The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Video: Pope Benedict and Bulgarian Patriarch

Last week I mentioned how the Holy Father, following in the footsteps of his predecessor. is strongly committed to achieving the Christian unity that Jesus prayed for so fervently. I also referred to Pope Benedict's meeting with the patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Today I came across a video highlighting that meeting and thought it was worth including below:

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween...Do You Really Know What It's All About?



Sally Thomas, a homeschooling mother who writes regularly for First Things' magazine and website, has given us a wonderful and timely article on Halloween and its medieval and religious roots. For those of you who will be with children or grandchildren this weekend, it provides some tasty food for thought and discussion. To read her article, click here: The Drama of Hallowmas

Myths About the Pope's Outreach to Anglicans

Taylor Marshall, a former Anglican priest, has written a terrific article for Catholic Online (catholic.org) in which he addresses what he has labeled as five myths about Pope Benedict's Anglican Ordinariates. If you are interested in understanding exactly what this most recent move by the Vatican really means, then by all means read his commentary. Click here: Special Report: Five Myths about the Pope’s Anglican Ordinariates

US Bishops Call for Massive Mobilization Against Anti-Life Health-Care Reform

The Pro-Life Activities Secretariat of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has sent out an urgent email in an effort to mobilize every parish in the United States on the urgent matter of public policy concerning the fundamental and foundational human right to life as it relates to health-care reform. The email follows:

___________________


From: Tom Grenchik, Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities
To: Diocesan Pro-Life Directors & State Catholic Conference Director

Re: URGENT: Nationwide USCCB Bulletin Insert on Health Care Reform

Attached [see below], please find an Urgent Memorandum highlighting USCCB plans and requests for diocesan and parish based activation on health care reform.

The President of the Conference and the Chairmen of the three major USCCB committees engaged in health care reform have written all the bishops and asked that the attached USCCB Nationwide Bulletin Insert on health care reform be printed or hand-stuffed in every parish bulletin and/or distributed in pews or at church entrances as soon as possible.

Congressional votes may take place as soon as early November. If your Arch/bishop is not in agreement with disseminating the bulletin insert, you will be hearing from his office immediately. You may wish to check with his office ASAP to see how you may be of assistance in distributing the Bulletin Insert, far and wide.

Tomorrow, the USCCB will be e-mailing these same materials to a large number of parishes across the country, already on a USCCB contact list. The parish list is incomplete, so we will still have to rely on diocesan e-mail systems to reach EVERY parish. Thank you for your great help with this.

Also included are suggested Pulpit Announcements and a Prayer Petition.

There is also a copy of a newly-released ad for the Catholic press, which may be printed as flyers for the vestibule or copied on the flip-side of the Bulletin Insert. The flyer/ad directs readers to www.usccb.org/action where they may send their pre-written e-mails to Congress through NCHLA’s Grassroots Action Center. If you wish to sponsor the ad in your local Catholic paper and need a different size, please contact Deirdre McQuade at dmcquade@usccb.org.

Please encourage parishioners to pray for this effort as well. More information can be found at www.usccb.org/healthcare.

Thank you for your urgent actions and prayers on behalf of this nationwide effort!

___________________

The email included a number of attachments, including bulletin inserts, a flyer, pulpit announcements and prayer, etc. They are availble at the bishops' website: http://www.usccb.org/healthca/index.shtml but I have also included individual links here:

1) HC Cover Note to Leaders, Final.doc (a digital version of the email above)
2) HC Bulletin Insert 10-23-09 Final.pdf (the one-stop nationwide parish bulletin insert)
3) HC Pulpit Announcement & Prayer, Final 1.doc (a how-to for distributing the materials)
4) HC Ad Saving_Lives_Flyer_FINAL.pdf (a flyer to be placed on bulletin boards, etc.)

I trust all US parishes will act on this.

Blessings...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kennedys, Rhode Island, Massachusetts...Ugh

Every so often I experience one of those increasingly frequent senior moments and forget why I left the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts for sunnier and decidedly warmer Florida. And then one of the Kennedys opens his or her mouth...

Now before I continue, I have to say that Sean Cardinal O'Malley is my favorite bishop; after all, he ordained me. And I also realize that Cardinal Sean believes that Ted Kennedy, and presumably the Kennedy clan in general, espoused many policies and programs to the benefit of millions. The cardinal believes that these programs were motivated by, or at least reflect, Catholic social teaching. And this fact was apparently enough to offset the late senator's dismal 100% pro-abortion voting record and lead the cardinal to take part in Senator Kennedy's funeral. Although I'm not a moral theologian, I would think abortion might fall somewhere under the banner of "Catholic social teaching" and that the millions who were helped by all those programs pale in comparison to the millions who lost their lives though abortion. But, as I say, I'm no moral theologian and I trust that Cardinal Sean weighed all this in making his decision, a pastoral decision I fully respect even though I don't fully understand it. And I certainly don't object to the cardinal taking part in the funeral. My objection centers more on the nature of the funeral itself. It seemed more like a campaign event than a Catholic funeral. But hey, what do I know? Cardinal Sean's an archbishop...and I'm just a deacon, and not a particularly smart one either.

All that, of course, is in the past. The late senator has received his reward and for the first time in decades no member of the Kennedy clan holds elected office in Massachusetts. But a Kennedy still serves the people, and although he does so in neighboring Rhode Island, Representative Patrick Kennedy is the political clone of his father, and also votes solidly pro-abortion.

Apparently this voting record hasn't hurt Rep. Kennedy politically even though the state's population includes the highest percentage of Catholics in the nation. Indeed, I can't recall hearing that his bishop ever openly criticized him for his support of abortion...until now. (If I'm wrong here, my apologies to Bishop Tobin.)

It would also seem that the real catalyst for the current dispute between Patrick Kennedy and his bishop was not the representative's voting record but his public comments criticizing the US bishops for not supporting the Democrats' health care legislation. Kennedy charged that in their opposition to any health-care reform that included abortion funding the American bishops were only fanning the "flames of dissent and discord." He went on to say, "I can't understand for the life of me how the Catholic Church could be against the biggest social justice issue of our time..." I've included the video (below) of Rep. Kennedy's full interview with Catholic News Service in which he made these comments.



The fact that Representative Kennedy doesn't understand the Catholic Church's teaching on abortion is no surprise given his voting record and his family's virtually solid pro-abortion views. It's also an interesting commentary on the quality of the Catholic education he received at Providence College. I worked at PC for a few years and know that the core undergraduate curriculum includes at least six hours of theology...so it makes me wonder what was taught in those courses, or whether the future US representative slept through them and simply rode the curve to a comfortable C.

And so, as a result of Kennedy's uninformed comments, Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin took him to task: “Congressman Patrick Kennedy’s statement about the Catholic Church’s position on health care reform is irresponsible and ignorant of the facts. As I wrote to Congressman Kennedy and other members of the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation recently, the Bishops of the United States are indeed in favor of comprehensive health care reform and have been for many years. But we are adamantly opposed to health care legislation that threatens the life of unborn children, requires taxpayers to pay for abortion, rations health care, or compromises the conscience of individuals."  Bishop Tobin then let loose with all his guns and added, "Congressman Kennedy continues to be a disappointment to the Catholic Church and to the citizens of the State of Rhode Island. I believe the Congressman owes us an apology for his irresponsible comments. It is my fervent hope and prayer that he will find a way to provide more effective and morally responsible leadership for our state.”

One-and-a-half cheers for Bishop Tobin. Since then he has sent a letter to  the congressman asking for a meeting so he can explain the church's "clear and consistent" support for health care reform. I would rather he asked for a meeting to discuss Representative Kennedy's abysmal record on abortion and other issues.  But maybe the subject will come up during their conversation.

