Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bishop Fitzgerald of Winona, MN, was raised in Cresco,Iowa. He had been a friend of my mother in his youth—so when I was a Dominican novice in Winona, he HAD to visit me, however reluctantly.

(One reason for his lack of enthusiasm was an earlier meeting we’d had when I was a layman. I visited his mansion in Dubuque,Ia; his mother had been maid to my grandmother Lyons. She grabbed my hand with one claw,saying “Be sure to tell your folks how good we got it here!” and showed me the bathroom faucets plated with gold.
He fumed silently.)

Monks/Friars have an edgy relationship with bishops; the priests in our friary were not best-pleased to have him announce the visit, but accepted.

I entered the room where he sat and threw myself prostrate at his feet. Then I got to my knees, and moved forward to kiss his ring. Then I stood up and we shook hands, and held a short conversation.

Eyeing the corpulent priests in the room, he said cattily, “I’m glad you joined the Dominicans; they eat well.”/

“Your Grace,” I replied, “My impression is that ALL clergy eat well.”

The interview ended shortly afterwards.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

When a mere millionaire tangles with a huge corporation..

ROBERT LYONS: My brother Bob ran a chain of car dealerships in Wisconsin,
worth several million dollars on paper.
Let’s call the car-brand ‘Acme’.

Bob somehow mortally offended a big Acme honcho in Las Vegas. (It’s said Bob punched him—before he joined AA.) These honchos said they’d ruin him, and they did.

They even forged orders sending him cars that wouldn’t sell. His empire collapsed.
But they didn’t understand that some Irish are too dumb to give in. He sued them.

(By this time he’d joined AA. He got legal advice from some of the prominent lawyers and judges in that group.)

Acme bought the judge. The trial took the longest in Milwaukee history. (Justice the tactic of big corporations.)Bob had 2 young lawyers;Acme had hundreds.

Even so, finally the jury brought in a verdict of 80 acts of wanton misconduct against Bob.
The judge reversed their verdict in one page. Bob had to sue to get his reasons, which were lifted right from the Acme brief.

Surprisingly, Bob had $ enough to finance an appeal. Ten years after the start of this affair, the Wisconsin Supreme Court found for Bob.
There’s a record of the decision which is a proud one to show to his grandchildren.


A LEGEND: St.Patrick was baptizing a warrior chief.
Afterwards, he noticed that his pointed crozier was stuck thru the man’s foot !

“Why didn’t you say something?”

“I thought it was part of the ceremony.”

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Lazy Dean Jones would ask other profs to lecture to his classes, then record the lectures to play again later.I consented to lecture for him.

I started out solemnly, deploring the unserious attitude in so many classrooms.
A student: “Don’t you ever tell jokes?”

“Hell, no.Students are frivolous enough !
However, if a humorous story illustrated well a philosophical point, that would be different:
for instance, to illustrate the difference between Kant’s HYPOTHETICAL imperative (Do A IF you want B), vs. CATEGORICAL imperative (Do A no matter what you want!) --
This story might illustrate that distinction:
Mrs. O’Malley came home bruised and scratched. She explained
to her astonished husband:
“The Doctor told me to bring in a Specimen.
I asked Mrs. Malanaphy if I could borrow hers.
She admitted she also didn’t understand;
but said I should ask the nurse Mrs. Murphy.”

Husband: “But you don’t get along with…”

“I know, but I was willing to forget the awful things that woman has said about me. I asked her how I’d go about getting a Specimen.

“She told me to go piss in a bottle!
I told her to go shit up a rope,
Student: “Did you tell THAT story to your class?”
“Oh,no, I wouldn’t dare—but this is Jones’ class!”

Friday, March 7, 2008


Origin of St.Josephs’ College

Run by the Fathers of the Most Precious Blood (students called them The Bloods).
Several chapters—begin with the Order’s history.

One interesting thing about the Roman Church (at least until recent mass exodus of clergy)
was that new orders of religious were now and then founded, but ALMOST NO ORDER EVER DISAPPEARED. (e.g., Trinitarians were founded by selfless men who offered themselves as substitute-prisoners for family-men Crusaders captured by the Muslims. You’d think when this function disappeared, the Order would fold—but no, centuries later, you could still find a few Trinitarians around preaching missions at parishes.)

