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.