Friday, May 31, 2013


I tripped over this article in my Google feed today. This is one of the most misinformed and rhetoric lined pieces of nonsense I have ever read. I don't claim to be an expert on European politics or the Irish economy, but I thought I smelled something funny the minute I started reading the article. I sped my rate of reading, growing more and more flabbergasted, to quickly get to the comments. Thanks to the good citizens of Fermanagh, I learned that there isn't one piece of factual information in the article. I would go so far to call it yellow journalism. Here is a person who is so hell-bent on demonizing austerity that he will grab any small fact and expound on it and twist until it fits hits socialist agenda. One small example of his jingoism, he used a photo from Disney World as the leading illustration! Last I checked, there was no Disney in Northern Ireland. He even conflates the Celtic Tiger phenomenon with this town (or county, that seems to be something else he can't keep straight), which is in Northern Ireland, not the Republic of Ireland. At first, I wrote this off as the fact that this guy is just a jackass and decided to write an article without any fact checking. The more I started to think about it, the more I felt that he is culpable of much more. I can't help but suspect that he purposefully misconstrued the facts in order to rally the more left-leaning troops or confuse the fence sitters to lean a little more left. I can't prove that though. Let's assume that he did just make some honest geographical mistakes and he didn't realize that Ireland and Northern Ireland are two different countries with two different economies. Even though this is a completely embarrassing article if he is in fact a real journalist, I guess I can see someone making a mistake. But it is certainly not an honest mistake. This is the mistake of the believer, so wrapped up in his own world view that he believes that his story must be the true one, facts be damned! This is an extreme example of what happens in journalism when one tweaks the facts and spins the story to give a desired outcomes. It's articles like this that reminds those of us that are conscious of the attempts to skew our paradigm, that we must remain ever vigilant. You aren't always given a "gift" article like this that shows its true colors. The dangerous ones are those that look and smell authentic.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Giant Sequoia

Not the Levittown redwoods, but this is taken in Pennsylvania

I love a good urban legend. I was just recently informed that there are rumored redwood trees growing in Levittown. My best lead so far is that they are the Snowball Gate section right off rte 413. I drove through there over the holiday weekend, with my intrepid wife, and we swore we saw them. According to my source though, the exact location we reported them from is not where the sequoia are located. These are very elusive trees! Which you wouldn't think would be an adjective you'd use to describe a giant redwood. Part of the story that fuels the urban legend is that the owners of the properties which the trees inhabit do not want people to know that there are redwoods growing on the property. I have been able to hunt down several explanations as to why, the most plausible is that they do not want their yard to become a tourist attraction.

The back story to the legend maintains that the houses in Levittown were all built using redwood trees forested from the same area in northern California. As a gift to William Levitt upon the completion of Levittown, PA, the owners of the lumber company presented him with three Giant Sequoias and they were placed on what was originally one of the Levitt Estates sites. The site was eventually converted into more homes, but the sequoias remained.

Luckily, I live within walking distance of Snowball Gate. I am waiting for my dog to fully recover from his "procedure", and then we will be off to find visual evidence of the existence of these elusive Levittown redwoods. I have received what I believe to be a more exact location. The problem with smaller redwoods is that they look a heck of a lot like cedars. I have my suspicions that this may be origin of the legend. I may have to enlist the services of a botanist to determine the proper genus and species of the tree in question. This may also involve collecting physical specimens from the tree and not just photo evidence. From what I've been told, two of the three are located in back yards, which may make the specimen collecting tricky, perhaps illegal; particularly if the stories are true that the home owners are very shy about sharing their awesome flora. I'm willing to risk it. Science!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Ethics of Fairness

A little girl with cystic fibrosis is waiting for a donor so she can have a life-saving lung transplant. Her parents are upset for what they perceive as an unfairness in the wait-listing system for people who receive these donor lungs. I find these cases infinitely interesting. While, yes, it is sad that it is a small child and it pulls at our heart strings; this is one of those things that ethicists, particular biomedical ethicists deal with all the time. The crux of the argument is that children and adults are on different wait lists. Each list ranks patients on a "severity scale" and according to the points, they're ranked in order. Children have much different cardiopulmonary needs than adults, so it was decided when the point system was created that being under or over the age of 12 would put you on different lists. For children, only after all adults have been offered an adult lung would they be considered. The parents, understandably desperate for their child to live, are shouting from the rooftops that this practice is unfair. Let's dissect the ethical issues at play.

