Monday, August 31, 2009

Homeless Blogger Gets An Internship

I thought this was an uplifting story. A homeless blogger, Brianna Karp (known as "Bri,") managed to get an internship with Elle magazine. The writer is from Orange County and she posts about her homeless situation on her blog, "The Girls Guide to Homelessness." She wrote about her experience on her blog, telling the story of how she entered a fashion advice contest in April, which landed her an audition for a reality show. The reality show prize was an internship with Elle. She would have been mentored by the magazine's advice columnist, E. Jean Carroll. (This story was also mentioned on the web Though she didn't do well, she wrote that, "I totally bombed it," she didn't give up. I admire determination and perseverance and that's what Bri had. She wrote a letter to Carroll hoping for a second chance. And what happened next is proof that perseverance pays off. Elle magazine offered her a four-month internship and posted a response in their magazine. The internship starts on Sept. 1st. As you can imagine this story has received a lot of media attention.
She said that, "the media storm she's experienced since the story broke has been very humbling." I quote her, "I am an educated woman with stable employment and residence history. I have never done drugs. I am not mentally ill. I am a career executive assistant-coherent, opinionated, poised and capable. If you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn't assume that I live in a parking lot. In short, I am just like you-except without the convenience of a permanent address." She lives in a parking lot, it's hard to believe.  I know this is going on in our country and I just can't imagine that it's really happening. 
Hopefully all the publicity will enable Brianna to get a permanent address soon. We don't always think about the homeless people and families in our country who are struggling. They need help and prayers. I always feel better when I make a contribution to Habitat for Humanity. Even a small donation enables them to buy a box of nails that contributes to the building of a small house for a needy family. It's a great cause to support.

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without words and never stops-at all. 
Emily Dickinson

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Kennedy Curse-No Such Thing

The Kennedy family has had its share of misfortunes, there is no question about that. This very large Catholic, political family of great wealth and prestige in America has suffered tremendous losses and tragedies. The most recent loss of Edward Kennedy this week, who was a surrogate father to so many of his nieces and nephews as well as a father to his own children, will be greatly missed by so many in his family. The statement issued by his family referred to him as, "the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives...." 
As reported in the New York Times, "In recent years, friends say, Mr. Kennedy had come to lean heavily on his Roman Catholic faith. In eulogizing his mother, Rose Kennedy in 1995, he spoke of the comfort of religious beliefs. 'She sustained us in the saddest times by her faith in God, which was the greatest gift she gave us,' Mr. Kennedy said. He attended Mass every day in the year after his mother's death and continued to attend regularly, often a few times a week."
Edward Kennedy was "the only one of the Kennedy boys who had a semi-knowledge that his end was near." According to a family friend, "There were a lot of joyous moments in the end.....a lot of frankness, a lot of hugging, a lot of emotion."
The Kennedy mystique or the Kennedy myth has captured the imagination of people all over the world. As a child I was fascinated by the presidency of John F. Kennedy and the Camelot days. I was fascinated by Jacqueline Kennedy, her clothes and her stature. I followed the lives of John F. Kennedy Jr. and Caroline and was greatly saddened when John Jr. and his beautiful wife Carolyn and her sister were killed in a plane crash in 1999. 
I've heard over the years the myth or urban legend of the so called Kennedy curse. I don't believe it. On blogs circulating on the internet are myths about this "curse" and stories about its origin. I couldn't believe what I read. Some people actually believe that rabbi's (of all people) put a curse on the Kennedy family. How ridiculous! For all the trials, misfortunes and failures of the Kennedy clan there have been great successes too. The ones I'm most familiar with are: the Special Olympics started by Eunice Kennedy Shiver that has so positively impacted disabled people, the vision of the Kennedy brothers and the years of public service of Edward Kennedy. And also Robert Kennedy Jr. and his environmental work, most especially for Riverkeeper, an organization which is restoring the Hudson River. 
Rose Kennedy, the family matriarch was a devout Catholic. She was a daily communicant and a faith-filled woman. She prayed for her family. She endured the tragedies she had to face with faith, courage and the inner strength that faith gives. She buried four of her nine children before she died at the age of 104. Though she suffered, she knew about redemptive suffering, united to Jesus. She believed in eternal life, and a soul that survives bodily death. 
The Kennedy's have remained faithful to their Catholic faith through it all, through the most horrific circumstances and for that they should be praised. I believe they will continue to do good things for the country and for good causes and I hope this ridiculous myth of the Kennedy "curse," will die out.  The younger generations of Kennedy's will prosper and do great things as they move forward, with faith, courage and belief in God and God's mercy. 

