December 31, 2010

Maafa 21 - full film on youtube



This film is now on youtube: effectively highlighting the link between the eugenics movement and abortion. In short, the eugenics movement morphed into what today is now known as Planned Parenthood. Truly horrifying, this film is an eye opener. Being well read on the topic, some of this stuff is news to me.

From the Discover Happiness Blog

The House of Christmas by G.K. Chesterton


There fared a mother driven forth

Out of an inn to roam;

In the place where she was homeless

All men are at home.

The crazy stable close at hand,

With shaking timber and shifting sand,

Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand

Than the square stones of Rome.



For men are homesick in their homes,

And strangers under the sun,

And they lay on their heads in a foreign land

Whenever the day is done.

Here we have battle and blazing eyes,

And chance and honour and high surprise,

But our homes are under miraculous skies

Where the yule tale was begun.



A Child in a foul stable,

Where the beasts feed and foam;

Only where He was homeless

Are you and I at home;

We have hands that fashion and heads that know,

But our hearts we lost - how long ago!

In a place no chart nor ship can show

Under the sky's dome.



This world is wild as an old wives' tale,

And strange the plain things are,

The earth is enough and the air is enough

For our wonder and our war;

But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings

And our peace is put in impossible things

Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings

Round an incredible star.



To an open house in the evening

Home shall men come,

To an older place than Eden

And a taller town than Rome.

To the end of the way of the wandering star,

To the things that cannot be and that are,

To the place where God was homeless

And all men are at home.

Prayer to Mother Teresa

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, longing to love Jesus as He had never been loved before, you gave yourself entirely to Him, refusing Him nothing. In union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, you accepted His call to satiate His infinite thirst for love and souls and become a carrier of His love to the poorest of the poor. With loving trust and total surrender you fulfilled His will, witnessing to the joy of belonging totally to Him. You became so intimately united to Jesus your crucified Spouse that He deigned to share with you the agony of His Heart as He hung upon the Cross.

December 22, 2010

December 12, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Can you imagine what it would be like to be out walking one day and suddenly see a woman of perfect demeanor, her clothes shining like the sun? Well, this is pretty much what happened in 1531. Mary appeared to Juan Diego, a recent native convert, on Tepeyac Hill, in what is not Mexico City. She asked that Juan go to his bishop and ask that a church be built there, a “house for her son.”

When the bishop asked for a sign, the woman told Juan to fill his cloak with flowers that appeared miraculously on the hill. Returning to the bishop, Juan opened his cloak to find not only the flowers but also an image of Mary, “clothed with the sun with the moon at her feet,” on his cloak.

On Tepeyac Hill, Mary identified herself as Our Lady of Guadalupe, and she appeared at a time when human sacrifice was part of the native Aztec culture. It has been estimated that one out of every five children was sacrificed to the Aztecs’ gods. The image on Juan Diego’s cloak conveyed an important message to the Aztecs. The woman stood in front of the sun and wore stars on her mantle. Her feet not only rested on the moon but also were crushing the head of a serpent. All of these images were gods that the Aztecs worshipped. The sash that she wore indicated she was pregnant – pregnant, in fact, with the author of life, Jesus Christ. Through this miraculous image, the Aztecs were introduced to the one true God.

This appearance of Mary caused millions of native to be converted to Christ and to abandon the practice of child sacrifice. Today, millions of unborn children are slaughtered by abortion. These children, however, are not thrown down the steps of Aztec pyramids but instead are placed into garbage cans, incinerated, or used for scientific research. On a day like today, we should all turn to Mary and ask her to intervene yet again on behalf of these innocent little victims.

From the Word Among Us.

December 11, 2010

Pro-Life Chile



Check out this inspiring video about pro-life Chile.

H/T That the Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill

The History of Advent

In the early Church, four different "comings" or manifestations of the Lord were celebrated all as one feast on January 6th. The birth of the Lord, the visit of the magi, his baptism, and his miracle at Cana. The feast was named "Epiphany" - a Greek word meaning "showing, manifestation." Epiphany became, along with Easter, a traditional date for baptism.

Just as the baptisms at Easter were prepared for by a time of fasting and penance (Lent) so the baptisms at Epiphany were prepared for by a time of fasting and penance called "Advent" (from a Latin word meaning "coming").

Gradually, in many places, Christ's birth was given its own feast day on December 25th and the season of Advent shifted to a time of preparation for this feast.

Over the years, Advent became less and less a carbon copy of Lent (fasting and penance) and more a time of prayer and reflection to appreciate the meaning of Christ's coming at Bethlehem, and his coming at the end of time.

The symbol of this season has become the Advent wreath, with the successive lighting of its four candles on each of the four Sundays - a sign of the approach of the light of the world.

December 8, 2010

The Immaculate Conception

Today (Dec. 8th) is the fest of the Immaculate Conception. The Immaculate Conception is, according to Roman Catholic Dogma, the conception of the Virgin Mary without any stain (macula in Latin) of original sin.

The dogma states that, from the first moment of her existence, she was preserved by God from the lack of sanctifying grace that afflicts mankind, and that she was instead filled with divine grace. It is further believed by Catholics that she lived a life completely free from sin. Her immaculate conception in the womb of her mother, through sexual intercourse, may be contrasted with the doctrine of the virginal conception of her son Jesus, known as the Annunciation, and followed by the Virgin Birth.

The dogma is based upon the following text from Luke;
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said,“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her,“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”But Mary said to the angel,“How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply,“ The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Mary's Immaculate conception is based on two key passages from the proceeding gospel; when the angel Gabriel says to Mary, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you,” and, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God."

To be "full of grace" and to be in favor with the Lord are one in the same thing. Mary was in the Lord's favor and full of grace meaning she was preserved from sin, both original and otherwise, from the moment of conception onward.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception is as much about Jesus as it is about Mary since through it Mary was prepared to be the mother of Christ.

December 3, 2010

Deflating the NYT Condom Scoop No, the Pope did not change Catholic teaching on condoms.

By George Weigel


Here is what the New York Times reported to its readers on November 21:


"Pope Benedict XVI has said that condom use can be justified in some cases to help stop the spread of AIDS . . . ."

