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.