...meanwhile they keep killing the innocents.

Pray for life and peace.

Obama's Health Care Plan & Abortion

The folks at the White House -- all those czars, and mini-czars, and czar wannabes, including the president himself -- have been less than forthcoming on whether abortion will be included in the Democrats' planned future health care program. (I label it the Democrats' program because right now it looks as if it will have no Republican support.) The president has made oblique comments that really don't address the issue and certainly don't answer the key question. At one point he stated that there was a tradition in Washington of not paying for abortion. But what exactly does that mean? Will he break with that tradition as his supporters so fervently believe? My guess -- and it's really more than a guess -- is that he will. Barack Obama has always supported abortion, and done so zealously.

Most of the so-called pro-choice people I encounter seem to know that abortion is morally wrong, or at best morally questionable. Even most politicians whose voting records have consistently supported abortion usually claim that, although they are personally against abortion, they cannot in good conscience deny a woman the right to choose. I know one thing for certain: I have never heard any politician openly declare in these or similar words, "I'm all for abortion. That's why I vote as I do. Abortions are good for America."

This is why the entire abortion debate is couched in all that euphemistic terminology. Pro-abortion becomes pro-choice. Unborn babies are fetuses or embryos. Abortion itself becomes pregnancy termination. A little anxiety over a possible lifestyle change becomes a serious threat to the psychological and physical health of the woman. And there are so many more...all designed to ease the consciences of those who flat-out know abortion is the willful killing of an innocent human being, an inherently evil act.

But unlike all these other "pro-choice" folks, President Obama has never, to my knowledge, even hinted that abortion is wrong. He has been a constant and fervent supporter, so I can only assume that he would never sign a government health care plan that did not include funding for abortion.

I really don't understand this. Indeed, I can't understand how any black American could possibly support abortion; and yet many seem to do just that. Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, has purposely placed its "clinics" in inner city neighborhoods and pushed its services among minority women. The result, one of the more lopsided demographic statistics, is that black American women, who represent 13% of our nation's female population, receive over 40% of the abortions performed. This, of course, is exactly what Planned Parenthood's founder, Margaret Sanger, envisioned and hoped for. Back in 1939, she initially called her plan the "Negro Project." Its goal was to "restrict" the population of black Americans whom she, like all eugenicists, considered inferior.

If you would like to read more about Margaret Sanger's real beliefs about race and population control, click here. I also recommend checking out the website of the National Black Pro-Life Union and read what they have to say about our president and Margaret Sanger's "Negro Project."

For any black American, much less the president of the United States, to support abortion is tantamount to genocidal suicide; and yet, so many do. As I said, I don't understand it. And when I read candidate Barack Obama's speech before a Planned Parenthood audience in July 2007, I am further amazed.

Oh, and just in case you want to read the current House health care bill, ala Nancy Pelosi, you can go here and breeze through all 1,900 pages. I especially like the brief, one-sentence description of the bill: "To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes." It's the "for other purposes" that intrigues me.

Pray for our nation...and ask for God's mercy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Orthodox - Catholic Unity


I have recently become far more optimistic about Christian unity. I had never been very hopeful when it came to the possible reunion of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. I suppose my lack of enthusiasm was simply a symptom of an equally weak faith. Other than the fact that the two churches have been separated for 1,000 years, there is really no reason to be pessimistic. After all, "with God all things are possible" and as a Christian I should be willing to accept that God will bring about the unity that Jesus prayed for so earnestly.

Also feeding my newly found optimism are some recent signs that this work of God is beginning to bear fruit. I've mentioned a few of these in recent posts and today I came across another sign, an article reporting on Pope Benedict's letter of congratulations to the Armenian Apostolic Church's Supreme Patriarch, Karekin II, who is celebrating the 10th anniversary of his election as patriarch. The Armenian Apostolic Church is one of the "six ancient Oriental Orthodox Churches" that separated from Rome way back in the 5th century because of the Council of Chalcedon's declaration that Jesus is one Divine Person with both a divine and human nature. (Photo shows Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Karekin II at a meeting last year.)

While sending a letter of congratulations might not seem like much, such contacts between the Holy Father and the leaders of other Christian churches are not trivial. They pave the way for far more substantive contacts at the working level where the differences and misunderstandings of 1,500 years can be addressed and ironed out. Indeed, back in 1996 the predecessors of these two men signed a joint declaration to begin the work necessary to accomplish just that. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Culture of Death...Lives On

Do you remember Terri Schiavo? Do you remember how the great state of Florida dehydrated and starved her to death because she was in what is called a "persistent vegetative state"? Given what the government did to Terri because her husband was unwilling to keep her alive, do you honestly believe that a government in control of our health care system would try to protect the lives of people like Terri?

As Bobby Schindler, Terri's brother, wrote of his sister's death: "To be clear: there is no indignity more final and brutal than forcing a living person to die the death of dehydration and starvation. Try to imagine the torture my sister endured in the last two weeks of her life. Being unable to defend herself, very likely aware of precisely what was happening and having absolutely no ability to escape it. For nearly two weeks, Terri was denied food and fluids. Not so much as an ice chip was given to her. It was pitiful, it was barbaric and it was clear that she was made to suffer. When my sister expired, she was a shell of her former self."

If that brief commentary bothers you, click here to read the rest of what Booby wrote for Townhall.com.

Today's Best Quote

"When our critics criticize us for being passionate, stubborn, almost obsessed with protecting the human rights of the baby in the womb, they intend it as an insult. I take it as a compliment." - New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan

Stolen (and Random) Thoughts

Like many avid readers I tend to make all sorts of marks and comments and underlinings in the books I read. And if I decide that something an author writes is particularly interesting and worth revisiting, I often jot down the page number along with a brief comment on the inside front cover of the book. This saves me from having to search the book later trying to find those wise but often too well-hidden words.

Book collectors, of course, despise people like me because every mark, every scribble I make devalues the book in the collectors' market. They prefer perfect books, books that have been hermetically sealed and stored in climate controlled safes. I recall one collector who, after pulling a book from a shelf in my den, opened it gingerly and then sneered, "Oh...you're a reader." Readers, you see, deface books, so in the mind of the book collector the only thing lower is a book-burner. This particular gentleman was especially displeased because the book in question was a first edition of Robert Frost's poetry. The way I figure it, old Robert probably wanted his poetry to be read and reread. (As you can see by the photos I've included here, my books are not treated particularly well.)

On another occasion, in an out of the way used and rare book shop in rural New England, I came across a volume of poetry I had long been searching for and, despite the rather steep price, decided to purchase it. The book was in near-perfect condition and had obviously never been read since its pages were uncut (or "unopened" as the bibliophile would say). As I handed the book to the owner, I unthinkingly said, "Well, I guess the first thing I'll have to do is get out the scissors and cut these pages." His reaction was swift and nasty. He snatched the book from my hands, glared at me, and literally snarled..."Why would you want to do something like that?" Recognizing my mistake -- as a haunter of old book shops I have encountered these people many times -- I smiled and said, "Just kidding. The book's perfect just as it is." Judging by his expression, I'm pretty sure he didn't believe me; but he relented and let me buy the book. Of course, as soon as I got home, I found the scissors.

...but I digress. My intention here today was to offer you a few of those interesting comments that I've come across during the course of my reading.

