Archive for September, 2008

Happy feast of the Archangels!

September 29, 2008

A fine day, among other things, to pray the Prayer to St. Michael.

In two days time, I’ll be unveiling a significant and worthwhile project here at The Tail End, which I hope will offer some rich nourishment (and some good free stuff) to passers-by.  Come by soon!


40 Days for Life

September 24, 2008

Today begins the 40 Days for Life campaign.  There is no public observance of it in my local area that I’m aware of.  In many American cities, there will be a 40-day protest outside abortion clinics going on.  Check the website to see if there is one happening in your area

If there’s not, consider participating on a personal and spiritual level.  Make it a period  of personal prayer and fasting for the intention of greater respect for human life, in our culture and in our laws, almost a quasi-Lent direted toward the specific intention of respect for human life.  (In fact, the video introduction to it below provides an excellent argument for the appropriateness of the liturgical season of Lent in the calendar of any Christian church.)

I did this last year and found it to be very worthwhile on a spiritual level.  Obviously I have no idea of the practical consequences in the world of my prayer and fasting, but I can be sure they were there.  Was a baby saved as a result of the grace that flowed from my prayer and fasting into a frightened mother’s heart?  Did such a grace begin working in the heart of a doctor who has provided abortions or a medical student making decisions about whether he will? 

But I do know that it was good to have a sense that I was doing something concrete, one thing that’s within my power, to help the situation.  It also made me more consciously aware of the issues, more sensitive to the need for prayer and action.  As so many of us know from our Lenten experiences, giving up eating between meals or avoiding chocolate for 40 days can be a challenging thing.  When you’re doing it, perhaps especially outside of Lent, you tend to have to remind yourself repeatedly why you’re doing it and the value it has. 

Having started my day this morning reminding myself that the 40 Days starts today, I showed up at work to find two tables full of homemade cookies and other treats in the faculty room, provided by the generous parents’ club of our school.  Wow, didn’t take long to be challenged and to remind myself why I’ve decided to participate in the 40 Days for Life again this year.  “For the babies,” I thought and prayed silently.  “For the babies!”

Dang, those cookies looked good.  I wonder what the grace of my sacrifice achieved this morning?  What could the grace of yours achieve today?  Of ours together?

Litany of St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio) (feast day: September 23)

September 22, 2008

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Christ, hear us.

Christ, graciously hear us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

Our Lady of Grace, pray for us.

St. Francis, spiritual father of Padre Pio…

St. Pio of Pietrelcina…

St. Pio, faithful son of Mary…

St. Pio, poor son of St. Francis…

St. Pio, obedient son of the Church…

St. Pio, friend of the angels…

St. Pio, priest of God…

St. Pio, priest of Christ, the infant of Bethlehem…

St. Pio, priest of Christ crucified…

St. Pio, priest of Christ the great High Priest…

St. Pio, priest who bore the wounds of Christ…

St. Pio, priest who called sinners to repentance…

St. Pio, counselor of the troubled…

St. Pio, holy friar of the people…

St. Pio, channel of God’s mercy…

St. Pio, channel of God’s healing…

St. Pio, channel of God’s love…

St. Pio, channel of God’s grace…

St. Pio, reader of hearts…

St. Pio, prophet of future events…

St. Pio, victim of divine love…

St. Pio, enemy of Satan…

St. Pio, enemy of sin…

St. Pio, wise man of the Gargano Mountains…

St. Pio, founder of the House for the Relief of Suffering…

St. Pio, companion of the poor…

St. Pio, healer of the sick…

St. Pio, strength of the poor souls in purgatory…

St. Pio, apostle of the confessional…

St. Pio, apostle of the Eucharist…

St. Pio, apostle of the Rosary…

St. Pio, apostle of prayer…

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.  Spare us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.  Graciously hear us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.  Have mercy on us.

Pray for us, O blessed St. Pio of Pietrelcina,

that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

O God, who raised us St. Pio of Pietrelcina as a dramatic sign of your presence in the middle of a most painful and difficult century, grant that we who seek his intercession and follow his holy example may experience the same profound conversion through his prayers today as did thousands who were graced by his priestly ministry during his time on earth. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.


