Category Archives: Religion

Evidence of Ascension in America, Even When Only Half of Us Are Looking

I listen to Fox News on my Sirius XM radio while driving to and fro from Winfield. I consider it something of an intelligence-gathering  mission from the fact-based world, the one where we seek out the truth and take steps to understand it. I also seek to understand the roughly half of my country that aligns itself behind the thin theories that ring there.

So I know the special place that the Benghazi attacks have for the people at Fox News. For them, Benghazi is everything. It is the alpha and the omega of the Obama administration. It is the most popular player in their Fantasy Impeachment league, the one that exists in their stunted minds.

So I was stunned and surprised to see so much ink, and what appears to be such an enormous amount of reporting time, that went into the NYT reporting on A Deadly Mix in Benghazi. It is some of the most thorough, detailed, cited, minute-by-minute tick-tocks I’ve ever read in those pages. It’s unimpeachable, so to speak.

And no one in NYT-Land cares at all about this story. It is not in the top 20 viewed on emailed stories on the site. Nobody cared out there.

It’s a top story on Fox News, though. Because if this story is right, half of their news is wrong. Half of their editorial policy is wrong. So they spend a lot of words doing shoddy followup (unidentified witnesses, compound sentences with indeterminate noun clauses, etc.)

The cool thing is that nothing in the Fox report contradicts the reporting of the NYT whatsoever. They say it was a coordinated attack, and so does the NYT (their timeline starts with photographic surveillance hours before the disturbance). They say “The bosses on the ground were pointing, commanding and coordinating”, and so does the NYT.

Whenever they disagree on a point (like whether the main suspect was affiliated with Al Qaeda), the NYT has dozens of documented interviews with the suspect and people who have known him since he was a child. People who have lived with him in prison.  And Fox has an unidentified source saying “…There is literal evidence in many forms and shapes, directly linking him.”

Literal evidence!

I feel the momentum of America. It’s evident everywhere. In gay rights legislation, in Boehner when asks about who’s kidding who, even in the acquiescence to a Pope who demands we love one another. Everyone.

Evidence everywhere.

Registration Form for Religious Education Program at St. John the Baptist Catholic Parish, Winfield for 2013 – 2014

If you we looking for the registrations form for the Religious Education Program at St. John the Baptist Catholic Parish in Winfield, IL, for the upcoming 2013 – 2014 year, I’ve got you covered. You can view and download these forms here.

The forms are not available anywhere else online, and I just received them by email, so I thought I would share.

Otherwise, here’s a picture of a barn in Ohio:

Mini Filter Fourth of July, Fort Royal Farm

[VIDEO] Ben Tucker Funeral Jazz March, Savannah, GA

Shawn-Laree and I are in Savannah for the high school graduation of her godson. I saw in the paper this morning that a jazz musician, Ben Tucker, had died and that the funeral was today.

We’re staying downtown, and after lunch we saw a crowd in a local square. We realized that it was the early stirrings of his New Orleans-style jazz march. So I hopped in the scrum to take pictures while S-L shot video. I spliced it together and here’s about four minutes of a real jazz man procession:

Ben Tucker Jazz Funeral March from Daniel X. O’Neil on Vimeo.

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My Churches of Rome

Last month our family spent eight days in Rome. We rented an apartment near the Pantheon and went all over the city. In the course of spending my time in the city that surrounds the seat of my religion, I developed a desire to be more devout. The idea is so appealing to me— to have inside oneself a depth of commitment that allows you the freedom of purpose and clarity of mode.

My Catholicism is definitely deeper. We spent time in St. Peter’s Cathedral and I visited a set of churches near our house a number of times. I wanted to document all of that here and just capture thoughts and facts about each place. Here’s a complete set of 140 pics of my churches of Rome.

Santa Maria del Popolo church was one of my favorites.

