Monday, December 20, 2010

How Blessed We Are!

How blessed we are to celebrate the great feast of Christmas. How blessed we are to know Jesus and to have the advantages, blessings and graces of being in relationship with God. How blessed we are to know God's word and give it a priority in our lives.
There is no doubt this is a hectic time of year and I (along with millions of others) will be busy preparing for Christmas festivities and Christmas Eve dinner. But there is such meaning, joy and depth to this season of wonder and giving. It's wonderful to spend it with family and friends, to know that we are celebrating the greatest of all mysteries, the Incarnation-God with us. God becoming a human being to show us the primacy love should have in our lives is the greatest of gifts. God is love and to be aware of that and to try to live one's life always in mindfulness of that is a great gift.
Through life's ups and downs, through difficulties and stress, if we stay grounded in Christ, things will always work out better. To trust and to love God is the way to get through life, as far as I'm concerned. I read part of an article this morning, which I'll go back to, about how stressed out and emotionally disturbed so many college students are. It's so sad that young people have so much pressure on them and they are coming of age in a difficult economic situation and time of history. We all need Jesus and prayer to help us get through challenging and confusing times in our life and in the world. Only with trust and love will anything ever make sense and will people get their priorities straight. Parents have such a difficult job raising children and teens today and young people have so much being "thrown" at them, with advances in technology and a changing world economic situation. They need prayer, as we all do, to help stay focused and to remain hopeful. One college student was quoted as saying, "Life is hopeless." Faith and belief gives people hope, that is one of the best things about it.
Let's hope and pray, everyone comes to the realization that prayer, solitude, rest, renewal, religious beliefs and rituals, and living in peace and hope will make a positive difference in our lives.
Let's hope and pray the New Year brings more positivity, more hope, more kindess in our world and PEACE. Please God, give us PEACE!
Peace to you and A Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year to All!
My blogging with continue, with God's grace in 2011!! See you then and thanks for reading my blog. I appreciate it!
NJ Azzaro

Fill us with your love that all our days we may sing with joy! (Psalm 90:14)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Millenial Challenge

I read a brief article at Huffington Post titled, "What Matters to Millenials: Pew Study." The Millenial generation-young adults between 18 and 29 years of age are a unique group of young people who experienced (and are continuing to experience) a dramatically changing world. Technology created an entirely different world from the one I grew up in. I am very familiar with millenials as I have two sons in that age category. The article stated that millenials are getting married later than earlier generations. These observations and others were gathered from the Pew Research Center survey which was done in January and surveyed 2,020 young adults. They were asked a variety of questions about what's important to them. It was widely reported in the news. Some of the interesting findings were: millenials who can't find jobs are living with their parents (only because they have to). The present economic situation has created difficulties for many young people. Single millenials who do have jobs are living in trendy neighborhods (I'm referring to NYC), such as Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Park Slope, Red Hook, the lower East Side, The East Village, Gramacy Park and other "hip" neighborhoods.
One of the sadder findings of that survey, which was reported in the news, is that millenials are not that religious. According to the survey, "Young adults attend religious services less often than older Americans. And compared with their elders today, fewer young people say that religion is very important in their lives."
As I've written about before, there exists a large group of unchurched and non-practicing young adult Catholics. How do you reach them is the challenge for the Church. Creative thinking and creative evangelization would help. From what I've observed millenials like to go for brunch on Sunday mornings and afternoons. It's difficult getting into a restaurant on Sunday mornings and afternoons in trendy neighborhoods.
One finding that I thought was positive was though they get married later and wait to have children, when asked what was important to them, they replied that being a good parent was very important to them. I guess the hope is that when they become parents they will realize how important it is to raise their children with faith and belief. So perhaps they will embrace religion and religious services as they get older. Let's hope so.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Compassionate Farmers and Other Inspiring News

I spent the day with my cousins in Long Beach, LI. I have a newly adopted two-year-old cousin from China and she is just adorable. Being able to spend the day having lunch, bonding and playing with her was a real joy. The simple pleasures of life..... getting to know and love a lucky little girl who was brought from an orphange from half way around the world to a loving, caring family on Long Island. There are so many generous Americans, who do so much good for others and that's good news.
In other good news, compassionate and generous farmers from across New York State recently attended a meeting on Long Island and they came bearing gifts. They gave food donations to Island Harvest, Long Island's largest hunger relief organization. Including this most recent donation, farmers across the state have donated more than 4.7 million pounds of food to organizations and over 1.5 million pounds on Long Island alone. "Food is collected through the 'Harvest For All' program." According to John Evers, the Director of the Food Bank Association of New York, "Due to the generosity of NY farmers from every part of our State, millions of people have been rescued from hunger this year. Farm donations of fresh produce has not only helped us feed the hungry but also added to the overall health and well-being of our local communities" (from I hope they receive many blessings for their generosity and good example!
In other interesting news, I read at the Deacon's Bench (he's always moving......) an inspiring story coming out of Billings, Montana about an Episcopal priest who converted to Catholicism today and is becoming a Catholic priest. What's unusual for the people of Billings is that Fr. Bart Stevens is bringing his wife and five children along with him and that's a first for the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings. According to the Billings Gazette, "he joins a small fraternity of married Roman Catholic priests. Since 1980 slightly more than 100 former Episcopalian priests in the U.S. have been ordained in the Catholic Church." The reason Fr. Bart gives for his conversion is very inspiring, he said that, "He found fullness of faith in the Catholic Church that he had been seeking all his life." Many blessings on his ministry and his family!

I just love the Catholic Church and my hope, my earnest desire as a Catholic priest is to help Catholics rediscover the richness, the beauty of their Church and their tradition. (Rev. Bart Stevens)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lacking Compassion in the Modern World

The U.S. Labor Department announced on Dec. 3rd that the economy added just 39,000 jobs in November, much lower than expected. A jobless recovery might be the new normal and it's not good news for the unemployed. What's even more disturbing and sad are the difficulties the long term unemployed are going through. With all the problems they are dealing with, an article at Huffington Post, titled, "Employers Won't Hire The Jobless Because of the 'Desperate Vibe'", by Laura Bassett states that employers have such a large pool of applicants to choose from, for job openings, that one headhunter suggested that the unemployed are at a disadvantage when applying for a job because they seem desperate. He said, "When you lose your job, you will interview from a position of weakness." Well, perhaps they are desperate and how sad is that. Most people that commented on the article were as disturbed as I was, when I read it.
The headhunter was quoted as saying, "When you show desperation in your face and your tone during an interview, management is going to pick up on that vibe. They're gonna feel it and see it and notice something's off......they're awkward and the other person's gonna be turned off. It's always better for a person to interview while they're employed." He was only interested in interviewing people who already had jobs, "the jobless need not apply."
It seems the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics supports what he's stating. The sad reality is that the "longer a person has been out of a job, the more unlikely it is that he will get a job."
Employers can "discriminate" freely against the unemployed. The unemployed are the most downtrodden, insecure and "desperate" people in our society right now. They are people who could be on the verge of losing their homes, their medical coverage, who might not have money to buy food or Christmas presents for their families.
I pray someone will have compassion, a Christ-like compassion for these long term unemployed people. They obviously need help. Many American families are hurting.
The Church needs to lend it's voice to this problem and through it's social justice activities and programs try to help, in whatever ways it can. The Church needs to be more vocal in this area, in my opinion.
This Advent, the unemployed need to feel that someone cares, that the Church cares and is willing to take action on their behalf. I hope and pray positive, supportive action will come and soon.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Waiting With Hope

We believe, we hope, we wait, we trust in the goodness of God. It's the beautiful season of Advent once again, a season filled with busyness, but also filled with the certainty of God's love and the fulfillment of promises. Those of us who believe, who are blessed to believe in Jesus, can rejoice that we can celebrate the great feast of Christmas in a few weeks.
I was so impressed with a blog entry that I read at Deacon Greg's blog about an evangelization program at Most Precious Blood Parish in Brooklyn. I know the parish well as my cousins grew up in that neighborhood and were parishioners there. The present pastor, Fr. Maduri has the right idea and is leading a Spirit-filled, creative response to the decline he sees in Church attendence, which is a result of changing demographics. Unfortunately, it's a problem in many neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and other parts of the city and on Long Island too. If it's not addressed in a creative, Spirit-filled, out-of-the-box thinking way, the demographic changes have the potential to adversely effect the future Church in NYC and it's surrounding areas.
I applaud Fr. Maduri's efforts to seize the moment and do something creative and innovative that actually works, to show the unchurched, the youth, fallen away Catholics and nonbelievers in his midst that the Catholic faith has something to offer that is worth seeking and will enrich their lives.
There are so many trendy and "cool" neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. I often walk around the lower East side of Manhattan as I have relatives who live there. It has become a very trendy neighborhood of late. I like to eat in the restaurants there. They are always filled with young, vibrant, creative looking young people. It's not unusual to be sitting in a restaurant and see a film crew walk in for lunch (which happened to us last weekend). They are always filming movies and music videos in the area. There is so much going on in New York City and there is a great need and an opportunity for evangelization. But it has to be done correctly as Fr. Maduri has figured out. Young, smart, trend-setting Catholics (as well as young people of other faiths) are living in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Astoria, Jackson Heights, Park Slope, Red Hook, Carroll Gardens to name just a few neighborhoods and with the right evangelization plan and some creative, innovative ideas, these young people can be reached. Creative evangelization and out-of-the-box thinking is the key to the future success of urban parishes.
Catholicism has something of value and much spiritual wisdom to offer young people, people of all ages. It just has to be "packaged" in the right way.