The first thing that sticks out is that people are calling for an "exception to the rule". I put that in quotes since it's not really what we're talking about. This isn't an exception to a rule, but a blatant disregard for a system put into place to ensure fairness. The whole point of an external decision-making system is to remove the onus from the decision maker on an individual basis. The decision was previously made that candidates awaiting lung transplants would be ranked according to a certain set of criteria. To make an exception is to set a precedent to that rule. One would then have to make a set of rules that govern when someone can circumvent the process. Agreed upon rules or processes are a covenant signed by our society that ensure that equality exists no matter the situation. If you allow for exceptions, why have a rule in the first place? We should then just make the rule that we'll decide on a case-by-case basis.

Alright, so an exception doesn't seem ethically feasible. Another suggestion was that the rule needs to be changed due to its "unfairness". It does at first blush seem unfair that a little girl should die waiting for available lungs. But we have to be careful how we use this word. I think that sentiment expresses a meaning emoted in the phrase, "The world is unfair." The world obviously cannot be fair or unfair, since it is not a rational agent. The world just is. In that case, I think we need to substitute the word and say, "Things that happen in the world make us sad." It is then sad that a little girl might die because she has a horrible disease that can only be treated with an organ transplant that is hard to come by. It is not, however, unfair or unjust just because it makes us feel sad. Fairness and justice are concepts reflecting a very cold and calculated outcome. There's a reason that the statue representing justice has its eyes covered. Justice should be blind to the plight of the individual, if that means special privileges based on something other than the criteria put forth to judge that situation.

The toughest thing in ethics is to be the person to say, "I'm sorry, but the answer is no." I'm sure everyone feels for this girl and feels for the parents and feels for the physicians who want to help. The biggest problem with rules is that people like them until they're the ones who are negatively effected by the rules. I'm perfectly OK that the Navy has a cut-off for height for submariners and fighter pilots. I am, however, not in the Navy. Is it unfair that since I am over 6 feet tall that I can never serve in one of those capacities? I don't really care, as I don't desire to fly in an F-22 or be 20,000 leagues under the sea. Most would even think it was silly for anyone to even fight that regulation, since you cannot physically fit in either of those roles if you are over 5'10" (full disclosure: I have no idea any of that is true, but it sounds reasonable enough to use as my example). This goes all the way back to the foundations of philosophy. I won't go into the Trial and Death of Socrates, but he essentially supports the same thing. Even though it sucked that he was sentenced to death by a kangaroo court, that was the system he lived under and enjoyed the society it supported, so if that system decided he should die then he had to abide by the rules.

Finally, the list is built on medical feasibility. They could use adult lungs on this little girl, but the chance of her body accepting them is much less than if they were given to an adult. That's the reason the rule exists. If I were to be the next person in line to get a set of lungs and someone got to butt in front of me because of public outcry, let's just say I'd be a little upset. I'd be a lot upset if I found out they gave it to a candidate that had a much less better chance of surviving than I did. In sum, rules are rules, ethics is hard, I feel bad for everyone in the situation, but I don't agree with them. 