No, the pope did not say that in his new book, Light of the World, to which I had the honor of contributing a foreword. Here is what the pope actually wrote, answering two questions from German journalist Peter Seewald:

Seewald: On the occasion of your trip to Africa in March 2009, the Vatican's policy on Aids once again became the target of media criticism. Twenty-five percent of all Aids victims around the world today are treated in Catholic facilities. In some countries, such as Lesotho, for example, the statistic is 40 percent. In Africa you stated that the Church's traditional teaching has proven to be the only sure way to stop the spread of HIV. Critics, including critics from the Church's own ranks, object that it is madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.

Benedict XVI: The media coverage completely ignored the rest of the trip to Africa on account of a single statement. Someone had asked me why the Catholic Church adopts an unrealistic and ineffective position on Aids. At that point, I really felt that I was being provoked, because the Church does more than anyone else. And I stand by that claim. Because she is the only institution that assists people up close and concretely, with prevention, education, help, counsel, and accompaniment. And because she is second to none in treating so many Aids victims, especially children with Aids.

I had the chance to visit one of these wards and to speak with the patients. That was the real answer: The Church does more than anyone else, because she does not speak from the tribunal of the newspapers, but helps her brothers and sisters where they are actually suffering. In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offense, that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done. We must stand close to the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.

As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man's being.

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.

Seewald: Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

Benedict XVI: She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.

And here is Sacred Heart Major Seminary professor Janet Smith's illustration of the technical point the pope was actually making, which touches on the question of what philosophers and theologians call subjective intention:

If someone was going to rob a bank and was determined to use a gun, it would be better for that person to use a gun that had no bullets in it [for that] would reduce the likelihood of fatal injuries. But it is not the task of the Church to instruct potential bank robbers how to rob banks more safely and certainly not the task of the Church to support programs of providing potential bank robbers with guns that could not use bullets. Nonetheless, the intent of a bank robber to rob a bank in a way that is safer for employees and customers of the bank may indicate an element of moral responsibility that could be a step towards eventual understanding of the immorality of bank robbing.

As misleading as the Times story was, it was hardly the worst of the maelstrom of media misrepresentation, which was initiated by the once-authoritative Associated Press. This latest example of pack journalism was a disservice in itself; it also highlighted several false assumptions that continually bedevil coverage of the Catholic Church and the Vatican and one specific media obsession that is, to be brutally frank, lethal in its consequences.

The first false assumption beneath the latest round of media condomania is that the Church's settled teaching on sexual morality is a policy or a position that can change, as tax rates can be changed or one's position on whether India should be a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council can change. To be sure, the theological articulation of the Catholic ethic of sexual love has been refined over centuries; it has come to an interesting point of explication in recent years in John Paul II's "theology of the body." But it has not changed and it will not change because it cannot be changed. And it cannot change or be changed because the Catholic ethic of sexual love is an expression of fundamental moral truths that can be known by reason and are illuminated by revelation.

The second false assumption beneath the condom story is that all papal statements of whatever sort are equal, such that an interview is an exercise of the papal teaching magisterium. That wasn't true of John Paul II's international bestseller, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, in which the late pope replied to questions posed by Italian journalist Vittorio Messori. It wasn't true of the first volume of Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth, in which the pope made clear at the outset that he was speaking personally as a theologian and biblical scholar, not as the authoritative teacher of the Church. And it isn't true of Light of the World. Reporters who insist on parsing every papal utterance as if each were equally authoritative -- and who often do so in pursuit of a gotcha moment -- do no good service to their readers.

The third false assumption was a "historic change" of Catholic teaching of the sort that was misreported to have taken place would be announced through the medium of an interview. It will perhaps come as a blow to the self-esteem of the fourth estate to recognize an elementary fact of Catholic life, but the truth of the matter is that no pope with his wits about him would use the vehicle of an interview with a journalist to discuss a new initiative, lay out a pastoral program, or explicate a development of doctrine. Light of the World is chock-full of interesting material, explaining this or that facet of Catholic faith, reflecting on the successes, challenges, and communications errors of the pontificate to date, even pondering personal questions such as the possibility of a papal retirement. But such interviews never are going to be used for the most serious exercises of papal authority.

As for the media obsession, it is, of course, with the notion of Salvation by Latex. Shortly after the pope's visit to Africa, where he was hammered by the press for alleged insensitivity to AIDS victims because of his reiteration of the Catholic sexual ethic, a distinguished student of these matters, Dr. Edward Green, published an op-ed piece in the Washington Post with the striking title, "The Pope May Be Right." Green, who is not a Catholic, made a powerful case that abstinence outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage are, empirically, the genuine AIDS-preventers. He was right, according to every thorough study of this terrible plague. But you would never know that by the coverage of Catholics and condoms -- just as you would likely never learn that, as a global institution, the Catholic Church serves more AIDS sufferers than any other similarly situated community.

What humane purpose is served by this media obsession with condoms? What happens to the press's vaunted willingness to challenge conventional wisdom when the issue at hand is anything touching on sexual license? It seems to disappear. And one fears that a lot of people are seriously hurt -- and die -- as at least an indirect result. Consciences indeed need to be examined in the matter of condoms, Catholics, and AIDS. But the consciences in question are those of the press.

December 1, 2010

Luke's Infancy Narrative




Scholars tell us that Luke probably wrote his gospel some 55 years after the Resurrection. Therefore, it is unlikely he witnessed the ministry of Jesus. But he assures us in the early verses of his Gospel that he has examined things "from the beginning," and has gone over "everything," and made sure to do so "accurately."

The Church teaches that Luke and the other biblical authors were "inspired." This doesn't mean God dictated word for word, but rather the Holy Spirit gave special guidance to the authors so that they (each with their own style and limitations), ultimately taught what God wanted taught.

We also believe that this same Spirit is active in us when we read Scripture

November 18, 2010

Yes For Benedict!


The news of the universal prayer for Nascent life on the evening of 27th November was unprecendented in the Church's history. Pope Benedict has asked all dioceses to organise local prayer vigils around the world. How exciting a development this is.

This excellent website allows people to write a letter of thanks to Pope Benedict for organising such a great initiative. It states that without God's help you cannot win this battle and highlights the great need for this initiative. How true, that the author of life will guide us towards victory in defending our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.

