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Ascend Honored with National Award

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Cover of Ascend

Cover of Ascend

Last week, the Catholic Press Association, the national association of Catholic publishers, editors, reporters, writers and communications professionals, held their annual convention in New Orleans, and announced the winners of the 2010 Catholic Press Awards.

We are pleased that Ascend: The Catholic Faith for a New Generation was awarded first place in the category of Popular Presentation of the Catholic Faith, being singled out from among many fine books published in 2010.

In presenting the award, the judges noted: “Everything about this book—the design, structure, content, style—is geared to an audience nurtured on visual appeal, technology and rapid assimilation. The content succeeds extremely well in the premise of its subtitle: The Catholic Faith for a New Generation. Anyone who picks it up will find it hard to resist, given its broad scope and lively writing coupled with solid grounding in Scripture.”

We are of course so thrilled that Ascend was selected for this honor. The word is spreading!

A Readability Comparison of Ascend

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

When we say Ascend is readable, we have the numbers to back that up.

Here’s a table comparing the readability of Ascend to four other popular titles that offer an overview of the Catholic Faith for adults.

Title Gunning Fog Flesch-Kincaid Flesch Words
Ascend: The Catholic Faith for a New Generation (Stoltz/Tomkovicz) 10.65 8.73 60.92 86,372
This is Our Faith: A Catholic Catechism for Adults (Pennock) 13.4 10.4 54.6 110,344
Complete Idiotʼs Guide to Understanding Catholicism (OʼGorman/Faulkner)  14.1 10.9 48.6 116,176
Catechism of the Catholic Church 14.3 11 54.5 226,450
Catholicism for Dummies (Trigilio/Brighenti) 14.5 11.5 49.2 132,835

Gunning Fog Index: Indication of the number of years of formal education that a person requires in order to easily understand the text on the first reading. Texts that are designed for a wide audience generally require a fog index of less than 12. Texts that require a close-to-universal understanding generally require an index of less than 8. Most popular novels are indexed at 8-10; The Wall Street Journal averages a score of 11, academic papers usually fall within the range of 15-20.

Flesch-Kincaid Index: Approximate representation of the U.S. grade level needed to comprehend the text.

Flesch Readability Index: A scale of reading ease; the higher the number the more readable the text. Reader’s Digest magazine has a readability index of about 65, Time magazine scores about 52 and the Harvard Law Review has a general readability score in the low 30s. A score of 60-69 is considered standard.

What is Ascend About?

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

We could say lots about what’s in Ascend, but the proof is in the words.

A word cloud is a visual analysis of the most frequent words in a given text. Amazon offers word clouds for books, but unfortunately their text analysis tools are down now for new books. Luckily, I was able to feed the entire text of Ascend into a word cloud tool at, which output a visual analysis of the most frequent 100 words in the book. The more often a word is used, the larger it is.

Word Cloud for Ascend

Word Cloud for Ascend

For the sake of comparison, here is the Amazon word cloud for the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Word Cloud for the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Word Cloud for the Catechism of the Catholic Church

And the Amazon Word Cloud for Catholicism for Dummies:

Word Cloud for Catholicism for Dummies

Word Cloud for Catholicism for Dummies

And finally the word cloud for The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Catholicism:

Word Cloud for the Complete Idiot's Guide to Catholicism

Word Cloud for the Complete Idiot's Guide to Catholicism

We don’t think you’re a dummy or an idiot. And you probably don’t want to sit down and read a reference book. That’s why we wrote Ascend—for you!

Wordle word cloud for Ascend

Join Us for the Launch of Ascend!

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Cover of Ascend

Cover of Ascend

We are pleased to announce that the launch event for Ascend: The Catholic Faith for a New Generation will take place on All Saints Day, November 1, 2009, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. Deacon Vince and I will be signing book at the Cathedral Gift Shop after the 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Masses (we will also be assisting as deacons at the 10 a.m. Mass). Do stop by if you are able!

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
555 W. Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

The following weekend, November 7 and 8, we will be signing books after all Masses at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church in Westlake Village, California. If you live in the northern part of Los Angeles County, Ventura County or Santa Barbara County, this is practically in your backyard! The Mass schedule at St. Maximilian is 5 p.m. Saturday; Sunday morning at 7:30, 9 and 11 a.m. and Sunday evening at 5:30 p.m.

