Fink Murphy

Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

“Fink” is a name that most people would prefer not to be known by. It would be strange, to say the least, that any parent would name his/her child “Fink”. There is a bit of shadiness or suspiciousness attached to the moniker, regardless of the actual character to whom it is attached. A very upright, law-abiding person may go by the name “Fink”.

Such was the case years ago in a Midwest city, a medium-sized urban area, with the usual amenities of urban life such as it was fifty or so years ago. These included the electrical grid that empowered the then expected amenities of life, such as a phone system that connected every business operation and household in the vicinity, or at least the vast majority of them. At that time, there was a common, and less expensive, arrangement known as “a party line”, which enabled several parties, usually neighbors to one another, to use the same phone line, that is, the same phone number. The only way of knowing when an incoming call was for one’s own family rather than another party on the same line, was in the distinctive “ring” of an incoming call. This enabled a particular customer on a three or four party-line, to know that the call was for his/her family rather than another party on the line. For example, two long and one short ring indicated one party, rather than another party whose distinctive ring might have been one long and two short rings. This meant everyone on that line had to listen carefully to incoming calls to make sure that they were for someone else, not for him or herself. Of course, mistakes were made, especially by children, who would mistakenly answer a phone call meant for another party on the line which, when this occurred frequently, agitated the other parties on that line.

Such was the arrangement in the case at hand, involving a party line, one of whom was a bookie named Fink Murphy (this surname is fictitious). He was the recipient of many calls because this city featured a famous racehorse track, attracting bettors from across the area, and Fink was quite busy accommodating their desires. Understandably, the other parties on this party line were fed up with Fink, since most of the incoming calls were for Fink, and he was occupying the line on his own initiative the remainder of the time. There was one young single woman in particular who was agitated at his constant presence on the phone line, especially on weekends, as she awaited phone calls from her boyfriends inviting her out on a date.

Now there are obvious lessons to glean from this example. One, for those who could afford it, was to avoid securing a party line for their use, and procure their own private line.   The other, less charitable than this, was for those sharing the party line with Fink, to sit close to the phone and repeatedly interrupt Fink as he conversed with another party on the line. Or, in much the same fashion, was to try beating Fink to the phone when it first rang, and proceed to announce that Fink was unavailable. Or yet another strategy, more charitable in nature, was to bear this cross patiently and suffer this inconvenience in silence.

But every cloud has a silver lining. In this case, it was a daughter of Fink, who could not bear this Incessant warfare, but who happily met a young man whose family was also on this party line, eager to avoid the rancor accompanying this situation.   It was out of this situation that a Romeo and Juliet situation developed that more than compensated for their grievances. Each of them was privy to this internecine conflict, and brought their mutual interests to bear upon it, to the relief of all.

For us, living in a less tension-filled situation than just described, an incident such as this helps us appreciate that there are advantages living in a more technologically advanced society where we do not have to put up with such an upsetting scenario, since we now carry about our cell phones or I-phones or smart-phones, whereby we can achieve instant communication with our friends and family, without fear of interference from unfriendly, intrusive or belligerent neighbors.   And while even these devices can occasion ugly scenarios, such as the recent standoff between the FBI and the Apple Inc organization, they are relatively infrequent, providing more privacy and less rancor than the party-line arrangement. We need not worry about Fink Murphys dominating a party-line system. This occasions a sense of gratitude for the benefits we enjoy (not taking them for granted), of seeing the silver lining around the inevitable clouds overshadowing us, and of providing better ways for a Romeo and Juliet to meet.


Daring to Feel

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

So, being the good Catholic that I am I went to Mass this past Sunday and as is often the case, got there early and sitting quietly in my usual pew read the weekly bulletin. The first sentence I read kind of disturbed me.

Gospel Love is not about feelings. It’s about choosing to care regardless of how we feel. It’s about making decisions based upon the vision of Jesus regardless of how many other visions are demanding our allegiance. (Rev. Joseph J. Juknialis)

I doubt the author meant for me to conclude this, but after reading the sentence I grasped why I believe Chesterton was and still is right: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” (Gilbert K. Chesterton quotes from The difficult part of this Christianity thing if you ask me is precisely what the above author downplays, feelings. Speaking for myself, if I don’t feel my brother’s pain (compassion) I won’t act. Fear that I’m not capable will keep me aloof, above the fray. I must feel the pain before I will dare to act.

Christianity for me is not done by people who just know the right answer, although this is the beginning; it’s done by people who take the next step and feel, like parents, teachers, health care givers, ordinary everyday people who love their children, students, patients, and neighbors. While it’s material for another whole post, I think it’s important to note here that the opposite of love is not hate; it’s fear.

