Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas! A Blessed New Year!

I'm getting ready to go to Mass, we will have to arrive 45 minutes early to get a seat today. The rice balls are ready to be fried. This year my cousin is hosting Christmas Eve dinner so it will be less hectic tonight but I've still been cooking for days. Tomorrow I will have company on Christmas Day.
I'm grateful for the beautiful feast of Christmas, for the Savior of the World who made all this possible. The Christ Child brings joy and hope. Certainly the world needs the message He preached of love, forgiveness, God's mercy, healing, prayer, salvation and bringing forth the Kingdom of God. For those who hear the message and respond, they are surely blessed. For those who reject the message, we can only pray that someday they will come to the knowledge and love of God. A relationship with God through prayer is enriching and brings hope, if only all eyes could be opened to that reality.
May you have a blessed Christmas and I pray the New Year will be filled with hope, joy and new beginnings for all. It's been a difficult year for many on the east coast of the U. S. The news has been horrific, but for those who love God, they can go forward knowing many people are praying for them and caring from afar. Hope is essential for a Christian as is sharing compassion and charity.
Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Devil's Work in Newtown, Conn.

Once again, the devil is at work, the mark of the evil one is all over the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. Those beautiful children and their educators struck down too young in a horrific mass murder, through gun violence. Advent joy has been stolen from Newtown and from compassionate people everywhere.  Too many families will never be the same. So many caring people have been saddened by this tragedy. As President Obama said yesterday at the Interfaith Prayer Service, something has to change. "Can we honestly say we are doing enough to keep our children, all of us, safe from harm?....If we are honest with ourselves, the answer is no...we are not doing enough and we have to change."
Nancy Lanzer the mother of the shooter, was shot by her own son, even though she stood by him his entire life. Though we will never know, what made him snap, I'm sure that he was hearing voices telling him to do what he did or at least suggestions. Why else would he kill the only person who stood by him, as he struggled through life being different and alienated? Why else would he pick on the innocent young children, who he didn't even know.  Demons are cunning and for someone with a mental illness or mental challenges, I'm sure devils are able to influence a weak and disturbed mind, in my opinion. (Though people smarter than me, believe the same thing.)  Evil is real, evil must be defeated and overcome but for someone who struggled their entire life with a mental disability, unfortunately, horrifically, the demons won this time. Mental illness needs to be studied more, researched more and more money has to be put into programs that help those who suffer from it.
One reporter called St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, the bedrock of the community. People filled the Church the night of the killings and afterwards seeking comfort and solace in prayer and within the sacred, peaceful space.  There are no answers, these were senseless killings, but let's pray that changes are made in society that stop this from happening again.
Children need quiet time, prayer time and quality family time. In the modern world, everything is happening too fast. Children watch too much violence on TV and in movies, there is too much violence in video games, there is too much rushing around. Children need to relax, to build a relationship with God through prayer and they need to eat dinner with their family, as often as possible and build meaningful communication with family members and friends.  Children need to attend religious services or Mass. Prayer is healing and helpful for human beings, at every stage in life. It is essential for children or people with mental illness.
We can do better as President Obama remarked. We must do better. There is so much at stake. I am certain that God weeps too.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Times Square Anti-Christian Billboard Is Sickening

When I saw a photo of the anti-Christian billboard that militant, nasty and disrespectful atheists put up in Times Square, NY it made me sick. How dare they? To put up a picture of Jesus crucified, the Savior, Redeemer, God incarnate for Christians and refer to an historical figure revered by billions with the caption, "Dump the Myth," is beyond low. These are ignorant and cunning people who wish to sow discord. They've pushed the Christian community too far.  I'm sure some of the workers, who helped put that controversial billboard up, were probably Christian. I wonder how they felt about what they were doing.
Bill Donohue of the Catholic League should start to collect donations for next year to make sure that a billboard honoring the Nativity and honoring Christ is put up in Times Square.
Bill Donohue, the spokesman for the Catholic League said this, "This year is different. This is vile. When you depict Jesus on the cross with a crown of thorns, this is exploitative. We as Christians never harass, intimidate or insult atheists. But they can't seem to say, 'We simply disagree with you.' They have to insult us."
Well, I'm insulted, outraged and disgusted with these small- minded, arrogant, prideful, anti-Christian people, who have no respect for the sacred or religious beliefs of others.

My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love you. I ask your pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love you.  (Fatima Pardon Prayer)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

End Of The World....NOT!

