The Importance Of Breakfast…For Kids!

By , April 30, 2013 4:46 am

Image: Grimes

Most of us have heard many times during our lifetime about the importance of breakfast, namely that it is the most important meal of the day. We know that this is fairly accurate but as we have matured, we have learned how to skip it when we are under pressure or running behind in schedule. We know we can hold out until brunch or lunch. However, that is not true for kids. Kids need breakfast and if they don’t get it, real damage is done to their learning potential.
The Austin American Statesman had a really sad column by two writers from the Center for Public Policy Priorities located here in Austin. The authors, Rachel Cooper and Jonathan Louis, pointed out that despite the importance of a good breakfast for all children during their formative years, there are large numbers of them who do not receive it. There are many reasons, most important of which is that there is no food at home. There is also the fact that some families are not as organized as they should be and don’t take care of everything needed in the morning. Finally, some of the school buses come so early that children don’t get a chance to eat breakfast.
The Center points out that we are now in a situation that if we utilized the resources that are at our fingertips, our public schools could make free breakfast available to everyone not just low-income kids. From first-class studies we have learned that eating breakfast can make a big difference. We’ve learned that eating breakfast leads to increased attendance, improved math scores, graduation rates soar, tardiness declines and classroom behavior problems fall dramatically.
Even though some of our schools do have the cafeteria open in the morning and serve breakfast, many of our children do not take advantage of it because of the stigma since at the present time only children who qualify as poverty level families are able to go into the cafeteria and eat. Our state representatives are trying to improve the situation. Eddie Lucio, a Democrat of Brownsville, and Eddie Rodriguez of Austin have proposed legislation that would increase the number of children eating breakfast by simply providing breakfast at no charge to all students on campuses where 80% of the students come from families with such low income that they can qualify for free or reduced lunch. If their bill gets enacted by the Legislature, it will be a dramatic contribution to the improved education of our children.
Let’s hear it for the two Eddies.
There is another issue and that is that social spending is disproportionately in favor of the aged in our society and the children are frequently in many different areas shortchanged. The fact is that we old-timers know how to take care of ourselves. That is all right but we shouldn’t do it at the expense of hurting our children’s education.

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Real and Meaningful Ecumenism

By , April 29, 2013 4:45 am

Talk about ecumenism and a modest amount of movement in the ecumenical world has been going on at least since the 1960’s. Changed attitudes by Roman Catholics has helped tremendously because after Vatican Council II we decided to break up on circling the wagons and head West towards Christian unity. I am sure that it was a shove from the Holy Spirit after 300 years of religious isolation.
There has been a great deal of progress at the international level. Scripture scholars and major theologians have spent years exploring their religious roots, traditions and present positions and have discovered happily an amazing amount of unity that actually exists between the major Christian faiths in the world. This is especially true of Anglicans, Lutherans and Roman Catholics. While those meetings were tremendously important, they seldom reached down to the parish or neighborhood level.
Today I would like to spotlight a small group that I wish would become symbolic of the next phase of ecumenical activity. I am referring to a small group of clergy who meet at 10:00 a.m. every Wednesday morning in the parish rectory of St. Louis King of France. The host is Father Larry Covington, the pastor of St. Louis, and four or five neighborhood pastors representing all the major Christian traditions of the neighborhood. Finally, and this is truly wonderful, they are joined by a rabbi from the nearby synagogue. His presence is a real asset to the others not only because of his ability to contribute to discussions from the Old Testament, but with deeper insights in New Testament texts. These are hard working men serving large local congregations but they take the time to deepen their knowledge of their own faith and, at the same time, familiarize themselves with the religious traditions of others in the neighborhood.
Ecumenism for the last fifty years has always involved a relaxed ability to work together on social issues but it seldom got into deep open discussion of theological views. That is not true in north central Austin.
May God bless this group and may they become multiplied many times in the future.

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Let’s Hear It For The Deacons!

