Archive | January, 2011

Vatican astronomer to participate in live chat

January 31, 2011


Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno (CNS photo / Father Don Doll, SJ)

The Vatican’s “meteorite man,” Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, will be featured on a live “cosmic chat” Wednesday, Feb. 2, at 1 p.m. central time. The conversation will focus on the church’s views regarding the latest scientific discoveries about the universe.

Participants will be able to ask Brother Guy, curator of the Vatican Observatory’s meteorite collection, questions via the chat hosted by the Arizona Daily Star newspaper.

The news comes via Catholic News Service. For more info about Brother Guy and the event, visit the CNS blog.

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Wild game feast

January 28, 2011


This morning, I met a man who may be the best Catholic chef in the Twin Cities. His name is George Serra, who belongs to St. John the Baptist in New Brighton.

Ironically, he is the corporate chef for Augustana Care, which has several facilities in the Twin Cities. I met him in the dining room at Augustana Apartments of Minneapolis. Born in France and raised in Italy and Brazil, the 61-year-old chef has cooked for presidents and the Minnesota Twins. He will be the main chef at a wild game dinner Saturday, Feb. 26 at Interlachen Country Club in Edina. Proceeds will go to support spiritual care at Augustana.

Being ecumenical, I certainly support the idea of spiritual care. But, even more, I’m looking forward to tasting what Chef George prepares that night. I was able to get a copy of the menu from him, which is as follows:


— Honey smoked Alaskan salmon

— Teriyaki glazed Florida boar meatballs

— Minnesota venison tips with bourbon sauce

— Spicy snow goose breast wrapped in maple bacon

— Mallard duck liver Paté

— Imported and domestic cheeses


— Cream of wild canard


— Seven leaves lettuce topped with Balsamic glazed quail breast


— Pheasant stew with wild mushrooms, served with Minnesota wild rice and roasted New Mexico butternut squash

I’m hungry already. So, it seems, are lots of other folks. Serra said the guest list is now at 260 people. This will keep him working in the kitchen for several days beforehand to get the food ready.

This is the sixth year of the event and he said the interest is growing. Ticket prices are $105 per person, $750 for a half table (four people) and $1,500 for a full table (10). To order tickets, call 612-238-52512, or e-mail

I hope to try every one of the items on the menu. And, the best part of all is Chef George promised to send me the recipes for everything. Can’t wait to try them, although I’m sure they taste much better when he makes them.

Chef George was a delight to talk with. His passion for cooking is evident. Though he doesn’t hunt, he has lots of experience with wild game.

“I lived in Africa for six years, working for Hilton [Hotel] in Kenya,” he said. “We cooked all kinds of wild animals there. It was delicious.”

The full name of the event is the Tucker Wild Game Dinner, named after Augustana president and CEO Tim Tucker, an avid hunter who is supplying some of the game for the event. I hope to meet him at the event. Chef George says that won’t be a problem.

“He walks to every table and talks to every single person who attends,” the chef said. “He’s a great host.”

I asked Chef George if he would ever put on such a dinner at a Catholic church.

His simple answer: “Why not?”

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Please, Mr. Kinsley, present the church’s teaching accurately

January 25, 2011

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In his op-ed commentary in last Sunday’s StarTribune, Michael Kinsley, a former editorial page and opinion editor at the Los Angeles Times, sadly resorts to mocking the Catholic Church and the late Pope John Paul II while making an ultimately unpersuasive argument in support of embryonic stem-cell research.

Kinsley’s premise in “Please, John Paul, make me your miracle” is that, while the church recently approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Pope John Paul in the case of a French nun suffering from Parkinson’s disease, the church remains one of the main obstacles to finding a cure for the illness because of its stance on stem-cell research.

Kinsley, who suffers from Parkinson’s, as did Pope John Paul, says he and millions of others would like their own miracle cure — not necessarily the “old fashioned, abracadabra type” that Kinsley mockingly characterizes as part of the church’s beatification process, but a miracle cure of a different sort.

Kinsley writes: “The most likely source of miracle cures for all sorts of diseases, with Parkinson’s foremost among them, is stem-cell research. The church opposes stem-cell research on the grounds that it uses, and in the process destroys, human embryos. These are surplus embryos from fertilization clinics that will be destroyed, or permanently frozen, anyway. They are not fetuses; they are clumps of a few dozen cells.”

He continues: “But of course none of this matters if you believe they are full human beings like you and me.”

Several of Kinsley’s points require correction and clarification.