(This original litany appears in my book, Saints for Our Times: New Novenas and Prayers [Pauline Books and Media, 2007].  Of course, it’s copywritten, but feel free to reproduce for personal and private use.)

A papal visit to the land of Bakhita?

September 20, 2008

Rocco at Whispers in the Loggia just pointed out yesterday a bit of news from a couple of months ago that I had missed at the time.  It seems that Pope Benedict XVI, while attending World Youth Day celebrations in Australia this past July, told a young woman from Darfur in Sudan: “Yours is the country I most want to visit.”

This is not surprsing and particularly relevant to readers of the Pope’s 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi, on Christian hope.   In the beautiful document, the Pope chose to highlight the life and witness of St. Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947), a native of Darfur.  Since he certainly had hundreds of extraordinary saints to pick from as illustrations of what hope looks like when it is lived out heroically, it’s surely no coincidence that he picked a woman from this tragically troubled region. 

Benedict would not be the first pope to visit Sudan. Pope John Paul II traveled there in 1993, less than a year after he beatified Bakhita.  At a special Mass celebrated to honor her in the capital city of Khartoum, he preached:

Her Beatification was an act of respect not only for her but also for the Sudan, since a daughter of this land was put forward as a hero of mercy and of goodwill…. The immense suffering of millions of innocent victims impels me to voice my solidarity with the weak and defenceless who cry out to God for help, for justice, for respect for their God–given dignity as human beings, for their basic human rights, for the freedom to believe and practise their faith without fear or discrimination…. Today, in the Sudan, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, repeats these words and encourages you to stand firm and to take heart. The Lord is close to you. He will never leave you alone. The whole Church understands your distress and prays for you.

That was more than 15 years ago, and still the violations of human rights in Sudan continues on a large scale, in some ways that are new and more intense since that time.  Another papal visit would surely be an important event. 

In the meantime,  consider offering some concrete support to the beleaguered people of Darfur through Catholic Relief Services.  (In my classroom, I show my high school juniors this video (in 3 parts, of about 7 minutes each) produced by 3 college students who visited Darfur.  There is also actually an online “game” called Darfur is Dying that has been designed to help people understand the experience of people there.  I know, it sounds crass at first, but I think it’s an effective tool for young people, who tend not to pay attention to anything that’s not online.  Finally, you’ll find a novena to St. Josephine Bakhita in my book Saints for Our Times: New Novenas and Prayers.)

St. Josephine Bakhita, witness of hope, pray for the people of Darfur!

My letter to Nancy Pelosi (sent Tuesday)

September 18, 2008

Dear Madam Speaker:

I enjoyed watching (on C-SPAN’s Book TV) your recent appearance at a Washington synagogue, talking about your book Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters.  As the father of five daughters, a Catholic, and a religion teacher at a Catholic high school, I was very interested in what you had to say. 

I was particularly impressed by how comfortable you clearly are in speaking about your Catholic faith and how it intersects with your public service.  You invoked St. Francis and didn’t hesitate to speak of him as the patron of your hometown, or to quote his important maxim, “Preach the Gospel always, and when necessary use words.”  You invoked Catholic social justice principles and cited them as a foundation for your own work in working for policies and laws that respect all people.  You even spoke of a “spark of the divine” that is in each person, to which we must respond with laws that protect and respect them, regardless of who they are.  You cited examples of care for the environment, living wage, health care, and other policies that have been put in place in San Francisco, and said you prefer to speak of respect rather than tolerance, because speaking of tolerance belittles those who are different from us (I agree; it’s a good distinction.)  You said these matters are not political issues to you, but values to be upheld.

Ms. Pelosi, while I admired and agreed with all of this as I listened, I write today because it’s difficult to understand why you are willing to leave out one important piece from that beautiful mosaic of thinking about personal integrity in public service: working for laws that protect and respect the unborn. 

I am one of those who has been disappointed with your recent public comments about abortion, as well as those of Senator Obama and Senator Biden, all of which seem intentionally to ignore the very clear fact that when human life begins is not, fundamentally, a matter of faith at all, but of science.   

