The National Catholic Review
Exercise and Spirituality

I much appreciated Maurice Timothy Reidy’s latest Of Many Things column (9/14). I developed the cycling addiction this past summer. A doctor I heard speak recently described exercise, including cycling, as “meditation in action.” Cycling is an enjoyable way to see new places, meet new friends and develop new insights. I look forward to reading future articles on exercise (broadly defined) and spirituality.

Ben Crittenden

Anchorage, Alaska

Reform in Kenya

Thank you for keeping the suffering people of Kenya and East Africa in the spotlight (Signs of the Times, 9/28). I was still living and working there when the post-election violence broke out in December 2007. A way must be found to bring the instigators to justice. They are devious and determined to cling to power on the backs of the poor.

There is still a long path to genuine democracy in Kenya, with open and free and fair elections, literacy and transparency being important components. The ordinary people of Kenya desperately need and deserve civil peace based on an open and fair sharing of natural resources and land reform. The resistance to such reform is both subtle and blatant, longstanding and fierce. The Kenyan people need international help to achieve these goals, or poverty, violence and corruption will continue to be a way of life.

Mae Kierans, C.S.J.

St. John’s, Newfoundland

Parents as First Teachers

Brad Rothrock (“God and the Teenage Mind,” 9/14) says most Catholic teenagers have developed ideas about belief based on “some of the worst God-talk popular culture has to offer.” He then suggests a remedial curriculum that high school religion teachers might use to counteract those ideas.

I suggest an added remedy: Help Catholic parents teach their pre-school children about faith. When toddlers ask such questions as, “Do goldfish go to heaven?” or “Are you crying because grandma died?” a parent has an opportunity to explain how everyone struggles with belief in a loving God. Are parishes across the country systematically assisting parents to seize such opportunities? I don’t think so. Little children who are not taught about faith at home are left to spend their first six or seven years absorbing from television and elsewhere “some of the worst God-talk popular culture has to offer.”

Paul J. McCarren, S.J.

Washington, D.C.

Tempted to Return

God bless William J. O’Malley, S.J., for speaking truth to authority in his trenchant analysis of the shortcomings of the U.S. bishops’ curriculum framework (“Faulty Guidance,” 9/14). His students, all adolescents for that matter, would be well served by having to tackle his essay as their first reading assignment in the new school year. Indeed, thinking about such a prospect almost tempts me to end my decade-long hiatus and return to the classroom I haunted for over 30 years. On second thought, I lack the courage and stamina Father O’Malley has displayed for over four decades and leave the job to brave souls like him.

Paul Loatman Jr.

Mechanicville, N.Y.

Too Late Have I Read Thee

Every article of Father O’Malley’s that I have read over the years made me sorry that I was reading them only after my children had left high school. I always believed that his pieces on raising teenagers were full of wisdom and that if they had been written 10 years earlier, I would have done many things differently. I hope his students at Fordham Prep (and their parents) appreciate him.

A. F. Johnson

Falls Church, Va.

The Gift of Tears

Re: “Escape from Alcatraz” (9/28): I first read about Father Damien in eighth grade in public school. I was totally taken with him and the lepers. It is very strange that after all these years—I am now in my 60s—I am basically the same sappy person, in tears reading the story of Father Damien here in San Francisco, where I live. During breaks at work I often look at America on the screen. I use it as a prayer. Thanks for telling me of Father Damien’s approaching canonization.

Richard Benitez

San Francisco, Calif.

Blessings of a Saint

The U.S. Army’s hospital ship Republic was the last ship refitted and commissioned toward the end of World War II. I too was newly commissioned, as a second lieutenant nurse assigned to the Republic’s complement. I wondered over the years if the story of Father Damien’s body being transported to the United States aboard the Republic were true. Father Damien was one of the heroes of my childhood. The months spent on the Republic were life-changing for me. I would like to think that Father Damien’s one-time presence was one of the blessings brought by that experience. I met my husband aboard the Republic. Our life together was short but much blessed. Knowing I connected with Father Damien, even in such a tiny way, was a joyful gift for my recent birthday.

Irene King Mennitt

Lyndhurst, N.J.

Pleasant Surprise

Re: “Camelot’s End” (Editorial, 9/14): Soon after Ted Kennedy’s death, I called my brother in Baltimore to see how his children were doing in the first days of school. He said, “James and I were down watching a special on Kennedy.” I wondered what might come next. Just six weeks earlier, my brother and I were having a conversation and he commented that it was amazing that he and I were of the same parents, same home and upbringing, and we were so radically different. He said, “You are such a liberal Democrat, and I am on the books a Democrat, but a conservative Republican at heart.”

With this backdrop I was now holding my breath. Joe went on to say that “a great man had been lost.... In the past 40 years, with everything that had to do with the poor and marginalized, Kennedy went to bat for me.” My brother made sure his son was at least exposed to Ted as they watched that special. This exchange for me has been the greatest testimony to Ted Kennedy. And I pray that he now knows the blessing of his labors.

Michael Duffy, O.F.M.Conv.

Above Rocks, Jamaica, W.I.

No Profile in Courage

St. Thomas More did not compromise his faith for political correctness. He knew his faith and followed it. From his expulsion from Harvard through his first marriage to his reversal on the abortion issue, Teddy Kennedy always missed the chance to be a “profile in courage.” That was his greatest tragedy. St. Thomas saw what was really important.

George Munyan

Thorofare, N.J.

Look at the Record

Looking at President Obama’s record throughout his lifetime, it is absurd to think that he is committed to reducing the number of abortions in the United States. This is the man who voted against allowing palliative care for infants who survived botched abortions.

This is the man who repealed the Mexico City Policy despite public opinion in its favor. This is the man who said that the Freedom of Choice Act was his legislative priority. He has taken many actions already during his presidency that will increase the number of abortions performed around the world. He has done nothing so far to reduce them.

To those who claim that the bishops are using abortion as a political tool: Shame on you.

Mike Maiale

Baltimore, Md.

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