The Fathers of the Most Precious Blood were founded by St. Gaspar del Bufalo, to preach to Italian bandits.
(Repenting bandits would be reassured by thinking of Christ’s redemptive Blood.)
But then bandits got too prosperous to care about the low-class Bloods—they were now preached to by Jesuits! So the Fathers of the Most Precious Blood nearly disappeared.

But in America a German priest lusted to found a new Order. The Vatican said no—so he hunted around for some nearly extinct Order and picked up the Bloods franchise.

He founded double-monasteries in Ohio
(priests & nuns in same huge building, but chastely separated—these strange buildings are now Ohio landmarks.)
Another chapter: Catherine Drexel was spinster member of famous wealthy family, a devout Catholic. Visiting Pope Leo XIII, she said US desperately needed an Order to care for Indians and Negroes. Holy Father said,”Kate, you’ve got the bucks. Why don’t YOU found this Order?”

She did found the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. (She is now St.Catherine.)
They opened a trade-school for Indians in Northern Indiana, importing a few (desperately available) Precious Blood Fathers to teach there.
Then the govt. MOVED the Indians elsewhere!
Here was an empty school.

So the Most-Precious-Bloods founded a college there, St.Joseph’s.
(One residence is still called Drexel Hall.)

Two problems:
a) it is one of the few Catholic boys’ colleges not matched by a nearby Catholic girls’ school. When the Precious-Blood Fathers asked the Precious-Blood Sisters (now totally separate) to found a college in bleak NorthWestern Indiana, the nuns said Sure, for a million bucks. No deal.
(A nasty rumor said that some students sought female companionship in Gary whorehouses.

There was a prof who was a convert to the Church, thus not a real Catholic. So the boys who had VD were not embarrassed to borrow money from him to pay for treatment.
Once he stammered, “You know there are ways to protect you from sexual disease!”
“Please, Mr. Kilmer—I can’t use a rubber—
I’m Catholic!”

b) A big problem for saints wanting their Order to educate the poor: these Orders usually end up teaching middle-class youths; they smell better. So St.Gaspar ordered his priests NOT to discuss intellectual matters at table..a problem for college profs. They simply ignore this rule.
St.Joe students were mainly Catholic workers who wanted college to get from factory to office, who couldn’t get into Notre Dame, but whose mothers insisted they attend a Catholic college.

St.Joe's Today

ST.JOE’S NOW: I taught at St.Joe’s for about 5 years.Each semester I taught 250 students ThomisticPhilosophy,in 5 sections. I used multiple-choice tests, e.g.
“Matter is to Form as (a) God is to the angels…”

(Actually, because students had to ‘spit-back’ the textbooks, they had to read carefully. Thus they got a better education than many students at a State University, at infinitely lower costs.)
Fr.Weisser CPPS was ‘tough’ dean of discipline, who occasionally belted college students.

His aide was ‘Silver Bullets’, a moron who worked cheaply and was given a gun.
Whence the name? When students would climb the water-tower, he’d shoot at them,
but always miss-- a source of amusement, not fear.

Weisser bought a two-way radio in his crusade
to catch erring students in cars.
(He was deputy sheriff, violating canon law).
He gave S.B. a car with radio, then took off in his car, saying
“Calling Car # 1 ! Calling car #1 !” No response.

He came back exasperated:
“Why didn’t you respond?”
(A group of students had gathered around S.B’s car,
sure there’d be entertainment..)

‘Father!” protested S.B. ‘YOU’RE car #1—I’m car #2 !”
Mary Wright Lyons was with me at St.Joe’s.
One priest ran off on his motorcycle with a druggist’s wife.
There was a sudden opening in the English faculty.
They talked Mary (with her MA) into filling in.

Mind you, these were youths who volunteered
to attend one of the very few Catholic colleges
without a matching girls’ college.
They were the type who would join marines.
They weren’t happy to face a prof. who was six-months pregnant.
They tried not to look at her.
Mary was raised with responsibility for
14 younger siblings/cousins in the duplex.
She was not impressed by male bravado.

St.Joe students were sports-mad
(what other entertainment in Rensselaer?)
We attended a basketball game with Valpraiso College,
a civilized Lutheran school.
As the game ended, it looked like a riot was beginning.

Mary (6 months pregnant) jumped up to stop the riot.
Luckily there were many students there we didn’t know
who were related to Mary.