But having watched you at the synagogue event, I’m more confused still, since you so clearly do not hesitate to stand by the principles of human dignity in other cases, despite the fact and even because of the fact that they are rooted in your own faith tradition.  And you do it even regarding issues that are controversial, about which many people disagree with you.  (I applaud you for that.)

An illustration of what I mean, then I’ll finish: Obviously, some of the San Francisco policies you cited with approval – access to health care for every child and a living (rather than “minimum”) wage, for example – are not universally embraced with enthusiasm.  Suppose someone objected to these by saying, “I saw you on C-SPAN defending these policies by saying there’s a ‘spark of the divine’ in every person that must be respected, and these laws do that.  But I don’t believe in God or any divine spark, so don’t you force your faith on me by enacting laws that suggest there is.” 

I bet (and I’d hope) that your response would be something to this effect: “Though my faith tells me that divine spark is there, I needn’t be a person of faith to understand that we must respect every single person, and our laws must protect every single person.  Human dignity and human transcend any religion.”  And you’d be right.

So why is abortion different?  

In both cases we’re talking about an issue of human dignity (one that is part of the teaching of your religious faith, but transcends it, because we’re dealing with human life and human rights), and an issue that not everyone agrees upon.  Why is it so hard to stand up here and say, “You may disagree with me, but this is a fundamental issue of human dignity to which I must be true”?

In closing, Ms. Pelosi, I have to say that I agree with you and most of your Democratic colleagues about many things – including the crucial matter of the War in Iraq.  I think this war was a mistake in the first place, and that it was mishandled throughout.  And yet I won’t be able to vote for Senator Obama in the upcoming election, because abortion, to me, is an even more fundamental issue.  How could it be otherwise: over 3000 Americans have died in Iraq in the past six years – that’s how many died by abortion in the last day or two.   

A comment I read on the internet recently reflects my own thinking: “Don’t the Democrats realize if they’d drop their passionate commitment to abortion rights, they’d win every election?”  Ms. Pelosi, I can tell you they would have my vote, every time.


Barry Michaels 

It’s coming

September 17, 2008

Plans are in the works for a big event here at The Tail End, something I’ve never tried to do on a blog before, but to which am thoroughly looking forward.  It all begins 45 days from now. 

I’m still firming up plans, so I’m not quite ready to unveil it all.  That will come soon. But I can tell you it will involve a lot of quality content offered to visitors here, not only from me, but from quite a few other insightful folks whose words will be gracing this spot, several of whose names you will recognize.  It will also involve a lot of readers getting a lot of really exciting and worthwhile free stuff!

Keep an eye out here for more specific plans to be posted.


September 16, 2008

Father Who Died Saving Son Known For Sacrifice

By Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post
Wednesday, September 10, 2008; A01


If you ever ran into Nokesville dad Thomas S. Vander Woude, chances are you would also see his son Joseph. Whether Vander Woude was volunteering at church, coaching basketball or working on his farm, Joseph was often right there with him, pitching in with a smile, friends and neighbors said yesterday.

When Joseph, 20, who has Down syndrome, fell into a septic tank Monday in his back yard, Vander Woude jumped in after him. He saved him. And he died where he spent so much time living: at his son’s side.

“That’s how he lived,” Vander Woude’s daughter-in-law and neighbor, Maryan Vander Woude, said yesterday. “He lived sacrificing his life, everything, for his family.”

Vander Woude, 66, had gone to Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Gainesville on Monday, just as he did every day, and then worked in the yard with Joseph, the youngest of his seven sons, affectionately known as Josie. Joseph apparently fell through a piece of metal that covered a 2-by-2-foot opening in the septic tank, according to Prince William County police and family members.

Vander Woude rushed to the tank; a workman at the house saw what was happening and told Vander Woude’s wife, Mary Ellen, police said. They called 911 about 12 p.m. and tried to help the father and son in the meantime.

At some point, Vander Woude jumped in the tank, submerging himself in sewage so he could push his son up from below and keep his head above the muck, while Joseph’s mom and the workman pulled from above.

