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!

Although I am an ordained deacon of the Catholic Church, the opinions expressed in this blog are my personal opinions. In offering these personal opinions I am not acting as a representative of the Church or any Church organization.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Been Busy, Grandchildren Visiting

To my few loyal readers...I have neither quit the blog nor fallen off the earth. For the past week my younger daughter, Siobhan, her husband, Jeffrey, and two of our grandchildren, Ezekiel and Phineas (Don't you just love those names?), have been visiting. They are a very demanding family and force me to spend time with the little guys doing all kinds of fun things. We've been to Homosassa Springs to see the manatees and other strange critters. We also drove to Tampa for two days of additional animal watching: one day at the Florida Aquarium and another at the Lowry Park Zoo. We've had a wonderful time, despite the steamy weather (high 90s); but the little guys are resilient, much more so than their grandparents. Don't know what we'll be doing this week, but I'm sure the women have made plans.

Here's a photo of the happy family as they boarded the boat in Homosassa for the ride to the state park:

Jeffrey returned to Massachusetts this morning, leaving his family behind. The poor boy, unlike his father-in-law, must still work to keep the wife and kids in new sneakers.

The only real excitement so far was the now infamous squirrel attack at Homosassa. While we sat at a picnic table to savor our fine, homemade peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, a squirrel apparently decided that Diane's lunch was simply too good to resist. He jumped on her shoulder, sprinted right across her face, and down her other arm. Fortunately, he left nothing behind other than a minor scratch and some mild hysteria. After this little stunt, he actually tried to do it again, but I managed to connect my shoe to his belly and send him airborne into the bushes. He wasn't hurt, but learned his lesson and did not return. At left is a photo of this overly aggressive rodent poised to attack...

I don't expect to post much on the blog until after July 1. Until then, God's peace and enjoy this life that God has given you.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Another Interesting Archaeological Find

I've always been intrigued by the work of archaeologists and its impact on scriptural studies. In recent years archaeology and its related sciences have increasingly confirmed the historical accuracy of the Bible thereby turning much of modern scriptural scholarship on its head. This, of course, has exposed the little secret shared by these scholars: most modern scriptural scholars don't believe what is written in Scripture. It makes you wonder why they didn't select a different subject to study, one they could believe in, like, for example, UFOs.

They're an interesting bunch, these scriptural scholars. They like to think that they're scientific in their approach, and yet their conclusions are almost always driven by subjectivity. They force the Bible to meet standards of historical accuracy that far exceed the standards by  which other ancient texts are measured. And then, when archaeology or epigraphy (the study of ancient documents) uncover truly scientific evidence that runs counter to their pet theories, they try everything and anything to save these theories from the truth. As I said, an interesting bunch.

I look forward to their response to the latest discovery that could eventually impact Old Testament studies. A team of Austrian archaeologists working in northern Egypt has identified the size and extent of an ancient city buried under farmers' fields and a modern town. (Read more here.) They accomplished this using radar imaging that clearly identified ancient streets, cemeteries, houses, temples, palaces and other buildings. It is believed that the ancient city, located in the Nile delta region northeast of Cairo, was once the capital city of the Hyksos for the century of so they ruled Egypt.

The Hyksos, thought to be of Semitic origin, had invaded and conquered Egypt during the 17th century B.C. and dominated the Nile valley until they were overthrown in the mid-16th century B.C. The city identified by the Austrian archaeologists is believed to be their capital city, Avaris. The Hyksos were also the rulers of Egypt we encounter in the Book of Genesis during the time when Joseph became a senior administrator. Future excavations could unearth valuable information about this critical period of Egypt's history and even provide references to Joseph and the Jewish people who eventually settled in the country.

Radar imaging, while valuable, certainly doesn't replace good, old fashioned digging and the ability to examine artifacts firsthand. Unfortunately, because the buried city is beneath a modern town extensive excavation may not be possible. What we ultimately learn of the Hyksos and their relationship with the early Jewish people may, therefore, be limited. Nevertheless, it's all very interesting and I expect we'll hear more about it,

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Father's Day, St. Joseph

 I don't especially enjoy Father's Day. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the cards and phone calls, and this year one of our daughters will arrive here tomorrow, along with her husband and our two young grandsons. We're looking forward to a nice visit, a Father's Day treat. What I don't enjoy are the thoughts this special day brings to mind. Every Father's Day I find myself recalling those times when I was particularly un-fatherly, the times I didn't come through as I should have for my children. I realize I can't undo the past, but that doesn't stop me from wishing I had been a better father.

Earlier today, as I dealt with these conflicting thoughts, I said a prayer to St Joseph, the man God chose to care for His Son. And I think he's worth our attention on the day devoted to fathers.

From the Gospel story of the conception, birth and childhood of Jesus, there emerges this quiet, modest figure, the perfect model for fathers today.

