The personal blog of Frank Lesko. Award-winning writer. Non-profit entrepreneur. Activist. Religious professional. Foodie. Musician. All around curious soul and Renaissance man.

See also my professional blog: The Traveling Ecumenist.

Monday, December 22, 2008

New Catholic Worker Blog

You may have noticed that there is another blog listed under my profile. This is the blog for the Columbus Catholic Worker. We are just kicking it off and I hope you drop by to visit. There may be other people posting to this blog besides me.

I am in the process of moving into an intentional Christian community. Our Columbus group has been in existence for about 3 years, and we are part of the Catholic Worker movement which has been going on since the 1930s.

We have recently signed a lease for the former convent at St. James the Less Catholic Church in Columbus. Three men are moving in, and we hope others will join us in the near future. We will host daily prayer in the mornings and evenings with a larger weekly prayer session. We will also be supporting the food pantry of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. There is a Bible study already underway there. The public is welcome to attend any of this or just to hang out, and we'll post dates and times for all of this in the near future.

We are looking to expanding the food pantry with hot meals or clothing distribution. We are currently researching possibilities for a medical or legal clinic. A key ministry we are looking to begin is care for the elderly in the surrounding community. There is a large Hispanic community that gathers at this parish, and we would love to work with them. A number of other ideas are brewing, and we'd love to hear yours.

The Catholic Worker movement has always impressed me. It weaves social justice together with direct charity. It combines community living together with voluntary poverty and spirituality. It is wholly pacifist. The unstructured network of communities across North America and the world provides the skeleton for the peace and justice movement today. The Catholic Worker is also a key inspiration for the new monastic movement.

Being a movement rather than an organization, there can be vast differences from one Catholic Worker community to another. One thing that binds all of these groups together is that they take their inspiration from the founders Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, who in the depths of the Great Depression realized a true stone soup story and found themselves able to give so much through their own poverty.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Communion in Community at Church

I am doing some church hopping lately. I have been attending mass at Ohio Dominican University, but school is out of session until mid January. So I went to St. Francis of Assisi in Columbus today. I know some folks who go there, including my theology advisor, a few people in my masters program and my future housemate.

The church is small, very beautiful and well attended. The parish has a strong devotion to their patron saint, which is unusual these days. Today, the choir did a magnificent acapella number during the offertory. Fr. Atwood's sermon was excellent and called us to see God's presence--and invitation--everywhere. Each day, we are given the same invitation offered to Joseph and Mary so many years ago: Is there room for God here?

This was all well and good, but it was after mass that I felt church the most. There was an invitation to help put up Christmas decorations. I gladly participated. I'm not a good crowd estimator, but there were probably 30 or more people stringing up garland, setting up Christmas trees, and hanging wreaths. There was endless sweeping up of pine needles and a shipment of poinsettias to unload. Kids were sometimes running around, at other times dutifully helping and often both at the same time. People put themselves to the task in their own unique way, some orchestrating, some judging the evenness and placement of the decorations, some lifting things or putting things up, with the pastor sweeping the floors right there with us.

I feel bad for people who expect too much from the Sunday service. The Sunday service is really meant to be a climax and a capstone of a week of Christian living. It is best set against a week of service, study, theological arguments and just good living. However, for many the Sunday service is their only community expression of their faith. People who are searching in their faith often look for the answers at Sunday services and leave disappointed. I feel bad for the people who get up to take communion and then instead of returning to their seats to end the mass with everyone they just keep right on going out the door and to the parking lot, to beat the rush, I guess. They "got" what they came there for. Or did they? Those who left when the service was over today would have missed the point.

As Fr. Atwood asked in his homily: Where is God's house? Is it inside of the walls of the Church building or the homes of the families burned out from an arson attack just last night? Was God's invitation just to Joseph and Mary or is it really to everyone? In light of the events today, you might start to ask where "Church" actually is, and what exactly is this thing called "Church." And when does communion happen?

Today, there was communion after mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Secrets of Dating Revealed Right here!

Finding someone to date is not that hard. It is actually rather easy.

Some people (women especially) suffer from what I call the "knight on a white horse" syndrome. This is the false belief that they can live with all sorts of emotional barriers, making no effort, and that one day a knight will ride up on his white horse and whisk them away to a life of happiness.