First, the church doesn’t oppose stem-cell research. It opposes stem-cell research that destroys human embryos. But it supports, and even promotes, research that uses adult stem cells — those found in adult human tissue and blood, not embryos. Adult stem cells are being used today for a variety of therapies and in research that has the potential to save lives, including research that could result in treatments for those with Parkinson’s.

The argument that surplus embryos from fertilization clinics would be destroyed anyway and that they only amount to “clumps of a few dozen cells” doesn’t make destroying them for utilitarian purposes any more moral.

This is nascent human life after all (check your Biology 101 textbook) and society has a duty to nurture and protect it — no matter its age, abilities or perceived usefulness to others. The end doesn’t justify the means: You can’t intentionally destroy human life in order to benefit others without embarking down a very slippery moral slope.

A question we should be asking is why all those “surplus” embryos are being created and stored in the first place. They shouldn’t be. But when they are, they shouldn’t be destroyed for research, as Kinsley would allow, because they will die anyway. One could argue that terminally ill patients will die anyway, too, but that certainly doesn’t give anyone the right to kill them in the name of research.

The fact that Kinsley and millions of others have to struggle with Parkinson’s is sad. No one likes to see anyone suffer through an illness. The Catholic Church, which Kinsley targets for criticism, devotes huge amounts of resources every day to treat millions of ill people in this country and around the world, especially the poorest and most vulnerable who could not afford care at many other hospitals or clinics.

Throughout his pontificate, Pope John Paul II spoke out in support of health care as a human right. At the end of his life, he was one of the vulnerable who needed special care. He certainly suffered in his final years as the world watched, but he would never compromise good moral principles, even for his own personal benefit.

The church will continue to promote stem-cell research that has the potential to help people without destroying innocent human life. It’s not an issue of science vs. morality — it’s an issue of ensuring science is grounded on a solid foundation of morality and ethics for the benefit of all.

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Scary news

January 24, 2011


A news article in Saturday’s St. Paul Pioneer Press sent a chill up my spine. A deer near Pine Island in Goodhue County tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

I read the story and paid close attention, and not just because I am a deer hunter. Pine Island isn’t too far from the area where I hunt near Red Wing. It looks to be about 30 miles. The discovery of CWD in the area has me more than just a little concerned.

But, my nervousness is nothing compared to how deer hunters in the immediate area feel. They are devastated — and with good reason. The DNR, according to the article, has quickly sounded the alarm and made plans to deal with the issue, which certainly will mean killing lots of deer in the area to do more CWD testing.

The best-case scenario is that no more deer will test positive for the disease. Even so, hunters in the area are sure to see far fewer deer in the woods during the 2011 hunting season. That’s awful news for a group of hunters very committed to managing the deer herd for a balanced population between bucks and does and for a high number of mature bucks.

It seems hunters in the area have banded together to practice something called Quality Deer Management (QDM). Under this approach, hunters try to take more does and pass on small bucks. This creates a higher buck-to-doe ratio, plus helps bucks grow bigger and older before being harvested.

Unfortunately, CWD has thrown a wrench into their program. I sympathize with the crestfallen hunters of the region. They’ll have to be even more patient than they have been as they work to try and help the deer population recover from the intensive harvest sure to take place soon.

This is the first wild deer in the state that has tested positive for CWD. Wisconsin has had the disease for at least 20 years, with states like Colorado and Wyoming also sharing the problem. The Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance has more information about the disease and the history of it in the U.S., which was first discovered in 1967 in Colorado.

Let’s hope that the DNR here in Minnesota can nip this problem in the bud.

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Praying, marching for life

January 23, 2011


From left, Duane, Eric, Kathryn, Anne and Emilia Fredrickson of St. Dominic in Northfield sing during a prayer service for life at the Cathedral of St. Paul on Jan. 22, the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade that legalized abortion in America. Archbishop John Nienstedt led the prayer service, with Bishops Lee Piché and Paul Sirba also attending. Hundreds braved single-digit temperatures to come to the Cathedral and march to the State Capitol afterward to take part in a rally sponsored by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life.

Youth from Maternity of Mary in St. Paul carry signs as they march from the Cathedral to the State Capitol.

Photos by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

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Researcher sheds new light on Red Sea parting

January 22, 2011


I’ve been a fan of old movies for as long as I can remember. Growing up, one of my favorites was “The Ten Commandments,” the 1956 epic starring Charlton Heston as Moses. It always aired during Holy Week (I think it still does) and, to this day, whenever I think about Moses, my mind conjures up images of Mr. Heston with his flowing gray hair and beard.