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Carmelite Vocation

Some years ago, I decided to become a Lay Carmelite, a member of the Carmelite religious order, a Third Order member of the Order of Carmelites 
(O. Carms.). It was a big commitment and somewhat time consuming. At the time, my sons were in their teens. I had many obligations. I searched for a chapter that would work for me, with a meeting I could commit to. I tried a few different meetings in the tri-state area and various times, until I found the right fit. I had to study Carmelite spirituality which was fine for me, because one of the reasons I wanted to become a Lay Carmelite was my love of Carmelite spirituality. I had read the sublime mystical poetry of St. John of the Cross and his amazing life story in my 20's. I read the stories and writings of St. Teresa of Avila, (St. Teresa is the only woman who ever reformed a men's religious order. She was quite an extraordinary woman and a close friend of St. John of the Cross). I would later develop a great devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux and study her writings in depth but that was later. On the day of my profession, my aunt, the Italian matriarch of the family, (who can sometimes get information confused), told relatives that I was "carmelized" that day. Not exactly, it sounded like I had been covered in carmel candy! A Carmelite call is not that sweet. Fulfilling, enriching and a great path to a deep relationship with God, but the sweetness of carmel candy, not really. 
I once heard a Carmelite speaker say that Carmelites can be called to suffer. Suffering is part of the Carmelite vocation-for some. (Yet, Carmelites can produce "great fruit" for the Church while suffering.........St. John of the Cross would be an example. He wrote amazing poetry while imprisoned by his own religious order.) I never look for suffering but realistically it can happen to any of us. Jesus said it would. Suffering is part of the human condition.
I decided that between the Feast of the Assumption and the Feast of the Nativity of Mary was as good a time as any to write about my Carmelite spirituality.
And so that's the story of my Carmelite connection. At a recent Communion Breakfast with the Carmelites, in my chapter, one remark from a former director of the chapter was poignant. She said, "When I look around the room and see the deep spirituality these people have and the goodness in them, it makes me feel like crying." There is a lot of goodness in the Carmelite order. It's a great blessing in my life to be part of the Order. Historically known as the Third Order, the Lay Carmelite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mt. Carmel is made up mainly of lay persons like me. An interesting note about the Carmelites-the Order is named after a mountain range in the Holy Land called Mt. Carmel. Many religious orders are named after a person such as the Franciscans (St. Francis of Assisi), the Dominicans (St. Dominic) and so on. Members of the Third Order can be called Tertiaries, Third Order Carmelites, Secular Carmelites and the most common term-Lay Carmelites.

Prayer is a door that opens up to the mystery of God and at the same time furnishes us with the means of communing with God.  
St. Teresa of Avila-Doctor of the Church

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Falling Trees Everywhere I Look

Some of us in the NY tri-state area experienced a severe thunderstorm on Tuesday night, nearly 100 trees were felled in Central Park and hundreds were damaged. "It was the most severe destruction the park's trees had sustained in decades," said officials from the Department of Parks.... Beautiful, century-old trees were damaged or destroyed such as American elms, horse chestnuts, yellow buttonwoods and others." People can get very attached to certain trees. One man was quoted as saying that, "If you love trees, as we do, it's emotionally upsetting. You have personal relationships with certain trees and now they are gone." "The fast moving storm was described as  microburst or downburst with straight-line winds gusting at 70 miles per hour. It was severe is some parts of the city, unnoticed in others."
Where I live, I noticed it. First of all, I am a night person, which means I like to stay up late and read, write, blog or read blogs, pray and watch the news. (Sometimes I shop too, which is great being able to shop, right from home!)  I like the night, it's quiet and peaceful and so when the storm passed through the area where I live, I heard it. Luckily, it wasn't as violent as other parts of New York. And yet what I didn't know on Tuesday evening was a tree was damaged on our property and would later fall, blocking the street in front of our house.
Nature is so unpredictable like most of life. Severe storms can cause havoc and yet nature can also be beautiful, peaceful and calming for the soul. 