The world certainly could not end during the Season of Hope-the sacred liturgical season of Advent. Doubt it! Human beings tend to deny death, our own death.  Many people live as if they will never die. We are all going to die one day, so in reality the end of the world, our world, the end of our lives on this earth will end one day (hopefully peacefully). This obsession some people have with the world ending with sudden destruction is strange. Unfortunately, for many who lost everything, the apocalypse happened already when Hurricane Sandy came ashore on the northeast coast of the United States. Flooding, historic storm surge, fire, death, destruction, loss of power....that was an apocalypse of sorts for many.
No one knows the day or hour as Jesus said, only God the Father, and God is merciful. Christ will return in glory but not after destruction and chaos, that's not God's way.
An interesting article appeared in Sunday's New York Times, titled, "In Panicky Russia, It's Official: End of the World Is Not Near," by Ellen Barry. Apparently, apocalyptic "fever" has taken hold in parts of Russia. From the article, "For those not schooled in New Age Prophecy, there are rumors the world will end on Dec. 21st, 2012, when a 5,125 year cycle known as the Long Count in the Mayan calendar supposedly comes to a close. Russia, a nation with a penchant for mystical thinking, has taken notice. Last week, Russia's government decided to put an end to the doomsday talk. Its minister of emergency situations said Friday that he has access to 'methods of monitoring what is occurring on the planet Earth' and that he could say with confidence that the world was not going to end in December......"
Well, I agree with that. I can say with confidence that God's mercy and goodness will prevail and that we can count on that.
However, preventive measures will have to be put in place, in case the future holds more violent, unpredictable storms, because of global warming, and that's just common sense.
A Blessed Advent........

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Seminary of the Immaculate Conception-"Art on the Vine"

The Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, NY, is very much alive thanks to the good work of Msgr. Henning, the rector and the staff at the Seminary. Though the seminarians no longer study there (they are now studying at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers), the Seminary is still doing great work holding special events, fundraisers, days of reflection, conferences and education programs. Also, the Sacred Heart Institute which is a "cooperative effort of the Archdiocese of New York and Dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre to facilitate the ongoing formation of priests and deacons and strengthen the bonds of priestly and diaconal fraternity..." operates out of the Seminary.
So as I wrote, the Seminary is very much alive with good things happening and yet there are still some Catholics on Long Island who think it closed when the seminarians moved to Yonkers.
All this brings me to "Art on the Vine," which is a fundraiser which will take place on Sunday, December 9th from 2:00-6:00 PM at the Seminary. I'm very excited about the day as I love art and art will be a big part of the day.
There will be an art exhibit and sale by professional artists, wine tasting by Pindar Vineyards from the North Fork and tours of the Seminary Art, Chapels, Library and the unique art in the boiler room (folk art).
The Brookyn Born Believer will be there that day, acting as a volunteer and it's going to be a great day in the ongoing transformation of the Seminary. It will be hosted by the "Friends of the Seminary," and I am a part of that group of men and women who volunteer in support of the education and formation of our seminarians.
Above are some pictures I took today. Some are of the amazing boiler room (which participants will be able to tour on Dec. 9th)) and the folk art down there that was created by custodian and longtime maintenance mechanic-Ed Perry. Perry worked and lived on the grounds of the Seminary for 25 years. He was born in Brooklyn, grew up on Long Island and had no formal art training. He described how he painted the floor at first and then never stopped. The pictures will speak for themselves.
Judy Healy in the photograph is a longtime supporter and "Friend of the Seminary."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

A blessed Happy Thanksgiving to all! I'm grateful for many things, most especially for being born in this great country of America, founded on great principles and freedom. The opportunities my family had after arriving from Italy in the early 1900's could not have been possible anywhere else. Truly through the generations, my family has experienced living the American dream. It's no small blessing. I'm grateful for my Italian heritage which gives me a love of food, culture, family, traditions and most importantly my faith in God. Baptized as an infant into the Catholic faith, and with all the graces that gives, my life has been enriched by my faith and belief.  I'm grateful to God for being present to me in my life, in good times and bad, for helping me through the losses I've had to suffer. I'm grateful to the saints, who have inspired me on my faith journey.
I'm grateful to my family who will sit around the table today and give thanks to God, for bringing us safely through the storm and being a part of our lives.
And so now, it's time to fry the rice balls, put the turkey in the oven, make the stuffing and get things going. I'll pray morning prayer and practice Christian meditation as well, before the company arrives. There is a lot to fit in this morning, but prayer is always a constant in my life, because without it, I wouldn't have come this far.
God's blessings on your family and friends, whether you will celebrate Thanksgiving or not.
I am also grateful that the prayers were answered and a cease fire is under way between Israel and Hamas. Let's pray that a lasting peace in the Middle East is possible, let new ideas and commitments arise so that all children, throughout the world can grow up in peace.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Will There Ever Be Lasting Peace in the Middle East?

