Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mr. President: How Could You?

I'm not a political person and I rarely comment on politics but I'll make an exception. I must say I am very disappointed in President Obama for neglecting to thank God in his Thanksgiving address to the nation this year. Apparently in past years, he has mentioned God but not this year. I'm puzzled by that, as are others.
Why? I can't imagine why. President Obama is a believer in God. He has mentioned his belief in God many times and I've heard him say after addresses to the nation, "God bless America." So why leave out God on an important holiday when the majority of Americans are giving thanks for blessings. And of all times in history. I can't think of a time when it would be more important to give thanks and also to ask for God's continued blessings on our country. The majority of Americans believe in God and profess their faith, in one way or another. Only a very small percentage are non-believers.
"To those who are given much, much is expected." The founding fathers of our country were men of faith, deep faith. George Washington, the first president was often seen on his knees praying especially before an important battle. As the general of the Armies, he was not afraid to let it be known that he relied on strength, courage and help from God.
Since Thanksgiving became a recognized holiday in this country people have given thanks for bountiful harvests, for family, for our abundant natural resources, the beauty of nature that exists in our country, for innovation and creativity and for religious freedoms, as well as the other freedoms we enjoy. God is always part of that equation for believers. So what happened, Mr. President? How is it that at this crucial time in history, with economic uncertainty and other ills that we face, that you didn't mention God.

George Washington made the following proclamation on Oct. 3rd, 1789-
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for his benefits and humbly implore his protection and favor and whereas both Houses of Congress, have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanks and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God.......I do recommend Thursday the 26th day of November to be devoted by the people of these states to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be..................."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fr. Barron's "Catholicism" Series A Hit

The Church can relax a little. Fr. Robert Barron's "Catholicism" series which is currently being shown on EWTN is doing a lot for the "New Evangelization." Those who are interested in promoting the "New Evangelization" in the Church should pay attention to Fr. Barron's formula for success. The series is written and hosted by him. Fr. Barron is a gift to the Church, a popular speaker, an academic, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago and someone who is able to project on television a likable personality. He easily speaks about important Catholic doctrine and spirituality with ease, and without sounding condescending. He seems like a regular person and it's relaxing to watch him travel around the world, visiting religious sites and explaining religious truths.
The first time I ever heard Fr. Barron's name mentioned was a few years ago, at a meeting in the Diocese of Brooklyn. Bishop Frank Caggiano mentioned that he had just finished reading a book by Fr. Barron, "The Strangest Way-Walking the Christian Path," and Bishop Frank said, "It's the best book I've read in a long time." So I decided at that moment, out of curiosity that I would read the book. I also knew I would be hearing more about Fr. Barron in the future.
I recently purchased the DVD- "Untold Blessings-Three Paths to Holiness," from Fr. Barron's website: I enjoyed that.
The last couple of nights I've watched segments of the popular series, "Catholicism," and I was impressed (as you can tell) and I know it will do a lot towards promoting evangelization in our Church, if the series is utilized by parishes for high school and adult education.
I love that he included a part of the segment, shown last evening, on the saints, about St. Therese of Lisieux. All of the women saints that he spoke about were incredible human beings, that put flesh and blood on discipleship in an extraordinary way.
I hope atheists watch the series (wishful thinking) as it would give them a good idea of why billions of people in the world believe in God instead of nothing. God interacts and has established life-giving and enriching relationships with human beings throughout history and even in our modern world and Fr. Barron's natural way of explaining the importance of belief and Christian spirituality is a reason to hope.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hate Surfaces In Brooklyn

I read a statement recently is Brooklyn's diocesan newspaper, The Tablet, which struck me and seemed so true. It was from an article titled, "Assisi is Site of Peace Pilgrimage," by Cindy Wooden. The article was about Pope Benedict's recent trip to Assisi with 300 religious leaders, for a pilgrimage of peace. (Just as an aside, Assisi, Italy is my favorite place on the planet!) The meeting marked the 25th anniversary of the first Assisi interfaith gathering for peace and non-violence which took place in 1986.
During the recent pilgrimage, the Pope condemned violence as Pope John Paul II did in 1986. Yet unfortunately at this time in history, human beings still act violently. Such a waste! Anyhow, the line from the article that struck me and made me think a lot was the following spoken by a Hindu representative from India, he said, "The leaders needed to ask themselves why interreligious dialogue has not had a greater impact on the world situation in the last 25 years. Are we missing the inward part of the journey?"
I wonder, are religious leaders from all the major world religions doing enough to promote religious tolerance and understanding. It should be a priority and money should flow into the cause. It's so important for the future of humankind.
In any event, when I picked up the newspaper on Saturday (the New York Daily News), it was chilling to see the word HATE in large block letters covering the front page. Beneath the word was a photograph of three torched cars, an unusual sight in Brooklyn, caused by such blatant anti-Semitism. Nearby was property that has been defaced. Probably it was caused by beer drinking, intolerant young people. That's what the police think and that makes sense. Sensible, law-abiding individuals do not act that way in New York City. NYC is a tolerant place which is why so many young people opt to live here. People from everywhere in the world live here peaceably ( for the most part).
There was a march on Sunday in the same neighborhood, on Ocean Parkway, where the violence took place, a march for peace, a march against intolerance and hatred.
When will humankind catch on? How many thousands of years have to pass before peace reigns on this Earth? When will the message of the prophets and the teachings of Jesus take root, so that we can use resources to help the marginalized and poor of the world, instead of using violence and hatred to cause havoc and waste resources?

