Sunday, June 28, 2009

Atheist Ads Are Coming

As reported at in an article titled, Atheist Ads Hit City Buses, "There's nothing like the MTA to make you question your faith! So maybe the new advertisements for atheism on city buses are appropriate. The campaign will take over 20 Manhattan buses for one month and president of the NYC atheists says the test run could be reaching the other boroughs later this year. The ad reads: 'You don't have to believe in God to be a moral and ethical person'....Inspiration came from a similar campaign in London last year. " 
The London bus ads stated the following: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." 
According to the head of the NYC atheists, the $10,000 NYC ad campaign is to increase membership. Joseph Zwilling, the director of communications for the Archdiocese of New York, was quoted as saying that, "the ads were not offensive to the Catholic Church's view, given their wording." (That was in response to the NY ads.)
So where are our ads? Where are ads on city buses which state that, "Belief in God gives inner strength, courage and hope to believers in God." Or perhaps representatives from the major world religions, who profess belief in God could meet and come up with some catchy bus ads which promote the positive effects of belief in God for human beings. 
People who believe in God greatly outnumber atheists, that is a fact. There are billions of people in the world, from every country and culture in the world,  who receive inspiration, hope, courage, comfort and even health benefits from believing and worshipping God. I'm sure they would like to see advertisements on buses and elsewhere which stress the importance and benefits of belief in God, the benefits of prayer and a spiritual life.  I would like to see those ads in the future.  
I have read many biographies and autobiographies of saints. Saints are extraordinary human beings. Some of them were common people, some were kings or queens, lawyers or doctors. Some were ordained, others were laypeople.  Some were extremely intelligent,  I consider them to be geniuses.  I have read the works of great theologians who have spent their entire lives studying Scripture or the traditions or the doctrine of the Church. To say that these remarkably intelligent people have spent their lives, or in some cases given their lives in martyrdom, for something which doesn't exist is disturbing to me. It doesn't make any sense at all. Billions of people, who have experienced the benefits of faith, the beauty of a prayer life and a relationship with God know what they are talking about. God is real and God certainly does exist. That statement would make a good ad!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sunshine and Some Amazing Priests

Since it keeps raining in New York (though the weekend forecast looks sunny, Thank God!) I thought I would write about some sunshine. Rocco Palmo, the famous Catholic blogger, wrote in a blog entry titled, Always a Priest, Always Present, in Whispers in the Loggia that Already the moment's become part of the Gotham legend. He was commenting on the fact that before the installation Mass of Archbishop Timothy Dolan began on April 15th, 2009, and as the Archbishop and the procession began to process into St. Patrick's Cathedral the sun broke out from behind the clouds. 
Well, I have another Gotham legend which I experienced first hand when I was lucky enough to be present at Shea Stadium on October 3rd, 1979 when Pope John Paul II made a visit to New York. I was among 60,000 Catholics who flocked to Shea to see the Pope. And it was the same type of thing. It rained hard all day but just as the Pope appeared in Shea Stadium, the sun came out. It was an amazing thing to experience. I have a lot of faith, but there are many reasons why I have such strong faith......and that day, seeing the sun come out, at that particular moment was just awesome. Some people in the crowd started crying, it was so moving........
As a matter of fact, a police officer on duty, near to where I was sitting was moved to tears......
Some more uplifting news.... I was happy to read today in the Long Island Catholic that Father Peter Vaccari, a professor of theology and Church history at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, Long Island was named rector of the seminary. He succeeds Msgr. James McDonald, who was the rector since Feb. 2006. Fr. Vaccari, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn has been on the seminary faculty since 1988. I know him well as he gave workshops for Catholic school teachers in the Diocese of Brooklyn, a couple of years ago. He gave excellent presentations for the teachers. He's a brilliant priest and nice too. As most active Catholics in the Diocese of Brooklyn know, his brother Andrew Vaccari, is the chancellor of the Brooklyn Diocese. Msgr. Andrew Vaccari is also an amazing priest, very humble, kind and unassuming. These two amazing priest brothers were raised in Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Corona, Queens. I have been blessed in my life to know many extraordinary priests. I wish Fr. Peter Vaccari many blessings in his new position at the Seminary. I think Bishop William Murphy made an excellent choice, and I'm sure many others agree. 