Monday, May 20, 2013


I have sometimes referred to the necktie as the yoke my masters have placed around my neck to remind me of my voluntary servitude. It truly is one of the last vestiges left over from the Victorian era. I guess technically, cuff links apply too, but no one expects you to wear cuff links to work. Particularly since the invention of the button. I bring this up because there has been, over the last couple years, a sort of revolt against the tie. I suppose in different sectors of our society, people have tried to find the alternative to the neck tie: the ascot, bow tie, bolo tie, that really big tuxedo button. We have never been able to truly move away from the old Windsor knot hanging from your neck style though. There are many reasons I can think for eliminating the tie from men's wardrobe. They're silly. Every other piece of men's clothing is functional, the tie serves no purpose and therefore stands out as something completely out of step in a person's wardrobe. Did someone decide that it's inappropriate to show your buttons? Because that's the only thing i can think of, it's a button cover. It's hazardous. I work in a hospital. I am issued a badge holder with a break away loop. If they are worried about a crazed patient choking me to death with my badge, why am I even allowed to wear a tie to work, let alone expected? I know that in other professions that require ties as part of their uniform (police, security) they have fake ties only held on by velcro. Why don't you just get rid of the ties, instead of MAKING SAFETY TIES?!!!!

I know some of you might be thinking, "But Bob, it's a standard for business dress, and a conventional part of the wardrobe, like women wearing earrings." Fine, I'll accept that, but I think conventions are changing rather quickly. In the brave new world of internet companies and small entrepreneurial businesses, people are questioning what the appropriate level of expectation is in the work place, this not only applies to wardrobe, but to interior design, location, work hours. I also work in a setting where people are wearing the uniform equivalent of pajamas. That's right, scrubs. I miss scrubs. Ask anyone who works in a medical setting. They LOVE scrubs. Scrubs are awesome. I used to get to wear scrubs and work 3 days (ok, nights) a week. Suddenly, I'm in charge of something and my wardrobe is restrictive. Shouldn't this be the other way around? The other thing about hospitals being one of the most casual work-clothing environments in the world (particularly for how serious the actual work is. next time you're having a bad day, ask yourself if anybody died at your workplace today), is that women who have ascended above the rank of scrub-wearer are almost always business casual. I rarely see a female leader in a suit, and if they are, they certainly are not expected to wear some find of neck-decoration. Don't say jewelry. If I wore a chain, it would certainly not be accepted as a tie-substitute. And why are women allowed to be less and less formal every year? Remember pantyhose? Yeah, nobody has to wear that anymore! Which makes sense, because they would look weird with your dressy flip-flops. This is clearly reverse sexism. How in the hell can fashion have devolved enough that flip flops are perfectly acceptable as formal wear, yet men still have to wear ties? And a very specific type of tie at that. It's not like I'm attending a coronation or president's ball. I understand specific costuming for particular events. I even appreciate it.

Some brave souls here have taken to appearing sans tie a couple of times since it got warmer. I can't believe how uncomfortably comfortable they look. The attention for a man not wearing a tie is the woman equivalent of getting a new haircut, "Oh my God, you're not wearing a tie! Good for you, man! Did you give your two weeks notice?"
"What? Bobby wasn't wearing a tie last week!"
"Whoa, that was on Friday. No tie-day Friday is a given. Don't drag me into this. You're sporting tweed and chinos on a Tuesday, bro."
"Well, it was nice working with you all. I'm going to wander out into the traffic on 413 and pray someone hits me."

"Shame about Bill, I really liked him."
"Yeah, he had a lot of promise, but seriously, no tie, midweek, and it's not even after Memorial Day? What did he think was going to happen?"

Friday, May 17, 2013


As if the Gosnell trial isn't muddying the waters of alive vs. unalive enough, a new player has entered the arena. John Andrew Welden. This guy gave his girlfriend an abortion-causing drug, telling her it was an antibiotic because his OB father had diagnosed her with an infection. He is being charged with first degree murder and felony pharmaceutical fraud charges. You all know the point here. I'm not going to belabor the argument anymore. I just don't understand how abortion can be murder and not-murder at the same time. It doesn't make sense. The only reason I keep coming up with is we're dealing with a convenient truth. The myth of abortion not being the taking of another human life cannot be rationalized when the law says differently in every other circumstance. Do you want it to be legal? Fine. Just call it what it is, justified murder.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Gosnell Trial

This is going to get heavy. Sorry in advance.

