Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Look of the Irish, Why not?

I think when you get older you tend to look at things through a kind of lense that opens up to what you value and love.  Maybe you've learned a few things as well and you appreciate what they call diversity today. But diversity is a much overused word. I think I tend to see people as not so much "diverse" or different from me, but really more similar although they are different. Some will think I am just fooling myself and don't get it, and maybe they are right. But in the past week when puzzling on things, I have said "I am not that bright" so I am going to keep to the simple notion that I am delivering here. 

The photo above is my grandson Ciaran. 

I have one of those blended families, so I have three grandchildren and I love them all. Of course, when you are a step-grandfather, like I am for two of my grandchildren, you want to make sure you don't step on anyone toes and take credit for things maybe you shouldn't.  One of my step grandchildren, Jacob,  lived with us for a year and he visits for a few days at a time now.  His long stay left an emotional impression on me that I can't really explain (remember I saw I am not that bright so I don't have to). But let me get back to Ciaran. 

As you can see by the photo, there is something soulful and poetic about Ciaran. And like his name, he speaks Irish to me. And by that I mean that he exudes grace and a sacred message for me that I interpret with an Irish heart. And for me, a sacred message is an Irish message because that's how I was raised.  As a young boy, I looked over at my Irish dad in church and saw him praying his rosary and Ciaran reminds me of my dad and his faith. The image of my father praying says everything to me

Cairan  is beautiful and I would not want to change a thing on him. He is my daughter's son and she is a beautiful woman with a lot of Irish.  But I have to be honest, Ciaran takes after his dad. And I don't think his dad is Irish at all--though he is an artistic and soulful man. But I have come to appreciate diversity as I have said. And yet, Ciaran looks Irish, because I am Irish and I love him and I see everything with Irish eyes, because I have two of those. 

My Irish Catholic book is called The Brown and White

Monday, October 9, 2017

Saint Augustine and His Mother Saint Monica

Sports and Faith II 

The following passage is from Sports and Faith: More Stories of the Devoted and the Devout by Patrick McCaskey, Copyright 2015, Sporting Chance Press.

Saint Monica is remembered as the mother of Saint Augustine.  Monica was an innocent and pious Catholic who was married to a Pagan named Patritius, who was likely a drinker as well as a carouser.  Monica had three children: sons Augustine and Navigius, and a daughter, Perpetua.  She wanted her children to be Baptized and brought up in the faith, but she was hindered by Patritius until he himself was converted.  Patritius died after his Baptism and left Monica a widow.
Monica spent many hours praying for her son Augustine’s conversion and salvation.   Saint Augustine would look back on his youth as a time of reckless immoral behavior. 
Augustine was promiscuous, lazy, and a reveler.  Augustine took up with a mistress with whom he had a son and lived for many years.   Saint Monica was a devout Christian and impressed those around her by her faith and prayer life.  Augustine’s mistress was not an acceptable wife and he hated to leave her, but he did.  He took his son Adeodatus (gift from God). Further consternation resulted from Augustine’s adoption of Manichaeism.  Manichaeism was a popular religion at the time that divided the world between good and evil principles with things material considered evil and things immaterial intrinsically good.  This dualistic theology was at best a heresy.  Monica was so disturbed by this turn in her son, that she originally barred the door to him. 

As Monica did all her life, she prayed and prayed and prayed.  She was assisted by  Saint Ambrose in converting Augustine.  Biographical information on Monica is sketchy at best, but it was suggested that she was at least temped by drink and managed to fight it off.  Her ability to avoid the destructive nature of vice as well as her incredible faith and untiring prayer life has made her a Patron Saint of Alcoholics.   Saint Monica example of the power of prayer has stood out for Christians over the centuries.

 Saint Augustine went on to give his wealth to the poor, his life to the priesthood, and his labors to the Catholic community of his time.  Bishop Augustine is considered one of the greatest Christian writers and a Doctor of the Church.

Alcoholism is a disease that is passed down over the generations.  Three generations of my family were alcoholics until my father put it on hold.  When he was fifteen, he had five beers while singing in a saloon one night.  His head was spinning.  He came home and said to his mother, “I’ll never drink again.”  I followed his example and have stayed away from it altogether.  I believe I am a better man for it. 

Saint Augustine’s Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.
—Saint Augustine

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Jordan Lynch Back at Northern Illinois University

Jordan Lynch
If you are checking the stats and game notes for the Edmonton Eskimos in Canada this year to see how former quarterback of Northern Illinois University Jordan Lynch is faring, well, he is back at NIU this season coaching running backs. Lynch is a fellow alum of Mount Carmel High School. 

Canadian teams have a swarm of quarterbacks because they play on a much bigger field in a more wide open game. Often, the QBs in Canada have kind of an old school toughness and a personality to go along with it. The Canadians do not pay anything like the NFL here, so it's not like you can go up to Canada, play a few years and sit back and live comfortably. Most players also have their eye on the next step in their career and just how they are going to look after their families full time. 

