought was, “If Notre Dame is no longer sufficiently Catholic to do this, what institution is?” Initially, those who made the distinction between inviting the pro-choice President to speak and giving him an honorary degree seemed like a good compromise, until I discovered that in 2007 Pope Benedict himself honored the twice-divorced, pro-choice French President Nicholas Sarkozy by bestowing the title of honorary canon of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Even pro-choice Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico was honored by the Pope in Rome this past April on the occasion of his state abolishing the death penalty.

Are we now more Catholic than the pope? Are we incapable of sharing a stage with those we are in disagreement with? Have we grown — as the former New York State Capital Defender Kevin Doyle has said — too comfortable in our bunkers?

Indeed, my esteemed colleague makes a valid point here. If President Obama shouldn’t be invited to speak at Notre Dame, and Catholics should not hear a message given by him then what else should we ignore? Should Catholics also stop reading newspapers that print President Obama’s words in them? Should they also pass on listening to the state of the union address? How about even turning a blind eye to Supreme Court decisions since they have upheld Roe v Wade for the past 35 or so years?

This sounds a whole lot like book burning to me–and that my friends is a very dangerous precedent.

What may have been a good option for Notre Dame is something that nobody has even come close to suggesting yet…prayer.
Sure, some of the protesters have gathered for prayer services for the unborn but they have served more as protests than as anything that would move people into transcendence. Has anyone even thought of asking President Obama to come and pray with them? It would do him good to hear their prayers and to ask for him to offer some of his own. It would place us together in a place where we all admit that we struggle to hear God’s voice but try our best anyway.

Let me be clear: Abortion is an abomination and I have always detested it. I remember having a long-winded argument with a news director in radio about the issue and grew increasing more frustrated at her lack of charity for my view and for her seemingly inane argument that “Women should have the right to abortion because if they don’t it’s the children in the end that end up getting hurt by a life in the system.”

So her argument was essentially “Let’s kill the babies so they don’t get hurt.”

Sigh. Arguments from the opposing side are just as tedious. Calling people baby-killers is a sure-fire way to get them to ignore you. It’s a threat essentially that says “If you kill your baby, bad things are going to happen to you.” While psychologically and spiritually that may be true, it still doesn’t mention anything about the baby nor the mother being valuable to our community. I don’t ever hear people screaming “I love you and your baby” from an abortion protest line. I almost never see mothers with their babies in their arms on those lines either. Perhaps they might have a lot of silent persuasion by their simple presence. Moreover, people who support women in unwanted or unexpected pregnancies often do this anonymously and even worse–the media almost never covers these stories–focusing on the less lucid protests that often end or even start with violence.

Tomorrow I plan to watch the Notre Dame commencement to listen to what the President has to say and to what Judge Noonan also says–but I also plan to pray. I pray for the safety of our President, for the students who are graduating, for Fr Jenkins and for cooler heads to prevail. Of course I also pray for those who die in abortion and for the women who feel they have only abortion as a recourse. Know that the church offers you refuge and that we will always support you and help you serve your child and keep you safe.

Perhaps if President Obama could see those kinds of prayers in action more often, we wouldn’t be spending our time arguing whether he should be on the podium tomorrow.

Glendon’s Failed “Hail Mary”

Amen, amen I say to Daniele Crittenden

Many conservatives — especially those at National Review Online’s “The Corner” — are praising Glendon for her “leadership.” This isn’t leadership but the opposite: it’s burying one’s head in the sand. Here we have yet another example of religious conservatives opting out of engagement with the larger political culture, even that within their own church.

Even if you view President Obama’s stance on abortion — which this is about — as wrong, or even appalling, wouldn’t you want to take this opportunity to address the president directly — or as the old saying goes, “Speak truth to power?”

Notre Dame has not, after all, invited the head of Planned Parenthood, or a doctor who performs abortions, or even a pro-abortion activist, which the language of Glendon’s letter suggests.

Rather it has invited the president. Of the United States. For whom many Catholics and non-Catholics alike voted. Glendon’s words suggest that Obama may be president but he is not HER President, or the Catholics’ president — a highly divisive and anti-democratic sentiment.

Glendon should have accepted the award graciously, and seized this rare chance to articulate her principles directly to Obama. As the university rightly points out: it is a “good thing” to advance your causes with political leaders.

And it’s exactly the point I’ve made all along. I have the greatest respect for Ms. Glendon and for her principles, I wish she’d just take the time to share them with a President and inspire graduates as they leave the biggest Catholic University in the country.

I get Glendon’s point that she believe the University’s invitation is a slap to the Bishops (I would argue that allowing him to speak is not, but perhaps the honorary degree may be), but it’s happening anyway. There are so many people who have dismissed the Catholic voice in our country and I fear that she’s just made it easier for them to do so.

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Podcast: Hayes Delivers ND Commencement Speech and More

On this week’s Busted Halo Cast

We answer a question about the Eucharist and Episcopalians.

And then I decided that if Mary Ann Glendon wasn’t going to speak, perhaps I’d take a crack at it, going one step beyond Fr Jim Martin’s article earlier this week.

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