A Blessed Advent to All.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Time For Family, Food and Thankfulness

A Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Those of us who are Americans are blessed to live in a great country- America, "the land of the free and the home of the brave." I will be busy preparing for Thanksgiving, making rice balls and a lot of other good food. My cousins will help, so it's a shared undertaking. We will miss my Aunt Connie, the family matriarch, at tomorrow's celebration. It won't be the same without her. But her granddaughter is having another baby and so soon we'll have another child in the family. The circle of life continues.
I'm thankful for all the blessings in my life. For the opportunities I've been given, for the good things that are yet to come. Perhaps one day all God's children will have enough to eat and the kind of opportunities that all children should have. I think of poor children a lot, more importantly I pray for them and try to do my part to help, in small ways through giving. I sponsor a child from Chile, through Children's International and so at least I know (for certain) I've made a real difference in the life of one poor child. It's an amazing feeling to be appreciated and loved by someone you've never met but whose life you have impacted. That's one of the blessings of sponsorship.
With hope for a better tomorrow for all..... may your Thanksgiving holiday be filled with all good things and an appreciation of blessings received.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wired For Constant Distraction

It makes you wonder what the implications are for the Church of the future. A generation of children and young adults are growing up wired for distraction, according to a New York Times article titled, Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction by Matt Richtel. Young brains are especially vulnerable to becoming accustomed to and distracted by constant stimuli and multiple distractions. According to the article, "Students have always faced distractions and time-wasters. But computers and cellphones and the constant stream of stimuli they offer, pose a profound new challenge to focusing and learning." Young minds are not able to sustain attention, because children and teens are constantly switching tasks from video games to checking Facebook, watching music videos, using the internet and texting on their phones. "Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task but for jumping to the next thing," said Michael Rich, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. The fear is that, "We're raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently."
It sounds bizarre to me (like the unfolding of a science-fiction scenario). There are obvious benefits to computers and cellphones, and I understand the value of using technology but it seems to me these trends among young people are worrisome for the future.
How can children be taught to appreciate the value of silence, prayer and rituals, if they need constant stimuli? Even more troublesome is what if their brains are wired to seek constant, changing stimuli and they are not able to stay focused. It seems even while students are doing homework at home, they are multi-tasking at the same time, going back and forth between their assignments and texting, computers and Facebook. Many students are having trouble completing reading assignments, because there are so many distractions, they can't even finish reading a book.
One of the photographs highlighted in the article, showed a young teen texting. Apparently she sends 27,000 texts a month. She talks to several people at the same time. I would imagine that's an extreme case, and I find it hard to believe. Does she ever look up from her phone? I wonder what her parents have to say about that. Do her parents pay her phone bill and are they aware of how much she texts? ( I guess now they are, after her photograph appeared in the Times.)
The world is changing rapidly because of technology. I'm glad that I had the opportunity to experience the world before computers changed the world. Obviously it will never be the same. I hope and pray the Church meets the challenges of the future and uses technology wisely and creatively.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fighting Evil and the Evil One

As reported in the news, apparently there is a shortage of priests who can perform exorcisms and there are people who think they are in need of an exorcist. That's pretty scary, that there are people who actually think they are possessed by evil. Poor things, they must be tormented. They need our prayers for sure. In any event, a two day training recently took place in Baltimore to train priests in the rite of exorcism, to enable them to cast out demons. The whole topic unnerves me to tell you the truth, but a part of me is fascinated by it, like many others. Exorcists use the powerful name of Jesus, or blessed sacramentals such as a crucifix or holy pictures and prayers to cast out evil. Interestingly I read that an ancient Jewish sect, The Essenes (scholars believe they wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls), performed exorcisms.
The two day training for priests, outlined the "scriptural basis of evil, instructed clergy on evaluating whether a person is truly possessed and reviewed the prayers and rituals that comprise an exorcism."
According to Cardinal DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston Texas, in a phone interview, with the media said, "Learning the liturgical rite is not difficult. The problem is the discernment that the exorcist needs before he would ever attempt the rite." A priest would have to discern whether mental illness was the real cause, of someone who believed they were possessed by an evil spirit or demon. That must be difficult to discern, because if a person was possessed, I would imagine that would cause mental illness, that would be enough to cause serious mental disturbance.
Evil is very prevalent in the modern world. The effects of evil are everywhere. Current events are filled with examples of how evil intentions, thoughts and actions bring chaos and destruction in our world.
I've read accounts in the lives of saints, of how they were tormented by the "evil one," and it's clear that evil tries to undermine the good works of hard-working, sincere people. I'm very aware that evil exists which is why I pray everyday, go to Mass and try to live a good life. (I also cover myself and my family with the sacred Blood of Jesus whenever I feel threatened as I know that is a powerful statement of faith.)
Since evil is active in the world, believers should be on their guard, stay close to Christ and use the Holy Name of Jesus often in prayer. As St. Paul said, we have to "put on the armor of God" and stay vigilant.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Women Give More To Charity

According to an interesting study I recently read, it seems women are more generous than men. (I hope that finding doesn't upset anyone.) According to the article, titled, "Study: Women Give More To Charity Than Men," by Donna Gordon Blankinship, "Women across nearly every income level gave significantly more to charity than men, nearly twice as much in some cases, according to a study by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. Nonprofits have long suspected that women were the driving forces behind many of the gifts they receive, but they haven't had much proof. But the results of this study are so decisive and consistent, they can stop wondering, said Debra Mesch, Director of the University's Women's Philanthropy Institute."
Women gave more often than men, in larger amounts of money and to many different charities. As women earn more, they are giving more.
It's common knowledge that women have always been very generous to the Catholic Church and to Catholic causes. But that can be said of both genders.
Maybe after this study is publicized, men will want to "challenge" women and start giving more themselves. That would be a good "contest," to see who can give more to charities, men or women, in future studies on giving. That "contest" would help charities raise money, in these difficult times.
I recently gave a talk to non-Catholic Christians for the first time. As a Catholic, I was honored to be asked by a group of Methodist women to give a talk on prayer. We also prayed together, as I wouldn't think of giving a talk on prayer without modeling prayer. In any event, the evening went very well and the socializing after the talk was great. These women could bake! The homemade apple pies and lemon bars were delicious. So it was a wonderful evening for all of us. And by the way, instead of taking a stipend for the talk, I asked the leadership to send a donation in my name, to one of the charities I support. It all ties in.......

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Mid-Term Election Surprises-Who Feels The Pain of Americans?

I'm not a political person, so I rarely write about political issues, but the midterm election results have captured my attention, like so many others. My husband and I discuss all the time: how worrisome the economy is, how unfortunate it is that so many people are losing their jobs and homes and how concerned people are for the future of their children. It seems to many people that a lot of people "in power", don't understand the depth of the crisis or how it's affecting the lives of Americans, because they've never been homeless, poor or lost a job. Whatever the case, most Americans feel "Washington" doesn't get their pain or insecurity and that's evident in the election results. People without jobs, who have been laid off, want to work, they need to work to pay their bills and for a feeling of self-esteem and self-worth. They want to contribute to the betterment of themselves, their families and society. People feel the American dream is slipping away for themselves and for their children and they're nervous, as they should be. My grandparents, who were immigrants, were able to realize the American dream, by moving to America from Italy in the early 1900's, establishing themselves here by getting jobs, buying homes and lifting future generations in their family, into the middle-class. That's getting more difficult for people to do.
It's no secret that suicides are up among the long term unemployed, people are still losing their homes to foreclosures and children are bearing the brunt as well. A New York Times article titled, "More Resigned Than Angry, Voters Seek a Fix for the Economy," by Kim Severson, quoted Ms. Suarez who said, "There are six kids in my house, I want them to have a future." People want to know their children will have jobs when they graduate from college (with huge debt in some cases). That's part of the American dream......getting a job after college.
The article stated, "Even at the student union at Ohio State University, young voters were more preoccupied with the economy than with war or social issues. 'I've got to find a job and the way it's going I don't know, that I'm going to', said John Breedlove, 22, a business student......"
There is real pain and anxiety in America, even for lucky people who have jobs but still fear becoming unemployed. Until lawmakers find a solution and really sympathize with what the lower and middle classes are struggling through during this economic crisis, the people will continue to show their dissatisfaction through voting for change.
Anytime I pray communally with people at a prayer group, someone is always praying for a family member or friend who has lost a job or who is looking for a job. God hears the cry of the poor and the downtrodden and God answers prayer, but government and business policies that encourage job creation have to help, so that prayers can be answered and people can begin feeling secure again, with feelings of self-worth through employment. People need work, purpose and a reason to hope. God needs people with sensible, practical solutions to be God's hands in the world and help the modern, struggling poor.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Some Scary Thoughts on Halloween

