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!


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Religion, Freedom and Blindness

I find it interesting that Western European governments (and our own administration as well) seem to have been completely blindsided by the tumult that has spread throughout the Muslim states of the Middle East and North Africa. Blinded by their own secular worldview, the Europeans see these nations solely in political and economic terms and ignore the impact of both the religious faith of the people and their hopes for freedom. Because religion has little or no influence among Europe's elites today, they find it hard to imagine it having much influence anywhere. As a result they underestimate the resolve of the Jihadists who are engaged in a battle not only against the secular West, but also against the aspirations of much of the Muslim world. And so the West finds itself faced by a region that seems to have dissolved into chaos, and it doesn't have a clue as to the likely outcome. Very few saw this coming because very few recognized the growing signs of real discontent among the youth, women, and the many persecuted minorities, a discontent that has exploded in recent weeks.
The current conflict

Some of us have been listening to observers such as Walid Phares who have written extensively on what we should expect in the near future. Indeed, Phares' book, The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East, anticipated much that is currently happening. The outcome, however, will likely be determined by how we in the West respond. If we continue as we have the outlook is not particularly bright.

A Word for Meditation

In yesterday's Morning Prayer, we were given the following passage for meditation:
"In everything you do, act without grumbling or argument; prove yourselves innocent and straightforward, children of God beyond reproach in the midst of a twisted and depraved generation -- among whom you shine like stars in the sky." - Philippians 2:14-15
Are we grumblers, or are we children of God who shine like stars?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Excerpts from the Hours

From yesterday's Office of Readings:

"Seek then the highest wisdom, not by arguments in words but by the perfection of your life, not by speech but by the faith that comes from simplicity of heart, not from the learned speculations of the unrighteous." - St. Columban, Abbot, d. 615

...and from yesterday's Morning Prayer:

"As generous distributors of God's manifold grace, put your gifts at the service of one another, each in the measure he has received. The one who speaks is to deliver God's message. The one who serves is to do it with the strength provided by God. Thus, in all of you God is to be glorified through Jesus Christ..." - 1 Peter 4:10-11a

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Liturgy of the Hours

One of the great pleasures of my day is my time spent with the Liturgy of the Hours, the daily prayer of the Church. So often I find that praying the Hours and experiencing the readings it contains bring me back to reality and keep me from the both sin and stupidity...well, maybe not all stupidity, but the Hours have certainly had a positive effect on me.

As a deacon I am obliged to pray both Morning Prayer (Lauds) and Evening Prayer (Vespers) daily, but whenever possible I try also to pray the Office of Readings, a wonderful source of both Scriptural readings and readings from the Church's 2,000-year tradition. Although the Hours are a part of the lives of the clergy, I have noticed that a growing number of laypeople are now praying them as well. What a blessing this is for the Church!

If you would like to join the Church in its daily prayer, I suggest picking up a copy of the one-volume version of the Hours called, Christian Prayer. It's available in a number of different editions. The cost varies based on the type of binding. This one-volume version contains Morning, Evening and Night Prayer and will provide you with a nice introduction to the Hours. And if your parish does not have a prayer group that prays the Hours together daily, I suggest speaking to your pastor about starting one. The Hours are meant to be prayed in community, and if you can draw together two or more people for Morning or Evening Prayer, Jesus will be there among you.Your priest or deacon should be able to get you started by explaining exactly how the Hours are prayed in community; and there are also a number of helpful guides available both online and in print.

To include the Office of Readings in your daily prayer, you will have to make a larger investment and purchase the standard four-volume edition of the Liturgy of the Hours. Of course, if like me you have an iPhone, you can download one of many apps that will make all of the Hours available on your phone. Some are free while others are available for a modest cost. Although I can't say for sure, I would think some of these apps are also available for other smart phones.

To encourage the spread of this wonderful way to pray daily with the Church universal, I plan to post one or two passages from the Hours each day. I would hope that those who take the time to read these prayers and excerpts from the day's readings might also take a moment to meditate on them and apply them to their daily lives. You might have noticed that I also included access to an online version of the Hours in the right-hand sidebar of this blog under the heading "Breviary." Click on one of the Hours and give it a try. It's free!

I'll include those excerpts this evening. Right now I must leave and drive to Orlando to visit some old friends who are visiting from up North.

Keep me and Diane in your prayers...

God's peace.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, R.I.P.

On Monday we lost one of our great pro-life advocates, a man who at one time was among the leading abortionists in the country. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who in his lifetime performed upwards of 75,000 abortions before he came to accept the horror of what he had done, died of cancer in New York at the age of 84.

It was the development of ultrasound technology that caused Dr. Nathanson to realize the truth about abortion and turned him into a strong defender of life. Drawing on that same technology in 1984 he produced the film, The Silent Scream, depicting what actually happens to the unborn baby during an abortion. Some years later he produced a second film, Eclipse of Reason, about late-term and partial-birth abortions. But Dr. Nathanson's journey didn't end with his pro-life conversion. God had another conversion in store for him, and in 1996 this self-described "Jewish atheist" entered the Catholic Church. He was baptized by a man I knew and loved, Cardinal John O'Connor. With the reception of that first sacrament the doctor received the healing he he had sought so long, the healing of his soul and the forgiveness for all his sins, including those thousands of abortions.

I met Dr. Nathanson only once, years ago and very briefly at a pro-life gathering in Boston, and was admittedly surprised by his quiet humility as we exchanged a few words. Those who knew him well remark that he underwent much internal suffering as a result of his years as an abortionist; but fortunately, for Dr. Nathanson and for all of us, we have a loving and forgiving God who forgets all sinfulness in the waters of baptism and through the absolution of the confessional.

Rest in peace, Doctor, in God's loving embrace and that of those 75,000 innocent souls who unlike the rest of us never learned to hate or condemn.


Read an obituary here: Dr. Bernard Nathanson.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Proposed Holy Year for Nuns

St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association, a Irish lay movement that promotes the continued use of the Latin Liturgy, has made an interesting proposal. In light of the recent (2009-2010) Year for Priests celebrated in Rome and throughout the world, the association suggests that the Holy Father dedicate a similar Holy Year for Nuns. It sounds like a great idea, one that might well lead to more women accepting the religious vocation God has planned for them. Here's what the association placed on their website:
Following the Holy Year for Priests, it is surely time to pray for consecrated women. Therefore, dear reader, we urge you to ask Ecclesiastical Authorities to dedicate a special year to give thanks to God for Nuns and to pray for Nuns and for more Nuns. What better way to do honour to St. Brigid?

Please proclaim an Holy Year for Nuns!