H/T Love Undefiled

Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant


From "Mary the Ark of the New Covenant by Steve Ray


(Editor's note: As explained below, the Ark of the Covenant contained the Ten Commandments the sign of the Covenant God made with Moses. The Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, has been compared to a new Ark of the Covenant in carrying Christ in her womb. Just as the Ark of the Covenant bore the Ten Commandments; Mary bears Christ within her. Parallels between the Ark of the Covenant and Mary are found throughout Scripture. Any first century Jew would recognize the similarities.)

God loved his people and wanted to be close to them. He chose to do so in a very special way. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "The prayer of the people of God flourished in the shadow of the dwelling place of God’s presence on earth, the ark of the covenant and the temple, under the guidance of their shepherds, especially King David, and of the prophets" (CCC 2594). God instructed Moses to build a tabernacle surrounded by heavy curtains (cf. Ex. 25–27). Within the tabernacle he was to place an ark made of acacia wood covered with gold inside and out. Within the Ark of the Covenant was placed a golden jar holding the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant (cf. Heb. 9:4).

When the ark was completed, the glory cloud of the Lord (the Shekinah Glory) covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34–35; Num. 9:18, 22). The verb for "to cover" or "to overshadow" and the metaphor of a cloud are used in the Bible to represent the presence and glory of God. The Catechism explains:
In the theophanies of the Old Testament, the cloud, now obscure, now luminous, reveals the living and saving God, while veiling the transcendence of his glory—with Moses on Mount Sinai, at the tent of meeting, and during the wandering in the desert, and with Solomon at the dedication of the temple. In the Holy Spirit, Christ fulfills these figures. The Spirit comes upon the Virgin Mary and "overshadows" her, so that she might conceive and give birth to Jesus. On the mountain of Transfiguration, the Spirit in the "cloud came and overshadowed" Jesus, Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John, and "a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’" Finally, the cloud took Jesus out of the sight of the disciples on the day of his Ascension and will reveal him as Son of man in glory on the day of his final coming. The glory of the Lord "overshadowed" the ark and filled the tabernacle (CCC 697).
It’s easy to miss the parallel between the Holy Spirit overshadowing the ark and the Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary, between the Ark of the Old Covenant as the dwelling place of God and Mary as the new dwelling place of God.
God was very specific about every exact detail of the ark (Ex. 25–30). It was a place where God himself would dwell (Ex. 25:8). God wanted his words—inscribed on stone—housed in a perfect container covered with pure gold within and without. How much more would he want his Word—Jesus—to have a perfect dwelling place! If the only begotten Son were to take up residence in the womb of a human girl, would he not make her flawless?
More on this in the next post installment.

The Ark of the Covenant


The Ark of the Covenant is a container described in the Bible as containing the tablets of stone on which were inscribed the Ten Commandments as well as Aaron’s rod and manna. According to the Pentateuch, the Ark was built at the command of God in accord with Moses’' prophetic vision on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 25: 10-16). God communicated with Moses "from between the two cherubim on the Ark's cover (Exodus 25:22). The Ark and its sanctuary were "the beauty of Israel" (Lamentations 2:1).

The Biblical account relates that during the exodus of the Israelites, the Ark was carried by the priests (Numbers 35:5; Joshua 4:5) in advance of the people and their army or host (Num. 4:5-6; 10:33-36; Psalms 68:1; 132:8). When the Ark was borne by priests into the bed of the Jordan, the river was separated, opening a pathway for the whole of the host to pass over (Josh. 3:15-16; 4:7-18). The Ark was borne in a seven-day procession around the wall of Jericho by seven priests sounding seven trumpets of ram’s horns, the city taken with a shout (Josh. 6:4-20). When carried, the Ark was always wrapped in a veil, in tachash skins (the identity of this animal is uncertain), and a blue cloth, and was carefully concealed, even from the eyes of the those who carried it.

Over time, the accounts of the Ark have gathered a number of references in popular culture.

Description

The Bible describes the Ark as made of shittah-tree wood (acacia), known to the Egyptians as the Tree of Life and an important plant in traditional medicine containing in many cases psychoactive alkaloids. It was 1.5 cubits broad and high, and 2.5 cubits long, conforming to the golden ratio. (~130 x 78 x 78 cm or 4.27 x 2.56 x 2.56 ft, using the Egyptian royal cubit). The Ark was covered all over with the purest gold. Its upper surface or lid, the mercy seat (Hebrew: כפורת, Kaporet), was surrounded with a rim of gold.


On each of the two long sides were two gold rings, wherein were placed two wooden poles (with a decorative sheathing of gold), to allow the Ark to be carried (Num. 7:9; 10:21; 4:5,19, 20; 1 Kings 8:3, 6). Over the Ark, at the two extremities, were two cherubim, with their faces turned toward one another (Leviticus 16:2; Num. 7:89). Their outspread wings over the top of the Ark formed the throne of God, while the Ark itself was his footstool (Ex. 25:10-22; 37:1-9). The Ark was placed in the "Holy of Holies," so that one end of the carrying poles touched the veil separating the two compartments of the tabernacle (1 Kings 8:8). The Book of Deuteronomy describes the Ark as a simple wooden container with no mention of ornaments or gold. Similarly, the Quran makes a reference to the Ark as a wooden box with holy relics inside it.

Contents

According to the Bible, the Ten Commandments were kept within the Ark itself. A golden jar containing some of the manna from the Israelites' trek in the wilderness, and the rod of Aaron that budded, were added to the contents of the Ark (Ex. 16:32-34; Heb. 9:4), but apparently were later removed at some point prior to the building of Solomon's temple, as I Kings 8:9 states that there "was nothing in the Ark save the two tablets of stone." While Heb. 9:4 states these items were placed "inside" the Ark, Ex. 16:33-34 and Num. 17:10 use the expression "before" the Ark; some see a contradiction here, as the correct meaning of these phrases is open to interpretation. A Rabbinic tradition states that Moses also put the broken fragments of the first tablets of the Law into the Ark. Some scholars have argued that the plans to the Tabernacle were contained in the Ark.

Sanctity and Consecration

Even Aaron, brother of Moses and the High Priest, was forbidden to enter the place of the Ark, except once a year on a designated day, called The Day of Atonement, when he was to perform certain ceremonies there (Lev. 16). Moses was directed to consecrate the Ark, when completed, with the oil of holy ointment (Ex. 30:23-26); he was also directed to have the Ark made by Bezalel, son of Uri of the tribe of Judah, and by Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan (Ex. 31:2-7). These instructions Moses carried out, calling upon every "wisehearted" one among the people to assist in the work (Ex. 35:10-12). Bezalel the artist made the Ark (Ex. 37:1); and Moses approved the work, put the testimony in the Ark, and installed it.