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Reasons To Believe

Dr. Scott Hahn the best-selling Catholic author and a convert to Catholicism is coming to Long Island, NY for a one day conference (comprised of three talks). The title of the conference is “Reasons to Believe,” and will take place on Saturday, Sept. 12th at Kellenberg High School in Uniondale. If you are interested in attending, call Toti Conforti at (516) 385-8963 or e-mail him at

Scott Hahn  entered the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in 1986. In his powerful account of what led to his conversion, described in his book, he tells of going to a Catholic Mass, though he was a Protestant minister. In chapter one in,  The Lamb’s Supper-The Mass As Heaven On Earth, he describes how he slipped into Mass in a Catholic chapel in Milwaukee to witness his first Mass as an “academic exercise." He tells that he was impressed with the concentration in prayer that the congregants had. What started as an academic exercise became a revelation for him. I will quote from the book, because it’s a very powerful account and I was very moved by it when I first read it. "As the Mass moved on something hit me. My Bible wasn’t just beside me. It was before me-in the words of the Mass. One line was from Isaiah, another from the Psalms, another from Paul. The experience was overwhelming. I wanted to stop everything and shout, ‘Hey can I explain what’s happening from Scripture? This is great.’ Still I maintained my observer status. I remained on the sidelines until I heard the priest pronounce the words of consecration, ‘This is my Body…This is the cup of my blood’………Then I felt all my doubt drain away…………..In less than a minute the phrase ‘Lamb of God’ had rung out four times. From long years of studying the Bible, I knew immediately where I was. I was in the Book of Revelation, where Jesus is called the Lamb no less than 28 times in 22 chapters. I was at the marriage feast that John describes at the end of that very last book of the Bible. I was before the throne of heaven, where Jesus is hailed forever as the Lamb. I wasn’t ready for this, though – I was at Mass!"

That’s a great story of conversion, revelation, epiphany all in one. I’m excited to hear Scott Hahn speak. It will be the first time I’ve attended one of his conferences. I told Toti (though I’ve never met him) that I would help publicize the event.  So if you’re reading this Toti, I’ve kept my promise.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Distractions in the Modern World

The world is changing quickly. Technology has shaken up plenty of life's routines,but for many people it has completely altered the once predictable rituals at the start of the day. This is morning in America in the Internet age. After six to eight hours of network deprivation-also known as sleep-people are increasingly waking up and lunging for cellphones and laptops, sometimes even before swinging their legs to the floor and tending to more biologically urgent activities. Some children are waking up and checking text messages and facebook posts from friends before they are fully awake and before breakfast. There seems to be a need to be in constant contact with others.  These insights are from a NY Times article titled, "Breakfast Can Wait. The Day's First Stop Is Online," by Brad Stone. One mother complained that, Things that I thought were unacceptable a few years ago are now commonplace in my house, like all four of us starting the day on four computers in four seperate rooms. For some, technology is taking away from quality family time. Some parents are trying to set limits on internet and cellphone use, especially in the morning, so families can eat breakfast together. 
Whenever I speak to parents about deepening faith in their children, I mention how important it is for children (and adults) to say a prayer when they first wake up, even a short prayer, to bring a spiritual, religious dimension to the beginning of their day and focus on God, even if it's for a few minutes. I believe that's helpful for the spiritual development of children. Yet the current news makes you wonder, if the lure of technology is just too tempting and interesting.
The world is changing quickly and in ways I find surprising. There are some trends I find alarming. Another online article I read, was warning parents that children are learning about sex on YouTube. According to the article, children are turning to YouTube, Google and Facebook to learn about sex.  The word "sex" is at the top of search lists. 
Parents have to be very alert and aware, more so now than ever. They have to be rooted in prayer themselves to deal with the challenges of parenting today.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Thin New Yorkers and Modern Day Stress