For those living under a rock, Dr. Gosnell, an abortionist from South Philly was found guilty of first degree murder of three infants. He was just sentenced to life in prison, which probably won't be that long, since he's in his late 70s. There are so many ethical and moral issues surrounding this case that I don't even know where to begin, taking advantage of the poor and underpriveleged, the lawyer trying to say this is about race, the lack of regulation of abortion clinics in the name of "unrestricted healthcare", the lack of coverage in the national news...

I read a wonderful opinion article in the Philadelphia Inquirer (and I must commend the Inquirer for it's unflagging coverage of this event, eventually shaming the bigger news outlets to cover this case). It was written by a Philadelphia lawyer named Christine Flowers. You can read it here. The part that struck me was her comment on how we've changed the language of what is happening when an abortion takes place. By using terms like abortion, or D&X, or termination, referring to the procedure and not the action, which is the intentional ending of a human life. I have spent too much time thinking about this, reading about this, truly questioning the origins of religious belief, western views, even non-western views on human life in the womb. I won't say that I cannot be convinced that it is not a human life, but I can't think of any arguments that would sway me. I will openly consider an argument that abortion is necessary, or that a woman's choice trumps the life of the unborn, or that making it illegal will only put more lives at risk. Those are fine examples as to why it should be allowed, but I will no longer accept that a fetus is a bunch of cells akin to a tumor or an organ.There are certain times when we allow killing another human in our society: war, self-defense, capital punishment, but we have never made the argument that we are not ending a human life, we argue that the end justifies the mean. Make that argument all you want, but please stop trying to convince the world that abortion is not murder. When the world reacts to Gosnell's actions with such vehemence, such revulsion, you know that something is very wrong with what is going on. One of my favorite quotes from this was that if you made this into a movie, you'd never be able to release it because the screening audience would be running for the doors and vomiting in the aisles. The descriptions of what went on sound like the makings for a horror movie; parts of human fetuses preserved in formaldehyde, children being born into toilet basins to then have their spinal cords severed, some being dismembered. The most disturbing thing is that we are so outraged because these things happened outside of the womb. If he had performed these repulsive acts inside the womb, they would be considered legal. As the Flower's article said, the language of Roe v. Wade has lulled us into a sense of okayness with the ending of human lives in the name of equal rights and reproductive freedom.

I'd like to explore the psychology at work here. I strongly feel that Gosnell was able to perform these heinous acts, because underneath all of the medical jargon and rationalizing was the awareness that what he was doing was ending human lives. The line between murder and abortion becomes very thin then. I can almost understand how after seeing thousands of aborted fetuses (trust me, they look like tiny babies, not a cluster of cells), one would become desensitized to killing. The leap from ending a pregnancy before 26 weeks (the law in Pennsylvania), to in the second trimester, to a late-term abortion, to partial birth abortion, to infanticide are pretty short ones. There is a slippery slope at work here. This falls right into the trap of euthanasia, human trafficking, capital punishment, slavery, sexual objectification... once human life is trivialized in any form, it is not long before a society stops regarding human life as anything important at all. St Theresa of Calcutta knew this. She has a very famous quote equating abortion to the rising violence in our society. It is illogical for the same person to shake their heads and say they can't understand how young men will kill each other over sneakers, and then say that another has a right to take a life because that is their right. In both cases, the ends justify the means. If human life is not held sacrosanct and the right that is protected above all others, we will find these acts that make humanity less human happening more and more often.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Goings on

Over the weekend, I volunteered to help with the time keeping table at a 5K set up to raise awareness about pedestrian safety and fund raise to put sidewalks in on New Falls Rd. Before the raise started, I noticed a gentleman wearing a shirt that said Levittown Now. I initially though, "Sweet Levittown t-shirt, bro." Then I realized he was interviewing different event organizers and that LevittownNow is a news website specifically for the Levittown Area! I checked it out. I assumed it would be a website that would collect other articles and links, but it is actually full of originally written articles from their own staff. I was quite impressed. I've thought for a long time that good ol' L-town should have something like this that gives you insight into things like community happenings and local politics. I mean, every town should have this, but I always thought Levittownians would benefit particularly, due to the odd configuration of townships and boroughs and school districts and parishes and park systems and civic organizations that tend to overlap and obfuscate the goings on of our little burg. Even if your not from around here, check it out, it's a nifty little website.