Just consider the sort of man Joseph must have been. God the Father, out of all the men who ever lived, chose one, Joseph, to be the guardian, the teacher, the guide of His only Son, Jesus. He also chose Joseph to love and protect Mary, the virgin Mother of the Son of God. Yes, Joseph must have been a very special man indeed.

In the Gospels we see a courageous man of honor who wants to protect Mary's reputation. Why? Because he is a righteous man and this is what God would want.

We see a man who then takes Mary as his wife even though the child with whom she is pregnant is not his. Why? Because God told him to take the Child and His Mother to himself. And so Joseph obeys. 

 We see a man who, to protect his young family, leads them into exile, into an unknown future. Why? Because God told him to do so. Joseph doesn’t wait to think it over; he doesn’t even spend a day planning the trip. No, he leaves immediately in obedience to God’s command. He “rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.”

What a mystery for us to ponder! That God, in order to protect His Son, the uncreated Word of God, should choose to do so through the mediation of a humble carpenter.  For this is a piece of the greater mystery of the Incarnation, in which the Father and the Holy Spirit now relate to the Son, not only as Divine Word, but also as incarnate Man.

Matthew, in his Gospel, glosses over the flight to Egypt in a few words, but the reality would have been a nightmare.Traveling by night and hiding by day, the Holy Family would have needed weeks to travel the several hundred miles through inhospitable desert from Jerusalem to Egypt.

Once in Egypt, as homeless refugees, the family would rely solely on Joseph to earn a living during their years of exile. And just when Joseph had probably established himself as a carpenter in this foreign land, God tells him to return to Israel, and once again he obeys.

The murderous Herod is dead, but in Judea and Samaria, his son, Archelaus, now rules. Joseph fears him, and rightly so, since Archelaus began his rule by slaughtering 3,000 of Judea's most influential citizens. And so Joseph, once more in obedience to God’s command, guides Mary and Jesus far to the north, to the safety of a small town nestled in the hills of Galilee, to Nazareth. So it is, through the obedience of Joseph, that the prophecies are fulfilled. "Out of Egypt I called my Son" and "He shall be called a Nazorean."

Again turning to Matthew’s brief narrative, we notice that God doesn’t reveal everything to Joseph at once. Instead, Joseph remains continually dependent on God’s next word. For Joseph, the just man, is nevertheless fully human, and like all of us he must learn to grow in God’s love and grace.

He must experience, as we all must, the trial of faithfulness, the trial of perseverance in seeking out the will of God in our lives. And so Joseph waits patiently for God to speak, just as God waits patiently for Joseph to grow in fidelity to His will.

It is in Nazareth, in the home of Joseph and Mary, that Jesus grows to maturity. It is here that Joseph, according to Jewish custom, teaches Jesus to recite his prayers, to sing the age old Psalms of David, and to read from the Torah, the Law of Moses. It is from Joseph that Jesus learns to appreciate, first hand, the importance of following the laws and customs of His people.

It is in Nazareth where, working alongside Joseph in his carpenter's shop, Jesus comes to recognize the value and dignity of hard work.

It is here, in the home of Joseph, where Jesus encounters daily a man who is happy in being poor in spirit, happy in being meek, happy in being just and merciful, happy in being pure of heart, in being singlehearted.

Later, when Jesus begins His  public ministry, he will often speak of God the Father as "Abba" or Daddy. But it was from a loving and caring Joseph that Jesus first learned what a daddy was.

At the very heart of Joseph’s sanctity is his obedience, an unquestioning obedience to accept the Will of God in his life…and to act on it. And because he obeys, God comes to him again and again.

God walks in Joseph's soul just as He walked with Adam in the garden. Is it any wonder that He entrusts to Joseph what is most precious to Him?

Mary and the child Jesus remain almost hidden in this Gospel narrative, contained in the decisions and actions of Joseph. Joseph leads, but he does not dominate. He leads by serving – by serving His God and by serving His family.

On March 19th, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, the priest honors this exceptional man when he prays these words from the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer:

“He is that just man, that wise and loyal servant, whom you placed at the head of your family. With a husband’s love he cherished Mary, the virgin Mother of God. With fatherly care he watched over Jesus Christ your Son, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

We Catholics have always prided ourselves on our devotion to Mary, the Mother of God. How delighted she would be to see us, and especially those of us who are fathers, to deepen our devotion to her loving husband.

With Jesus we owe honor to Joseph, and honored indeed would Joseph be if fathers today would accept him as their model. And if single mothers would turn to him, asking for his fatherly intercession in the lives of their children.

And so, as we celebrate Father's Day tomorrow, let's pray for our families, and especially for fathers. Would that all fathers were just men, like Joseph, wise and loyal servants of the Lord who cherish their wives and watch over their children with fatherly care.

Happy Father's Day, St, Joseph. Pray for us.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Non nobis, Domine

The following is my brief homily for yesterday, Wednesday of the 11 week of Ordinary Time.

