Nov 24, 2007

Miracles for Mother

My Mother is a daily communicant who is preparing well for her death at an advanced age. She gives our family an excellent example of love, patience, long-suffering, forgiveness, good humor, and especially active and welcome interest in the lives of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Her lengthy morning prayers, including two daily rosaries, are surely some of the reasons our family is so blessed.

With less than adequate eyesight, Mother regularly misplaces things--glasses, hearing aid, ring, cane, etc. When she loses something, Jesus and St. Anthony always are called on to help her find her lost possession.

About ten days ago, she lost her cane and was quite agitated about it. She continued to pray fervently that the lost object show up. Mother says Jesus and St. Anthony never fail, especially as was demonstrated rather profoundly early this past week.

Coming home from morning Mass, she entered her bedroom to leave her purse. Mother said she was carrying her purse in her left hand and the backup cane in the right hand. She set her purse on the bedroom rug, then looked down at her hands. Two canes were there, one in the right hand and one in the left where her purse had just been. Both she and I couldn't explain this by any "of nature" cause, so we conclude it was an "of super-nature" phenomenon.

This is at least the third time she has found things in a miraculous way. Several years ago, Mother lost her wedding ring. My Dad has been dead for many years, and his gift to Mother was cherished. When she lost the ring, she looked thoroughly through her bedroom and the rest of the house, and others helped to look too. No ring was found.

After many of Mother's prayers and several weeks later, she walked into her bedroom to see an arm reaching to her dresser table. The arm quickly disappeared, and Mother still remembers it vividly. When Mother looked at the dresser top, her wedding ring was in plain sight. Mother told us she had carefully examined her dresser (and hers is not a unkempt place like mine!) several times before, and it was not there!

A third incident was the loss of her hearing aide. Again, after her many prayers to Jesus and St. Anthony, the device showed up in the middle of the bedroom floor which she had vacuumed twice since she had lost it.

Why does God perform these little miracles for Mother? I believe these are small signs from God that He listens to and loves my Mother. They also show the rest of our family why we need to ask Jesus more faithfully and consistently for our own small miracles!

A Town that Raises Children

The Redmen of Smith Center won the Kansas State Football Championship today at Lewis Stadium on the Fort Hays State University campus, capping their season with a 40-14 victory over St. Mary’s-Colgan of Pittsburg, KS. The Panthers of St. Mary's-Colgan themselves outscored their opponents 524-87 before their only loss to the Redmen of Smith Center. Between them, The Panthers and Redmen have combined to win the last eight 2-1A state titles.

The Redmen attracted national attention in the New York Times, ESPN, ABCNews, and The Kansas City Star because of their record score of 72-0 score over one opponent--after only playing the first quarter! Over the past several years, the Redmen have won 53 games in a row. During 2007, they scored a whopping 844 points compared to 20 by their opponents.

So what is and who is Smith Center, KS and Pittsburg, KS? (Girard, KS, too, who lost to St. Mary's-Colgan in a 42-41 double-overtime victory--a fantastically exciting game that I saw on September 21) Why are these students from small Kansas towns so successful in football, and presumably other things as well? Especially, why do the young men of the small Smith Center senior high school of 154 students win so grandly?

Wikipedia describes Smith Center as having less than 2,000 population, with about a third who are 65 years of age or older. In fact, the small north central Kansas town is home to the largest proportion of people over 85 in the country, with only twenty percent of the population under the age of 18. It is a very stable community with most of the residents being married couples living together. Only 6.1% of the population consists of a female householder with no husband present. The residents are not rich in money; Smith Center males had a median income amounting to only $25,833 versus $20,667 for females.

What seems to distinguish Smith Center residents is their cohesiveness (they all know one another), their peer- and elder-encouraged discipline, and the town's purposeful and outspoken ambition to raise good children. The New York Times reporter notes that the town wholeheartedly supports their football players and encourages good behavior by issuing player trading cards to the younger students.
The trading cards, for example, are not about hero worship. Each player and cheerleader signs a contract pledging to remain alcohol-, drug- and tobacco-free. If they break that promise, they must go to the elementary school to explain to the children why they were kicked off their team, and their cards are revoked.
The Redmen coach is quoted:
“What we do around here real well is raise kids. “In fact, we do such a good job at it — and I’m talking about the parents and community — that they go away to school and succeed, and then pursue opportunities in the bigger cities....What I hope we’re doing is sending kids into life who know that every day means something.”
When I heard about the successful Redmen, I remembered another team of a few years ago. That softball team won the state championship with a record of 40-0. The coach explained that only one student lived in a home without a father and mother (or stable step-parent). Winning students are always developed and encouraged by dedicated support from the community, especially parents and grandparents--just like Smith Center, Pittsburg' Catholic St. Mary's--Colgan, and Girard, KS. These communities incubate and nourish the religious and cultural ties and forces that develop winning futures for their children.

Nov 19, 2007

Lisi's Theory of Everything

God loves and created exceptional beauty in this world, and so I am intrigued by the new "theory of everything" developed by Dr. A. Garrett Lisi. He begins his paper with this observation:
Although it is interesting to consider that the universe may be the physical instantiation of all mathematics, there is a classic principle for restricting the possibilities: The mathematics of the universe should be beautiful. A successful description of nature should be a concise, elegant, unified mathematical structure consistent with experience.
Even if you don't understand elementary particles, you should marvel at Lisi's use of the exquisite E8 lattice (a 120-year old puzzle solved early this year by MIT) to unify gravity with electromagnetism and the strong and weak forces. [Better yet, take about 20 min to first explore The Particle Adventure, an excellent web introduction to elementary particles.] The rotating E8 lattice makes a remarkable 2-min YouTube video.

