An Overabundance of Hugs

What a treat it was to see the cover of your Aug. 17 issue! The tiny hand being held by the elderly hands of the therapist belongs to my daughter Nora. Daystar, where Nora receives treatments, is a wonderful place that provides foster care and also respite care for infants with special needs.

Nora has been treasured, wanted and loved from the time she was conceived, through her diagnosis with Trisomy 18 and after her birth, as we adjusted to taking care of a tiny infant who we were told would not survive.


Trisomy 18 (the presence of a third 18th chromosome) most often results in medical issues so severe that the vast majority of children with it do not survive beyond infancy. The medical literature said it was “incompatible with life” or that the few survivors could not enjoy “quality of life.” Social workers cautioned us about the stress it can put on a marriage and on other children. None of that mattered. We welcomed Nora into our lives with no expectations for anything but giving her the same love we would to any other child, for as long as we would be blessed to have her. Miraculously, she just celebrated her ninth birthday! She does have medical and developmental issues, none of which affect her (or our) perception of quality of life, and she is comfortable, happy, healthy and cherished by those in her life. Our family is closer and stronger for having her.

In short, Nora lives at home with an adoring brother and sister, and a proud mommy and daddy, and she would heartily dispute the idea that she “suffers” from anything, unless you count an overabundance of tickles, hugs and dog kisses.

Lauren Sample

Rochester, N.Y.

Up Is Really Down

Regarding the “Wheels of Misfor-tune” (Current Comment, 9/14), I suspect that the location of the Taconic Parkway disaster in West-chester County is more accurately described as “downstate” rather than “upstate.” Perhaps from America’s point of view, upstate begins at West 262nd Street.

Joe McMahon

Seaford, N.Y.

From Screen to Classroom

William J. O’Malley, S.J., is brilliant, as always, in “Faulty Guidance” (9/14)—yet another amazing article from his pen for America. For all who hear his call to engage movies as “plows,” try taking kids through “The Bells of St. Mary’s” (1945), “The Cardinal” (1963) and “Dogma” (1999) to show them the evolution of Catholic images in popular culture. Compare and contrast the views of religious life shown by Audrey Hepburn in “The Nun’s Story” (1959) and the images of the sisters in “The Sound of Music” (1965). Also, have them check out “The Mission” and “Black Robe.” Show “Entertaining Angels” (Dorothy Day’s life story) and “Roses in December” (about Jean Donovan). Show them “On The Waterfront.”

Most kids desperately want to find a way to live the call to heroism in “Varsity Blues” and ignore the siren call of the “American Pie” movies. Most college kids really need to learn that college should be “With Honors” and not “Animal House.” “Places in the Heart,” “First Knight,” “Life Is Beautiful,” “Hotel Rwanda,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “Pay It Forward,” “Remember the Titans,” “Hoosiers,” “Rudy”, “Patch Adams” and the Internet Movie Database’s No. 1, “The Shawshank Redemption.” There are many good movies out there.

Movies can be powerful tools for preparing people, both young and older, to have hearts that want to know the reality and power of Christ’s presence and grace in our lives. Father O’Malley is so right: Start with the stories!

Rick Malloy, S.J.

Philadelphia, Pa.

Gotta Know the Territory

William O’Malley, S.J., never ceases to hit the nail right on the head. As a teacher who has labored “in the trenches” of high school for more than 30 years, I continue to marvel at his ability to view his students with such a clear eye and the tasks before us with such level-headed passion. I’ll be sure that all of my colleagues have a copy of this article in their mailboxes tomorrow morning. Like “The Music Man’s” Harold Hill, Father O’Malley knows the territory very well.

Fred Herron

Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Mystical Connection

As a former high school teacher of religion and for many years a teacher of freshmen and women in college theology, I say bravo to William O’Malley, S.J. Thank God for his courage in objecting to this out-of-touch document. His words will be balm to many a person trying to impart the faith to contemporary youngsters. My years of teaching convinced me that we were missing the boat in precisely the ways he outlines. It is the mystical connection that students crave and seek outside a church that insists on giving them (a) history or (b) dogmatic assertions. Is there someone in the hierarchy who will listen?

Mary Aquin O’Neill, R.S.M.

Baltimore, Md.

The Way of Jesus

Amen! Jesus played with children and taught adults. We always have it backwards. I am a convert. I give thanks every day of my life that I am a product of neither Sunday school nor catechism class—just an encounter with Jesus and a love for liturgy.