Reading: Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

This is one of those Gospel passages in which Jesus stands human wisdom on its head….and by doing so leaves the world shaking its collective head. His words certainly ran counter to what the Jews of His time believed. For them, the three practices Jesus mentions – almsgiving, prayer and fasting – were the three major signs of piety, the pillars of holiness. After all, what good are signs if they can’t be seen? How can a person be an example of piety if he hides the good that he does?

Jesus knows His disciples are silently asking these questions, and so He tells them bluntly that the motives behind their actions are more important than the actions themselves. And at the same time He subtly reminds them of the vast difference between them and their God, that they are really powerless when it comes to the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation, that it is God working through them that brings about good in the world. 

And so, He asks, “Why do you do good?” So others will notice you and think well of you? To give yourself an inflated sense of your own worth? To make yourself feel good? Are these your motives?

Occasionally I reach for my battered copy of Pascal’s Pensées, a book filled with hundreds of inspiring thoughts, just to see if something strikes home. When I did that a few weeks ago, my eyes were drawn to this one brief sentence: “It is better not to fast and so be humbled, than to fast and be self-satisfied.” In other words, if your motives are self-serving, you’d be better off doing nothing.

Of course the Little Flower, St. Therese, echoed this when she wrote, “Offer God the sacrifice of never gathering any fruit off your own tree.”

Hard to do, isn’t it? Perhaps even harder for us today than for those 1st-century Jews. You see, the Word of God is always counter to the word of the world. And the world tells us always to take credit – and like the politician, even when its undeserved. Market yourself! Sell yourself! And don’t worry about those little “problem” areas. You can always apply a little spin, and turn the bad into good. After all, in today’s world sin no longer exists. Heavens! The very idea of sin only leads to guilt, and guilt…well, too much of that can do a number on one's self-esteem.

Countering all this is the Word, Jesus Christ preached through His Church, and telling His people that true piety is nothing less than loving God.

…that everything we do should be done for God’s glory, not our own.

…that we don’t give alms to make ourselves feel good, but to do God’s work so He can bring about His Kingdom.

…that we don’t fast as a display of piety, but as an offering, a sharing in Christ’s sacrifice.

…that we don’t pray just to obtain favors from God, but to praise Him for His works, and thank Him for our very being.

Then, and only then, we can join the psalmist as he prayed, "Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed Nomini Tuo da gloriam…"

Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to Your Name give glory…

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bye-bye Western Civilization

The other day, during one of those early morning conversations that move from one non sequitur to another, I was asked by a parishioner, probably rhetorically, "I don't know, deacon, how are we going to save our civilization?"

My initial reaction was simply to give one of those "who knows?" shrugs and leave it at that. But then I remembered Whittaker Chambers' rather famous comment from a 1954 letter later published in Odyssey of a Friend (Regnery Books, 1987), p. 44.
“The enemy—he is ourselves. That is why it is idle to talk about preventing the wreck of Western civilization. It is already a wreck from within.”
A lot of conservatives cried, "No! No! No!" when they read those words in the 80s. "Chambers was wrong. Just look what Ronald Reagan has accomplished. America is on the rebound and back in business." And then when the 90s rolled around, they were even more convinced. "Communism has crumbled, crushed into dust under the weight of its inescapable inefficiencies. Once again America and the West have triumphed. Chambers was just a habitual pessimist. The West rules!"

The trouble is, pretty much all of those fiscal conservatives didn't have a clue what Chambers meant when he wrote those words. For Chambers, the West could save itself only through a civilization-wide religious renewal; in other words, a return to Christendom. And had he lived to see them, the events of the last decades of the 20th century would have had little or no effect on Chambers' opinion.

I think I can safely say that Chambers would have seen the collapse of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellite states not as a victory of Christianity over atheism, but rather as a victory of free-market capitalism over communism. It was simply the victory of one system of economics over another. But it was a victory that did nothing to excise the malignancy that had spread throughout both societies. Even in 1954 Chambers recognized that the West, despite its truly remarkable economic strength, was doomed unless it rebuilt its moral and religious foundation.

Since then that malignancy has done nothing but grow. It's the malignancy of relativism, a kind of philosophical and theological indifference that removes all restraint and reserves it harshest punishment for those who actually believe in something. It's far worse than atheism. Atheism, after all, is up-front and in-your-face. One can at least argue with an atheist, because atheists bring arguments to the table. Relativists have no arguments that I can see. Their basic premise is that everything's okay...everything except a belief that everything's not okay. Because their beliefs are, in a sense, self-contradictory, logical arguments mean nothing to them. And they run almost every element of our society.

One need not be as prophetic or farseeing as Chambers to recognize that this malignancy has permeated what's left of Western civilization and continues to grow. Despite the current political backlash that's spreading throughout the country, from what I can see it's strictly political. I see no sign of the kind of widespread religious renewal needed to save our civilization. Saving it must come from within. It's certainly not going to be saved from without. And so I anticipate its demise since, as Chambers remarked, "It is already a wreck from within."