God wants peace in the Middle East. I'm going to be bold and say that I'm sure that is God's will. Doesn't the will of God, God's will for peaceful co-existence mean that all people, work towards peace and persevere until peace is a lasting reality.   If compromise is needed then that should happen because that is God's will. I'm not an expert but I am a believer and these are believers fighting other believers in the Middle East, in the present conflict between Israel and Hamas. It's a sad and unfortunate situation. It's a sacred part of the world, with sacred sites for believers and yet once again there is fighting, discord and the suffering and death of innocent children.
All believers are worshipping the same God though they call God by different names. They may use different rituals and forms of worship but all believers profess faith in a God/Creator/Supreme Being who is Good and Merciful and Just. God is a God of peace, love and mercy. And yet after thousands of years there is still fighting in this part of the world, when prayer, peace and compromise should be taking place.
Peace is what God wants for His people, for all people, peace is what is in the best interests of all, so why is peace so elusive?
In an article I recently cut out of the newspaper and  read, which I believe came from the Wall Street Journal titled, "Enlisting the Biblical Abraham as Peace Broker," by Jon Levenson, he wrote, "Confronted with seemingly endless discord in the Middle East-much of it said to be rooted in religious difference-scholars and laymen alike have been promoting the idea of 'Abrahamic religion.' This is the notion that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are equally indebted to the figure of Abraham, the patriarch prominent in the Scriptures of all three. Surely, the theory goes, the three communities can move toward much needed reconciliation by considering their shared origins."
I like that term, "shared origins." Yes, all the sides in the conflict are believers in God and worship God. They have a "shared origin." These are not atheists fighting believers.....Perhaps I'm too idealistic but why can't everyone settle their differences and live peacefully in the land. War is destructive and causes death and the loss of innocent lives. This is not the will of God. It can't be.
The will of God should matter. There is enough land in the Middle East for everyone to live there peacefully and with human dignity. All children deserve to grow up in peace. Jerusalem is a holy city to Christians, Jews and Muslims. Why is peace so elusive in a place where there is so much prayer? I will never understand this paradox.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Surviving Hurricane Sandy

Tonight we finally got power, which means electricity, heat, internet connection and all the rest. It was almost two weeks without it but I dared not complain. So many people lost their lives, their belongings, their homes. (A large pine tree fell on my house, causing some damage on the roof and in the attic. That was a fear of mine, it fell above where I was sitting, but still nothing compared to what others are going through.) So many are still suffering, so many people lost everything. It's unimaginable but we had been warned for many years that a catastrophic hurricane could hit the northeastern United States and it finally did. I've watched weather patterns for years and luckily many hurricanes veer out to sea but strangely this one headed straight for the east coast. Why I kept thinking, what changed? A recent Newsday article by Catherine Thomasson, the executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility offered this explanation. "Science tells us that the destructiveness of this storm was fueled by climate change-driving higher sea levels that pushed up storm surge and higher ocean temperatures that contributed to the monstrous size of the storm........Science has identified another powerful potential factor: The record-breaking melting of Arctic sea ice's impact on the jet stream may have created the block of high pressure above Greenland that drove Sandy west into the continental United States rather than allowing it to spin off east into the North Atlantic, as most late-season hurricanes do." Scientists will keep debating whether climate change is being caused by human activity but more and more scientists believe global warming is real and it's affecting our planet.
But in any event, building codes will have to change and the warnings that have been given by the American Society of Civil Engineers about storm surge on the coast will have to be taken more seriously and acted upon.
My heart goes out to the people of Breezy Point, Queens, Belle Harbor, the Rockaways,Gerritsen Beach, Staten Island, the Jersey shore and the parts of Long Island that suffered loss as well.
My cousin in Long Beach, Long Island has a generator and so I went to stay with her for a couple of days, to warm up and to play with my young cousins. Children always make me feel better, they're so resilient and full of hope and idealism. 
I saw the piles of garbage that littered the streets, in Long Beach, that were once valuable possessions.
In the end, nothing is more important than family, friends, love, relationships and a belief that tomorrow will be better.  That's one important thing that Christianity offers-hope. People will rebuild and hope will reign. "Hope is not an option for a Christian it is essential to our faith." I'm not sure who wrote that but it's very true.

Monday, October 22, 2012

"Lily of the Mohawks" A Saint

I was very happy to hear that Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized a saint by Pope Benedict on Sunday at the Vatican. He officially elevated Kateri to sainthood along with seven other extraordinary human beings. Saints are the super heroes of our faith and they have greatly inspired me on my spiritual journey. Pope Benedict spoke in both English and French, "May her example help us to live where we are, loving Jesus without denying who we are......St. Kateri, protectress of Canada and the first native American saint, we entrust you to the renewal of the faith in the first nations and in all of North America!"
I have a beautiful collector plate hanging in my living room of Kateri. It shows an attractive Indian woman holding a lamb, I assume a symbol of her love for Jesus, the Lamb of God. The image comes from the original oil painting by Gregory Perillo. I have many images of American Indians in my living room, since I've always had an affinity for Indians, though I'm not sure why. I think it has to do with their love and respect for nature. I love the beauty of nature and find peace being in the country or at the shore. Also, I am a longtime supporter of St. Joseph's Indian School which supports Lakota Sioux children in Chamberlain, South Dakota. I'm well aware of the challenges that Indian children face.
I hope Kateri will pray for them from her exalted place in Heaven.
Kateri suffered much in her life. She survived smallpox and was orphaned as a child. She was drawn to Catholicism and to Jesus. She found comfort in her faith and love of God. There were supernatural appearances of Kateri after her death. The supernatural in one form of another, is usually woven into the lives of saints as they are close friends of God. Apparently, according to eyewitness reports, immediately upon her death, her face changed and became more beautiful. A priest named Cholenec wrote, "This face, so marked and swarthy, suddenly changed about a quarter of an hour after her death, and became in a moment so beautiful and so white that I observed it immediately." Kateri is said to have "appeared before three individuals in the weeks after her death."
Father Chauchetiere "reported seeing Kateri at her grave; he said she appeared in 'baroque splendor' for two hours he gazed upon her......her face lifted toward heaven as if in ecstasy."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Binders Full of Women"-Second Debate