This also got me thinking about those same civic organizations in Levittown. The more I'm around this stuff, the more I realize that these organizations are the backbone of the American community. I'm completely using my own experience as the evidence for this, so maybe I'm wrong, but... It seems that every time something is going on to improve the community, or benefit those less fortunate, or increase the amount of local fun to be had, there is always either a club behind it or heavily supporting it. Personally, I belong to the Knights of Columbus and the Ancient Order of Hibernians. The former is a Catholic men's organization, the latter is for Irish-Catholics (both born and descended). Both are international organizations, but made up local chapters that tend to support things locally. These two groups are obviously pretty specific on their membership requirements, but their are plenty more non-sectarian groups that I see helping out: VFW and Legion, Rotary, Eagles, Elks, Lions. I know a lot of people think these are just drinking clubs, or professional networking societies. I'm not saying that doesn't go on. What I am saying is that these social clubs tend to be the "standing committee" for all the things the community relies on. Looking for a donation to pay for something? Send a letter to the Hibos. Need an event staffed for free? See if the Knights are free that weekend. The issue I'm raising is that I don't think that it is in the forefront of people's consciousness that these clubs are an essential part of the sense of community that exists in our area. Again, I'm not speaking for everywhere, maybe the town council or the fire companies or boy scouts provide all of this where you live. (This feels a bit like when I was in college in a Greek letter organization. Everyone enjoys the benefits of having a reserve force of volunteers and a standard bearer for campus social life, but tend to quail when asked to join or get involved.) The problem is that there seems to be less interest in these clubs every year. Not only the interest in joining, but staying involved. People tend to show up to a lot of the events that are sponsored, but aren't willing to become one of those behind the scene supporters that enables these events to happen or to ensure their continuation. So, take some time this summer, while you're at a parish carnival, a walk&run fundraiser, beef&beer, or parade and notice the polo shirts or signs at the event. Take a minute to think about how much your community would be missing out on if it weren't for these organizations and their mission to support those endeavors. Ask yourself if this may be the thing that is missing in places that don't have a sense of community. Ask yourself if those things are worth your time and effort to make sure that they continue to happen.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

writing to write

I'm going to take a friends advice and just write, even when I think I don't have anything to write about. Lately, it hasn't been inspiration, but a lack of motivation and a perceived lack of time. I write "perceived", because I think it's a bullshit excuse when people say they don't have the time. You make time for things you give a shit about. Just say you don't want to do it, because that's essentially what you're saying by your inaction.

Today is Ascension Thursday (how did I not know how to spell that until I ran the spell checker?). That's when Jesus went to heaven after he rose from the dead. It's also a holy day of obligation. I went to mass on my lunch break. I began to wonder what it looked like. I mean, we've seen the paintings of him rising majestically above the apostles, but what was his rate of ascent? Did he kind of pause and then shoot off Neo-style? Did it look like an alien abduction, like he was in a tractor beam? I tried to think about him ascending slowly and gracefully, but it just looks awkward in my mind. Like he would keep looking up, and looking down again and waving and then the apostles would all look at each other like, "Should we go... I don't really have anything else planned, buuutttt..." and then they would look up and wave with a half smile. "Bye, Jesus. See you soon! Wait, see you soon? Am I...?" It would be weird right? After a while, Thomas would be saying, "I think I can still see him! oh wait, no I don't. Wait! Yes I do, that little dot next to the cloud. No, the cloud that looks like a dragon. No, left of that. Yeah, where his wing would be if it was half folded back. Oh, now he's gone, never mind."