By , April 27, 2013 4:12 am

April 28th, Fifth Sunday of Easter
As I have said for several weeks now, this is really a delightful time of the liturgical year starting Sunday after Sunday with excerpts from Acts of the Apostles that enables us to jump over 2,000 years and in a sense walk with the very first followers of Jesus, the first Christians.
One of the reasons that I enjoy this experience so much is that it shows that although 2,000 years have elapsed since the scenes described in Acts, the problems in the Church continue and because the Church is so much bigger the problems tend to be larger as well. In today’s excerpt, you have the apostles complaining that logistical responsibilities get in the way of their prayer and preaching. “Is there a pastor with a soul so dead who never to himself has said this is my own, my native land….” Oops. This wonderful poem doesn’t really fit there. But pastors do complain about administrative responsibilities that block them from more effective ministry. I don’t believe that this was ever very true. The Church of yesterday often found it far easier to “run the parish” than to study scripture and prepare great homilies, but they did have an excuse because they had virtually no staff.
In my parish at All Saints in the 1930’s, the staff consisted of three priests, eight sisters and a janitor. There were no secretaries, no professional counselors, no business managers. Today, however, things are very different. Larger parishes at least are so much better staffed can we assume that the preaching has improved tremendously? Let’s hope.

Oops. I almost forgot about the deacons. Today’s first reading tells us how this level of Holy Orders came into being. It was to help the Church run more effectively. It was wonderful that the Second Vatican Council re-established the diaconate. Isn’t it interesting that there are three levels of ordination in the Church? They are bishops, priests and deacons, and the deacons have been around longer than the priests!
Onward through the fog.

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And Then There Are The Little Banks

By , April 26, 2013 4:11 am

Yesterday, I referred briefly to the tragic amount of corruption that has manifested itself in the international banking world for the last two decades. Heroic measures are being made to clean it up but with so much money floating around the temptation is always there and, regretfully, all too many bankers have failed the test. I was talking about the megabanks, the entities that are handling billions and billions of dollars, but there is another side to it – the “pay day” loan shark. They also are bankers in a pathetic sort of way.
Did you run out of cash on Tuesday and have to take some food home to the wife and kids? Stop off at the office that advertises itself as PAY DAY LOANS. You need $50? Sure, here it is and sign here please. You are glad to have that $50 but you may have just agreed to a 500% loan and based on the annual percent rate. I was glad to see Mr. Joe Sanchez, the State Director for Advocacy for the American Association of Retired Persons Texas, reaching out to remind the rest of us of the tremendous amount of abuse in small short-term loans.
Sanchez points out that Texas needs reform that limits the amounts and the number of times that a person can roll over a loan. A few weeks ago, the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce passed Chairman John Carona’s SB1247 on pay day and auto title loans. Sanchez points out that this bill not only does not help to close the ending of the vicious cycle of debt that pay day and auto title loans create, but does much more to help the loan industry rather than the borrower.
Let’s hope that the American Association of Retired Persons can block this finance bill in the House and continue to struggle to help vulnerable people caught in a short-term financial crunch.
Happily, there is a better bill on the Senate side!

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The Banks, The Banks – Oh Yes, The Banks!

By , April 25, 2013 8:00 am

It is an old story, isn’t it? A megabank, HSBC, based in New York and one of the largest financial institutions in the world, recently admitted to taking part in the illegal laundering of large amounts of money for tourists and drug cartels. You and I would probably go to jail if we were so caught but HSBC got a slap on the wrist and was fined just 12% of the company’s reported profits for the year 2011. Not one person from the bank has served a single day of jail time. Thanks be to God, things are not all bad. Two weeks ago, the nation’s largest banks began sending payments to millions of Americans who have been wrongfully foreclosed upon during the housing crisis.
A total of $3.6 billion in cash will be distributed to 4.2 million borrowers who lost their homes or were at risk of foreclosure. This good news comes from the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Control of Currency. Payments range from $300,000 to $125,000. Bank HSBC, mentioned above, and others are enormous, and they include Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citi Group. Do you think these banks sensitive executives came forward and said, “Oops. I mishandled an account or two.”? Not at all. The banks, and there were 13 of them, settled the complaints that they wrongly foreclosed on borrowers with abuses such as robosigning to automatically sign off on foreclosures without receiving documents. The numbers tell us nothing. The coldness and insensitivity and lack of concern for justice has caused pain, fear and suffering to millions of people. The damage is far more than the $3.6 billion. That doesn’t begin to cover the losses and it certainly doesn’t cover for the pain and suffering. At least it is better than nothing.
And it is not just a problem in this country. At the end of last year, Deutsche Bank, which is the world’s largest, faced allegations that rocked the financial world. The whistle blower attempted to tell executives within Deutsche Bank about inaccurate bookkeeping. He was ignored at first, then was demoted and ultimately terminated even though he had received nothing but favorable performance reviews in the past.
Whistle blowers, like this brave man at Deutsche Bank, are very courageous and frequently suffer tremendously for their courage and honesty. I thank God for the existence of Government Accountability Project which endeavors to protect such people, especially when the culprits move against them to punish them.
They always need help in carrying out their work. They can be reached at Government Accountability Project, 1612 K Street, NW Suite #1100, Washington, DC 20006, (202) 457-0034,