Ora pro populo, interveni pro clero, intercede pro devoto femineo sexu! [Pray for the people, plead for the clergy, intercede for devoted women.]
Pray for all priests, and all consecrated men and women...and don't forget us deacons.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ivy League Stupidity and Hatred

I spent a good portion of my life wearing the uniform of our country's military and while I have never sought adulation or even mild approbation for my service in times of both peace and war, I do resent it when people treat veterans disrespectfully because of their service.

Anthony Maschek and his fiance'
A recent example of this occurred last week at that hallowed Ivy League institution, Columbia University, during a campus town-hall style meeting addressing the issue of reinstating ROTC at the university. Anthony Maschek, 28, a freshman student and a veteran who was severely wounded in a firefight in Iraq and spent two years recovering at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, spoke in favor of reinstatement. As a result he was heckled, called a racist, and treated with contempt by the hostile crowd of fellow students. And when he stated, “It doesn’t matter how you feel about the war. It doesn’t matter how you feel about fighting...There are bad men out there plotting to kill you,” several students laughed and jeered. Read more here: Hero's Unwelcome.

This disgusting display of stupidity by Columbia students is only more proof that high SAT scores are no measure of intelligence. It should also encourage parents to think twice before sending any of their children to Ivy League schools. Trust me, a much better education (at a much lower cost) may be had elsewhere. You might even check out a few of the Catholic colleges I mentioned in this post last year.

The Middle Ages When Life Was Actually Not So Bad

I'm always amused by folks who badmouth the Middle Ages as a time of horror and misery because, it would seem, our medieval ancestors lacked, among other things, iPads, dishwashers, TVs and rock 'n roll. Oh, yes, they also spent a lot of time in church. It's as if these "deficiencies" somehow make up for a century of wars that killed tens of millions, regimes that have murdered even more, not to mention terrorism, astronomic crime rates, pornography, synchronized swimming, and the designated hitter. Trust me, compared to the empty lives of many people today, life wasn't all that bad back then.

Anyway, as a longtime fan of the Middle Ages, I was pleased to stumble on an interesting web page listing the Top 10 Reasons We Should Revive the Dark Ages.

And while I'm at it, I suggest you read Regine Pernoud's wonderful little book, Those Terrible Middle Ages: Debunking the Myths. It just might change your opinion.

Afghanistan: Reverting to Barbarism

Sometimes I think we in the West have a deep-seated tendency to commit societal suicide. After the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, we began our so-called "war on terror" by invading Afghanistan with the goal of ousting the Taliban regime that had sheltered and supported Osama bin Laden and his gang of terrorists, aka Al-Qaeda.  Not willing to admit that these thugs are actually motivated by the teachings of some of their religion's spiritual leaders, our politicians put their heads in the sand and spoke eloquently of spreading democracy, ensuring the right to vote, equal opportunity for women, and creating new ally in this volatile region. And as they spoke of these good things, they helped install a new Afghan regime that really differs very little from that of its Taliban predecessor. Indeed, under the administration of President Bush and now supported by the administration of President Obama, we created and continue to support a theocracy that is perpetrating some of the same barbaric crimes.

Did you know that the government of Afghanistan is about to execute a Christian by the name of Said Musa (photo left) for the horrendous crime of converting to Christianity? We're not talking about the governments of Pakistan or Saudi Arabia where such anti-apostasy laws have been in place for decades. No, this is happening in Afghanistan, and is being carried out by a government that we, in effect, created, under a constitution that prohibits religious freedom. As a result Musa has been tortured, imprisoned without trial or counsel, and can expect to be executed. And not one word publicly from our president.

For more on this story, read Paul Marshall's piece on National Review Online. You can also visit the Facebook page devoted to saving Musa from execution. And then read Said Musa's letter, written from prison.

Pray for Said Musa and his family. And pray that our government may find the courage to tell the Afghans to stop this barbarity now.

Cardinal O'Malley Washes Feet of Abuse Victims

Last year Pope Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Sean O'Malley, O.F.M. Cap. of the Archdiocese of Boston to investigate the response to sexual abuse within of the Archdiocese of Dublin. I thought it was a particularly good choice because Cardinal O'Malley has been so effective in bringing genuine healing and reform to several U. S. dioceses plagued by abuse, including the Archdiocese of Boston.

Yesterday in Dublin the cardinal celebrated a "Liturgy of Lament and Repentance" during which he washed the feet of five women and three men who were victims of abuse in the archdiocese. He and Dublin's Archbishop Diarmuid Martin began the liturgy with an act of humility by laying prostrate at the foot of the altar. During the course of the liturgy there were extensive readings from the official reports of abuse of children in institutions run by the Church and of sexual abuse by archdiocesan clergy. As Archbishop Martin stated, "The Archdiocese of Dublin will never be the same again. It will always bear this wound within it." One hopes that this public liturgy of penance for sins committed will bring the victims and the Church one step closer to healing.

The complete text of Cardinal O'Malley's comments follow:

My brothers and sisters, I am very grateful for this opportunity to be with you today and to take part in such a moving service of reparation and hope. I am especially thankful to our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, for his care for the Church in Ireland and for inviting me to be part of this Visitation.

On behalf of the Holy Father, I ask forgiveness for the sexual abuse of children perpetrated by priests and the past failures of the Church's hierarchy, here and in Rome, the failure to respond appropriately to the problem of sexual abuse. Publicly atoning for the Church's failures is an important element of asking the forgiveness of those who have been harmed by priests and bishops, whose actions - and inactions - gravely harmed the lives of children entrusted to their care.

The O'Malleys hail from County Mayo, a part of Ireland that was hallowed by St. Patrick's ministry there. They tell the story of a dramatic conversion of an Irish chieftain by the name of Ossian. A huge crowd assembled in a field to witness his baptism. St. Patrick arrived in his Bishop's vestments with his miter and staff. St. Patrick stuck his staff in the ground and began to preach a long sermon on the Catholic faith. The people noted that Ossian, who was standing directly in front of St. Patrick, began to sweat profusely, he grew pale and fainted dead away. Some people rushed over to help and they discovered to everyone's horror that St. Patrick had driven his staff through the man's foot.

When they were able to revive Ossian they said to him, "Why did you not say something?" And the fierce warrior replied , "I thought that it was part of the ceremony."

The warrior did not understand too much about liturgy and rituals, but he did understand that discipleship is often difficult. It means carrying the Cross. It is a costly grace and often we fall down on the job.

Jesus teaches us about His love in the Parable of the Good Samaritan where in a certain sense the Samaritan represents Christ, who is so moved to compassion by the sight of the man left half dead on the road to Jericho. The innocent victim of the crime is abandoned by all. The priests and levites turn their back on him, the police fail to protect him, the innkeeper profits from the tragedy. It is Christ who identifies with the man who is suffering and showers compassion on him.

