Sunday, August 30, 2009

Freshmen orientation at DeSales University

Day 1: all smiles upon arrival at DeSales University

We just arrived home in Colorado after dropping off our daughter to begin her freshman year at DeSales University.

She was able to move-in a few days before the regular move-in day because she signed up to attend a "pre-orientation service opportunity" with the campus center for social justice. They had about 30 or so kids who came early and a few peer mentors from the upper classes. The kids worked on a "Peace Garden" spreading mulch and pulling weeds. They also visited the elderly in an Alzheimer's unit of a nursing home, stocked a food pantry, and did some cleaning for different nursing homes and church-related charities. They also had some fun--movie night and mini-golf.
A lovely covered bridge over the Jordan River

While our daughter was doing her service projects, my husband and I took the opportunity to do some local sight-seeing. (The bus ride from Newark airport to the Allentown airport convinced us to avoid driving into NYC, as we had considered doing one day). We went on a covered bridge tour and did some wine tasting at two local wineries (one of which, Amore Winery , is owned by Dr. Greg Amore, who is a psychologist and head of counseling at DeSales). We also did some walking around historic Bethlehem, and a short hike at the Trexler Nature Preserve . Afterwards, we dined at the Schnecksville Diner. Their sign advertized: We make our own pies. They must've had at least two dozen different pies, but no pecan pie (my husband's favorite...I guess there really is a Mason-Dixon line!)
Wildlife spotted near the nature preserve

And we also spent a lovely day in Nazareth, home of the C.F. Martin Guitar Company, which we toured. (It's free!) And ate a lovely lunch across the parking lot from the factory, at a place the lady at the reception desk recommended. (Mivajo's Pizza; very good.)
All in all, we were very impressed with DeSales University and it's Catholic identity. However, it was rather disappointing to go to daily mass at the university and find there were only the three of us and one or two others in attendance. Once classes begin, the number of students attending daily mass goes up to about a dozen or so, but my daughter has already met some classmates who plan on going to daily mass together, so our hope is that the numbers will start to swell and they'll have to move out of the priests' house and into the regular chapel for daily mass. One of the priests who lives at DeSales is Fr. John Harvey, the founder of Courage . He can often be seen con-celebrating mass with one of the many Oblates of St. Francis de Sales who are in residence there.

Saturday evening was the opening mass and induction of the class of 2013. Father President Bernard O'Connor, OSFS, was the celebrant and he gave a wonderful homily about sacrificial love, service to God and others, and finding your true vocation. The field house was the site of the mass, which was attended by all 400 or so of the incoming freshmen, their families and faculty of DeSales. It was probably at least 90 degrees inside, but no mention was made of the air conditioning being broken, so I was left with the impression that they had no a/c in the field house. Despite the heat, the mass was beautiful and no one passed out.

The freshmen class was asked to stand and recite together their class pledge, which I will quote below:

As a member of the 45th class of DeSales University
I ask to be formed in the tradition of Christian Humanism,
As taught and promoted by this Salesian university.
I pledge to be an active part of my formation
Into the principled and thoughtful Christian Gentleman or Gentlewoman
That God has called me to be.

I seek to blend my love of knowledge with my love of God
And to continue to be open to the Mystery of Truth and Beauty,
I pledge to grow in the true strength a gentle character gives;
To pursue the good rather than to just avoid evil;
And to prepare myself to assume my unique vocation
As a mature believer, a responsible and global citizen,
And a co-creator of the Kingdom of God.

I pledge to be open to all learning,
Respectful of the God who is in me and in all others,
And to bear the good name of this university proudly
At all times and places.

I pledge to make a sincere effort
To understand myself more truthfully every day
So that I may, in turn, discern the movement of God in my life
And to treat others with the same dignity and compassion
As I should treat myself.

As I pledge my effort,
I ask for the support of family, classmates and friends,
The support and guidance of the University's Faculty and Staff
And, most of all, the support of my God.

May I grow in knowledge, wisdom and grace
So as to become the person I was created to be,
And to be that well,
For the good of others and the glory of God.

Fr. O'Connor mentioned the incoming freshman class had one member from India and "as far away as Colorado..." I think our daughter may be the only student west of the Mississippi in her class. We met many, many families who said they chose DeSales because other schools were "too far from home." The vast majority of the people we met were from an hour or two away. I hope this doesn't mean our daughter will be one of the few left in the dorms on the weekends! (Don't worry, Lizzy, I know you'll be a frequent guest at people's homes.)

Two icons leading the procession into the field house for the opening Mass

The spirit of St. Francis de Sales is evident throughout the university. In the mass procession on Saturday evening, the freshmen were preceded by two students carrying large icons of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal. All the dorms are named after Oblates. One of the dorms is a new and beautiful building named for St. Leonie Aviat, one of the founders of the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales. We left a rather sad and homesick young lady at a school that is 1700 miles from home. We are confident she is in good hands, but we pray the school's Catholic identity is ignited by the Holy Spirit and that more faithful Catholic families send their kids there.