That's not how it happens. Why would you want that, anyway? That knight never got to know you. He totally just sees you as an object. And face it: You see him as an object, too.

Actually, statistics show that women initiate the first contact of flirtation more than men. The knight shows up because the woman already gave the green light.

But that's okay, because I'm here to tell you the hidden mysteries of the universe. Here's the major, big-time secret--you may want to sit down and take a deep breath, because this is the big one:

Just freaking talk to people.

You don't have to do any kind of outrageous acts, or take monumental risks to ask someone out point blank--those are fine things to do, but it doesn't have to be that extreme. Just go where people are in an environment where you are likely to actually mix with them. Being a passive participant in a classroom or church puts you around many people but there is no mixing. Just talk to folks: How are you? What brings you here? I notice you have a book that I read... Smile often. It does not have to be a flirtatious, "come get me" smile... just a friendly smile. Show an interest in them and share some bit of yourself.

Don't even think about dating, just think about talking to people. At some point, yes, there will be a time to move forward and take the risk of showing more of an interest. But there is plenty of time beforehand to just be friendly and see if chemistry develops. Start talking in the buffet line or see if someone is standing around aimless at a conference. Seek out opportunities to study with folks and go out to eat with coworkers even if you don't feel like spending the money.

Dating won't come without effort on your part--bottom line. Sorry, you're just gonna have to get out of your comfort zone. For some people that is hard and for others it is excruciating, but one way or another you gotta do it. You will have to step away from your group of girls or guys--they keep you safe, but they also keep you single. But it does not have to be outrageously difficult, either. Just start with being friendly and in a short while you'll have a bounty of folks you are mixing with regularly and chemistry is bound to develop.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Overstretching the Food Movement and Holistic Medicine

You can count me among the people who think the new food movement is a wonderful thing. People are taking an interest in what they eat, and they are clamoring for quality foods--organic and nutrition-rich. They are rebelling against additives and toxins. They are also exploring "natural" medicine instead of having a blind faith in western doctors.

But this can be taken to extremes just like anything else. There are people who believe they don't ever need to see a doctor because they can "cure" whatever they have with the right combination of foods. They act like they can just eat their way out of any problem.

While in theory this may in fact be possible, as of right now there isn't anybody out there who knows the precise combination of foods for each individual person that will ward off or even cure all diseases. Even herbal remedies haven't been thoroughly tested and often they may not cure you but "rebalance" your body so that it can cure itself. Many work and many do not, and it may vary from person to person.

It is also problematic because these movements are partly a protest against western culture and medicine. They represent a desire to get back to whole foods and by working with the body in a holistic manner rather than filling us full of toxins and then having to fill us full of drugs when things go wrong. The problem is that these folks are treating food as if it is a drug. They are still in the "drug" mindset, even though they think they are protesting it. Eating grass-fed steak, despite being full of Omega-3's, is not the same as taking your heart medication. You can't pop steak cubes as if it were a pill and expect the same results. It works much, much differently.

Food is made up of chemicals and as such it can have curative properties, like a drug. However, it should be noted that natural, holistic health is usually focused on prevention and maintaining health rather than extreme cures. Drugs tend to have extreme concentrations of certain chemicals, whereas food normally does not. In my book, western medicine is still the place you need to go when things get out of hand. I think it would be a mistake for any person to put all their eggs in any one basket based on some hunch. I'll see a doctor when I need to and an herbalist/nutritionist as well. A lot of people die due to their blind faith in their doctors, but I have also personally seen people suffer by putting all their faith in "natural" cures that get them nowhere. Be smart and consider all options with an open mind.

Food by itself is also just one component of a healthy lifestyle. Putting a lot of wonderful foods in your body without an appropriate amount of exercise is like putting sugar in your coffee and not stirring. Sure, you'll get some sweetness, but you'll have to add a whole lot more to get the sweetness you need and in the end you just have a pile of sludge. The food movement and holistic medicine involve a deeper change in lifestyle and philosophy. It is not about popping pills or being passive while some doctor or herbalist "fixes" you. It is about taking an active and informed role in your own health and working at it day by day--listening to your body and sculpting the lifestyle that is conducive to good health.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Automated Fast Food

I don't understand why they don't have completely automated fast food restaurants, yet. I see no reason why they even have people working there, anymore.