I watched the presidential debate last night, as did about 56 million people.  I figured that President Obama would be on "his game," because I imagined he would better prepare for this debate, after his "too nice," professorial performance in the last debate.   I thought both President Obama and Mitt Romney did well. And I was pleased to see Candy Crowley from CNN, moderate the debate. She was the first woman in 20 years to do so.
Thanks to all the women who fought for women's rights and issues, before my time, I grew up in America, (in Brooklyn), believing that a woman could do just about anything. I've held leadership positions in the Church and spent many years as a teacher and a religious educator and never felt discriminated against  because of my gender. I was also raised in a household with strong Italian women, my aunt who lived upstairs from us, was a true matriarch and so that influenced me as well.
I'm well aware that I'm fortunate and that many women in the world do not share the freedoms, rights and opportunities that I've been blessed to have and I hope and pray someday there will be gender equality throughout the world. I think that if women in the world held more leadership positions in government and in the private sector, the world would be a better place.
I have to admit, like millions of others, I found Mitt Romney's phrase, "whole binders of women," which he used in the debate last night amusing. Mitt Romney used the phrase (which has gone viral) when describing his efforts as governor of Massachusetts to find the names of women who could possibly serve in his cabinet. He was answering a question about equality for women and fair pay in the  workplace.
He said, "And so we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women's groups and said, 'Can you help us find folks,' and they brought us 'whole binders full of women.'" Of course he meant binders filled with the names of capable women who he could appoint to his cabinet, but under the stress of the evening he simply said, "whole binders full of women." Well, social media exploded with the phrase and women all over the country were immediately trying to figure out how to make a Halloween costume to look like they were coming out of a giant binder. Twitter users caught on quickly too and "binders full of women," appeared at one point, in the evening, at 40,000 times in one minute.
Is this a crazy world we live in or what? That's why I stay grounded with prayer, otherwise it's so easy to get caught up in the craziness of the world, the internet and social media.  I'm very grateful to God, for my deep faith, my belief and prayer life. Though I find this world, at times sad, and at other times, amusing, I am in the world but not of the world and I can thank God for that.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Synod Challenge-Secularization, Turning from God

Pride is a deadly sin. Many people living in the modern world think they don't need God, they can get along without God, prayer or formal worship. Some believe in God but don't feel the need to express it outwardly or communally.  They're doing just fine with their iPhones, iPads, laptops, lattes, kindles and internet shopping. There are a lot of interesting, functional gadgets to keep people occupied and engaged.  No time for God or worship. I live close to an Apple Store. The day the iPhone 5 went on sale there was a line around the corner of the store. This is a different world from the world I grew up in. Modern technology has changed the world forever. It will never be the same. The Church in the modern world will have to adjust accordingly. Our prayers, liturgies and beliefs are ancient and sacred but somehow they will have to have appeal in the modern world. I hope and pray people realize the importance of prayer, belief in God and worship and the benefits of it, but sometimes I worry that the world has spun out of control. There are consequences to pride, real consequences and they are not from the imagination.
I can't live without prayer or God but that's me. Faith in God has enriched my life as I've written many times. I could not have gone through the problems and losses I've encountered in my life without God and the support of a Catholic faith community.
During a recent major address given during the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization in Rome, Cardinal Wuerl spoke to 262 top Church leaders about the seriousness of the situation that confronts the Church.
"Poor catechesis and a 'tsunami of secular influence' have led to a situation in which the need for the new evangelization of once-Christian societies is urgent.........Secularization has fashioned two generations of Catholics who do not know the Church's foundational prayers. Many do not sense a value in Mass attendance, fail to receive the sacrament of Penance and have often lost a sense of mystery or the transcendent as having any real and verifiable meaning. All of the above resulted in a large segment of the faithful being ill-prepared to deal with a culture that, as our Holy Father has pointed out on his many visits around the world, is characterized by secularism, materialism and individualism." This is all true, of course, but what's scary to me is that many young adults, who are missing in great numbers in the pews, really don't care. What they care about are their iPhones, cell phones,  laptops,  iPads and their lattes. They know how to place an order in Starbucks, place a bid on ebay,  keep up with their Facebook page and text.
The problems are complex and multi-faceted but not too complex for the Holy Spirit.
Veni, Sanctus, Spiritus. Prayer, wisdom, innovation, authenticity, community, fellowship and social justice work can help the Church renew itself in the modern world.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Presidential Debate Debacle-2012

