Tuesday, February 28, 2017


Fr. Paul Sauerbier, one of the many "random" folks from whom I receive emails, is a Vincentian priest who has established the Prodigal Father Foundation. 

His ministry is to reach out to priests imprisoned for the sexual abuse of minors—whom he calls “the modern-day lepers in our society.”

Read an interview with Fr. Sauerbier in the National Catholic Reporter HERE.

Not long ago he sent me a hard-to-find copy of a book by Caryll Houselander, one of my favorite spiritual writers.

And the other day I rec'd a photocopy of these stories which, being a walker myself, I felt moved, with his permission, to share.



I have lived in my humble half of this duplex for 15 years.
Without any knowledge or intellectual acumen, I happen to have chosen a spot that is one mile west of Home Depot and the Lockwood Branch of the Dallas Public Library and one mile east of the local Post Office, the local grocery store, my Compass Bank, and the Dollar Store.

That is my normal attire but without the cigar, and in wintertime long pants. I've come to realize that the hat and beard are almost like a uniform which is ironic since I have hardly ever worn clericals in the last 15 years.


1. So, recently when my intestines were bleeding a bit, scaring me whenever I
went to the john, I called my local gastroenterologist for an appointment
and walked the mile to get to his office. But I did not climb the stairs to his office on the 5th floor. I took the elevator.

In the elevator, some ole man got on behind me. After he punches the button for his floor,
he slowly turns to me and in his gravelly ole man's voice, while pointing at me, says "You
walk faster than I drive!".

I looked at him in amazement then laughed,
then something clicks in my head and
I said to him "Were you the guy in the red
car?" And he says "yea!" At that point we
both got off the elevator at the fifth floor.

2. A couple of years ago I was walking the mile east to the library to pick up some of the books on CD which I had requested so that I could listen to them in the car for my weekend drives, Friday AM to Sunday PM, for my visits.

I'm half way there when some ole man with a cane comes out of his house accompanied by two of his daughters and a few of his grandchildren. I wasn't paying any attention to them and was almost past them when I hear this rickety voice belt out "I want that hat."  I turned and laughingly said "you'll have to chase me for it." Then he replied with "You're a legend around here!"

We all laughed and I continued my way to the library. And "NO"! They didn't offer me a ride!
3.    Last year when it was raining, I drove to
the Post Office, a mile west of my
house, to buy some money orders.
While I was standing in the Post Office, some
middle aged man comes up, stands in front of
me and pointing at me with incredulity and amazement in his voice, says "You have a car!"       Stunned, I looked at him and with mystification responded "Well ..... yeaaa".
He says in explanation
"I didn't think you had a car.
I always see you walking every place."
4.      When I'm in Dallas on a Sunday, I walk
the mile and half to St
. Bernard's
Church for the 11AM Mass, only
because it forces me to walk rather than drive the 3.3 miles to St
. Patrick's
where there is a celebration of the
Liturgy, verses "attending" Mass at St
Bernard's which is run by a somewhat
pre-Vatican II Argentinian religious
order wh
ich have the initials IVE.

Just enough people know me that, if at the end of Mass it is raining or there is some extreme of hot or cold, some church lady will ask me if I need a lift home.

With our triple digit heat in the 
summertime, when I arrive at Church, I go to 
the bathroom, take off my hat and dry my hair
with paper towels and re-comb it
. My body
does cool down and by the middle of Mass,
I'm freezing. I keep warm by singing to myself
in prayer for the
Instituto del Verbo Encarnado
"Don't cry for me Argentina, The truth is I never left you, All through my wild days, My mad existence, I kept my promise, Don't keep your distance. I don't sound as good as Madonna who played Evita in the Movie but it warms me up by keeping my mind off how cold the AC is in Church!

Thursday, February 23, 2017


This week's arts and culture piece is on the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, a little-known gem a mere half-hour (at midnight, maybe) drive from downtown LA.

Here's how it starts:

My friend Dave, an artist and a walker, has an unerring nose for out-of-the-way spots to explore at leisure.

A few months ago he started talking about a place with quarries and riverbeds and hiking trails by the confluence of the 210 and the 605 freeways. It was in Duarte, he said. He took the Gold Line from downtown Pasadena to get there.

My appetite was whetted. We made plans to go together one day, but Dave had to work and we had to take a rain check. So last week I drove out to the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area — which is technically in the city of Irwindale — by myself.

Owned and run by the County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation, the park is open from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Nov. 1 to April 30. From May 1 to Oct. 31, the hours are 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

On a Wednesday, the sentry kiosk was empty — winter weekdays are free. Otherwise, the fee is $10 per vehicle.