This was in the days before movies like “Star Wars” took special effects to a new level. I was captivated by the visually dramatic moments in “The Ten Commandments” — when Moses sends the plagues upon Egypt’s pharaoh (my favorite is when Moses lowers his staff into the Nile and turns the water into blood) and, of course, the parting of the Red Sea as the Israelites make their escape from Egypt.

As a 10-year-old, I was on the edge of my seat by the time the Israelites reached the Red Sea with the pharaoh and his soldiers in hot pursuit. At the shore, as Moses tries to calm the crowd, he yells out: “The Lord of Hosts will do battle for us. Behold his mighty hand.” Then the waters part, and an old man tells a young child: “God opens the sea with a blast of his nostrils!”

It turns out that maybe the old man and the scriptwriters weren’t too far off.

A recent story, published in the Denver Catholic Register and carried by Catholic News Service, features the investigations of a software engineer with the National Center for Atmospheric Research who has a  theory about where and how the Red Sea parting occurred.

Scientist Carl Drews believes the event happened in the Eastern Nile Delta, in a place called the Kedua Gap. As the story explains:

“Drews and oceanographer Weiqing Han analyzed archaeological records, satellite measurements and current-day maps to estimate the water-flow and depth that could have existed 3,000 years ago. They then used an ocean computer model to simulate the impact of an overnight wind at that site.

“The results were that a wind of 63 mph, lasting for 12 hours, would have pushed back waters estimated to be 6 feet deep. That would have exposed mud flats for four hours, creating a dry passage about 2 to 2.5 miles long and 3 miles wide. As soon as the wind stopped, the waters would come rushing back.”

We Christians believe that God has worked miracles in the past and still does. Sometimes that may involve invoking the powers of nature. That doesn’t, however, make an event like the parting of the Red Sea any less miraculous, according to Drews, a member of Epiphany Anglican Fellowship in Boulder.

Drews said his research confirmed aspects of the Red Sea account in the Book of Exodus. The timing of the parting — when the Israelites needed to cross — also demonstrates the miracle, he said.

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Unbelievable news about horoscopes

January 20, 2011

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I don’t read horoscopes. But, because the topic of astrology has been in the news lately thanks to a Minnesota astronomer, I decided last Wednesday to check out the entry that day under “my sign,” Leo.

Here’s what it said: “When you need help, ask for it. When there is no one around to ask, ask anyway. Maybe you are talking to yourself, or maybe you are pleading to the invisible powers that be. You will be heard and answered.”

Well, Wednesday was press day for The Visitor, the newspaper I edit for the Diocese of St. Cloud. I awoke at 3 a.m. to read a backlog of stories that still needed to be dropped onto pages. I will admit that, at the time, I really was talking to myself and The Invisible Power, asking for a little help to get through the day. And, when I arrived at the office, I did indeed ask for help from my co-workers to move pages along so we could make our deadline.

Was the horoscope writer able to predict what my day would be like by reading some mystical information in the heavens?

Of course not.

Horoscope writers and astrologers would like us to believe they can deduce special information from the alignment of stars and planets. Their predictions are vague enough and general enough to have the feel of “truthiness” most days. One would hope, however, that science and common sense provide convincing-enough evidence that horoscopes aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

The church is clear about its stance on astrological-based prognostications:

“All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.”

I read my horoscope in the first place because of the stir created by Parke Kunkle, an astronomy teacher at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. He pointed out that because the earth’s axis “wobbles” slightly (a phenomenon called “precession), the zodiac signs have shifted since they were established in ancient times.

Kunkle explains it this way on the Facebook page of the Minnesota Planetarium Society:

“The Earth spins and, like a toy top, the spin axis moves around, pointing in different directions. Today, Earth’s spin axis points toward the pole star, Polaris. Around 3000 BC Earth’s spin axis pointed toward Thuban. Wait 26,000 years and the north star will again be Thuban. Astronomers call this motion of the spin axis precession. About 130 BC, Hipparchus noticed that the Earth’s spin axis had changed directions, so astronomers and astrologers have known about the Earth’s precession for over 2,000 years.

“But this means that if the sun was ‘in’ a certain constellation on a particular date, it is in a different constellation on that date today. For example, the sun was in Pisces on March 1, 2000 BC but it is in Aquarius on March 1, 2011 AD.”