What happened President Obama?
At one point, during the first Presidential debate on Wednesday night I looked at my husband and said, "It looks like President Obama is sleeping." He replied, "No, he's not sleeping, he's writing something down." But the way he was looking down and the look on his face, made me think to myself that something was not right. I'm not joking or being sarcastic, I feel sorry for President Obama.
Something went wrong on Wednesday night and I'm not sure what it was.
Republican nominee Mitt Romney did look good and he looked presidential.  Everyone is saying that, so I'm not taking sides, because I'm not a political person. The debate will not change who I am voting for. Regardless, President Obama needs to do a better job of preparing for the next debate, obviously.
Also, all debaters, whoever they are, should be truthful and have the correct facts. Someone should check facts and hold debaters accountable. The American people deserve the truth, always the truth.
In the Bible it says, "The truth shall set you free." God is a God of truth and those in public office should always strive for the highest possible good and truth, at all times.
President Obama was trying too hard to be nice. I also thought that to myself on Wednesday night. He seems to have given Mitt Romney a gift, but it escapes me as to why he did so.
Al Gore made the controversial comment that perhaps President Obama was suffering from altitude sickness, since the debate took place at the University of Denver.  After all, Denver is called the "Mile High City," because it is 5,280 feet above sea level. Most people didn't take Al Gore seriously but you never know. I was on a bus yesterday, traveling to a museum in Manhattan and the stop and go traffic was affecting the person I was with and making them feel sick.  But anyhow, for whatever the reason, President Obama will have to do a better job next time without being angry or too aggressive.
Who would want to be President anyway? It's such a hard job. You could do everything right and then have one "off" night (granted it was a bad night to be "off") and everyone turns against you.
The comedians had a "field day." Jay Leno joked, "The consensus is that Mitt Romney won the presidential debate last night. The only people who thought Obama won were the replacement refs." Stephen Colbert tweeted, "I'm concerned that next debate, Obama will finally show up for the first debate." They should try to be president. It's not a laughing matter.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Homeless Children in New York City

In a disturbing editorial on Wednesday in the New York Times, it stated that "Almost 20,000 children now go to bed every night in New York City's homeless shelters, up from 16,000 last year. If homelessness is hard on adults, for the young, it can be disastrous, starting a slide into a lifetime of poverty." There are many great fundraisers and generous people in the New York area, do they have a charity for homeless children of New York City?  If not, they should.  Mayor Bloomberg is very charitable, he should start a charity like that, if one doesn't exist.
The editorial claims that Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo could do more to help the homeless. Apparently, Mayor Bloomberg "promised that he would cut the city's homeless population of 33,000 by two-thirds but that didn't happen....." Politicians have to do more, there is no question about it. There are many problems associated with this critical social justice issue.  The economy has deteriorated and rents have gone sky high in New York City. I have a friend who is a Catholic nun.  She lives in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Her friends, from her neighborhood and those she ministers to can't find affordable housing. It's a real problem and government as well as churches and religious organizations will have to step up and help find solutions to this growing crisis.
It's wonderful that New York City has become such a hip place and a safe city and young people from all over the world want to work and live here and that's good for New York.  But there are some negative consequences to that.   Young people are willing to pay high rents to live in NYC and many can afford to do so. Affordable housing is what's needed so that people from all walks of life can live and work in NYC, it is what always made New York interesting and diverse. New York City needs cultural diversity and a stable middle class as well as compassion towards the poor here.  The city should set the standard for all cities. The rich and those who are successful, should help the poor survive and make it, even in this lousy global economy. Real solutions that work are needed to get these children out of shelters and into a place they can call home.

Whatever you do for the least of my brothers, that you do for me!  (Matthew 25:40)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Jesus Married? Doubt It!

The Trinity is the Trinity is the Trinity. Though no one, this side of Heaven can fully comprehend the Trinity, the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, is considered by Christians to be the Son of God and God. I doubt very much if God incarnate, Jesus, would have married. Just doesn't make sense. Besides Jesus was very busy during his active years- preaching, saving, healing, moving around a lot. Being the second Person of the Trinity and being fully human and fully divine, was enough, more than enough. No time for marriage, I'm sure.
As most everyone has heard, a small fragment of fourth-century papyrus was found that has the words "Jesus said to them, 'My wife..........'" In another part of the papyrus it appears to say, "She will be able to be my disciple..." Scholars believe the fragments written in Coptic are authentic. Karen King, a church historian at Harvard Divinity School  recently presented these findings, at a conference in Rome.  But who knows who wrote these phrases and for what reasons. There are more questions than answers, but that didn't keep comedians from having some fun with the incomplete phrases.
The intriguing question of whether Jesus was married or not keeps surfacing. Dan Brown, the novelist, became rich and famous by writing the mystery-detective novel, "The Da Vinci Code." The book suggests that Jesus might have been married to St. Mary Magdalene. But as Fr. James Martin (he's a  famous Jesuit and a prolific writer as well), in his recent New York Times article titled, "Mr. and Mrs. Jesus Christ?" wrote "The silence in the gospels about a wife and children in this context most likely indicates that Jesus did not have a wife and children during his public ministry or in his past life in Nazareth......What about the popular candidate for the role: Mary Magdalene? Could she have been Jesus' wife, as supposed by Dan Brown's novel........Mr. Brown's hypothesis fails by another criterion: Mary would have been referred to, like every other married woman in the Gospels, by her husband's name. She would have been identified not as Mary Magdalene but certainly as "Mary, the wife of Jesus." That makes a lot of sense. (Unless Mary Magdalene insisted on keeping her own name-Just kidding!)
I thought Fr. Martin's article in the Times was excellent. It's an article that priests, deacons and others should read, because there will be a lot of questions about this topic from Catholics in the pews and it's good to have intelligent answers when questioned on this topic.

