Unreal prays to St. Francis and rejoices in the good news

St. Francis de Sales

Unreal learned two things one day late last month. For one, we inked-stained wretches have a spiritual guardian in St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists and writers. Second, when a Catholic invites you to celebrate the "feast" of a saint, don't expect to go away with a full belly. A "feast" is really just a Mass — but, oh, what a service it was last week at the breathtaking south-city oratory of St. Francis de Sales.

In a Mass heavy on Latin prayer and Gregorian chants, Father Karl Lenhardt said the congregation would be remiss to think of St. Francis as the saint of writing solely because of his skill with the pen (he authored such notable 14th-century works as Devout Life and Treatise on the Love of God). No, St. Francis is our patron saint because of his sincere love for his fellow man. "It is the writer's love for others that makes him so revered," Lenhardt preached. "How thrilling it must be to investigate for love of truth!"

Father Lenhardt had Unreal feeling positively ethereal when he invited us to the rectory for Champagne and dessert. Also assembled in the rectory were two other "journalists" — KSDK-TV (Channel 5) meteorologist Mike Roberts and a female reporter with the St. Louis Review, the weekly mouthpiece of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. But if last Tuesday was a celebration for writers, it was the weatherman who stole the show.

The temperature that day dropped 53 degrees between noon and 6 p.m., and soon Roberts was using a wallpapered hallway as an impromptu blue screen to demonstrate how winds swept across Kansas and into Missouri.

Father Lenhardt hopes better weather will draw more writers and journalists to the feast of St. Francis next year. Unreal wishes him luck and suggests a prayer on the matter to St. Jude — the patron saint of lost causes. 

Please Pass the Cheese
Unreal awoke one morning and wondered: What positive thing happened on this day in history?

Miraculously, the answer can be found at pleasantude.com, an online magazine launched by Greg Lamm and Ed Akers, two salesmen from St. Charles who were tired of seeing so much "negative" news online. The site features self-improvement articles and, of course, "This Day in History."

Lamm granted Unreal an interview on February 1, the same date that, according to pleasantude.com, "in 1946 a press conference was held to announce the first electronic digital computer, ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), at the University of Pennsylvania. ENIAC was purchased two weeks later by the U.S. Army for almost $500,000. Luckily for us, as they've become more popular, the price of computers has dropped a bit...otherwise you probably wouldn't be reading this right now!"

Unreal: What made you try to single-handedly reverse the flow of negative news online?

Greg Lamm: We both had office jobs and would surf the Internet when we had a few minutes of downtime. All you see is negative this and negative that. We just wanted to put something positive on the Internet that people could look at for five minutes.

What's the most positive experience you've had lately?

Good question. I don't know. [Long pause] I did some volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity and met some awesome people because of that.

You've talked about the negative vibe generated by celebrity gossip. Do you think Britney would feel any better if she read pleasantude.com?

Absolutely. People might be inspired to go do something positive, instead of putting bars on their windows.

You sell life insurance, and your friend sells time-shares. You must have a sunny outlook.

Definitely. Any good salesperson is a positive person. We've both read a lot of personal-development stuff over the years.

Who is your self-improvement guru?

Dan Millman. He wrote Way of the Peaceful Warrior, cheesy as it sounds.

Gotta admit, that sounds pretty cheesy.

[Laughs] A lot of what we do sounds cheesy. Cheesy or not, [pleasantude.com] is something positive. 

Facing a shortage of new television material thanks to the writers' strike, CBS began broadcasting the Showtime series Dexter this past weekend. The drama — about a Miami crime-lab detective (portrayed by Michael C. Hall of Six Feet Under fame) who's also a serial killer — has won critical acclaim since first airing on the cable network in 2006. But that's cold comfort for Webster Groves resident Mary Ann Groetsch, who sent Unreal a letter urging us — and other St. Louisans — to demand that CBS ax Dex.

Unreal: What have you got against Dexter?

Mary Ann Groetsch: I've never seen the show. I'm a member of the Parents Television Council. I'm not a conservative or an evangelical Christian. I'm an Episcopal Presbyterian. I just don't know how people can be entertained watching a show about a serial killer. This certainly isn't in my realm of experience, thank God!

So you're not letting your children watch Dexter?

I haven't talked to them about it. They've got more sense. They're also adults — age 40 and 39. They have a family background. They went to church. The first time my son saw violence on TV, he was so upset. I always sat with my children and watched Sesame Street and we all loved that. I'm not a Pollyanna but the reason I think there is so much killing in the neighborhoods these days is because kids are parked in front of television or don't have proper parental supervision.

What would you rather see on CBS? They had quite a run with Touched by an Angel in the 1990s.

I liked that show, but I didn't get in on it in the beginning. There was a show two years ago about a high school student who had conversations with God. My husband and I loved that. But a television show doesn't have to have a religious theme.

What's your current favorite show?

Well, I liked the The Vicar of Dibley on Channel 9, but the last shows have gotten a little — well, I don't mind a little bawdy humor now and then, but it's gotten beyond my preference.

Ever get the urge to jump up and ____ this damn town? Tell Unreal about it! [email protected].

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