In Deut. 10:1-5, a different account of the making of the Ark is given. Moses is made to say that he constructed the Ark before going upon Mount Horeb

November 12, 2010


Thought of the Day
If we have any natural defect, either in mind or body, let us not grieve and feel sorry for ourselves. Who can tell whether, if we had been given a larger share of ability or stronger health, or greater wealth, we would have possessed them to the destruction of our soul!

-- St. Alphonsus Liguori

November 5, 2010

The Preferential Option for the Poor

St. Damien of Molokai

Joseph de Veuster was a Belgian missionary priest working among the islanders of Honolulu. His bishop had trouble finding a priest to work in the leper settlement of Molokai. Joseph, better known as Father Damien, volunteered to go and work in the “living graveyard that was Molokai.” His solidarity with the lepers was so complete that he contracted the disease himself and died at the age of forty-nine in service to the poorest and most abandoned. Some of his contemporaries accused him of imprudence and foolhardiness. Today, however, he is recognized worldwide as a hero of the faith: Damien the Leper.

Father Damien made a total life commitment to the poor long before the church recognized the preferential option for the poor as a pillar of the church”s social teaching. The Gospels teach us that as Christians we should give priority to the poor in the way we administer and dispense our resources. This is what we see in today’s gospel reading. Some people see today’s gospel as Jesus teaching table etiquette and good manners in choosing seats when invited to a dinner. But when we try to read it through the eyes of the early Christians whose assembly was mainly to share in the feast of the Eucharist, we begin to see that there is much more than etiquette involved here. Jesus is teaching the basic Christian virtues of humanity and solidarity with the poor. And he does this in two stages using two parables.

The firs parable, on the One Invited to the Wedding Feast (verses 7-11), is addressed to Christians as those who are invited to the feast of the Lord’s Supper. Irrespective of social status and importance we come to the Eucharist as brothers and sisters of equal standing before God. This is the only place where employer and employee relationship, master and servant distinctions dissolve and we recognize one another simply as brothers and sisters in the Lord, as together we call God “Our Father.” The Letter of James reports and condemns a situation where Christians “make distinctions” in the Christian assembly:

If a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves? (James 2:2-4).

Jesus is challenging his followers to abolish the rich-poor distinction among them and to recognize and treat one another as brothers and sisters of equal standing before God. “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).

The second parable, on the One Giving a Great Dinner (verses 12-14), is addressed to Christians as those who invite others to the feast of the Lord’s supper.

When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind (verses 12-13).

Does our parish community measure up to the criterion of preferential option for the poor? Do we consider wheel-char access to our churches to serve “the crippled and the lame” a priority? What about providing sign-language translation in our services for the benefit of “the deaf” and Braille Bibles and prayer books for “the blind.” This is what it means to “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” (Luke 14-13).

November 1, 2010




All SOULS DAY REFLECTION

If you were to collect all the passages about death and the afterlife in the Bible, you would still not have a clear picture about what the experience of death is like or what we can expect life to be like after we have died. Obviously God has had no intention of revealing very much about these two basic experiences, even though humans have speculated and written much about them. Death is an impenetrable wall or abyss that exists between us and the afterlife, at least as our knowledge is concerned.

We are, however, asked to reflect on what precedes and what follows the experience of death itself. With regard to what precedes death, we are encouraged to reflect on God's mercy and goodness, not on our failures, torments, and trials of the past. The prophet Jeremiah rejects the thoughts that bring despair, regret, and depression; instead he fills his heart with the positive qualities of God: "His mercies are not spent; they are renewed each morning."

We ought to think these thoughts not just about ourselves but also about the deceased we commemorate. There is an ancient expression that advises us to "have only good thoughts about the dead." The feast of All Souls teaches us to approach death without fear and anxiety, but with confidence and hope for our own life beyond death and for those who have preceded us in death.

October 27, 2010

Reflection on Saint Paul's Letter to the Galatians Chapter 5:18-25

Reading:  Saint Paul's Letter to the Galatians 5:18-25

Brothers and sisters:

If you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.

Reflection:

The final selection from Paul’s letter to the Galatian Christians softens the tone of the earlier chapters.  We hear in this final chapter a beautiful passage of the Holy Spirit.  We could say that everything Paul wrote to the Galatians up till now is expressed in the final verse.  “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit” (Gal 5:25).  The Spirit gives life at baptism, communicating supernatural gifts that transcend the purely human qualities with which we are born.  Theologians consider the sever traditional gifts of the Holy Spirit to be supernatural and permanent, given by God to make a baptized person attentive to the voice of God; receptive to the workings of grace; zealous for the things of God; and, consequently, obedient and docile to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.  

Paul argued throughout the letter to the Galatians against the power of the Mosaic Law to save a person.  He concludes now by saying that people who live according to the free gifts of the Spirit will produce the fruit (not fruits) of the Spirit, that is, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  It’s a partial list, as Paul says that “there is no law against such things,” because they show that Christ lives and acts in those who produce such fruit.  As Jesus had said so clearly, “A tree is known by its fruit” (Luke 6:44).

October 26, 2010

Prayer to End Abortion

Lord God, I thank you today for the gift of my life,
And for the lives of all my brothers and sisters.
I know there is nothing that destroys more life than abortion,
Yet I rejoice that you have conquered death
by the Resurrection of Your Son.
I am ready to do my part in ending abortion.
Today I commit myself
Never to be silent,
Never to be passive,
Never to be forgetful of the unborn.
I commit myself to be active in the pro-life movement,
And never to stop defending life
Until all my brothers and sisters are protected,
And our nation once again becomes
A nation with liberty and justice
Not just for some, but for all,
Through Christ our Lord. Amen!

October 22, 2010

St. Athanasius


Thought of the Day

Devils take great delight in fullness, and drunkeness, and bodily comfort.
Fasting possesses great power and it works glorious things.
To fast is to banquet with angels.

-- St. Athanasius.

October 15, 2010

Love is not tolerance

BISHOP FULTON J. SHEEN

Christian love bears evil, but it does not tolerate it.

It does penance for the sins of others, but it is not broadminded about sin.

The cry for tolerance never induces it to quench its hatred of the evil philosophies that have entered into contest with the Truth.