UPDATE: Suspicions are arising among scholars that the papyrus is a fake.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Nakoula-Just Say You're Sorry

Filmmakers, artists, journalists and writers should be respectful of people's religious beliefs. Religious beliefs, prophets, saints, sacred texts, esteemed religious figures (and of course Jesus)  should be treated respectfully and never ridiculed or insulted for the sake of art or for any other reason. It's disgraceful that religious beliefs that are revered and held in high esteem for certain religions are treated disrespectfully. It's not right, it's not in good taste and it's dangerous, at times. It can incite violence and misunderstanding.
According to a Huffington Post online article, "The family of a filmmaker linked to an anti-Islamic movie has left their California home in the middle of the night.....Nakoula Basseley Nakoula's relatives left their Cerritos home about 3:45 AM Monday. Deputies gave them a ride and they were reunited with Nakoula, then take to an undisclosed location." For what? Because of Nakoula's lack of good sense, poor judgment, a lack of wisdom and disrespect towards a religion. It's absurb that he made this movie in the firstplace. He should have known better. He's put his entire family in danger, as well as himself.
 In my humble opinion, the filmmaker in question, should go on national television and apologize to Muslims for insulting their beliefs. I guess he'll have to wear a disguise and wear one for years to come, but he should simply say he's sorry. He made a mistake and he regrets it. Perhaps then everything will calm down.
In related news, Cardinal Timothy Dolan reacted to the September 11th death of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and members of the embassy staff by saying, "We need to be respectful of other religious traditions at the same time that we unequivocally proclaim that violence in the name of religion is wrong."
Yes, respect of all religions, at all times, by all people.  That's the only way we'll ever have world peace, greater  tolerance, understanding and a better world for future generations.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

September 11th, 2001- Summer Warnings

I've always read newspapers for as long as I can remember. I like to be informed and I find current events interesting. I remember distinctly reading in the summer of 2001 in the NY Daily News that Al Qaeda was a real threat and that they should be taken seriously. I can't remember the exact words but they were ominous. Al Qaeda was a formidable terrorist group.   The threat worried me.
I recently read the article in the New York Times online titled, "The Deafness Before The Storm," by Kurt Eichenwald and I was struck by the fact that he didn't mention that newspapers at that time were printing that Al Qaeda was threatening action. Naturally, I don't think anyone could have imagined the gravity of the situation or what was coming but they were threatening action.
From the article, "On August 6th, President George W. Bush received a classified review of the threat posed by Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, Al Qaeda. That mornings presidential daily brief, the top-secret document prepared by American intelligence agencies featured the now famous heading, 'Bin laden determined to strike in U.S. A few weeks later on 9/11 Al Qaeda accomplished that goal."
It is certainly a tragedy that no one connected the dots and the agencies involved were not able to give President Bush more detailed information about the threat, because if he was given more accurate information, I believe he would have acted. I don't think you can blame anyone because hindsight will always be 20/20. Perhaps no one in America, fully understood at that time, the evil, hateful and destructive intentions that lurked in the world and in Al Qaeda.
As a New Yorker,  I lived through the horror of September 11th. I knew families who lost young adult sons. We knew people who waited on their steps for their loved ones to return home that day, but some never did come home.  At the time, I lived in a house in Marine Park, Brooklyn and at the end of the block was a funeral home. Night after night there were wakes for firemen, many of whom lived in the neighborhood. It is something I will never forget. And yet I didn't experience the pain of losing someone close to me. I can't even imagine that pain.
A lot of people lost their faith in God because of 9/11. I've read that one reason atheism has grown so much is because so many people lost their faith, during that time. I saw a television show and people were interviewed who lost loved ones and some had lost their faith. So sad and disturbing. How do you go through something like that without God and prayer? I can't imagine that.
 I did grieve with neighbors and friends who lost loved ones in those days and weeks that followed 9/11. But I don't believe we can blame God for evil in the world or for people who distort the truth or plan evil, horrific deeds. God is good and God suffered that day too.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

