Sunday, October 4, 2015

Before You Eat: Ten Valuable Dining Rules

If you want to have a good dining experience, from the first minute you enter a restaurant you must be alert and attentive.
Before you are seated -- and well before you even taste a morsel of food -- you must follow some basic rules to ensure your comfort and enjoyment.
Because, lets face it: If your minimal needs are not met, it doesn't matter how great the food or the service is, you're not going to have a positive dining experience. It's just that simple.
So here (in no particular order) are the rules that you need to remember right from start:

1) Never sit near the door. It's one of the worst places to sit and it's liable to be drafty, cold or hot, crowded and/or noisy. Plus, it's a popular place for gawkers.

2) Never sit near the restrooms. Do I really have to explain why?

3) Never sit near a wait station. You didn't come to visit with the waitstaff, hear their gossip and be serenaded by the clanging of dishes and other attendant sounds.

4) Beware of small (or even larger) children. People nowadays take their kids everywhere and very often  they neither discipline nor correct them as they should.

5) Stay away from large groups or people who appear to be celebrating special events. The people in these groups often imbibe in a manner where they try to outdo one another. These guests can become very loud and they often overstay their welcome as well. Not good. 

6) Never sit under air or air conditioning vents. You will ch-ch-ch-chill and so will your food. And, you may leave with a stiff neck.

7) If you're dining on a major family dining day (such as Mother's Day or Easter) know what you're getting into. You'll be facing fixed menus, higher prices, noisy groups, kids, a hassled waitstaff and probably mediocre food.

8) As a general rule, do not dine out on New Year's Eve. If you must, dine quite early in the evening and be home by 10 pm. New year's Eve is for losers. It's consistently the year's most overrated event.

9) Unless you are dining solo, don't dine at or near the bar.

10) As you enter the restaurant, subject the place to the sniff test. If it smells musty or stale, leave.

These rules are based on real life experiences and numerous disappointments compiled over many years. Ignore them at your own peril.

The 'Must-See,' Revealing Ruins Of Merida

On our way to Seville We stopped at Merdia, Spain for a look at the incredible Roman ruins that are thousands of years old and remarkably well-preserved.
The coliseum and forum that you will find here rivals anything that you might find in Greece, Italy or anywhere else in the world for that matter.
How did everything remain so well-preserved through centuries of invasions, onslaughts, development, etc.? The answer is simple: garbage. All of this sat under a garbage dump and it wasn't until excavations began in 1909 that the dramatic discoveries emerged.
And they've continued to the presnet day.
In fact, the entire town of Merida sits atop what was a thriving part of the Roman empire.
Yes, Merida has certainly earned its title as a UNESCO World Heritage Sight.
Truly incredible!

Seville: A Quintessential Iberian Gem

As we continue our thrilling Iberain adventure we find ourselves in Seville, Spain's fourth-largest city and one of the most seductive places on earth.
There is a captivating vibrancy about this grand old (and new) city that combines Spanish, Roman and Islamic influences from its storied history. Through its plazas, palaces, parks, bridges, walls, streets, alleys and passageways you will find much of the history of Europe -- both the good and the bad; the opulent and the sparse; the cultured and the crude; the senseless and the sublime.
At almost any hours Seville allures you like a giant bazaar -- a feast of sights and sounds.
Since Spaniards insist upon their treasured siesta (and you would, too in such a warm climate, even in October) everything runs a bit late in Seville and things really don't start popping until after dark when both natives and visitors flood the streets and promenades. The people-watching here is intoxicating and the crowds of all ages encourage a friendly mingling.
If all of this appeals to you, don't delay. Put Seville on your travel map and make plans to journey here pronto.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

How To Answer Liberal 'Interrogations'

Liberals always seem to want to interrogate conservatives -- but on liberals' terms.
They seem to want to put us "on the stand" as if we have committed some crime. Then they get to ask loaded questions and control the subject. Don't let them do it.
It's no crime to embrace common-sense conservative beliefs.  
Here's what I told one liberal who tried this on me not too long ago:
Let's get this straight: I am not under oath; I'm not on the stand and I'm not here to be interrogated by you or anyone else. Interrogation is a form of control, nothing more. THAT is a classic tactic.
Now, in one month Obama has racked up a bigger debt than George W. Bush did in a whole year. The mounting federal debt is robbing us of our freedom and liberty and threatens to enslave our nation. It will certainly deprive our children and grandchildren of options they might otherwise have had. The shaky state of the dollar (related to the deficit) is also cause for concern. If you don't understand that debt that grows out of proportion to the GDP threatens our future then you're missing a very simple, practical point: When we work for our own money instead of insisting on handouts; when we are able to keep more of what we earn; when we practice economic common sense and avoid going into debt, we have more options, more freedom, more opportunities. When we become indebted (either personally or collectively) we close doors to those options or opportunities.
And being indebted to CHINA? Well, that IS scary. 
Bigger and bigger government. Growing debt. More government regulation. A burgeoning and bloated federal work force committed to more and more bureaucracy -- this is not the path to freedom and liberty.
Personal responsibility -- rugged individualism -- that's what made America great. The common sense of hard-working, ordinary Americans made us the greatest country on earth. Reagan, again: "Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves."
As we face growing and alarming challenges, I wonder if Obama and the Democrats realize this. I wonder if they even see it. I wonder if they believe in American exceptionalism. I know that I do. And I pray -- yes, PRAY -- that future generations do as well.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Three Things Liberals MAY Be Right About

