The Gospel Truth

The Wow Factor: 49 Reasons for Joy

September 12, 2011

I have often wondered why so many of my fellow Catholics, who are more devout than I am don’t smile more.

Since smiling is usually the product of a clear conscience, you would think that they would smile more.

In fact some of them can be extremely pushy, angry and short-tempered.

Perhaps it’s because they bear the weight of the world on their shoulders or think something is wrong with enjoying life too much.

These people have lost or probably never had what Jesuit Father William O’Malley, S.J called the Wow factor.

I must have that because I am always saying wow,  as I see or do things that just make my spirit soar until I think my heart is going leave my body!

Last Tuesday was my birthday.  I was 68 years old.

A friend told me age was just a number.  Actually it is just a word.

Too many people get old and they never seem to experience that sense of joy.

Joy doesn’t have to be expensive.  Your life might not be going as you would like but you still can experience real joy.

You just have to be open to it and have a beating heart.

What I have written below is a random list of all of other things in my past, present and hopefully present that have given a marvelous feeling of joy, sometimes followed by a serenity that seems almost other worldly.

So here are as the song goes, 49 of my favorite things.  See if you have had any feelings of wow or joy, similar to mine.

Feel free to comment on the page provided.

Why 49?  Two reasons! Anyone can do 50–but the last few can be a stretch.  And besides I am saving that space for you.  Send me your #50–has to be different from my 49 and I will publish and send you a free copy of my last book, The Scorpion and the Frog.  (HB)


1)  seeing my little granddaughters bungi-jump on a trampoline at the local mall.  Seeing their wide-open eyes recess in their little heads as they soared, nearly to the top of the glass skylight;

2)  smelling the salty air on a catamaran in San Francisco Bay or any other place on deep water;

3)  a long, lingering full-body massage with massive blood flow (all internal) on a Thursday morning;

4)  watching a sunset with Judy in Naples on a February evening;

Image Detail

It's great to be alive

5)  seeing the Mets win at Citifield a few miles from my boyhood home, two birthdays ago;

6)  drinking a banana-chocolate smoothie at Starbucks during a 100 degree day in August;

7) listening to old Carley Simon or Petula Clark CD’s;


great way to celebrate a birthday

8)  watching a movie with the unrequited lover getting the girl;

9) seeing my first baseball game on May 29, 1954–Pee Wee Reese hit the winning home run at the Polo Grounds as Brooklyn won 4-2;

10)  smelling the air after a long, cool rain;

my hero

11) spending an hour before the Blessed Sacrament in our church’s chapel;

12) seeing Holy Cross beat anybody in football or basketball;

Jimmy Thomas

Go Cross Go

13) receiving the Father James Hartnett Award several years ago at the St. Louis Ritz in front of my whole family, including cousins from New York…and on my birthday;

14)  reading essays and articles I have written–or thinking about what I want to write about;

15) going to a game with my sons;

17) telling and listening to funny stories with friends–new and old;  works for both the friends and the stories

18)  watching my youngest sink the last seven foul shots in a row during a 7th grade game, his team won 29-28;

19) watching my daughter win the first Kevin Kline Award for Best Actress in a play in St. Louis in 2006;  Separate Tables

20) date night every Friday evening with Judy for Starbuck’s, a movie, and a light dinner;

21) seeing one of my plays produced on the St. Louis stage;

22) having a young pretty girl smile at me as we pass on the street;

23)  finishing my latest and most ambitious play, about a dysfunctional happy family, called In a Family Way;

24)  the sight of a new mother holding her brand new baby;

25) seeing my three children for the first time;

26) every time one of them thanks me for being their father;

27) a surprise gift from my wife or one of my kids that touched me specially, such as Howdy Doody, Rocky card, with my favorite theme, Gonna Fly Now and most recently a Ronald Reagan collectors pin.

28) seeing my oldest son play with or coach his three children; and any other kids that are on his teams;

29) spending three minutes with Gene Shalit on the Today Show and not losing my cool or my breakfast;

Gene Shalit

Three and a half minutes

30) having actually taught something to a goof-off in Brooklyn in 1967; little Joey Ancona learned what the word impaled meant, just before I ran him through with my pointer;

31) watching Ellen dance on her afternoon show during lunch at my favorite restaurant;

Halle Berry On Ellen:Halle Berry Dancing Hurricane Chris “She’s Fine”

I can feel her energy

32) seeing the face of God in a child’s smile;

33) learning something new;

34) hearing from an old high school friend; or college friend;

35)  getting a warm hug from a friend, preferably a female;

36)  having a grandchild hug my leg;

37) seeing my grandson play football, basketball, lacrosse, soccer etc.–all during the same season;

38) hearing my granddaughter sing at a school concert;

39) an even longer, more lingering massage on a late Sunday morning;

40) reading a book that makes me think:

41) watching What about Bob or Planes, Trains…;

42) running into a friend I have not seen for years;

43) receiving an unexpected honor of being named The Mindszenty Foundation Man of the Year–2011 at a small gathering at an elegant luncheon hosted by Eleanor Schlafly, the novogenarian I have worked for nine years and one of the most charming women of any age I have ever encountered;

44) spending Thursday and Sunday afternoons breathing deeply and feeling a sense of exhilaration that leads me to daydream of my past, present and future for hours;  See # 3 & 39

45) a moonlight swim in my own pool;

46) a granddaughter in her  1st communion white dress, with veil, with her eyes cast down;

47) any Michael Connolly novel that features Harry Bosch;

The Black Ice

Harry always knows what to do

48) whenever one of my children or even grandchildren actually listens to me;

49) the innate feeling that somehow God really does love me;

Colonel Obama in the Parlor With the…

April 4, 2010
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Easter Sunday 2010

As a child and later as a parent with young children, I always enjoyed the parlor game, CLUE.  My favorite character was the sultry Miss Scarlet or would she be Ms Scarlet today?

