Thursday, August 30, 2007

"I pass on to you what was passed on to me."

I'm too busy at the moment to do much more than pass along things I think are worth pondering. "I pass on to you what was passed on to me," Paul wrote.

Paul wrote this about the Eucharistic liturgy and the words of consecration. What I am passing along is hardly of comparable significance. In fact, it hovers somewhere between Gospel and Gossip, as does much of the flotsam and jetsam of cyberspace. But I would not be passing it along if I did not think it a good deal closer to the Gospel than to gossip, for the two things I am here passing along have what I think is a high degree of veracity.

Taken together they provide a very interesting background for understanding contemporary history and the recent trends in Western culture, especially on the European side of the Atlantic, thought they have, as you will see, great relevance for our own society as well.

Roy Schoeman is the author of "Salvation is From the Jews." Here is an excerpt that recently circulated in the blogsphere that is very much worth reading.

And then there is a letter sent to CNN about its recent "God's Warriors" series which appeared on the Gates of Vienna blog-site. As I said in an earlier post, I do not have a television and I did not see the CNN program, but everything I have read about it leads me to believe that the author of this letter has it right. It's here.

Taken together, these two unrelated pieces provide something of a backdrop for the spiritual and cultural crisis in the midst of which we are now living.

The historian Christopher Dawson:
We find ourselves back in the same situation as that which the Christians encountered during the decline of the ancient world. Everything depends on whether the Christians ... are able to communicate their hope to a world in which man finds himself alone and helpless before the monstrous forces which have been created by man to serve his own ends but which have now escaped from his control and threaten to destroy him.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Yet another way to destroy the family

This is not the only way to destroy the family.

Faced with a demographic winter even graver than many in Western Europe, Russia has found another way to destroy the family, one that, unlike the one above, promises to improve the demographics.

This from an earlier post by Bob Vischer at Mirror of Justice:
Apparently there is a huge youth organization in Russia called Nashi, sponsored by the Kremlin, that encourages its members to procreate for the sake of the Motherland. The Daily Mail reports:

Nashi's annual camp, 200 miles outside Moscow, is attended by 10,000 uniformed youngsters and involves two weeks of lectures and physical fitness.
Attendance is monitored via compulsory electronic badges and anyone who misses three events is expelled. So are drinkers; alcohol is banned. But sex is encouraged, and condoms are nowhere on sale.
Welcome to the Brave New World
Demographic improvement -- that is, a rise in the birthrate -- accompanied by a growing indifference to the nature and structure of the family will have consequences that may yet be unforeseen, but they are hardly likely to be happy ones.
As Liz would say, and often said: "God help us."

Monday, August 27, 2007

A year ago today

This weblog began a year ago. At the time, my beloved wife Liz was in declining health, and caring for her required the cancellation of my normal traveling and speaking activities. The weblog seemed a reasonable way to attend to Liz while still contributing to the work of the Cornerstone Forum and staying in touch with the Forum's friends. After bearing a great cross for many months, Liz passed away a little more than six months ago.

For the last few months, Randy Coleman-Riese and I have been working with friends in nine cities in preparation for the 2007-2008 Emmaus Road Initiative program which we began in 2005. I will shortly embark on a travel schedule that is considerably more demanding than anything I have ever attempted in the past. I hope the readers of this weblog will still find occasional reason to visit the site, to which I hope to post as often as I can. The itinerant nature of my life in the months to come, however, will probably keep me from posting as regularly as I would otherwise like.

If my upcoming travels bring me into face-to-face contact with some of those with whom I have lately been in cyber-space contact, I will be very pleased. In the meantime, I will post to this site as often as I possibly can.

Thanks for your interest in the work of the Cornerstone Forum. I feel privileged to be involved in it and grateful to those who make our work possible.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Fostering Phobia ... the Tipping Point

Visiting with friends recently, I learned that their eldest, just off to his first year at a respected university, was taking a freshman course in "Islamophobia."