Santa Maria del Popolo Church

Here’s all pics and a snip from Wikipedia:

Santa Maria del Popolo is an Augustinian church located in Rome, Italy. It stands to the north side of thePiazza del Popolo, one of the most famous squares in the city. The Piazza is situated between the ancientPorta Flaminia and the park of the Pincio. [The Porta Flaminia was one of the gates in the Aurelian Wall as well as the starting point of the Via Flaminia, the road to Ariminum (modern Rimini). The Via Flaminia was the most important route to the north of Ancient Rome.] The church includes works by several famous artists, architects and sculptors, for example RaphaelGian Lorenzo BerniniCaravaggioPinturicchioAndrea BregnoGuillaume de Marcillat and Donato Bramante.

The buried relics, topped by skulls + crossbones worn by parishioner feet, reminded me of both the original sacrifice and the devotion of daily masses.

Santa Maria del Popolo Church

We finally got in to the Cerasi Chapel. Wonderful. The perspectives are so uncomfortable, off-kilter. The Crucifixion of St. Peter has so much labor and effort and grunting. Photos are not allowed of these paintings.

The painting depicts the martyrdom of St. Peter by crucifixion—Peter asked that his cross be inverted so as not to imitate his mentor, Christ, hence he is depicted upside-down. The large canvas shows Romans, their faces shielded, struggling to erect the cross of the elderly but muscular St. Peter. Peter is heavier than his aged body would suggest, and his lifting requires the efforts of three men, as if the crime they perpetrate already weighs on them.

The Conversion on the way to Damascus is painted with perfect looking-up-from-ones-knees perspective as well.

The painting depicts the moment recounted in Chapter 9 of Acts of the Apostles when Saul, soon to be the apostle Paul, fell on the road to Damascus. He heard the Lord say “I am Jesus, whom you persecute, arise and go into the city” (see Conversion of Paul). The Golden Legend, a compilation of medieval interpretations of biblical events, may have framed the event for Caravaggio.

Caravaggio’s first version of the Conversion painting is in the collection of Principe Guido Odescalchi. It is a much brighter and more Mannerist canvas, with an angel-sustained Jesus reaching downwards towards a blinded Paul.

Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria di Montesanto are two right across the piazza.

There was a performer doing a Statue of Liberty imitation in front of the place.

Santa Maria dei Miracoli

Here’s all shots I’ve got of the place and Wikipedia snip:

They are located on the Piazza del Popolo, facing the northern gate of the Aurelian Walls, at the entrance of Via del Corso on the square. The churches are often cited as “twin”, due to their similar external appearance: they have indeed some differences, in both plan and exterior details.
Looking from the square, the two churches define the so-called “trident” of streets departing from Piazza del Popolo: starting from the left, Via del Babuino, Via del Corso and Via di Ripetta. The first two are separated by Santa Maria in Montesanto, the latter by Santa Maria dei Miracoli.

The origin of the two churches traces back to the 17th century restoration of what was the main entrance to the Middle Ages and Renaissance Rome, from the Via Flaminia (known as Via Lataand Via del Corso in its urban trait). Pope Alexander VII commissioned the monumental design of the entrance of Via del Corso to architect Carlo Rainaldi. This included two churches with central plant, but the different shapes of the two areas available forced deep modifications to the projects.

Both were financed by cardinal Girolamo Gastaldi, whose crest is present in the two churches.

We went by here a few times, including once on our way to Villa Borghese. One day we made some sketches on the stairs there while waiting for a restaurant to open.

Santa Maria dei Miracoli

The Santa Maria Maddalena in Campo Marzio (La Maddalena) is located just north of the Pantheon, so I went there a number of times by myself just to sit.

Santa Maria Maddalena in Campo Marzio (La Maddalena)

Here’s all pics I took and a snip from Wikipedia:

The Order of Saint Camillus de Lellis had a church at that location in Rome since 1586 and in the 17th century started the construction of the current church, which was completed in 1699 in the Baroque style.

