Mom The Theologian


IMG_7015 copy 2Recently Virginia Cerna - Teen Portrait 2my sister passed along to me a curious artifact from the history of our family: one of our mother’s college blue book exams, dated November 26, 1946. The school is Incarnate Word College, San Antonio, Texas, now a university of the same name. The course is “Religion”. Virginia Cerna was then just nineteen years old–a decade away from marriage and motherhood. The instructor marked the exam “quite good” but, in those pre-grade inflation days, she received only an A-. Even so, someone in the family (her own mother?) must have been especially proud of this exam to have preserved it. For me, these 70 years later, the exam offers a poignant glimpse into both my mother’s young faith and the state of Catholicism in mid-twentieth century America.

Through six pages and fourteen short handwritten answers, Virginia replies to her instructor’s questions about the Bible and the Catholic faith.  Her handwriting is fine, in the old-school way, though subject to the vagaries of the fountain pen (the ink grows progressively lighter to the end of question 5, then becomes and stays dark from question 6 to the end). Her answers are confident though far from brash. She writes in the serene tone of mid-century American Catholicism, before the Church’s years of doubt and dissent began. “The only finally reliable way to fix the Canon of the Bible is on the authority of the Church,” she begins her answer to question #4–restating a Catholic tenet as it undoubtedly appeared in the question itself. “The beginning of John’s gospel deals with the Incarnation and the proof of Christs [sic] nature–both God and man,” she replies to question #6. “This is very important because if Christ were not divine and human the bottom of our religion falls through.” Continue reading

Are You Not Entertained?


Critics of Donald Trump have once again underestimated a candidate whose hallmark seems to be overcoming the odds.  There’s a growing chance that when the sun comes up on January 21, 2017, President Trump may be seated in the oval office, bent on making American great again.

Cruz and Kasich have conceded that neither can secure the Republican nomination on delegate count alone.  Their recent alliance is an attempt to deny Trump the 1237 delegates he needs to secure the nomination. It has turned from a traditional “vote for me” campaign into an historic “vote against Trump campaign.”  So why has an unlikely candidate like Trump succeeded in securing a significant lead towards the Republican nomination? Continue reading

HERO – The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance

Don't need another one of these.

Don’t need another one of these.

Today the Houston Chronicle urged us to read the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which will be on the ballot in Houston this November. I have done so and find the ordinance to be an embarrassment. HERO takes a contentious social issue and does nothing but immerse it in an absurd brew of unintelligent definitions and unresolved tensions. HERO is a hot mess of a measure that should be roundly voted down and sent back to the drawing board. Continue reading

This Old Photo: Soldiers, Strikers, and the Girls of 7th & Carpenter Streets, Philadelphia, 1944


Service rendered, dinner tendered.

A couple of years ago I purchased this photograph of World War II soldiers. The photo was part of a silent auction at a history conference in San Antonio. When no one initially bid on it, I felt that such neglect of our war heroes could not be allowed to stand. I courageously signed up at the five-dollar minimum and won the photo as the only bidder.

Afterwards, I slowly began to discover the photo’s true significance. Dated August 12, 1944, it depicts U.S. troops who had been ordered into Philadelphia to manage the trains of the Philadelphia Transit Company (PTC), whose workers had gone on strike. The “Girls of 7th & Carpenter Sts” put on a thank-you dinner for the troops that August day. Owing to the troops’ presence, the strike was coming to a close as these soldiers dined. Continue reading