The freshman class of 2013: arrayed in their colored t-shirts for orientation

-->Late breaking update: Our Lizzy has since reported a huge increase in daily Mass attendance, as well as 25 or so students who showed up to pray the rosary outside an abortion clinic in Allentown this past Saturday. The pro-life student group is thrilled. Many of the students who came are new freshmen.

We love you, Lizzy!

New York priests' ordination

I was going to attempt writing a book review on a fluff-book called The Dream Giver, by Bruce Wilkinson, best known as the best-selling author of The Prayer of Jabez. My posting was going to be about how the book merely begins to speak to the human heart which will not find peace until it rests in God. I was going to try to explain how the book could be used to ignite a spark in a high school senior getting ready for graduation, or a new college graduate who doesn't know what comes next, but for me, it was rather a dud.

Instead, watch this YouTube clip. It really says everything much better than I.

"For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary;for those who do not believe in God, no explanation is possible." Franz Werfel, author of The Song of Bernadette.

~Thanks to The Deacon's Bench for the YouTube link.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sad duty

Image from

I helped my husband with the sad duty of clearing out his brother's effects from his apartment today. His brother had leased a small apartment in Colorado to use while he was here working and getting ready to move his family to Colorado from California.

We were both pretty snappy at each other as we worked. Hating what we had to do while at the same time knowing we were the best ones for the job.

Towards the end of clearing out the apartment I just couldn't take it anymore. I was so angry and sad at the same time. I'm not normally a crier. I was pretty stoic for four years at Annapolis. I was stoic (if not slightly cheery) when I dropped off the first four kids at their respective colleges. But this sad duty breaks my heart.

There's so much to say, yet it's so incredibly difficult to say.

I'll be holding down the fort while my husband and his mom fly to California for the funeral. We were considering driving the van the 1250 miles each way so that we could all be there to support his widow and the cousins, but two of my kiddos are quite sick with strep and some sort of croupy-coughy thing that wakes them up at night feeling like they can't breathe. During the day it's just a horrid croaky froggy sounding cough. But we decided putting them in a closed car for 20+ hours to get to California wouldn't be good for them or for the other passengers. So when Mom decided to stay with two of the kids, it made more sense to stay with all of them so Dad could fly and be totally available to help in whatever way he's needed. Flying gets him there in part of a day instead of two days and he's better able to help.

Okay, so I'm trying to look at the bright side of this. But really, there is no bright side. At least not for now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Please pray

For my brother-in-law, who died suddenly and very tragically yesterday, and for his wife and two daughters. He is also the brother of Mary, at Hilltop Farm.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Eric Genuis--again

Eric wrote this song about his newborn son who died shortly after he was born. It was performed at a pro-life benefit concert in Connecticut last year. If you like it, check out the other video below this one.

Eric Genuis: Catholic classical composer

The pianist in this video is a good friend of mine and I just discovered this video on Youtube. If you like it, there are many more of Eric. You can also find out more about him at his website:

Music to stir the soul (or at least mine)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Awesome guest at kids' play

The lead singer of the Fray attended my daughter's play the other night. He told her she did a good job of singing and acting in her role as "Mac TeaVea" the computer-obsessed kid in Willy Wonka.

Pretty cool.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Experts prove: Government should mandate all Americans have large families in order to fight global warming


The front page story (below the fold) of today's Wall Street Journal disturbed me greatly. I suppose I was naive to think that the government was going to do something with those old "clunkers" it proposes to take off the roads. Like recycle them or use them for spare parts.

Not so.

The engines of operable vehicles must be destroyed beyond repair per the government's requirement for car dealers wishing to take part in their "cash for clunkers" reimbursement plan.

Somehow, the government's reasoning goes, trading in an operable vehicle that gets 18 mpg for a new one that gets 26 mpg is better for the environment. It doesn't matter that we fill the landfills with thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of old vehicles that someone could still drive. We are reducing carbon emissions by taking them off the road and replacing them with more fuel efficient models.

Where are all the Green People? Why no outcry of injustice for the environment? Is it because we want our share of the government's benevolent handout?

My 9 year old son tried a similar tactic this morning. When told he couldn't play with his Game Boy anymore today and that his younger brothers would certain rat on him if he tried to hide in the closet to play, he tried offering them a chance to play his Game Boy. Good old fashioned bribery.

The government is bribing us to look the other way at its asinine programs.

And while I'm on the subject, what about those mercury-filled fluorescent light bulbs that are supposed to be so green? We're supposed to call the haz-mat folks if we break one and we're supposed to pay extra to dispose of them via hazardous waste. How many of us just toss them into the garbage with the rest of our trash?

Here's my proposal for reducing our carbon footprint: Everyone have at least a half-dozen kids and drive a big van. Don't buy cars for each kid. Let them ride a bike or walk if they have to go somewhere without you. Otherwise, drive everyone in the big van. One big van that gets 12 mpg (that's city driving) but transports 8 to 15 people is a heck of a lot more fuel efficient than 2 people driving their so-called Smart cars to the mall on Sunday to buy long-life light bulbs and organic dog food for their child-free-condo-with-pool-lifestyle.