Well times change and I am not even sure that people have parlors any more.

One relatively new game that many Christians like to play is  what would Jesus do?

I don’t mean to trivialize any one’s valid religious faith but it seems to me that several years of Theology would be necessary to even scratch the surface of the mind of Jesus.

I have 16 credits of Theology, which is more than most people this side of a seminary and I would not venture to assume that I could fathom the Divine mysteries of the Incarnation.

I still haven’t figured my wife out after nearly 44 years of marriage, so what chances do I have to know what Jesus would do 2000 years removed from Nazareth?

I will say that Jesus’ approach to His culture was not revolutionary as some claim today but much more paradoxical.

There is currently a growing secular variation on the WWJD parlor game, called What Political Party Would Jesus Belong To?

To my mind liberals conceived this game and are the only ones who know how to play it.

I seriously doubt that Jesus would belong to either party since he was not interested in aggrandizing His own political power but merely with opening the Gates of Heaven for those who would love Him and do His will.

My good friend, Joseph Sobran, probably the most unsung writer in the history of political and religious commentary, nailed it in one of his beautifully written essays.

In writing about liberal Catholic author, Garry Wills, probably the most overrated Catholic author on the docket, Joe said, Wills assures us that Jesus, if he were among us today, would be partial to gays.

Joe points out that Wills cites not a single verse or word in the gospels, or any other part of Scripture, to support this peculiar view. I guess the Bible is not necessary to play this game.

Joe’s superior erudition prompted him to compare Wills to the Tolstoy character who chooses his opinions as he selects his clothes — according to mere fashion.

In another prescient comment Joe points out that Wills also holds that abortion is a woman’s right, never mind that the one of the earliest surviving Christian documents, the Didache, which may well express the thinking of the Apostles, flatly forbids abortion (as does the Hippocratic oath.)

Even my buddy Duane, the Erstwhile Conservative thinks that left-wing political activist, the Reverend Jim Wallis is more Christ-like than self-professed Christians and Catholics, Anne Coulter, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck. (I think Mormons count themselves as Christians and Beck is a fallen-away Catholic.)

A reader friend of mine sent me a spoof on what this potential game might look like.   I think he should patent it before the left beats him to the punch.

Here are some excerpts from his letter to me several months ago.  He wrote them in answer to local Democratic politicians who knew how to play the claiming Jesus for my side game.

Well, if Jesus were a Catholic Democrat hanging around St. Louis today, he might have a few problems with his representative on earth, Pope Benedict XVI.

Jesus would be voting for, giving money to, and working the polls for politicians who believe an unborn child is just another piece of medical waste.

He would knock on doors and convince other Catholics to look the other way on social issues and support the party of JFK and FDR, since it’s OK to be “personally opposed, but”.

Jesus would attend Mass on Sunday morning and hear the priest say that marriage is between a man and a woman, and then march in the Gay Pride parade and advocate for gay marriage on Sunday afternoon because the party requires it.

He would work the fish fry during lent, and then vote to allow human embryos to be used and destroyed in medical research because of the long shot chance it might produce local jobs and unspecified, “cures”.

If Jesus had kids, whom most Catholic Democrats do, he would send them to Catholic grade school, struggle to pay the tuition of SLU, Nerinx, St. Joe or CBC, and possibly further struggle to send them to “Catholic” colleges.

He would then wonder why his kids don’t practice the faith, or even the version he practices.

Catholic Democrat Jesus may grow old and pass away, but he won’t go directly to Heaven as before.  He will make a side trip to Purgatory for further reflection.

Personally I think that the rules in the WPPWJBT must state that most left-wingers believe that Jesus would be a liberal who would spend most of his time dreaming up all the social programs and political moves that Jesus could do, like taxing the rich to feed the hungry, disarming to insure for world peace and paling around with a bunch of gay men in robes.

A liberal Jesus would probably be the spitting image of Martin Scorsese’s Jesus in the ridiculous 1988 movie, The Last Temptation of Christ.   I rented it years ago and was amazed at how silly the entire film was.

I mean the troubled Catholic director cast David Bowie  as Pontius Pilate, and Harvey Keitel whose Judas favored more a Mafia hitman than he did the greatest betrayer  in world history…until Bart Stupak.  (OK that’s a cheap shop.)

Willem Dafoe, an accomplished actor, whose best flirtation with Christ was probably his dramatic death scene in the Oliver Stone film, Platoon, was the most improbable Jesus I have ever seen.

(He was more convincing in army camouflage than white robes.)

I will admit that some Jesus portrayals, such as Jeffrey Hunter in The King of Kings were somewhat plastic and robotic but compared to Mel’s movie,   Scorcese’s Jesus was more like a cross between Clarabell of the Howdy Doody Show and Harpo Marx.

Dafoe’s Christ wandered aimlessly around the multitude uttering the traditional Bible verses with the reverence and solemnity of Pee Wee Herman or even Bill Maher.

On Good Friday I picketed the local abattoir with a group of committed Christians that would have serious trouble with Jesus working to support  abortion rights and Planned Parenthood.

I honestly think that Jesus was there with us holding a sign to protest this terrible destruction of His human creatures.

I wonder if this will all lead to a game about president Obama, that might be called Clueless in DC?  One result might be that President Obama does in the Republican party with the Poison Pen in the White House parlor.

About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at