Not long ago I listened to a Jesuit theologian who, in his enthusiasm for the humanity of Jesus, seemed to believe that Jesus' divinity could not have been manifested in any way during His human life on earth. According to him, Jesus would come to understand His true identity only in His death, only after the Resurrection. Anything else, you see, would somehow lessen His humanity. To justify this belief this theologian was forced to deny the truth (the literal truth) of much of the Gospel. For example, the 12-year-old Jesus certainly didn't say what Luke has Him saying about being in His Father's house. Nor did Jesus walk on water, or really know in advance about His passion and death, or experience the temptations of Satan in the desert. And Thomas certainly never said, "My Lord and my God." Indeed, those of us who listened to this man could not get him to identify a single miracle in the gospels that actually happened. Oh, yes, and he doesn't believe that angels exist. Makes you wonder why anyone who thought this way would ever read the Gospels. After all, what's left to believe?

Anyway, as I considered this novel (but all too common and acceptable these days) take on Scripture, I recalled something that the great 20th century theologian, Jacques Maritain, wrote near the end of his life:

"No one, however, has to look very far to marvel at the resources of human foolishness, and to understand that foolishness and theological faith can certainly keep house in the same brain, and hold a dialogue there -- as everyone is doing now with everybody else -- even though such contact is likely to prove unhealthy for the latter." [Jacques Maritain, The Peasant of Garonne, 1968, p. 2]

And that's the problem. When such foolishness interacts with faith, faith always suffers as a result. But, then, I'm no theologian, so what do I know?

And this thought led me to another book on the shelf, one by another 20th century theologian (and a different sort of Jesuit), the late Henri de Lubac. In his humility, this respected theologian wrote:

"The unsophisticated reader of the Gospels, unfamiliar with the details of the historical, social, political and religious circumstances of the little Jewish, Galilean world in which Jesus lived, is perhaps in a better position to understand the heart of the Gospel than many a scholarly specialist. The latter, even if he is a believer, often has great difficulty seeing in what way precisely the message of Jesus, wholly rooted as it is in this particular locality, is of a supreme universality." [Henri de Lubac, More Paradoxes, 2002, p. 11]

There you have it, a theologian who actually believes Scripture wasn't written just for scholars. And, yes, unlike the other theologian I refer to above, I find myself in full agreement with Pope Benedict XVI, who, writing of Jesus and His relationship with the Father [Jn 1:18], gives us a glimpse into the humanity and divinity of Jesus:

"It is in Jesus that the promise of the new prophet is fulfilled. What was true of Moses only in fragmentary form has now been realized in the person of Jesus. He lives before the face of God, not just as a friend, but as a Son; he lives in the most intimate unity with the Father...Jesus' teaching is not the product of human learning, of whatever kind. It originates from immediate contact with the Father, from 'face-to-face' dialogue -- from the vision of the one who rests close to the Father's heart." [ Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, 2007, p. 6-7]

Later in this same book, Pope Benedict takes "liberal scholarship" and all the odd speculation that accompanies it to task for viewing Jesus' baptism as a sort of Aha moment, a "vocational experience" when Jesus comes to a realization of His identity and His mission (p. 23) . Challenging this, the pope goes on to state that the Gospels "enable us to recognize the intrinsic unity of the trajectory stretching from the first moment of his life to the Cross and the Resurrection. Jesus does not appear in the role of a human genius subject to emotional upheavals, who sometimes fails and sometimes succeeds. If that were the case he would remain just an individual who lives long ago and so would be separated from us by an unbridgeable gulf. Instead, he stands before us as the 'beloved Son.'" [Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, p. 24]

More later...right now I have things to do.

God's peace..

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Natural Law...Who Cares?

It's becoming increasingly apparent that we live in a age of relativism, an age in which the only objective truth is that there is no truth. (Of course there's an inherent contradiction here, but that doesn't seem to bother those who believe it.)

While it's true that not everyone has succumbed to this belief, virtually all of our self-anointed enlightened progressives -- that is, the movers and shakers in the media, government, and higher education -- have bought into this way of thinking. For them the very idea of natural law, the law that St. Paul tells us God has written on the hearts of all men [Rom 2:15], is something that should have been left behind in the Middle Ages. For them, my "truth" is no more valid than anyone else's "truth." Indeed, if my truth is hostile to their truth then my truth becomes less than truth; it becomes hate speech. On the other hand, their truth, no matter how hateful, can never fall into this category because they are, after all, the enlightened ones.

Lest you think this is just an academic discussion, you need only consider the path our society has followed over the past few decades when it comes to abortion, homosexual activity, premarital sex. If you're over 40 you have seen this first-hand. And don't think this change in society's attitudes has affected only sexual morality. If a politician or public figure doesn't pay his taxes, well...that's okay because he's one of the enlightened who believes and says all the right things. It's affecting all areas of moral life.

The real concern, though, and it's something we're already starting to experience in this nation, is that some in our government want to punish those who believe in objective truth and are courageous enough to express their beliefs publicly. According to these self-appointed thought watchdogs, there are some things -- homosexuality, for example -- that one simply should not be allowed to criticize. This is a symptom of what Pope Benedict has called "the dictatorship of relativism" and, sadly, far too many Catholics have bought into this and refuse to confront such errors with the truth.

I'm certainly not the best person to address this subject, and so I will refer you to another excellent commentary by Deacon Keith Fournier on Catholic Online. Deacon Keith's article, "The 'Two Step' of the New Censors. A Threat to Catholics?" is a thoughtful and timely discussion of what we as Catholics face and the need to catechize our brothers and sisters in faith.

And if you'd like to delve into natural law more deeply, I suggest reading Russell Hittinger's book, The First Grace, published by ISI Books, or 50 Questions on the Natural Law by Charles Rice and published by Ignatius Press.

Pray for strength and trust in the face of persecution.

God's peace...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

More on Anglicans...and other things

Anglicans and Catholics. The Vatican's recent invitation to Anglicans who desire full communion with the Catholic Church continues to generate some interesting commentary. Here are a few that came to my attention...
  • Pope Benedict on Unity. Although the comment that follows was made in 2005, it's certainly applicable to the current situation. Indeed, to understand what's really behind the Vatican's reaching out to the Anglican Church, one must first understand how seriously Pope Benedict takes the Lord's desire for unity among all of His disciples. After a Mass he celebrated with the cardinals who had just elected him, a new Pope Benedict said the following: “Nourished and sustained by the Eucharist, Catholics cannot but feel encouraged to strive for the full unity for which Christ expressed so ardent a hope in the Upper Room. The Successor of Peter knows that he must make himself especially responsible for his Divine Master's supreme aspiration. Indeed, he is entrusted with the task of strengthening his brethren (cf. Luke 22: 32). With full awareness, therefore, at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome which Peter bathed in his blood, Peter's current Successor takes on as his primary task the duty to work tirelessly to rebuild the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, his impelling duty.” I suspect we will see more similar initiatives, especially toward our Orthodox brothers and sisters, in the very near future. (The above quote by Pope Benedict taken from a timely commentary by Deacon Keith Fournier published by Catholic Online.)
  • Chuck Colson, founder of the Prison Fellowship Ministries and an evangelical Christian author, writes the following comments on the same Washington Post blog: "Of course there's a substantial overlap between Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism -- and all Christian denominations for that matter. We all confess the same creeds and read the same Bible. The only thing that has divided the Anglican community is the failure of orthodoxy on the part of the Episcopal Church in the United States. The Catholic Church didn't contribute to that. Sadly, the Episcopalians did it to themselves."
  • The rest of the comments on the Washington Post blog run the gamut from those celebrating the Vatican's announcement to those who would apparently like all religions to just disappear. Click here to read them all.
  • Statement by the Most Reverend John Hepworth, Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion. The Traditional Anglican Communion had petitioned the Vatican some time ago requesting a process for entering into full communion with the Catholic Church. This is their Primate's response to the Vatican's announcement of an Apostolic Constitution that will pave the way for Anglicans to return to Catholicism.
  • The Rt Rev John Hind, the Bishop of Chichester in the UK, has said that he is seriously considering converting to Catholicism. A senior Anglican bishop, his conversion could well lead many others to follow him to Rome. Click here to read the article in the London Telegraph.
The Rapture. Here's a quick look at a completely different subject: the rapture. The rapture, the idea that the elect will be taken off the earth to be with Jesus before the period of tribulation, is a relatively new concept that didn't appear until the 19th century. It is also an idea that directly contradicts Catholic Church teaching. I mention this because so many Catholics, influenced by some fundamentalist and evangelical writings, have asked me about the rapture in recent years. The following are two good discussions of the subject from a Catholic perspective:

Blessings...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Happy again...and not nearly as fat...plus more on ecumenism

It apparently takes very little to make me happy. A few moments ago a nice young man who drives for FedEx (apologies to my son, Brendan, who is also a very nice young man who drives for UPS on Nantucket) brought me my repaired and now fully operable Canon Digital Rebel Xsi. As I mentioned a few days ago, this wonderful camera suffered an electronic malfunction during our trip to Charleston and I've been a bit grumpy ever since. The Canon factory service folks in Newport News, VA fixed it up in record time at absolutely no cost to me. I managed to sneak the camera in for repairs only two weeks before the initial one-year warranty expired. And so I am doubly pleased, and look forward to capturing my little glimpses of God's good creation and sharing them with others. I thank the people at Canon for dong their jobs well and rescuing me from my minor funk.

Another personal note relates to my ongoing battle of the bulge. Late last month I joined Diane in her quest to shed some unneeded pounds. We began taking a three- to four-mile brisk walk together each morning while simultaneously changing the way we eat. The combination has had marvelous results. I'm down a total of 14 pounds and have only 30 to go. My goal is to return to what I weighed during most of my adult life...before retirement and its accompanying lifestyle changes. (That's just a euphemism for an old guy pigging out.) As a result, I already feel a lot healthier and seem also to have more energy. And how wise of me not to have tossed all those smaller-sized clothes that I had "out-grown." They're stashed away in boxes and I look forward to the day when I can fit into them comfortably.

The point of all this is to encourage those of you who might need to slim down a bit. If you want to make that excess weight very real try doing what I did yesterday. While at the local Winn-Dixie supermarket to pick up some donated food for the Soup Kitchen (Thank you, Winn-Dixie!!), I stopped by the sugar aisle and picked up three five-pound bags, just to see what 15 pounds felt like. It was really quite heavy...and that's about what I've lost over the past 30 days. Hard to believe I was lugging that extra and very useless weight around all these months. I'ts no wonder I feel better.

Now on to less personal, more serious, and no doubt more interesting, things...

As someone who, at my own very limited and parochial level, ministers in a number of different ecumenical settings, I have developed a real interest in what has been happening with respect to achieving the unity among Christians that Jesus Christ prayed for to the Father. Pope John Paul II certainly worked to bring us closer to this unity and our current pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, has carried that work forward with even greater enthusiasm. The recent announcement of the Apostolic Constitution relating to Anglicans who desire to return to full communion with the Catholic Church is an excellent example.

And then today I read that a leading Orthodox bishop -- Bishop Tichon, head of the diocese for Central and Western Europe of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria -- has told Pope Benedict that he is fully committed to achieving unity and communion with the Catholic Church. In his words, "We must find unity as soon as possible and finally celebrate together." He went on to say, in effect, that people do not understand the differences that separate the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and that, "the theological dialogue that is going forward in these days in Cyprus is certainly important, but we should not be afraid to say that we must find as soon as possible the way to celebrate together."

This is a wonderful breakthrough in Catholic-Orthodox relations and we should all pray that it will act as a catalyst for bringing about full communion in the near future. To read more, click here.

Pope Benedict meets Armenian Orthodox Patriarch and other Orthodox prelates in Rome (2008)

And lest you think this might be just an aberration, a case of a rogue Orthodox cleric with Roman leanings, read this article about Russian Orthodox Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev's call for increased cooperation between the two churches.

Yes, sometimes it takes persecution and the threat of persecution, along with the realization that as Christians we really are strangers -- "exiles of the Dispersion" -- in a world that has no room in it for Jesus Christ...sometimes this is what it takes to bring us together.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Soup Kitchen...The Need Grows

It being Thursday, Diane and I spent a good part of the day -- from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. -- at the Wildwood Soup Kitchen where Diane, along with her many helpers, cooked up a wonderful meal of baked ziti with all the trimmings. Everyone loved it...as usual. And we ended up serving and delivering a total of 235 meals. It wasn't a record but it's still far above the kind of numbers we were used to in the recent past.

And so, as board president (a responsibility I'm trying to convince someone -- anyone! -- else to take on), I feel the pressure to go out to the highways and byways and beg for dollars. It's not a particularly onerous task since the Lord is always at my side and seems to convince people to give despite my inane comments. I am truly amazed, though, that we are able to cook and serve so many meals (over 62,000 last year - see graph below) without taking a cent of money from the government...any government. We have a sense that government money would likely lead to government control and an inability to serve anyone who walks in the door hungry. Our entire total-volunteer operation is funded solely by donations from individuals, churches, local businesses, and civic and community groups. And when one considers how much it costs us to operate and maintain the kitchen (well over $1 per meal), I sometimes can't take it all in. "He loves justice and right; of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full." Amen!

Check out our growth in demand

I often speak to church groups, since our volunteers, who number almost 150, represent over 30 area churches. But my next scheduled fund-raising event will be a bit different. I will visit the local Jewish synagogue where I'll address their women's group. It should be a challenge to present a Christian ecumenical ministry to a group of Jewish women and then to ask them for donations of food and money. I suppose I can rely on Moses who in Deuteronomy commanded God's People, "Tzedek, Tesdek [Justice, Justice] you shall pursue," and remind them that charity to their neighbor is a mitzvah, a commandment of the Jewish Law. We'll see how well that goes over.

Should you have an urge to give to those who are less fortunate and in need of a daily hot meal, feel free to send a check to the Wildwood Soup Kitchen, P. O. Box 1762, Wildwood, FL 34785. We will use your donation wisely and you will be blessed [See Matthew 25.]

God's peace...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Quiet Bishops

The president has taken another shot across the bow of the Catholic Church. Recently, in a speech to a homosexual rights group, he declared, "You will see a time in which we as a nation finally recognize relationships between two men or two women as just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman."

The president then went on to state: "I support ensuring that committed gay couples have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country. I believe strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away and passing laws that extend equal rights to gay couples. I've required all agencies in the federal government to extend as many federal benefits as possible to LCBT families as the current law allows. And I've called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and to pass the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act. And we must all stand together against divisive and deceptive efforts to feed people's lingering fears for political and ideological gain".

Did you notice his reference to the "so-called Defense of Marriage Act"? I trust our bishops have noticed it as well. Unfortunately they haven't said anything about President Obama's call for the act's repeal. You would think someone in the USCCB would speak up and say, "No way, Mr. President."

I have a feeling we'll be waiting a while before we finally hear some cautiously expressed opposing views accompanied by mild hand-wringing.

I noticed in today's news that some English anthropologist claims modern man is a wimp compared with those who have gone before us. I suspect he's right and for proof we need only listen to the silence that greets so much of the strangeness emanating from the White House these days.

Click here to read Deacon Keith Fournier's comments on this issue. Deacon Keith is another of those very smart people I listen to.

Pray for us.

More on the Vatican's Outreach to Anglicans

This latest development, which I addressed briefly yesterday, is even more remarkable as I read and think about its ramifications.