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Finally The Story Has Been Told

By , April 24, 2013 4:41 am

Let me suggest a new insight on the oft-repeated stories about the winning of the West. We all know the stories about the ranchers, the farmers, cowboys, sheep herders and endless conflicts between them. We also know that many women went West and endured the privations and dangers that went with life on the frontier. What you may not think about is the fact that Catholic nuns went West as missionaries and accomplished miracles, absolute miracles. If you want to check on how early they got out there, go open a national Catholic directory and look up different dioceses, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and Helena, Montana. Throw in Reno and Salt Lake City and then look at the founding date of the schools and hospitals in those areas. It is amazing, simply amazing.
The Daughters of Charity were in Sacramento in 1808. There was hardly a good-sized city in the West that did not see a Catholic hospital set up by these heroic vowed religious. Small liberal arts colleges also sprang up. Not as many as the hospitals but enough to make a major contribution to the education of women during that difficult 19th century. Going West and settling on the frontier demanded a great deal of independent thought and actions and these sisters had it! With distance and communications problems, they could not depend on guidance or supervision from the Motherhouse.
You want an example of that? The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word came originally from France and Ireland. They set up a number of hospitals in Galveston, Houston, San Antonio and other places. But at the time the distance between San Antonio and Houston made communication virtually impossible. That is why the Sisters have two divisions in Texas. They simply could not stay in touch and so separated. Both groups are proud inheritors of the same missionary tradition.
May God bless them all.

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Not Everyone is Happy

By , April 23, 2013 4:06 am

You can believe it! While most of the world, both within and beyond the confines of the Church, seem to be extraordinarily well pleased with this new pope from the Third World, there are murmurs of discontent from some.
It seems that many traditionalists on the right are fearful that the new pope will finally implement many of the changes that many of us had hoped would come out of the Second Vatican Council.
One of the conservative Catholic blogs had this to say. “This is one of the worst possible men to be elected pope if you are a traditionalist. This is totally depressing. The last one out of the Church please turn off the lava lamp.” A journalist in Buenos Aires, writing for conservative blog Rorate-Caeli, “Of all the unthinkable candidates Jorge Mario Bergoglio is perhaps the worst.” said Mario Gonzales calling Francis “A sworn enemy of the traditional Mass.”
And here is a good one. Adam DeVille, a theology professor at the University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne, implies that it is time that conservatives start being less concerned about what the pope does or says.
“Yes, he is the Bishop of Rome. Yes, he has a special place in the Church. But people need to wean themselves off looking to him constantly and assuming that everything he does we have to do.”
Wow! How quickly things can change!

Pope Francis presents us with such a dramatic shift in his mode of operation as Bishop of Rome and Chief Shepherd of the Universal Church, that it is only natural to see here or there a little pushing back. This is especially true by those Catholicis who have never been reconciled with celebrating the Sacraments- espeically the mass- in the language of the people. They hunger for Latin. However, today, I find that most of us are somewhat deficient in Latin.

I for one, am wonderfully excited by the hope, the optimism, the simplicity, and the innate goodness of this quiet man from Argentina. Long may he reign, but may he also retire with a few years left to enjoy being out of office.
Onward through the fog.