Today is Halloween. It's a beautiful day in the Northeast, so I thought I'd write a blog about some things I find frightening, in between opening my front door to adorable children dressed in costumes and wide smiles.
Human beings can be kind, wonderful, intelligent, generous and very good at times and at other times they can be mired in pride and arrogance which gets in the way of clear thinking. Pride is a deadly sin and arrogance isn't too far behind. What I'm referring to is a rather disturbing article I read at the Washington Post website titled, "Global Extinction Crisis Looms, New Study Says," by Juliet Eilperin. These types of articles "scare" me and my concern is not for myself but for my children and future generations of children. According to the article, "A growing number of creatures could disappear from the earth, with one-fifth of all vertebrates and as many as a third of all sharks and rays now facing the threat of extinction, according to a new survey assessing nearly 26,000 species across the globe." What are the causes? There are many causes such as destroying habitats where animals live, pollution, "invasive competitors," lack of concern and care. Selfishness, arrogance and greed would be some problems also associated with the loss of species. In my opinion, we're all guility to some extent, I don't think anyone has a perfect record on protecting the earth or the earth's creatures, to some degree we all have a part in this problem. Of course, there are some people who work very hard protecting the earth and the earth's creatures, and I think they should be applauded for their efforts.
Thank God for conservation efforts. According to an article in the Journal- Science, without conservation efforts now taking place, these losses would be twenty percent higher.
We always have to have hope. I try to be a hopeful Christian and think everything will turn out OK. I hope and pray future generations will take the problem of environmental degradation and global extinction of species seriously and they'll take action to improve conservation efforts. We can't really believe that we can continue the present course of action and not have a day of reckoning. We depend on the earth, it is our home too and we have to ensure that future generations are left with a flourishing natural environment.
May the Saints of God pray for us and ask God to give us the will and enlightenment to do the right thing! All you Holy Men and Women of God pray for us!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Seminary of the Immaculate Conception- 80th Anniversary

On Sunday, October 24th, I attended the 80th Anniversary Celebration of the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, NY. The evening included a Holy Hour of Prayer, followed by a Cocktail Hour and a Dinner. It was a wonderful evening of prayer and socialization. The idea of having Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction came from the inspiring rector, Msgr. Peter Vaccari, and it was a beautiful, holy, reverent way to begin the evening. Bishop William Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Center presided at the Holy Hour and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, the Bishop of Brooklyn preached. The evening honored the Seminarians, who not only helped throughout the evening but they provided the entertainment as well. They were just great, using their diverse gifts, from their different ethnic backgrounds, to entertain with their music. (It was obvious that they had a good time as well!)
I was accompanied to the event with my son and his girlfriend as well as a friend. I was so happy that we all had such a wonderful time. We sat at a great table, with other Friends of the Seminary. The Friends of the Seminary are a wonderful, generous group of people that help the Seminary through fundraising, volunteerism and support. The evening raised money for the Seminarians to help them with their studies and also to help the Seminary itself, which is an historic building which was opened on September 28th, 1930.
The Journal which was distributed that evening with journal ads from generous supporters had an article about the history and I quote, "Situated on West Neck Road in Huntington, Long Island, about forty miles from New York City, the Seminary stands on more than 200 acres of hilly land overlooking Cold Spring Harbor, Lloyd Harbor and Oyster Bay. The building is constructed in Spanish Romanesque style with a Byzantine tower. The unique beauty and tranquility of the Seminary building and grounds offer an ideal setting for retreats, days of recollection, workshops, and conferences......." It's a special place, I especially love the magnificent chapel, which has a holiness and sacredness that's evident to me.
I was happy to be a part of the 80th Anniversary celebration and to have my son and his wonderful girlfriend there with me, as well as all the other friends who were there. I even "won" one of the Silent Auction prizes so I had a gift basket to take home with me, filled with goodies. What's better than prayer and praising God, family, friends, dinner, entertainment, good conversation, doing good and receiving a prize too. What a great night!

Friday, October 22, 2010

It's Just A Matter of Time

In my humble opinion, it's just a matter of time before Archbishop Timothy Dolan is named a Cardinal. He's well liked in New York and for the most part, he receives good press. Anytime I meet someone in leadership from the Archdiocese of New York (which happened last weekend on Staten Island), they always have kind words and praise for the new Archbishop. Though I've never met him, the articles I've read about him, have given me a favorable impression of him. The explanation given in the New York Times article on October 21st as to why he wasn't named a Cardinal this time around (there will be a consistory in Rome on November 20th to install 24 new Cardinals, including two Americans) seemed accurate and plausible. According to the Times "To give New York a second cardinal and two votes in such a conclave, might be seen as giving it undue influence, scholars said." I agree, to give New York two votes in a conclave would be over the top, even by NY standards. Especially since New York is the center of the Universe (just kidding) and one of the greatest, most interesting, vibrant cities in the world (not kidding).
According to Christopher Bellito, a Church historian, who was quoted in the article, "It's simple math; it's not a snub. It would be highly unusual to have two cardinals from the same diocese." The article goes on to say that, "Archbishop Dolan appointed in April 2009, will probably not be named a cardinal until Cardinal Egan turns 80 and surrenders his place among the 120 cardinals who serve as papal electors."
It will definitely happen, sometime in the future, as nearly all Archbishops of New York have been named Cardinals, since the late 19th century.
In the meantime, being an Archbishop of New York is a great honor and achievement. And being well liked and keeping a positive attitude and a smile, in the midst of so much pressure, says a lot about the Archbishop. So it seems to me (and a lot of others too), he's on the right track. The "red hat" will come when the time is right and with God's favor.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Don't Give Up Praying

On Sunday in his homily, Pope Benedict said some important things about prayer. I'm always interested in reading about what others have to say about prayer. I give workshops and retreats on prayer, it's one of my favorite topics. Prayer has always come natural to me. What a blessing! I love all forms of prayer and I'm never at a loss for words in prayer. I hope I don't sound like I'm boasting, it is what it is.
I read at that the Pope made the following reflections about prayer during a homily at Mass in St. Peter's on Sunday, October 17th. He canonized six new saints at the Mass including the first male Canadian born saint-Andre Bessette and the first Australian saint, Mary of the Cross MacKillop. He began his homily with stressing "the necesssity to pray always, without tiring."
He said, "Sometimes we grow tired of prayer, we have the impression that prayer is not very useful for life, that it is not very effective. We are tempted to dedicate ourselves to activity, to employ every human method to accomplish our goals, and we do not approach God. But Jesus says that we must pray always and he does this through a specific parable."
The parable which we heard yesterday at Mass about the persistent widow is reason to hope. As the Pope said, "We must not give up hope, but always insist in prayer."
He went on to say that we must believe in the goodness of God and of course, faith is essential to prayer.
I certainly believe in the goodness of God and I also believe that God answers prayers in God's time and not our own. As it says in Scripture, "My ways are not your ways and my thoughts are not your thoughts......" We have to pray and leave the rest to God. In God's time, all prayers are answered, in one way or another. Hope is a wonderful thing.
Prayer is so much a part of who I am, I can't imagine life without it. Depending on the mercy, love and goodness of God, in all situations, is such a gift and a grace. Those of us who believe in God and can pray have an enormous advantage in life, in my opinion. I've written that a lot because I believe that's the truth. It's certainly true for me and my faith life.

Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (St. Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians- 5:17)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Power of Belief and Hope Shining in Chile

As other Catholic bloggers, as well as journalists and millions of TV and computer viewers worldwide have observed and commented upon, it is inspiring and awesome to view the Chilean miners emerging from two months of confinement underground, to pray, to hug loved ones, to see the sunshine. We take a lot for granted each day, but every moment of life is precious. 
I think of Jesus' words, "I have come that you might have life and have it to the full."
The father of one of the miners said, "I'm so overcome with emotion now, as if I've been touched by God." His son, Forencio Avalos, 31 years old, was the first miner to exit the rescue capsule, named the Phoenix, that brought him to the surface. That capsule brought him to freedom, to love, to the realization that with belief comes the fulfillment of hope, determination and courage that is beyond human understanding. 
As was printed in the New York Times, on the front page today, "The perserverance of the miners, trapped so far underground in a lightless, dank space, has transfixed the globe with a universal story of human struggle and the enormously complex operation to rescue them." But faith, deep belief in God and prayer were very much a part of the story too. Because in that lightless entombment were also Bibles, rosaries and endless prayers to God, filled with hope and possibility.  
The President of the proud country of Chile, Sebastian Pinera said before the successful rescue began, "We hope that with the help of God this epic will end in a happy way." With the help of God. I wonder how many prayers, how many Masses, prayer services and rosaries, were said for those trapped men. It's another example of people of faith, relying on their faith, in a time of crisis. That's one of the best things about faith, as far as I'm concerned, when you need it, it's there for you. That's why having faith and a relationship with God is so crucial in life, you never know when you will have to depend upon it. When you have it, when it's been nurtured in your life, it gives you courage and inner strength in difficult and trying times. It's a great gift. Faith is an anchor, providing courage and an openess to God's help, that's necessary and important,  as we've witnessed this time and at so many other times as well.  
We are seeing that being played out in Chile in countless ways, in emotional excitement and in gratitude to God. I've studied faith and the positive benefits of belief in God but watching the rescued miners, filled with faith, emerging from their crisis, waving small Bibles, dropping to their knees in thanksgiving to God, raising their hands in prayer, is what deep faith is all about. It's very visible and real, for the world to see, that the power of belief and hope is shining in Chile and it's a good thing. 