First, contrary to what some parishioners said to me this morning, this does not mean there will be a large scale movement of American Episcopalians into the Catholic Church. That will likely never happen, at least not as a result of the particular Apostolic Constitution announced yesterday. Most American Episcopalian congregations are very happy not being Catholic and are comfortably situated in probably the most "liberal" wing of the Anglican Church. Considering that the American Episcopalians have ordained large numbers of women priests and also have at least one actively homosexual bishop among their ranks, I don't think we'll be seeing many of these folks knocking on Rome's door.

There are, however, some traditionalist Anglicans in the US and elsewhere who will likely respond positively to the Vatican's offer. Indeed, this move by Rome was actually in response to a petition by the Traditional Anglican Communion (the TAC has 400,000 members worldwide) to come into full communion with the Catholic Church. There are also many other disaffected Anglicans who might well join their TAC friends and enter the Church either individually or as a parish community.

No doubt mainstream Anglicans will welcome the departure of all traditionalist and conservative (i.e., orthodox) Anglicans who have been a thorn in the Anglican Church's collective side for some time now. The mainstream -- that is, the majority liberals -- have, through their increasingly "progressive" policies, effectively closed the door on any sort of reunion with Catholicism. And so, it will probably suit them well if those who disagree with them leave, even if they leave for Rome.

Click here to read today's response by the Traditional Anglican Communion
.

Click here to read some interesting insights by Fr. Dwight Longenecker, a former Anglican (and now a Catholic) priest. Or you can read even more by Fr. Longenecker on his excellent blog: Standing on my Head. He's a lot smarter and much more eloquent than I.

Interesting times we live in. God's peace...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More Good News...

In addition to the news about the Church welcoming Anglicans into full communion (see my previous post), other good things are happening throughout the world, proving the the Holy Spirit is always at work and will never leave us orphans.

Conversions in Vietnam. The Catholic Church's primary task, the work of evangelization in the world, continues to bear fruit, even in the most unlikely of places. For example, in Vietnam, a country where the Church is openly and regularly persecuted by the nation's Communist government, 30,000 Montagnards from the central highlands were baptized in 2008 and 20,000 more are preparing for baptism and entry into the Catholic Church. The Bishop of Kontum, Michael Hoang Duc Oanh, stated simply, "It is the work of the Holy Spirit..."

Pakistani Children Pray the Rosary for Peace and Unity. That's right...in Pakistan, a nation that is no stranger to terrorism and is home to some of the more violent forms of Islamist activity, Catholic children are praying the rosary f
or peace. Inspired by St. Pio, who said that the recitation of the rosary by a million children would bring many graces throughout the world, these children have turned to Our Blessed Mother to intercede for the world during these days of war and terrorism. Out of darkness...light!


More on Anglicans.
For an interesting series of updates on the news out of Rome on the acceptance of Anglicans into full communion, check out the Anchoress' blog on First Things' website. She pulls together a wide variety of comments on this issue from a broad selection of folks...certainly worth reading. Click here.

Anglicans Welcomed!!

What wonderful news! This morning the Vatican, by Apostolic Constitution, provided the means for Anglicans to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church. Although many expected something along this line to take place eventually, very few thought it would happen so soon, or so definitively.

As elements within the Anglican Church severed ties to orthodox belief and practice, many of its members began to turn with hope to the Catholic Church. The Traditional Anglican Communion had even formally petitioned the Vatican for entry in full communion. Today their hopes were realized when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the following statement: “In this Apostolic Constitution the Holy Father has introduced a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony.” Like priests in the Eastern Catholic Churches, those called to priestly ordination after marriage will be able to serve as priests. And again, as in the Eastern Churches, bishops will be selected from among the celibate clergy.

At a joint London press conference, Rowan Williams, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, and Vincent Nichols, Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, stated that , “Today’s announcement of the Apostolic Constitution is a response by Pope Benedict XVI to a number of requests over the past few years to the Holy See from groups of Anglicans who wish to enter into full visible communion with the Roman Catholic Church, and are willing to declare that they share a common Catholic faith and accept the Petrine ministry as willed by Christ for his Church. Pope Benedict XVI has approved, within the Apostolic Constitution, a canonical structure that provides for Personal Ordinariates, which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of distinctive Anglican spiritual patrimony. The announcement of this Apostolic Constitution brings to an end a period of uncertainty for such groups who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church. It will now be up to those who have made requests to the Holy See to respond to the Apostolic Constitution."

Two Vatican congregations, both led by Americans -- Cardinal William Joseph Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, Secretary of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments -- will oversee the process of Anglican Christians entering into the full communion of the Catholic Church.

This event is absolutely extraordinary and will significantly alter the worldwide Christian landscape.

Click here to read more...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Another Weekend Away

Later today Diane and I head off to Orlando to attend our diocese's diaconate continuing education weekend. And so, once again, you will experience a weekend free of my ramblings and misguided thoughts. If you are among the handful of odd folks who actually look forward to what I have to say...well, you'll just have to wait until next week.

For those who are interested, I am taking two books with me. The first is Ironies of Faith by Anthony Esolen, a book I have been looking forward to reading for some time. I met Dr. Esolen, who teaches at Providence College, when I worked there back in the 1990s. Very bright, a wonderful scholar, and a man of deep faith, he's also an excellent writer...oh, yes, and his translation of Dante's Divine Comedy is among the best I have read.

The other book I plan to take with me is Jean Danielou's The Infancy Narratives. I bought a 1968 paperback edition of this little book, now long out of print, a few years ago, but never got around to reading it. I have enjoyed many of Cardinal Danielou's other books and thought that, with the approach of Advent, this would be a good choice. Like many of Cardinal Danielou's books, it's hard to find a copy, but if you're interested, click here to choose from several used copies.

A brief comment on another very different subject...

A few moments ago I received a phone call from a parishioner who is very distressed about what he believes is happening in the world and the Church. And while I agreed that the world is in terrible shape -- the world is always in terrible shape because it is the "world" -- as Christians, as Catholics, we can never succumb to the world's constant call to despair. Our faith must always engender hope. The two go hand in hand. And the two, working together in our hearts, give birth to love. Love must be the driving force in our lives, the cause of all that we do. As I tell the folks who volunteer in our soup kitchen, you shouldn't be doing this out of a sense of duty; you should do it out of love.

Please keep Diane and me in your prayers, that this weekend will be inspirational as well as educational.

God's peace...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Abortion: the Global Impact

Those of us who are active in the pro-life movement are used to talking about the number of abortions performed in the United States, a figure that varies between 1.2 and 1.6 annually. But these numbers, outrageously high as they are, become almost insignificant when compared to the worldwide figures. The Guttmacher Institute has released a new report claiming that 41.3 million abortions were performed throughout the world in 2003. This was down from 45.5 million in 1995. The Guttmacher Institute is a pro-abortion organization named after the president of Planned Parenthood, so it can hardly be accused of inflating the figures.

These numbers are almost mind-boggling: over 40 million innocents murdered every year. That's equivalent to killing the entire population of the United States in just eight years. It took Hitler and his Nazis that long to kill 6 million Jews. We have become such efficient killers.

What have we done and what will become of us?

Pray for life and peace...

Pious Pessimism

Most of my friends and acquaintances are unabashed optimists. Despite the evidence that their world is changing rapidly and in ways they can't possibly predict, they seem to believe it will all turn out okay. In their minds the current unpleasantness is merely a short-term societal blip, and if we only hang in there, the world will right itself and in a few years return to normalcy. They say things like, "Hey, the stock market's on the way back up. Things are looking better..." or "Did you see how the Germans re-elected that conservative woman?"

I, on the other hand, am not so confident. Indeed, I believe that what we are seeing, both in our country and throughout the world, is the inexorable movement of an unthinking and malleable population in the direction of 21st century liberalism.