In seventy years of work several architects were involved including Carlo QuadriCarlo Fontana (who is thought to have designed the dome) and Giovanni Antonio de Rossi. It is uncertain who designed the curved main facade, which was finished circa 1735 and is Rococo, an unusual style in Roman church facades. It also displays motifs reminiscent of Borromini. Early guide books credit Giuseppe Sardi with the its design. Between 1732 and 1734, however, as architect of the congregation of the Ministri degli Infirmi, the Portuguese architect Manuel Rodriguez Dos Santosdirected the completion of works at the church. The historian Alessandra Marino believes that it is to Dos Santos, rather than Giuseppe Sardi, that the design for the highly unusual façade decoration should be attributed.[1]. The architectural historian Nina Mallory has also maintained that Sardi is unlikely to be the designer of the façade.[2]

To the left of the church is the monastery, constructed circa 1678, by Paolo Amato from Palermo and completed by C.F. Bizzacheri in the early 1680’s.[3]

The church is devoted to St. Camillus, who is the Universal Patron of the sick, hospitals, nurses and physicians, so there is an intensity to the place. Many people who mill through and pray at the various chapels leave remnants from loved ones for whom they seek healing. There is also a certain opulence and formality to the place, which is not uncommon in Rome, but seemed more pronounced here.

Santa Maria Maddalena in Campo Marzio (La Maddalena)

Santa Maria Maddalena in Campo Marzio (La Maddalena)

I often went to another church very nearby, and it always blew my mind: The Church of San Luigi dei Francesi.

San Luigi dei Francesi

Here’s my pics and a Wikipedia snip:

The Church of St. Louis of the French (ItalianSan Luigi dei FrancesiFrenchSaint Louis des Français,LatinS. Ludovici Francorum de Urbe) is a Roman Catholic minor basilica and titular church in Rome, not far from Piazza Navona. The church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, to St. Denis the Areopagite and St. Louis IX, king of France. The church was designed by Giacomo della Porta and built by Domenico Fontanabetween 1518 and 1589, and completed through the personal intervention of Catherine de’ Medici, who donated to it some property in the area. It is the national church in Rome of France.[2][3] The currentCardinal-Priest of the Titulus S. Ludovici Francorum de Urbe is André Vingt-Trois.

There are three amazing Caravaggio paintings in this place.

The church’s most famous item is, however, the cycle of paintings in the Contarelli Chapel, painted by the Baroquemaster Caravaggio in 1599-1600 about the life of St. Matthew. This include the three world-renowned canvases of The Calling of St MatthewThe Inspiration of Saint MatthewThe Martyrdom of Saint Matthew.

The beginning of this video shows the three paintings as they existed in July 2012:

RomeSnips2 (Sunday) from Daniel X. O’Neil on Vimeo.

Another amazing church was Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Santa Maria in Trastevere

Here’s my pics and a Wikipedia snip:

The Basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere (ItalianBasilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere) is a titular minor basilica, one of the oldest churches in Rome, and perhaps the first in which Mass was openly celebrated. The basic floor plan and wall structure of the church date back to the 340s, The first sanctuary was built in 221 and 227 by Pope Calixtus and later completed by Julius I [1][2]

Here’s a shot of me sitting in sunlight (face is more washed out than I wanted to be) along with Caleb photobombing in ORD Camp T shirt:

Santa Maria in Trastevere

What I got out of the faded medieval paint of this place was the sheer will be to Catholic.

St. Peter’s Cathedral always moves me.

My pics (Wikipedia snip not necessary)

La Pieta, especially:

St. Peter's Cathedral, Rome

One surprise was to see that the crypt of Pope John Paul II is located right next to La Pieta. Here’s me, there:

In St. Peter's Cathedral

Good thing they’ve got guards:

In St. Peter's Cathedral

Last on my list is The Pantheon, which is actually a church by the name of Church of St. Mary and the Martyrs.

Pantheon (Church of St. Mary and the Martyrs), Rome

This place is a wonder. The poured-concrete, negative-space oculus astounds me.

Light Through the Oculus (Pantheon/ Church of St. Mary and the Martyrs), Rome

And in the end, it is just a church.

Easter Morning for an Urban American Catholic in an Age of Misplaced Catholic Energy

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I am a lifelong urban American Catholic, and I am not going anywhere.