So, you've been waiting for this, huh?
Have you?
Well, yes -- it's true. Liberals are actually right about some things.
Here are three of them:

1) The minimum wage needs to be raised.
We don't think there's any question about this. We're not saying you have to double or triple the minimum wage. But it needs to be raised. If you want people to actually work and feel they are accomplishing something and actually getting ahead and actually getting a chance to live a decent life, you have to pay them more, at a minimum. Otherwise, where's the incentive to work at all? The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. That's too low. States are free to set the minimum higher and Washington DC seems to be the highest at $9.50 per hour. Maybe the national minimum wage should be set somewhere between the two, Will a higher minimum wage raise prices? Most likely it will. But we're betting it won't be that bad and we're willing to pay somewhat higher prices. It's time to raise the minimum wage.

2) Beyond a certain point, something must be done about astronomical annual incomes.
Oh, we know this is a touchy one with confirmed free-enterprisers and those who hate class warfare -- and we count ourselves among those on both counts. But, really -- no matter how much money a corporate exec may take credit for in terms of profits for his/her company, does the CEO really need to be paid $140 million? Really? Because that's what the highest-paid CEO made in 2013. And we're not just talking about CEOs here (Oprah Winfrey, by the way, made $165 million in one year). So, we're talking about anybody who pulls in a stratospheric annual salary -- let's say over $25 million. OK, after you've passed that level, you have to either donate a certain amount above and beyond that (let's say 30%) to charities or good causes or you have to turn it over to Uncle Sam, earmarked for a pre-determined good purpose like health research or education or transportation but not as a form of income redistribution. Just an idea.

3) The militarization of the police must stop.
As a general rule, turning excess military equipment over to local, county or state police departments is a bad idea and represents a growing threat to our rights and civil liberties. It's downright scary. And, libertarians agree with liberals on this and the libertarians are right as well. We do not need militarized police forces. If necessary, the excess military equipment can be given to the National Guard. That's what the Guard is for. Exceptions? Yes, in some extraordinary circumstances. The New York City Police Department, for example needs this kind of equipment and training, for obvious reasons. And there may be some other exceptions. But, generally - no. No more militarization!

These are three thoughts, with some suggestions for change.
Because once in awhile (just every now and then) they are actually right about a few things -- or, at least they give us something to think about, in a good way.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Sentra: A Feast For The Eyes In Portugal

As we continue our journey through Portugal (the first part of our Grand Iberian Adventure) we took a brief road trip and spent the day in the picturesque town of Sentra, a short drive from Lisbon.
Sentra was the summer home for the Portuguese royal family and contains a beautiful castle, many hills, winding roads and narrow streets filled with shops, restaurants, individual homes and businesses.
No matter which way you turn, the views are absolutely breathtaking!
Here are some of our first photos from gorgeous Sentra.


Tune, Lavin, Others Set For Philly Cabaret Season

The RRazz Room at The Prince in Philadelphia is an intimate venue programmed by the entrepreneurs who created the infamous and iconic RRazz Room in San Francisco. 

The RRazz Room brand has become synonymous with quality entertainment presented at its purest and most intimate form. The unique space allows patrons to experience all their favorite entertainers up close and personal. The RRazz Room venues (also located in Coral Springs, FL, South Miami-Dade, FL, and New Hope, PA) present performances by local and national artists from a wide variety of musical and theatrical genres including Broadway, pop, opera, gospel, drag, comedy, rhythm & blues, and jazz. 

The RRazz Room at the Prince is located within the historic Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19102 (near the corner of Broad and Chestnut Streets on the Avenue of the Arts). 