St. Maximilian Kolbe Church
5801 N. Kanan Road
Westlake Village, CA 91362

As we add other events related to Ascend we’ll let you know!

Michael Vick, a god of second chances for some……the Prophets of ancient Israel would scream from the mountaintops in disgust and call us out for the unjust double standard!

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Michael Vick left federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas and was allowed to complete his 23 month sentence confined at home for the last two months. You probably know that Vick was found guilty of participating in dog fighting for “sport” where the animals were treated in ways so atrocious that I refuse to elaborate further.

But Mr. Vick has talent beyond his taste for the sport he finds in animal cruelty. He is a quarterback capable of performing up to NFL standards. Upon Vick’s release NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Vick would have to show him and the public genuine remorse before he was reinstated in the league. Vick’s sentence ended July 20, 2009 and before the end of August the Philadelphia Eagles, with the blessing of Commissioner Goodell, signed Vick to play for 1.6 million in year one with a second year option of 5.2million accompanied by incentives that could total an additional 3.0 million dollars. About 30 days of “remorse.”

So far I’ll bet you think I am just a tad bitter at the idea of this god of second chances.

Well you are right…..and wrong. I believe we do worship a God of second chances and we all deserve a second chance, tell me, as we look at our own lives, you disagree?

All things being equal let Vick have a second chance, yep go ahead Comissioner Goodell and the Eagles. After all, let’s face it, if he plays up to your expectations he should make the Eagles far more than the 9.8 million he stands to earn over the next few years. Maybe a soft drink company or some other nationally recognized brand name would even give Vick a chance to endorse their product, although I don’t see much of an opportunity to become the national spokesperson for the SPCA.

The Vick’s of this world and especially our country where all are “created equal”, those who enjoy celebrity status, cannot be the only ones given their second chance if we live in a society where justice is the rule of law. We do say that don’t we? That justice for all thing?

Every week a group of dedicated women accompany me to a conservation camp where women who are incarcerated for non-violent crimes serve out their time. Here they are trained to fight our California wild fires and for that receive a reduced sentence. These women are well educated or were highly skilled in the workforce before they made their mistakes and like Vick are serving their time.

But there is a difference! They are not celebrities, they cannot pass a football with precision accuracy, and no one is waiting to hire them upon their release for multi-million dollar contracts that benefit national organizations. In fact no one is waiting to hire them at all after their debt has been paid. They stress as their parole date approaches and they are given their $200.00 with which to buy a bus ticket home.

Why would the Prophets of Israel rail this injustice? Because again and again they tell us that if you want to measure the level of justice in any society you MUST look at those most marginalized. How any society treats the least of God’s children is the true measure of justice.

Therefore comparing Michael Vick, Roger Goodell, the Philadelphia Eagles, and similar stories of celebrity comebacks we can all recall to the fate of the women at the conservation camp: Bonnie, Sabrina, Jenny, Rosi, Tiffany, Colleen, Cynthia, Nancy, Janice, Sue, Janene, Kelly, Jen, Maria, Margarita, Ado, Breanne, and Emma we have, as a country, failed to meet even a minimum standard of justice.

“Just as individuals may sin, a society may also engage in social sin. Social sin is when a society embraces injustice as public policy or becomes so accustom to injustice it no longer sees its structures as an affront to human dignity.” Ascend: The Catholic Faith for a New Generation Stoltz/Tomkovicz, chapter 18 page 108.

I refuse to capitalize god in the heading of this article. This god of second chances is a false god whose name is invoked in vain. The God I know is one who demands that we give all people, according to their ability, talent, and sincerity, the same second chance after their debt has been paid.

Move over Martha Stewart, our God is looking at us. The difference that this god and our God sees is a failure to live out our American Creed. What the founding fathers stated as “self evident” has yet to be realized in this scenario and so many more like it in our land.

How can we make a difference? Maybe our winnings next season from the weekly NFL football pool won’t seem like such an honest “take” after all!