I ran into two friends from high school today. They are sisters and they aren't on Facebook. It truly made me appreciate my last post and Facebook too. I felt like I had lost a sense. Like I was suddenly thrown into a pitch black room. Usually, I'm all up to speed when I run into someone that I know: Kids, marital status, employment, etc. I have no idea what either of them have been doing for the last 10 years! Turns out one works here at the same hospital I do. The other one reported that she has kidney stones. I was on my way to the aforementioned lunchtime mass and they were dealing with calcium deposits, so that's all I know! I felt so empty! I wanted to ask them a million questions. Facebook always lets you think you have more time. I'll drop them a quick note later, or at least stalk their pics to figure out what they've been up to! Not this time! They just faded right back into the abyss of my memory. Real life is officially more surreal than FB! Now I haven't seen or talked to them in over a decade and all of a sudden I miss them. I hope they are doing well and happy. I hope sister #2's kidney stones pass soon. I hope they were as excited to see me as I them. I've started to hear myself writing in Morgan Freeman's voice, so I'm going to stop.

Oh, one more thing! The greatest blog ever has returned. I mean its always been there, it just hasn't been updated in a long time. Hyperbole and a Half! If you enjoy reading this blog, prepare to have your face melt off. I'm warning you, DO NOT READ IT AT WORK! Your colleagues will think you are having some kind of laughing seizure. If you don't heed my warning, at least promise you won't read anything about her dogs until you are home. alone. with the windows shut.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Facebook Friends

So, I know I usually rail against all things inauthentic, but I'm becoming aware of a weird phenomenon. The Facebook friend. I'm not talking about those people that you already have an in-person relationship with, but those that are pretty much only your friend on Facebook and would only be considered an acquaintance in real life. I find myself constantly liking their comments, sharing in threads, and find them being the first people to "like" something that I write or share. I didn't really find it odd, until I noticed that these interactions take place more frequently than my interactions with my "physical world" friends. Am I nurturing "virtual relationships"? I certainly feel a kinship to those that share pictures or memes that I like. I feel like I know them in a more personal way than before I knew them as a Facebook personality.

I think that word "personality" sums up my nagging feeling. I have a hard time figuring out if this is the "real" person or the person they want to project to the internet community. Can you develop an authentic relationship with someone based on liking the same pictures, and finding the same type of jokes witty? Can you really experience a person in an already predetermined way that is set by the rules of the programmers? Then I started really thinking... (that ellipsis is trying to show the time I spent pondering) Aren't all of our interactions like this? Don't we relate to most people in a set of rules preordained by our societal norms and mores? An even deeper question is, "Who do we really know?" I assume that everyone is like me, and that the things I see on the outside correlate to the things I am feeling on the inside. I have no way of knowing that is true. I also know that I have an internal, or a first person, me that exists that no one else gets to see except in the third person. Our physical state sets up a duality with our mental state. Even if unintentional, who we think we are can often differ greatly from what others perceive us to be. Is their much difference between the body that shields us from others or the computer screen? Oddly enough, sometimes i think there are moments when people put things on Facebook that gives me much more insight into who they are, than any in-person interaction ever has. We tend to be more polite in social settings. We care more about listening to the other person's argument, because we see them as a flesh and blood person, who has feelings, and who also has the power to ruin your nice evening if provoked. In Facebookland, what's the worse that can happen, you get defriended, or someone zings you on a comment? You move on. That doesn't happen in real life. My point is, when people acquiesce to someone else's preference in order to preserve the social order, they must hide or hold back a bit of themselves. That "bit of themselves" we rarely get to see. I don't know if there's a lesson to be learned here, or if this is just an observation, but I think that there are so many interesting things that we're learning every day from watching and also participating in social media. Particularly interesting are the things we are learning about ourselves.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Eucharist and Transubstantiation

I promised to write this post in another posting to hold me to it. I'm not an expert on Catholic dogma and I fear I will misspeak, but I'm going to give it a shot.

