Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Service of Family: No Marriage, No Children=No Family & Unfit to Serve?

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

Photo: motivationpt.com

I was at an auto dealership in upstate New York last weekend speaking with an insurance company customer service rep. Our salesman was arranging for the transfer of our insurance to a new car and when done, he passed me the phone.

After “Hello”—I’d expected a quick “confirming that you’re Jeanne Byington leasing a car,”–but instead the rep bombarded me with questions starting with “What’s your PIN number?” I panicked, looked at my husband and we spat out a few options. The rep interrupted me and then asked, “What is the name of your child?” I answered: “I don’t have one.” He said, “You have to call back. I’ve been logged out.” Click.

Photo: datagenetics.com

So we called back, this time logging in with a PIN number, which worked thank goodness, and we reached a pleasant woman who took the information she needed from the salesman and she then asked me: “What’s your child’s birthday and year of birth?” I told her I don’t have children, but decided to share the birth info of my stepdaughter to move things along. That was the right answer. The company, its staff or computer had assumed that everyone has a kid and that my husband’s daughter–he uses the same company for a range of services—was also mine.

I immediately thought of a comment I read on Twitter by author Father James Martin, @JamesMartinSJ,  regarding the replacement of the fired House of Representatives Chaplain Father Patrick J. Conroy: “The idea that a priest can’t be House chaplain because he’s not a ‘family man’ is absurd and borderline anti-Catholic. Priests have families: mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews. Also, by that yardstick, Jesus Christ wouldn’t qualify.”

Father James Martin. Photo: ncregister.com

He was responding to a remark by Mark Walker, a Republican representative from North Carolina who is on a committee to find a new chaplain. According to The Hill, Walker said: “I’m looking for somebody who has a little age, that has adult children, that kind of can connect with the bulk of the body here, Republicans and Democrats who are going through, back home the wife, the family—that has some counseling experience…”

I take Walker’s comment a step beyond religion: Is Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor unable to do her job appropriately because she never married nor had children yet her judgments impact citizens?

Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Nobody knows for sure why the Chaplain was fired. According to America Magazine’s Michael J. O’Loughlin who wrote “House Republicans rebuff investigation into firing of Jesuit chaplain,” New York Representative Joe Crowley noted that “Mr. Ryan and other Republican members of Congress were unhappy with the chaplain for delivering a prayer in November they viewed as partisan.” Father Conroy reported to The New York Times that after he offered the prayer on taxes, Mr. Ryan told him, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.”  While the Republican tax bill was on the table Father Conroy had urged the planners not to create “winners and losers.”

O’Loughlin wrote that “Mr. Ryan told Republican colleagues on Friday that some lawmakers felt Father Conroy was not providing appropriate pastoral care to House members.” I heard Representative Peter King from Long Island, NY disagree on TV news with this allegation.

So why did it take the House seven years to react if this was so? In his work as pastor at numerous churches as well as chaplain at Georgetown and Seattle Universities, for how many people had he provided pastoral care without complaint?

In a subsequent interview with Walker, Scott Wong reported in The Hill in “Conservative leader: Next House chaplain should have a family” that the congressman said “When you walk the journey of having a kid back home that’s struggling or made some bad decisions, or when you have a separation situation or your wife’s not understanding the [congressional] schedule, having somebody who’s walked in those shoes allows you to immediately related a little bit more than others.”

To be effective, must a grade school teacher have children; a female psychiatrist counsel women exclusively, or an obstetrician be female? Is an unmarried man or woman or a couple with no children, regardless of religion, without family? Is a doctor who doesn’t suffer from his/her specialty unqualified to treat that disease? Are there certain jobs unmarried or childless people are ill-equipped to have?

Father Patrick Conroy. Photo: youtube.com

 

Service of Gratitude II

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

Photo: spineuniverse.com

I’m gratified when an article in a legitimate source such as The Wall Street Journal confirms one of my observations. In this case, it’s about gratitude and how it has been lost among a large swath of people, young and old alike.

