Commentaries

Connecticut shootings hit close to home for mom

The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., has had a profound effect on me because my younger son Sean is 6 years old -- the same age as many of the victims -- and my older son Christopher, 10, has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. While it has been reported that the alleged killer had been diagnosed with an autism-spectrum disorder, I don't believe this had anything to do with the shooting. The young man was obviously mentally unstable, as is often the case with people who perpetrate mass killings.

Now, what do we do about the massacre at Newtown, Conn.?

What can we even say about December's massacre in Newtown, Conn.? Adam Lanza murdered his mother, forced his way into a school, and killed 20 children and six adults before killing himself. The slaughter was especially frightening and sad because it involved so many little children and the adults protecting them. We were still praying for the children and their parents when the media began airing the debate about how to keep this from happening again. This too has a familiar air about it. We always turn to the government and the psychiatric profession for solutions.

Putting social media to work for the church

There was a little-noticed engine of progress at work in President Barack Obama's successful re-election campaign. Introduction of the so-called "social media" into the national political campaign made a world of difference, what Bloomberg Business Week described as the Obama team's "maniacal focus on personal data yielded millions of voters." The success of the Catholic Church with that same age group is anything but impressive. It is time for managers of diocesan and parish affairs to be talking to the techies in search of answers to the question of how to reach not only the young but also the not-so-young who are no longer showing up on Sundays. This is a crisis that must be met in new and creative ways.

Remembering a musical legend

The incident occurred in a chapel at Omaha's St. Cecilia Cathedral. The chapel was put to use as an impromptu interview room prior to a rehearsal for his concert in the cathedral the next night. The white-haired figure stared at me and asked, "Why?" The concert was titled "Brubeck at the Cathedral." I had asked him whether a jazz pianist performing in a sacred space was an oxymoron. He did not think that, he said, and explained the place of cathedrals in culture during medieval times. He listed examples of music and art that found a home there.

A better understanding is a tweet away

Everyone has goals. Some people have big goals. They want to be president of a company or feed undernourished children. Others have simple goals that are just as meaningful. They want to graduate from college or raise a family. Goals can be extremely public or very private. You may learn of someone's goal, but unless you also know why they want to achieve it, you really don't know much at all. Vanessa Riddle had one of those goals.

Making a list, but not for Christmas

I am a list maker, a devotee of the "to do" variety. Although I try not to let my list rule my life, I find it keeps me organized: setting goals and keeping them. I'm a visual person who finds it helpful to be reminded in print of my priorities. I have to guard against obsessiveness, however. Once, when my son Mike was young, he taught me something important about my list that I've never forgotten.

NYPD officer’s example of goodness turned into an excuse to deny help

It had all the elements to be the best feel-good New York Christmas story since "Miracle on 34th Street." Instead, it exemplified how we feel about our relationship to the poor. It was a frigid November night when New York City police officer Larry DePrimo noticed a homeless man, shoeless, sitting on the sidewalk.

The holiday folly of needs and wants

Once it was easy, now it is more difficult each year to write about the excesses of the Christmas season. For one, the name has long been perverted by merchants into "the holiday season." Still, there ought to remain some targets to spoof.

Breakups don’t always lead to a bad outcome

Lately, I've been reconnecting with old high school friends on Facebook. Since it has been more than 10 years since graduation, we're naturally all wondering what has happened in each other's lives. Is the class clown still funny? Is that bully still a jerk? What are my classmates doing with their lives?

Bishops turn their attention to preaching

At their November 2012 meeting in Baltimore, the U.S. bishops gave overwhelming approval to a document titled "Preaching the Mystery of Faith: The Sunday Homily." They didn't say so explicitly, but the bishops seem to think that we are losing the game in the pulpit, and the people -- those who are still showing up -- are looking for and deserving of much better preaching. As a friend put it to me not long ago, here in the U.S., "we have Saturday Night Live and Sunday morning dead." We can do better. And the bishops are now saying we must.