Saturday, October 29, 2011

Gambling in Queens, NY

Another distraction for the faithful. There are so many distractions in the modern world that entice people of good will away from God and prayer. So now right here in New York City, off the Belt Parkway in Queens, in the heart of the Diocese of Brooklyn, at Aqueduct Racetrack a "Racino" has opened. In October 1995 Pope John Paul II, during a historic visit to the United States celebrated Mass on a beautiful, sunny day at Aqueduct Raceway. I was there, along with my son. There were thousands of priests and Religious as well as 75,000 laypeople. It was a remarkable, holy event. That was then, this is now.
Hundreds of people waited on line, opening day to enter the Racino. It presently has 4,525 video slot machines and 475 electronic games and thousands more to come. Now gamblers and people just looking for some excitement will not have to go all the way to Atlantic City, Conneticut or Las Vegas, it's all very close now.
The Church is neutral on gambling. I understand that. I know many people who enjoy gambling and it adds excitement to their life. But according to anti-gambling forces, "the racino will addict millions of people to the detriment of their families...." I wonder how it will affect Church donations, in that area, if at all. Only time will tell.
Aqueduct is the first racino in New York City and probably not the last. There are a lot of tax revenues to be made from legalized gambling and many politicians are in favor of gambling for a variety of reasons.
I went to the website on and it had this to say about gambling......
"The Bible does not specifically condemn gambling, betting or the lottery. Scripture does warn us to stay away from the love of money, attempts to get rich quick. But gambling in moderation is not necessarily evil....." Let's hope people use moderation and don't get addicted and lose control. We can only hope and pray for the best outcome, because gambling in NYC is here to stay.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Desecration of Another Church

When I saw the photograph (check out the Deacon's Bench) of protesters in Rome walking past a shattered statue of the Blessed Mother, it shook me up. There was something very cold and callous about people walking past a desecrated statue of Mary without feeling or remorse. They hardly saw her, which is quite unnerving, to see their disregard. It happened near the Lateran Basilica in Rome on a day in which worldwide protests were planned against greed, poor economic conditions, high joblessness and a loss of hope. Most protests around the world were peaceful and lawful, but in Rome the protests turned violent and destructive. The evil one was present there, causing the usual havoc, discord and violence. The devil's stamp was on it, whenever you have the desecration of holy statues, consecrated religious articles and a crucifix, it's quite obvious that the evil one took part (my opinion, of course). The Vatican condemned the violence and hopefully there will be better security in the future, if any protests are planned. Sacred, religious sites must be well protected.
It's getting a little scary. As I put up Halloween decorations this evening, I thought about what's really frightening in our world. It's not goblins and ghosts but the thousands of discontented, frustrated and feed up people who want change and a better life and a better future for their children. Something is out of whack, hopelessness is a dangerous thing. People have a right to protest and a right to seek a better life, but no one has a right to use violence or to desecrate sacred statues or a crucifix. Let's hope that never happens again.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Christopher Hitchens-Famous Unbeliever

I read an article about Christopher Hitchens in the New York Times titled, "A Voice, Still Vibrant Reflects on Mortality," by Charles McGrath. Mr. Hitchens is the "famous" atheist and writer, who recently received an award-"The Freethinker of the Year Award." Though flattered by the award, his response was interesting, "I think being an atheist is something you are, not something you do, I'm not sure we need to be honored. We don't need positive reinforcement. On the other hand we do need to stick up for ourselves especially in a place like Texas, where they have laws, I think, that if you don't believe in Jesus Christ you can't run for sheriff."
Christopher Hitchens has been discussed and blogged about frequently not only because he's a famous atheist but also because he is the author of a controversial book (the title I can't even write) and also he is suffering from esophageal cancer. Having lost a mother to cancer, I know what a dreadful disease it is, so I feel sad for his condition.
I have a few thoughts for Mr. Hitchens, though I doubt he'll ever read them. Just as he can't understand belief in God and the mystery of God's existence, I will never understand atheists. I haven't read Mr. Hitchens book, I'm too busy reading books on spirituality, belief, and Scripture. What puzzles me and disturbs me is the following: I think (it's just my opinion of course) that if Mr. Hitchens had faith and could pray to God, it would make his journey at this time of his life easier and more comforting. That's one of the benefits of belief but atheists choose to reject God and God's invitation. As I have experienced it, faith is a big help when a crisis develops, illness strikes, or life's challenges hit. Prayer helps people deal with the big problems in life, God's presence is comforting in situations such as the one Mr. Hitchens is going through and yet he chooses to hold fast to his unbelief, even when it's hurting him on some level. But, of course, atheists don't see it that way. But the studies support what I'm writing and what I have experienced firsthand: prayer heals and helps, God's presence is nurturing and soothing and building a relationship with God through prayer and rituals is calming for human beings and helps our salvation as well. I have received inner strength and courage for the journey of life, which is filled with disappointments and challenges because of prayer, because of the support I've received from a faith community, at different times in my life. God is real and miraculously willing to be in relationship with those who accept his invitation to love.
I believe that God is reaching out to Mr. Hitchens, (though I don't know why I think that). I believe that God who is merciful and persistant wants to comfort him during these difficult days, God wants to give him the support he needs and the certainty of belief in eternal life. He will face his Creator someday, as we all will and then he will know, what he doesn't know now.
There are some mysteries that we just have to accept as mysteries. We can't fit God or the thought of God or God's ways into our minds, God is much more that that. God is a Supreme Being, hidden, mysterious and more complex than the human mind can handle or figure out. That's why God is God and we are creatures. We don't know everything and that's how it should be. God chooses to remain hidden, that's the way it should be and the older I get, I realize just how much of a genius God is and how hiddeness is most appropriate for a Supreme Being.