Jesus is always on the side of the victim, bringing compassion and mercy. Jesus is not just the healer in the Gospel. He identifies with the sick, suffering, homeless, all innocent victims of violence and abuse and all survivors of sexual abuse. The Parable ends with injunction; "Go and do likewise!"; just as Jesus turns His love and compassion to those who have been violently attacked or sexually abused.

We want to be part of a Church that puts survivors, the victims of abuse first, ahead of self-interest, reputation and institutional needs.

We have no doubt of Jesus' compassion and love for the survivors even when they feel unloved, rejected, or disgraced. Our desire is that our Church reflect that love and concern for the survivors of sexual abuse and their families and be tireless in assuring the protection of children in our Church and in society.

From my own experience in several dioceses with the tragic evil of sexual abuse of minors I see that your wounds are a source of profound distress. Many survivors have struggled with addictions. Others have experienced greatly damaged relationships with parents, spouses and children. The suffering of families has been a terrible and very serious effect of the abuse. Some of you have even suffered the tragedy of a loved one having taken their own life because of the abuse perpetrated on them. The deaths of these beloved children of God weigh heavily on our hearts.

The wounds carried in Ireland as a result of this evil are deep and remind us of the wounds of the body of Christ. We think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as he experienced his own crisis. He, too, was overwhelmed with sorrow, betrayed and abandoned. Not only survivors of abuse and their family members, but many of the faithful and clergy throughout Ireland can echo our Lord's plaintive cry, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" But today, through the saving power of the Cross, we come together to share in each other's sorrows as well as our collective hope for the future. We come together to bind up the wounds we carry as a result of this crisis and to join in prayer for healing, reconciliation and renewed unity.

Based on the experience I have had with this Visitation, I believe there is a window of opportunity for the Church here to respond to the crisis in a way that will build a holier Church, that strives to be more humble even as it grows stronger. While we have understandably heard much anger and learned of much suffering, we have also witnessed a sincere desire to strengthen and rebuild the Church here. We have seen that there is a vast resource, a reservoir of faith and a genuine desire to work for reconciliation and renewal.

During the course of many meetings, I have been blessed to hear from many survivors and their families, lay women and men and religious and clergy who seek reconciliation and healing. Today's service, which survivors so generously assisted in planning and are participating in, gives testimony to the longing of so many to rebuild and renew this Archdiocese and the Church throughout Ireland.

Just as the Irish people persevered and preserved the faith when it was endangered, and carried it to many other countries, the commitment to sustain the faith provides the opportunity for the hard lessons of the crisis to benefit the Church in our quest to do penance for the sins of the past and to do everything possible to protect children in the present and in the future.

I would like to conclude my remarks by sharing another parable with you that further illustrates the demands of the Great Commandment which contains the whole Law and the prophets. The Japanese tell the story of a man who lived in a beautiful home on the top of a mountain. Each day he took a walk in his garden and looked out at the sea below. One day he spotted a tsunami on the horizon coming toward the shore and then he noticed a group of his neighbors having a picnic on the beach. The man was anxious to warn his neighbors, he shouted and waved his arms. But they were too far off, they could not hear nor see him. So the man set fire to his house. When the neighbors on the beach saw the smoke and flames some said let us climb the mountain to help our friend save his home. Others said: "That mountain is so high and we're having such fun, you go." Well, the ones who climbed the mountain to save their neighbor's home were themselves saved. Those who remained on the beach having fun perished when the tidal wave hit the shore.

The Gospel of Christ is about love, sacrifice, forgiveness, hope and salvation. The burning house on the top of the hill is the Cross, and it is the suffering of all those children who experienced abuse.

Climbing the mountain, we are not doing God a favor, we are saving our souls.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Deacons' Retreat Weekend

Diane and I leave later today for our annual diaconal retreat to join the other deacons and their wives of the Diocese of Orlando for a weekend of prayer and reflection. This is probably my favorite weekend of the year, a time to step away from all the busyness of daily life and ministry and regroup spiritually.

We also look forward to spending some time with our new bishop, John Noonan, who will join us Sunday morning to celebrate Mass and to install several men as acolyltes. They are currently in the diocese's diaconate formation program.

In any event, I won't be posting anything until Sunday evening at the very earliest.

Please keep us all in your prayers.

Thanks and blessings...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Internet, the World, the Church

The internet is truly a remarkable resource. Yes, I know full well that much of its content is pure garbage of the sort that any civilized, moral society would ban. That's the problem with our progressive Western culture's absolutist approach to free speech, a relatively recent innovation that would have shocked our founding fathers. They were men who believed that natural law and the moral sense of the people imposed boundaries, even on such rights as freedom of speech. Fortunately we can usually block most of this garbage from entering our homes and upsetting our peace of mind. But I digress...

I have actually watched the internet develop since before it was the internet, long before Al Gore had even heard of it. Indeed, back in the early seventies, when I was teaching computer science at the Naval Academy, I would often log into the internet's predecessor, what was then called the ARPAnet, a Department of Defense project meaning Advanced Research Project Agency Network. Once logged in I would browse the network, seeing what useful or interesting things were available on the university, government and corporate computer systems that were tied together via the ARPAnet. It was all very exciting back then, and by today's standards very limited and very slow.


Now we can communicate with family and friends via online video phone calls, basically for free. We have direct and immediate access to millions, perhaps billions, of books and articles and documents. We can learn languages. We can study everything from basic reading skills to small particle physics. We can witness world events as they happen and sample a thousand different viewpoints on what it all means, and do it all almost instantaneously. And to think that all of this, and much more, has become possible in such a short time. It truly is remarkable.

Actually, I was very ready for the internet's arrival. I had been an amateur radio operator since the age of 15 and my involvement in the hobby allowed me to communicate with other "hams" throughout the world. We'd talk about a whole range of subjects, although we would usually avoided politics and religion. Everything else, though, was fair game. As the internet began to mature I simply viewed it as a better way to do what I had already been doing since 1959.

Vintage Ham Radio Equipment of the 1950s

And now, thank God, the Church has embraced the internet as a prime medium to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ, to extend its reach to places where its voice might never otherwise have been heard. How many people, who would never think of approaching a Catholic priest in person to ask about Jesus Christ, might readily visit a Catholic website to get answers to their questions? How many conversions have been precipitated by a visit to a Church website? Who knows? Maybe we bloggers even have a positive impact.