I don't view this as totally horrible. God might well raise something far better from our ashes. He is, after all, in charge. And He promised the Church would be here until the end, guided by the Holy Spirit. And so, don't worry; seek the Kingdom instead...
So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?' All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil. [Mt 6:31-34]
Oh, did I answer my parishioner friend's question? Actually I didn't say a thing. I just shrugged.


Really Neat Pro-Life Ad

Thanks to The Lewis Crusade blog for posting this ad for a candy bar that has a very obvious pro-life theme. I couldn't resist including it here as well.

The kid's a wee bit precocious, but he sure knows his business.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Upside Down World - More Signs

A few moments ago, after a nice relaxing dinner with the beautiful Diane, I picked up my little Asus netbook and checked out (They send me a little notice on my iPhone whenever they post their daily essay and I hadn't had time to read it yet. For an old guy, I'm pretty well connected.) There I encountered an essay by Matthew Hanley entitled, "Catholics & Pagans: Then & Now" and to my surprise found that it addressed some of the same things I had just written about on this blog. Of course, Hanley's a much better writer so his essay actually makes sense. While I used Isaiah 49 as an example, Hanley went back farther to the events surrounding David's act of adultery with the lovely Bathsheba who unfortunately for her husband, Uriah, was married (2 Sm 11). By the way, I've always liked this picture of Nathan confronting David with the truth of his sinfulness. Maybe we all need a Nathan looking over our shoulder.

Hanley makes the point that David had just led his army in a battle in which 40,000 men had perished, and yet this "isolated instance of adultery [is] singled out for reproach" by the prophet Nathan. He goes on to explain, however, that David's sin was certainly greater than adultery since "it also involved murderous scheming."

But then Hanley makes the same point I had tried to make in my latest post, that everything has completely changed. In his words, "Still, the reverse generally holds true these days: a single casualty in battle is often met with stern media disapproval, while thousands upon thousands of 'illicit' encounters go unremarked -- or are even glamorized."

Neither Hanley nor I deny the tragedy of war and the fact that so many today recognize this. His only qualification is that people not succumb to "blind pacifism" or turn their backs on the kind of real evil that must be confronted and defeated. But, as Hanley remarks, "Insensitivity to the breakdown of the family and to the destructiveness of the 'hook-up' culture, on the other hand, is a sure sign of moral regress."

This is just one more example of our present upside down world, a world in which good is bad and bad is good, a world in which far too many of its inhabitants are completely unaware of the fact that they're standing on their heads unable to see reality as it is.

Read Hanley's essay. It's very good. And keep your feet on the ground; otherwise you'll never be able to follow Jesus on the Way.

Pax et bonum...

Upside Down World

There's a story -- and I'm not sure how accurate it is -- that when Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown on October 19, 1781 the British band of drummers and fifers played the 17th century English ballad, "The World Turned Upside Down." I suppose it must have seemed that way to the British whose supposedly invincible army had just suffered defeat at the hands of this undisciplined band of colonials...who were,of course, helped by the French. But they shouldn't have been too surprised by the defeat at Yorktown since human history is littered with similar events, those unexpected turnabouts when reality mocks the odds. Indeed, the British were the beneficiaries of one such upset in 1415 at Agincourt when, under Henry V and aided by the longbow, they completely overwhelmed a much larger French army. These things happen.

All of this came to mind last night when I was reading Isaiah and came across that wonderful verse: "Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you" [Is 49:15].

When Isaiah asked that inspired question, the idea that a mother might neglect her child or despise the baby in her womb was unthinkable. This is what makes the question and its response so powerful: that we are loved by our God always, even if the unthinkable should happen and our mothers should forget us, even if the world turns upside down. And for centuries, at least in what was once Christendom, the world remained right-side up and mothers didn't think the unthinkable...until the 20th Century.

And what a century is was. Instead of the century of progress promised by the heirs of the Enlightenment, we were given a century of genocide, a century of death in all its forms. It was a century when Stalin and Hitler and Mao and Pol Pot and so many others slaughtered millions to impose their ideologies and their wills. But that just wasn't enough for them and their proteges. Not content with the murder of the walking innocent, they turned to the truly innocent, to the most defenseless among us, to the unborn in the womb. And what efficient killers they have become. For today it is estimated that each year throughout the world 42 million babies are aborted. In other words, 42 million mothers are "without tenderness for the child" of their wombs. Yes, the world has once again turned upside down.

And now, ten years into the next century, the slaughter continues unabated. We, can, however, help stop it. As Christians we can help turn the world right-side up once again. We won't accomplish this through political action, or protests, or letters to the editor, although each of these can help educate those who have allowed themselves to become insensible to the slaughter. No, only God can stop this new holocaust, but we can help bring it about through the power of prayer and fasting. If all Christians devoted one day every week to prayer and fasting I'm convinced that God would bring it to an end...for such is the power of prayer.