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Small Town Tragedy

By , April 22, 2013 4:40 am

Most Americans tend to idolize life in small towns. Sure there are plenty of people who would like to live in midtown Manhattan but most of us idealize the quiet world of a smaller community with neighborhood schools, no traffic, faithful neighborhoods and, overall, a life of peace and quiet. That is not always the case.

A terrible tragedy struck the little town of West, Texas on April 17th. This little town called West has always confused people. West, Texas, is surprisingly not in western Texas, but in Central Texas, and this town is served by the northern most parish in the Diocese of Austin, St. Mary, the Church of the Assumption. West is a heavily Catholic town with most of its citizens being Czech and Catholic. On Thursday of last week, there was a tremendous explosion in the West Fertilizer Co. which manufactured fertilizer. Many of us forget it but from time to time we see terrible explosions related to fertilizer. That is what exploded in Texas City in 1947 and it was used in the terrible Oklahoma City bombing 20 years ago. It is very dangerous. The explosion was so severe that dozens of houses and buildings were either damaged or destroyed. At least twelve people lost their lives. Rightfully the parish made its facilities available to the rescue program and in their sorrow and loss they are joined by the rest of Texas and all across the country.

West is a small town but it is huge in terms of courage and community commitment. The agony and the sense of loss will purdure for a long time but the strong faith of the people will enable them to get through this agonizing catastrophe.

Our wonderful Pope Francis has already reached out to Bishop Joe Vasquez and the community of West. Let’s all pray for the citizens of West, and thoughtfully consider what else we might be able to do to help.

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A Wonderful Image

By , April 20, 2013 4:12 am

picture from: fbcrockdaletexas

April 21, Fourth Sunday of Easter
Back in the Middle Ages when most of the Christians of the world were illiterate, the Church used other means to convey the message of the Gospels to its people. One of those wonderful and beneficial, and still very much used today, was stained-glass and the Church learned to use glass in order to portray extraordinarily beautiful scenes from the life of our Divine Lord. In the Catholic Church, you could get a great deal of Christ’s message worked into awesomely beautiful stained-glass. From an early age, little children would come to church and their parents and teachers would explain each scene so that they could get the basic message of Jesus Christ, namely God’s love for the human family.
What in your opinion would be one of the most popular scenes portrayed in stained-glass windows? Naturally, in this holy season, we would think of the Resurrection. We would think of scenes portraying the resurrected Jesus and I would yield to that. However, I also think that one of the most popular scenes would be Jesus, the Good Shepherd, as walking forward with a frightened, formerly lost sheep over his shoulders and other sheep following close behind.
In today’s Gospel, we see our Lord describing himself in that manner. Jesus states that He is the shepherd, He is the protector. He knows us, we know him and through him we find our way to salvation. In religious tradition, we have many beautiful stories relating to Jesus carrying us. We are so busy, we have so much to do, but today we ought to think about Jesus not only as our savior, but as our shepherd and the one who will make the difference as we journey on.

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Agony Once Again…Manufactured Agony!

By , April 19, 2013 3:10 am

I think that most of us recognized that it was a horrible moment in the lives of many individuals, and certainly in the life of our country. There is something wonderfully healthy and American about watching the end of a marathon race.
The people are cheering and the participants are proud, no matter how far back they are in the line. Everyone is exhilarated! In that beautiful, American moment, some enemy of the human family- a very sick and cruel mind- deliberately set off explosions with one purpose, to kill or hurt as many innocent people as possible.

A second reaction from many, if not all of us, is “Again??” There seems to have been so much of this as of late. When we watch the evening news, we might expect it in Afganastan. We knew how bad it was in Rowanda, or even northern Mexico. But at the Boston Marathon? Or in a first grade classroom? Or at a movie?

Every sane person would like to see our wonderful country get control of the rampant violence present among us. The problem is, we differ sharply on how to do it. I am hopeful that the big divisions between us can somehow be bridged by our common desire for the safety of our citizens. The solution may or may not be better control of guns. Certainly no solution will be effective without better ability to respond to mental and emotional illness in society.

Whatever we do, I know that we must do SOMETHING, and we must begin NOW. Let’s pray to find a solution.

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