Almost daily I stumble upon some wonderful website that brings another essential element of the faith to the world. Today, for example, as I was researching information on the number of Catholic worldwide, I was led to the Vatican website of the Pontifical Mission Societies, a site I never knew existed. It's really a wonderful website, filled with information on the status of Catholic missions throughout the world. Here's the link to the English-language homepage: Agenzia Fides

It's easy to keep the garbage at bay, and just as easy to enjoy and take advantage of all the good that the internet offers. Perhaps we should develop a strong devotion to St. Isidore of Seville (left) whom the Church has declared the patron saint of the internet. A bishop and doctor of the Church who lived from 560 to 636 A.D., St. Isadore spent much of his life documenting all "universal knowledge" in anticipation of the aim of today's internet. Let's ask him to help us eliminate the garbage and strengthen the Church's growing presence on the worldwide web.

St. Isidore, pray for us.

More on Reading Pope Benedict XVI

Just a brief addendum to yesterday's post on Reading Pope Benedict XVI...

This morning I came across a blog -- thanks to the Pope Benedict Fan Club website -- that focuses on the writings of the Holy Father and offers some good recommendations. I won't provide any details since, if you're interested, you'd be better served by just going directly to the site: Reading Pope Benedict.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Reading Pope Benedict XVI

About a month ago a friend asked me to suggest a good book by Pope Benedict, but I never got around to giving him a definite answer. And then, just a few days ago, I received an email from a parishioner asking me to give her some direction regarding Pope Benedict's writings. "I'd like to read some of his writings, but I don't know where to start. He's written so much. Can you recommend a book or two?"

She's right, of course; the pope has written and published a lot. I just took a quick look at my own bookshelves and counted 38 books written by him and almost a dozen written about him. And my collection of his books is by no means complete. And so I can certainly understand her question, "Where do I begin?"

I suppose the best answer is, "It depends." It depends on your interests, your aims, your own theological background...it depends on a lot of things. Many of the pope's books published by Ignatius Press are really edited compilations of his reflections and homilies on various subjects. (Click here to view all the pope's books published by Ignatius.) For example, his book, The Apostles, is derived from a series of catecheses given by Pope Benedict during a number of his Wednesday general audiences. Books such as this are aimed at the general reader and don't demand a strong theological background. Some of his books, though, are more demanding of the reader. Although I enjoyed reading the first volume of his Jesus of Nazareth, it was slow going. The pope is a very efficient writer who packs a lot into each sentence, so I often find myself stopping and thinking about what I have just read. Usually I might spend a couple of evenings reading a book of that length (350 pages), but in this instance I think it took me almost two weeks to finish the book.

Some of the more interesting books by and/or about Pope Benedict are the lengthy interviews that have been published in book form. They not only give you insights into his thinking and his theology, but they also provide a refreshing glimpse of Joseph Ratzinger, the man. Some examples:

  • The Ratzinger Report. A 1984 interview with the then-58-year-old Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was appointed Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by Pope John Paul II in 1982. (Interviewed by Vittorio Messori.)
  • Salt of the Earth. A 1996 interview with Cardinal Ratzinger who addresses a wide range of issues affecting the Church as it approaches a new millennium. (Interviewed by Peter Seewald.)
  • God and the World. A 2000 interview with Cardinal Ratzinger in which he addresses subjects ranging from creation to the future of the Chruch. Certainly the most comprehensive of all the published interviews. (Interview by Peter Seewald.)
  • Light of the World. A 2010 interview with Pope Benedict XVI in which he comments on all those things that people would want to ask the pope. It is a wonderful book, and the first in-depth interview ever given by a pope. (Interview by Peter Seewald.)
By the way, Peter Seewald, the interviewer in most of the above books, underwent a rather dramatic conversion of his own due largely to the influence of the man he has interviewed three times. And in 2007 he published another wonderful book, not an interview but rather "an intimate portrait" of the man he has come to know so well. It, too, is well worth reading: Benedict XVI: An Intimate Portrait.

If, however, you want to read a good overview of the Holy Father's thinking, perhaps the best book is The Essential Pope Benedict XVI, a compilation of some of his major writings, homilies and other addresses on such issues as the church, theology, morality, Sacred Scripture, the priesthood, etc. It's a wonderful starting point and should whet your appetite for more.

Happy reading!

Threat of Islamization

The West, specifically the secular West, was issued a warning recently and from what many might consider an unlikely source. The Archbishop of Kirkuk in Iraq, Louis Sako, in an interview with SIR, the Italian bishops' news agency, stated that the West, blinded by its secular perspective, is incapable of understanding the threat posed by the growing Islamization of the Middle East, an area he labels a "scary volcano."

According to the archbishop, the "reawakening of Islam" has generated "forces and movements that wish to change the Middle East, creating Islamic States, caliphates, in which Shariah (law) rules.” He then stated that “The western mentality does not allow it to fully comprehend this risk." He went on to describe the "void" between the West, and its privatization of religion, and the Middle East where politics and religion cannot be separated and where "religion pervades all." He believes that the international community will be unable to react appropriately to this growing movement simply because it does not understand the reality of Islamization and fails to appreciate the seriousness of the threat.

Archbishop Sako, like most Iraqi Christians, is not at all optimistic about the long-term future of Egypt. He has seen in his own country what religious and ethnic divisions can lead to and expects the same to occur in Egypt. (Nine members of Kirkuk's Christian community have been murdered and over 100 injured as a result of extremist violence.) Just as his own flock has suffered, the Christians of Egypt will likely have to carry the burden of similar sufferings.

I must say, I tend to agree with the archbishop. Most of the people I have talked to about the events in Egypt are enthusiastic about that nation's future because the "revolution" was seemingly led by people with secular rather than religious aims. But what we forget is that for Muslims, particularly those in the Middle East, there are no completely secular aims. As the archbishop said, Islam "pervades all" and, ultimately, the extremists will move into positions of power.

Read the full story here: Iraqi Archbishop Warns the West

Monday, February 14, 2011

Miscellany

Just a few items that might interest the readers of this blog:

Pope John Paul II Beatification Website: As you probably know, Pope Benedict XVI will beatify his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, on May 1 of this year. I would love to go to Rome for the beatification, but I expect the hotel and related prices will be through the roof, putting it well outside our meager budget. Much better to visit Rome during the off-season when both the prices and the crowds are way down. 

In anticipation of the event, a website devoted to John Paul's cause is now up and running. It's quite comprehensive and accessible in several languages, including English. I spent a little time this morning browsing the site and learned all sots of things I didn't know. Here's the link: John Paul II Beatification

Cause of Jacques and Raïssa Maritain. A beatification cause that I wasn't aware of is that of Jacques Maritain (1882-1973) and his wife Raïssa (1883-1960). Maritian, one of the preeminent Catholic philosophers of the twentieth century, was raised a Protestant but was strongly influenced by the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. Raïssa, both a philosopher and a poet, was raised a Jew in a Russian-Ukranian family. She emigrated to France and met Maritain while studying at the Sorbonne. Both she and her husband converted to Catholicism in 1906, two years after their marriage.Their cause is being promoted as an example to the faithful of a holy marriage. The below video provides an overview of the cause for this couple's beatification.