A football player rushed up, saying “I’m your cousin!”
and hurried her out of danger.


To wake students up, I once remarked that Jesus and Mary were like most poor
Middle-Easterners (Jesus slept outside on the ground)—they probably had lice.

An ‘F’ student ran to the dean, Father Maziarz,
to denounce me as a heretic.

Maziarz responded, “Lyons is not a heretic; he’s a horse’s ass.
One reason to take theology is
so you can tell a heretic from a horse’s ass.”

Creative St.Joe student

Fr.Ranly was the resident priest at St.Joe’s Drexel Hall. But he was there as spiritual counsellor; discipline was up to senior students in the Hall.

One day they came to him quite upset, saying that a student, to win a bet, had eaten a turd. Ingeniously he called on Fr.Weisser, Dean of Discipline—but Weisser cunningly said, “This is not a matter of discipline—there’s no college rule against eating turds.”

Whereupon Ranly called in the student and said,”Are you troubled? Did you—uh-on one occasion—uh—I’m not condemning you, just trying to understand—

“Of course not !” said the student.”I ate a BabyRuth candybar speckled with 7-up;
and I made $50.”

“All of which is going to the missions.”

My Evaluations

My Evaluations:
I got plenty of friendly student-evaluations
in my 50 years of teaching;
But some of the unfriendly ones showed
more creative spark: e.g.

‘I’m Irish and Democrat—
but I still can’t stand you.”

“Mr Lyons expresses his ideas very clearly—
many he should not express.”

“I thought Prof. X was worst teacher ever
until I met you.”

“I don’t like you living like a king just because
you know the outdated doctrines of dead men. “
(King of impoverished land!)

In ethics course: “Ha, ha—
in spite of all your efforts,
I still know right from wrong!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


From the time the Catholic English conquered Ireland until the Reformation,
the Fitzgerald Clan ruled Ireland on behalf of England.
(Then they lost power as Catholics themselves.)

In 16th century one Earl Fitzgerald burned down the great cathedral at Cashel.
He was arraigned before King Henry VIII (still Catholic).
Why did he do such an outrageous thing?

“Sire, I would never have burned the cathedral
had I not thought the bishop was inside!”

Henry roared with laughter and dismissed the charge.
In 20th century, I was,as tourist, at a Fitzgerald stately home.
The guide was, as is often the case, one of the few high-toned Protestants
left in Eire.
I said, "My Iowa grandmother's maiden name was Fitzgerald. We'd like to think we're related to the noble Fitzgeralds."

"That's very possible; they left bahstuds all over Ireland."

The Odd Saint

Martin Sheahan (cousin to Mary Wright Lyons; brother to CookCountySheriff Mike Sheahan): He was no flaming liberal. Neither of his Southside-Chicago parents was friendly toward blacks. He ranted over Dem.Party’s close association with gays.
But on a Sunday afternoon when he saw a heavy black woman trapped in burning car, he immediately stopped and rassled her out to safety.Then he went home, went in to take a shower, and died of a heart attack at age of 50.After his death, the family heard from people they didn’t know, whom Martin had helped in one way or another (the best criterion for saintliness).MARTIN AND THE SHRINENear 117th st.So, stands perhaps the ugliest church in the city. It wasn’t a parish church, but a shrine to the Sacred Heart (who built it?)
They had a super-late Sunday Mass, so all the young rogues of the Ryan/Sheahan/Wright clan went there. The place was full of super-ugly, life-size statues.
The local pastors complained because attendance at the shrine meant less income for them. Cardinal Cody (infamous for allegedly giving a huge amount of church money to an allegedly incestuous cousin)—Cody ordered The Shrine closed and sold off the statues (who would buy them?)[We always wondered if rogue-priest-author Andrew Greeley had Cody in mind in his book titled THE CARDINAL SINS.]
Martin Sheahan was enraged at Cody’s move. He appealed to the Vatican, and finally, the shrine had to be re-opened and the statues bought back !So after his funeral (at his parish church), the long, long cortege detoured past The Shrine.The doors were opened and the bells rung in honor of TheShrine’s saviour as the cortege passed.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

O MOM…In the Irish section of Port Glasgow,Scotland,
a wedding involved two mothers-in-law who didn’t get along.
During the reception, one took off her high-heel
and attacked the other.

The groom was heard to mutter: “Oh, Mum…you PROMISED ! “