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that thy blood was shed for me.
And that thou bidd'st me come to thee
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Just as I am, thou wilt receive, Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve,
Because thy promise I believe
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
(Charlotte Elliott-19th century)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Protesters of New York City

As most everyone has heard by now, several hundred protesters have been gathered at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, in the financial district for a few weeks. They say they are there for the long haul. Their movement is called, "Occupy Wall Street," though the police will not let them too close to Wall Street for obvious reasons. Several hundred have been arrested for civil disobedience and trying to obstruct traffic. On TV it sometimes looks like its getting out of control. What's going on here?
I'm not a political person but I will comment about this because it has to do with social justice. These protesters are reading the same articles and listening to the same commentary that I am. Some of it is infuriating. Recently I read the following and I can see how it would upset people who've lost jobs or homes to foreclosure. The article stated something like this.....CEO's of major corporations lay off hundreds of people and then those CEO's are given a large raise within the next year. The very rich, CEO's included are buying summer homes in expensive areas for millions of dollars, while middle class people are falling out of the middle class at a rapid rate.
Don't get me wrong, I like capitalism, I think it helped make our country great, but something is obviously wrong here. People need good jobs with a fair wage to support their families and give them dignity and purpose in life. Students need to be able to pay off their student loans without resorting to prostitution (which I was shocked to read at Huffington Post is actually happening in our country and it's not only a few cases). The title of the article, "Seeking Arrangement Using 'Sugar Daddies" To Pay Off Loan Debt," by Amanda Fairbanks sent me into a tailspin.
It comes back to greed, which is one of the seven deadly sins. Yes, that is one of the sins that the protesters are protesting against-corporate greed.
So the protests will continue and perhaps grow until corporations become more compassionate, a good jobs plan is passed and jobs stop being outsourced and more products are made in the USA and purchased by Americans. Common sense approaches that work to give people back their dignity and an opportunity for a better life.

Monday, October 3, 2011

"Celebrate Our Seminarians"

Last evening I attended a great event at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, Long Island titled, "Celebrate Our Seminarians." It began with a Holy Hour which included Eucharistic Exposition, Benediction and Evening Prayer. Bishop Murphy, the bishop of Rockville Centre presided and it was sacred and reverent. Bishop Murphy spoke during his homily about the need for prayer. He said, "We can choose anxiety/worry or we can choose prayer...." I liked the way he put it and I'll remember that. It's something I believe very strongly in-the power of prayer and the need for it in the modern world we live in, which sadly is filled with so much uncertainty. (The Scripture from yesterday's Mass comes to mind from St. Paul, "Don't worry about anything, but pray about everything." (I often share that quote with children and adults when I speak and I have it placed into my "Magnificat.") But anyhow, another thing that Bishop Murphy did was during the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament he spoke directly to God, looking at the monstrance, as if no one else was present. I can't remember the exact words he used, but those words were filled with praise and love and it moved me. I told him so afterwards. He replied, "You can do that too." And that's true, of course, but it takes a certain amount of confidence to do it in public prayer.
After the holy hour, the cocktail hour began in the Cloister area outside the Seminary overlooking the beautiful grounds. The dinner in a big tent on the grounds, came next.
The seminarians who are a talented bunch of guys from both the Dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre provided the entertainment which was very good. There was a great spirit of fun, as well as some serious moments when a seminarian shared his vocation story. God kept calling him until he answered God's call. God never gave up. It was uplifting. I thought afterwards, if only more responded yes to God.....if only more were truly listening and attentive to God...........
A great time was had by all. I was glad that S. Alice Michael, my friend and guest for the evening enjoyed herself. She works so hard for the Diocese of Brooklyn, in an administrative position that she deserved a nice evening of relaxation. Msgr. Peter Vaccari, the rector of the Seminary worked hard to ensure it was a great evening, as did Beverly Malone, the Director of Development. It was a success!
It was an evening of Catholicism at its best-prayer, reverence, praise and worship to God, fellowship, friendship, good food, a wonderful spirit, and support of a good cause.

In Honor of the Feast Day on October 1st of St. Therese (couldn't leave her out!)

My little way is the way of spiritual childhood, the way of trust and absolute self-surrender.

Always do everything in order to please Jesus.

Love Jesus who is Love itself.

A God who became so small could only be mercy and love.
St. Therese, the Little Flower- Saint and Doctor Extraordinaire