But time is running out. As Blessed Mother Teresa asked, "When  a mother can kill her own child, what is left of the West to save?"

Pray for LIFE!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Speaker Pelosi the Political Left!

If anyone had doubts about the increased political polarization of our nation, the below video should remove them. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), one of the most liberal members of Congress, could hardly make herself heard as she spoke to an America's Future Now conference on Tuesday, This self-proclaimed "progressive" group is made up of far-left activists, so far to the left that many of them believe President Obama and Speaker Pelosi are just not liberal enough. So many people in the audience heckled Pelosi throughout her speech that it's almost impossible to make out what she's saying. According to press reports the protesters continued their loud heckling throughout the speaker's entire 28-minute speech. I find it interesting that this kind of boorish behavior always seems to come from the left. Leftists are not particularly "liberal" when it comes to allowing others to voice their opinions, and it takes an especially brave conservative to speak on a college campus these days. Now it seems that liberals too will be shouted down when they don't buy into the agendas of every far left group.

If you want to hear and see the "conversation" Pelosi tried to have with the protesters, check out this video on Real Clear Politics. I almost feel sorry for her.

What a country!

News and Follow-up, Both Good and Odd

Helen Thomas. After a week of near universal recrimination for her blatantly anti-Semitic remarks, Helen Thomas made the right decision and retired. Read more here. Rabbi David Nesenoff ( today released the complete video of Thomas' comments. The rabbi spotted her on the White House Lawn while attending a celebration of American Jewish Heritage Day and conducted the impromptu interview. I'd like to be able to claim that Ms. Thomas' retirement decision was the direct result of my advice of three days ago, but I think I can safely say that she's never read this blog. Heck, almost no one reads this blog, including me.

Nancy Pelosi. Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), is one very strange Catholic. Despite all the lip-service, all the self-serving comments about her status as a believing Catholic, she obviously doesn't have a clue when it comes to the magisterial teachings of the Catholic Church. And so she continues to be not only an embarrassment to actual believing Catholics, but also a source of scandal to others. Last month, during an address to the Catholic Community Conference in Washington, DC, she said the following:

"They ask me all the time, ‘What is your favorite this? What is your favorite that? What is your favorite that?’ And one time, ‘What is your favorite word?’ And I said, ‘My favorite word? That is really easy. My favorite word is the Word, is the Word. And that is everything. It says it all for us. And you know the biblical reference, you know the Gospel reference of the Word.
“And that Word is, we have to give voice to what that means in terms of public policy that would be in keeping with the values of the Word. The Word. Isn’t it a beautiful word when you think of it? It just covers everything. The Word.

“Fill it in with anything you want. But, of course, we know it means: ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.’ And that’s the great mystery of our faith. He will come again. He will come again. So, we have to make sure we’re prepared to answer in this life, or otherwise, as to how we have measured up.”
You can listen and watch her yourself...

Sadly, Speaker Pelosi's actions run contrary to her own words, not to mention The Word. She claims to be a faithful Catholic and yet completely disregards Church teaching on virtually all life issues. She is pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage in the extreme. One simply cannot be a faithful Catholic and do what she has done in direct conflict with the Church's continual teaching on these moral issues.

Yes, Ms. Pelosi, "and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" first in Mary's womb. The Incarnate Word was an unborn child. Did you ever think about that? I suspect you have. Perhaps that's why you're never very articulate when you address the subject of your faith.

Pope Benedict XVI at Fatima. A few days after Speaker Pelosi's odd comments, the Holy Father, during a visit to Fatima, Portugal, spoke to a group of Catholic social workers and health care providers. In his comments Pope Benedict said he appreciated their efforts fighting abortion and promoting the family based on the "indissoluble marriage between a man and woman." He then said that their work will "help respond to some of the most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good today." (Read more about the pope's comments here.)

Too bad Ms. Pelosi didn't make the trip to Fatima. Maybe she would have learned something about her faith.

Fr. David O'Connell named Coadjutor Bishop of Trenton, New Jersey. Father O'Connell, 55, a Vincentian priest and the retiring president of Catholic University in Washington, DC, was named by Pope Benedict XVI to be the next bishop of the Diocese of Trenton. The current bishop of Trenton, Bishop John M. Smith, will turn 75 this month and is required by canon law to submit his letter of retirement to the pope. The assignment of Fr. O'Connell is terrific news. As president of Catholic University he has been a strong defender of the faith and worked hard to ensure Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities -- Ex Corde Ecclesiae  -- was implemented at the university he led so well. The university will miss his leadership, but the people of the Diocese of Trenton are fortunate to receive so faithful a shepherd. Read more here.