Inaugural Season Lineup 2015

Friday, October 2 @ 8pm Saturday, October 3 @ 8pm
$35.00 Theatre Seating/$50.00 Prime Table Seating/$75.00 Ltd VIP Up Close Table Seating includes post show Meet & Greet
Paul Mooney wrote many of Richard Pryor’s routines for his appearance on Saturday Night Live. As the head writer for The Richard Pryor Show, he gave many young stand-up comics, such as Robin Williams, Sandra Bernhard, Marsha Warfield, John Witherspoon, and Tim Reid, their first break into show business. Mooney also wrote for Redd Foxx’s Sanford and Son, Good Times, acted in several cult classics including Which Way is Up?, Bustin’ Loose, Hollywood Shuffle, and portrayed singer/songwriter Sam Cooke in The Buddy Holly Story. He was the head writer for the first year of Fox’s In Living Color, creating the character Homey D. Clown, played by Damon Wayans. Mooney later went on to play Wayans’ father in the Spike Lee film Bamboozled as the comedian Junebug.

Dick Gregory entered the national comedy scene in 1961 when Chicago's Playboy Club (as a direct request from publisher Hugh Hefner) booked him as a replacement for white comedian, "Professor" Irwin Corey. Until then Gregory had worked mostly at small clubs with predominantly black audiences (he met his wife, Lillian Smith, at one such club). Such clubs paid comedians an average of five dollars per night; thus Gregory also held a day job as a postal employee. His tenure as a replacement for Corey was so successful — at one performance he won over an audience that included southern white convention goers — that the Playboy Club offered him a contract extension from several weeks to three years. By 1962 Gregory had become a nationally known headline performer, selling out nightclubs, making numerous national television appearances, and recording popular comedy albums.

Friday, October 9 @ 8pm  Saturday, October 10 @ 6pm & 9pm
$55.00 Theatre Seating/$75.00 Prime Table Seating/$95.00 Ltd VIP Up Close Table Seating includes post show Meet & Greet
The Tony Awards Administration Committee has announced nine-time Tony Award winner and Broadway icon Tommy Tune as this year’s recipient for the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. Tommy Tune is one of the country’s most prolific performer/director/choreographers and is celebrating his golden decade on the great American stage. He has received 9 Tony Awards, The National Medal of Arts, 8 Drama Desk Awards, 3 Astaire Awards, and multiple Life Time Achievement Awards including the Society of Directors and Choreographers’ George Abbott Award for Lifetime Achievement. In Taps, Tunes and Tall Tales, the legendary Tommy Tune, Broadway’s tallest tapper, takes to the stage – dancing, singing and tale-telling. The nine-time Tony Award winner takes an autobiographical stroll, celebrating 50-plus-years of big-time showmanship, from his arrival in New York City as a fresh-faced kid from Texas, through his most popular roles on stage and screen, to his ascension as one of Broadway’s most accomplished director-choreographers.
Accompanied by Michael Biagi, Tune’s music director for nearly four decades, Tune performs personal renditions of standards by Irving Berlin, Kurt Weill, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Burt Bacharach, the Gershwins, Carole King, Green Day and more.

Sunday, October 11 @ 7pm
International Concert & Cabaret Star and Songwriter  "THE ROSE"
with MICHELE BROURMAN, Musical Director
$40.00 Prime Table Seating/ $50.00 Ltd VIP Up Close Table Seating includes post show Meet & Greet
Amanda McBroom has been called “…the greatest cabaret performer of her generation, an urban poet who writes like an angel and has a voice to match.” Her name first came to the attention of the music public when Bette Midler’s version of Amanda’s song THE ROSE hit number one all over the world in 1979. But it was Amanda’s performance of her own song on the Golden Globes (she won), Grammys (she didn’t) and The Tonight Show that launched her career as a singer as well as songwriter.

Friday, October 16 @ 8pm
$35.00 Theatre Seating/$45.00 Prime Table Seating/$55.00 Ltd VIP Up Close Table Seating includes post show Meet & Greet
Nellie McKay is a British-born American singer-songwriter, actress, and former stand-up comedian, noted for her critically acclaimed albums, and for her Broadway debut in The Threepenny Opera (2006). Her music is as versatile as she is, showcasing different genres, from jazz to rap and disco to funk.

Saturday, October 17 @ 8pm Sunday, October 18 @ 3pm
with Billy Stritch, Musical Director
and Special Guest Violinist Aaron Weinstein
$45.00 Theatre Seating/$55.00 Prime Table Seating/$65.00 Ltd VIP Up Close Table Seating includes post show Meet & Greet
Tony and Golden Globe winner Linda Lavin performs Broadway favorites, standards, and jazz. New York audiences remember her from It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s SupermanLast of the Red Hot LoversBroadway BoundCollected StoriesThe Diary of Anne FrankGypsyThe Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, and many others, and the world knows her as Alice Hyatt in the long-running hit TV series Alice. A veteran of the cabaret stage, Linda began her career playing such NYC nightspots as The Showplace in Greenwich Village and midtown’s Downstairs at the Upstairs. Recently, Linda released her very first CD Possibilities.