FYI-As mentioned above--dank space- damp, moist, humid

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Prayer and Exercise Work Together

I read the details about a promising new study linking the positive benefits of uniting prayer and exercise. According to the AOL article by Katie Drummond titled, Jogging with Jesus: Exercise Gets a Boost from the Man Upstairs, adding Scripture reading and prayer to workout programs encouraged women (who took part in the study) to walk an extra three miles a week. The study done at UCLA involved African-American women over the age of 60. Interestingly, more than 95 percent of African-Americans pray on a daily basis, so the researchers were trying to take advantage of existing community strengths (such as their strong belief in God and prayer) to promote health benefits. 
What a great idea and it's working, which doesn't surprise me.  For the study participants were divided into two groups. The more successful group, who had more positive outcomes, "engaged in Scripture readings and faith-based discussions" after the workout sessions. The other group spent time listening to talks on topics which were unrelated to faith. "Monthly meetings persisted for another six months. In a follow-up four months later, those who'd participated in the faith-based interventions were walking an extra 9,883 steps a week, compared with an increase of 2,426 steps among control group members. The first group also saw a larger decrease in resting blood pressure." 
Researchers think there are probably other benefits as well such as improving mood and better digestion. Adding a spiritual, religious element to exercise programs for believers, could prove to be a successful formula for weight loss and improving overall health. It's certainly worth a try. 
So even though I read Scripture everyday and pray, I'm going to try to combine them, at certain parts of the day, in the hope of seeing positive results in my ongoing struggle to lower my blood pressure and improve my health. I'll put this research to the test...myself and see how it works.
There are already Christian Churches who combine exercise and prayer/Scripture reading programs for their parishioners. These programs could be expanded to help people deepen their prayer life and understanding of Scripture while helping them to improve their health. Seems like a good combination to me. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

The St. Francis Pledge

When I visited Assisi, Italy with my son, who was a teenager at the time, I thought it was one of the most beautiful, serene places on earth. At the time, we went on a diocesan pilgrimage led by Bishop Thomas Daily. My son was the youngest pilgrim on the journey. Many other pilgrims were surprised that a teenager would agree to go, because of his age, but my son wanted to see Italy. It was his first trip there and he's been there many times since. He studied in Rome as part of his course work when he attended Scranton University. He happened to be in Rome when Pope John Paul II died and that proved to be an amazing experience for him. He was one of the people on line for hours, waiting to pay his respects when the Pope died. He told me on the phone that he was representing the family. That made me proud! 
The trip to Assisi, which was one stop on the pilgrimage, was wonderful and I fell in love with Assisi and told myself I would return one day, to spend more time there. 
St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology and animals lived, prayed and studied in Assisi Italy and it's easy to understand his love of nature and beauty, after seeing Assisi. St. Francis knew centuries ago what many people today are discovering and that is that we should honor and respect all God's creations and preserve them. Today on October 4th we celebrate his feast day. 
I was happy to read at that Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles in a letter to parishes dated Oct. 4th, will announce the formation of an Archdiocesan Creation Sustainability Ministry. He wrote, "We exhort our faith communities and all our brothers and sisters to take the St. Francis Pledge, an initiative that urges Catholics nationwide to pray for, learn about, assess, act and advocate for populations affected by climate change, especially those that are most vulnerable....The St. Francis pledge is a promise and a commitment by Catholic individuals, families, parishes, organizations and institutions to live our faith by protecting God's creation and advocating on behalf of people in poverty who face the harshest impacts from global climate change..."
What a great idea! I applaud Cardinal Mahony for this initiative. It makes perfect sense to me. In my humble opinion, the Dioceses' of Rockville Center, Long Island and the Brooklyn Diocese should consider a similiar initiative. They both have a border on the Atlantic Ocean and so climate change should be an important topic to be addressed and prayed about. 
Protecting the environment is part of Catholic social teaching and Pope Benedict has spoken about caring and protecting the environment many times in homilies and talks he's given.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Obese Nation

According to an online article I read at the AtlanticWire titled U.S. Still Tops in Increasingly Obese Developed World, by Max Fisher, "The U.S. now has the highest adult obesity rate in the developed world, 34 %, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development." As health care costs skyrocket, this is becoming more and more of a concern. 
With all the data and research showing how bad being overweight is for your overall health, Americans still can't seem to resist unhealthy, high calorie foods and treats. I understand the problem, believe me. Being of Italian descent and loving food myself, especially foods such as pasta, bread and bagels (everyone knows NY has the best bagels), I can sympathize with overeaters. 
We all know what we have to do to lose weight and improve health, but eating mindfully is not so easy. But if you try to watch what you eat and exercise as well, you can see results and feel good about making progress. Walking is a great form of exercise, so you don't have to do workouts to benefit, even alittle exercise is better than nothing. 
The studies I've read about the perils of being overweight are scary. Besides causing high blood pressure and increasing your chances of gettting a stroke or heart attack, being overweight can increase incidences of diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's Disease, and increase your chances of an early death. It makes good sense to watch your calorie intake everyday and make good choices when it comes to food. 
According to Dr. Steven Garner, MD, who writes a column for Brooklyn's diocesan newspaper, The Tablet, exercise is crucial to maintaining a good weight as we age. He recommends, "Exercise into old age-regular exercise is one of the best predictors of a long life..."
As I've mentioned before, in other blog entries, as Catholic Christians we believe that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and we should nurture, care for and honor our bodies. And that means trying to resist too much food intake. It takes discipline to pass up fattening treats which taste good and satisfy but practicing discipline (including fasting), when it comes to eating, can carry over into other aspects of your life and improve your health. Discipline is good for the mind, body and soul. All the major world religions have been preaching that for thousands of years. There is obviously something to it. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Beautiful Seminary

The beautiful Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Lloyd Harbor, Long Island, New York will be celebrating the 80th Anniversary of its opening on Sunday, October 24th, beginning at 4:00 PM. It's going to be a wonderful evening of prayer and celebration. I am very much looking forward to the event. When eighty years ago, Bishop Molloy (3rd Bishop of Brooklyn), dedicated the new Seminary, it was a dream come true for him and a great accomplishment. The Seminary has magnificent grounds and is located on 235 pristine acres on the North Shore of Long Island. From parts of the Seminary grounds you can see the Long Island Sound. Years ago I was on retreat at the Seminary so I've walked the grounds and prayed in the main chapel (many times), which I find to be a very special and holy place. The building itself is an architectural gem, built in the Spanish Romanesque style. I've done fundraising and volunteer work at the Seminary for years, in the hope of preserving the building, the grounds and also to help the wonderful seminarians who live and study there. They are such good guys! By the way, they are also a talented group of men.  
The history of the Seminary is great. On September 28th, 1930, over 25,000 people attended the dedication ceremony. They came by boat (1,000 arrived on the Rensselaer which docked nearby), there were 5,000 cars parked on the Seminary property and according to The Tablet (Brooklyn's diocesan newspaper) over a 1,000 people came by a special Long Island Railroad train, with buses bringing them to the Seminary. 
Everyone involved with the 80th Anniversary celebration is hoping that at least 250 people will attend the event on October 24th.  The evening will include a Holy Hour, Dinner and entertainment (and of course a silent auction and raffles). Both Bishop DiMarzio of the Brooklyn Diocese and Bishop Murphy  of the Diocese of Rockville Centre will attend. 
If you'd like to attend, call the Seminary and ask for Beverly Malone, the Director of Development and she will give you all the registration information or e-mail her at I'm sure you will enjoy the evening. 
By the way, another reason I love the Seminary is that Mary is the patroness of the Seminary and I have a great love and devotion to Mary. Everything ties together in the spiritual realm. It's truly amazing for people of faith, who have so much spiritual abundance and an awareness of God's grace, it's such an advantage and so helpful on the journey of life. 

"I thank you Mary, my maternal and heavenly Mother, for the many blessings you've given me and the prayer lifted to Jesus and answered for me. Amen. 
Like St. Therese I say too, "I Love You Mary."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Freak Storms the New Norm?

