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 bmalone@icseminary.edu. 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)