“Santa Fe Dam Recreational Area,” reports the park’s website, “is nestled at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains and is considered one of the many hidden jewels of Southern California. This 836-acre facility boasts a serene 70-acre lake with year-round fishing and nonmotorized watercraft usage. During the summer months, the recreational area highlights a five-acre chlorinated swim beach and the unique Water Play Area. The facility is home to many protected native plants and animals. The Nature Center is operated and staffed by volunteers of the San Gabriel Mountains Regional Conservancy offering educational, interpretive and walking tours throughout the year.”


Monday, February 20, 2017


Last night I stumbled across this Salon interview, from December 15, 2013, with San Francisco-based writer Richard Rodriguez. Rodriguez, as you may know, is a gay Catholic intellectual. His 1990 essay, "Late Victorians," is the finest piece of writing I know on the AIDS tragedy.

The book referred to in the opening question of the excerpted portion of the interview refers to Darling: A Spiritual Biography, which "looks at the state of religion after 9/11."

His remarks, in light of our recent election and current administration, were eerily prescient.

Let me read a line to you from late in the book, and if you could explain it a little bit. You say, “After September 11, critical division in America feels and sounds like religious division.” Where are you going with that?

Well, it seems to me that there are two aspects of that. One of them is that I think that increasingly the left has conceded organized religion to the political right. This has been a catastrophe on the left.

I’m old enough to remember the black Civil Rights movement, which was as I understood it a movement of the left and insofar as it was challenging the orthodoxy of conservatives in the American South. White conservatism. And here was a group of protestant ministers leading processions, which were really religious processions through the small towns and the suburbs of the South. We shall overcome. Well, we have forgotten just how disruptive religion can be to the status quo. How challenging it is to the status quo. I also talk about Cesar Chavez, who is, who was embraced by the political left in his time but he was obviously a challenge to organized labor, the teamsters and to large farmers in the central valley.

So somehow we had decided on the left that religion belongs to Fox Television, or it belongs to some kind of right-wing fanaticism in the Middle East and we have given it up, and it has made us a really empty — that is, it has made the left really empty. I’ll point to one easy instance. Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. And what America heard was really a sermon. It was as though slavery and Jim Crow could not be described as a simple political narrative; racism was a moral offense, not simply an illegality. And with his vision of a time “when all of God’s children” in America would be free, he described the nation within a religious parable of redemption.

Fifty years later, our technocratic, secular president gave a speech at the Lincoln memorial, honoring the memory of the speech Dr. King had given. And nothing President Obama said can we remember these few weeks later; his words were dwarfed by our memory of the soaring religious oratory of fifty years ago. And what’s happened to us — and I would include myself in the cultural left — what has happened to us is we have almost no language to talk about the dream life of America, to talk about the soul of America, to talk about the mystery of being alive at this point in our lives, this point in our national history. That’s what we’ve lost in giving it to Fox Television.


In the past you’ve been described as a conservative, and you’ve expressed frustration with some liberal positions, with the left press, and so on. In the age of Obama, Google, the Tea Party and so on, do you see yourself as a conservative, or having a relationship to the tradition of Edmund Burke?

I see myself increasingly as, if you’re agnostic, then I’m politically agnostic...I guess what I would like to say is that on some issues — and I go issue by issue — I’m very conservative, and on other issues I’m very liberal.

Where do you find yourself very conservative these days?

I would say even on an issue like affirmative action, for example, I haven’t changed. I think that the hijacking of the integrationists’ dream as it announced itself in the North, where racism was not legalized but it was de facto, the hijacking of that movement to integrate Northern institutions by the middle class and to make middle class ascendancy somehow an advance for the entire population — I think was grotesque. And so you ended up with a black and brown bourgeoisie and you did nothing with those at the bottom, and you also managed to ignore white poverty. What the left has forgotten or ignored is that it is possible to be white and poor in America. The solution to de facto segregation in the late 1960s, as the black Civil Rights movement turned north, was an affirmative action that ignored white poverty altogether. And to make matters worse, Hispanics were named with blacks as the other principal excluded society in America. Conveniently ignored by the liberal agenda was the fact that Hispanics are not a racial group and therefore cannot suffer “racism” as Hispanics. And to turn misunderstanding into a kind of cartoon revolution, it became possible for, say, a white Cuban to be accepted to Yale as a “minority,” but a white kid from Appalachia would never be a minority because, after all, whites were numerically represented in societies of power.

Even if that Cuban came from a very wealthy family that owned half the town and the Appalachian was very poor.