I hope it's not the case that freak storms, such as we experienced on Thursday evening in NYC and the suburbs will happen more frequently in the future. But that's what some scientists have been predicting, from articles I've read in the last few months. 
Earlier in the day, before the storm hit on Thursday, I was speaking with a friend,  outdoors, after a luncheon we attended had finished. I noticed the dark clouds moving in and an ominous wind picking up. I was glad I lived nearby. 
I was eating dinner when the storm began and the wind started to blow fiercely. I'm always concerned about storms, because there are large trees surrounding my house.  Fortunately, my neighborhood was spared, for the most part.  
But as we know, parts of Staten Island, Brooklyn, (Park Slope) and Queens experienced what turned out to be twin tornados and a macroburst (Middle Village, Queens). Sadly, over 1,500 trees were lost because of the storm, power outages, buildings damaged, massive traffic jams, loss of train service on Long Island, and worst of all, the death of a woman, killed by a falling tree. Her distraught husband was quoted as saying, "She was the most beautiful thing that ever happened in my life." How tragic, in an instant his wife was killed. Life is so fragile. It could have been anyone of us that evening. Some people are calling it a miracle that there was only one death, amid so much destruction. 
Tornados in New York City and the suburbs are rare, though there was one recorded in the Bronx in July. "The most recent ones from Thursday evening were the ninth and tenth tornados to hit New York since 1950."
I don't want to be the bearer of bad news, but according to predictions I read,  freak weather patterns and violent storms might increase in the future. The really scary part is that the future might be upon us. What is the cause? Global warming, the increase of the Earth's temperature.  Some people don't believe in the disastrous effects global warming is having on our planet, but I do believe (with millions of others) that it's taking place and will worsen, if we don't do anything to stop it. The repercussions of destroying our atmosphere through pollution and poor care of the Earth, is already starting to affect our lives. God's beautiful creation, should be well cared for and protected and we need to teach our children that as well.
The people of Russia, who experienced a terrible drought and wildfires this summer now consider global warming a serious threat. The people of Pakistan who experienced apocalyptic flooding are wondering if global warming is the cause of their epic disaster. 
We all can do something to lessen global warming. Even small changes can make a difference. 
A change as simple as changing to energy saving lightbulbs can make an enormous difference, if everyone does it. I hope everyone begins to take global warming seriously before it's too late. According to scientists, there is a point of no return. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Living Without God's Wisdom-Human Junkyards

If you live without God, if you live without faith, prayer and God's word, in my opinion, your life can become meaningless, stressful, unbearable at times and without hope. Obviously, others feel this way as well. Some young people are resorting to doing insane things to their bodies and I can't imagine what would cause someone to do the following. I read about a new "trend" among some teenagers (what could they possibly be thinking or feeling?) where they use themselves as "human junkyards." What this means is that some teenagers are embedding objects into their skin. It seems these kids have found a new way to be self-destructive. An online article at ParentDish described this alarming trend. "According to Business Week, a 16-year-old recently showed up in an emergency room with 20 odds and ends including paper clips, pencil lead and even a pair of eyeglasses--inside her body...She reportedly put them there in an excruciatingly painful process called self-embedding." 
According to researchers and doctors, these teens don't want to kill themselves they just want to hurt themselves. These acts are similar to other forms of self-mutilation such as cutting and burning and these troubled teens are ashamed of their behavior and try to hide it. 
It was difficult for me to read the article and write about it. It is so sad. Many of these teens have pyschological disorders, and they tell researchers that it's easier to deal with "physical pain than emotional pain." Strangely, they are trying to relieve internal pain.
I can't imagine what type of internal, emotional turmoil these young people are experiencing that they would hurt themselves. They need our prayers and anyone who works with teens, needs to find ways to reach out to troubled youth in our society, with solutions that help them deal with stress, rejection and alienation. Some solutions might be teaching them the importance of  Christian meditation, prayer, rituals, exercise routines, counseling etc. 
By the way, these were not isolated cases. Researchers wrote that between 13-23% of teenagers hurt themselves. That is a high statistic. 
As Catholic Christians we believe that we are made in the image and likeness of God and that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. If teenagers were taught that, if it was reinforced at home and if they internalized that message and believed it, they would never hurt themselves on purpose. Prayer is so important for children, teens and adults and quality family time as well. Giving children a spiritual life and a relationship with God from an early age is crucial to good and healthy human development, in my opinion. 
Without God, without God's inspired word and wisdom, life can become unbearable for so many. Without God, hope fades and despair overcomes logic and good sense. 
Please pray for teenagers in our country that they will find hope in trusting in God and they will seek out professional help when they need it.  

"Be still and know that I am God" 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Fringe Pastor Gains Worldwide Attention

Reading the New York Times on Friday morning, with my breakfast, I was surprised to see a couple of items in the paper. For one, there was a front page article about Protestant Pastor Terry Jones from Gainesville, Florida, who gained worldwide media attention for his inflammatory idea to burn copies of the Koran on Sept. 11th. I was concerned as to what the repercussions would be, if that ever happened. I wasn't the only one. General Petraeus warned that if Koran's were set on fire, American troops could be endangered. 
 Pastor Jones managed to be interviewed on CNN the other night and he has consented to 150 other interviews. His congregation is small but his present audience is very large. The article in the Times blamed the summer news lull and the 24-hour news cycle (the internet) for the amount of media attention given to this story. Kathleen Carroll, the executive editor of  The Associated Press, said this, "Before there were riots and heads of states talking about him, it could have been a couple of paragraphs in a story about September 11th commemorations....It's beyond that now." I'll say it is.
As stated in the New York Times article, Chris Cuomo, an ABC News anchor wrote this on Twitter, "I am in the media, but think media gave life to this Florida burning......and that was reckless." 
Getting back to my morning reading of the Times, I was surprised to see a full page advertisement, in the middle of the paper (I can't imagine what that cost!), titled, "Burning the Qur'an does not illuminate the Bible." The American Bible Society sponsored the ad but the names listed of those who supported the message were impressive. Among them Catholic Archbishops: Archbishop Charles Chaput, Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Archbishop Wilton Gregory (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops), and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios and many other Protestant leaders, and others as well.  
When I studied at Fordham, I had a religion professor, Dr. Gloria Durka who had a favorite expression that I loved, "You can't make this stuff up." I think it applies here....this story took on a life of its own. 
I ask: When will we all learn to live in peace and respect each other and our common beliefs that are good and holy? Maybe future generations will learn to live in peace and goodness.  I hope so. Having said that, I'll go to sleep.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Controversial Stephen Hawking

Billions of people in the world believe in God, in a Supreme Being, who is Creator and Sustainer. Billions of people believe in God's inspired Word, the Bible. Or other holy books and wisdom writings. Billions of people rely on prayer to offer them inner strength and courage in dealing with day to day anxiety and stress and also the crisis of life. They have a real sense and conviction as I do, that prayer helps, in one way or another. At times, throughout salvation history people witness and experience miracles that cannot be rationally explained by science. There is no question, that religious beliefs help people to be better human beings (the majority of time). Religion helps them to be more compassionate, giving and hopeful. Believers come from all backgrounds and educational levels, from intellectuals, (even scientists) to children (I taught religion to children for many years and from personal experience I can say they are open to mystery and the belief in God). It makes perfect sense to them. And yes, even in the scientific community there are believers. 
As far as I'm concerned (and there are billions who would agree) there is proof for the existence of God. It can be found in the order, diversity and beauty found on our planet and in the Universe. That is proof enough for me. But my deep faith also reinforces that knowledge. I use my intellect and rational thought, as well as my deep faith, to try and understand the big questions in life. Some of the things I've read support my belief in God.
Interestingly, our Solar System is located in one of the "quieter," and less chaotic places in the Milky Way galaxy. Thank God for that! The magnificent colors on our planet and the diversity and order is proof of a Divine Creator/Artist who created with intent, purpose and exactness. I took a walk today, in the glorious sunshine and was admiring the beautiful colors of the flowers in my neighborhood and I thought to myself what if every bush, flower and tree were the same color-grey-how would our world look then? There is so much beauty in the colors present on Earth. The mathematical equations are perfect. What are the chances of that? The carbon levels needed to support life and sustain life on this planet were exact at the moment of creation. That is not a coincidence. There is a unique plan and design that points to an Intelligent, Supreme Being/Creator. 
I'm responding to the latest claim by scientist Stephen Hawking who has created a controversy by stating in his new book, "The Grand Design," and in interviews, his belief, "that God had no role in the creation of the Universe." He furthers states that, "because of the existence of gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing." In his book, he attempts to answer the "ultimate questions of life." But he does so without deep faith and so he misses the truth. I'm not a scientist so I really don't understand why he discounts a Creator because of the existence of gravity. But the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Westminster-Vincent Nichols, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Ibrahim Mogra as well as other religious leaders and intellectuals in England are "fighting" back with words of wisdom, as they should. 
Perhaps Stephen Hawking is bitter about his fate. Whatever his reason, there are enough believers in the world to "defend" belief in God, using classical proofs of the existence of God as well as the fact that billions of people believe. Billions of us can't be wrong.   And we will continue to believe, regardless of what anyone says, because God is real and Ultimate Reality.

Physics on its own will not settle the question of why there is something rather than nothing.  (Archbishop of Canterbury- 9/10)

Monday, August 30, 2010

My Aunt's Eulogy

Today I gave a eulogy at my Aunt Connie's funeral Mass at Good Shepherd Church in Brooklyn, at the request of my cousins. I thought I would share it as it would be an extra tribute to the great Italian woman that she was in life. 
St. John of the Cross wrote, "In the evening of life, you will be judged on how well you have loved." Aunt Connie who now smiles at us from Heaven, knew how to love. Those of us who were fortunate to love her and be loved, know how well she lived and loved. She loved life. She loved excitement and adventure. She would tell us all, with a little sadness in her voice the same thing. She would tell me and all my cousins, "I can't live forever." But we wanted her to.
She spent her whole life loving, caring for others, giving of herself, sharing life and laughter, goodness and generosity and cooking the best Italian food we ever ate. As a child I remember all the people who came to our two family house on East. 52nd Street, to be part of our beautiful family. They came to visit, to share stories, to eat Aunt Connie's delicious Italian food, to laugh and play cards. She offered her family and friends warmth and hospitality.
Jesus' great command was, "Love one another as I have loved you." She fulfilled that very well. 
She looks at us from Heaven, in peace, surrounded by loved ones, in the light of God. She knows she fulfilled her purpose in life and brought joy and laughter to others. She's probably laughing with my brother Arthur now.
She was the loving, caring matriarch of a big, beautiful Italian family. Each one of us has a part of her in us. We were blessed to have her as a part of our lives. She enriched us all. She lives on in each of us in the good lives we live and share with others.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Love, Life and Prayer

