Sunday, August 1, 2010

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

It was a weekend retreat at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio --- at its Defending The Faith Conference. I’ve gone there every year for about 10 years or more, and it is my R&R, my retreat, and my vacation --- in 3 days. I took my friend Pat there the year before her stroke; it was very slow going to get around, lots of rest stops, but she had great fun. If you want to go along next year, I always like company. This year there were over 1300 attendees. It is a good conference, on a beautiful campus, with good speakers: Scott & Kimberly Hahn, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Dr.Alan Shreck, and a variety of others who you would recognize.

It was beautiful weather, and I managed to nap for a couple of hours under a big oak tree on Saturday afternoon on the pillow and blanket I always bring to the conference --- I come prepared! In between the talks, masses, and the absolutely-nothing-like-it holy hour, I managed to read a novel I’ve had on the shelf for a few months. I saw bunnies everywhere on the campus, and unlike the ones at my house these didn’t run – they just stand there eating, ignoring you as you watch from a foot away. Everything on the campus is peaceful. I wrote a few meditations while I sat in the chapel saying my morning or evening prayers, but you’ll see those another day. Tonight I just want to jot down and share a few of the snippets of wisdom and delight I received over the weekend.

On the five-hour drive to the conference I listened to Glenn Beck’s book The Christmas Sweater. Read by the author, it will give you a side of Mr. Beck you never hear spoken of; you’ll hear of the huge failure he had in his life, his reaction, and how he recovered from his reaction. For me, it confirmed much of my thinking about dealing with failure, which I recently wrote about, but this is a first person story, told very frankly. It is a story that could have been mine, could have been yours, and his reactions to the pain of failure is perhaps one you have heard before, especially if you have a teen-ager in your house. But it is also a story of great hope. It’s worth listening to, if you are not a reader.

On the drive home I listened to The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch. Very popular on the internet, The Last Lecture is just that: the last lecture of a dying professor at Carnegie Mellon. A man with great successes in his life, he summarizes his childhood goals and their achievement, and then gives 60 “lessons learned” points --- you’ll probably agree with the vast majority of them. He dedicated his final lecture to his students, his friends and staff, and his family – including his three children under the age of six. Many things are touching, many are words of wisdom, but I came away with a feeling that it was a celebration of his life and what he had done, and what he wishes will continue to be done. HIS life; the word God is not mentioned once, although he did say that his minister sent him good wishes. Although I had not planned it that way, it was an interesting contrast to the Glenn Beck book --- God was all-important in one; and not mentioned in the other. One said what God did; the other said what he did. I came away from Mr Pausch’s book thinking that anyone with great brains, great drive, and great self-confidence can accomplish almost anything, especially if they follow some of the lessons he learned along the way. Strangely, though, he never mentions what others might do, who do not possess those blessings – and they cannot be learned despite his supporting “lessons.” Mr. Pausch based his book on his success in life; Mr. Beck based his on his failure in life. There is a lot to be learned from either one, but I think that Mr. Beck found real joy in his life, while Mr. Pausch noted that he did all the things he wanted to make himself happy. There is a difference.

In Glenn Beck’s book he mentions a man he describes as “like a Dutch Uncle” --- I had forgotten that term. A Dutch Uncle tells you the honest truth that no one else has the guts to say to you, but in such a caring way that you take the words very seriously. We all need a Dutch Uncle in our lives; I hope in some small way I may be one to you.

I saw some great some great Catholic commercials, which might be airing in your area soon. You can see them on, and get information on how to get them aired in your diocese. Surveys indicate that up to 200,000 Catholics have come home in dioceses where the commercial blitz has aired. For those who are wondering what Jane Roe of Roe v Wade is thinking lately, there is a video of her on --- very interesting. There is also a new site out you may want to visit called There is also a wonderful conversion story of a minister and his family --- now a Catholic priest and his family --- on the blog And now just a few pieces of wisdom I heard;

Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.

If sugar water in the hummingbird feeder were replaced with Nutri-Sweet water, the hummingbirds will die. They die of starvation, getting no needed nutrients despite feeling full. We are like the hummingbirds when we take in the fake satisfactions that the world gives us.

The world offers you comfort. You were not made for comfort; you were made for greatness! (from Pope Benedict XVI’s initial address in Rome)


  1. What a wonderful vacation you had! That is exactly the kind of vacation I would like to take!

    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on the two books you listened to during the drive. I have not read either one, but had heard much about "The Last Lecture". I will be looking for "The Christmas Sweater", it sounds wonderful!

    Loved the piece about the hummingbird-it makes so much sense! That was from Pope Benedict? What a brilliant Pope we have!

  2. I also have to thank you for the heads up on "Encourage" What a great website! I had not heard of it before, but I am sure that I will be visiting it often and making good use of it. I will most likely write a post about it as well. My son John is 16 years old and is considering the priesthood. This site will be a great support to him, I am sure. He works on an international website with a boy from England called "A Vocation to be a Priest". I'm sure they will be able to make good use of this site as well! Thank you again, so very much! I think you are a Dutch Uncle!

  3. Anne, if you think my words are any good you need to be spending more time with your family -- certainly it is a waste here. Surely there are so many better websites (and certainly books) than this tripe. And surely the greatest wisdom you receive is directly from Him, for you to pass on to your loved ones.

    Relative to the vacation, the offer was sincere. Next year drag the family along, I'd be happy to help with the cost. Relative to the hummingbird quote, you misread my intent: only the last line was a quote from our pope.

    Relative to the website, I agree it is very good. Tom Peterson, the author of the Coming Home site and this one spoke at the conference. If I can somehow get a link to those sites, I'll add it somewhere here on this blog. I wish your son John the greatest wisdom in discerning his primary vocation in life; it is a tough decision. I follow the blogs of a Franciscan and a Capuchin in formation -- I try to give them some positive comments on the days when they appear down.

  4. We had hoped to go to the conference this year, but my mother-in-lawe got sick. We actually got to taste a bit of it last year by accident as we just happened to be at Steubenville to visit the "Port" for the plenary indulgence!

    Maybe next year.

    By the way, I responded to your prayer meme tag.

  5. Much food for thought. Steubenville brings back memories (my son graduated from there) of many spiritual experiences that bubbled up from who knows where to hit me like 2 x 4's. Will re-read this post again later this evening. k

  6. Well, perhaps we have the making of an outing next year! I guess we'll have to stay tuned for God's plans.

    Thanks Lee and KAM for the visit, and the prayers. One of the things that keeps me going back to FUS is the witness that is always done by one of the students, this year by a graduating student who went to Franciscan U. "just for the academic program." One conversion later, needless to say she was surprised at what she DID learn.