This week CNN has aired a series of programs the underlying premise of which is the moral equivalence of the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic predisposition to violence, something from which many on the left only dissent by claiming -- implicitly or explicitly -- that the greater threat comes from the "Christian right" or the "fundamentalist Christians" -- both terms meaning simply people who still hold to Judeo-Christian moral principles and still feel a degree of patriotic loyalty to the society that has fostered the political freedoms and economic prosperity for which they are grateful. (I do not have a television, and I have not seen the CNN series, but everything I have read about it leads me to believe that it is a slightly more subtle version of the line long espoused by the major media outlets and the American professorate.)

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, there have been roughly 9000 terrorist attacks carried out in the name of Islam. Islamic radicals are palpably on the rise in virtually every European country, to the consternation of many. Violence in the name of Islam is literally everywhere one looks today. But CNN hasn't veered from the doctrine to which it has long been wedded; nor have the academicians. The problem requiring the immediate attention of the West's fledgling undergraduates is "Islamophobia." Imagine a course on the irrational fear of Nazis in the 1930s, an analogue that will not seem at all preposterous in historical hindsight.

Sweeping moral problems under a linguistic rug is the special hobby of postmodernists. The terms "Islamophobia" and "homophobia" function to silence misgivings that are anything but irrational. The misgivings are rooted in moral, historical, and cultural reality. But as those who harbor these misgivings are made to swallow them for fear of being accused of barbarism and psychopathology -- which is to say, the violation of the speech codes formulated for the purpose of silencing legitimate criticism -- those misgivings don't go away. They may well drop below the level of consciousness, for no one likes being reminded by an inner voice of his cowardice in the face of social intimidation. But these misgivings remain, and as the social revolutions that give rise to them grow bolder -- much of the opposition to them having been silenced -- there is a real possibility that these choked-back misgivings might become so loaded with resentment that when they do finally make it to the surface they might do so precisely as Islamophobic or homophobic fury. And were that to happen, it would be both a moral and social catastrophe.

By using recently manufactured neologisms such as "Islamophobia" and "homophobia" to silence legitimate criticism of movements committed to a fundamental reordering of cultural life and prevent free and open public debate about the cultural impact of these revolutions, those behind these movements may be creating self-fulfilling prophecies.

On the matter of "Islamophobia," there are signs in Europe that a tipping point may be approaching, a point at which ancestral Europeans may suddenly panic. Social panics are anything but edifying, and European history doesn't inspire confidence that one provoked by the very legitimate fear of the Islamization of Europe would be an exception.

Were those who have been long intimidated into silence to finally rise up, however, those who threw these accusations at the heads of all who resisted their revolution can be counted on to seize the opportunity to declare that they were right all along.

So, who would get blamed? The answer of course is the moral realists, the heirs of Augustine, who have known all along what a precious and fragile gift a harmonious civil order is and how quickly and precipitously it can descend into chaos if the moral presuppositions on which it was built are dismantled.

Meanwhile, the next generation is being taught that the only thing requiring moral discernment is the presence of the retrograde people still willing to exercise moral discernment; that the only thing we have to fear but fear itself. Franklin Roosevelt must be turning in his grave.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Peace: The Struggle Against Evil

Yesterday, Benedict XVI, delivering his weekly Angelus reflection from his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, said that the peace of Christ is not "the absence of conflict" but the "struggle against evil."

The peace of Jesus is the fruit of a constant struggle against evil. The battle that Jesus has decided to fight is not against men or human powers but against the enemy of God and man, Satan. Those who desire to resist this enemy, remaining faithful to God and the good, must necessarily deal with misunderstandings and sometimes very real persecution.

Thus, those who intend to follow Jesus and commit themselves without compromises to the truth must know that they will face opposition and will become, despite themselves, a sign of division among persons, even within their own families.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Phillip, Jamie, Mitchell, & Emily

On July 24th, Pope Benedict XVI met with the priests of two Italian dioceses, taking questions from them at one point. What he said in response to one of the questions is a perfectly apt tribute to the remarkable family with whom I stayed while I was doing things at the Wyoming School of Catholic Thought last week. While my fellow WSCT faculty members and I were giving talks about how better to bear witness to Christian truth, this marvelous family was quietly living that truth in a way that Benedict asked his audience to recognize. He said:
If we see that families nourished by faith live in joy, that they also experience suffering in profound and fundamental joy, that they help others, loving God and their neighbor, in my opinion this is the most beautiful proclamation today. For me too, the most comforting proclamation is always that of seeing Catholic families or personalities who are penetrated by faith: the presence of God truly shines out in them.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Emmaus Road Initiative

