The 136th Kentucky Derby: Karma, Race Breakdowns, and Girl Power

Calvin Borel comes flying home in the 2009 Derby with 50 to 1 shot Mine That Bird for his 2nd victory in 3 years (with a 3rd place in between).

Hear Tom Durkin understandably bungle the stretch call: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlXCC7otxQo

Those of you who have graciously followed my rantings for the past several years may be familar with the “Peach Derby Curse”, which kicked into high gear the past two years.  My top pick in 2008 was Eight Belles, the filly who ran a gutsy second to Big Brown but then broke both front legs galloping out after the wire, and was euthanized on the track.  It was horrible, and a friend of mine punctuated the dread by pleading with me “…never to pick him to win anything, ever.”  Last year, my top selection, pre-race-favorite I Want Revenge, was scratched the morning of the Derby, and hasn’t been in the starting gate since.

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The Devil May Be Winning

This New York Times commentary on Pope Benedict’s visit troubles me in so many ways I’m having a hard time counting them. There’s one particular diabolical strategy in Lewis’ Screwtape Letters that I always found particularly compelling. Screwtape reminds Wormwood that one of the tools in the Tempter’s box is to warn the people of every age of a particular vice that is presently threatening them, when in fact it is the vice polar opposite to the one being shouted from the rooftops which threatens to overwhelm them. Read the rest of this entry »

Walter J. Burghardt, S.J. (1914-2008)

It is with sadness and gratitude that I note the passing of Fr. Walter J. Burghardt, S.J., the brilliant Jesuit homilist who not only preached beautifully but taught and encouraged others to do so as well. He died last Saturday at the age of 93. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated tonight at Holy Trinity in Georgetown. The Washington Post obituary is here.

Fr. Burghardt was Theologian-in-Residence at Georgetown University while I was a student there. Unfortunately, I was one of the skeptics-in-residence during the same period, so my path did not cross Fr. Burghardt’s and I knew almost nothing about him until he preached the homily at our Baccalaureate Mass on May 26, 1985. Read the rest of this entry »

Murphy’s Rebuttal

Murphy looking thoughtfulAbout six or eight years ago, when the health of our dog Murphy was beginning to decline, an offhand reference to dogs in Heaven prompted a friend to observe that there would be no dogs in Heaven. Our friend stated with great assurance that Murphy, good as he was, had already achieved the highest state of being that he would ever achieve. This opinion surprised me not so much because I thought it wrong (after all who can say?) but rather because I thought it was a topic on which certitude seemed so unjustified.

Murphy and ElizabethMurphy kept running on pure spirit for longer than anyone expected, but he’s been gone about six months now. During that time, I’ve thought often of my friend’s words from years ago. Today I read another point of view on Chris Abraham’s blog. Murphy, this one’s for you.

Update: The link to Chris Abraham’s blog stopped working, but I found the story here, and am reprinting it below:

A man and his dog were walking along a road. The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead. He remembered dying, and he knew that the dog walking beside him had been dead for years. He wondered where the road was leading them.

After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble. At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch that glowed in the sunlight. When he was standing before it, he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother-of-pearl, and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold. He and the dog walked toward the gate, and as he got closer, he saw a man at a desk to one side.

When he was close enough, he called out, “Excuse me, where are we?”

“This is Heaven, sir,” the man answered.

“Wow! Would you happen to have some water?” the man asked.

“Of course, sir. Come right in, and I’ll have some ice water brought right up.”

The man gestured, and the gate began to open.

“Can my friend,” gesturing toward his dog, “come in, too?” the traveler asked.

“I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t accept pets.”

The man thought a moment and then turned back toward the road and continued the way he had been going with his dog.

After another long walk, and at the top of another long hill, he came to a dirt road leading through a farm gate that looked as if it had never been closed. There was no fence. As he approached the gate, he saw a man inside, leaning against a tree and reading a book.

“Excuse me!” he called to the man. “Do you have any water?”

“Yeah, sure, there’s a pump over there, come on in.”

“How about my friend here?” the traveler gestured to the dog.

“There should be a bowl by the pump.”

They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was an old-fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it. The traveler filled the water bowl and took a long drink himself, then he gave some to the dog. When they were full, he and the dog walked back toward the man who was standing by the tree.

“What do you call this place?” the traveler asked.

“This is Heaven,” he answered.

“Well, that’s confusing,” the traveler said. “The man down the road also said that was Heaven.”

“Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates? Nope. That’s hell.”

“Doesn’t it make you mad for them to use your name like that?”

“No, we’re just happy that they screen out the folks who would leave their best friends behind.”