So for reasons known to Lynch, he decided to hang it up in Canada and head back to the sideline in DeKalb where he works for his old coach, Rob Carey. I had an opportunity to meet Coach Carey a few years ago and I was impressed. Carey is a supurb coach and a very smart guy. His program is excellent and I'd have to believe his staff is a great place to start a coaching career. 

In coaching, at the professional and college level, there is often  a lot of movement that goes on.  There is also a progression of steps that are often involved, but things happen in unusual ways as well. It's not always clear, but you move up in responsibility as you go along. Sometimes you stay with a head coach as they move from school to school. People have different goals and not everyone wants to be a head coach. Some in fact go back to high school, and some even go on to the pros.  

I remember researching the life of Bill Belichick and his dad Steve was a good coach. But Steve wanted more stability than what would be offered  by just coaching, so he focused on scouting and teaching at the Naval Academy. Bill Belichick himself took another path and started working in the pros where he did things like drive the other coaches around and pick up lunches--he moved up from there. So there are traditional roles and some other roads you can take, but it depends on your goals and circumstances--and then like any job there is a matter of  things like luck, fate, destiny. 

I wish Jordan Lynch great success in his next step. Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Pray for Us. 

Lawrence Norris is the author The Brown and White, a fictionalized memoir about his time in High School. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Two New Books by Chicago Irish: Houlihan on Politics and Maher on Catholic League Football

A couple Irish Chicago men have new books out.  They are like night and day, but both authors are known widely here and media men.

For fans of Chicago politics, Mount Carmel Alum Mike "Houli" Houlihan has a new book out called Nothing's on the Square about his experiences on the 2015 mayoral campaign trail with Jesus “Chuy” Garcia who was running against Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Rick Kogan, of Chicago Tribune/WGN Radio, calls the book:

“a deep dive into the wicked and wacky world of Chicago politics with a man who knows the score. An incisive, rollicking, intimate trip.”

Houlihan is chairman of Hibernian Transmedia, a public charity dedicated to Irish and Irish American culture. Known to many Chicagoans, Houlihan wears many hats. In addition to his involvement in politics and public relations, he is an actor, playwright, radio show host, producer and author to name a few. His books beside Nothing on the Square include Hooliganism Stories and More Hooliganism Stories. His one man biographical play called “Goin’ East on Ashland” was performed in Chicago for six years. 

Nothing on the Square is available on Amazon and his publisher at . Checkout Houli's Facebook page for news of upcoming book signings as they are schedule and where you can meet the author.

For fans of Chicago high school football and the Catholic league, Tim Maher has a new book. I have spoken to Tim Maher the past 6 months or so as he was preparing his 3 Yards and a Cloud of Dust for publication.  The book is out now and available at Chicago Catholic League Football. Tim was certainly a big part of the St. Rita Championship Season that his book covers. But he is one of those guys who has been a big part of sports in Chicago at its most visceral level.  He sweats, bleeds, and breathes Chicago sports. 

Tim's reach goes way beyond St. Rita and even football. One of his other life-time avocations has been Chicago softball and he is a member of the Softball (16") Hall of Fame. He has been involved with media coverage of Chicago sports for many decades. 

But there are many things about 3 Yards and a Cloud of Dust that are attractive to many people--I hesitate to even suggest the people who will read it because it's a little like one of those items on the Antique Road Show that appeals to collectors from different genres. Tim's book is definitely a football story, a Catholic League story, a Chicago story and more. And the book is very visual--tons of photos, lists, and even a poem here or there.  

One of the elements to the book that I know Tim felt very strongly about was the reproduction of coaching notes for each of the games described in the book for St. Rita's run at the 1970-1971 Catholic League and Prep Bowl Championship. The notes are included as they were written so readers are taken back to the time in every way possible. 

After writing my own book about high school called The Brown and White, I was reminded of the allegiance that athletes certainly have to their schools. I think this is likely the case of the players just having so much deeper roots with their schools than most kids based on the sacrifices and frankly the punishment that they put in while there.  The after hours, endless practices, and training create a bond that might be described as Marine-like. And in most cases, there was a payoff in that the athletes were often the kids most respected and appreciated at the schools.  At least in my era, no one was paying much attention to the Science or French Club (I was in Fr. Pryor's Science Club).  At Mount Carmel (my school), most everyone wanted to be on one of the teams.  I think we had at least half the school try out for the football team and I suspect the same might be true for Tim's St. Rita, and other schools such at Mendel, Brother Rice, etc. 

Of course, the teachers and administrators at the schools take academics very seriously and want their students to succeed in life and become good men. Tim alludes to that in the book as well, but he comes at it from an athletes perspective. This is a football book, after all.

