The Officer and the Homeless Man

They were the boots viewed round the world.

Early last week, a tourist took a photo of a New York City police officer helping a homeless man put on a pair of boots. The officer, it turns out, purchased the boots for the man after seeing him barefoot on the street. It was a cold night and the man’s feet were badly blistered.

As he knelt before the homeless man to help him put on the new socks and boots, the officer did not know he was being photographed. The tourist, who also worked in law enforcement in her home state of Arizona, sent the photo to the NYPD, who then posted it to their official Facebook page.

Within a day or two, the photo was viewed by millions, and the kind officer was identified as Larry DePrimo, a handsome, 26-year-old who lives on Long Island with his parents. The press couldn’t get enough of him, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly couldn’t get enough of the good press that this one photo bestowed upon the NYPD.

Having worked closely with members of New York City’s homeless population for several years, the public’s response to stories like this is, for me, a joy and a suffering.


LCWR: A Radical Obedience to the Voice of God in our Time

In his Holy Thursday sermon, Pope Benedict XVI made headlines for criticizing those who refuse to obey the church’s position on the ordination of celibate men. He traced his argument back to Christ’s obedience to the will of God.

“His concern was for true obedience,” Benedict said, “as opposed to human caprice.”

Of course, the pontiff fails to point out that Jesus was obeying God while also radically disobeying the religious leaders and laws of his time. Like so many archconservative Roman Catholics, he is confusing God with the institutional church and its doctrine.

I suppose the pope is using some of this same logic in his treatment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. He views the sisters’ unwillingness to condemn gays and lesbians or contraception or women who feel called ordained ministry as an act of “caprice.”


Recognizing the Church that We Already Are

On the evening of Friday, Nov. 4, NCR columnist Jamie L. Manson offered the opening night keynote address at the annual Call to Action national conference. The theme of the conference was “Living the Gospel of Love.” Below is the text of her speech. Read more about the address here.

I want to begin by telling a story because stories, perhaps more than any other element of faith, are vital to sustaining religious communities. Stories pass on insights; they help to give shape to religious traditions; they recall paradigmatic moments or people; they define a community; they are vehicles for revelation; even though they may be ordinary, stories can tell us a lot about the sacred.

This story, I think, does all of those things. It is a true story that happened in a place as ordinary as St. Louis and as recently as 2008. The year that stretched from the summer of 2008 to the summer of 2009 was especially bizarre for the Catholic Church in the United States (and, I know there is a lot of competition for that title).


Archbishop Sheehan: How to Lose Catholics and Alienate People

One of my earliest memories of church is watching my mother being forced to abstain from the Eucharist during my First Holy Communion. The scene is still vivid for me.

I sat in the third pew, squirming in the frilly, miniature bridal gown and veil that we were required to wear. When I returned from my first taste of the host and sacramental wine, I turned around to watch my family receive communion.

I saw my mother kneeling alone in a pew, looking at turns sad and embarrassed. The pews around her had been vacated by Catholics worthy of receiving communion. My mother kneeled in that empty pew. She was the only parent of a new communicant who didn’t receive Eucharist that day.


St. Joseph’s Hospital: A Phoenix in the Desert

Just days before Christians celebrated Christmas, Jesus got evicted.

In a strange twist of fate, he was removed from a hospital named after his adoptive father, St. Joseph. The whole saga took place in a desert. Only this time it was in Phoenix, Ariz., rather than Egypt.

Because a mother of four had her life saved under harrowing circumstances, the sacramental presence of Jesus was forced to evacuate a Catholic hospital in the Valley of the Sun. It’s a sad loss, really, since the body of Christ dwelt peacefully at St. Joseph’s for over 115 years.


Why I Still Call Myself Catholic

It’s the question I get more than any other: Do you still consider yourself a Catholic?

It’s the critique I most frequently receive on this blog site: Just leave the church if you’re so unhappy.

Spending seven years at a Protestant divinity school, first as a student and later as an employee, enriched and expanded my understanding of what it means to be Catholic. Before arriving at graduate school, I grew up on Long Island in an Italian Catholic family that rarely went to church. Though I went to religious instruction, received the sacraments with the rest of the girls and boys, and attended church on the big feast days, the influence of the institutional church (involvement in parish life, connections with priests and nuns) was distant at best.


The Grace of Living on the Margins

For more than 15 years now, I’ve felt starved by the Roman Catholic authorities. But lately I wonder if they haven’t done me a favor.

Since the age of 14, I have felt called to the priesthood. The only real opportunity I’ve been given to discern this call was through my studies for my master of divinity degree (at a Protestant divinity school, of course).

Perhaps it was the insurmountable heights of the ivory tower’s walls or the unshakable hope of feminist theology that clouded my judgment, but it wasn’t until graduation that I realized that an openly lesbian, unapologetically liberal Catholic woman with a M.Div. had somewhat limited career possibilities.

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