It forgives the sinner, and it hates the sin; it is unmerciful to the error in his mind.

The sinner it will always take back into the bosom of the Mystical Body;

but his lie will never be taken into the treasury of His Wisdom.

Real love involves real hatred:

whoever has lost the power of moral indignation and the urge to drive the buyers and sellers from the temples

has also lost a living, fervent love of Truth.

Charity, then, is not a mild philosophy of "live and let live";

it is not a species of sloppy sentiment.

Charity is the infusion of the Spirit of God,

which makes us love the beautiful and hate the morally ugly.


H/T Catholic Education: www.catholiceduction.org

A Christian Duty

By Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

The practice of recommending to God the souls in Purgatory, that He might mitigate the great pains which they suffer, and that He may soon bring them to His glory, is most pleasing to the Lord and most profitable to us. For these blessed souls are His eternal spouses, and most grateful are they to those who obtain their deliverance from prison, or even a mitigation of their torments. When, therefore, they arrive in Heaven, they will be sure to remember all who have prayed for them. It is a pious belief that God manifests to them our prayers in their behalf, that they may also pray for us. It is true that these blessed souls are not in a state to pray for themselves, because they are atoning for their faults. However, because they are very dear to God, they can pray for us, and obtain for us the divine graces. Saint Catherine of Bologna, when she wished to obtain any grace, had recourse to the souls in Purgatory, and her prayers were heard immediately. She declared that, by praying to those holy souls, she obtained many favours which she had sought through the intercession of the saints without obtaining them. The graces which devout persons are said to have received through these holy souls are innumerable.

But, if we wish for the aid of their prayers, it is just, it is even a duty, to relieve them by our suffrages. I say, it is even a duty: for Christian charity commands us to relieve our neighbors who stand in need of our assistance. But who among all our neighbors have so great need of our help as those holy prisoners? They are continually in that fire which torments more severely than any earthly fire. They are deprived of the sight of God, a torment far more excruciating than all other pains. Let us reflect that among these suffering souls are parents, or brothers, or relations and friends, who look to us for succour.

Let us remember, moreover, that being in the condition of debtors for their sins, they cannot assist themselves. This thought should urge us forward to relieve them to the best of our ability. By assisting them we shall not only give great pleasure to God, but will acquire also great merit for ourselves. And, in return for our suffrages, these blessed souls will not neglect to obtain for us many graces from God, but particularly the grace of eternal life. I hold for certain that when a soul delivered from Purgatory by the suffrages of a Christian enters paradise, she will not fail to say to God: “Lord, do not suffer that person to be lost who has liberated me from the prison of Purgatory, and has brought me to the enjoyment of Thy glory sooner than I had deserved.”

Catholics Go Vote!



H/T Creative Minority Report

October 9, 2010

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton: A Life

Most people know that St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first American-born person to be declared a saint (she was canonized on September 14, 1975) and that she is regarded as being one of the driving forces behind the rise of parochial education in the United States. They are also aware that she was the foundress of the American Sisters of Charity, which was the first order of sisters native to the U.S. What many may not realize, however, is that her road to sainthood was paved with difficulties that sound quite modern in their familiarity.


Born the second daughter of a prominent Anglican family in New York in 1774, she suffered the death of her mother in 1777, most likely as a result of childbirth. The woman that her father married in 1778, Charlotte Barclay, never accepted the children from her husband’s first marriage. That marriage eventually ended in a separation due to irreconcilable conflicts.

Elizabeth suffered greatly as a result of all this, to the point of being afflicted with a serious depression. However, her own life took a more positive direction in 1794, when she married William Magee Seton; their marriage would eventually produce five children.

In 179, when Elizabeth was pregnant with her third child, her father-in-law died and her husband had to assume total responsibility for the family business. Elizabeth helped out as much as she could be doing the account books at night, after caring all day for her own family and her husband’s younger half-siblings.

Despite their hard work, the company went bankrupt in 1801 and the family lost their home and all their possessions as a result. It was about this time that William began to show symptoms of the tuberculosis that would eventually kill him. Seeking to restore her husband’s health, Elizabeth and her family journeyed to Italy for the more favorable climate; it did not help, however, and William Seton died in 1803, leaving Elizabeth a 29-year-old widow with five small children.

It was in Italy, however, that she began her own conversion to Catholicism, which ultimately culminated in her sainthood. In the end, it would be both her strength and her new faith that would enable her to be a wife, mother, widow, single parent, foundress, educator, social minister, and spiritual leader, and do them all well.

September 30, 2010

Reflection: The Rich Man and Lazarus


SCRIPTURE: “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.” Luke 16:19-24 (NIV)

TRANSITION: As a means to bring home a lesson from this scripture I would like to ask a couple of questions. Do you use or have used an alarm clock to wake you up in the morning? A lot of alarm clocks have a button on them called a snooze alarm. When your alarm goes off, you can hit that button and go back to sleep. In about ten minutes, the alarm will go off again. You can just keep on doing this and go right on sleeping.

God sound a wake-up alarm in our lives!

Did you know that God sometimes sounds a “wake up” alarm in our lives? He speaks to our heart and says, “It is time to wake up and follow me.” Some people hit the snooze button and say, “Not now Lord, call me again—a little bit later.” Some people hit that “snooze button” so many times that they get to where they don’t ever hear God’s voice. When they finally wake up, they find out that it is too late. That is what happened in our Bible story today.

Jesus told a story about a rich man who wore the finest clothes and lived in luxury. A beggar named Lazarus lay outside the rich man’s gate. Lazarus was hungry and his body was covered with sores. He was hoping that the rich man might have pity on him and that he might be able to satisfy his hunger with the leftovers from the rich man’s table. But every day the rich man passed by Lazarus without even giving him a thought. I imagine that he passed by Lazarus so many times that he eventually go to the point that he didn’t see him at all.

The Bible says that Lazarus died and went to heaven. The rich man also died, but he went to hell. In hell, he looked up and saw Lazarus in heaven with Abraham. He asked Abraham to let Lazarus dip his finger in water and come and touch it to his burning tongue, but Abraham sand, “No.” Then he reminded the rich man how he had enjoyed such good things on earth while Lazarus had nothing.

The rich man asked Abraham to allow Lazarus to go back to earth and warn his five brothers so that they would not end up in hell with him, but again, Abraham said , “No.” The rich man finally woke up, but it was too late.