The news (although the information it conveyed really wasn’t new), originally reported in the Minneapolis StarTribune, went viral. Media organizations from CNN to Fox News picked up the story that sent astrology buffs reeling. “The Daily Show” even did a comedy bit about it.

So when the sun is supposed to be in Leo for my Aug. 2 birthday, today it’s really in Cancer. Oh, and we should add another sign to the current 12, Ophiuchus, which was discarded by the ancient Babylonians.

So much for that Wednesday horoscope, I guess.

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The trip that wasn’t

January 19, 2011


Had it not been for my sprained ankle, I’d be thinking about my upcoming trip to Washington, D.C. for the annual March for Life.

For the first time, our archdiocese is assembling a group of teens to go. There’s a total of 196 high schoolers registered, 274 total, including chaperones, youth ministers, young adults and a couple of priests.

I was going to go down to join them and take photos of their involvement in the march, but I’m not physically able to go. I’m just getting off crutches now and will not be ready to do all of the walking that would be required of me to cover the march.

So, I’ve had to do the next best thing, which is to write a preview story for The Catholic Spirit. In so doing, I encountered a person who will have a greater challenge getting around in DC than I would have with my sprained ankle. Her name is Aly May, a 14-year-old high school freshman who belongs to St. Jude of the Lake in Mahtomedi. She is coming with her mother, Maren.

I had the privilege of talking to both of them in their home on Sunday. What a delight! Aly is a neat girl and she’ll be making a powerful statement for life because she is confined to a wheelchair due to a condition called spinal muscular atrophy.

I’m sure it won’t be easy for her to get around, especially with a crowd of several hundred thousand expected to attend. But, she and the rest of her family live by a simple motto — don’t give up. So, I’m sure she will do just fine.

I’m sad to miss this event, but encouraged to know so many youth are going. I sure hope to go next year. Sounds like the archdiocesan Office for Marriage, Family and Life may sponsor the trip again next year. Who knows? Maybe, it will become an annual tradition for our youth to attend the national march.

For those interested in hearing from someone who’s going, tune in to Relevant Radio AM 1330 on Friday morning at 9. I will be on the air with host Paul Sadek interviewing a student from Providence Academy in Plymouth who’s going — senior Genevieve McCarthy.

Also appearing will be Katie Lahti, who works in campus ministry at the school and will be leading a group of nine girls from the school on the trip. They all are members of a student group at Providence called Lions for Life.

I’m greatly looking forward to the interview. And, I would like to ask people to pray for everyone who is going on the march, both in DC and here in the archdiocese, where there will be a prayer service at 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning, followed by a march to the state Capitol. As much as ever, our pro-life voices need to be heard!

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Tommy James tells a rockin’ story about his life in rock ‘n’ roll

January 15, 2011


As you’ve bounced up and down on the dance floor at your cousin’s wedding, admit it, you’ve always wondered who was “Mony,” the inspiration behind the monster rock ‘n’ roll classic that gets even Uncle Clem to loosen his inhibitions and boogie down.

Tommy James  lets us all in on the secret in “Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James and the Shondells.”

This may be the best semi-autobiography I’ve ever read. It’s a page-turner right from the start, close to drama, overbrimming with nostalgia for boomers.  Writer Martin Fitzpatrick has crafted taped interviews with the hit-making guitar player into a 225-page Scribner hardback that reads as if Tommy James is sitting in your living room telling you about his life.

How so many of the Shondells’ hits came to be and how they came to climb the charts pulled me back to those heady days of the sixties and seventies when I first heard “Hanky Panky” and “I Think We’re Alone Now” pouring out of the radio. If you were a teenager then, I’ll bet you still know all the lyrics.

Backstage in the music industry

But as interesting as the making of the songs are, it’s the back story of the music business that adds a fullness to the story of this kid from Niles, Mich., whose songs got played every 20 minutes on Top 40 radio.

New York mob connected Roulette Records and its president Morris Levy share the Tommy James story right from the start, and it maybe because the principals are dead — some violently — that James can publish this tell-all.

James himself is probably lucky to be alive, lucky the mob didn’t turn on him but even more fortunate the pills and alcohol life of a rocker didn’t kill him as it did his contemporaries like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

In those No. 1-record years, James admits to doing everything but what is expected of the Christian he eventually becomes. The drugs, the booze and jumping into bed with whomever was convenient play no small part in two divorces.

James credits the Betty Ford Clinic with sobering him up, and says it was there that he turned back to Christianity.