For years I’ve been part of a committed group of association members who vet applications for college and grad school scholarships—as much as $10,000 plus generous fringe benefits. I’ve often written here about the scholarships or the winners. They pass three reviews: Every application is read by two members. Those recommended for the second level are interviewed on the phone and if that conversation goes well, the student meets a committee in person where final decisions are made. The competition is stiff. Some of the high school senior through grad school students are remarkable.

Photo: ncci1914.com

This year I interviewed college seniors attending grad school and only one sent me a thank you. Last year none of the students I spoke with thanked. “So what?” say you? “Nobody thanks these days. Where have you been?” you may think. So this: If two students receive equally high recommendations to move to the third and last review and one has written a thank you as short as “tx,” and the other has not, the grateful one gets the opportunity to be interviewed in person; the other loses her chance.

But the ramifications of not expressing gratitude are far greater than missing out on a scholarship.

In “An Attitude of Gratitude,” in the Journal Jennifer Breheny Wallace wrote: “As Dr. [Richard] Weissbourd sees it, parents were fed a myth that if children feel better about themselves—if parents praise them, cater to their every need and make them feel happy—it will help them to develop character. ‘But what we’re seeing in many cases is the opposite: When parents organize their lives around their kids, those kids expect everyone else to as well, and that leads to entitlement,’ he says. And when children are raised to feel entitled to everything, they are left feeling grateful for nothing.” Weissbourd, a psychologist, is faculty director of the Making Caring Common initiative at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

Photo: thebalance.com

“Researchers find that people with a grateful disposition are more thankful for a wider variety of things in their lives, such as their friends, their health, nature, their jobs or a higher power—and that they experience feelings of gratitude more intensely. For them, gratitude isn’t a one-off ‘thank you.’ It’s a mind-set, a way of seeing the world.”

John Wyeth

This approach reminds me of the award for niceness instituted at the Harlem Link Charter School named to honor the memory of John Wyeth who had worked there for a decade and who was the epitome of the award. I wrote about it a year ago.

Wallace also included observations of David Rosmarin, director of the Spirituality and Mental Health Program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. He mentioned how gratitude takes a place in most world religions.

I attended a memorable Bar Mitzvah service many years ago in which our friend’s son Julian told the congregation about his good deed that was part of his Bar Mitzvah preparation. He described making sandwiches to offer homeless men and women in Newark, N.J. and how hard it was to get out of his father’s car when they arrived in the city and what it was like to approach and speak with the destitute people he met.

Helping less fortunate people became a turning point for one family in the article. The floors in a house that one of the children helped to restore as a volunteer were in such bad shape you could stand in the home and see through to the ground. When this child returned home “she got down and hugged the floor and said, ‘I’ve never been grateful for a floor, but now I am.’”

Wrote Wallace: “The researchers found, in keeping with past studies, that general gratitude was associated with less anxiety, less depression and greater well-being. They also found that religious gratitude—toward God—was associated with additional reductions in anxiety and depression and increases in well-being.”

Photo: theodysseyonline.com

It’s never too late to teach gratitude to a child and Wallace noted the obvious: The most effective way is for parents to practice what they want a child to do such as thanking when junior takes out the garbage or holds open a door.

Wallace wrote that parents can “spur their children to appreciate and reflect on the time and thought behind the gifts and kindness they receive, as in: ‘Jack really knows how much you love football. How thoughtful that he gave you a jersey of your favorite team’ or ‘Wow, Grandma just took a five-hour train ride to come and see you perform in that play.’”

Do you think expressing gratitude eventually leads to feeling it and that it really has positive effects? Does a person—parent, boss or client–appear to be weak if they thank which is why they don’t do it? Do you know anyone who never thanked and then suddenly began to? Do you have examples of someone who expressed gratitude to you that bowled you over?

Photo: hubpages.com

Service of Freedom of Speech

Monday, March 16th, 2015

Free Speech

I woke up on Sunday to a rip ‘roarin conversation on WABC Radio’s Religion on the Line between co-hosts Rabbi Joseph Potasnik and Deacon Kevin McCormack and their guest, Michael Meyers, president of the New York Civil Rights Coalition. The topic: The University of Oklahoma students who chanted a racist song on a bus. Two, the leaders, were already expelled from the school. Their fraternity chapter that was evicted from its house on campus was closed by the national organization.