That’s right. Is that a question?

No, I was just trying to elaborate. That’s part of the paradox here. Overlooking class.

And totally ignores the reality or the fantastic contradictions of the word or concept of Hispanic/Latino. We are posing ourselves as a racial group when in fact we are an ethnic group. The left has no idea. The left says nothing about the obliviousness of our political process to poor whites. The fact that the Civil Rights movement managed to ignore white poverty was the beginning of the end of the Democratic party in the old South. The white poor began to turn to the Republican party, which is where it is now.

Well, that turn has certainly shaped American politics in profound ways.



Tuesday, February 14, 2017



This week's arts and culture column brings us deep into the world of an early 1900's Southern California tile-maker.

Here's how it starts:

The Pasadena Museum of History is featuring an exhibit, extended by popular demand through March 12, called “Batchelder: Tilemaker.”

Ernest A. Batchelder (1875-1957) was an Arts and Crafts tilemaker who lived in Pasadena’s Lower Arroyo Seco and made fountains, fireplaces and fixtures that can still be spotted in craftsman-style bungalows and at various sites throughout the Southern California area and beyond.

The exhibit celebrates the recent donation to the museum by Robert Winter, Ph.D., of a collection of

Batchelder tile and archives. Since 1972, Winter has owned and lived in the house on what is now South Arroyo Boulevard where Batchelder built his first kiln, and where he lived during the years his design and tile business thrived.

Winter, a premier Batchelder expert, curated the exhibit, authored the accompanying book and figures prominently in the 15-minute documentary film that orients museum visitors to Batchelder’s life, importance and work.



I just went to noon Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows, walked around the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden., and now I'm at Starbucks with the gift card my friend Joan gave me for V-Day. Next I head to the Center for Spiritual Renewal (can you renew something you've never much had to begin with?), which apparently has no wifi or cell reception, for three nights.

I have brought I swear twenty books.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


A letter to the editor from The New Yorker, February 13 &20, 2017

As a child psychologist, I find Barry Blitt’s cover depicting Donald Trump in a child’s toy limo terribly sad (“At the Wheel,” January 23rd). It suggests that the problem with Trump is that he is a child. This is an affront to children everywhere: children are not inherently narcissistic, ignorant, cruel, or vindictive. They tend to accept other human beings with an open mind and heart, without prejudice. Would that a five-year-old were our President.

Jean M. Donnelly
New York City


Tuesday, February 7, 2017


This week's arts and culture piece is on The Ramones, the iconic band that kick-started punk.

Here's how it begins:

Talking to my little brother Joe on the phone recently, we began reminiscing about growing up on the coast of New Hampshire. Five years apart, we’d never known that, as teenagers, we’d both kept a beat-up radio under our bed that we’d listen to, at the lowest possible volume so our parents wouldn’t hear, late at night.

“The songs!” I mused. “‘You Got Me Babe,’ ‘Downtown,’ ‘Morning Angel.’ Plus, very faintly in the distance, you could hear the traffic from I-95.”

“Yeah,” Joe agreed. “You heard those cars, traveling north and south in the night, and you knew you were on the verge of something. You didn’t know quite what it was, but you felt you were on the verge of something exciting and important.”

I grew up to be a writer. Joe grew up to head a punk band called The Queers.

That pretty much sums up my connection to punk. When I’m alone in the car, I tend to listen to Billie Holliday or Bach.

But I’ve always appreciated the raw DIY exuberance of punk, the insistence upon dressing like juvenile delinquents well into middle age and the songs glorifying the halcyon, tortured days of adolescence that, in my brother’s case, include “Teenage Bonehead,” “I Can’t Stand You” and “Hi Mom, It’s Me!”


Sunday, February 5, 2017


Here's the link to a podcast I did with Ken Johnston of Malvern, PA, on January 17.

Ken had me on an In His Sign radio show called "What the World Needs Now."

We talked about the one and only Mother Antonia Brenner and several other things.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017



“Maslow distinguished between two types of self-actualizers: non-transcenders and transcenders. Nontranscenders were “practical, realistic, mundane, capable, and secular.” They were healthy reformers of life, but had no experience of transcendent “highs.” Transcenders, on the other hand, “had illuminations or insights” that motivated them to transform their lives and the lives of others. They felt a sense of destiny, sought truth, did not judge, and viewed pain, even in their love lives, as an opportunity to grow. Maslow considered peak experiences, mystical visions, and self-creation as natural parts of our higher circuitry.”

--Brenda Schaeffer, Is It Love Or Is It Addiction?