This post-modern form of liberalism is quite different from that of the 18th and 19th century, the liberalism of our founding fathers, and that of Locke and Mill. These men all recognized that their liberalism could easily evolve into very un-liberal ideologies if politicians were allowed to function unchecked. That's why our founders created a system of government with built-in checks and balances. Of course, they can hardly be faulted for not anticipating the clever ways we have been able to rationalize our disregard for these brakes on runaway government. Encouraged by a supportive media, a compliant and creative judiciary, career-focused legislators, and a "bread and circuses" constituency, today's liberal has moved into completely uncharted territory. Not satisfied to take control of the economy, he also demands control of the way people live their daily lives, all done in the name of liberality.

Unborn babies can be murdered in the womb because...well, it's convenient to do so. If someone wants to do it, it must be okay. "Homosexual marriage" (now there's an oxymoron for you) is fine because there are people who think it's fine. The elderly, the ill, the handicapped -- all those non-productive folks -- can be freed from their low quality lives and sent mercifully into oblivion because doing so will just make it a whole lot better for the rest of us. Isn't the post-modern liberal mind a beautiful thing to behold?

Political correctness is enforced, not legally (yet), but in ways that can cost people their jobs and their reputations. Driven by what Pope Benedict calls a "dictatorship of relativism", truth is no longer acceptable if it bruises the ego of another. Speaking the truth, then, has become the mortal sin of today's liberal, a development easily rationalized by his belief that there is no such thing as objective truth...except, of course, for this very belief. In the same way, any sort of religious orthodoxy -- that is, anything that actually includes a religious creed and a moral code -- becomes a form of "fundamentalism" whose adherents must be ignored, re-educated or suppressed. Not long ago a Methodist minister, after I alluded to my strong support for the pope, jokingly (half-jokingly?) said, "Oh, so you're one of those fundamentalist Catholics?"

I view all of this, and so much more, as evidence that our new global society, if I can call it that, is moving rapidly in the direction of liberal totalitarianism. I cannot see how any political force, except perhaps another less subtle form of totalitarianism, can stop this movement. I believe that the only solution, the only way to escape this worse than Orwellian future, is for us as a people to return to piety and holiness, to return to Christ and the Church He founded, the Church that continues to be inspired and led by the Holy Spirit. The only answer, then, is Jesus Christ and His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. And the task facing the Church is a task that all of us must accept. In the words of Pope Benedict at the Mass celebrated with the College of Cardinals before he was elected, "So let us go and pray to the Lord to help us bear fruit that endures. Only in this way will the earth be changed from a valley of tears to a garden of God."

Let us all go and pray and bear fruit...

Back Home Again

We're back...Actually, we've been back for several days but have been so busy I've been unable to post anything.

Diane and I enjoyed a delightful long weekend in historic Charleston with our dear, long-time friends, Nancy and Dave. We did all the proper tourist things.We took the bus tour of the historic section of town, oohing and aahing at all the beautiful old homes. We roamed through the famous marketplace and purchased more than our share of items that we'll likely never use (except for the t-shirt I bought). And we ate at a series of fancy and not-so-fancy restaurants. Encouraged by the ladies,we visited the only tea plantation in North America where I learned far more than I wanted to know about tea. Actually, it was an interesting experience and of course included another gift shop where we once again obligingly supported the local economy.

The highlight of our trip -- at least, for me -- was attending Mass Sunday morning at St. Mary of the Annunciation Church in Charleston. A beautiful old church, St. Mary's was the first Catholic church in the Carolinas and Georgia. It is apparently affiliated with the nearby cathedral and the parish administrator is Father Gregory Wilson. Well, what a surprise this Mass turned out to be! It was absolutely wonderful! I don't think I have ever seen the Novus Ordo Mass celebrated as reverently and as beautifully. Fr. Wilson celebrated Mass as it should be celebrated and was ably assisted by Deacon Jerry Remkiewitz. The music, too, was beautiful and Fr. Wilson's homily was inspiring. Disappointingly, we were unable to meet Fr. Wilson at their social hour after Mass because of a Sunday brunch reservation...perhaps on our next visit.

The only downside to the trip was the fatal malfunction of my Canon Digital Rebel Xsi. And of course this happened during the first hours of our visit so I was effectively cameraless throughout our stay. For me, who always has a camera slung over his shoulder, this was more than a disaster, and threw me into a deep funk for much of the weekend. I tried, with only moderate success, to put on a happy face. It was especially disappointing because, as you might recall from a previous post, I had just purchased a new lens and planned to "test drive" it in Charleston. The fatal problem, enigmatically labeled, "Error 99", on the camera's LCD screen, resisted every effort to solve it. When I returned home I called Canon and was instructed to send the camera to their factory repair facility in Virginia. This I did. The silver lining is that the warranty didn't expire for another two weeks. I have owned three different versions of the Canon Digital Rebel and never had a problem. Indeed, I will continue to recommend it...assuming, of course, that Canon makes the necessary repairs.

All in all, though, it was a wonderful trip. If you've never been to Charleston, it's well worth a visit.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nobel Peace Prizes and Other Meaningless Awards

Yeah, I know...last night I wrote that I wouldn't post for a few days since we were about to leave for our long weekend in Charleston. But that was before the Nobel Peace Prize award to President Obama. I simply could not shut up.

We arrived here in this beautiful old city about an hour ago, and the hotel has an excellent WiFi system, so my little Asus Netbook was just waiting for my fat fingers to tickle its keyboard. And given the news out of Oslo, I simply couldn't resist. Anyway our friends are still on the road and won't arrive for another couple of hours, so it's either blog or check out the wine list in the hotel bar. I suspect the former will be more productive than the latter. Anyway, on to the Nobel award...

President Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize is about as believable as my receiving the Nobel Prize for chemistry...because neither he nor I have ever done anything to deserve such awards. As I recall, I received an A in chemistry in high school and a B in plebe (that's "freshman" for you civilians) chemistry at the Naval Academy. After that I never touched another test tube or Bunsen burner. And that's it, the extent of my achievements in the field of chemistry. But, you know, I think it might actually exceed the president's accomplishments toward peace. So far he's done absolutely nothing except give speeches that criticize the nation that elected him to office. Indeed, since he took office both Iraq and Afghanistan have become more violent. North Korea and Iran have become more threatening. Russia and China have been rattling their sabers and have consistently ignored Obama's requests regarding sanctions against Iran, despite the president's appeasing overtures: no missile defense in Eastern Europe and no meeting with that crazy, and very dangerous, revolutionary, the Dalai Lama. Hugo Chavez wants to pursue nuclear weapons for Venezuela, entertains and praises Iranian and Palestinian terrorists, spews anti-Semitic rhetoric...and what does the president do? He tries to make friends with him. All of this, of course, endears Mr. Obama to the Europeans who in their gross stupidity have decided to commit continental suicide.

You know, now that I think about it, I've probably done more to earn that chemistry prize than I thought. Over a period of about 20 years I was paid well by a whole bunch of major chemical companies to do valuable management and marketing consulting and training. So I certainly helped the chemical industry more than President Obama helped bring about peace in the world.

This award to the President has done only one thing: devalue the Nobel Peace Prize and by extension all the other Nobel prizes as well. It's almost -- but not quite -- as absurd as Notre Dame University awarding that honorary degree. In the words of a friend of mine: "This is a very strange place."

Oh, yes, for another, more intelligent view of this award to the president, click here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Taking a Short Break

I probably won't be posting anything on the blog for the next three or four days. Diane and I are heading off to beautiful, historic Charleston, South Carolina to spend a long weekend there with some friends. I'll probably take far too many photos, especially since the new lens for my Canon digital camera arrived yesterday, just in time for me to play with it while on our brief trip. I will doubtless feel obligated to share some of these photos with you all when I return.