Another Anglican Bishop Ordained in the Catholic Church. The Anglican Ordinariate continues to expand as Anglican priests and bishops come into the Church. The latest is Anglican Bishop Edwin Barnes who was ordained a deacon this past Friday, and will be ordained to the priesthood next month. Here's a link to a related article by Deacon Keith Fournier published on Catholic Online: Anglican Ordinariate Grows.


Newly ordained Deacon Barnes (right)



Sunday, February 13, 2011

Vatican Radio at 80

I've been listening to Vatican Radio since I was a mere lad, for well over 50 years. I can remember searching the short-wave bands on my older brother's Zenith Transoceanic radio for English-language stations and stumbling across a Vatican Radio broadcast. It must have been in 1957 or thereabouts. After that first experience I was hooked. In fact I wrote to Vatican Radio and requested their broadcast schedule, which they kindly sent me, so I could listen to the station each evening. Although I no longer listen to the Vatican's shortwave broadcasts as I once did, I do the next best thing. I regularly visit their website on which you can listen to programs live or on demand. But for those without internet access, Vatican Radio continues to broadcast worldwide in dozens of languages, bringing the Church to many who might otherwise have little or no opportunity to attend Mass or deepen their faith through catechesis. It's also a wonderful way to stay abreast of all that's happening in the universal Church.

Yesterday Vatican Radio turned 80 years old. Encouraged by Pope Pius XI, Guglielmo Marconi (photo left), the Italian inventor who is credited with inventing the first practicable radio transmission system, started Vatican Radio in 1931. The station's first broadcast was made on February 12 of that year and consisted of an address by the pope in Latin.

To visit Vatican Radio's website, click here: Vatican Radio.

The following two videos provide a bit more detail on that first broadcast as well as a little of Vatican Radio's subsequent history.





Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Hippocratic Oath: A Prolife Ethic

The other morning a physician being interviewed on television happened to mention the Hippocratic Oath while responding briefly to a question on the ethics of medical treatment as it relates to the dying. Listening to him I realized I hadn't read the oath since I was in high school and really couldn't recall very much about it other than doing no harm...so I looked it up.

Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.), generally considered to be the father of medicine, is said to have formulated his famous oath as a guiding ethical code for physicians. Unfortunately, modern bioethics has caused many to view the ancient oath as an obsolete remnant that no longer applies in today's more progressive climate. But when we consider that Greek medicine was probably better than anything that followed until well into the 19th century, perhaps we shouldn't be quite so dismissive of Hippocrates. I've included the oath in its entirety below (translated from the Greek by Ludwig Edelstein, 1943). Note its strong and consistent pro-life theme.

Hippocrates treating a patient

The Hippocratic Oath -- Traditional Text

I swear by Apollo Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfill according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant:
To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art - if they desire to learn it - without fee and covenant; to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to the medical law, but no one else.

I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.

I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.

I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.

Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves.

What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself, holding such things shameful to be spoken about.

If I fulfill this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.
Interesting, how "progressive" we are today, isn't it?

New Egyptian Government Will Include "All Parties"...Except Christians

President Mubarak is gone and the Egyptian people -- well, most of them -- are euphoric. Egypt's thirty-year virtual dictatorship has ended with the military taking control, presumably on an interim basis until elections can be held. It all sounds very good -- free elections, democracy -- but lurking in the political background is the Muslim Brotherhood, a jihadist group that commands the loyalty of anywhere from 20% to 30% of the population.
Coptic Christian being beaten by devotees of Muslim Brotherhood
I know next to nothing about the Egyptian constitution, but if it's anything like the constitutions of most nations in that part of the world, it's a meaningless document, particularly when it comes to religious freedom. Many nations with Muslim majorities claim to protect their citizens' right to worship freely while at the same time persecuting non-Muslims. In Egypt, for example, the Christian Copts, who make up more than 10% of the population (some estimate 15%-20%), have been subjected to centuries of fierce persecution. Recent mass murders and church bombings only show that nothing has really changed, even though these atrocities took place in a supposedly secular state. I can just imagine what will happen to the Copts if a group like the Muslim Brotherhood becomes a "partner" in any future government. Democracy can be a wonderful thing, but it can also be a dangerous thing -- essentially a "mob" thing -- especially when there are no constitutional protections of legitimate minorities. Simply disagreeing with the mob can lead to serious problems -- just ask Socrates.

Another sign of problems to come for Christians in Egypt rose to the surface last week after President Mubarak stated he would not seek reelection in the scheduled September elections. He then appointed a vice president and called on "all parties" to join in dialogue to address the future of the Egyptian nation. Unfortunately, "all parties" did not apparently include the Christian minority. Although the Copts are being excluded from this dialogue, it would seem that representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood will take part. This does not bode well for the courageous Christians of Egypt.

For details on all of this, click here: Egypt's Christians Excluded

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pope Benedict on the Role of the Bishop

On February 5 Pope Benedict ordained five new bishops in St. Peter's Basilica. His homily provided these new shepherds of the Church with a comprehensive view of the role and mission of the bishop in the world today.
Episcopal Ordination of five bishops by Pope Benedict XVI

The pope used that brief, but wonderfully descriptive, verse from Acts -- “They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” [Acts 2:42] -- to define their mission and the challenges they will face.

