The primary symbol of our country is our flag, the “stars and stripes.” Closely connected to our flag is the song Star-Spangled Banner, based on an 1814 poem by Maryland lawyer Francis Scott Key (1779-1843). It is customary to stand and doff one’s cap when our anthem is performed at the beginning of every sporting event. There is, by the way, no obligatory rubric about other songs at the ballpark. America the Beautiful, a 1910 tune by Katherine Bates and… Read more

There is a serious downside to use of computers and mobile devices, according to recent medical and social science reports. Several essays and books likewise point to the danger. Nonetheless concerned parents or stressed-out workers still reach superficial or incorrect conclusions about the internet and tech devices. For example, some well-meaning people say internet problems are due strictly to content. Don’t view porn and other trash, they continue, and you will be OK. To better understand the influence of technology,… Read more

Beginning in this century’s early days many towns and mid-sized cities explored strategies for post-industrial life. Maybe the big-box retail store near the Interstate can do the trick, despite its obvious limitations. Maybe a new soccer stadium will entice people to come back downtown in the evening. Maybe marketing our town’s tourist attractions will lead others to invest here. Hundreds of urban planners got interested in Richard Florida, who caused a stir with his prescriptive Rise of the Creative Class… Read more

Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati was the setting for a recent conference about young adult Catholics. It was a positive conference because no one complained about bishops, priests or Vatican policy. And no one faulted young adults for disaffection from worship or for their lifestyle. By design, several conference presentations were about bygone people and events. But the gathering was not a nostalgia trip. The conversation was forward-looking. The tone of the conference was directed outward toward work, family… Read more

Most grammar school and high school students encounter Cesar Chavez (1927-1993) in one or another textbook. He is heralded as a pioneer in organizing agricultural workers and as a champion of Mexican-Americans. So in September 1965 who were those farm workers who went on strike and whose action launched a boycott that brought Chavez to national attention? The workers were Filipino-Americans. Today’s students and others probably assume that farm worker unions hardly existed until Chavez and others created the National… Read more

It was in post-World War II Poland that a positive turn occurred in the theology of work. For centuries Catholicism, with some important exceptions, gave pride of place to worldly abandonment, including a degree of disdain for normal work. In the prevailing Catholic understanding a saint-worthy spirituality meant intense contemplation which required a retreat from ordinary workaday obligations. This attitude was derived in part from Hellenistic and Gnostic influences. It was also partially a byproduct of too close an association… Read more

Go to the barbershop and get a hold of The Atlantic (June/18). Its cover features a baby in a Yale University outfit. Matthew Stewart contributes a 14-page article that gives fresh perspective to our economic scene. In recent years the class divide has been termed the 99% and the 1%. Years ago it was called bourgeois and proletariat. I’ve also heard it called the upper crust and the working stiffs, or the big shots and the rest of us. The… Read more

Let’s say there is a society in which everyone honors contracts—formal ones and implied promises. Managers and their employees abide by their collective bargaining agreement. Car dealers transparently present their vehicles; customers pay their loans. Real estate agents advertise “open housing” and then do not discriminate. Tax returns contain accurate figures. Civil courts are the rarity. Yet, says Pope Pius XI (1857-1939), such a utopia may disguise alienation. All the rules can be followed, but that society can lack friendship… Read more

When the diagnosis is cancer, our singular focus is properly on treatment—surgery, radiation, chemo, immunotherapy, blocking therapy and more. The bulk of cancer research is directed toward improving these treatments and finding others. Prior to a cancer diagnosis most people do not often think about cancer and we rarely think about the cause of cancer. Dr. Samuel Epstein died here in Chicago in March at age 91. He was long affiliated with the School of Public Health at University of… Read more

Can electoral politics be a vocation; a person’s response to God’s call? By one opinion, the answer is decidedly no. Political office, this opinion points out, is a place for illicit sex, ostentation, financial corruption, self-serving ideology and general boorishness. As for those politicians who invoke God’s name, their policy positions hypocritically oppose God’s revealed positions: care for the poor, proper labor relations, compassion for widows and orphans, respect for each life and more. Days after a recent primary election… Read more

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