Inspiring a Wholehearted Faith in a Half-Hearted World

This summer's Wyoming School of Catholic Thought has concluded, and it was a truly inspiring gathering. As I prepare to leave tomorrow for Houston and Dallas, where I will be doing a radio interview (Houston) and having several meetings (Dallas) in preparation for the Houston and Dallas venues of the Emmaus Road Initiative program, I want to pass along to the weblog readers the September E.R.I. schedule as it now stands. Those on the Cornerstone Forum email newsletter list received an email with the schedule a few days ago. We would like to invite everyone interested in our work to these monthly sessions, however, so for those who are not on our newsletter list, I have posted the schedule below.

The greatest uncertainty at the moment has to do with the San Francisco venue, which is only being added at the last moment and remains tentative. We will post more information about that venue within the next couple of weeks. If you live in the Bay Area and would like to help with the San Francisco arrangements or publicity, contact Randy Coleman-Riese at the Cornerstone Forum Office: 707-996-4704.

If you live near any of the venues where we're having E.R.I. sessions, I hope you will join us. If you know of others in the areas where we'll be meeting, we urge you to forward a link to this blog entry to them and invite them to attend. (To forward a link to friends, go to the bottom of this posting and click on the little envelope icon.)

Here's the September Schedule
(The sessions are free and open to everyone.)

These details can also be found on our web site.
here to go our Emmaus Road Initiative webpage

Washington, DC:
Washington Theological Union

6896 Laurel Street NW
Washington, DC 20012
Saturday, September 8th at 9:30 a.m. (Coffee at 9:15)

For more information: 707 996-4704

Glastonbury, CT:
St. Dunstan's Church

1345 Manchester Road
Glastonbury, CT 06033
Monday, September 10th at 7:30 p.m.
For more information: 860-633-3317

Seattle, Washington:
St. Benedict's Catholic Church

1805 North 49th Street
Seattle WA 98103
Tuesday, September 11th at 7:30 p.m.

For more information: 707 996-4704

San Francisco, California:
We are currently working on the details of this venue.
Our ERI webpage will be updated with the place & time for this site when it is confirmed.
Wednesday evening, September 12th

Santa Rosa, California:
Spiritual Enrichment Center
360 Farmers Lane
Santa Rosa, CA 95405
Thursday, September 13th at 7:00 p.m.
For more information: (707) 996-4704

Dallas, Texas:
St. Monica's Catholic Church

9933 Midway Road
(at the intersection of Midway Road & Walnut Hill)
Dallas, TX 75220
September 15th - 10 a.m. to Noon

For more information: 972 416-5815

University of Dallas
1845 E. Northgate Drive
Room To be announced.
Irving, TX 75062
Monday, September 17th at 7:00 p.m.
For more information: Mrs. Suzanne Alexander 972-721-5219

MAP - Map to the Campus
MAP - Map of the Campus

San Diego, California:
Immaculate Conception Church
2540 San Diego Avenue - Old Town
San Diego, CA 92101
Wednesday, September 19th at 7:00 p.m.

For more information: 707 996-4704
Note: in following months the Wednesday evening presentation will be held on the campus of the University of San Diego.

Immaculate Conception Church
2540 San Diego Avenue - Old Town
San Diego, CA 92101

Thursday, September 20th at 10:00 a.m. (Coffee @ 9:45)
For more information: 707 996-4704

Wheaton, Illinois:
St. Michael Catholic Church

310 S Wheaton Avenue
Wheaton, IL 60187
Monday, September 24th at 7:30 p.m.

For more information: 630 220-7329

Houston, Texas:
St. Cyril of Alexandria Catholic Church

10503 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77042
Wednesday, September 26th at 7:30 p.m.

For more information: 713 789-1250

If you plan to attend, join the E.R.I. Hotline.

If you are planning to attend any of the Emmaus Road Initiative sessions this fall, we would like to ask you to update your profile in our data-base so that we can send out reminders and, if ever necessary, alerts about last minute schedule changes. (Keeping a tight schedule while flying in and out of Chicago's O'Hare airport in the winter can be a challenge.)