First off, I love converts to Catholicism. I'm not trying to put down "cradle Catholics", and I don't think we take everything for granted, but we're so milktoast about our faith, particularly the celebration of it. That's right, I said celebration. The celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The biggest reason I've heard from other Catholics as to why they don't attend mass is that they find it boring. I think a lot of the blame is on our approach. I've been to those masses where the majority of the congregation mumbles their way through the responses, absolutely refuses to be involved with anything resembling a tune, and makes a b-line for the door right after they receive communion. Now I will admit, I have been to mass and "clock-watched". There are many reasons to count the minutes on Sunday morning. Mine are kick-off times, boring homilies, and hangovers.

OK, so I love, LOVE, converts. There is a show on EWTN that makes me feel good every time I catch it on. I don't even know the name of it. It's just a simple interview format, with a host and a guest. The guest is always someone who not only converted to Catholicism, but had to make huge sacrifices in their lives to do so. We're talking protestant ministers or ministers' wives or people who's faith practice was so ingrained into who they were as a person that it seemed that only an act of God could separate them from their current situation. To hear them talk is to truly see the Holy Spirit at work in the world. They sound like a little kid explaining Christmas morning, "And then Jesus loved us so much, that he gave us his own body and blood, to sustain us until we can be with him in person." or "How could Jesus leave us alone after he ascended into heaven? Of course there has to be a Pope!" These things that used to be anathema to them, for some even defining their faith, now are proclaiming it on a level unknown to most lifetime Catholics.

It was such a person that said something so beautiful that I can't get the image out of my mind. And it wasn't just what he said, but how he said it. It's completely inconsequential to the story, but he's the son of "Night Train" Lane, the running back for the Rams. It's not so inconsequential that he was a Baptist minister, before his conversion. He said that the best criticism he ever heard about Catholics was from an atheist author, who said that 76% of Catholics don't believe in the transubstantiation (that's the bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Jesus Christ). You're probably thinking the same thing I was, "What the crap is this? Are you serious?!" It was right then that he dropped the bomb on me, "only 24% of all Catholics attend mass every Sunday!" And that's when he threw himself on the ground, and began pulling himself across the stage, "If Catholics really believed that their God was making himself present to them in the sacrifice of the mass, they would be dragging themselves on their hands and knees every day, let alone once a week, to see Him!" It was such a powerful image. And it was an image that I think only someone who has viewed Catholicism from both sides could bring to us. For us cradle Catholics, it's always been that way, "Yup, I go up and get the little wafer. Uhuh, it's Jesus. That's what they told me in third grade." His take was completely different. He couldn't help but look up at the tabernacle, at the priest in front of the altar, at the re-creation of the last supper, and think, "That's God! Right here in front of me! Not someone who lived 2000 years ago, or that is light years away, or in some other dimension that only exists in thought or some spirit-world. He's right here, in a physical presence! In our corporeal world!" What must that have felt like, when he first came to that realization? Here's my lame allegory: I grew up always knowing that Vader was Luke's father. I don't know when I learned it, but it was just part of the Star Wars story. I wasn't old enough to have seen Empire in the theater. I've always wondered what it would feel like, the shock that someone felt, sitting in the theater hearing, "Luke, I am your father!" That's the best I've got, sorry. But that doesn't mean that his explanation hasn't opened my eyes to the reality of Christ's presence in the Eucharist. I've always believed that the bread and wine really become the body and blood, but I never reflected on the enormity of that fact. I find myself moved to tears now after I return to the pew after receiving communion.

Look, I know not everyone that reads this is Catholic, or even Christian, or even believes in a higher power. But my hope is that you discover something in your life that is "sacred". That makes you feel that sensation of pure joy, that you hold up as supremely special and that it gives you a deep and profound sense of being. If you don't know what I'm speaking about, read a book called Racing in the Rain. It may be one of the most poignant and touching books I've ever had the privilege of reading, and I think it demonstrates the idea of sacred in a very sincere way. It overwhelmed me the way that I think true believers should be overwhelmed by those holy moments that give our lives meaning and purpose.