More on Bishop's Murder. On Sunday I posted some comments on the murder of Bishop Padovese in Turkey. As reported earlier, he was killed by his driver, a young Muslim named Murat Altun who told the police he killed the bishop as the result of a "divine revelation" he had received. The murder, however, was even more brutal than previously reported. The bishop was not only stabbed multiple times but was also beheaded. And those who heard his cries for help also heard his assailant shout, "I killed the great Satan! Allah Akbar!" The killer apparently shouted this from the roof of the building. These words and the type of murder (beheading) are in keeping with the approach used by ultranationalist groups and Islamic fundamentalists that have the goal of eliminating Christians from Turkey. The Turkish authorities, who have stated publicly that there was no political or religious motivation behind the killing, may now have to change their tune. We'll see.

How did the old Chinese curse go? "May you live in interesting times..."

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Another Bishop Murdered -- This Time in Turkey

Bishop Luigi Padovese, the Bishop of Iskenderun, in Turkey, was murdered on June 3 by his driver and aide, a Muslim who had worked for the bishop. The accused killer, Murat Altun, 26, apparently stabbed the bishop repeatedly and was arrested by Turkish authorities several hours after the murder. Bishop Padovese, 63, was appointed Apostolic Vicar to Anatolia in 2004 and was also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Turkey. Very much involved in ecumenical work, the bishop was not only working to revive Turkey's Christian communities, but also played an important role in the Church's dialogue with Islam. The bishop had met with Turkish authorities that very morning for a discussion on the problems faced by Turkey's Christian minorities and had planned to fly to Cyprus the next morning where he would meet with Pope Benedict XVI.

Threats and violence against Christians, and against Catholics in particular, have been on the rise in Turkey. In almost all cases of violence against Christians, the Turkish authorities have stated from the outset that the assaults and murders were "isolated acts" and the perpetrators were "insane" -- this despite the fact that many of the attackers had proven ties with ultra-nationalist and anti-Christian groups. Apparently in Turkey there is a form of "political correctness" that protects Islam from any and all accusations.

In addition to Bishop Padovese's murder, there have been other similar attacks on Catholic clerics. Among these so-called isolated acts by unbalanced people are the following: 
  • The wounding of Fr Adriano Franchini, Italian Capuchin, Smyrna on December 16, 2007; 
  • Fr. Roberto Ferrari, threatened with a kebab knife in the church in Mersin on 11 March 2006; 
  • Fr. Pierre Brunissen stabbed in the side, 2 July 2006 outside his church in Samsun. 
Fortunately, these three priests all survived the attacks. But until this week the most notable incident was the 2006 assassination of Fr. Andrea Santoro who was murdered while praying in the Santa Maria Church in Trabzon, Turkey. Fr. Santoro was killed by a young Muslim man who shouted "Allahu Akbar" as he shot the priest from behind. Interestingly, the Turkish police, for unexplained reasons, had tapped Fr. Santoro's phone and his murder was preceded by massive anti-Christian propaganda in the Turkish popular press. During the trial the young man's mother compared her son to Mehmet Ali Ağca, who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981, and said that his deed "was committed in the name of Allah and was a gift to the state and the nation." Seems like a religious motive to me, but what do I know?

Below is a Catholic News Agency story on the bishop's murder...

Pray for our missionary priests and religious, especially those who labor doing God's work in Muslim nations. They are truly courageous disciples of Jesus Christ.

Pax et bonum...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The "New" Antisemitism

Helen Thomas, the leftist icon of the White House press corps, let her true feelings show the other day when she told the Jews of Israel to get out of Palestine and go back to Poland and Germany. Given the source, such comments shouldn't surprise. As a long-time Jew-hater, Thomas' animosity toward Israel is no secret, but for once her comments were not covered up by her media colleagues. This time she was caught off guard when a rabbi with a camcorder happened upon her and simply asked a few questions. And now her comments are here on the Worldwide Web for all to see. Surprisingly, I would have expected a sounder understanding of the history of the Middle East from so prominent a journalist, but perhaps her Lebanese heritage has colored her views. Thomas, of course, should be fired, and sent off to wherever they send over-the-hill leftest journalists...Havana perhaps...or maybe Gaza?

I've embedded the video of her remarks below:

Helen Thomas has since apologized, but how sincere can such an apology be? I mean, really, she can't claim she simply "misspoke" or that her words were reported out of context. Telling the Jews to "go back to Germany" is hardly one of those phrases that rolls off the tongue unintentionally. And its meaning doesn't really change with the context. It means exactly the same thing in any context. One gets the impression, too, that she wasn't referring to 21st century Poland or Germany, but rather to the Poland or Germany of 1939. Maybe she should offer a version of the Mel Gibson defense and just blame it on that second Manhattan at lunch.