Back to our alarm clock analogy.

God is sending “wake-up” calls to people today. Let us pray that we will listen to his voice and follow him before it is too late.

Dear Father, when you sound the alarm telling us it is time to wake up and follow you, many we never be guilty of hitting the snooze alarm saying, “Later, Lord.” Instead, let us rise up and follow you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

September 25, 2010

The Power of the Holy Mass, Part 2

A great doctor of the Church, St. Anselm, declares that a single Mass offered for oneself during life may be worth more than a thousand celebrated for the same intention after death. St. Leonard of Port Maurice supports this statement by saying that one Mass before death may be more profitable than many after it.


"When we receive Holy Communion, we experience something extraordinary - a joy, a fragrance, a well being that thrills the whole body and causes it to exalt."
~ Saint Jean Vianney~

"The celebration of Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross."
~Saint Thomas Aquinas~

"If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy."
~ Saint Jean Vianney~

"There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us."
~ Saint Jean Vianney~

"It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass. "
~St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio), stigmatic priest~

"When we have been to Holy Communion, the balm of love envelops the soul as the flower envelops the bee."
~ Saint Jean Vianney~

"The heavens open and multitudes of angels come to assist in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. "
~Saint Gregory~

"The angels surround and help th priest when he is celebrating Mass."
~ St. Augustine ~

"When Mass is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim immolated on the altar."
 St. John Chrysostom~

September 24, 2010

The Power of the Holy Mass, Part I

From Sue Cifelli:


At the hour of death the Holy Masses you have heard devoutly will be your greatest consolation.

Every Mass will go with you to Judgement and will plead for pardon for you.

By every Mass you can diminish the temporal punishment due to your sins, more or less, according to your fervour.

By devoutly assisting at Holy Mass you render the greatest homage possible to the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord.

Through the Holy Sacrifice, Our Lord Jesus Christ supplies for many of your negligences an omissions.

He forgives you all the venial sins which you are determined to avoid. He forgives you all your unknown sins which you never confessed. The power of Satan over you is diminished.

By piously hearing Holy Mass you afford the Souls in Purgatory the greatest possible relief.

Through Holy Mass you are preserved from many dangers and misfortunes which would otherwise have befallen you. You shorten your Purgatory by every Mass.

Through the Holy Mass you are blessed in your temporal goods and affairs.

When you hear Holy Mass devoutly, offering it to Almighty God in honor of any particular Saint or Angel, thanking God for the favors bestowed on him, etc., you afford that Saint or Angel a new degree of honor, joy and happiness, and draw his special love and protection on yourself.

Every time you assist at Holy Mass, besides other intentions, you should offer it in honor of the Saint of the day.

"The Mass is the most perfect form of prayer!"
~Pope Paul VI~

For each Mass we hear with devotion, Our Lord sends a saint to comfort us at death.
~revelation of Christ to St. Gertrude the Great~

Once, St. Teresa was overwhelmed with God's Goodness and asked Our Lord "How can I thank you?" Our Lord replied, "ATTEND ONE MASS."

The Blessed Virgin Mary once told Her faithful servant Alain: "My Son so loves those who assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that, if it were necessary He would die for them as many times as they've heard Masses."

"The Holy Mass would be of greater profit if people had it offered in their lifetime, rather than having it celebrated for the relief of their souls after death."
~Pope Benedict XV~

H/T A Catholic Mom in Hawaii

September 23, 2010

EWTN Family Prayer - Those Who Are in Nursing Homes

What are the seven dolors of Mary?


The Seven Dolors of Mary are...

1. The Prophecy of Simeon.

2. The Flight into Egypt.

3. The Loss of the Child Jesus

4. The Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross.

5. The Crucifixion

6. Jesus' body Struck by a Lance, Taken Down from the Cross

7. The Burial of Jesus.

Oplatki Christmas Tradition

The tradition of the Oplatki originated in Poland during Early Christian times. This Christmas Custom began with a simple white wafer, baked from flour and water. The wafers are wonderfully designed to display Christmas images, such as the Nativity. The Oplatki are enjoyed by families, typically right before the Christmas Eve meal. The entire family will gather around the table with the Oplatek. Generally the eldest member of the family will begin the ritual by breaking off a piece of the wafer and passing it to another family member with a blessing. This blessing can simply consist of what you desire for your loved one in the upcoming year – whether it be good health, success, or happiness. The purpose of this act is primarily to express ones unconditional love and forgiveness for each member of his or her family.

The significance of the Oplatki Christmas wafer is in that it shadows the Eucharistic meal that Catholics participate in at each Mass. Just as we share in the Eucharist as one family in Christ and receive Christ’s love through the Eucharist, the Oplatki allows for one’s immediate family to come together and share the love they have for one another.

Although this tradition is primarily enjoyed by the human members of the family, even the family pets can partake in this meal. Whereas the wafers are generally white in color, there are colored Oplatki made especially for pets. Although both colors are edible by people. Traditionally, this corresponds to the animals that were present at Christ’s birth. However, in current times, this can also represent the important role that pets play in the family.

The Oplatki tradition is one that is easy and fun to introduce to the family at Christmas time. All it requires is a simple wafer paired with love and affection, and the willingness to share it. This is a heartwarming tradition that will complete your family’s time together during the Christmas season. Order Your Oplatki Now!

OPLATKI - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q: WHAT IS OPLATKI?
A: Oplatki are thin wafers, similar to Communion hosts, which measure 5 1/2in. x 2 3/4in. The wafers have four beautiful Christmas images stamped into them. The images include the Nativity, the Star of Bethlehem, or the Holy Family. Each set of wafers comes in an envelope with the Oplatki tradition printed on the back.

Q: HOW DO YOU PRONOUNCE IT?
A: The authentic Polish pronunciation is O-pwaht-kee. This is the plural form of the word. One wafer it is called Oplatek (O-pwah-tek).

Q: ARE THERE OTHER NAMES FOR THIS TRADITION?
A: Yes, in Lithuania the wafers are part of the Kucios meal and can be called by many names, including: plotkele, paplotelis, or plokstainelis. Depending on where the family is from they may even say kaledaitis. Slovaks call the wafers oblatky. In America the tradition is often called Christmas Wafers.

