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.