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rain, Commencement Warning, The "Green Pope"

If you live in New York or the Tri-state area rain has become a familiar reality. It has rained for 17 days in June so far. There's a new expression in New York and it's called rain rage. In a New York Times article titled, New Yorkers Near A Saturation Point, by Michael Wilson, he points out that "It is too soon to know whether humans will adapt to living, in effect, in an alternate universe in which water has replaced air." Even New Yorkers who are usually resilient are losing patience.  "Jose Arbona, 45, who bartends at the Oak Room was in a cab on 5th Ave. when he found himself embroiled in road-rain rage or rain-road rage." 
One wonders, does this strange weather pattern have anything to do with global warming? I hope not. Of course, there are many people who don't think global warming is anything to worry about, but I disagree. And so does Energy Secretary Steven Chu. He delivered the Commencement Address at Harvard University and he warned graduates that, "....if the world pursued business as usual, climate change could be so rapid that many species will have trouble adapting, including humans".......He also said the following, "Climate change is not new; the Earth went through six ice ages in the past 600,000 years. However, recent measurements show that the climate has begun to change rapidly. The size of the north polar cap in the month of September is only half the size it was a mere 50 years ago. The sea level has been rising since direct measurements began in 1870, but that rate is now five times faster than it was at the beginning. These changes are not due to natural fluctuations. For the first time in human history, science is now making predictions of how our actions today will affect the world 50 and 100 years from now."
One hopes that today's graduates will help reverse global warming. There are brilliant men and women working to find creative solutions to global warming, all around the world. 
Dioceses such as the Brooklyn Diocese and the Diocese of Rockville Center on Long Island have a vested interest in promoting "green" initiatives and teaching children and adults the importance of conserving energy and helping the Earth. 
In 2007, Pope Benedict said the following about ecology and teaching young people about it, "Everyone today can see that man could destroy the foundation of his existence-his earth-and therefore, we can no longer simply use this earth, this reality entrusted to us, to do what we want or what appears useful and promising at the moment, but we must respect the inherent laws of creation.....people must learn these laws and obey these laws if we want to survive....the first thing young people can learn is that our earth speaks to us and we must listen if we want to survive.....We must not only care for the earth, but we must respect one another....only with respect for living together on this earth can we move forward." 
Pope Benedict is sometimes referred to as the "Green Pope," because of his persistent message of respect for creation.

Happy Father's Day to all fathers, young and old. I was blessed to have a remarkable father, for that I will forever be grateful. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bearers of the Light

The Pauline Year which began on June 28th, 2008 will come to a close on June 29th, 2009. Pope Benedict has declared a Year for Priests beginning on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Friday, June 19th, 2009. That means that the Pauline Year and the Year for Priests will overlap for 10 days. I heard excellent talks on St. Paul during the Pauline Year and some of that information was helpful to me, for a project I recently completed on St. Paul. I still did my own research on St. Paul and one thing I learned is the importance of light in the life of  St. Paul.
Paul's conversion experience on the road to Damascus was an extraordinary religious experience. Saul (Paul's Hebrew name),  was an observant Pharisee and very committed to his faith and yet he undergoes a sudden, radical change of focus, heart and mission. I quote from Acts of the Apostles (26) when Paul explains to King Agippa and Herod the following, On one such occasion I was traveling to Damascus with the authorization and commission of the chief priests. At midday, along the way, O king, I saw a light from the sky, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my traveling companions. We all fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying to me in Hebrew, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me'? And I said, 'Who are you, sir'? And the Lord replied, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.' 
Light is an important element in Paul's experience of Jesus. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, light was a phenomenon which meant the power and presence of God. God was said to be clothed with light (Ps. 104). Those who walked in light were regarded as upright. Paul's experience, in terms of light was an authentic experience with a divine presence. Later Paul would refer to the gosepl as light and to believers as children of the light. Jesus is the light of the world
And so as this year devoted to the writings of St. Paul and the great St. Paul himself comes to a close and we begin the Year for Priests, I am mindful of the great witnesses we have who bring God's light to others. Whether they are canonized saints or ordinary hard-working people, either ordained or laypeople, they enable God's light to continue to penetrate the darkness. Their presence in the world has always filled me with hope.  
If you would like more information on the Year for Priests, the USCCB has a website for information, with a beautiful icon of Christ the Great High Priest, which can be used during this year.  The website is:

The Lord is my light and my salvation    (Psalm 26)

What consoles me is the thought that the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ will do everything for me.   St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Fusion With Jesus

She would become a canonized Saint and a Doctor of the Church. Though she would die at the young age of 24, she would leave her spiritual mark on the Church she loved. She wasn't perfect but she knew she didn't have to be. But she did have perfect love for God. She knew Scripture well enough to know that God's merciful love and abundant grace would help her attain her lofty dreams and goals. She wanted to become a saint and for that she needed her "divine elevator," -Jesus-to lift her to heights she couldn't attain on her own. He didn't disappoint her. She received her First Communion at the age of 11 years old and later wrote that this is what she experienced: 
...I felt that I was loved, and I said, 'I love You, and I give myself to you forever!' There were no demands made, no struggles, no sacrifices; for a long time now Jesus and little Therese looked at and understood each other. That day it was no longer simply a look, it was a fusion; they were no longer two. Therese had vanished as a drop of water is lost in the immensity of the ocean. Jesus alone remained......
St. Therese of Lisieux-Story of a Soul-Manuscript A

I have a great devotion to St. Therese, the Little Flower, as she called herself. People of faith are continually discovering the genius of Therese, the deep spirituality of the "little way," which is complete trust and hope in God, regardless of the circumstances of life. 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Blogging Burnout

According to a New York Times article, Blogs Falling In An Empty Forest by Douglas Quenqua, keeping a blog current, interesting and read by others is not that easy. No kidding. Setting up a blog is easy enough but maintaining it is another story. What happens when you get bloggers block? And you have to be creative, well-informed and keep up with current events. There are advantages to "self-publishing," and putting your ideas "out there, " but there are disadvantages too. It's no wonder that according to Technorati, in a 2008 study of blogs, it is estimated that since 2002, 133 million blogs were started. "Of those, only 7.4 million have been updated in the last 120 days. The rest are essentially abandoned. " 
Richard Jalichandra who is the chief executive of Technorati, said "that at any given time there are 7 million to 10 million active blogs on the Internet, but it's probably between 50,000 and 100,000 blogs that are generating most of the page views." That's still a lot of blogs being read. I like reading blogs and if I wasn't writing one and doing everything else I do, I would read more of them. But I do read some blogs everyday, it's become like reading the newspaper for me, I fit it in somewhere in my day. 
Some writers are trying to keep up blogs so that they can get a book deal someday. 
I wonder what motivates Catholic bloggers? Some Catholic bloggers are obviously evangelizing, keeping Catholics up-to-date and informed on Catholic news and opinions. It is helpful. 
Why do bloggers stop blogging? A variety of reasons.  Some just get tired of telling their stories and then they just write, "The End." Others find new platforms  such as Facebook. I would imagine others just get "Blogging Burnout." 

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other one thing.   Abraham Lincoln

The world belongs to the energetic.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, June 8, 2009

Virtual Reality Tours-The Vatican

This is a great story. As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, a small crew of Villanova students and professors have been given permission to produce virtual reality tours of the holiest spots in the Vatican. They have been given special access to the Sistine Chapel, after it is closed to the public, so that they can film it. Bryan Crable, chair of Villanova's Communication Department said, "It was perfectly silent, it really was sort of outside of time." It was also mentioned that, "Students and their professors also filmed in several other basilicas including St. Peter's, St. John Lateran and St. Mary Major." Tours will be posted in the coming months. The Vatican will hold the copyrights for the virtual tours. 
I clicked on the site below and was taken to a virtual tour of St. Paul, Outside-the-Walls. I was in that basilica in the Jubilee Year 2000 when I went on a diocesan pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi and Florence. Bishop Thomas Daily (now retired) led that pilgrimage. It was an amazing experience for me. When I returned I wrote an article about it, which was published in The Tablet, Brooklyn's diocesan newspaper.  I was able to experience the beauty and magnificence of that basilica once again through the virtual tour, right from my home computer. I look forward to watching the other virtual tours as they become available. I'm always suggesting to Catholics that they should see Rome (at least once in their lifetime) to be inspired......virtual tours might be a way to experience parts of Rome, in an effortless way. Or if you plan to go to Rome, watching a virtual tour can help prepare you. What a great idea and what a great collaboration effort! 
Click on the site below for a virtual tour of St. Paul's.......