My beloved aunt, who my entire family loves dearly (and who is like a mother to me), has been ill. She is the matriarch of our large Italian family and she is greatly loved by many people. She is older but she has a strong will to live, that is what love will do. In the last few weeks, all of us, her immediate family as well as her extended family have been visiting her, praying for her and trying to make sense of doctor's reports and her heart condition.
We have also had to rely on the goodness of a priest, (who I've yet to meet), who visits her as well as the other patients in the hospital. He has been to see her a few times, to pray with her and for her. What peace of mind that gives to us, to know that this wonderful priest, comes to Beth Israel Hospital in Brooklyn where she is, from a nearby parish to anoint her and pray for her. 
Yesterday her condition seemed dire and so I suggested to my cousin, to ask the nurse to call for a priest. And so this very good priest, once again came to anoint her and pray for her. Before I could drive from my house to the hospital, he had already been there to visit with her and pray. He told family members to call him if we needed him, he was so willing to help. I can't tell you the peace that gave to my entire family and most especially me.
It is so comforting to know that love, prayer and the goodness of others can help in difficult situations. When it comes down to it, what really matters in life? I think it's the love of family and friends, how much we are loved and cared for, our faith, prayers, Eucharist, anointing when we need it, the sacraments, belonging to a loving family and belonging to a faith community. In the end, that's what's real, that's what's important. The "stuff" that we spend our entire lives collecting, doesn't matter in the end, it's just stuff that will eventually belong to someone else or will be thrown away.  What matters in the end is love, family, God and also how much we have touched the lives of others. The question is: have we been a blessing to others?   
Anyone who doesn't think they need a religion, or a faith community or belief in God, or prayers, is making life more difficult for themselves, in my opinion. They're taking the hope out of life. I knew the importance of belief and prayer before this situation. But once again, I'm living it, in the here and now. The benefits of belief are what I'm immersed in and belief is a very good thing, especially when there is a crisis in life, uncertainty or illness. 
Also, the prayers and generosity of this priest, who is so available to help us and especially my aunt, has made a difficult and trying situation so much easier and comforting. That is why faith is so important for human beings. It's there when you need it, it strengthens you and gives you courage and the ability to persevere. Faith helps you deal with the difficulties and trials in life. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rosary Bead Fashion Trend

An online article I read at titled, "Rosary Bead Fashion Trend-Australian Catholics Outraged," by Erin Donnelly states that some Church leaders in Australia are upset because Australian teenagers are wearing rosary beads as a fashion accessory. One fashion boutique in Sydney offers the "cross-adorned prayer beads" in three styles. Madge Fahy, the Catholic Women's League Australian President complained that, "They don't have the right to abuse our religious objects. Rosary Beads are used solely for prayer. Don't wear them unless you're prepared to use them for what they're made for. They're not a fashion item." 
On the other hand, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Sydney told a local newspaper that perhaps the wearing of rosary beads could start a spiritual awakening in local youth. She said, "The trend 'trivialized' the faith but could actually spur a 'spiritual awakening' in the wearer." I agree with that.  Perhaps the Archdiocese should suggest that Catholic teens who wear rosary beads, say at least one "Hail Mary" each day (as a start) to show respect for the Blessed Mother and to acknowledge the sacramental they're wearing is meant for prayer. Of course, rosary beads should be used for prayer and not just for a fashion accessory.   Also, the Archdiocese could ask the teens to bring their rosary beads to Mass and have a ritual blessing of the Rosary beads. Teenagers would like that very much, I would imagine.  That would be a good way to evangelize the youth and it could be a teachable moment.  Some catechesis on the Rosary, during a homily at Mass would be helpful as well. 
A young girl, a resident of Sydney told the newspaper that she bought the rosary "because I liked the color and the length of the necklace and crosses are such a beautiful and peaceful symbol."  (Crosses are showing up everywhere in fashion.  I recently saw a photograph online of a famous movie star, wearing a black clutch bag with a huge gold crucifix on it. It was a designer bag and probably very expensive.)
The Rosary is a powerful prayer, as many saints have said.  I try to say a Rosary everyday and the "fruit" of saying the Rosary is very evident to me. 
The Church in Sydney and elsewhere should try to use this "latest religious fashion trend" as a way to reach out to young people and draw them in. Young people are searching for meaning and purpose and Christianity holds many of the answers they are looking for. But it has to have appeal in the modern world, that's the reality of it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

To Pray Or Not To Pray?

I'm going to weigh in on the blogger commentaries and media interest concerning Christopher Hitchens. Mr. Hitchens is an outspoken atheist and author, who is dying of esophageal cancer. His prognosis is not good and that's according to information he gave during an interview with a national correspondent for The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg. In the video I watched, Mr. Hitchens says, "I'm dying." He is "battling cancer," and I know too well the devastation that disease causes having lost my mother and my young brother to cancer. I am sorry for Mr. Hitchens, for his pain and suffering. Everytime I hear of someone dying of cancer, I think to myself, "How come we don't have a cure yet?" Billions of dollars in research and no brilliant scientist has found the cure yet?........That's frustrating. But that's another story for another day. 
Mr. Goldberg questioned Mr. Hitchens on mortality, having cancer and his religious beliefs. Mr. Goldberg asked this interesting question, "Do you find it insulting for people to pray for you?" His answer was that he doesn't find it insulting, as long as people truly wish him well and are praying for his recovery and not for him to be saved. Very interesting. 
Mr. Hitchens looked concerned on the video clip and stressed out. And who wouldn't be in his situation. But it puzzles me, why he wouldn't opt for hoping, for belief in God, why he wouldn't open himself to the possibility of God's love and mercy? Belief in God gives hope to human beings especially in horrific situations such as the one Mr. Hitchens finds himself in. Prayer also helps in this situation. Prayer can bring about a change of heart, or a change in attitude. Sometimes miraculous things happen when people pray. There is always some positive change with prayer, and if you pay close attention to how prayer effects people and situations, you can become aware of that fact. 
Mr. Hitchens believes that religion is man-made. Certain rules and laws are man-made, that is true. But religion is based on the fact that God does exist and God's existence has been revelaed to us over and over again, especially through God's word.  Believers are responding to God's love and self-revelation and that's why we believe. We are just opening ourselves to the mystery of God and responding through prayer, worship and belief. We should also be responding with deep love, as the saints suggest. 
I wish Mr. Hitchens would read the Bible, the Hebrew Scriptures, especially the Psalms and the New Testament, for I think it would make him feel better and give him hope. It doesn't cost anything and there is much to gain. He doesn't have to believe in God,(though I wish he would, for his own sake), but at least reading the inspired word of God would help him to feel better. Just a suggestion......check out the video clip--

Monday, August 9, 2010

This Is The Truth!

Today is the feast day of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) and I couldn't let this feast day go by without writing something. I have always been fascinated with Edith's life story and who wouldn't be. She searched her whole life for truth, she became a great philosopher and teacher, so finding truth and the meaning of life, were especially important to her. She had the intelligence to grasp philosophical ideas and concepts that most of us would find challenging. Her searching brought her to Catholicism, to the "arms of Jesus" and to the Carmelite Order. She would eventually become a Carmelite nun and suffer a martyr's death in a gas chamber in Auschwitz, with her sister Rosa, in 1942. Edith Stein was highly intellectual and her intelligence and ability to reason, brought her to Christ, the greatest of truths.
Edith Stein was born in Breslau in 1891, the youngest of 11, as her family were celebrating Yom Kippur, the Feast of Atonement.  She had a Jewish upbringing, yet she would lose her faith as a teenager. She was an excellent student throughout her life. As an adult, she would study with the greatest German philosophers of her time, no small accomplishment for a women. 
At the University of Gottingen, she became the teaching assistant and pupil of Edmund Husserl, a well-known and respected philosopher. She met another philosopher while there, named Max Scheler, who introduced her to Catholicism. According to the Vatican website, "During this period she went to Frankfurt Cathedral and saw a woman with a shopping basket going in to kneel for a brief prayer. She wrote, ' This was something totally new to me. In the synagogues and Protestant Churches I had visited, people simply went to the services. Here, however, I saw someone coming straight from the busy marketplace into this empty church, as if she was going to have an intimate conversation. It was something I never forgot.' "
One evening she stayed at a friends' house and she picked up a copy of St. Teresa of Avila's autobiography, that was in their library. She couldn't put it down and read it throughout the night. In the morning, she declared to her friends, "This is the truth." Finding that truth would lead her to conversion. Edith Stein had found Jesus, ultimate truth. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." Once finding Jesus, there was no turning back for Edith, she devoted her life to serving Him. It is an inspiring story. 
When I get to Heaven, Edith Stein is one of the many saints, I'd like to have a conversation with. (I hope that's one of the perks of being in Heaven!) What a great woman saint! In my opinion, she should be the 4th women to receive the title Doctor of the Church. (There are only 3 women so far, to be given the title, Doctor of the Church). She wrote over 17 volumes. She was a genius and out of all the philosophies, ways of life, and ideals she could have embraced, she chose Jesus. It is what it is and it's remarkable. 