It would be a mistake, however, to view this incident in isolation. Over the past few decades the American left's attitude toward Israel and the Jews has undergone a major change. The causes? I'm not exactly sure, but I'll hazard a guess and offer a few. First, many of the old-line Jewish leftists, secular Jews who, prior to 1967, had a soft spot for Israel and the Zionist movement, are no longer with us. They have been replaced by a whole new crop of young ideologues, those indoctrinated in our colleges and universities by professors who were the once young leftists of the sixties. These folks -- some now populate offices in the White House, the Executive Office Building, and the State Department -- have no love for Israel which they view as a clone of the USA. To them Israel is just another capitalist state, but one run by Jews, that is guilty of oppressing the non-Jews among its population and making war on its neighbors. And, of course, the left has a certain ideological affinity with the oppressed Muslim masses and those who are fighting for their liberation -- aka, Al Queda and friends. That's why a Hugo Chavez and a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can hug and kiss in front of the cameras even though one is, at best, an agnostic and the other a religious fanatic. Ironically, Chavez, like most leftists, is basically suicidal and doesn't realize that Ahmadinejad would slit his throat if he weren't so useful.

We're seeing evidence of this Antisemitism creeping into our own foreign policy. Israel, the one truly democratic state in the Middle East, is being treated as a pariah while we cuddle up to Islamic theocracies and even downplay the continued terrorist activity of organizations like Hamas. This same Antisemitism provides one of the foundational elements of the foreign policies of many European states, those nations so admired by our current administration. It's why an Ahmadinejad can call publicly for the destruction of Israel and the killing of all Jews and yet be tolerated by European heads of state. But watch what happens in those same countries when one of their own citizens says anything derogatory about Islam. We're talking hate crime, followed by arrest, conviction and jail time...

I'm no knee-jerk fan of Israel. Over years its political leadership has done some truly stupid things, but so has ours. I still scratch my head over the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty during the 1967 War, one of the all-time dumb moves by an allied government. But even this, and other similar actions, pale in comparison to the sins of Israel's enemies who either support or, at some level, tolerate Jihadist terrorists. And the big secret, the one that is never addressed publicly, is that Israel is the only nation in the Mideast that would gladly live in peace surrounded by its Muslim neighbors, assuming its neighbors would permit it. But no, these Islamic states cannot abide Israel's existence and continue to do everything in their power to bring about its complete destruction. Like Helen Thomas they'd love to see the Jews go back to Germany and Poland.

Indeed, I'm assuming Ms. Thomas was merely following Ahmadinejad's lead. Back in December he made some similar recommendations, about which Thomas, as a journalist, was no doubt aware. The Iranian president said that if Germany and Austria feel responsible for massacring Jews during World War II, a state of Israel should be established on their soil. He also repeated his view that the Jewish state was a "tumor".
"Now that you believe the Jews were oppressed, why should the Palestinian Muslims have to pay the price?...Why did you come to give a piece of Islamic land and the territory of the Palestinian people to them? You oppressed them, so give a part of Europe to the Zionist regime so they can establish any government they want. We would support it...So, Germany and Austria, come and give one, two or any number of your provinces to the Zionist regime so they can create a country there which all of Europe will support and the problem will be solved at its root...Why do they insist on imposing themselves on other powers and creating a tumor so there is always tension and conflict?"
(For more on these comments by Ahmadinejad, click here.)

Odd isn't it? There's really little difference between far left and far right. The Hitlers and Stalins of the world are all cut from the same cloth, and so apparently are their ideological children. And one common element seems to be a virulent Antisemitism.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122):
A song of ascents. Of David. I rejoiced when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD." And now our feet are standing within your gates, Jerusalem. Jerusalem, built as a city, walled round about. Here the tribes have come, the tribes of the LORD, As it was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD. Here are the thrones of justice, the thrones of the house of David. For the peace of Jerusalem pray: "May those who love you prosper! May peace be within your ramparts, prosperity within your towers." For family and friends I say, "May peace be yours." For the house of the LORD, our God, I pray, "May blessings be yours."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Archbishop Thomas Wenski installed as Archbishop of Miami

Our former bishop here in the Diocese of Orlando is now officially the fourth Archbishop of Miami, having been installed on Tuesday, June 1. Now we the people of the Diocese of Orlando are bishopless and must await the decision of our Holy Father in Rome as he decides who will replace Bishop Wenski. This interregnum period between bishops always seems a bit odd. Rome moves slowly and the people wait more or less patiently.

Within a few days the diocesan College of Consulters will meet and elect a diocesan administrator who will keep things going until a new bishop is named. The administrator will actually possess most of the authority of a bishop, except that he cannot name new pastors nor incardinate or excardinate priests. Canon Law also discourages the beginning of new innovations or major changes in the diocese by an administrator.

In all likelihood we will have to wait several months for our new bishop to be named, so please join us central Floridians as we pray that Pope Benedict selects the kind pf shepherd this diocese needs.

The following brief video covered Archbishop Wenski's installation in Miami.

Pax et bonum...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Holy Spirit Gently Chides

It never fails. Whenever I complain about things going "wrong" in my life -- you know what I mean, things that just didn't happen the way I wanted them to -- the Holy Spirit comes along and teaches me a lesson.