Hillary Cottom says the same thing, but a little differently in today’s TED selection. She calls it relationships. She is talking about fixing the welfare state, reducing 80% of the waste. Sounds improbable, but I think she’s got something and what get’s me most excited, it involves using modern technology. In less than 17 minutes she tells three stories to demonstrate her findings. Enjoy!

Ms. Cotton kind of reminds me of the Catholic women religious whose history is one of building relationships through teaching, health services, social services and a whole host of other ministries. You can hear about that at the You Tube “A Different Path – Catholic Nuns”.



Partners’ Forum

Love defined

 true love

a rugged lad, winsome miss

a summer night, dream of bliss

a yearning glance, tender kiss

enkindled hearts speak words of love

a raised cross upon a hill

a storm of shouts, mocking, shrill

a man suffers, pleading still

“forgive them father”. This is Love



Originally composed by Passionist Bro. Richard McCall (Deceased)

Revised 10/14 jp





Last Week’s post credited to Jim Paulin should have read: Originally composed by Passionist Bro. Richard McCall (Deceased) Revised 10/14 jp

Scripture Reflection for Sunday, November 2, 2014

by Dave O’Donnell


IMG_0035Mahatma Gandhi read and appreciated the New Testament. To a Christian trying to convert him he responded: “If God could have sons, all of us were His sons. If Jesus was like God, or God Himself, then all men were like God and could be God Himself.” (Gandhi, in his autobiography p 113). Gandhi said he never became a Christian because he never met a Christian. I understand where Gandhi is coming from. Chesterton said “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried Nietzsche said God is dead. The question is do you believe you are a child of God. If you do, I believe God is not dead and Christianity survives. “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who see the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life.” We all participate in the son ship of Jesus the Christ. Our fulfillment is in it. I believe I am a child of God. I do not fully understand that but I do believe it.


I await further revelation. I do believe in my neighbor and I do see the son of God in him and her. At this point in my life that’s enough proof for Jesus’ proclamation.


I am the vine you are the branches. He is telling us we are one. There is one Son of God and She is us.

Elizabeth Gilbert

Ole, ole, ole! Do you know where that comes from? Well yes, soccer games, but before soccer started using it, it meant something else.  Watch the above TED talk which has been viewed over eight million times and find out. It surprised me and I suspect it will you as well.

Elizathbeth tells us more here. She talks about the difference (or lack of difference) between our demons and our genius and suggest that maybe we shouldn’t worry too much about either, but just show up.

Farewell and Welfare

Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

These two words look and sound so much alike that it would seem they mean much the same thing. But that would not be quite accurate. St. James must have run into people in his day who thought much the same thing, though they didn’t speak the English language in which the similarity of the sound would have possibly conveyed much the same impression. For he had occasion to remark: “If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (2.15-17)

St. James was addressing a version of the farewell/welfare dyad. There is an odd linkage between the two terms, not only in their sound, but also in their relationship, not so much in terms of similarity but more so in terms of their contrast. We might initially look at them this way: if I am faring well, then my welfare is assured. Here there is a similarity: if I’m faring well, for example, financially, then my welfare is more or less assured, that is, my well-being at multiple levels (employment, housing, food, clothing, health care, education).

On the other hand, if my welfare is in jeopardy, I’m not faring well. If I’m “on welfare”, as St. James observes, I will be the recipient of many a “good luck and farewell” implying my “friendships” and my well-being are in danger. Should I have to rely on welfare, it is realistic to say farewell to those who were my friends, and to the “good ole days”.   So welfare suggests malware, i.e., things are not functioning well for me. We may desire to fare well, but we certainly do not want to be on welfare.

So welfare seems to suggest we bid farewell to the good life and the well-being and the associations we formerly enjoyed. There is a stigma attached to welfare, unlike the esteem that seems to be associated with the greeting “farewell”. Faring well and being on welfare are no longer similar; they are opposites. Is my being on welfare endangering your welfare? Is your “fare well” a genuine expression of best wishes in my regard, or is it a definitive breaking of whatever bonded us in the past? St. James implies that “farewell” often implies breakage rather than bonding.

Another way of looking at this, of course, is when your welfare is a source of my faring well. It proves to be a bonding, not a breakage. This is when a person realizes he/she is not an island living separate or apart from others, but is an isthmus linking two separate, disparate entities. In this scenario, your faring well works to my advantage, that is, to my welfare. But it’s a two-way street because my welfare is part of the reason why you are faring well. Here, of course, we move beyond monetary units and begin to deal in another kind of currency, a spiritual type that the works of mercy itemize. You begin to accumulate “points” with God, certainly to your welfare, when you engage in genuine concern over my welfare. So we mutually benefit one another.   My financial impoverishment becomes an occasion for your spiritual enrichment. So now your “farewell” to me will mean a genuine expression of beneficence, not a brush off. It is your investment in my well-being that pays dividends for you. We both profit. This kind of farewell redounds to the welfare of both parties.

