Admission to the University of Schadenfreude

Yale University

There’s a lot of fascination and glee over this college admissions scandal story. In case you aren’t following the constant stream of reports, ultra-wealthy and famous parents along with a bunch of college coaches and administrators in a federal criminal case that says the essentially bribed and lied to get their children into elite universities. Because it also involves a couple of TV actresses, it’s gotten even more attention. The Boston Globe has had more than a dozen stories in the paper the past two days about it.

It’s not just the newspaper. TV, print, and Web media are all over this and people are sharing the stories and commenting at a furious pace. We can probably guess why. Most people want their children to succeed in life and most see college as the path to success. They also see ultra-competitive, expensive schools as the surest of those paths, but only a tiny percentage of those who apply can get in. Meanwhile, many people have suspected for a long time that while their own smart kids have a tiny chance to get into the likes of Stanford, Yale, or even USC, if you’re rich enough or able to play a sport well enough, you get special treatment.

So now we learn that parents were able to cheat on their kids’ SATs or ACTs and get them fake-recruited on sports teams for the price of a tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars for the prestige of the right diploma from the right school.

But now they’ve been caught and people are fascinated by this, not just because it confirms previously held beliefs, but because it contradicts a belief that the rich and famous get away with stuff the rest of us cannot. Of course, not everyone has to resort to crime.

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Boston Marathon bombing

As far as I know, everyone I know is safe and accounted for following the Boston Marathon bombings. It’s surreal, but it’s also too familiar, this show following what is undoubtedly a terrorist attack. Not just 9/11 but Oklahoma City too. I can’t stop watching (or as is the case these days, reading, because I can’t let the kids see it), and as I read I am by turns numbed and driven to tears.

Today was a day off for me. It’s a holiday in Massachusetts, Patriots Day, when we commemorate the battle of Lexington Green, the famous shot-heard-round-the-world that began the American Revolution. We’d gone out on the beautiful early spring day to take a walk in the state park nearby and get some lunch. After we got home Melanie and I were both on our computers when I heard Melanie say something about people on Facebook talking about an explosion at the Marathon.

That’s when social media indeed burst to life. My Twitter timeline was moving a mile per minute as was my Facebook news feed. Putting on my social media manager hat, I went to the Archdiocese of Boston’s Hootsuite dashboard and turned off all scheduled updates (you don’t want to send out accidentally something that seems insensitive) and then began monitoring commentary.

Cardinal Seán was still in the Holy Land, wrapping up a weeklong pilgrimage with 29 Boston priests and planning to come back today so I knew an official statement from him would not be coming immediately. So I posted a Facebook update (which automatically mirrors to Twitter) on our Page that said:

As more reports came in with confirmation of injuries and deaths, I retweeted a Boston Police Department tweet along with a prayer:

People responded strongly to the first several updates and so I followed up about an hour later with another Facebook update:

That got quite a bit of attention, including this news story out of Catholic News Agency and EWTN.

Finally a few hours later we got the official statement from Cardinal Seán:

This isn’t a time to trumpet numbers, but those prayers and requests for prayers were very viral. They received hundreds of shares and retweets each in very short time and on Facebook were seen tens of thousands of times. This isn’t a ghoulish bragging but an acknowledgement that getting something simple like those requests for prayers out very quickly touched people’s hearts and were the spark presumably for thousands and thousands of prayers for the victims of the bombings.

Of course, all that is beside the point now, which is to care for the injured, pray for the dead, console the grieving, and bring justice to the bastards who did this.

They should have had a Lifehammer in Logan, Utah

Perhaps you’ve heard the news story out of Utah about the car with a dad and three kids that flipped into an icy river. Eight men in passing cars leapt into the river to rescue them, including one man who shot out a window with his handgun and another who had a knife to cut them from the seatbelts. It sounds like they’re all going to make it, but it’s a scary scenario right out of my nightmares.

Living in Massachusetts, I can’t count on passersby having a handy handgun or knife to help us in a similar situation, which is why I purchased two Lifehammers, one for my car and one for Melanie’s. They are designed for the single purpose of getting you out of your car in an emergency. One end has a pointed steel hammer that punches readily through tempered auto glass while the other has a razor in a safety position for cutting through seat belts.

They sit right in the little map pocket by the driver’s door for at-hand access. I keep in mind that it’s not just for an accident that I may get into or Melanie, God forbid, but if like in the story above, we encounter others in similar need.

(Note: Although that’s an Amazon affiliate link, I don’t have any interest in Lifehammer other than wanting people to be safe when driving with their kids or to be able to help others at need.)


Rudy Favard is a Hero

Now, this is the type of story you want to see more of. A football player at Malden Catholic High School here in the Boston area has become a hero to a family of a boy with cerebral palsy by the simple act of carrying the boy to his room each night.

Rudy Favard was a stranger to the Parker family when he was recruited by the school nurse to go four nights a week to their home. Rick Parker, the dad, used to carry his son every night up 14 steep stairs to the boy’s bedroom, but after a cardiac-related illness, he was no longer able. Rudy, and his two backups from the school, started helping out and Rudy has now become almost like one of the family. Click through to the story to watch the video clip and see how much love there is between the big strong son of Haitain immigrants, the captain of the football team, and the small, withered boy who waits on the mercy of those he depends on.

Rudy is just the type of role-model athlete we hope for when our kids look up to sports players. The reporter asks how many teens would do the same, and I’m happy to say I know of several of my nephews who would do the same. That reflects well on both the boys and their parents.