Over the past few days, I've been complaining (not here, but privately among acquaintances) about some recent events that greatly displeased me. Indeed, I've gone to great lengths to ensure certain people are aware of my dissatisfaction. And then, as soon as I air all this dissatisfaction of mine, I get put in my place.

I'm been working a few hours each day preparing an adult faith formation mini-course on Ecclesiology. About an hour ago, while digging through some source material, I came across a Gospel reflection by Pope Benedict XVI. He addressed that wonderful Gospel moment when James and John, those incorrigible Zebedee boys, ignored what Jesus had been telling them about His upcoming Passion, Death and Resurrection, preferring instead to ask Our Lord about their own future positions in His Kingdom [Mt 9:33-37]. In other words, rather than listen to Jesus, they talked about who among them was the greatest. Here's what the Pope wrote about this passage, words that seemed aimed directly at me:
“Is it not also the same today? While the Lord moves towards his Passion, while the Church is suffering, and he suffering in her, we are back on our favorite topic, on the question of our privileges. And if he were to enter into our midst and to ask us what we were talking about, then how we should have to blush and be silent!”
And so I thank the Holy Spirit for placing those words in front of me. But I also ask Him to be a bit kinder in the future and do it before the fact, not after it.

[The words quoted above were written before Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, and can be  found in his book Pilgrim Fellowship Of Faith: The Church As Communion (2005).]


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Max Picard, Faithful Visionary

It's not unusual to hear someone labeled a "visionary" these days, often simply because they have offered a prediction or two about some aspect of the future. In technology, for example, people like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs are considered visionaries by many because of their ability to drive technological development toward the realization of a future they envisioned at some point in the past. I suppose it's reasonable to call them visionaries, at least in a rather narrow technological sense. But the visionaries who most impress me are those who seem to grasp the totality of human thought and activity and envision where it is leading us. Such people are few and far between; they are also difficult to identify since their status as a true visionary is only evident with the passage of time, often a considerable amount of time. It's quite possible, therefore, that today's visionary might be viewed tomorrow as just another crackpot...and vice versa.

I believe one of today's great visionaries is Pope Benedict XVI, a man with a deep sense of history whose understanding seems to span the human condition. He is a professor, theologian and philosopher who is also a contemplative, and a contemplative who is also a doer, a man who acts. But I suppose only time will tell how great a visionary our Holy Father is.

Like Benedict any true visionary must have a sense of history, since both present and future are products of the past. I suspect, however, that today's professional historians will not prove to be very visionary because of their reliance on theoretical models and deterministic ideologies. They tend to paint themselves into ideological corners from which they cannot easily escape to reality.

Another visionary I have only recently encountered is Max Picard, a German-Swiss Catholic theologian. I had heard of Picard, but never read him until he was recommended to me by a friend.

Born a Jew, in 1888, Picard converted to Catholicism in 1939. Educated as a medical doctor, he left the practice of medicine because he believed doctors were becoming more like mechanics and losing sight of the humanity of their patients. I just finished his book, The Flight from God, in which he describes how, in our modern world, Faith has been replaced by the flight from God. We have entered a time when all truths are relative and only change itself is real. In other words, for Picard, "The man of the Flight has no firm standard against which to measure himself. He has only the possibilities."

The opening words of this short book set the stage for that which follows. I quote some of that first page here:
"In every age man has been in flight from God. What distinguishes the Flight today from every other flight is this: once Faith was the universal, and prior to the individual; there was an objective world of Faith, while the flight was only accomplished subjectively, within the individual man. It came into being through the individual man's separating himself from the world of Faith by an act of decision. A man who wanted to flee had first to make his own flight. The opposite is true today. The objective and eternal world of Faith is no more; it is Faith which has to be remade moment by moment through the individual's act of decision, that is to say, through the individual cutting himself off from the world of the Flight."
It was this first paragraph that hooked me as I glanced through the book in a used bookstore some months ago. And imagine my surprise when I discovered that the book was first published in 1934. He was, in effect, addressing the "dictatorship of relativism" seventy years prior to Pope Benedict's famous homily of April 2005.

But Picard does not despair, as do so many authors who address our collapsing civilization. No, Picard, realizes that God, like Francis Thompson's "Hound of Heaven", is always the Pursuer. Late in the book, he makes this point, almost poetically:
"Whithersoever they may flee, there is God. Wherever they find themselves, once more they flee away, for God is everywhere. Ever more desperately they flee; but God is already in every place, waiting for them to come...Ever more desperately they fling themselves away, but they can only fling themselves so far, because they have torn themselves away from God...Yet God's power is still manifested in man's tearing himself away from God...They are being hunted by God and they can move so swiftly only because he hunts them. Even this is God's love, that he, he and no other, wills to pursue the fleeing, so that he, the swiftest, may always be the nearest to those in flight."
It's a wonderful book by a true visionary. Read it.