- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2008

Bless me, Father

“In preparation for Lent last year, I wrote a pastoral letter titled, ‘God’s Mercy and the Sacrament of Penance,’ in which I reflected on the value of confession. … It was clear last year that the public nature of this initiative, from billboards to Metro posters, brought Christ’s call to conversion to so many individuals in our area.

“One downtown priest noted that many penitents attributed their confession to the visibility of [the diocesan initiative] ‘The Light Is On For You.’ ‘By simply extending that unique invitation,’ the priest commented, ‘their hearts had been touched. In the voice of the Church, they heard the voice of the Father Himself saying ‘Come back home.’ And they came. …

“One large suburban parish had growing numbers for confession each week, partly due to the pastor’s memorable and warm invitation to his parishioners [that said], ‘If you are still a little frightened, anxious or nervous about receiving the sacrament, please do not worry; the priests will gladly walk you through the process.’ … One priest remarked, ‘I cannot understand why people choose to walk a life that is less than alive when all it takes is the courage to say, ‘Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.’ ”

Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl, writing on “Reflections on God’s Mercy and Our Forgiveness: A Pastoral Letter to the Clergy, Religious and Laity of the Archdiocese of Washington,” printed Jan. 31 in the Catholic Standard

Prowling SoHo

“Scott Schuman is prowling SoHo, camera over his shoulder, looking for subjects for his photo blog of street fashion. He spots a promising model: a girl with long, shiny hair, wearing high heels midday on a Saturday — two signs, he says, of a fashionista. But ultimately he decides her look is ‘a little too Nordstrom.’ Instead, he shoots a bearded man wearing a brown puffer coat that cinches at the waist. …

“Schuman is part of a growing group of bloggers posting pictures of fashion as worn by real people around the world. … Now real people are even strutting the catwalk — the swimwear company Lycra plucked 20 women of all shapes and sizes off the beach to model their suits at last year’s Miami Swim Fashion Week.

“Fashion-industry folks say the trend of using real people to sell clothes attests to a fatigue with skinny, expressionless models in ads and on runways. …

“Much of this interest in real-looking models is driven by the Internet, which has democratized the once rarefied world of high fashion. ‘Fashion shows used to be for a very small number of people, very exclusive,’ says ‘Look Book’ editor Amy Larocca. ‘Now you can see them an hour later on the Internet. Everyone can be involved.’ ”

Jennie Yabroff, writing on “Rise of the Real People,” in the Feb. 4 issue of Newsweek

Boo on Starbucks

“There is a moment in the history of every business enterprise where the commitment shifts from quality to profit, and Starbucks had its moment years ago. The coffee colossus, like so many companies, came out of the gate trusting that consumers would respond to quality. Growth changed Starbucks’ priorities. It now banks on the notion that customers will settle for less than the best if it’s reasonably cheap, consistent, and brewed — by automated machines, of course — on every street corner.

“After a 40 percent dip in its stock price and the worst quarter in corporate history, Starbucks still plans to open 1,175 new stores in 2008. The beating — of the dead horse — goes on. As far as most coffee connoisseurs in the Northwest are concerned, Starbucks is Hallmark, Radio Shack, McDonald’s, just another tepid brand. …

“[It] got old, tired and automated, and decided — in the name of quarterly profits — to hock microwaved breakfast sandwiches that stink up the joint. How many Starbucks will be in Portland at year’s end? I’ll take the under.”

Steve Duin, writing on “Starbucks: No Longer Served Hot,” in the Feb. 3 Oregonian

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