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Mother Shaun Vergauwen, superior general of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, faced a dilemma Saturday night. If she attended the April 5 fundraiser for her community at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Vienna, she would not be able to watch her beloved University of Connecticut Huskies play the University of Florida in an NCAA semifinal game in Dallas.

But loyalty to her religious community took precedence over her devotion to UConn basketball. Mother Shaun, who has a strong friendship with former UConn Head Coach Jim Calhoun, received regular updates on the game throughout the evening. The Huskies fell behind early, but eventually coasted to an easy victory over the top-ranked Gators. They face the Kentucky Wildcats in tonight’s championship game.

For Mother Shaun, it was a win-win situation. She not only gained financial support for her community’s construction projects in Meriden, Conn., but she converted a group of Virginians into Husky basketball fans, at least for one night.


In preparation for a book review on The Assembler of Parts for this week’s issue of the Catholic Herald, I interviewed first-time novelist Raoul Wientzen in his Arlington home. I spent well over an hour with him, but I easily could have spent more. The longtime pediatrician is a natural storyteller. Along with reflections on his new book, he spoke about a proud movement in grade school when a nun asked him to read aloud his story about a scuba diver discovering a lost wreck. He shared anecdotes about his writers group. And he repeatedly mentioned his beloved wife, to whom he dedicates his debut novel.

I took away several gems from this lifelong Catholic, but one especially stood out.

“There’s something every medical student hears his first or second year of medical school about the physical exam,” said Wientzen, speaking about how his work has enriched his writing. “And that is this: Before you touch the patient, before you listen with your stethoscope, before you do anything else, you observe.”

In some ways, a pediatrician is like a veterinarian, he said, laughing. “You know, you can’t say to a 3-month-old, ‘Oh, why are you crying so hard?’ You’ve got to look. You have to see: Is the belly tense? Is the head not moving? And so for me, a life in pediatric medicine has been a life of observation.

“And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to children tell me their story,” added Wientzen. “You can get a lot of information by asking children the right questions and listening. The way they speak, the way they express themselves — it is beautiful and unique.”

To observe and to listen. Wientzen’s words were a good reminder for me about those fundamental, if sometimes-challenging ingredients, not just for good writing but also for our love of others and love of God.

When we think of the people we are drawn to or who radiate holiness, do they not look and fully see us? Listen and truly hear us?

Let’s take the …   More

“Invite one.”

This takeaway from Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde’s pastoral letter on the new evangelization ("Go Forth with Hearts on Fire") really resonated with me. It’s a straightforward and reassuring reminder that we don’t have to do something grandiose or complicated to be a part of the new evangelization. It can be as natural as asking a friend, neighbor or co-worker to join us at an event. To make it even “easier,” we are blessed to live in an area where there are wonderful events scheduled every week; events that provide ready-made venues for sharing the richness of Catholicism and the truths of our Christian faith.

A perusal of parish bulletins or of the Catholic Herald’s “Coming Events” section always lists many such opportunities. It’s a given that our lives are often (no, almost always) busy, and that we will have schedule conflicts. But we can usually find time for things that really interest us. Bishop Loverde’s letter challenged me to look at that “invite one” mantra in a new way. Rather than reflexively thinking, “I don’t have time,” I’m going to instead make a conscious effort to ask the Holy Spirit to guide my reading of calendar events. I’m going to look at each event as an opportunity to share some facet of my faith with a friend.

At my own parish of St. Veronica in Chantilly, for example, we have two upcoming events to which I intend to “invite one.” On Sunday, April 6, Father Robert Spitzer will speak on “Suffering and the Love of God.” He’s an amazing scholar, author and teacher who has a gift for presenting obtuse subjects with great clarity. When I saw that he would be making a rare East Coast visit, I put it on my calendar right away. Then I remembered that it would be so easy to “invite one.”

At St. Veronica, Father Spitzer will address the difficult question, “How could a loving God let bad things happen?” I have a dear friend who has suffered a lot and wrestles …   More



The daily sports pages used to be filled with outstanding accomplishments of professional and amateur athletes: Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s homerun record; Pete Rose breaking Ty Cobb’s record for most career hits; Cal Ripken breaking Lou Gehrig’s streak of consecutive games played.

At some point in recent years the focus started to shift away from the court and field. Players are now more well-known for their off-the-field transgressions. Not a day goes by without a report of an athlete who used performance enhancing drugs, was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, physically abused his girlfriend or attacked a fan during a college basketball game.

The latest trend is for athletes to admit they are gay. When they “come out,” they are called heroic and courageous by the media. Olympic gold medal winners aren’t from Germany or Norway, but rather are labeled as “gay” in newspaper headlines.

With little or no fanfare, Catholic University in Washington announced the other day that its 2014 commencement speaker will be Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers.

A devout Catholic, Rivers combines a tough training and playing schedule with the practice of his faith and his family life. He attended North Carolina State University, where he started 51 straight games and completed a conference record 1,147 passes, with 95 touchdowns. In each of his four years, he led his team to a postseason bowl game, and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player each time. The university retired his number when he graduated in 2003.

Rivers came to the Chargers in 2004 and has been the starting quarterback since 2006. He holds numerous team franchise records and has taken the Chargers to the playoffs five times. An all-out competitor, he played the entire 2007 AFC Championship game with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, which later required surgery.

Rivers is the antithesis of today’s modern athlete. He attends …   More


And the Grammy goes to…Satan.

Sister Clare Hunter walks through the Grammy performances on the Arlington Diocese’s “Encourage and Teach” blog.

On the Lord’s Day, Sunday, January 26th, America had the opportunity to view:

Popular artist Katy Perry dressed as a witch with a red Cross on her bosom as she used a broom as a strippers pole, cast a spell and was then “burned at the stake.”

A married couple and parents of a 3-year-old girl express their martial love through a rap duet dressed as a stripper and a pimp.

Remembering Ralph McInery

On the fourth anniversary of Ralph McInerny’s death, The National Catholic Register interviews the brother of the well-known philosopher and author of the “Father Dowling” novels.

How does an angel get it wrong?

It’s a question that has puzzled theologians for years. Why did the angels fall from grace?

Obama, don’t harass nuns about birth control

Writer Kirsten Powers is the latest to weigh in on the Little Sisters of the Poor’s lawsuit against the HHS contraceptive mandate.




Frigid temperatures and relentless snowfall couldn’t dampen the spirits of youths from the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, La., who are participating in the 41st March for Life in Washington today.

Last night the youths, who had never seen snow before, delighted in the chilly flakes prior to the pre-march Life is Very Good rally at the Patriot Center in Fairfax. After a long bus ride from Louisiana, the group stretched their legs in fluffy snow. Even as the mercury descended to 14 degrees, the young pro-lifers made snow angels, built a snowman and started a friendly snowball fight.


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