People of different faiths must work together to build on something they all share: 'a hope for the creation of human harmony, justice, prosperity and an improved standard of human life.' (Hasyim Muzadi, general secretary of International Conference of Islamic Scholars)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

An Uncertain World-Asteroid Speeds By and Other Concerns

Whoever thinks you don't need prayer, religious rituals or belief in God living in the modern world, hasn't been paying attention to the news. As always there has been good news and bad news. The good news is that Asteroid 2005 YU55 that came close to crashing into the Earth stayed far enough away to spare us. (Thank God for that!) This is what I read, "An asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier missed the earth by only 200,000 miles as if flew by Tuesday night-the closest an asteroid has been to Earth in 200 hundred years."
Now for the bad news. The global economy is filled with uncertainty and entering a "dangerous phase." Italy is on the verge of economic turmoil (or perhaps is in it already). Since Vatican City is located in Italy it should be of some concern for the Vatican. I don't want to be the bearer of bad news, but economic instability can cause civil disobedience or worse. I follow business news as I find it interesting and this online article at CNN Money is cause for concern, "Europe is heading for recession. China is battling its own economic demons. And with the U.S. also facing problems at home (9% unemployment anyone?) it's hardly in a position to help. Without a white knight to step in and save the day, will we all go down together? 'The global economy has entered a dangerous and uncertain phase,' cautioned Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde this morning in Beijing." More words of concern from her, "If we do not act and act together we could enter a downward spiral of uncertainty, financial instability and a collapse in global demand."
We have to act together. That's so true. Everyone, in my opinion. Rich, middle class, billionaires, millionaires, politicians, business leaders, CEO's, corporations and religious leaders. Everyone has to work together to bring stability to the economic world situation.
The world needs prayer now more than ever but it also needs leaders who can provide innovative and creative solutions that work, common sense approaches and compassionate leadership.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fr. Barron's Excellent Video on All Saints

The saints have greatly inspired me on my spiritual journey. I have a great devotion and love for many of the Carmelite saints such as St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Avila. These were extraordinary women, in any time, and their love of God and willingness to do God's will, at all costs inspires me to persevere on the spiritual journey, through good times and bad.
These are trying times we are living through, though each age has had its challenges, the modern world is moving at such a fast pace, it's difficult to keep up, stay close to God and discern God's will at each moment. Without prayer, it would be totally impossible. With God all is possible.
St. Therese, the Little Flower, as she called herself loved Jesus in a mystical way. It was if he was standing next to her and she could sense it. On her profession day she sent out invitations to her wedding, she was "marrying" her Divine Spouse. St. Therese (as Fr. Barron notes about all the saints) is a friend to all who pray for her intercession or study her works. Many devotees have commented that they felt Therese was a friend to them, in some mystical way. Therese's little way of spiritual childhood recognizes that we are all in need of God's mercy and help, everyday of our lives. We all use poor judgment at times, we all could do better. To strive to be like Christ in the world, to be Christ to others is the goal of the spiritual life and yet it is so difficult. The saints provide us with a way to do it, to discern God's will through prayer. Recently, I had to make a difficult decision, in my heart I knew what God's will was, it was very clear to me. So clear I couldn't dismiss it. It went against what I wanted to do, it went against what made sense in the natural realm, but for some reason, God wanted me to do it God's way. I still don't know why, but I'm sure someday it might become clear, or perhaps it won't, this side of heaven. From that experience I learned that going against our wants and doing God's will, in all things, is not easy at all. The human will can be strong but I know God has my best interests in mind, I know that God loves me unconditionally and so I intend to do God's will, to say my prayers and to keep St. Teresa of Avila's words close to me, "So many problems come from imagining Jesus as far away, when he is really near." And of course, these words should never be far from the lips of a Christian, "Jesus, I trust in you."
May the Saints bless our efforts and bring us to holiness.