Century Marks

Century Marks

Gutsy act

In 1934, a 17-year-old girl was about to go on stage to do a dance routine during amateur night at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. But the act preceding her featured a dance duo whose performance was so good that the girl decided she couldn't follow it with a dance. She decided to sing instead, even though she had never sung in public and didn't even know whether she could sing. That girl was named Ella Fitzgerald (interview with Michael Meade, The Sun, November).

Time for silence

When Job's friends first showed up, they sat with him in silence for seven days and nights (2:11–13). They should have kept their mouths closed. Rather than attending to Job's pain, they voiced their own ideas about justice and suffering. In her seminary course on grief, Janet L. Ramsey gives examples of what not to say to people in deep pain: "This too will pass." "Your faith is strong enough to get you through." "I know how you feel." The most important thing is to be present and listen to the person and the Holy Spirit. Appropriate comments include an acknowledgment of the difficulty the person is facing and encouraging words about God's loving and abiding presence (Word & World, Fall).

Manhood

Before Penn State played Nebraska in its first football game after the sexual abuse scandal broke, Ron Brown, Nebraska's assistant coach, led a prayer for both teams. He expressed concern for the alleged victims and added: "There are a lot of little boys around the country, today, who are watching this game. And they're trying to figure out what the definition of manhood is all about. Father, this is it right here. I pray that this game will be a training ground of what manhood looks like." Brown has previously expressed his conviction that gay sex is sinful (Religion Dispatches, November 14).

Nuns vs. corporations

When Nora Nash of the Sisters of St. Francis met with executives from Goldman Sachs in New York, she had four demands: protect consumers, rein in executive pay, increase company transparency and remember the poor. The Sisters of St. Francis use moral suasion to influence corporate behavior. When the order decides to challenge a company's practices, it buys the minimum amount of stock needed to make resolutions at stockholder meetings. The sisters have discovered that corporate executives would rather meet with them privately than be confronted publicly. Jack Welch, former GE executive, even flew by helicopter to a convent in Pennsyl­vania in order to meet with the nuns (New York Times, November 12).

Lost victims

Sexual abusers tend to be narcissistic and grandiose, says Father James Martin SJ, reflecting on the similarities between sexual abuse cases in the Catholic Church and those alleged to have taken place in the Penn State University football program. The narcissist thinks only of his own needs and personal gratification. Once a sexual abuser is called to account, he often focuses on his own suffering, thinking that a grave injustice has been done to him, and asks for sympathy. What's lost is concern for the victims (Guest Voices, Washington Post, November 13).