Q: WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE CHRISTMAS WAFERS?
A: Just before the Christmas Eve meal (in Polish called Wigilia) the entire family will gather around the table with the Oplatki. Generally the eldest member of the family will begin the ritual by breaking off a piece of the wafer and passing it to another family member with a blessing. This blessing can simply consist of what you desire for your loved one in the upcoming year - whether it be good health, success, or happiness. The wafer is passes from person to person until all have had a piece and all have been given blessings. The purpose of this act is primarily to express ones unconditional love and forgiveness for each member of his or her family.

Q: WHY ARE SOME WAFERS WHITE AND SOME PINK?
A: Although this tradition is primarily enjoyed by the human members of the family, even the family pets can partake in this meal. The Pink Oplatki is made especially for pets. Traditionally, this corresponds to the animals that were present at Christ's birth. However, in current times, this can also represent the important role that pets play in the family.

Q: HOW DID THIS TRADITION START?
A: The tradition of the Oplatki originated in Poland during Early Christian times. This Christmas Custom began with a simple white wafer, baked from flour and water. The wafers are wonderfully designed to display Christmas images, such as the Nativity. The Tradition is popular throughout eastern Europe, including Lithuania and Slovakia.

Q: WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE?
A: The word Bethlehem means "House of Bread." The breaking of the bread is a sign of charity, unity, and friendship. The Oplatki Christmas wafers also remind us of the Eucharistic meal that Catholics participate in at each Mass. Just as we share in the Eucharist as one family in Christ and receive Christ's love through the Eucharist, the Oplatki allows for one's immediate family to come together and share the love they have for one another.

Q: OUR FAMILY ISN'T POLISH - CAN WE STILL HAVE OPLATKI?
A: YES! This tradition can become a part of every family's Christmas traditions!

Q: I LIVE FAR AWAY FROM MY FAMILY, WHAT CAN I DO?
A: Many families purchase Oplatki and include the wafers in Christmas cards to family members in distant locations. The tradition can easily be shared in this way with anyone around the world!

Q: WHAT IS THE SHELF LIFE OF THE OPLATKI WAFERS?
A: Oplatki wafers stay fresh for a long time. It is safe to store the oplatki for several months, preferably in a sealed container.

Information provided by the Catholic Company

September 16, 2010

Pope urges people of Great Britain to preserve Christian tradition

EDINBURGH, Scotland (CNS) -- Arriving in Scotland on the first leg of a four-day visit to Great Britain, Pope Benedict XVI appealed for preservation of the country's long Christian tradition and warned against "aggressive" forms of secularism and atheism.

"Your forefathers' respect for truth and justice, for mercy and charity come to you from a faith that remains a mighty force for good in your kingdom, to the great benefit of Christians and non-Christians alike," the pope said Sept. 16 at a reception with Queen Elizabeth II and more than 400 distinguished guests at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital.

The pope evoked the moral heroism of a long line of British figures, from Florence Nightingale to Cardinal John Henry Newman, whom the pope was to beatify during the visit. Christian witness was also evident during World War II against a "Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society," he said.

"As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society," he said.

In an unusual courtesy gesture, the queen sent her husband, Prince Philip, to greet the pope when he arrived at the Edinburgh airport after a two-hour flight from Rome. The pope looked eager to begin his busy program in Britain, and on the plane he told reporters he felt confident the country would give him a respectful reception -- despite differences with some critics of religion.

[...]
 
The pope outlined an argument for the place of religion in public affairs, emphasizing that British saints and other leading Christians have "shaped the nation for good at the deepest level." While Great Britain today strives to be a multicultural society, he said, it must respect the traditional values and cultural expressions "that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate."

He said the British media have a big responsibility in shaping the ideas and culture of its society and in promoting the "honesty, respect and fair-mindedness" for which the country is known.

Queen Elizabeth also underlined the importance of Britain's Christian heritage and told the pope that his visit also is a reminder of "the Christian contribution to the encouragement of world peace and to the economic and social development of the less prosperous countries of the world...."

Courtesy Catholic News Service

September 11, 2010

A Prayer for our Nation as we Prepare to Elect our Leaders

O God, we acknowledge you today as Lord,
Not only of individuals, but of nations and governments.

We thank you for the privilege
Of being able to organize ourselves politically
And of knowing that political loyalty
Does not have to mean disloyalty to you.

We thank you for your law,
Which our Founding Fathers acknowledged
And recognized as higher than any human law.

We thank you for the opportunity that this election
year puts before us,
To exercise our solemn duty not only to vote,
But to influence countless others to vote,
And to vote correctly.

Lord, we pray that your people may be awakened.
Let them realize that while politics is not their salvation,
Their response to you requires that they be politically active.

Awaken your people to know that they are
not called to be a sect fleeing the world
But rather a community of faith renewing the world.

Awaken them that the same hands lifted up to you in prayer
Are the hands that pull the lever in the voting booth;
That the same eyes that read your Word
Are the eyes that read the names on the ballot,
And that they do not cease to be Christians
When they enter the voting booth.

Awaken your people to a commitment to justice
To the sanctity of marriage and the family,
To the dignity of each individual human life,
And to the truth that human rights begin when human lives begin,
And not one moment later.

Lord, we rejoice today
That we are citizens of your kingdom.

May that make us all the more committed
To being faithful citizens on earth.

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

September 8, 2010

Prayer for Pope Benedict XVI

As Pope Benedict prepares to visit England later this September, we offer this prayer for his pontificate:

Lord, source of eternal life and truth, give to your shepherd, Benedict, a spirit of courage and right judgment, a spirit of knowledge and love. By governing with fidelity those entrusted to his care, may he, as successor to the Apostle Peter and Vicar of Christ, build your Church into a sacrament of unity, love, and peace for all the world. Amen

V/ Let us pray for Benedict, the pope.

R/ May the Lord preserve him, give him a long life, made him blessed upon the earth, and not hand him over to the power of his enemies.

V/ May your hand be upon your holy servant.

R/ And upon your son, whom you have anointed.

September 6, 2010

We're Having a New Choice!



This is a humorous video showing how even children know the unborn child is a living breathing human being and not merely a blob of cells.

Homily for Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Fr. Rene Butler

Jesus says we cannot be his disciples unless we “hate” our father, mother, sister, brother. This is an excellent illustration of how different our culture today is from that of the ancient Middle East.

