Monthly Archives: February 2018

Men’s Conference


I attended the 10th annual Men’s Conference of the Diocese of Venice Florida last weekend.  About 300 of we men gave up our sunny Saturday to hear a number of great speakers and be reminded of what our purpose is in God’s plan for men.

Bishop dewane

The Diocese of Venice, established in 1984 from parts of other dioceses, consists of some 70 parishes, 12 elementary schools and 4 high schools in SW Florida.  By contrast, the Diocese of Pembroke, ON, (my home diocese) established as a Vicariate in 1882, is much larger in geographic area but smaller in population.


Bishop Frank Dewane urged us to remember gratitude, prayer and the Lord in our daily lives.  Next the dynamic Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers exploded onto the stage.  Deacon Harold is one of the most passionate, forceful and loudest speakers I have ever seen and heard. He reminded us of our purpose as men – to serve, protect and defend (Gen 2:15)


Men have to take a more serious approach to prayer including with their wives daily.  Men have to be witnesses and present to their kids and love their wives to show their kids the example.  Single men must be spiritual witnesses to society.  It is more important to be loved otherwise we are less capable of loving others.

Patrick Coffin

Interviewer Canadian Patrick Coffin took the stage and in a more subdued manner explained that God has a plan for the world and each of us.  Men are the ‘weaker’ sex but God favours the weak, joked Patrick.  Manhood is under attack in our culture.  Canadian Bill 16 adds gender expression and identify of trans-gender people to the groups that are protected from discrimination or hate propaganda under the criminal code.  Life has become complicated and some feel freedom of speech and religion is under attack.


We finished the day with some great songs from Bob Rice, a theology professor from Steubenville, OH.  It was great meeting some men from the area and seeing how American Catholicism functions in today’s world.  I thought the idea of an annual men’s conference is a great idea worth pursuing back home.


Open air chapel at Bishop Verot H.S.


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At the Exitentialist Cafe


Ron Rolheiser, OMI listed this book as one of his top 10 best books in 2017.  Here is what he said:

“This is one of the best books written on Existentialism that’s accessible to a non-professional reader.  It will introduce you to the giants of Existential philosophy: Sartre, Heidegger, Simone de Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, Camus, Husserl, and Jaspers. Bakewell believes you will understand a thinker’s philosophy much more accurately if you also have a picture of his or her life: “Ideas are interesting, but people are vastly more so.” Those without a background in philosophy will get lost occasionally but if you continue reading you will soon find yourselves again fascinated by the lives of these famous, colorful thinkers.”

This was indeed an interesting book.  Sarah Bakewell teaches creative writing at Oxford University and writes in a light-hearted very informed personal style.

Sartre (1905-80) is clearly the giant among them and was a very prolific writer, thinker and famous personality.  Known as an ‘anarchist’ he championed personal freedom – living an authentic life free of influences of others.  Along with freedom though comes tremendous responsibility in choosing one’s actions, which causes us fear.  An applied example is the fear of heights.  Standing at the edge of a mountain or the roof edge of a tall building causes vertigo because claims Sartre, we fear that we might just jump off because “we are free” to do so.  His opus book on all this was “Being and Nothingness” in 1943.

Sartre said we are free to be exactly the person we choose to be, which gets at his notion of freedom and authenticity.  He turned down the Nobel Prize in literature because he thought it would compromise his freedom. He was an atheist but also a humanist.  In  deciding who is right in a discussion among competing interests, Sartre proposed why not decide by asking how it looks to ‘the eyes of the least favoured’ or to ‘those treated the most unjustly’.  You just have to work out who is most oppressed and disadvantaged in a situation and then adopt their version of the events as the right one or ‘the truth’.  He was coming at this from a socialist view, not a moral view.  Another of his ideas which sticks in my mind, is when we are faced with a decision to act, if we act in the way that is personally not true to our authentic self, we are acting in ‘bad faith’.


Sartre and de Beauvoir – Philosophers and Lovers

Sartre had a long on again, off again lovers relationship with fellow philosopher Simone de Beauvoir.  She wrote some famous books herself including the ground breaking The Second Sex which changed women’s lives forever.  Albert Camus, the Algerian born author of such books as The Stranger figures prominently in the story line.  As does Martin Heidegger, a colossal thinker who refused to ever apologize for his  support of the Nazis in WWII Germany.  Then the there is Merleau-Ponty who was very dashing and actually pleasant who linked psychology to phenomenology in a more person centred philosophy.  Edmund Husserl (established the school of phenomenology) and Karl Jaspers (we must make leap of faith and transcend life) weave in and out of the story as do many other philosophers such as the interesting Emmanuel Levinas (encounters with others are privileged subjective phenomenon).