Here's how to update your profile:

Put your email address in the field at the top of the blue column to the right, and click "Go." If you are not on our email list already, you will be taken directly to the profile page. If you are already on our list, you will be asked to click "submit," and an email will be sent to you with a clickable "update your profile" link which will take you to the profile page. Next, put a check next to the venue you plan to attend. Before you click on the "Submit" button, however, please take a minute to fill in as much of the contact information as you wish. We're not going to be flooding you with regular mail. We can't afford it, and it's not our modus operandi. We do have an annual fall appeal that we send out by regular mail, but except for that, we'll stay in touch by email.

Thank you for taking the time to do this. It will help us.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

From Wyoming . . .

I am still at the Wyoming School of Catholic Thought, with little time to post to the blog, but I didn't want to let this post get lost.

Wahhabi Multiculturalism

Item #1(a):
News from August 10th:
Audrey Shabbas, the director of Arab World and Islamic Resources (AWAIR) in Berkeley, California, may be America’s most effective educator in guiding public school students to embrace a radically pro-Islamic world view.

Shabbas is the author and editor of a number of hugely influential resources for teachers: The Arab World Studies Notebook, The Arab World Notebook: For the Secondary School Level, The Arabs: Activities for the Elementary and Middle School and A Medieval Banquet in the Alhambra Palace. These are 540+ page, looseleaf compendiums for different grade levels, published jointly by the Middle East Policy Council (MEPC) and AWAIR.

The AWAIR website offers, “We can offer you [school districts and principals] a full day's staff development program at NO COST TO YOU!" This means a 5-7 hour workshop involving 30+ teachers.

Shabbas told the Daily Star (Lebanon) that she orients curriculum to a pro-Islamic view and “points teachers toward tools that will help them go farther in their own classrooms. Over the years, the [Arab World Studies] Notebook has been distributed to over 10,000 teachers, most of whom share the resource with others. If each notebook teaches 250 students a year over 10 years, then you've reached 25 million students."
Item #2:
News from August 8th, but nothing really new. It's been this way for a long time.
Despite a series of initiatives aimed at generating foreign tourism, the Saudi Arabian government continues to bar Jews and Christians from bringing items such as Bibles, crucifixes and Stars of David into the country and is threatening to confiscate them on sight, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

"A number of items are not allowed to be brought into the kingdom due to religious reasons and local regulations," declares the Web site of Saudi Arabian Airlines, the country's national carrier.

After informing would-be visitors that items such as narcotics, firearms and pornography may not be transported into the country, the Web site adds: "Items and articles belonging to religions other than Islam are also prohibited. These may include Bibles, crucifixes, statues, carvings, items with religious symbols such as the Star of David, and others."
Item #1(b):
News again from August 10th:
According to Sandra Stotsky, former director of a development institute for teachers at Harvard, cited by Stanley Kurtz in “Saudi in Her Classroom” (National Review Online, July 25, 2007), Shabbas’ seminars promote, rather than describe, Islam while excluding or criticizing Jewish and Christian views. The lesson plans also provide an affective, experiential approach, with children role-playing Islamic life, saying Muslim prayers, and copying and memorizing portions of the Koran.

Stotsky remarked, “If Harvard’s outreach personnel had designed similar classroom exercises based on Christian or Jewish models, then People for the American Way, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the A.C.L.U. would descend upon them like furies.” . . .

According to Stanley Kurtz, the teacher training project is funded through various channels leading back to the government of Saudi Arabia.
The future belongs to those who shape the minds of our children. The politically correct multiculturalism that is now doctrine in Western public (and most private) education is being brought to us by the same people who are inculcating the young with theories of sexuality about which two things can be said: 1. no one in his right mind ever believed them before about 15 years ago, and 2. the spiritual, moral, physical and emotional price to be paid by those who adopt them and experiment with them will staggering.

It doesn't take a genius: if we don't change course we'll end up where we're headed. But it's far worse than that, because it will be our children's children who will reap what we have sown.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sunset in the West

Back in the 1960s, one of the books that made the rounds was Loren Eiseley's "The Immense Journey." I must say that it left quite an impression on me, though I don't know what my reaction to it today would be. Eiseley had a poet's sensibility, which he applied to the task of narrating the story of evolution. I remember reading pages of the book in the San Gabriel mountains of southern California in the late 60s and being deeply moved by them.