Encouraging them to "devote themselves" to the Truth through perseverance, the Holy Father stated,
"The Pastor must not be a marsh reed that bends in the wind, a servant of the spirit of the times. Being undaunted hence brave enough to go against current trends is an essential part of the Pastor’s task. He must not be a reed but on the contrary — in accordance with the image of the first Psalm – he must be like a tree with deep roots, sound and firmly-established. This has nothing to do with rigidity or inflexibility. Only where there is stability is there also growth."
He goes on to address the mystery of faith as a firm foundation, but also says,
"And once again, the permanence and definitiveness of what we believe does not mean rigidity. John of the Cross compared the world of faith to a mine in which we discover ever new treasures — treasures in which the one faith is developed, the profession of God who shows himself in Christ. As Pastors of the Church we live this faith and thus can also proclaim it as the glad message which assures us of God’s love, and that we are loved by him."
The pope also stresses the role of communio, "the communion with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ," as essential to the mission of the bishop, that one is "never a bishop on one's own":
"Dear friends, this is the purpose of the ministry of Bishops: that this chain of communion be not broken. This is the essence of the Apostolic Succession: to preserve communion with those who have encountered the Lord in a visible and tangible way and thus to keep Heaven open, the presence of God in our midst. It is only through communion with the Successors of the Apostles that we are also in touch with God incarnate. But the opposite is also true: only thanks to communion with God, only thanks to communion with Jesus Christ does this chain of witnesses remain unbroken."
 He continues by focusing on the Eucharist, the "breaking of the bread," telling the new bishops that,
"...the blessed Eucharist is the center of the Church and must be the center of our being as Christians and of our priestly life...Let us seek to celebrate the Eucharist, with ever deeper dedication and zeal, let us seek to structure our days in accordance with his standard, let us seek to let ourselves be modeled by it...Breaking the bread — this means at the same time sharing and communicating our love to others...Let us be careful that faith is always expressed in love and justice for one another and that our social conduct is inspired by faith; that faith is lived in love."
Pope Benedict then turned to the final element of Luke's descriptive verse, "the prayers." I especially like his description of prayer as "very personal, a uniting of myself with God in my innermost depths...my struggle with him, my search for him, my gratitude for him and my joy in him." But, although personal, prayer is not private...
"Praying is essentially and also always praying in the “we” of God’s children. In this “we” alone are we children of Our Father, which the Lord taught us to pray. This “we” alone gives us access to the Father. On the one hand our prayer must become more and more personal, must touch and penetrate ever more deeply the nucleus of our “ego”. On the other, it must always be nourished by the communion of those praying, by the unity of the Body of Christ, in order truly to shape myself on the basis of God’s love."
He concludes by referring to their vocation as "fishers of men" who must work often in the midst of storms...
"You are called to undertake tasks that concern the universal Church. You are called to let down the Gospel net into the stormy seas of our time in order to obtain people’s adherence to Christ; to lift them, so to speak, from the brackish waters of death and from the darkness that the light of Heaven does not penetrate. You must bring them to life on earth, in communion with Jesus Christ."
As I stated above, it's a wonderful homily and you can read the complete text here: Papal Mass for Episcopal Ordination.

Homily: Wednesday, 5th Week of Ordinary Time

Today's Readings: Gn 2:4b-9, 15-17 • Psalm 143 • Mk 7:14-23

The Genesis story of the creation and fall should really overwhelm us, filling us with thankfulness for God’s creative act. For creation was an act of pure love, a completely unnecessary act by God, one matched only by the redeeming act of His Son on the Cross. There’s an element of sacred irony in all this: that God would offer His Son in this second great act of love because we rejected His first great act of love.

What a loving God we have! And how undeserving we are of that overpowering love! And how clearly that love is expressed in Genesis. I’m always a bit distressed when I hear Catholics dismiss these first chapters of Genesis: “Oh, they’re just old myths.” or “Genesis and all that stuff about Adam and Eve? No way.” How foolish of them. By ignoring these first chapters of Genesis – a story that was never meant to be a scientific explanation of our coming into being -- they miss the entire point.

Genesis was written for one primary purpose: to tell us that God created the world…that all of creation comes from one power, from God’s eternal Reason, which became the power of creation…and that all of this comes from the same Word of God we meet in the act of faith, the very one we meet in the Word of Holy Scripture.

It’s in today’s reading from Genesis that we first encounter ourselves, that we first get the answer to the question: Who are we?

Well, the first thing we discover is that we were formed from the dust of the earth, something both humbling and consoling. Humbling because we are told implicitly, “You are not God. You didn’t create yourself. You don’t rule the universe, or even your little corner of it. You’re a limited, very limited being. You’re just earth, a being destined for death.”

Now, that’s humbling! But it’s consoling as well, because we’re also told: “You aren’t evil spirits, formed by some kind of negative force. You weren’t formed by chance, by a roll of the cosmic dice. You were formed from the elements of God’s creation.”

And Genesis has more to tell us. We also see how man was introduced, created into Paradise, how he was brought into the very presence of God – the glory God originally gave to man, a glory lost by sin. And so we learn something else: that God called us to a life which surpasses our limited human nature. He called us to participate in His Life. In other words, from the very beginning God has called us, His creatures, to a participation in a life that, by our nature, we don’t possess. That’s right, from the very start, were called not to a natural end, but to a supernatural end. We were called to be with God in Paradise, a destiny He still holds for us. It remains our destiny.

And so, just as Genesis introduces us to the secret of our origins, something that neither science nor myth can penetrate, so too does it make known to us the most mysterious depths of our future. It’s in Genesis, inspired by the Holy Spirit, that we are given our first glimpse into the mystery of God’s marvelous plan for us.

These pages, written so long ago, still shine forth today like precious stones. How sad that so many are blind to their beauty. In some respects today’s atheist is even further from the truth than the ancient pagans. Yes, give me a good, old pagan anytime.

The atheist tries to change the image of man; tries to make us into something other than creatures of God, to make us unto something we aren’t. Unwilling to accept their divine origins they see themselves as either everything or nothing. And yet, if they would only turn to Genesis they would encounter the truth about themselves, they would see what being a child of God really means.

Emperor, president, CEO, beggar, prisoner, child, the dying, the newborn, the unborn…we are, in the final analysis, all the same, children of God. The unity of all humanity becomes something very real. We are all one, one humanity, formed by God’s hand from God’s one earth...all children of a loving God

Yes, in the face of human division and human arrogance and human hatred, where one person sets himself against another, God declares humanity to be His one creation from His one earth.

I suppose the question here (and the lesson) for all of us relates to how we see others. Do we look at every other person and see one with whom we will one day share God’s joy? Do we see them as persons who, together with us, are called to be members of the Body of Christ? And in our limited, unfocused, myopic view…do we really see them as our brothers and sisters? Do we actually see ourselves and others as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, as children of the Father?

Perhaps in our arrogance you and I may answer, “Yes, of course I do.” But do our actions, or words, our thoughts say something very different?

That should give us something to ponder today.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rules for Young People Considering Marriage

Dr. Anthony Esolen, a Professor of Renaissance English Literature at Providence College, is a true renaissance man. His translations of Dante -- Inferno, Paradise and Purgatory -- are among the best in a very crowded field. He's a senior editor at Touchstone, a wonderful publication that I regularly recommend to Christians of all denominational stripes. He's also the author of a number of books that populate my humble home library, including, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization and Ironies of Faith.

I had a few conversations with Dr. Esolen years ago when I worked for Providence College and was trying to get a corporate training center up and running. As I recall he was a newly arrived English professor. I remember thinking, Now here's a very bright and likable young man, a man of strong faith and common sense. I had no doubt that he would go on to good things as he made his mark in the academic world. Since then he's done all this and more because, unlike many very intelligent folks, he also writes extremely well, and has a robust sense of humor.