Good for Rudy and the Parkers. God bless them.


Don’t mess with October 31

The Legions of Sleepy Hollow.jpg

There’s a Boston-area parent who is frustrated by Halloween being on a fixed date and suggests that Halloween always move every year so that it always falls on Saturday. He enumerates a list of ways that Halloween on other days of the weeks inconveniences him and his family: rushing home from work to trick-or-treat, sugar rushes and early wakeups for school, homework neglect, and so on.

As someone whose birthday falls on Halloween, I say, “Feh!” to that idea. Maybe the problem isn’t the day of the week; maybe it the distortion of holidays by a commercialized and secularized culture. First, let’s be clear. The name itself tells you what day Halloween falls on: “Hallows e’en” or “the evening before the Feast of All Hallows.” Halloween is connected All Saints Day, just like Christmas Eve is connected to Christmas and New Year’s Eve is connected to New Year’s Day. What’s next? Moving New Year’s Eve to a Saturday night so all the party hounds can start boozing at 9 am? Should we move St. Patrick’s Day to a fixed Saturday for the same reason? Having Christmas move about is inconvenient too. Maybe it should always be on a Sunday so we don’t have to feel guilty about trooping out to Mass only once that week, plus we can shop all day on Saturday. You see what I’m getting at.

Halloween is October 31 for a reason. You don’t start messing with that for no good reason. And he doesn’t offer any good reasons.

Photo by ecstaticist –

What can Brown do for Yemeni terrorists?

By now you’ve heard about today’s excitement surrounding suspicious packages containing explosives found on UPS flights originating in Yemen. Reports say they were addressed to Jewish organizations in the Chicago area. Now, I’m glad no one was hurt and terrorism itself isn’t funny, but it struck me as odd that al Quaeda just decided to overnight their terrorism to their erstwhile victims.

I can just picture the Yemeni bombers finishing their bombs, but confronted with the fact that they were set to explode tomorrow.How would they get them to their targets in the US before they exploded?

Terrorist 1: “Well, we could buy plane tickets and fly them there.”
Terrorist 2: “Idiot! We’d never make it past security.”
T1: “Then I’ll put it in my shoe.”
T2: “Stupid dog! We tried that. Remember the Shoe Bomber?”
T3: “Brothers! Look at this book I just got from Amazon Prime. I ordered it yesterday and now it’s here just one day later.”

“UPS: When it absolutely, positively has to blow up overnight.”

(I know, it was Fedex’s slogan, but the terrorists decided to see what Brown could do for them and picked UPS instead. I won’t let them ruin my joke.)


Firsthand photos just in from Haiti

My colleague George Martell, an award-winning photojournalist, is in Haiti over the next few days with Cardinal Seån O’Malley, six weeks after the massive earthquake that left an estimated 300,000 people dead. Cardinal O’Malley was to arrive in Haiti on Monday to see firsthand the recovery efforts and to bring the love and concern of the people of Boston to their brothers and sisters in need. The Cardinal is a member of a recently formed Haiti Advisory Group that will assist the US Church in advising how best to provide for the long-term needs of the Church in Haiti. George arrived a day early to document what is going on there now. The devastation is still awful and we can’t let it slip from our minds and hearts. The loss of life and destruction of society is on an unprecedented scale. George told me tonight that at St. Francis de Sales Hospital, part of the collapsed building still holds the bodies of 200 children who were patients. Yet the part of the building that stands is still being used as a hospital. Unbelievable. Stay tuned over the next couple of days because George will be uploading more photos.

Photos can be found at You can also follow BostonCatholic at Facebook and Twitter. I run those social media outlets, by the way.

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Stunning photos of Chile earthquake

Stunning photos in the Boston Globe’s excellent photojournalism blog, “The Big Picture,” of the earthquake in Chile, coming on the heels of Haiti’s earthquake it is a one-two punch. While Haiti has lost 300,000 compared to the 400 (so far) in Chile, the tragedy for those who lost a loved one is no less great.Plus there are so many who have lost everything.

I was particularly astounded by the apartment building that just toppled onto its side. At first, I thought it had split down the middle, but then I realized it had fallen right over. Incredible.

St. James the Greater, patron saint of Chile, pray for them.


Least religious, most Catholic

Gallup3.pngHere’s a disturbing statistic for the day: The top 4 least religious states in the US, according to percentage of those who say religion is an important part their lives are, in order, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. In Massachusetts only 48% of respondents said that religion was important in their lives. (The other two New England states, Rhode Island and Connecticut were 8 and 10, respectively; Rounding out the list were Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Nevada.)

Coincidentally, the most Catholic states, as a percentage are Rhode Island and Massachusetts, although those numbers are almost 20 years old. But even six years ago, similar percentages were responding to polls that they at least considered themselves to be Catholic. And, it’s still something to consider that the most Catholic states 20 years ago are among the least religious today.

Map credit: Gallup


Rest in Peace, Father Neuhaus

Father Richard John Neuhaus, founder of First Things magazine, convert, and priest, died this morning in New York. He was diagnosed with cancer late last year and was admitted to the hospital after Christmas due to side effects from the cancer.

As a sometime Catholic journalist myself, Fr. Neuhaus was one of those I strived to emulate, but I did so only poorly. His erudition, wit, and communication skill far surpassed that of the rest of us. We have lost a great priest, writer, and public leader, but hopefully we have gained an advocate in heaven.

May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.

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