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Holy Trinity

I found the prayer to the Holy Trinity in a prayer book. I'm not sure who wrote it, because it didn't say. But I believe it's a powerful prayer, it always makes me feel better and blessed. The Trinity is the greatest mystery of our faith, incomprehensible, but yet as human beings, through love, we can be united to the Trinity. Through baptism and love, we are brought into the divine life of the Trinity. It's an amazing reality, perhaps more amazing than the doctrine of the Trinity, is the fact that our Triune God wants to be in relationship with each one of us. 

God loves each of us as if there were only one of us to love.  St. Augustine
....Our Lord takes a special interest in each soul.   St. Therese of Lisieux

Hymn to the Holy Trinity
Eternal Trinity of love, in peace and majesty you reign;
all things come forth from you alone; to you they must return.
Creation lives and breathes in you, Sustained by your almighty will;
Grant us to know you, God of truth, In whom the questing mind is stilled.
Our Father, in the name of Christ, Unceasingly the Spirit send; 
Be with us everlasting God: Fulfill your purpose to the end.
We praise you, Godhead, One in Three,
Immortal Trinity of light,
Unchanging through eternal days, You live unmoved, serene in might.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Welcoming Parish In A Distant Land

Upon entering the parish church of St. Catherine's in Kapaa, Kauai for Sunday Mass, a greeter approaches each visitor and places a lei made of shells around their neck. There is a ribbon attached to the lei which says, St. Catherine Church, Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii. A very welcoming and thoughtful gesture. Then before Mass begins all visitors are asked to stand and the priests, the deacon and parishioners welcome them. I was impressed but that was only the beginning. First Holy Communion was celebrated at that Mass. After Communion, the children stood before the congregation and sang a song with hand gestures. It was beautiful. The song,  Let Our God Shine Through You, was one I had never heard before. The reason I never heard of it was because it was composed by a third grade student from St. Catherine's School. She was asked to stand, as she was in the children's choir and she was applauded. It's a wonderful song for children to sing at First Holy Communion. I imagine it will be copyrighted and published in the future. 
On the way out of Church, a priest handed us holy cards, one of them was the Lord's Prayer in Hawaiian. Another one was a holy card of "The Compassionate Christ," a sketch by Jean Charlot. On the bottom it was written, .....with aloha from St. Catherine Church. 
It was a very positive experience. It is so important to create welcoming communities in our parishes. It means so much to people to feel welcome and appreciated. Sometimes it just takes a little effort and thought.
One day as my cousin drove us around the scenic island of Kauai, I saw a sign that said, "St. Raphael-Oldest Catholic Church in Kauai. It wasn't on the agenda for the day, but I wouldn't of missed it, so we followed the signs until we arrived at the Church in Koloa. It was open, so we were able to say prayers, get some literature and of course, leave donations. Kauai was discovered by Captain Cook in 1778. The first Catholic missionaries arrived in Hawaii in 1827, but they were forced to leave because of anti-Catholic sentiment that had already been "planted" in Hawaii. Religious liberty for Catholics came to Hawaii in 1839 when a commander of a French warship threatened war against the Hawaiian kingdom if Catholics were not granted the same religious freedom as Protestants. Fr. Walsh celebrated the first Mass on Kauai on Christmas Day 1841, shortly after establishing the Mission of St. Raphael the Archangel. Interesting history gathered from an informational guide available at the Church. Raphael in Hebrew means, "God has healed." (As you probably know, only three angels-archangels are mentioned in Scripture: Michael, the famous Gabriel (the angel of the Annunciation) and Raphael.)
Joy be to thee always.......(Tob. 5:11)
For I am the angel Raphael, one of seven, who stand before the Lord. 
(Tobias 12:15)