In the meantime, have a happy Columbus Day, and might I suggest reading that wonderful biography by the late Samuel Eliot Morison, Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus. This was the first biography of Columbus I ever read and by far the most enjoyable. Despite all the revisionist historians who have made careers trashing Columbus in recent years, he was a remarkable man and worthy of our interest and praise.

God bless you and pray for peace and life.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Iranian Anti-Semitism...in Latin America?

While the United States looks with concern to the potentially dangerous activities of the North Korean and Iranian regimes, there are things happening a lot closer to us that might, in the long run prove far more dangerous.

The man most responsible for this is Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, and he has apparently taken his lead from Iran's leading racist and anti-Semite, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Chavez is not only in tight with Ahmadinejad with the aim of becoming a Latin American nuclear power, but he has also been playing host to terrorists from Hezbollah. And echoing his Iranian mentor, Chavez has begun to attack Jews as the source of all problems in the world. His goal, of course, is nuclear proliferation and the spread of terrorism in the Western hemisphere, and just guess who will be the ultimate target.

Allied with Chavez in all this is ousted Honduran strongman wannabe, Manuel Zelaya. Zelaya was deposed and exiled because of his overt violations of the Honduran constitution, but has since sneaked back into the country and is now hanging out at the Brazilian embassy. He and his supporters have been very vocal in blaming Zelaya's problems on the Jews. Other than the constant stream of anti-Semitic drivel that flows from the Islamic nations in the Middle East these days, we haven't heard anything like this since the Third Reich.

Equally disturbing is that our president is siding with Zelaya and Chavez (and the Cubans) by demanding that Zelaya be returned to power.

To find out more about this despicable alliance of Latin American anti-Semites with Iran, click here to read this Wall Street Journal column by Mary Anastasia O'Grady.

Our Lady of the Rosary: Birthdays and Anniversary

Today, the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, would be a wonderful day for everyone to pray a rosary, asking our Blessed Mother to intercede for our nation in these challenging times. The feast was inaugurated by Pope Pius V in thanksgiving for the victory over Islamic forces in the great naval battle of Lepanto in 1571. This victory was largely responsible for halting the spread of Islam into Europe, and in that sense saved the Christian nations of Europe from being overrun. It was the people's recitation of the rosary that led to the victory and the Pope's subsequent institution of the feast.

For centuries October has been dedicated to the praying of the Rosary, and in a few days, on October 13, we will celebrate the miraculous appearance of Our Lady of Fatima in 1916. On that day Our Blessed Mother appearing "more brilliant than the sun" said to the three children, "I am the Lady of the Rosary. I have come to warn the faithful to amend their lives and to ask pardon for their sins. They must not offend our Lord any more, for he is already too grievously offended by the sins of men. People must say the Rosary. Let them continue saying it every day." Today our world needs prayer more than ever, and what better prayer to offer than the Rosary.

October 7th is also a special day for our family. Our second daughter, Siobhan, was born on this day in 1972, 401 years after the famous battle; and her elder sister, Erin, was married to her wonderful husband, Airton, on this day in 2000. The girlfriend of our younger son, Brendan, was also born on this day. Because of our multiple connections with this date, I like to think that Our Lady of the Rosary has always watched over this family of ours. I certainly pray that she continues to do so.

AP Tells a Whopper: Says Pope Praised Obama

Now if you're one of those people who believes every word he reads in the press, every video clip he sees on TV, every sound bite he hears on radio -- whether from NPR or a conservative talk show -- and every post he reads on every blog he stumbles on...if you're one of those people, don't read what follows. You might be struck with terminal disillusionment.

The Associated Press, in a story about Pope Benedict's recent meeting with Miguel H. Diaz (see photo), the newly appointed U. S. Ambassador to the Vatican, told a little fib. They gave the story the following headline: "Pope meets new US envoy, praises Obama." The trouble is, nowhere in the story and nowhere in the Vatican's official transcript of the pope's comments does the Holy Father ever praise President Obama. (Praise to CatholicCulture.org for spotting this. By the way, they have a new, redesigned, and very nice website.)

Click here to read the AP story.

Click here to read the Vatican's transcript of the pope's comments.

I just don't know what to make of it. Do you think the AP might be trying to influence Catholics to have a more sympathetic and supportive attitude toward President Obama? After all, if the pope praises him, he must be OK.

And if you'd like to read an interesting report on Ambassador Diaz's recent confirmation hearing, along with a prediction about his likely openness with the Catholic press, click here.

An African Pope?

Here I am, only a few years into the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, and I'm already talking about who the next pope might be. I trust the Holy Father will forgive me for even broaching the subject. After all, I think the College of Cardinals and the Holy Spirit did a terrific job the last time and I certainly don't want to hasten the next conclave. But...voices in the press and among the Vatican watchers are buzzing about the most likely papabile; that is, the cardinals thought by those in the know to have the best shot at succeeding Pope Benedict.

Perhaps the most intriguing "candidate" is Cardinal Peter Turkson, the 61-year-old Archbishop of Cape Coast (Ghana). Pope Benedict appointed him relator general of the ongoing African Synod, something that has thrust the cardinal into the Roman spotlight and led to all sorts of speculation. When asked during a press briefing whether the next pope might be an African, the cardinal replied with a straightforward, "Why not?" His candor is certainly refreshing.

Pope Benedict, it would seem, wants Cardinal Turkson in the Roman Curia and has reportedly asked him to be President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, succeeding Cardinal Renato Martino. But the reports say that Cardinal Turkson prefers to remain, at least for the time being, with his flock in Ghana. This last piece of news, if it is true, has made me a fan. Imagine a pastor who would rather be among his people than in Rome.

Cardinal Turkson just might be someone to watch. It will be interesting to see of the Holy Spirit agrees. If you'd like to read more about Cardinal Turkson in the news, click here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Three Cheers for the Dominican Republic

Despite what has been described as "fierce criticism and pressure from UN agencies and abortion advocates," the national legislature of the Dominican Republic overwhelmingly (128 to 32) passed a constitutional change stating that "the right to life is inviolable from conception until death." Bravo to these courageous lawmakers. Would that our own exhibited such courage.

The United Nations, of course, is upset and simply unable to deal with the idea that a sovereign nation would alter its constitution in a way contrary to UN wishes. Oh, wait a minute...that can't be right, since the UN claims to be "neutral" on the subject of abortion...Hmmmm...I wonder why, if they are truly neutral, they exerted so much pressure on the Dominican legislators to reject this constitutional change.

What a world! Lies, lies, and more lies...

If you'd like to read more about this story, click here.

And here's Pope John Paul II's prayer to Mary, Mother of Life. Please pray it daily, asking Mary to intercede for this confused, sinful world of ours.

Prayer to Mary, Mother of Life

O Mary, bright dawn of the new world, Mother of the living, to you do we entrust the cause of life:

Look down, O Mother, upon the vast numbers of babies not allowed to be born, of the poor whose lives are made difficult, of men and women who are victims of brutal violence, of the elderly and the sick killed by indifference or out of misguided mercy.

Grant that all who believe in your Son may proclaim the Gospel of life with honesty and love to the people of our time.

Obtain for them the grace to accept that Gospel as a gift ever new, the joy of celebrating it with gratitude throughout their lives and the courage to bear witness to it resolutely, in order to build, together with all people of good will, the civilization of truth and love, to the praise and glory of God, the Creator and lover of life. Amen
.

-- Pope John Paul II -- The Gospel of Life, No. 105


God's peace...