That’s my message to the extremists in my religion who have strayed from our core principles of tolerance, labor, and love to focus on exclusion, doctrine, and shame.  My experience of Catholicism in the cities of Pittsburgh and Chicago over the last 40 years has been full of people devoted to service.

  • Fr. Regis Ryan gave me my First Communion at Annunciation Parish on the North Side. He’s still working near Pittsburgh today, running Focus on Renewal, a slew of agencies that provides services for the homeless and the working poor in McKees Rocks
  • Strong, intelligent, loving nuns served as principals and teachers of my grade schools in Pittsburgh (Annunciation, St. Philomena) and Chicago (St. Mary of the Lake). St. Mary of the Lake (4200 N. Sheridan Road) was an oasis of peace in Uptown for dozens of Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees in the late 70s and early 80s
  • Tough, serious priests at Gordon Tech taught by example the importance of service. There was never a component of condescension or judgment for people in need. The men I know who graduated from there are all involved in community service in some way
  • I lived near Mt. Carmel Parish in the mid 80s, and I remember the dozens of funerals held there for gay men who died of AIDS. To me, as a teenager, it was completely uncontroversial and expected that the Church would do this
  • I’ve benefited from professionals who were also people of the cloth— therapist nuns, lawyer priests, and so on. People who have been essential to me and my family as we’ve gone through tough times
  • As a catechist for the Church, I was required to take a training course called “Protecting God’s Children“, and I have to keep up with it on a monthly basis

I don’t mean to paint a inaccurate, bucolic picture. My father obtained an annulment of his marriage to my mother after seven kids and decades of marriage. A priest at St. Benedict High School cast aspersions on my mother as a single parent in the early 8os. A good friend, the pastor of my church in the early 2000s, was removed from ministry based on an accusation of sexual abuse in the 1970s. In general, the priest abuse scandal uncovered a criminal enterprise operated within the Catholic Church.

My point is a matter of focus. In my experience of the Church, the focus is on helping people, being of service, and tending to the needs of the poor. Over the last few years— coinciding with Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s leadership of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops— the static coming from official Catholic organs and prominent Catholics has been disturbing to me.

  • Dolan applied key pressure to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation in their disastrous jettisoning of Planned Parenthood. The mission of Planned Parenthood is 100% in line with my experience of the Church, so I found this meddling very worrisome
  • The Church has been utterly unhelpful in the matters of basic human rights when it comes to gay marriage
  • The two nuttiest Republicans in the presidential race are not the usual Evangelical Christians but, in fact, Catholics. Santorum’s stomach trouble vis a vis the separation of Church and state is particularly troubling, and completely un-American
  • The entire Church went into conniption fits over the President’s reasonable plan to make sure women employed by Catholic organizations had acceptable health care. My kids and I had to listen to two off-kilter homilies in two different churches earlier this year. One of those homilies threatened the Mass Hour Social Compact. There is very little more sacred, in a secular sense, to the American Catholic than the idea that the Mass lasts an hour. You get in, you read some stuff, you hear some stuff, you consecrate some stuff, you consume the body and blood of Jesus Christ, you sing one last song, and you’re out. The time the priest spent inaccurately describing the birth control policy severely impinged this essential compact, so we split (after proper genuflection in the aisle) while he was still talking

I have been disheartened at times by these policies and developments. But there is hope here, and it exists in the millions of Catholics like the ones I’ve grown up with. The deal struck by the President on birth control showed that mainstream American Catholics are in lock-step with the rest the country.

A new New York Times/CBS News poll has found that 57 percent of Catholic voters supported the requirement for religiously affiliated employers, like hospitals or universities, to cover the full cost of birth control for their employees, while 36 percent opposed it (7 percent said they did not know). There was almost no difference between Catholic and other voters on the question.

I still go to Church, I still teach religious education to 7th graders, including my eldest child. I deeply believe every word of the Nicene Creed. Transubstantiation is a fact, not just a long word. In short, I am Catholic, and I am not going anywhere.

Christ is risen. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.