Friday, November 6 @ 8pm Saturday, November 7 @ 8pm
"POPsiccal" CD Release Concerts
$35.00 Theatre Seating/$45.00 Prime Table Seating/$55.00 Ltd VIP Up Close Table Seating includes post show Meet & Greet
The all-male string quartet Well-Strung has been receiving rave reviews at 54 Below and all over the world, from the House of Blues in New Orleans to the Leicester Square Theatre in London. Now join them to celebrate the release of their new CD entitled POPssical. Musical arrangements by Well-Strung, Bruce Carter and Dana Levinson. The foursome features classical musicians who sing and on POPssical the group puts their own spin on the music of Mozart, Ravel, U2, Taylor Swift and more. Highlights include U-2′s “With or Without You,” Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and the Ravel string quartet in F major.

Friday, November 13, 2015 @ 8pm
$30.00 Theatre Seating/$45.00 Prime Table Seating/$55.00 Ltd VIP Up Close Table Seating includes post show Meet & Greet
Singer-Songwriter, Rhonda Ross is an African Diasporic Woman of the World. Bilingual in French and in English (and raising her son to be fluent in 4 languages), Rhonda often connects with her audiences through their native tongues. Her original music lives in the gap between Jazz, Neo-soul, Funk and Gospel. Her lyrics live in the pause between life’s most important questions and their answers. Rhonda has the entire package -- as an entertainer, as a poet, and as a human being. She has great power on stage and her refreshingly personal and moving performances set her apart from other vocalists of her era. Rhonda's music flows straight from her essence and her bright spirit uplifts everyone in the room. With a crown of natural hair, Rhonda graces the stage with the gravitas and glamour of a modern-day queen.  As the only child of Diana Ross and Motown Founder Berry Gordy, it has become evident that Rhonda not only has the talent, but the significance to carry on her parents’ legacy, all the while establishing her own unique musical destination.

Saturday, November 14 @ 7pm & 930pm
Direct From Her Sold Out 10-Week Provincetown Engagement!
$30.00 Theatre Seating/$35.00 Prime Table Seating/$40.00 Ltd VIP Up Close Table Seating includes post show Meet & Greet
TICKETS START AT $30!       
Jeffery Roberson aka Varla Jean Merman starred in the new musical Lucky Guy opposite Leslie Jordan in NY at the Little Schubert in spring 2011 prompting The New York Times to rave, “If Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman had stood in front of the right pair of funhouse mirrors, they might have resembled Ms. Merman and Mr. Jordan in stature as well as comedic talent”. Jeffery recently completed shooting the feature film Girls Will Be Girls 2012 and Varla Jean and the Mushroomheads. He played the title role of Giancarlo Menotti’s opera The Medium in New York at the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theatre in October of 2012. He guest starred as Varla Jean on Ugly Betty in the final season of the show and was also featured on Bravo’s Project Runway Season 5 as the winning model for the show’s drag challenge. He played the role of Mary Sunshine in the revival of Chicago on Broadway and also made his network television debut on All My Children in the recurring role of lady of the evening Rosemary Chicken. He shared the Outfest Film Festival “Best Actor” Award and the Aspen HBO Film Festival “Best Actress” Award with his costars Jack Plotnick and Clinton Leupp for his featured performance in the cult classic film Girls Will Be Girls (Sundance 2003) directed by Richard Day.

Sunday, November 15 @ 7pm
with SHELLY MARKHAM, Musical Director
$45.00 Prime Table Seating/ $65.00 Ltd VIP Up Close Table Seating includes post show Meet & Greet
Andrea Marcovicci, the Queen of Cabaret, "torch singer, spellbinder, heart-breaker" (People) was hailed as the "most Sinatra-like" of the new generation of cabaret performers by Life Magazine. She "has the capacity to caress a song with a warming embrace…Marcovicci steals the heart …the epitome of elegance and showbiz savvy," declared Variety while Stephen Holden wrote in The New York Times, "Andrea Marcovicci has an incandescent enthusiasm and a masterly balance between poignancy and wit".

Friday, December 18 @ 8pm Saturday, December 19 @ 8pm
with JEFF HARRIS, Musical Director
$45.00 Prime Table Seating/ $55.00 Ltd VIP Up Close Table Seating includes post show Meet & Greet
Two-time Grammy nominee, Maureen McGovern, recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of sharing her brilliant voice with the world on her chart-topping song, “The Morning After”, which earned an Academy Award, a Gold Record and her first Grammy Award nomination for Best New Artist. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

More Photos From Beautiful Lisbon . . .