I imagine a scene where you pull up in your car to a window. You select your foods with a touch screen. You insert money into a bill acceptor or card swiper. You open a hatch and out comes your food.

I'm all for hand-made foods, but when I got some sandwiches from Wendy's today, the first thought that crossed my mind was, "A machine could easily have done just as well... or poorly." It could grill the meats, slap on some dressing, throw on a pickle, put some bread around it, wrap it up and send it down the chute. This wouldn't be that hard for the technology of today.

Added bonus: No danger that some 16 year old punk is going to spit on your sandwich. Or worse.

They could always have one person on site to answer customer complains, re-stock the automatic sandwich assembly machines, or be on the watch for quality control (ha!)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Facing Your Fears

They say the only way out of Hell is to climb over the devil himself.

I've never read Dante's Comedy, but I'll never forget the description above that a professor told me once. While "the depths of Hell" may be a cliche in our modern lingo, that is exactly where Dante goes in this poem. The lower he gets, the worse it gets. Finally he is in the very basement, he is at rock bottom. Yet, his biggest challenge is yet to come: The devil stands there. Dante climbs over the devil and immediately there is a paradise of color, lightness, laughter and music.

Anyone who has been through some rough times in life may notice something uncannily familiar about that story.

I've struggled a lot with obsessive thinking and anxiety in my life. I've spent days just watching the wheels go round and round, not able to stop my thoughts and just reeling from the onslaught. I have recently come to understand how passive the whole experience is. I'm the victim of my own mind, I'm a passive victim to the thunderstorms in my head. I just sit back and watch the fireworks as I go on long anxiety trips. I just wait around and hope they stop.

People wonder why I don't have an interest in watching movies, thrill seeking or even drug use. Spend an hour in my head and you'll long for cartoons and comedy, too. It is like asking someone in the ghetto why they don't have an interest in daredevil stunts, like jumping out of a plane--They get all the adrenaline they could ever need just walking home from work safely at night.

I think the trick to dealing with anxiety is not be afraid anymore. It is true that the only thing you have to fear is fear itself. Whatever you are worried about is either true or not true. All your worry doesn't change whether it is true or not. The sooner you just accept it for what it is and quit running from it, then sooner you can break through the fears. Running from fears is often necessary, but it is usually only best as a temporary fix. You can't retreat from the fear for long, because it stays with you as a cancer of anxiety. You can't go around it. You can only go right through it. Climb over the devil himself and you'll see paradise, too.

Monday, December 1, 2008


You hear a lot of folks saying: Let's put "Christ" back in Christmas!

Good idea. But I wonder how many of them would be as keen on this idea, using the very same logic:

Let's put the "mass" back in Christmas (i.e. Christ's mass).

ADDED LATER: I'm not really arguing either way on this. I just think it is funny that many of the people who want Christ the center of the holiday and who use the name of the holiday as justification probably don't realize that the name of the holiday is really the "Mass of Christ." Christ is there, but so is the mass. Would non-Catholics really want this?

Don't get me wrong, I think secularizing the holiday is a bad idea, but this one argument makes me chuckle.


I realize that I have some white hair on my sideburns. I've noticed this before, but now that I'm growing a beard I see that on one side it is actually a long white streak going down the side of my face and up to my temple. And only on one side. I'm like a sideways skunk.

Having hair has always been more important to me than the color of it, so I've never really worried about this so much and still don't, but it is a curious little phenomenon! The streak seems to be growing.

Month One

It feels like it's been longer, but it has only been a month since I gave up caffeine. I was doing great for a while, but the last couple of days the cravings have been particularly noticeable. There is something about a hot cup of coffee on a cold winter's day to warm your bones and set things right.

My body's like, "Okay, that was fun for a while, but now let's get back down to business and get the coffee circulating again, alright?" No, it is time to face the reality of a long-term adjustment.

I have to retrain myself how to manage stress and tiredness. I can't just reach for a cup of coffee to recharge. I have to use other means, such as taking a nap, exercising, or just allowing myself to be tired until my body naturally warms up. I honestly don't know what to do when I get tired! What do you non-caffeinated people do? I've used caffeine my entire adult life. I totally trained myself to reach for caffeine during those times, and it is those times again when the cravings are strongest.