After all these years, I still remember (vaguely but palpably) his description of the age of flowering plants, when suddenly the earth became colorful for the first time. Reading those passages in Eiseley's book was like watching a slow-motion film of the evolutionary process and seeing a sudden explosion of blue and yellow and red and purple. It was a miracle to behold it, even in the imagination.

I thought of that tonight as I read a quote from the 11th century historian and monk, Raoul Glaber, who wrote an often foreboding history of the tenth and early eleventh centuries. Of the year 1030, however, he wrote that "it seemed as if the world, shaking itself and casting off its old age, was putting on, here, there, and everywhere, the pure white robe of churches."

What Glaber was describing was the architectural manifestation of the Christianization and re-Christianization of Europe. Churches were springing up everywhere, and not little makeshift ones built in the full knowledge that the next wave of barbarians would destroy them. The 11th century churches were being built by people confident that they were providing for posterity, in this life and the next.

Most of those reading this right now would be able to finish this blog post without any help from me. Today the European skyline is taking a different shape. The cathedrals are still there of course, but they are largely empty, museums in all but name were it now for the fact that little congregations of the faithful continue to gather in them for the Eucharist and for worship. Gone, at least for the moment, is the historical confidence that raised the spires and lifted the spirits of Raoul Glaber in the 11th century.

History has a history, and history itself once took place in what, by today's standards, would seem slow motion. But recent history is speeding up, and now world-historical changes catch us by surprise. Whereas the transformation of which Glaber wrote in the 11th century occurred over a great expanse of time, today the religious landscape of Europe is being altered at an almost breathtaking pace, and this time it is Muslim minarets that are rising, announcing a new and deeply problematic future for the European continent and its children's children.

(I am still in Wyoming, a little patch of the West where what Glaber saw happening in the 11th century is happening again in the most remarkable and heartening way. Under the leadership of Bishop David Ricken, the Cheyenne diocese is alive with the most robust and healthy Christian revitalization. It's a privilege to be part of it, if only for a week. It is in places like this, largely unnoticed, where the seeds of a Christian reawakening are being planted and tended.)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Progress: Recovering what has been lost . . .

I am in Wyoming for the week, speaking at the Wyoming School of Catholic Thought. Most of the time I'll be in the mountains, off the grid. I will post if it seems worthy of your time and if I have time and an internet connection.

Romano Guardini:
"We cannot apply the modern idea of progress to the history of the church. This idea constitutes a fatal illusion. The noblest thing that lives in man is the will to become better and ever better; it is a yearning for perfection. But this will and this yearning are personal. They can be realized only in freedom -- with the attendant danger of the possibility of yes or no, of success or failure. The idea of progress confuses all this with the concept of "evolution," which is derived from the determinism of nature. This deceives man about the character of his existence and paralyzes his noblest powers."

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Upon This Rock

Caravaggio's Peter's Crucifixion

The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith recently issued a document entitled "Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church." The document occasioned considerable discussion, much of it expressing disappointment, if not irritation.

The document was not soliciting approval; it was restating Catholic doctrine, and there's nothing new in the doctrine it restates. Whether I or anyone else agrees or disagrees with this doctrine is not the issue. I am a son of the Church; had I found the document problematic, I would have started with the assumption that the problem was at my end. But, happily, I concur with both the doctrine and the Congregation's restatement of it. I think there is, however, more that can be said in its defense.

If I think the Church is right about the matter recently addressed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, my Protestant friends may very well not see it that way. Because those friendships are important to me, and because I want the conversations we have had in the past to continue, I have decided to try to explain, in my own terms, why I concur with the Church's position, knowing that many will differ, but hoping we can disagree in a way that moves us closer to the truth we all seek.

Shortly after the Vatican document was released, I put a few thoughts together and then glanced around for a journal where they could be published before the vertiginous news cycle carried public attention to other matters. Finding none, I have decided to put the message in a bottle and toss it into the churning sea of cyberspace, hoping that it will wash ashore where those who might find it useful will discover it. There is a link to the piece below.