I recently came across something he wrote back in 2008 that deserves much wider distribution, especially to young people who are considering marriage. He calls them "Esolen's Rules." Devised by him and his wife, they are aimed at helping people decide whom they should (and should not) marry. I'll include just a few here, but I suggest you go directly to the source and read them all...

  1. Don't marry a woman who likes cats but does not like dogs.  You may marry a woman who doesn't like either, or whose reason for not liking dogs is that one of them bit her when she was a toddler.  But a woman who likes cats but does not like dogs will be a Joan Crawford or Jane Wyman.  Ronald Reagan married Jane Wyman, and look how sorry he was about that.
  2. Don't marry a man who is neater than you are.  You may, however, marry a man who polishes his tools and puts them away after use....
  3. Don't marry anybody, man or woman, who says, "I'm going to call you at eight," and then leaves you waiting by the phone for an hour.  Exceptions can be made for people who are kidnapped by Arabs, or who have epileptic seizures.
  4. Don't marry anybody who insists on a separate bank account, bed, bathroom, vacation, or zip code.  It makes no sense to be one flesh and two wallets.
  5. Don't marry a woman who spends more on makeup than she does on food.  In general, don't marry a woman who engages in the sin of reverse gluttony.
Click here to read the rest: Esolen's Rules. There are 15 more.

Oh, yes, his latest book, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, has received wonderful reviews from people I trust who recommend it highly for parents.

CDC Won't Release Annual Abortion Report

For the first time in 40 years the Center for Disease Control has refused to release it's annual report on abortion statistics. When contacted, the CDC stated there were no plans to produce or release the data. Since the CDC is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, one can only assume that the administration is behind this decision to hide abortion data from the public. To read more on this, check out the news report by Redstate.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Roman Forum

If you've been to Rome in recent years and have visited the Roman Forum, you probably noticed that parts of it were being worked on and not open to visitors. It seems the work has now been completed and one can visit the house of the Vestal Virgins and other adjacent areas. The work involved extensive restoration and, as you can see in the below video, offers the visitor a whole new experience of ancient Rome.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

"You are the light of the world..."

In the midst of all the chaos that plagues our world, it's easy to forget what we, as Christians, have been called to do. Certainly we are called to fulfill the Church's innermost mission, the adoration of the triune God. But Jesus, in His final instructions to His disciples, the nascent Church, clearly stated:

"All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." [Mt 28:18-20]
In other words, we are also called to carry out the Church's external mission, the evangelization of all the world. These two missions, the adoration of God and the evangelization of peoples, mirror the two great commandments that Jesus affirmed when asked by a "scholar of the law", "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" Jesus' response...
"You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." [Mt 22:37-39]
What greater love can one show for one's neighbor than to share with him the Good News of Jesus Christ, the "words of eternal life." Evangelization, then, is one means, perhaps the most important means, to the fulfillment of second of the great commandments.

And so Jesus, reinforcing this mission of evangelization in the Gospel passage of today's liturgy, tells His disciples (and us):

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” [Mt 5:13-16]
The light of the world...What a beautiful metaphor for today's Christians, that we can actually illuminate the world, drive away the darkness, and bring others to "the Way, the Truth and the Life." And we can do so through our deeds, our good deeds, that by these actions we will glorify God the Father and allow Him, the Source of all Light, to shine before others, drawing them to Him.

I think sometimes we believe that we have to do great things in the world to make a difference, that because most of us live our lives far from the spotlight of global events, we have little or no influence on what happens in the world. And yet Jesus is telling us just the opposite.

Keep the faith in humility, He tells us, and just like salt, that humblest of all seasonings, you will transform all that you come into contact with. The salt of the earth, the light of the world, this is what we are, this is what we are all called to be: lovers of God, lovers of our neighbor. We need not worry about the results, for God will take care of that. We need only follow the advice of His Blessed Mother, who at Cana, said, "Do whatever He tells you."

Pray for peace and the conversion of the entire world.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Plight of Christians in Egypt...and other news.

There are already some early indications that the future of Egypt may mirror what we have already seen in Iran as radical Islamists position themselves to become a major force in any evolving government.

US Supports a Government Role for Muslim Brotherhood. And guess who's getting the most attention in Egypt these days, and even being talked about as a coalition partner in any new government? You guessed it, the Muslim Brotherhood. Allowing this long-time terrorist organization to have even a single seat in a future Egyptian government would be a serious mistake, one that would lead to disastrous consequences. And yet, according to the LA Times, "The Obama administration said for the first time that it supports a role for groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned Islamist organization, in a reformed Egyptian government." Why would the United States condone the inclusion of this large, international terrorist organization in a future Egyptian government? These guys are really bad news. Just check out their catchy motto:
Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur'an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.
The Brotherhood's hatred of Israel, Jews in general, and all of Western civilization, is almost palpable. And their stated goal is to bring the entire world under Islamic law. They also hate Christians and have encouraged attacks on them and their churches. Here's an example from this week...

Coptic Families Murdered in Egypt. the midst of the current chaos in Egypt, a group of Islamists decided to take advantage of the lack of police protection and attack their neighbors, who happened to be Coptic Christians. In Maghagha in Upper Egypt, 11 members of two Coptic Christian families were murdered in their homes. Aided by the Copts' Muslim neighbors, the attackers entered the homes through the roof of each house. The dead include several children, aged three, four, eight and fifteen. Four others were badly wounded in the attack.

According to the local Coptic bishop, Anba Agathon, "The two families were staying in their homes with their doors locked when suddenly the Islamists descended on them killing eleven and leaving for dead four other family members. In addition, they looted everything that was in the two Coptic houses, including money, furniture and electrical equipment. They also looted livestock and grain." The bishop also named the men, neighbors of the victims, who led the two groups of attackers and called on the police to arrest them. But, as one Coptic activist stated, "Why have those Islamists chosen those two Coptic families and not Muslim ones to slaughter and rob? I believe it is because they know that with Copts they can literally get away with murder."

For more on this story, read: Muslims Attack Two Christian Families

In other news, did you hear about the decision of the French Constitutional Council, France's highest court when it comes to constitutional issues? It ruled in favor of defining marriage in terms of traditional marriage; that is, as between a man and a woman. Amazing isn't it? While our courts are doing all in their power to destroy marriage, the French are actually upholding it. Of course, the advocates of same-sex marriage will no doubt appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, a court that has never been too fond of things traditional...or moral. Pray that they will come to their senses on this one. Read more here: French High Court Affirms Traditional Marriage


And on the pro-life front, Planned Parenthood has once again shown its true colors. A man and a woman, posing as a pimp and prostitute, made a secret video of their visit to a Planned Parenthood "clinic" in New Jersey. During the course of their conversation with the PP office manager, they mentioned that they "managed" a group of underage (14 and 15 year-old girls) prostitutes who didn't speak English. When they asked the PP manager about treatment of the girls for sexually transmitted diseases, she told them, "Minors are always accepted without parental consent," but then warned them to be careful because, "if they are a minor we are obligated if we hear certain information." You won't believe what else she told them. Yes, there's more, a lot more...all of it proving how despicable an organization Planned Parenthood is. Read it all here: Planned Parenthood Abets Sex Trafficking.