Will You Be Alive a Year from Now?


by James Paulin

Americans pride themselves with having the ability to decide their own fate in the land of liberty. Some parts of the world have little or no opportunity for improvement in lifestyle. All cultures have dreams of security both financial and political. Even with all the laws, systems and abundance of prospects as reinforcement, people all over the world are equally as fragile and in a sense, insignificant as the ants we might step on thoughtlessly.

Every day a number of cataclysmic events might occur that would take humanity into extinction just like the dinosaurs. One of the insights the reverend Billy Graham used quite often on his crusades was to mention some statistics of how many who were present would not be alive in a year. Our lifespan isn’t even a microsecond in terms of the eons that have passed. Our physical presence is nothing in relation to the universe. When put into the proper scale, the perspective overwhelms any self importance or egocentric ambition. The reminder of dust to dust and ashes to ashes that is associated with Ash Wednesday is more truth than we care to think about.

What difference does our existence make in the grand scheme of eternity and infinity? God is. All creation, of which we are a part, is intended for good. Vast as the universe, beyond comprehending, God doesn’t need, but desires love. The central theme to our brief encounter with existence has been illuminated by prophets, angels and even Gods only Son. It is impossible to know all about God. It is only possible to know that God loves us and to believe that we can be forever united.

Which Comes First–Love or Knowledge?

Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

Today we celebrate the feastday of St. Gabriel (Possenti).  While still a popular saint in Italy (he died in 1862) and was canonized by Pius XI in 1926), he is no longer well known here in the States, even though years ago he was quite well known here too, especially as patron of youth.

He was only 24 years of age when he died, and the question was often put about him: why canonize someone so young, who hasn’t tasted life yet, and who basically doesn’t know what life is all about.  (Indeed, this complaint could be lodged against a whole raft of young saints canonized the last 150 years, including the ever popular Little Flower, Therese of Lisieux).  Those of us who make this complaint probably do so for self-serving reasons, since we have seen a lot of life, and may not have fared too well out of this experience, so we’re looking for a reason to explain the discrepancy between a Gabriel and ourselves.

Much of this situation comes down to a relationship between love and knowledge.  As we know, it is love that is going to get us to heaven but, after all, it is seasoned love, not just puppy love.  The “love at first sight” phenomenon is not to be dismissed as juvenile or insipid, but we know that, in most instances, it is ephemeral, and gives way, with the passage of time, to other, more seasoned, loves.  This seems to mean that, with the passage of time, we learn more, that is, we gain more knowledge, and on the basis of that growth in knowledge, we position ourselves for a better, stronger, more proven love.  In other words, love follows after knowledge.  The more we know, the better positioned we are to love.

So these young people, for instance, who are being called saints, really haven’t lived long enough to know very much, so their love(s), including love of God, should be relatively uninformed and shallow.  How can they gain heaven on the basis of such a love?  If Gabriel, for instance, who was preparing for ordination to the priesthood and was studying theology as part of this preparation, died before completing his studies, there was a lot of book knowledge about God he never acquired, so how can you love someone you really don’t know much about?

For example, a married couple might have experienced a puppy love relationship early on in their relationship before they really knew one another very well, but, once married, they begin to know a lot more things about one another, both for good and for bad.  This can lead to a rocky relationship along the way, but, after some turbulence, another kind of love can take over, based on a much more informed love for one another than the kind they experienced earlier on.  And this latter stage of love is likely a more enduring and deeper love than the first time around.  Greater knowledge leads to greater love.  Right?

Kind of.  But it all depends on what you mean by “knowledge”.  There is book knowledge, for instance, and then there is personally learned knowledge, like the medical knowledge of a pediatrician and the “life knowledge” learned by a mother.   She brings her sick baby to the doctor’s office and he makes a diagnosis and recommends a certain medicine, and the mother knows instinctively that this is not the way to go—not for her baby.  Both of these adults have knowledge about babies, but, in different ways.  The mother has connatural knowledge, that is, experience-based appreciation of what is good or not for her baby.  She learned this from experience.

So when we come to a saint like Gabriel, we ask: so what does he know?  Well, not much by one standard, but maybe quite a bit by another.   Thanks to God’s grace, and Gabriel’s cooperation with it, Gabriel was drawn close to God and learned to love Him by the familiarity he enjoyed with God, so that even before concluding his theological studies about God, he already knew Him in another way.  In this scenario, love precedes knowledge.  So this young man, lacking knowledge and experience in one dimension, had already acquired it in another way.

Does knowledge go before love?  Sometimes.  Does love precede knowledge?  At other times.  Love and knowledge are interwoven with each other and it is difficult to disentangle them from each other.