Join Us: Exploring The Iberian Peninsula!

Yes, the Dan Cirucci Blog is on the move once again.
We promised we'd be visiting lots of places and taking you along -- and that's exactly what we're doing.
We have now just begun exploring the Iberain peninsula. "What's that?" you say. Quite simply, Spain and Portugal. Or, in this case Portugal and then Spain. We begin right here in one of the most beautiful (and for US tourists, most economical) cities in Europe: Beautiful Lisbon, the enchanting, historical, nautical capital of Portugal. The natives call this place Leesczboa and it's melodic when you hear in pronounced in the native Portuguese tongue.
We will post as many photos as we can on this tour and try to give you a real visual sense of each place that we visit us. We'll capture both some of the big highlights as well as some of the small details and everything else that attracts our eye.
Come back every day as we will be updating as much as we can.
We're going to be covering Iberia for awhile, so stay with us!

A Glorious Food Tour In The Big Apple!

Neighborhood food tours are all the rage in cities across the country.
But nowhere do they seem to be more successful than within the boundaries of that gastronome's mecca known as New York City.
And one of the reasons why this is so is the original Foods of New York Tours(FNYT). For more than15 years now Foods of New York has been treating visitors and natives alike to some of the best food and neighborhood combos available anywhere in the world.
Not too long ago FNYT celebrated its 15th birthday and we joined the festivities by taking an Original Greenwich Village Food Tour savoring the old Italian section and the quaint surroundings of one of the most historic areas on Manhattan. Yes, we did use "quaint" and "Manhattan" in the same sentence, if you can believe that. And if you had been with us for this tour you would understand why.
We decided to take this tour for three reasons:
1) We hadn't been in the storied Greenwich Village area of the Big Apple for years and we longed to discover it anew, beyond the touristy environs of Washington Square.
2) We previously took a FNYT journey through the Chelsea Market and meatpacking district area and we loved it, so we were longing to return.
3) The tour was offered at less than half price to commemorate FNYT's birthday.
And so, there we were eating our way through picturesque area of The Village with our superbly informative and delightfully entertaining tour guide Raheem as we wandered in and out of small and medium-sized locally owned business and restaurants, all of which offer up the freshest culinary treats.
We started at the famous Joe's Pizza (a New York landmark) and ventured throughMurray's Cheese and Gourmet FoodsPalma Italian RestaurantO & C Olive Oil ShopMilk and Cookies American BakeryRafele Italian RestaurantRocco's Italian Pastry Shop and Faicco's Italian Specialty Shop. We wish had the time to tell you about each delectable stop but that wouldn't do justice to our marvelous journey and it would only tease you.
Well, anyway -- did you know that there are more Italian restaurants in this one section of Greenwich Village than there are in all of New York's famed Little Italy? And this area contains several Italian eateries that are rated among the very best that the city has to offer.
Plus, this is where you will also find cozy, narrow tree-lined streets, Manhattan's oldest wooden house, a magical New Orlean's type courtyard of charming town homes, the building that posed as the apartment house where the characters in NBC'S F*R*I*E*N*D*S lived and the narrowest house in little old New York -- a place that once belonged to Cary Grant. Yep, they're all here in a section of the city where you will find few if any buildings exceeding four stories in height.
Take a look at our photos and then go to FNYT and book a tour for yourself. There are six different tours in Manhattan and Brooklyn to choose from. Mangia!

In the heart of the old Italian section of Greenwich Village.

You won't wind a bookstore like this at the mall.

Just part of the selections at Murray's Cheese and Gourmet Foods.

Legions have declared Joe's "the best" for generations.

Inside the beautiful Palma Italian restaurant.

Fresh and delicious at Rafele Italian restaurant.

Yeah, they're chocolate chip -- at Milk and Cookies.

Boston or Philly? Nah! It's Manhattan, baby!

OK, so this narrow little charmer once was Cary Grant's Manhattan hideaway.

Exterior for FRIENDS apartment house on NBC.

The oldest wooden house in New York.

We're told you're liable to spot celebrities here. Shhhhh!

No, it's not Charleston of Savannah. This is tucked into
a small side street in Greenwich Village.