Pray for our nation, brothers and sisters...

Photo Contest

Today I entered the annual photo contest sponsored by The Villages Media Group here in The Villages, our large retirement community -- really a community of communities -- in central Florida. I entered the contest for the first time last year and one of my photos took a 2nd place and another got what I'll call an "honorable mention." This wasn't too bad a showing, if you'll pardon a wee bit of pride, since about 2,000 photos are submitted. It seems that among the 80,000 or so people now living here, most with a lot of time on their hands, quite a few are snapping away at all kinds of interesting subjects and scenes.

My problem this year is the same I faced last year, one of selection. The contest has a number of categories -- landscape, sunrise/sunset, animals, architecture, flowers, food, etc. -- and one is allowed to enter only one photo per category. This year I submitted five photos, but had a very difficult time choosing which photos to submit. I tried to resist selecting photos I personally liked, because they tend to be a little on the "arty" side. Looking at last year's winners it would seem the judges chose well composed photos of interesting subjects -- nothing very odd -- and I have a lot of very odd photos. And so selection is always a painful process. But, fortunately, this time I asked Diane to help me choose. I placed three or four 8x10s on the table in front of her and asked which one I should enter in, for example, the architecture category. In each instance her choice was the same as mine. But now, if I don't win, I can always blame her. Ain't marriage great?

The winners will be announced later this month and published in a separate, dedicated section of our local newspaper, The Villages Daily Sun. I will let you know how I do...if I win. If you hear nothing from me, you'll know that Diane chose the wrong photos.

I've included below my second place photo in last year's contest, as well as the photo that received an "honorable mention."

2nd prize, 2010 potpouri category: Balcony in the Borgo district of Rome

Honorable mention, 2010 architecture category: Duomo in Orveito, Italy
Wish me luck...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Watch out, Israel!

Just a few decades ago, most Jews, probably even a significant majority, proudly claimed the left as their political home. But then something happened. Many Jews, particularly those among the intellectual left, began to realize that the extreme left was changing. Following the lead of the Soviet Union, leftists in the West turned away from Israel and toward the authoritarian Arab states that had emerged during the Cold War. For many of these new Arab leaders, who had willingly supported Hitler's Third Reich during World War II, allying themselves with the Soviet Union was no great leap. After all, one murderous totalitarian is as good as another, and it mattered little who supplied the money and arms they needed to stay in power and destroy Israel. And so jumping on the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic bandwagon also proved to be an easy transition for many on the left in both Europe and the US. This change in the political landscape caused many Jews to ask, "Just who are our friends, anyway?"

One current example of someone who is no friend of Israel is George Soros (left), perhaps the biggest bank-roller of leftist causes in America; also an early supporter of our current president. In an op-ed piece in today's Washington Post, Soros places the blame for the uprisings in Egypt on...who else? Israel. Oh, yes, and on Israel's supporters among the religious right. He also praises the Muslim Brotherhood's "cooperation" with Egyptian presidential hopeful Mohamed ElBaradei, a man who has no love for the West. Lest we forget, the Muslim Brotherhood, formed in Egypt back in the 1920s, is the ideological godfather of such noted charitable organizations as Hamas, Hezbollah and, of course, our favorite, al-Qaeda. Soros says he "cannot help but share in the enthusiasm that is sweeping across the Middle East" and has pledged that his foundations will "contribute what they can." And so, when the Muslim Brotherhood reaches out, seemingly from nowhere, and takes the reins of power in Egypt, I'd suggest we follow the money all the way back to George Soros' pocket. I might also note that Soros has been a big supporter of  pro-abortion groups that claim to be Catholic, groups such as, Catholics for Choice, Catholics United, and Catholics in Alliance. These groups' aims include trying to make our president seem pro-life even though he has consistently supported unlimited abortions throughout pregnancy for any reason.

Protests in Cairo turn violent

Just so you know where the Muslim Brotherhood stands, Muhammad Ghannem, one of its leading members in Egypt, stated this week that the Suez Canal should be closed immediately, the gas line to Israel should be shut down, and the Egyptian "people should be prepared for war against Israel." And, of course, they would impose Sharia law throughout the land. (See the news report here.) That's quite a platform on which to run in any upcoming elections. And given the sympathies of most Egyptians, I suspect the Brotherhood just might come out on top. In a recent public opinion poll, published in December by the respected Pew Research Center, Egyptians responded as follows:

  • They preferred Islamists to modernizers 59% to 27%
  • 82% believe adulterers should be stoned to death
  • 77% believe thieves should have a hand amputated
  • 84% believe Muslim apostates should be executed
  • 95% believe it's good that Islam plays a large roll in politics
  • 54% believe in gender segregation in the workplace
  • 59% believe democracy is preferable to other political systems
  • 54% believe that suicide bombings can be justified, even if only rarely
On the surface at least the Egyptian people seem to be more in tune with the Muslim Brotherhood than with those who hope for the flowering of an Egyptian version of Western-style democracy. And that 59% who favor democracy? It probably included the Muslim Brotherhood and their followers since elections would probably be the easiest way for them to take control. Should they come to power in Egypt, the Middle East will have become an even more dangerous place. This, of course, is a worse-case scenario for Israel, but one I am sure they are preparing for. I wonder how prepared we are.

Muslim support for the punishments of Sharia Law

These poll numbers, especially when viewed in their entirety and compared with the results in other Muslim nations, show us something else that is very disturbing. It would seem that Islam, and not democracy, is the most prominent influence among the populations of these nations, and its influence is growing. Most disturbing, however, is the kind of Islam, a fundamentalist, warlike, authoritarian Islam, not the Islam of peace that we hear proclaimed so often in the media. It is actually the Islam one encounters far too often in the Qur'an. I have read two different translations of the Qur'an during the past three or four years and found much incitement to war and killing and little encouragement of peace. And the Jews? They were despised from the beginning, as were the Christians. If you want an intelligent guide to the Qur'an, read Robert Spencer's detailed commentary: Qur'an Commentary. You might also want to read Brigitte Gabriel's comments on the teachings of the Qur'an.


Yes, it's always the Jews. How will the Christian world, or what's left of it, respond to this escalating threat to our "elder bothers" in faith?