And that allegiance, that love of school and the significant impact that it has, well, it is a big part of Tim's story.  It is not so much a point made in the lines of text, it is often between the lines. 

Tim is a product of Visitation parish in Chicago. I don't think there was ever a parish that produced football players like Visitation--a school that produced athletes who would star in the preps and then go on to many of the best colleges. 

I've learned at times not to project how people will read and how much they will appreciate what someone writes. I have been involved in publishing my entire adult life and there are always surprises.  At the same time, a story like Tim's could only be created by Tim--it is not an exact narrative or something that was written to intellectually reach interested parties.  It is more like a battle plan and diary that gives athletes, their families, and others a return ticket to the time, the place, and the deeds. I suspect, some people may spend a half an hour with the book and others will pick it up again and again. 

If you have your own Chicago "crew" from a Chicago Catholic school, Tim has prices that will allow you to buy a number of books to check off en masse for your Christmas list. For everyone else it's certainly affordable for a single copy purchase. 

Athletes often suggest that they stand "shoulder to shoulder" with each other at difficult times.  Tim's book reminds us that commitment of that kind can come early in life and live on. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Chicago Bears Vice President Patrick McCaskey to Speak at Harbor House Fundraiser in Kankakee

Patrick McCaskey, vice president of the Chicago Bears, will be the featured speaker at an upcoming Harbor House fundraising tailgate party where you can wear your favorite sports jersey.

On Friday, Sept. 22, at the Kankakee Country Club (2011 Cobb Blvd.), cocktails will begin at 5:30 p.m. and the event will end at 9 p.m.

For complete information see the Kankakee Daily Journal Story

McCaskey is a Sporting Chance Press author and his latest book is called Pilgrimage. 

Has the Leprechaun Left the Building or Can You Still Laugh with Coworkers

There was a wild colonial boy
Jack Duggan was his name
He was born and raised in Ireland
In a house called Castlemaine
He was his father’s only son
His mothers pride and joy
And dearly did his parents love
That wild colonial boy.

That wild colonial boy now has a career!

During my working life, I remember a kind of biorhythm thing that went on each week. It seemed like certain days were dreary and hard to get through, and some days most everything improved. I was not depressed, just locked into the job and at times, we were all under the gun and it could be stressful. But it did occur to me that my feeling for each day was very personal, it was about my attitude and my mood. 

I remember working in Chicago on the Northwest side where my office was on the second floor in what people would call a mid-century modern building. Many coworkers worked alongside each other. I had a great spot close the windows. My view was both good and bad, beautiful and ugly--it depended upon where you looked. 

On some days, as I came into the office, I headed for an escalator that took me up to the second floor. But I noticed that on my good days, I bounded up the stairs instead. I also found myself with such enthusiasm that I smiled and greeted coworkers. My greeting announced my presence for the day. Eventually, I got to the point where I would prance down the aisle and tell people “it’s a great day for the Irish.”

Sure, I was Irish through and through, but a little removed by distance.  But I had grown up on the South Side of Chicago in a neighborhood with many Irish families. It's still the home of the Chicago South Side Irish Parade, minutes away from Chicago Gaelic Park, and home to a myriad of Irish cultural institutions not the least of which are a bevy of Irish neighborhood bars. 

But Chicago is a diverse city and I am not sure if all my co-workers appreciated the Irish thing. Yet, I sensed at least some amusement on my coworkers' part even if they were not Irish. So at least it was harmless. Yes, I was enthusiastic, and yes, I loved my job.

When I started to think about it more and more, I noticed that my “great day for the Irish” was for the most part on Wednesday. Sure, like most people, I appreciated Fridays and suffered through Mondays, but there was a certain joy that came to me each Wednesday—hump day. Wednesday could be a day of pure joy. 

I suppose in a way, most of us had a great day each week (or some folks even a few). And these days might fall on different days, but collectively as co-workers, our honest enthusiasm could improve our lives and make work better for everyone. We shared the joy. We were happy people. We took coffee breaks and lunched in the cafeteria. We got to know each other during the work day and went home to our families each night. 

At least that’s how it was!

Something happened to the American workplace, many American workplaces, that has all but destroyed our lives at work. Many work places are deadly dull dreary places to work that are basically killing off employees by savage adherence to a corporate rules that take any real joy out of life. Millions dance to the tune of spreadsheets and worship technology. There are no boundaries to work hours.

Even at "hot job sites," ping pong tables and standing desks can't replace the close connection and love that comes from a functioning family. 

An old  friend of mine tells me that at his job, there are no great days for the Irish or anyone else. "The leprechaun has left the building."

I find that very sad.

If your place of work is decent and you can spread some joy today, please do so. There could come a time when it is impossible. When you find yourself at the total mercy of your employer and every spare minute of your day is about your work. 