Above and below, Rocco's Italian Pastry Shop.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Inspiring Story - A 'Celebrity' Who Overcame The Odds

Sometimes we've talked about "the dangers of electing a celebrity President."
So, the question has arisen: "Wasn't Reagan a celebrity?"
As we're writing this we're looking at a shelf full of books about Reagan (at least a dozen of them) all of which we've have read.
Ronald Reagan certainly defied the old adage that "there are no second acts in American lives."
Ronald Reagan's life had at least three distinct acts. In fact, it's almost as if he had three different lives:
1) Ronald Reagan the radio broadcaster honed his talents as a mellow-voiced, reassuring presence who was heard throughout the broad center of the nation. He mastered the art of the soundbite before anybody even knew what it was and since he wrote most of his own radio copy he also became an accomplished writer and skilled editor. If you know anything about radio you know that you must be able to say a whole lot with very few words to adhere to the medium's time constraints. Ronald Reagan knew it and did it.
2) Ronald Reagan the Hollywood star was never the biggest star in Tinseltown but he and his films were a staple at Warner Brothers and he learned his lessons well from the studio. He was a dutiful contract player who became a favorite of the gossip columnists -- particular the legendary Hedda Hopper. And yes, Reagan did become a celebrity of sorts but he was certainly never a superstar. In fact, as a Hollywood star he was never really the object of adulation. He was far and away eclipsed by the likes of Clark Gable (earlier) and Rock Hudson (later). Reagan was rarely a leading man. He starred mostly in "B" movies and he played the best friend or jilted lover or simply the "other guy." It's safe to say that not many movie fans swooned or fainted over Ronald Reagan.
3) Ronald Reagan the politician did have his roots in Reagan the Hollywood union leader but the real career switch came when Reagan decided to run for Governor of California. By that time Reagan's image as a "star" had clearly faded and, indeed, he was joked about as "a forgotten, old 'B' movie actor." When he began his political career Ronald Reagan was no celebrity. To the contrary, he was the butt of jokes.
To his credit, Reagan seemed to make clean, clear breaks between the three important acts of his life but he always took everything he learned with him.
Was Reagan, the leader charismatic? Damned right he was.
But there was more than image to Reagan. Though he enjoyed being underestimated, the man was never an empty suit.
And any Hollywood star who's thinking about entering politics today (and a few immediately come to mind) would do well to study the life and careers of Reagan.
Ronald Reagan understood that fame was fleeting and that Celebrityland was shallow. He worked his whole life to be more than just a "star" -- even a forgotten one -- and more than a household name. He defied the odds. And in the end, he had both depth and heft.
What he accomplished was nothing short of remarkable.
Ronald Reagan was the real deal.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Francis' Closing Homily: Small Gestures Define Faith

Hundreds of thousands of people attended the concluding Mass of the Eighth World Meeting of Families celebrated by Pope Francis in Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway yesterday at 4 p.m. local time (10 p.m. in Rome). During the event, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, announced that the next Meeting will be held in Dublin, Ireland in 2018.

In his homily, Pope Francis commented on the two readings of the day's liturgy, which present the scandal of the people before the miracles and the unexpected prophecies. In the first reading, Joshua tells Moses that two members of the people are prophesying, speaking God’s word, without a mandate. In the Gospel, John tells Jesus that the disciples had stopped someone from casting out evil spirits in the name of Jesus. “Here is the surprise”, remarked the Pope. “Moses and Jesus both rebuke those closest to them for being so narrow! Would that all could be prophets of God’s word! Would that everyone could work miracles in the Lord’s name!”

Jesus encountered “hostility from people who did not accept what He said and did. For them, His openness to the honest and sincere faith of many men and women who were not part of God’s chosen people seemed intolerable. The disciples, for their part, acted in good faith. But the temptation to be scandalised by the freedom of God, Who sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike, bypassing bureaucracy, officialdom and inner circles, threatens the authenticity of faith. Hence it must be vigorously rejected. Once we realise this, we can understand why Jesus’ words about causing 'scandal' are so harsh. For Jesus, the truly 'intolerable' scandal consists in everything that breaks down and destroys our trust in the working of the Spirit”.

“Our Father will not be outdone in generosity and He continues to scatter seeds. He scatters the seeds of His presence in our world, for 'love consists in this, not that we have loved God but that He loved us' first. That love gives us a profound certainty: we are sought by God; He waits for us. It is this confidence which makes disciples encourage, support and nurture the good things happening all around them. God wants all His children to take part in the feast of the Gospel. Jesus says, 'Do not hold back anything that is good, instead help it to grow!' To raise doubts about the working of the Spirit, to give the impression that it cannot take place in those who are not 'part of our group', who are not 'like us', is a dangerous temptation. Not only does it block conversion to the faith; it is a perversion of faith”.

“Faith opens a 'window' to the presence and working of the Spirit. It shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures. 'Whoever gives you a cup of water in my name will not go unrewarded', says Jesus. These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion. Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. Homely gestures. Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work. Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to become faith”.