My longing for truth was a single prayer.  (E.S.)

One cannot desire freedom from the Cross, when one is especially chosen for the Cross.   (Edith Stein)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Giving Pledge Project

What great news!  I've prayed for this to happen for many years (that the rich would share their enormous wealth with the less fortunate). So when I read the following article on Daily Finance I was overjoyed! The article titled, "Hearts of Gold: Forty Billionaires Pledge to Give Bulk of Wealth to Charity" by Carrie Coolidge describes how Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and his friends and co-founders of this project, Bill and Melinda Gates, started a charitable project called, "The Giving Pledge." This amazing, long-term charitable project targets billionaires to pledge to donate the bulk of their wealth to philanthropic causes. Already 40 of America's wealthiest families and individuals have signed on and agreed to "give a majority of their money to charitable organizations, either during their lifetime or after their death." New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has already signed on to the project. 
A few months ago I saw a TV special which highlighted the friendship and vision of both Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. They spoke about their friendship and how they wanted to use their money and resources to help the less fortunate and bring positive change to the world. I was so impressed with their vision and their desire to use their money for good causes, such as to eliminate starvation and find the cure for diseases. 
Apparently, they brainstormed and came up with this idea to convince wealthy people (who have more money than they could ever possibly spend in a lifetime) to give away at least half of their wealth. It's a brilliant idea. It can make a real difference for the future of humankind. Perhaps diseases will be cured,  hunger will lessen or be eliminated in third world countries, perhaps the people of Haiti (and other poor countries) will one day live in real houses (instead of tents) and have an opportunity for a better life. There is no telling how much good and positive change can occur from this noble project. 
It gives me hope for a better tomorrow for humankind. To view the list of names of those who have contributed to this cause, go to:
Hopefully their good example and witness will encourage others to do the same.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Impressive Episcopal Motto

I love the Episcopal motto chosen by Bishop David O'Connell, the newly ordained bishop of Trenton, New Jersey.  Bishop O'Connell, CM is the former president of Catholic University of America. Bishop O'Connell will assist Bishop Smith for now and succeed Bishop Smith as the 10th bishop of the diocese, after Smith retires. I read Bishop O'Connell's ordination remarks and I was impressed by what I read. The ordination took place in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral in Trenton on Friday. Over 1,000 people attended, including 50 bishops and over 250 priests.
These are the remarks that I liked, "The other day someone asked me how long it took to come up with my Episcopal motto, Ministrare non Ministrari-to serve and not to be served to which I responded 'about two seconds.' When I was first ordained a Vincentian priest--(and I am so happy to see so many of my confreres here)-the gospel reading for the ordination Mass contained those words of Jesus Christ in Mark's gospel. I was struck with the phrase then as being a perfect description of how to follow the Lord as a priest: 'to serve and not to be served and to give my life as a ransom for the many.' This was how I wanted to live out my life as a priest. This is how I want to live out my life as a bishop and how I hope to exercise that responsibility."
To serve and not to be served will be a great challenge for Bishop O'Connell. To remain humble and a servant of the people will mean renewing that pledge and promise every day he's bishop. Servant leadership is Christ-like and imitating Christ should be how every bishop serves the people of God. Administrative decisions and the many tasks of a bishop can, at times, make it difficult "to serve and not to be served", so it will take continual self-reflection, evaluation and self-knowledge to stay the course. I wish him well. It's a beautiful motto and I was moved by it. I pray he can live up to it. 
I pray all bishops try to serve God's people with great humility and with a servant, Christ-like, compassionate attitude. It's what the Church needs at this time in history, in my humble opinion.

A bishop serves his people by teaching truth.....The bishop is called to be a servant of the empty tomb, not of the status quo. He leads his people to holiness by bearing witness to what the empty tomb means: joy, hope, the promise of new life.
Bishop David O'Connell-7/30/10

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Picasso Exhibit

One of the many things I love about living in New York, not far from the city, is easy access to Manhattan. I love museums, most especially the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It has great art collections and the building itself is awesome. On a recent afternoon, I was happy my family accompanied me to the museum. Some extended family members came as well, so we were a big group.  The main purpose of the outing was to see the Picasso Exhibit. It is a landmark exhibition by the Spanish artist and genius, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). It features 300 works of art-paintings, drawings, sculptures and ceramics. Picasso was a "multi-sided genius." He had a long and successful career as an artist. 
 The museum was very crowded and so we each viewed the exhibit at our own pace. While waiting right outside the exhibit for everyone to finish viewing it, I found myself surrounded by magnificent works of biblical art. The Annunciation, the Assumption, the suffering Christ (a personal devotion piece), all deeply moving pieces of religious art. The museum has a stunning collection of religious art. Just sitting, waiting for the others, surrounded by magnificent works of art.....a great aspect of living in New York. (I didn't sit for very long, naturally religious art interests me too!)
A book I'm reading about the craft of writing suggests that self-enrichment is important for writers (and everyone else too).  Julia Cameron, the author, suggests you make an "artist date" with yourself. (You can bring others along as I did.) Making time to view good art, or visiting a new park, or a cathedral,  listening to a good piece of music or walking on the beach,  helps creativity to flourish.  What's interesting is that it doesn't have to relate to a project or writing piece you are working on. A variety of cultural or natural experiences is good for the soul and good for developing creativity. This is obviously something I'm very curious about.
I'm spending a few days on retreat. I love being on retreat, praying more, focusing on being calm and relaxing more. It's also nice being around people who are looking for the same thing, people who are willing to spend the time to grow closer to God, to get priorities in order, to reflect on what's really important in life.
Family time, viewing art masterpieces, The MET, self-enrichment, prayer, Mass, walking in nature, going on retreat, eating frozen yogurt, charity work, meeting friends for lunch, reading and writing....these are the things that make my life fulfilled. Having a spiritual life has made all the difference in the world.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Vanity of Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers (anyone born between 1946-1964) are a vain bunch. I'm a baby boomer myself. From what I've read most baby boomers (or a lot of them) have an aversion to aging. If they have to succumb to growing old, they don't want to look old or elderly. Baby boomers are expected to live longer than any previous generation of Americans. They make up approximately 26% of the population. Many want to stay active, which is great for overall health. Our culture is a youth obsessed culture. It's hard not to get caught up in it.
Losing weight is a great way to look younger and it also improves your health. It doesn't cost anything. Something as simple as incorporating a walk into your daily routine can make a big difference in your health. (A recent study claimed that women who walk regularly are less likely to get a stroke.) Walking has psychological benefits too, which is probably why writers suggest walking, as a way to get clarity of thought and inspiration.  
According to an online article (Business Wire), "Those born between 1946-1964 have found that there is a recipe to increasing longevity, combating aging and most importantly feeling younger than their true age, according to the 2010 Del Webb Baby Boomer Survey.....Many Baby Boomers are 'fighting' aging by being engaged in a variety of activities that keep their minds sharp, their bodies strong and their social life robust." According to the article, baby boomers have found their own fountain of youth. 
Baby boomers want it all. They want to stay young looking and keep their good health. And who can blame them. To be perfectly honest, I'm concerned with those things too. However, my "soul health" is extremely important to me too, as is my prayer life and my relationship with God and others. For me, having it all is being in right relationship with God and nurturing that relationship through all stages of my life. 

Also, if you want to do some interesting reading on the "Future of Catholicism," there are good articles at Patheos, being promoted by some well known Catholic bloggers--

Friday, July 16, 2010

Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

As a lay Carmelite I can't let this special Carmelite feast day pass without mentioning Mary and the origin of the devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I quote from the Lay Carmelite Formation Guide-Phase Two, by Thomas Zeitvogel, T.O.C., which I had to study (along with the Phase One book), in order to become a professed lay Carmelite. 
From the beginning, the entire Carmelite Family has been specially dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Indeed, we have always been known as the Brothers and Sisters of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Therefore, all Lay Carmelites shall honor our Lady with a special love and devotion. She is the model of all that we desire and hope to be. Carmelites have always put themselves under the maternal care of Our Lady, invoking her as Mother. The Order enjoys her special patronage and the Brown Scapular is a sign of her protection-a symbol of one's interior life of devotion to Our Lady. 
(Lay Carmelite Statues, Part I, Chapter 6, Marian Dedication)

As a lay Carmelite, I have a very large brown scapular that I wear to Carmelite meetings each month and also when Carmelites meet to pray together. It was because of my love and devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower and the Blessed Mother, that I began the journey, in the late 1990's to join the Carmelite Order. At the time, it was a sacrifice to go to formation classes and meetings, while working and raising my sons. But it was something I had to do. And I thank God that I did it. I wrote an article about my "Call to Carmel," which was published in a Carmelite journal many years ago. I belong to a wonderful chapter that meets monthly at St. Luke's Parish in Whitestone, Queens. 