Linda Ballard, O.S.C.

Woburn, Mass.

Vernacular for What Counts

Re: “The New Old Liturgy” (Current Comment, 9/14): I still feel, after almost 40 years as a priest, that the Mass and all other liturgical celebrations should be celebrated in the same language in which the announcements about the collection are made.

John Kane, C.M.

Opelika, Ala.

The Risk of Public Service

Re: “Camelot’s End” (Editorial, 9/14). Whatever criticism could be leveled at Edward M. Kennedy—and admittedly he deserves some—it cannot be denied he took the risk of public service, and this country knows the price both he and his family paid for taking that risk. For this reason Senator Kennedy, regardless of one’s personal opinion concerning his conduct public or private, deserves and should receive the respect of all Americans. This is not to say everything he did or said in life was right or wrong. It is simply to acknowledge his humanity and our own. If we make such an acknowledgement then we can safely ask God’s mercy for Edward M. Kennedy’s soul and ours as well.

Edison Woods

Gulf Breeze, Fla.

Chipping Away Civility

I think your editorial was a fair and respectful appraisal of Senator Kennedy. But I think you missed an important aspect of his life. You bemoan the loss of civility in our current political discourse. But Ted Kennedy himself certainly helped chip away at that dam. In 1987, on the floor of the Senate and on national television, he said the following about the Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork:

Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, school children could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy.

Those vicious words marked the beginning of a new era in partisan politics. And it just seems to be getting worse.

James Hamel

Temple Hills, Md.

A Christian Heart

There were some times in the past when I deplored Ted Kennedy’s personal failings and his defense of the pro-choice position. But beginning in the 1980s, when even Democrats were bailing out on the poor and the marginal, Ted was still there fighting for them. And he never stopped. He did not fear being called unpatriotic when he voted against giving President Bush the authority for the war in Iraq. In my mature years, I see the integrity in his public life. In the newly discovered small and personal gestures toward the grieving, the sick and the outcasts that were taking place out of the range of photographers and reporters, I see a wise and big heart—a Christian heart, in fact.

Winifred Holloway

Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

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9 years ago
In the letter "Chipping Away Civility," the writer takes Ted Kennedy to task for remarks made about the nomination of Robert Bork to the US Supreme Court. The writer's point is that Kennedy's remarks contributed to the loss of civility in public discourse. Not so. Kennedy's remarks were directed to Bork's political and legal positions as set out in articles and legal opinions he had written and speeches he had given. Kennedy's remarks were not on a par with, for example, the lies contained in ad hominem attacks directed at President Obama spun out by the birthers or that he supports death panels. 
9 years ago
I certainly agee with O'Malloy when he writes:
"Movies can be powerful tools for preparing people, both young and older, to have hearts that want to know the reality and power of Christ's presence and grace in our lives."
- but does the belief in "Christ's presence and grace in our lives" depend on the belief that Christ is the Son of God, Himself divine, the Second Person of the Trinity, One who instituted the Church?  Or will any acceptance of Christ as a model human being do?  If the former, belief not only in the Divine Christ but in the dogmas and sacraments of the Church is required - and it is there that instruction of the Roman Catholic is critical. For if one is merely to accept Christ as a model human being, which of us, acting only within the limits of reason assisted by our universal belief in the mystery of love, would not see that to "do unto others as we would have them do unto us" - the essential social message of the Church - is all that we need?  What need have we of dogmas and sacraments - unless they are truly more than meditations and symbols?  And if merely symbols, why claim and demand more?  If merely that, why should there be a distinction of the Catholic Church from the other churches that have accepted most of those as, indeed, no more that that: meditations and symbols?
Believers of any faith do not want to talk about the above, yet there it is, staring one in the face.
Films and other things that "prepare" students and older persons to "have hearts" are certainly good, but while that is underway, if one hopes that they will be Roman Catholics, there had better be some solid, deep-down-diving,long-down-staying,mud-up-bringing rational theological examination of what it means to distinguish themselves as such. I don't see that happening, I especially do I not see it happening in high school religion courses, courses that urge good works and social justice, but have very little if anything to say about the mysteries of the Faith.  But unless the mysteries of the Catholic Faith are examined deeply, we have only the "feel-good about doing-good" message that  any sound philosophy accepts and furthers without the assistance of any religion.
       L. Swilley


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