When rescue workers arrived, they pulled the two out, police said. Vander Woude, who had been in the tank for 15 to 20 minutes, was unconscious. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, and he was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

Joseph remains in Prince William Hospital with double pneumonia, and doctors are monitoring him for infection, said Erin Vander Woude, Thomas Vander Woude’s daughter-in-law. Joseph is in critical condition and on a ventilator, she said.

“He doesn’t know that his dad died,” she said.

For those who knew him, Vander Woude’s sacrifice was in keeping with a lifetime of giving.

“He’s the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back,” said neighbor Lee DeBrish. “And if he didn’t have one, he’d buy one for you.”

Vander Woude was a pilot in Vietnam, a daughter-in-law said. After the war, he worked as a commercial airline pilot and in the early 1980s moved his family to Prince William from Georgia. In the years to come, he would wear many hats: farmer, athletic director, volunteer coach, parishioner, handy neighbor, grandfather of 24, husband for 43 years.

He divided his Nokesville farm into multiple plots, offering land to all his sons so they could stay close to home if they wanted, the daughter-in-law said. His eldest, Tom, became a priest. Five others — Steve, Dan, Bob, Chris and Pat — all married. And there was Joseph, who loved helping with all the odd jobs that filled the retired days of his father.

“He was retired,” DeBrish said, “but that was a misnomer, because he was always out crankin’ with the backhoe or the tractor.”

All of Vander Woude’s sons except Joseph attended Seton School in Manassas, where Vander Woude volunteered as coach of the boys’ soccer and basketball teams for about 10 years, said the school’s director, Anne Carroll.

“He never took a cent for it,” she said. Carroll said that Vander Woude was a successful coach, winning multiple championships, but that his greatest strength was his ability to guide kids through challenges off the field.

“He was a mentor,” she said. “He wanted them to be good young men, not just good players.”

Vander Woude also served as athletic director at Christendom College in Front Royal for about five years, the school’s president, Timothy T. O’Donnell, said.

But loved ones said his favorite job was the one he did last: being a good dad.

“They always considered Joseph a wonderful blessing to the family,” said Francis Peffley, pastor at Holy Trinity, where Vander Woude served as a sacristan and also trained altar servers. “His whole life was spent serving people and sacrificing himself. . . . He gave the ultimate sacrifice. . . . Giving his life to save his son.”

Uh-oh. Wait til Pamela Anderson hears about this.

September 13, 2008

So Sarah Palin prayed for a friend in college (Mark Shea recently pointed out the article). 

And (hold on, because this is where it gets really monstrous), the friend credits Palin’s prayer with her own conversion to Catholicism.

Matt Damon’s blood spewing out of his ears is going to make a great YouTube video.

(C’mon, you know you can picture it.  “This is absurd.  Absolutely absurd.  Someone explain to me why more people aren’t talking about it.  I really want to know, Does she think prayer helps people?  Does she think that? Because she’s going to have the nuclear codes.  She–  She–”  sploshhh!)

I figured it out…

September 12, 2008

why I (and so many others) like the idea of Sarah Palin as vice-president so much, despite the fact that she is not at all the most qualified candidate for the job. 

It’s because she is so completely baffling to the people who consider themselves so far above and beyond what the rest of us see as most important in life.

[Recent New York Times comment about that little scene, that most folks found so lovely, of little Piper Palin giving the spit-shine to her baby brother’s hair: “In the press galleries at the convention, journalists wrinkled their noses in disgust when Piper, Ms. Palin’s youngest daughter, was filmed kitty-licking her baby brother’s hair into place. But to many Americans — including some I talked to in the convention hall — that looked like family church on Sunday, evidence of good breeding and sibling regard.”  Read over that sentence a few times and consider what it says about the folks “in the press galleries.”]

They can’t figure her out, which is another way of saying, they can’t figure us out.


In fact, she drives them absolutely bonkers.  [I’ve revised my previously less polite terminology here.]


And I like that.

September 11, 2008

Sacred Heart Radio is posting my Prayer for the United States, from the Saints book, today.

Grant us peace, O Lord.