September 8th-The Date That Haunts Me

It's hard to write a book. Matthew Kelly wrote that in one of his books and it's true. I'd like to finish the book I've started writing but I'm not sure I ever will. But at least these blog entries are like writing an online book, (if you put them all together).  Someone asked me why I write a blog. It didn't make sense to her. Writing is a form of art. I love art so I like to think I'm creating art with my words. "Writers write, it's as simple as that." That was my response to her.  But also I'm sharing my deep faith, evangelizing through words.  I don't think she would have understood that either.
September 8th, the date that haunts me is a grace-filled day for me. I was born on September 8th. It is also the date that the Church celebrates the birth of Mary. I was probably 10 or 12 years old when I heard it mentioned in catechism class, that September 8th was the Nativity of Mary. I remember being very pleased. Later on I would take Mary as my Confirmation name.
I was never sure if it was just a coincidence that I was born on Mary's birthday or if it had some significance in the spiritual/religious realm.
After my brother died in 1997 I was in despair. I was close to my brother. He was very smart and a psychiatrist by profession. He died fairly young from cancer. When my brother died, I had my own family to keep me busy but I needed something more to distract me from my pain and grief. So I took a distance learning course on St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower. It was an excellent course and I learned a lot. I did a lot of reading and I studied the writings of St. Therese, especially her famous autobiography, "Story of A Soul." Therese is a much loved saint and a Doctor of the Church. She befriends people (in a mysterious way as only a saint could do) who pray for her intercession or study her writings. You would have to experience it to understand it fully but many people have said the same thing.
In any event, while I was taking the course and reading the material I stumbled upon an interesting fact about St. Therese. September 8th was also important in the life of Therese. It was the day of her profession as a Carmelite nun. For Therese it was her wedding day. She was being wed to her "Divine Spouse." Jesus was so real to Therese he might as well have been standing next to her. She loved him with a mystical, all- encompassing love.
So that's why September 8th haunts me. It keeps turning up in my life. It has significance and I'm grateful to God for the grace of this date.

Oh I love Him, My God, I love thee  (St. Therese-her last words-looking at her crucifix)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Unraveling of Jerry DeWitt

I read an interesting article in the New York Times Magazine (8/26/12), titled "God Who?" by Robert Worth. It tells the story of a Protestant pastor turned atheist from DeRidder, La. The story starts with DeWitt unable to find the words to comfort a parishioner and friend from his Church, whose brother needed prayers after he was in a serious accident. He couldn't find the words to comfort her because he was beginning to struggle with his belief in God. I immediately thought he was going through a "dark night of the soul," but instead of keeping up his prayer disciplines and staying the course and remaining faithful to God, he turned to an online network for pastors who are losing their faith or who have lost it altogether. He started researching the "new atheism," instead of seeking a spiritual director which would have been wise, but I'm sure pride started to seep in. He took a day off of work and took a picture of himself at a talk with Richard Dawkins and put it on his Facebook page, never thinking anyone from DeRidder would know who Dawkins was. More pride?
From the article, "Six months after he was outed as an atheist he lost his job and his wife-both, as a direct consequence. Only a handful of his 100-plus relatives from DeRidder still speak to him. When I visited him, in late June, his house was in foreclosure, and he was contemplating moving into his 2007 Chrysler PT Cruiser. This is the kind of environment where godlessness remains a real struggle and raises questions that could ramify across the rest of the country. Is the "new atheism" part of a much broader secularizing trend.......or just a ticket out of town?"
Jerry DeWitt gave up a lot. He walked away from God and his Church, his family, friends and most importantly the truth. Pride is a deadly sin. God is truth and love. God, though always mysterious, is real. Billions of people on the earth believe in God, even when the tough times come, even when every question cannot be answered this side of heaven. There is a God and atheists (in my opinion) are closing themselves off to enormous blessings, grace, comfort and inner strength that comes from a relationship with God and a faith community.
Perhaps because I grew up in Brooklyn and I saw so much deep faith being lived out in the Catholic community, which I was a part of but also in the large Jewish community in Brooklyn as well. The Jewish community in Brooklyn is very prosperous, their deep faith has been rewarded with prosperity, among others things. (Or that's how it appears to me). I've always found the deep faith of the Jewish people that I observed, very commendable and inspiring. They remained faithful to God, (throughout salvation history) no matter what.
I can't even imagine how someone who had been so close to God, could turn away. How can someone turn away from the Truth, once they have found it? It is beyond my comprehension.

The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, the Lord's mercies are not spent; They are renewed each morning so great is his faithfulness. My portion is the Lord, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him. Good is the Lord to the one who waits for him, to the soul that seeks him..." (Lamentations 3:22-26)

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Drought, High Food Prices and the Poor

There was another heat wave in Russia this summer, which will cause wheat exports to drop. There has been record heat and an historic drought in the Midwestern United States. The drought has devastated the corn crop in the U.S. The yield per acre will be the lowest in 17 years. Almost half the corn crop has been destroyed. World food prices are going up. According to an article in, Global Development, "America's worst drought in half a century will push up inflation and put a fresh obstacle in the path of the struggling global economy, one of UK's leading banks has warned."
Who will suffer the most? The poor. Here and abroad. As Christians, we are suppose to love our neighbor and to be compassionate to the poor. Jesus made that clear in His teachings and actions. He identified with the poor and marginalized, "Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do to me..." But according to reports, feeding the poor and helping the poor is going to get more costly. High food prices cause instability in countries (or worse), and hunger, especially in third world countries. Children are at the greatest risk.
The demand for food is rising in the world. Each year new customers for food increase and that is a good thing, as growth continues in developing countries. But with record heat, droughts, flooding and more severe weather this will get more difficult in the future.
Pray. The world needs prayer. The world also needs compassionate action. Practical, intelligent, inspiring ideas are needed, that translate into bold action, to help the helpless. Who will step up to the challenge?