It makes for a feel-good ending, but then feel-good songs by Tommy James and the Shondells have pumped life into dance floors everywhere for more than 40 years now. — bz

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Cardinal John Foley’s remarks at the 100th anniversary celebration of the Catholic Bulletin/The Catholic Press

January 14, 2011







JANUARY 6, 2011

Your Grace, Archbishop Nienstedt, my brothers and sisters in Christ:

First of all, I want to thank Bob Zyskowski, the associate publisher of The Catholic Spirit, for his invitation to celebrate with all of you the 100th anniversary of The Catholic Spirit.  I also want to thank my friend of twenty-six years, Archbishop John Nienstedt, for his kind hospitality. I remember when he assured that my mother got an invitation for Thanksgiving in Rome in 1984, and I remain ever grateful to him.

I also remember when Bob Zyskowski worked with me at The Catholic Standard and Times in Philadelphia thirty-five years ago.  One of his final responsibilities was to assemble the pre-and post- Eucharistic Congress issues of the newspaper in 1976.  It was an enormous task, and he did it very well, as always!

I fact, Cardinal Krol, then the Archbishop of  Philadelphia and our publisher, asked me if I would have a special supplement for the Second Coming of the Lord, and I responded “yes”.  When he asked what advertising I would get for the issue, I responded, “Going out of business sales!”

In 1975, as Bob will well remember, Cardinal Krol made a Holy Year pilgrimage, not only to Rome but also to the Holy Land, Egypt and Lebanon.

In Egypt, he visited the pyramids – and said to me – “Father Foley, they want me to get on that camel.  Should I get on that camel?”  I answered that I did not think he should get on the camel – so he got on the camel.  He was wearing a white cassock, and had a slight beard – and they put a kaffiyeh, or Arab headdress, on him.  He looked somewhat like Yassir Arafat.  Naturally, as a newsman, I took a photo of him on the camel.

After we got home, he began to get letters from Jewish groups lamenting that it looked as if he had embraced the Arab cause.

He asked me why, if I had counseled him not to get on the camel, I took a picture of him on the camel, and I replied that, as a priest, if asked, I would say what I thought he ought to do, but as a journalist I would cover whatever he did.  He smiled and made no more comment.

I hope that the environment to which Bob Zyskowski owes at least part of his formation was one of respectful candor – taking God and His Church seriously, but not ourselves – and insisting always on knowing and telling the truth.

It certainly comes as no surprise to me that Bob has produced an outstanding paper.  As far as I’m concerned, he is a blessing to the Catholic Press.  As many of you know, Bob was also president of the Catholic Press Association at the time I was named a cardinal – and so he decided to give me – in the name of the association – the clothes I’m wearing.  He thought it would be appropriate if a representative of Catholic journalism could be seen running in the red.

The Catholic Spirit, of course, has a wonderful tradition.  Established by the legendary Archbishop Ireland 100 years ago as The Catholic Bulletin, the diocesan newspaper of St. Paul – Minneapolis flourished until the mid-1990s when its circulation fell to about 26,000.  Reborn as The Catholic Spirit in 1996, 15 years ago this week, your weekly newspaper has gotten into the habit of winning the general excellence award of the Catholic Press Association.  You can be very proud of your newspaper.

Apparently, the only instruction given to the first editor of the paper was to publish and interesting, well-written and well-edited Catholic newspaper, non-political and non-controversial, which did not necessarily reflect the Archbishop’s views on any subject.

My own view was that a diocesan newspaper must be a source of information, formation and inspiration to supplement and indeed sometimes correct what is found in the secular media.

I have been fortunate to have known personally a number of your editors.  The first one I knew was the legendary Bernie Casserly, with whom I was very well acquainted during his last fifteen years at the paper.  I also knew Dan Medinger, who went on to service in Baltimore.  Finally, I knew well Paulist Father Tom Comber, a fellow Philadelphian, who did much to promote the newspaper.

You can be proud of The Catholic Spirit.  It serves your diocesan family well – and, indeed, it is one of the very best instruments for helping to form your diocesan family.  All of you are fortunate indeed to have Archbishop John Nienstedt as your spiritual shepherd, but he is fortunate indeed to have The Catholic Spirit as an instrument of information, formation and inspiration in his historic and dynamic archdiocese.

Congratulations to him, to associate publisher Bob Zyskowski, to editor Joe Towalski, to the staff of and contributors to The Catholic Spirit – and to all of you, its subscribers and supports – on 100 years of dynamic, stimulating, informative and inspiring Catholic journalism in America’s heartland.  God bless you all!

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