Each of these philosophers set out to prove that all other philosophers had it wrong.  There was a lot of falling out among friends in this bunch over differences of thinking and pride.  They lived in some very dark times of the 20th century.  Nevertheless, these philosophers have had a tremendous impact on our 21st century society.  I have been somewhat taken aback several times when I hear a millennial say “I would never believe that or do that because I would not be true to myself.”  This is pure Sartre.  The notion of developing one’s own “personal culture” and proudly proclaiming it has become the rage of the age it seems.

As Ron R. said, Ms. Bakewell wrote the book because there was not enough written about the private lives of these thinkers.  Their private lives had a direct impact on their thinking.  I am new to philosophy and enjoyed this ‘introduction’.  It is much easier to understand than the subject matter.  Nevertheless there is a dark tone in their thinking and the notion that “man is god” which I have trouble with.  However my appetite has been wetted and I might just get a copy of Being and Nothingness for further reading.  4.5 out of 5 stars – very popular read with the philosophy student crowd I imagine.


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Sunset Celebration


The weather has turned spectacular here now and does not cool off as quick in the evening.  One of the things we like to do is to go to the monthly sunset concert at Cape Coral Yacht Club.  It is only a 10 minute drive and there is amble free parking.  We parked behind a car with this pretty licence plate.


A superb slide guitarist name Kraig Kenning was performing again this year.  He plays his own material and other well-known songs.  You sit in your beach chair just a few feet away as the waves softly lap, sip your beer or wine and enjoy the sound.


The evening was great.  Kites flying, families gathering, music playing and the birds singing.  We brought a picnic dinner and wine.

We met a local CC family who had several generations of family members there all enjoying the evening.  As the sun gets close to setting, everyone turns to the water for that perfect picture.  It was a 10 out of 10 evening.  We plan to go to again next month with some visitors.  Thanks Lord for these great moments in FL.


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Puerto Vallarta Experience


We were treated to a wonderful experience of Puerto Vallarta, MX by friends Judy and Bruce. We flew down for a week to check out the sites and culture and to celebrate Marie’s birthday.  Our friends stay each winter in Nuevo Vallarta, the neighbouring tourist town in a lovely beachfront condo.  And what a beach it is, running for some 30 km around the rim of a volcanic cone framed by mountains on 3 sides.



Puerto Vallarta, the “jewel of the Pacific” has a population of about 300,000 that welcomes over 5 million tourists a year.  Its cobblestone center is home to the ornate Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe church, boutique shops and a range of restaurants and bars. El Malecón is a beachside promenade with contemporary sculptures, as well as bars, lounges and shops.

We ate at a funky place called Pancho’s Takos.  It is a hole in the wall on a busy sidewalk where people line up for 30 minutes for a table to be served the best Mexican food that we have ever eaten.  Beef is cooked shawarma style on a vertical spit and carved onto soft shell tortillas with a variety of salsa sauces, cheese and chorizo sausage added to taste.  The roast onions were a meal in themselves.  While waiting they offer you beer and ask afterwards how many did you have?  Street drumming, singing and dancing groups entertain.  It is a must eat PV experience that we loved.

Nuevo Vallarta is a timeshare, condominium and hotel town where Canadians surprisingly out number Americans and Mexicans at this time of year.  There are thousands of beach front rooms that people have been returning to for many years.  We fell in love with the pedestrian lifestyle.  You walk a lot and take a bus or taxi which is cheap, to get your groceries or to eat out.  It was a refreshing change for us from the car oriented Fort Myers where we have been wintering for several years.  Prices for food, drink and accommodation are more affordable here too as the Mexican peso has depreciated against the $CDN in recent years.


Dinner for about $27CDN!

We met many Canadians during our week-long stay and only a few Americans.  Bruce took us to a country estate benefit concert in support of a local retirement home for under privileged Mexican seniors.  There we met Doug and Debbie from Barrie, ON area who have been coming here for 25+ years.  Doug describes Mexico as his “adopted country” and along with Debbie, are involved in charitable works assisting locals in need each year.


The next day was Marie’s birthday.  We were invited to another brunch, this time at the elegant El Tigre Golf Club with a group of 20 others.  We had a great time meeting everyone and enjoying the great food and endless champagne.  We could see that this lifestyle is something we could get used to real easy.  Everyone is happy and ready to meet, greet and explain their passion for Mexico.  The Mexican staff are nothing but gracious, polite, efficient and good-natured.  Here, we are on “the fun side of the wall” as the tee-shirt says.


As our week drew to a close we were happy to walk the beach, swim in the ocean and pool, visit the huge Vidanta resort next door, check out the wild life and local markets, and, look at some condos for possible rental next winter…God willing and should we decide not to return to FL.

It is safe to say that we fell in love with PV and really would love to come back.  Thank you Judy and Bruce for sharing this special place with us and for your generous hospitality.  We are forever indebted and grateful to you for giving us this enduring intercultural experience.





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