Respect Life...Keep it Alive

Although it's certainly a good thing that this past Sunday was Respect Life Sunday, having one day of the year so designated runs the risk that some of the good people who celebrated this day by taking part in all those wonderful pro-life activities will put respect for life on the back burner for the other 364 days of the year. It doesn't take much for us to treat this special day as we would any other special day. Few of us think about Christmas in August, or Easter in November, or Mothers Day in February. And so many of us might be tempted to think, "Well, I did my part. Let's see, what's next? Oh, yes, Halloween. I guess I'd better put up some decorations for the neighborhood kids."

Pope Benedict Respect Life poster. Click picture to download a larger version suitable for display.

Priests and deacons, and yes, even bishops, can fall prey to this same kind of thinking. Far too many of us preach just that one pro-life homily every October and ignore the issue for the rest of the year. And do you know what? The words we use have a significant effect on our parishioners. For example, I really shouldn't have labeled respect for life as simply an "issue", as if it were analogous to such political or societal concerns as tax rates or off-shore oil exploration. Life, you see, is much more than an issue. It's at the very core of our beliefs as Christians, as a people who believe that life is a precious gift from God, a gift that we abuse at our peril. By abusing and misusing God's greatest gift, we are, in effect, trying to replace God with us...and that simply will not do.

As Catholics it's important for us to realize that Church teaching on life remains unchanged. Abortion, euthanasia, artificial contraception, the destruction of human embryos for whatever reason -- these and other anti-life activities are all serious sins, mortal sins, and those who commit them or support these inherently evil acts place their souls in grave jeopardy. We need to be told this every so often. Despite what you may have heard, sin still exists, and so does hell.

So let's spend, not just one day, but every day of the year praying and talking and acting in ways that remind others about the sacredness of human life. Remind them that God is loving and forgiving, that only He can take away the pain, the guilt, and the sadness that so often accompanies sins against life. And make no mistake about it, this is the responsibility of every Christian, not just the clergy. We are all called by Jesus Christ to teach "them to observe all that I have commanded you" [Mt 28:20]; and so let's accept this mission willingly, joyfully and lovingly.

God's peace...

What do you seek?

Yesterday I wrote a few inadequate words about one of the great saints of the Church, St. Jerome. Today I'd like to turn to one of his contemporaries, St. Augustine of Hippo. Like Jerome, Augustine is both an Early Church Father and a Doctor of the Church -- another of the great ones. And also like Jerome, St. Augustine was a prolific writer, and thankfully many of his works were preserved and are available today.

I've always had an affinity for St. Augustine, probably because he was one of the first saints I encountered as a child. When I was just four years old, my family moved from rural Connecticut to Larchmont, a New York suburb, where we became members of St. Augustine Parish. Later I attended St. Augustine School and was naturally curious about this man whose name was taken by my parish church and school.

Rather than tell you about St. Augustine -- after all, you can read any number of brief online biographical sketches of the saint -- I'd rather quote him. Yesterday, while reading his work, De Catechizandis Rudibus (On the Catechizing of the Uninstructed), I came across the following paragraph which I thought was equally relevant to our times:

"Two cities, one of sinners and one of saints, are to be found throughout history from the creation of mankind until the end of the world: at the present day they are mingled together in body, but separate and distinct in will; in the day of judgment, they will be separated bodily. All men who take pleasure in the lust of power and the spirit of domination, in the pomps and vanities of the world, and all spiritual substances who approve these things and take pride in subjecting men to themselves, all these are united in one city: even when they fight among themselves over such advantages, they are none the less borne down together in the same direction by one and the same burden of cupidity, and bound together by common behavior and merits. On the other hand, all such as humbly seek the glory of God...belong together in one city...And, notwithstanding this, God is most merciful and patient with ungodly men, and offers them a place for penitence and amendment."

As Augustine reminds us, both "cities" consist of men and angels, the difference being who (or what) they worship. The men and angels of one city worship idols. It is an idolatry of self, the worship of the creature and his works rather than the Creator Himself. Those of the other city are worshippers of the One, True God. The important point is that there is no middle way. For Augustine anything apart from the sovereign jurisdiction of God belongs to the city of Satan, to the world and the flesh. And as Augustine reminds us, while in the world the lines between these two cities is not so apparent. A person can be a member of the visible Church and yet belong to the city of Satan.

The only end that humanity should seek is that which God plans for us. Too often today political and other human forms of organization are made ends in themselves. When this happens they can only serve the city of Satan. This is true whether those human political ends are Marxism, nationalism, democracy...whatever. Hard words for many today to accept.

Augustine's writings are filled with these kinds of remarkable and timeless insights. If you have never read him, I suggest you begin with his Confessions and then go on from there.

God's peace...

...and to think, you pay his salary!

Kevin Jennings, an Assistant Deputy Secretary within the Obama administration, directs the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools. One of the many "czars" within the administration (He is informally called the "Safe School Czar."), Jennings is also a long-time homosexual activist who, in a book about his childhood, claims to hate God and those who believe in Him. Indeed, as he came to accept his homosexuality and the lifestyle that would accompany it, he said goodbye to God using these blasphemous words, "Screw you, Buddy!" Isn't that nice? I don't think we have to wonder whether Assistant Deputy Secretary Jennings celebrated International Blasphemy Day on September 30.

And to think that this man works in the U.S. Department of Education and is therefore paid by our taxpayer dollars. If you would like to read more about this obviously dedicated public servant -- assuming your stomach is strong enough -- click here.

Monday, October 5, 2009

European (and American?) Christian Apathy

Just a few moments ago I came across the comments of a young African Catholic who takes European Christians to task for their apathetic response to the constant barrage of attacks on Christianity that issue from the European "elite". Kizito Chinedu Nweke, a seminarian originally from Nigeria is currently studying at the Pontifical University Heiligenkreuz (Holy Cross) near Vienna, Austria. Here's what this young man has to say:

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"In Western Europe, there has been a storm of critique on Christianity for a long time, an Anti-Christian trend. To have faith is seen as a pitiful situation. To say it gently, the majority of Christians waits helplessly and inactively for the total destruction of already wounded Christianity. I am not worried that the Church would not survive difficult situations (Mt 16:18) or that Christ would abandon his Church (Mt 28:20). But I worry about the degree of carelessness and apathy that Christians in Europe show in this difficult situation.

Christians meet the increasing wave of Anti-Christianity with total passivity. Because of the media, daily newspapers, magazines, TV and radio, people are on a daily basis confronted with ideologies that only deep faith and clear discernment can withstand. The question is: How do Christians react to this? What did they do until now?

I read daily newspapers and I am bewildered because of the eagerness with which journalists and editors make arbitrary statements, leap to illogical conclusions and criticize the Church in a hostile way. The passivity with which Christians react on these assaults is alarming.

Why do you observe instead of argue, defend and proclaim the truth from a rational point of view? Why not react on negative developments, especially when they turn into a dangerous ideology?

Now it is time to wake up, everyone in their way and in their environment! Let’s write! Let’s speak loudly! We have to prepare ourselves, because as Christ has already warned us: “...for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light...” (Lk 16:8)

It is not enough to wait for a miracle! We could not impede this development by waiting for a wonder from God. Why should He perform a miracle, when he already gave us the ability to act through faith and common sense?

Prayer is undeniably the first step that we have to make, but it is not enough. We have to act. We owe that to our descendants. People leave the church because they receive wrong answers to their questions. And they get these wrong answers from the wrong people.

Average Europeans who read daily newspapers probably will tend to lose their faith than remain a believer. It is time to let Christ lead us. Let everyone around you notice that there is a Christian. Where are you? What do you see? What do you hear? What do you know? Speak aloud! Our silence is our pain."

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I think, perhaps, these sames words could have been addressed to American Catholics. As our young seminarian said, "It is time to let Christ lead us."

God's peace...