If you find the little essay helpful, feel free to forward it to friends and share it in any way that is respectful and considerate of those who may hold differing views.

Here's where you'll find it:

Upon This Rock

Chat Room

Father Dominic
August 8th - The Feast of St. Dominic

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Elizabeth Bailie

From a poem by Liz Bailie
Blessed are they
who see peace bloodied
and join her.

Blessed are they
whose anger is wedded
to patience.

Blessed are they
who reveal the vessel
that carries mystery.

Blessed are they
who kneel in the sanctuary
of banished truth.

Blessed are they
who resist death
by dying.

Blessed are they
whose freedom grows
inside love’s confines.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Cardinal Lustiger

Jean-Marie Lustiger
1926 - 2007

If I am not mistaken, it was Cardinal Lustiger who once said that to be a person of faith is to live in such a way that if God does not exist one's life has been wasted. I quote it from vague memory, but if it wasn't Cardinal Lustiger who said it, it was the good Cardinal who gave living witness its truth. May he rest in peace.

George Weigel has a wonderful tribute to Cardinal Lustiger here.

What the West Needs to Know

Greg Davis is a friend of mine. He and his colleague, Bryan Daly, produced a film about the rise of jihadist Islam entitled: "What the West Needs to Know." It is a disturbing but well-done and well-researched film. I recommend it.

For a quick take on what Greg and his colleague are doing, here are links to two short interviews, one that Daly did on MSNBC and one that Greg did on Fox.

"What the West Needs to Know" can be ordered here.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Sobriam Ebrietatem Spiritus . . .

. . . the Sober Intoxication of the Spirit . . .

In John Paul II's Theology of the Body, his great contribution to the Church and the world, he made a most apposite distinction between emotion and excitement, the latter too often mistaking itself for the former. The great German theologian, Romano Guardini, makes essentially the same distinction but without the use of a verbal juxtaposition. In his great contribution to the world and the Church, his work on the liturgy, he writes:
The liturgy as a whole is not favorable to exuberance of feeling. Emotion glows in its depths, but it merely smolders, like the fiery heart of the volcano whose summit stands out clear and serene against the quiet sky. The liturgy is emotion, but it is emotion under the strictest control.
The record of liturgical banality to which most of us have been subject for the last few decades stands out all the more glaringly in the face of Guardini's reminder of the gravitas that is proper to liturgical life. It is easy to understand why Benedict XVI's great love for this gravitas is indebted to the early influence Guardini had on his understanding of the liturgy.

One thinks of Flannery O'Connor's quip to the effect that to be a Catholic is to be highly suspicious of one's emotional response to the sacraments.

The prayer of the church, Guardini writes: "awakens very profound and very tender emotions and impulses, but it leaves them hidden."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Emmaus Road Initiative

Supper at Emmaus – Caravaggio

We have discovered that the Cornerstone Forum telephone number that appears on many pieces of our Emmaus Road Initiative publicity was incorrect; two numbers were transposed.

We have corrected the error and put two Emmaus Road Initiative descriptions on our website. I hope you will take a look and pass the information along to anyone who might be interested -- either in attending one of the venues where the program will be held each month or in taking part in the program via CDs or MP3 files downloaded from our website.

There are two PDF files describing the upcoming series, one is a simple one-page version, the other a two-page version that includes the Cornerstone Forum Mission Statement. They can be found by clicking on the links below.

Emmaus Road Initiative #1

Emmaus Road Initiative #2
We will soon be sending out a newsletter with information about the September Emmaus Road Initiative gatherings in Washington, DC; Glastonbury, CT; Seattle, WA; Santa Rosa, CA; San Diego, CA; Wheaton, IL; Houston, TX; and Dallas, TX.

Whether you are already on our email newsletter list now or not, if you are planning to attend one of the E.R.I. venues in the fall, we would like ask you to update your profile information by using the form at the top of the blue column to the right. At the profile update page, just check the box next to the E.R.I. session you plan to attend. We can then make sure you have the latest scheduling information and keep you abreast as well of any last-minute schedule changes (should I run into a snow storm in Chicago -- never to be ruled out -- or something of that nature).