From the beginning the hermits on Mount Carmel had a special devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. The brothers had a simple chapel at the center of their cells dedicated to St. Mary, the Lady of the Place, or the Lady of the Manor-Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
(From the Springs of Carmel-by Peter Slattery, O. Carm.)
Mary, full of grace, hear my plea,  along with your Son, Jesus, watch over me and protect me, on this special feast day and always. Amen. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Creative Thinkers Needed

I read part of a fascinating article which I will go back to finish, because it's definitely worth reading in its entirety. According to a recent article in Newsweek (7/19/10), titled Creativity in America, psychologists who specialize in studying creativity and collect data about it, state that since 1990, "American creativity scores have been falling." Very interesting.  Apparently, enriched learning environments are making children smarter, yet young children especially those in grades kindergarten through 6th grade have shown a decline in creativity. According to the article, "To be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result)." 
How sad that creativity is declining in America.  Both America and the global community need creative, innovative thinkers to solve major problems. Those problems include the clean-up of the Gulf of Mexico, (which is mentioned in the article),  finding creative resolutions to conflicts and war and helping to find solutions to other problems that burden humankind.  
When I started thinking about it, I realized it's a problem in the Church as well. Don't we need creative thinkers to help with evangelization, to improve the Church's image in the world, to promote vocations?........The list goes on. 
Greater creativity is definitely needed in the Church, in its leadership, both lay and ordained. The Church has the added advantage (the divine advantage I call it) of using human ingenuity and creativity and combining that with the power of the Holy Spirit. Prayer makes things happen. Developing and promoting creativity and innovative thinking and combining that with the power of prayer, would be dynamic.  The possibilities are endless. That's something to think about while on vacation. 
By the way, listening to classical music stimulates creativity. I've learned to appreciate classical music and to listen to it, in the hope it stimulates my creativity. That's an easy enough way to get started.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Writing, The Heat and Celestine

Today I did something I've always wanted to do, but was too busy to make time for. It was the first day of a creative writing course I'm taking at a local university. The last time I took a creative writing course was in high school. I'm hoping to deepen my creativity and get motivated to spend more time writing each day. The classroom was air-conditioned or it would have been unbearable. It was a hellish day in New York City and the suburbs. Was it really 104 degrees? It certainly felt that hot. 
I read with interest an online article by David Gibson at Politics Daily titled, "Pope Pondering Resignation? Benedict Visits Tomb of Pontiff Who Stepped Down." Everyone knows Pope Benedict would never step down (unless God suggested it, which is highly unlikely). The Pope has no reason to step down in my humble opinion, but I read the article because it's an interesting question. And I was fascinated to read that Pope St. Celestine V was canonized a saint, even though he did resign from the papacy in the year 1294. He was Pope for only five months.  Pope Benedict visited his tomb recently in central Italy, on the 800th anniversary of Celestine's birth and spoke about his holiness and his love of silence, before a crowd of 25,000 people. He didn't mention that Pope Celestine resigned from the papacy.
Pope Benedict did mention the following which I think is very important, "Silence became the element that characterized his daily life. And it is precisely in external silence, but above all in internal silence, that he succeeded in perceiving God's voice, a voice that was able to guide his life."
I love quiet and solitude, I've developed an appreciation for it, over the years. It's a great vehicle to holiness as many spiritual writers suggest.  Christian meditation and contemplative prayer are deep, fruitful and healing forms of prayer. 
I can see why Celestine didn't think the demands of the papacy were for him. It's a very demanding position as is being a Cardinal or Bishop. I'm glad the Church canonized Celestine even though he resigned from the papacy. Sometimes we have to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and walk in "darkness" for a while and then God lights the way. Celestine had previously been a hermit, he probably spent many hours in contemplative prayer and quiet, and I would guess he yearned to go back to that peaceful life.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

America My Home

I have a great love and appreciation for the country of my birth, the United States of America. I know I'm blessed to have been born here. Yesterday I spent the day with three of my young cousins, which always gives me joy. I was discussing with the two older ones the blessings we have in America.  Most middle-class and upper class children in America have no idea how blessed they are, (for the most part) and how fortunate they are to have been born in a great, first-world country, like the U.S. Like all children, they don't realize how most children in the world live, especially those in third world countries. When I asked my cousins (7 years old and 11) if they knew that many children in Haiti are living in tents, they couldn't quite understand that or what it meant. Tents are for camping, not for living in for long periods of time. It's hard for them to visualize that. And they're not alone. Years ago when I was teaching teenage girls in a Catholic high school in Brooklyn, I showed them a video about Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the Missionaries of Charity. The girls were in disbelief. They couldn't believe that some people actually lived in those horrific conditions. They doubted what they were seeing. We take a lot for granted. 
So as the July 4th weekend begins, I thank God for the "land of the free and the home of the brave" (The National Anthem). And I thank God my Italian immigrant grandparents  made the arduous trip to America and settled here in New York. New York City, one of the greatest cities in the world, with a dynamic and creative energy that must be experienced to be fully understood. 
Sadly, America is going through a difficult time. We need an ourpouring of God's grace. When I heard yesterday (as the stock market plunged on Tuesday) that consumer confidence was down, it was no surprise to me. Confidence is down period, everywhere, not only for consumers, but also for job seekers, for retirees, for the people in the Gulf region of the U.S., for Europeans and many Americans as well. 
The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues. That's surreal in itself. And then there's all the job losses in America, so many people out of work, that may never work again. 
How do people live without prayer, hope and belief in God? I can't imagine, that's a mystery to me. I always have hope for a better tomorrow which stems from my deep faith and my relationship with God. Being a Christian means having hope in God's saving plan. America has always been a blessed country, many people feel that way, not just me. It's a country built on religious values and truths, religious freedom and belief. 
Happy July 4th Weekend! May God's grace be with us. It's needed.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Desecration of the Tombs

The Vatican called it a violation. Pope Benedict called the raids deplorable that were carried out by Belgian police. I call it the desecration of the tombs. Definitions of the word desecrate include"to render unhallowed" or to "profane." Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, the archbishop of Belgium said, "It was worthy of the 'The Da Vinci Code.'" Yes, it certainly could have been a scene from the movie. What he was referring to was the incident in Belgium when the tombs of two archbishops were drilled into, in the Brussels Cathedral as part of a police action last Thursday. Police also detained members of the Belgian Bishops' Conference for nine hours while searching for documents related to sex abuse cases. They also found it necessary to search the tombs of archbishops. 
What a bizarre turning point in the ongoing crisis in Europe over the sexual abuse crisis. This strange episode, which sounds like a fictional story, shows the extent to which the crisis has undermined the credibility of the Church in Europe. At another time in history, this action would have been unthinkable. 
According to an article in the New York Times that I read, "In the Cathedral of Mechelen north of Brussels, the police drilled into the tomb of Cardinal Jozef-Ernest Van Roey and Cardinal Leon-Josef Suenens, two former archbishops of Mechelen-Brussels and used cameras to look for documents." 
In a statement expressing dismay over how the situation was handled the Vatican issued a statement reiterating "its strong condemnation of every sinful and criminal act of abuse of minors by members of the church as well as the necessity to repair and confront such acts in a way that conforms to the exigencies of justice and the teachings of the Gospel."
On Sunday the Belgian Justice Minister "stressed that the procedures used in the raids were correct and the bishops were treated normally." I didn't read what he said regarding the raiding of the tombs of dead archbishops. Surely he can't believe that the tombs were treated respectfully. 
In my opinion, this latest crisis makes it seem like the situation in Europe is out of control. The Church will need to do tremendous work to restore credibility in Europe and elsewhere. Much thought and prayer needs to be put into practical action which heals, transforms and helps the Church to move forward with hope. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Fascination With Fatima Prophecy

I recently read with interest an article from Brooklyn's diocesan newspaper, "The Tablet," from a May edition. I'm always saving newspapers, cutting  out articles I like and saving articles to read at a later date. I love the printed word. The article was titled, "Is Third Secret of Fatima Still A Secret?" by John Travis. It told about a small group of skeptics who recently met in Rome, not far from the Vatican, to discuss the third part of the Fatima message which the Vatican "explained" ten years ago. According to Vatican experts, the message didn't contain any apocalyptic message as "Fatimists" or members of the "Fatima Challenge movement" expected. This group was disappointed and insists there is still more to the prophecy. According to the article, "The pope's Vatican aides consider the 'Fatimists" a fringe element that is best ignored."
Fatimists believe that there was more to the third secret and they believe the explanation given of the third secret "removes the vision's apocalyptic scenario and lulls the faithful into a false sense of security." Looking at recent world events,  most especially at what's happening in the Gulf of Mexico and it's almost understandable why these skeptics might think there was something apocalyptic left out of the explanation. 
But anyhow, the prophecy or vision of the third secret was of a "bishop in white, who struggles up a hill amid corpses of slain martyrs, and then falls dead after being shot by soldiers." (Whether this bishop symbolized Pope John Paul II, who was shot and wounded on May 13, 1981 or a convergence of several 20th century pontiffs who helped the Church ward off the dangers, it doesn't mean someone must be killed." 
I'm just using my religious imagination......Perhaps the 'bishop in white' represents all the faithful baptized Christians struggling in modern times to grow spiritually and journey towards God. They struggle knowing they are surrounded by a "great cloud of witnesses", some of whom gave their life for the faith. All are united to them through the community of saints to which we all belong. What about the bishop being shot in the vision? Perhaps the bishop represents all the faithful who are "shot down," trampled over,  and persecuted in modern times, for the faith as they struggle to live the gospel message.
I guess there could be many interpretations of the vision. Vatican officials say there there is no cover-up, that there is no apocalyptic message that's being hidden or withheld. And more importantly, "The Fatima messages are not dogma and the Church does not impose belief or any single interpretation."