It is hard enough for us to understand the Middle East today. One of my cousins is married to a woman of Lebanese descent. She dislikes funerals the way they are celebrated in our culture. She told me, “When my husband dies, I’ll be wailing and screaming and throwing myself on the coffin.” It’s the only way of grieving that makes sense to her. “What makes sense, what is obvious and natural,” is an important distinctive element of every culture.

Now go back 2000 years. No wonder the Bible is so hard for us to understand at times. It reflects a different world, a different time, a different culture.

The French have no word that means “home” in the complete sense, with all the emotional components the English word implies. Some words are truly untranslatable in any exact way from one language to another. If this is true of modern languages, imagine what it is like for ancient languages.

In the Bible, “acquaintance” is rare. People are seen as friend or enemy, kin or alien. Similarly, the verb “to like” is virtually non-existent in the Bible. You either love or hate. And even though the New Testament was written in Greek, it still reflects ancient Middle Eastern thought and culture.

Imagine you have had a meal with friends at their home. When they ask, “How was it?” how do you respond if the only options in your language are “fabulous” and “lousy”?

The language Jesus spoke was a language of either-or. So how else could he say that we have to be faithful to him above all without an all-or-nothing expression?

Maybe he would have said it differently in 20th Century English. But the meaning would still be the same. Faith first. Love first. Jesus first.

September 4, 2010

Saint Paul on Living Joyfully


Seeking Spiritual Stability in the Lord. Philippians 4:1-7

The Apostle Paul was a great ambassador for the Christian faith. Paul’s desire was never to elevate himself, but only to encourage others to seek and know the Lord Jesus Christ in their daily lives. In Philippians 4:1-7 Paul encouraged 4 attitudes that would lead to spiritual stability in the Lord. They are:

1. Unity in the Lord 4:1-3
2. Joyfulness in the Lord 4:4
3. Gentleness in the Lord 4:5
4. Prayerfulness in the Lord 4:6-7

The means by which we can stand fast in the Lord is being united, joyful, gentle, and prayerful. May God challenge each of us in these areas today.

Finding Contentment in the Lord. Philippians 4:10-23

Have any of you ever heard of Fanny Crosby? She was a great writer of gospel songs who was blinded when only 6 week old by a country doctor who thought he was treating her with eye drops. Yet her indomitable, unyielding attitude soon manifested itself. At age 8 she wrote this poem:

“Oh what a happy child I am, although I cannot see!
I am resolved that in this world contented I will be.”

When we examine the life of Fanny Crosby, we will find that she found her contentment and satisfaction in the Lord. In fact, her debilitating circumstances encouraged her to find contentment in the Lord. When Christians find satisfaction and contentment in the Lord, they will be content with whatever they have and whatever their circumstances. Heb. 13:5. They will be content with food and clothing (1 Tim. 6:8), they will be content with their wages (Luke 3:14), and they will be content because they will know God’s presence and provision. (Phil. 4:10-12)

In Philippians 4:10-20 we discover 4 principles for finding contentment in the Lord.

They involve:

1. Being confident in Gods providential care (4:10)
2. Being impartial to our circumstances (4:11-12)
3. Being strong in the resources of the Lord (4:13)
4. Being interested in the well being of others (4:14-20)

May God teach us to express our contentment in the Lord in the way we live and the way we give.

September 3, 2010

Review: Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis


For those interested in answering charges that the Catholic Church did little or nothing in response to child sex abuse scandals involving priests, Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis by Gregory Erlandson and Matthew Bunson, is essential reading. Erlandson and Bunson take an unbiased look at the problem and objectively portray the Church's efforts to reform and to heal during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI. The book makes seven essential points:
  1. The Church has always been confronted by the problem of sexual sin and failings among its clergy, and while the number of abusers has never been large, the Church has labored over the centuries to curb such abuses.
  2. Although modern Church leaders have made grievous mistakes, and the criminal acts of certain clergy have been overlooked or unaddressed in the past in too many dioceses, the Church is dedicated to redressing these wrongs and making sure that every safeguard is in place to protect children and families.
  3. Cardinal Ratzinger became increasingly convinced of the need to rid the Church of what he called the “filth” of abuse, and emerged as one of the Vatican’s most dedicated leaders in confronting the growing crisis.
  4. Pope Benedict’s actions in the first years of his pontificate showed a forthright desire to address the sexual abuse crisis in word and deed. He has continued to address the topic repeatedly and directly, in a variety of situations.
  5. The United States Church, which was for several years at the epicenter of the scandals, is now leading the way in establishing norms and providing guidelines for dealing with priest abusers, assisting the victims, and preventing further crimes.
  6. As Church leaders around the world confront the sexual abuse crisis in their own countries, they are looking to Pope Benedict for leadership and to the U.S. Church for a road-map to reconciliation, reform and authentic justice.
  7. Pope Benedict is not only dedicated to ending abuse among the clergy but also sees that the Church must seek spiritual renewal if it is to be purified.
As the introduction states: "This book arose out of a desire to help Catholics who have been shocked, disappointed, angered, or simply depressed by the latest round of allegations of clergy sexual abuse that have been filling our newspapers and our newsrooms."

From the very beginning the Church has concerned itself with the sexual immorality of its members, particularly its ministers. This reflects not the failings of the Church or its ministers but the reality of original sin and man’s fallen nature. From the Council of Elvira in 307 AD until the present day, the Catholic Church has taken concrete steps to protect the young and vulnerable from sexual misconduct. Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis detail some of the steps the Church has taken over the centuries to deal with this problem, placing particular emphasis on recent efforts to reform and renew the priesthood in light of recent scandals.

Many have argued that the Catholic Church in general, and Pope Benedict in particular, remained aloof especially during the early days of the crisis. As head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, then Cardinal Ratzinger reviewed hundreds of cases of abuse from around the word. He like few others in the Church understood the depth and scope of the problem. Erlandson and Bunson illustrate how Joseph Ratzinger, as cardinal and as pope, was proactive in dealing with the problem as early as 2001.

Erlandson and Bunson do not gloss over the sexual abuse crisis but go to great length to place blame where it belongs. A small percentage of priests were not faithful to their vows and a few bishops compounded the issue by covering up abuse. 4% of priests were guilty of sexual misconduct between 1950-2003. Most of the abuse occurred during the 1970’s or earlier. Abuse cases have decreased in the decades since for a host of reasons.