I felt that the co-hosts  [pictured at right] were surprised by Meyers’ arguments. Rabbi Joseph Potasnik Deacon Kevin McCormack 2

Meyers said that the University president, a government employee, had no right to expel anyone because of this country’s commitment to freedom of speech. He noted that the incident happened off campus and was brought to the world by a video that nobody has to look at–they have to take action to see and hear it.

He felt that it was up to the University to do a better job of educating its students, not expel them for their words; to teach them to express their opposing ideas so that the words are challenged by words, not by punishment. He said that it’s not up to the government to teach good manners. He mocked the university president for being overly dramatic when he claimed he had a sleepless night over the incident.

He granted that as a private institution the fraternity was within its rights to punish and close the chapter.

Michael Meyers NY Civil Rights CoalitionMeyers [photo left] agreed that racism and anti-Semitism are wrong, but, he recalled, even Martin Luther King Jr. said you must let people speak.

The message of the Rabbi and the Deacon was that in religious communities, people have a moral responsibility to address [and punish] hateful or demeaning comments. They parried Meyers’ comments and said that words can be as dangerous as actions. The Deacon, who is also the principal of Xaverian High School in Brooklyn, pointed out that he is able to expel students for such actions because he works for a private institution.

While co-hosts and guest clearly didn’t agree, the segment ended with laughs by all when the Deacon said he’d like to continue the conversation with Meyers over dinner and the Rabbi, known for his quick wit and love of teasing, suggested that Meyers remember to bring his checkbook.

Where do you stand?

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Service of Being Cut Off at the Pass

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

 

Photo: Brett Duke/The Times Picayune

Photo: Brett Duke/The Times Picayune

Last Sunday Rabbi Joseph Potasnik and Deacon Kevin McCormack mentioned on their radio program, “Religion on the Line,” that there were no clergy at the opening of the 9/11 Memorial Museum dedication.

This was an unusual omission, they observed. They reminded listeners of the interfaith memorial service organized by clergy at Yankee Stadium a dozen days after the attack. It was meant to help heal. So what had changed since the citizens of the New York metro area–and the country–craved spiritual support?

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Left, and Deacon Kevin McCormack

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Left, and Deacon Kevin McCormack

I didn’t watch the museum’s opening ceremonies and wasn’t aware of this, though I was surprised to hear it, given that prayers or spiritual thoughts are often a part of memorials at a graveyard.

What came immediately to mind? This scene, a total conjecture: The event planners thought of everything and someone influential came in at the last minute, cut off at the pass their arrangements regarding clergy participation and made a crucial change based on a snap decision. It’s happened to me and to others all the time and in all sorts of ways—not just at events.

Aaron Copeland [seated] and Leonard Bernstein. Photo: Milkenarchives.org

Aaron Copeland [seated] and Leonard Bernstein. Photo: Milkenarchives.org

Leonard Bernstein did it to Aaron Copland. In the Bard College Conservatory of Music notes in Sunday’s program, Peter Laki, visiting associate professor of music, quoted Bernstein writing Copland about the latter’s Symphony No. 3: “Sweetie, the end is a sin. You’ve got to change [it].” Laki continued: “Bernstein proceeded to cut 10 measures from the concluding section.” Laki wrote that the cut version became standard, but that on Sunday the audience would hear the last movement as Copeland wrote it. It was glorious.

Lionel, a fictional character on the British comedy “As Time Goes By” suffers indignity and fits as his script–and life–are cut to shreds and then foolishly built up by a California TV production crew.

Back to real life when John McCain ran for President, Senator Joe Lieberman was his first choice of vice president but the Republican Party axed that plan. You know the rest.

Has something you’ve planned, written or designed been cut off at the pass? What was the result? Why do you think that the clergy of any stripe was omitted from the 9/11 Memorial Museum dedication?

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