Lawrence Norris is the author of an honest book called  The Brown and White.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Chicago Catholic Story on The Brown and White by Lawrence Norris


Mount Carmel alum writes a ‘fictionalized memoir’ of his days at the school

July 17, 2017

Larry Norris was a freshman at Mount Carmel High School in 1967-1968, a year that was pivotal in Chicago’s history. He recalls that history 50 years later in “The Brown and White” (2016, Sporting Chance Press), a “fictionalized memoir,” seen through the eyes of Collin Callaghan, a freshman at what Norris calls St. Mary’s College Prep. But the school, and, indeed, the South Side neighborhoods that the eponymous “Brown and White” school bus traverses, are clearly rooted in Norris’ experiences as an adolescent in an unsettled time.

Norris answered questions about his book by email for Chicago Catholic.

Chicago Catholic: You call “The Brown and White” a “fictionalized memoir” and you changed the names of not only people, but also the high school and other Chicago landmarks. Why did you want to make some of it fictional instead of writing a straight memoir, and how much did you change?

Larry Norris: I wanted to write a book like John Powers’ “Last Catholic in America” and “Do Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up” in that the people who are characters can recognize themselves, but it would be up to them. I also wanted the book to be of interest to a wide audience.

From my publishing experience, books are more powerful when they are organic -- when each reader brings into the mix his or her own experiences as the book is being read. When I read Powers myself, I thought about our Catholic culture and some of the things were so funny, yet so true. It was post Vatican II and things were a bit wobbly.

It also seemed easier to think about Power’s fictitious Seven Holy Hills and not to get hung up on the fact that his experience was at St. Christina and Brother Rice. Sometimes when you write about a particular school, that is where your market begins and ends. I love my school, Mount Carmel, but I am hoping the book works for everyone.

Fiction also allows you to round out the edges. It might also make it easier if I get a call from Hollywood and they want to make a movie from it.

Chicago Catholic: You said you’ve been writing this book for 40 years. Why did it take so long for the story to mature? What perspective do you have now that you didn’t have when you started to think about it?

Norris: I was talking to a priest that I knew 40 years ago and he said anyone can make fun of things in writing. I took that to heart and I wanted my book to be a positive book -- although I wanted to keep it real and be funny.

I wrote the various episodes of the book over many years. I was in no hurry; the world had four books by John Powers and several more on Catholic culture. Then, about 20 years ago, I had to take another pass at the entire book because I lost the file.

I went back and spent more time examining the times to describe the setting. I wanted to make sure that the book was about my experience and I wasn't trying to extend too far beyond that. In high school and college, I read a half-dozen books about the black experience. I didn't want to pretend I was the second coming of James Baldwin. So I tried to tell my story, a white boy’s story.

Chicago Catholic: The year you write about – 1967-1968 – was a tumultuous time for Chicago, and much has happened since. How do you think that time changed the city? How did it change Mount Carmel High School, in the near and long terms?

Norris: That's a big question. I had some idea of how the city was changed, but I was very young when that happened. So I guess you could say that much of what I describe was symptoms, not cause and effect.

I wrote about a few experiences that we had and focused on family and teachers. The year's events served as the backdrop, but I kept the book focused a personal level -- not a treatise on the times.

I hope readers will especially enjoy the family stories -- I think that's the strongest part of the book. I have both male and female fans of the book and that makes me feel good.

Mount Carmel survived and not only that, it was able to continue its mission to graduate one class after another of "Men of Carmel." Huge improvements have been made with gifts by generous alumni and the school now has a beautiful campus.

It’s blocks away from the site of the future Obama library. The student body is an ethnic alchemy -- students now will get an even better education. The future looks bright. People see Carmel as an athlete’s school, but it is certainly much more than that.

Chicago Catholic: The book covers not only a time of great social change, but also the freshman year of high school – nearly always a stormy time – for your protagonist. How did the turbulence of the time affect you as you were growing up? How did your growing up change your understanding of the times you lived through?

Norris: I kept the book light and wanted to focus on the fact that we almost all survive tough times and we do so with our family, faith, friends and help from others like teachers. In high school, there is also a tendency of not taking things too seriously. Personally, I think the 1960s left many of us shaking our heads and trying to come to some kind of closure, but I am not sure we will see it.

Chicago Catholic: The metaphor of the bus – “the Brown and White” – runs through the pages until, at the end, it stops, replaced without a word. What came to an end for you that year?

Norris: The story of the first year ended with my friends stopping by my house and sitting on the front steps with my parents. The Brown and White is a pervasive metaphor: the bus, the students, school colors, etc. At the end of the last chapter, we are taking a rest after the brown and white boot camp. We saw everything in brown and white.

The epilogue is a critical part of the book's message in that it talks about teachers that gave us everything they had.

"The Brown and White" is available on