Let's do the math, using my family as our sample set: Twelve people ride in a 15 passenger van to church on Sunday, taekwondo several times per week involving 8 of us, various homeschool activities (music, drama, etc.) throughout the week. Let's say we log 300 miles per week (a common occurrence). At 12 mpg, we use about 25 gallons per week. Here's the clincher: divide 25 gallons per week by 12 people and you get barely over 2 gallons PER PERSON per week.

Let's take 12 people driving Smart cars that get 33 mpg (city driving). Assume those 12 people share rides, so they use 6 cars. If they only travel a total of 300 miles, that's 50 miles per car, or 1.5 gallons per car per week. Multiply 1.5 gallons per car times 6 cars, means 9 gallons of gas used to transport those 12 Smart car owners a grand total of 300 miles.

That means 15 passenger vans are four and one-half times as fuel efficient as Smart cars! Just think about how fuel efficient they would be if we actually transported 15 people each week! My mind is reeling with the possibilities.

Perhaps the government should start by mandating each family have at least 8 children. The carbon footprints per person would be vastly decreased. And we could all sleep soundly at night knowing that we're doing our part to save the planet from global warming.

Not this

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Geography lesson: driving to Portland on the way to Indonesia

Got any extra prayers (or pray-ers) floating around? Send a few out our way, please.

My eldest, Maria, is on her way to Bali, Indonesia, by way of Portland.

She and her boyfriend and two of his younger siblings drove from Arvada, Colorado to Portland, Oregon yesterday morning and arrived safely this afternoon. (Thank you, Lord!)

But the best is yet to come as they are planning on flying from Portland to Vancouver, BC; then on to Tokyo, Japan; followed by Singapore; completing their trip to Bali.

View Larger Map

Her boyfriend grew up in Indonesia and is fluent in the language and they'll be staying with his folks, so she'll be pretty safe once they get there. It's the getting there that has to happen first.

And to think when I was a kid, taking the train to St. Louis from Denver was a big adventure!

Postcards from France

Lizzy is in France for a couple of weeks, staying with relatives of old friends. They have taken her to Bandol, between Marseille and Toulon, in the south of France for her entire stay.

View Larger Map

She wrote each of her family members postcards from France, which arrived in today's mail. She gets home Monday, so we will see her soon, but it is so nice to "hear" her voice today in her postcards.

Well, Dad is right—heaven is French cooking. In the past week I’ve had croissants and baguettes that would make the Costco bakery die of shame. The soups and salads are feasts in themselves and the wine (of course) is exquisite. But the French people sparkle as much as the sea itself.

When a Frenchman speaks, every word sounds like a song that the world would pause to hear. No wonder theirs is a romantic language!

Here everything seems to sing—from the strange, tangy ocean breeze to the far-off hum of a cruise ship skimming the horizon. The cicadas fiddle ceaselessly in the pine trees, the gulls caw one to another, the terns cry to the sunlight on the waves—even the sailboats swish and creak like soft flutes. Behind it all I hear the quiet breathing of the surf against the shore. I wish you were here to listen to it all with me.
The ocean has dozens of shifting moods and it changes them often, “like a girl changes clothes.” Tonight, as dusk settles cloudless and clear, the sea is but a peaceful kitten breathing softly in its sleep. When the wind awakens it and churns its waves to snow-white froth, I fancy I can hear its cougar-like scream. At other times, the sea cat only wants to play. Then it bats its velvet paws against the wooden hills of fishing boats. But tonight, all I hear is the ocean’s heartbeat: a steady, pounding thrum.

All the French have voices that could charm the wind, or make it stop to dance. The wind is often set to dancing here—whether with the flapping terns or the laughing gulls, the sunlit waves or the tropic flowers. When the people dance (as our friends do nightly), they choose American pop tunes—Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, and garish rap are among the favorites—and American dances that oddly resemble those of the Roaring Twenties. ( I think I shattered their iconic image of Americans when I voiced my preference for Taylor Swift!)

No I haven’t seen any dolphins yet; they don’t live near Marseilles (I’ve been told they don’t live in this ocean at all). I have, however, seen some greenish-gray eels swimming in tight figure eights near the dock, with sudden flashes of white light bursting from their sides. Electric eels!

I have yet to swim far out from shore, but I heard other swimmers warn of poisonous jellyfish near the beach and even great white sharks farther out.

The views here are spectacular—from the vast expanse of crinkling ocean, to the rocky gray islands, to the wind-twisted evergreens with roots exposed to the elements.

More flowers grow here, it seems, than anywhere else in Europe. I’ve photographed loads of them in perfect late afternoon light (and even an amateur like me can take a decent picture of these gorgeous blossoms). Perhaps you’ll want to paint a few, once I’ve shown them to you. Till then, I miss you and I wish you were here!

We love you, too, Lizzy. And we miss you! See you soon.