In a recent New York Times article, Where Thin People Roam, And Sometimes Even Eat, by Anne Barnard, according to a recent study, Manhattan has far thinner people than the rest of the country. It is also the thinnest county in New York State. Some people think one of the reasons people are so thin in Manhattan is they have to walk a lot and climb subway stairs. According to the article, "the borough's richest areas have the lowest obesity rates and, some argue, an obsession with thinness. It seems the "wealthy Manhattanites are afraid of not being able to fit into their expensive clothes," so they work out at gyms regularly and walk a lot. They also want to look good. "Everything is in excess in Manhattan, whether it's how beautiful you are, how thin you are or how hard you work." 
A few blogs ago, I wrote an entry about the benefits of cutting calories and losing weight and how important it is for good health and longevity. Exercise, which helps you lose weight, also reduces stress, which is a big problem in modern society. 
I just read an AOL article that stated more women than ever before are driving while drunk. One comment was that the stress of trying to be superwomen is causing women to drink more. One psychologist stated that she has seen "more excessive drinking, overeating, smoking and drug abuse during the recession." Working mothers who "have an extra burden to be the perfect mothers and perfect wives and perfect daughters and perfect everything." Because of that they have a bigger burden than most men do, according to Carol Goldman, a psychologist.
In my humble opinion, what works for me is I exercise and I pray a lot (prayer is essential to my daily routine and it gives me so many benefits I wouldn't know how to live without it!) I also like to read (and write obviously) and I recently found out that reading is relaxing and a stress reducer (but I already knew that). 
If you have a friend or relative who is stressed, try to help them in some way, even small acts of caring and support mean so much when you're overwhelmed. And pray for them as well.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ominous Clouds and Stormy NY Weather

The last "lite" blog entry was about laughter. Laughter is good for the mind, body and soul and it's highly recommended. But now back to serious stuff. I saw internet photos of ominous clouds over Louisville, Kentucky before the deluge on Tuesday. Heavy thunderstorms dumped 6"of rain in three hours. The weather left thousands without power and shut down the University of Louisville. Particularly upsetting to a book lover like me is that 3 1/2 feet of water inundated the main library's lower level in Louisville. Tens of thousands of books were lost. How unfortunate! 
In New York City and the entire tri-state area, we have been having a stormy summer as well. Also, this summer could go down as one of the coolest on record or the 2nd or 3rd coolest. The average temperature in July was 4 degrees below normal. It was the second wettest June and July on record, which was one reason for the low temperatures. One good thing is that reservoirs are at 97 percent capacity. I bring up the unusual weather because I found a Newsday article from 2007. (I'm always cutting out articles that interest me and saving them.)Anyhow, the article was titled, Harder Rains Will Fall Unless We Change written by Scott Carlin on July 20th, 2007. Highlighted in the article is the following, "Torrential downpours in one place, droughts in another-all signs of global warming that humans must reverse." 
I quote from the article, "Climate change is no longer a forecast. It is changing right before our eyes. It cannot be undone, but its intensity can be reduced if we, all 6 1/2 billion of us, put aside our differences and start seeing ourselves as one people, an Earth community. 
If you want to help, Busted Halo at has a series of articles titled, 50 Ways to Help Save the Earth-How You and Your Church Can Make a Difference. We can all do something, even using energy saving light bulbs or conserving water can make a difference. 
I believe that climate change and global warming are serious problems for our planet. We have not been good stewards of the Earth or cared properly for the beautiful creation given to us.  I hope that will change in the future and I hope the skeptics will begin to realize this is serious stuff, before it's too late and it can't be reversed. My hope is with young people, they understand that they have to do something and I'm confident they will. Brilliant minds, from all over the world,  are trying to find solutions to the problems we've created. I pray for their success.