Nov 18, 2007

China Embracing Confucian Values? makes a persuasive case that China is switching from Marxism-Leninism to Confucian values. The author from Hong Kong, Alberto Serna, appears to have good insights on how China is changing. Whether China becomes more favorable to Christianity is still a matter of conjecture, although it sounds more and more possible.

The rebirth of Confucian values is everywhere. The Chinese Government has fostered the creation of Confucius Institutes all over the world to promote Chinese language and culture; the curricula in schools and universities pay now more attention to the Chinese classics; it is becoming fashionable in the media to use expressions with Confucian undertones. One of the outstanding publishing success stories of the last few years has been the sale of almost four million copies of a simplified version of Confucius’s Analects.......

...Confucian ethics imposes reciprocal rights and duties on rulers and citizens. It demands obedience to authority, but imposes on the Government the duty of moral behaviour in favour of the people, to the point that it justifies rebellion against tyranny. They have begun a one-way trip away from Marxist ideology. Furthermore, the new generation of Chinese leaders believes that their first loyalty is to China and its people, not to the CPP. They have a deep sense of mission and responsibility rooted in the Confucian ideals of a good ruler -- even if the West views them as a despotic autocracy....

What lies ahead for China if it shrugs off its socialist ideology completely? It is difficult to say, but certainly 21st century China will be deeply influenced by more than 2,000 years of immersion in Confucian values. It will value strong authority; social hierarchies; political consensus; a political elite; and social meritocracy. Some of the forms of Western democracy, even universal suffrage, will exist, but it is likely that political power will continue in the hands of a political aristocracy that will still call itself Communist Party of China, at least for the next few decades.

Scavenger Hunt for Grandsons

The weather was great and we invited children and grandchildren over after Sunday Mass for smoked bacon, fried eggs, hash browns, waffles, fruit juice, and chocolate milk. Three women prepared the breakfast so that it was ready in less than half an hour. The family enjoys this time together--especially the young cousins.

After everyone had eaten, I found our metal detector and asked two of our sons-in-law to lead teams of grandsons on a scavenger hunt. The yard was divided into half--one side for one team of young boys and the other side reserved for the second team. Coin tosses were used to determine which team captain got to choose the first member and to select the half of the yard that was his.

At "Ready, get set, GO!," the first team was given 20 min to find the most interesting metal objects. Boys on the team took turns using the metal detector to find potential sites, while their teammates used shovels and trowels to unearth the treasure. The second team went next. The Dad team captains supervised the return of grass sod to its former positions, so no harm was done to the lawn.

Our grandsons had a great time as they found an old screwdriver, hammer head, spoon (as the years have gone by, my supply has dwindled), a rusty oven door, old barrel hoops, and various metal pieces.

Yes, the girls filmed the scavenger hunt. I hope someday this video will remind them of the fun they once had with their Dads and their boy cousins in Granddad's and Grandma's backyard.


Kansas Citians can easily go in all directions, 360 degrees, to find great places to vacation at low cost and within a short distance. Our family has done so frequently--especially when we used to camp with our children.

North: Omaha Zoo; eagles and geese at Swan Lake Refuge; St. Joseph historical sites; Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary at Denton, NB; the Strategic Air & Space Museum, and Indian Cave State Park--a favorite of my husband.

Southeast: The Ozark mountains with their beautiful fall-colored trees; Silver Dollar City; many great Branson shows; some of the nicest canoeing streams in the U.S., very large natural springs and fish hatcheries, and lots and lots of lakes and caves.

East: Small towns along the Missouri River; many hiking and biking trails; lakes and streams; and St. Louis and the Mississippi River.

West: Leavenworth and its historical Fort and frontier museum; KU's Natural History Museum--skip the fifth floor dedicated to the theory of evolution, but do see their collection of thousands of arrowheads, and don't miss their large panorama of animals and plants; the Flint Hills; and great fishing at several large Corps of Engineer impoundments.

This fall, our trip was to the southeast--to northern Arkansas and southern Missouri. I particularly enjoyed the fish hatchery and stream at Roaring River, the small state ferry across Norfolk Lake, seeing early morning canoers on the Buffalo River, finding a persimmon grove (see photo of large persimmons we picked and are eating daily), Blanchard Springs Caverns (discovered relatively recently, and well preserved and developed as a federal site), and an absolutely wonderful lunch buffet for $6.95 at Myrtie Mae's in Eureka Springs. Here are a few photos of our trip.

Pope is Moving Faster

Even though (or perhaps because) he is 80 years old, Pope Benedict is moving faster to implement his goals. The Telegraph's Damian Thompson describes how the Pope is "revealing his programme of reform. And it is breathtakingly ambitious."
The 80-year-old Pontiff is planning a purification of the Roman liturgy in which decades of trendy innovations will be swept away. This recovery of the sacred is intended to draw Catholics closer to the Orthodox and ultimately to heal the 1,000 year Great Schism. But it is also designed to attract vast numbers of conservative Anglicans, who will be offered the protection of the Holy Father if they covert en masse.

The liberal cardinals don't like the sound of it at all.

The full article is here.