“Jesus tells us not to hold back these little miracles. Instead, He wants us to encourage them, to spread them. He asks us to go through life, our everyday life, encouraging all these little signs of love as signs of His own living and active presence in our world. So we might ask ourselves: How are we trying to live this way in our homes, in our societies? What kind of world do we want to leave to our children? We cannot answer these questions alone, by ourselves. It is the Spirit who challenges us to respond as part of the great human family. Our common house can no longer tolerate sterile divisions. The urgent challenge of protecting our home includes the effort to bring the entire human family together in the pursuit of a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. May our children find in us models and incentives to communion! May our children find in us men and women capable of joining others in bringing to full flower all the good seeds which the Father has sown”.

“We Christians, the Lord’s disciples, ask the families of the world to help us!” exclaimed Francis. “How many of us are here at this celebration. This is itself something prophetic, a kind of miracle in today’s world. Would that we could all be prophets. Would that all of us could be open to miracles of love for the sake of all the families of the world, and thus overcome the scandal of a narrow, petty love, closed in on itself, impatient of others”.

“How beautiful it would be if everywhere, even beyond our borders, we could appreciate and encourage this prophecy and this miracle”, concluded the Holy Father. “May God grant to all of us, as the Lord’s disciples, the grace to be worthy of this purity of heart which is not scandalised by the Gospel”.

Following the Eucharist, Pope Francis gave the Gospel of St. Luke to five families representing the five continents, from, respectively, Kinshasa (Africa), Havana (America), Hanoi (Asia), Syney (Australia) and Marseilles (Europe).

Pope Sees Church, State At Odds On Marriage

Shortly after his meeting with a group of victims, the Holy Father returned to the issue of sexual abuse at the beginning of his address to the three hundred bishops attending the World Meeting of Families, held in the great Chapel of the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

“I am deeply pained by the stories, the sufferings and the pain of minors who were sexually abused by priests. I continue to be ashamed that persons charged with the tender care of those little ones abused them and caused them grave harm. I deeply regret this. God weeps. The crimes and sins of sexual abuse of minors may no longer be kept secret; I commit myself to ensuring that the Church makes every effort to protect minors and I promise that those responsible will be held to account. Survivors of abuse have become true heralds of hope and ministers of mercy; humbly we owe our gratitude to each of them and to their families for their great courage in shedding the light of Christ on the evil sexual abuse of minors. I say this because I have just met with a group of persons abused as children, who are helped and accompanied here in Philadelphia with particular care by Archbishop Chaput, and we felt that I should communicate this to you”.

Moving on to the issue of the family, he pronounced a discourse, at times improvised, in which he focused on the characteristics of families in today's society and the mission of bishops, reiterating that as pastors they must not be afraid to stay in the midst of families, with all their problems and their capacities, as “ A Christianity which does little in practice, while incessantly explaining its teachings, is dangerously unbalanced”.

The following are extensive extracts from the Pope's address:

“For the Church, the family is not first and foremost a cause for concern, but rather the joyous confirmation of God’s blessing upon the masterpiece of creation. Every day, all over the world, the Church can rejoice in the Lord’s gift of so many families who, even amid difficult trials, remain faithful to their promises and keep the faith! I would say that the foremost pastoral challenge of our changing times is to move decisively towards recognising this gift. For all the obstacles we see before us, gratitude and appreciation should prevail over concerns and complaints. The family is the fundamental locus of the covenant between the Church and God’s creation. Without the family, not even the Church would exist. Nor could she be what she is called to be, namely 'a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race'. Needless to say, our understanding, shaped by the interplay of ecclesial faith and the conjugal experience of sacramental grace, must not lead us to disregard the unprecedented changes taking place in contemporary society, with their social, cultural – and now juridical – effects on family bonds. These changes affect all of us, believers and non-believers alike. Christians are not 'immune' to the changes of their times. This concrete world, with all its many problems and possibilities, is where we must live, believe and proclaim”.

“Until recently, we lived in a social context where the similarities between the civil institution of marriage and the Christian sacrament were considerable and shared. The two were interrelated and mutually supportive. This is no longer the case.

To describe our situation today, I would use two familiar images: our neighborhood stores and our large supermarkets. There was a time when one neighborhood store had everything one needed for personal and family life. The products may not have been cleverly displayed, or offered much choice, but there was a personal bond between the shopkeeper and his customers. … They trusted one another. They built up trust”.

“Then a different kind of store grew up: the supermarket. Huge spaces with a great selection of merchandise. The world seems to have become one of these great supermarkets; our culture has become more and more competitive. Business is no longer conducted on the basis of trust; others can no longer be trusted. There are no longer close personal relationships. Today’s culture seems to encourage people not to bond with anything or anyone, not to trust. … Today consumerism determines what is important. Consuming relationships, consuming friendships, consuming religions, consuming, consuming... Whatever the cost or consequences. A consumption which does not favor bonding, a consumption which has little to do with human relationships. Social bonds are a mere 'means' for the satisfaction of 'my needs'. The important thing is no longer our neighbor, with his or her familiar face, story and personality”.

“The result is a culture which discards everything that is no longer 'useful' or 'satisfying' for the tastes of the consumer. We have turned our society into a huge multicultural showcase tied only to the tastes of certain 'consumers', while so many others only 'eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table'. This causes great harm. I would say that at the root of so many contemporary situations is a kind of impoverishment born of a widespread and radical sense of loneliness. ... Loneliness with fear of commitment in a limitless effort to feel recognized”.

“Should we blame our young people for having grown up in this kind of society? Should we condemn them for living in this kind of a world? Should they hear their pastors saying that 'it was all better back then'. … No, I do not think that this is the way. As shepherds following in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd, we are asked to seek out, to accompany, to lift up, to bind up the wounds of our time. To look at things realistically, with the eyes of one who feels called to action, to pastoral conversion. The world today demands this conversion on our part. 'It is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. ... The Gospel is not a product to be consumed; it has nothing to do with consumerist culture”.

“We would be mistaken, however, to see this culture of the present world as mere indifference towards marriage and the family, as pure and simple selfishness. … We must not fall into this trap. Many young people, in the context of this culture of discouragement, have yielded to a form of unconscious acquiescence. They are paralyzed when they encounter the beautiful, noble and truly necessary challenges which faith sets before them. Many put off marriage while waiting for ideal conditions, when everything can be perfect. Meanwhile, life goes on, without really being lived to the full. In Congress, a few days ago, I said that we are living in a culture that drives and convinces young people not to form a family, some through lack of material means to do so, and others because they have the means but are comfortable as they are, but this is the temptation – not to form a family”.

“As pastors, we bishops are called to collect our energies and to rebuild enthusiasm for making families correspond ever more fully to the blessing of God which they are! We need to invest our energies not so much in rehearsing the problems of the world around us and the merits of Christianity, but in extending a sincere invitation to young people to be brave and to opt for marriage and the family”.

“A Christianity which 'does' little in practice, while incessantly 'explaining' its teachings, is dangerously unbalanced. I would even say that it is stuck in a vicious circle. A pastor must show that the 'Gospel of the family' is truly 'good news' in a world where self-concern seems to reign supreme! We are not speaking about some romantic dream: the perseverance which is called for in having a family and raising it transforms the world and human history. The world and history is transformed by families”.

A pastor serenely yet passionately proclaims the word of God. He encourages believers to aim high. He will enable his brothers and sisters to hear and experience God’s promise, which can expand their experience of motherhood and fatherhood within the horizon of a new 'familiarity' with God.

A pastor watches over the dreams, the lives and the growth of his flock. This 'watchfulness' is not the result of talking but of shepherding. Only one capable of standing 'in the midst of' the flock can be watchful, not someone who is afraid of questions, contact, accompaniment. … Naturally, experiencing the spirit of this joyful familiarity with God, and spreading its powerful evangelical fruitfulness, has to be the primary feature of our lifestyle as bishops: a lifestyle of prayer and preaching the Gospel. The bishop is charged to be a pastor, but to be a pastor first and foremost by his prayer and preaching, because everything else follows, if there is time”.

“By our own humble Christian apprenticeship in the familial virtues of God’s people, we will become more and more like fathers and mothers ... and less like people who have simply learned to live without a family. Our ideal is not to live without love! A good pastor renounces the love of a family precisely in order to focus all his energies, and the grace of his particular vocation, on the evangelical blessing of the love of men and women who carry forward God’s plan of creation, beginning with those who are lost, abandoned, wounded, broken, downtrodden and deprived of their dignity. This total surrender to God’s agape is certainly not a vocation lacking in tenderness and affection. We need but look to Jesus to understand this”.

“For faith, this is a most valuable sign. Our ministry needs to deepen the covenant between the Church and the family. Otherwise it becomes arid, and the human family will grow irremediably distant, by our own fault, from God’s joyful good news, and will go to the latest supermarket to buy whatever product suits them then and there”.

“If we prove capable of the demanding task of reflecting God’s love, cultivating infinite patience and serenity as we strive to sow its seeds in the frequently crooked furrows in which we are called to plant, then even a Samaritan woman with five 'non-husbands' will discover that she is capable of giving witness. And for every rich young man who with sadness feels that he has to calmly keep considering the matter, an older publican will come down from the tree and give fourfold to the poor, to whom, before that moment, he had never even given a thought”.

“My brothers, may God grant us this gift of a renewed closeness between the family and the Church. Families need it, the Church needs it, and we pastors need it”.