St. Daniel The Stylite
A rich man questioned Daniel, then eighty years old, "As you have been up on that pillar for the past thirty years, what advice can you give me, noble champion?
Daniel answered, "Love your neighbor, especially the poor. Up until today, you have loved no one but yourself. In truth, very little!" (Conversations of the Saints-Words and Wisdom From God's Chosen)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Paolo Gabriele-"Thou Shall Not Steal!"

Sadly, the Vatican, as reported widely in the news, is embroiled in a scandal that reads more like fiction than non-fiction. Even Dan Brown couldn't make this stuff up. Paolo Gabriele, the Pope's former trusted butler, betrayed Pope Benedict and others, by allegedly stealing important documents from the Pope's private apartment, even from the Pope's desk, which were then leaked to the Italian press. How could anyone with the name Gabriele do such a thing? I'd like to put this question to Gabriele. Gabriele, no fear of hell, or God's wrath, not to mention prison time? The humble and trusting Pope Benedict was being attended to by someone with questionable character, I find that alarming. Paolo Gabriele had many functions as the Pope's butler, at times, he helped him dress, gave him meals, attended Mass with him. Someone who is now standing trial for grand theft and who was obviously mentally unstable (who in their right mind steals from the Pope!) was giving the Pope meals and had access to the Pope's private apartment?
In the latest development, "A Vatican judge on Monday ordered the pope's butler and a fellow lay employee to stand trial for the alleged pilfering of documents from Pope Benedict XVI's private apartment in an embarrassing scandal that exposed power struggles and purported corruption at the Holy See's highest levels" (Huffington Post).
In a strange turn of events, "Gabriele is telling investigators that he was, "motivated by my deep faith and by the desire that in the church light is shed on everything." He also apparently said that, "seeing evil and corruption everywhere in the Church........I was sure that a shock, even a media one, would have been healthy to bring the Church back on the right track."
Bringing the Church back on the right track by stealing, betrayal, lies and scandal? Strange thinking, I'd say.
What part did greed (one of the deadly sins) play in this story? I wonder how much money Gabriele received to steal and leak these documents? Perhaps it was not Gabriele's wish to expose the power struggles at the Vatican as much as it was his desire for money and grabbing power himself. Essentially he was smiling at the Pope to his face and making small talk, (I assume), while betraying him behind his back. It's all so absurd, convoluted and criminal!
I'm sorry for Pope Benedict that he had to experience this level of betrayal, no one should have to go through that. But Jesus said, "As they persecuted me, they shall persecute you." Unfortunately, it happens all the time, on all levels.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Lord Its Time To Act!

I'm preparing a talk I'm going to give to Lay Carmelites this weekend. I've been reading, thinking, trying to come up with some inspiration. I'm choosing the topic and so I can be creative, which I like, so I can be open to the movement of the Spirit. Actually, I've been thinking about the topic for weeks.
I came across this material while preparing: "In the land of Galilee, twenty miles from Nazareth, there is a beautiful mountain chain that is called Mount Carmel. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and provides an ideal setting for retirement and reflection, for prayer and contemplation. Carmel means garden and vine of God and its luxurious vegetation is a symbol of grace, blessing and beauty. This was the site where the Old Testament prophet Elijah was victorious over the 450 prophets of Baal. They cried to Baal from morning to night but he would not consume their holocaust. One cry to the Lord was sufficient for Elijah. Immediately a fire consumed not only his holocaust but also the stones, altar, and even the water in the trench around it. After this challenge of fire the false prophets were slain and the Israelites returned their hearts back to God and renewed their convenant with God. On the Carmelite shield the sword over Mary's crown signifies Elijah's zeal for the Lord, the God of hosts......"
Granted Elijah was a special prophet. But I couldn't help thinking that one cry to the Lord was sufficient and immediately God acted. And so I humbly address this to God in prayer:
"What about our cries Lord? Isn't it time to act? Isn't it time to act, Lord, on behalf of goodness, truth and holiness. Isn't it time to destroy evil, to crush the demons who drive people to do horrific acts of violence like what happened in the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, or in Syria, or Nigeria........Lord it's time for good to conquer evil. It's time for love, compassion, tolerance and peaceful co-existence to reign and rule the day............It's time for human beings to live with integrity and goodness, all the time and not to give into despair and hatred.....Guide us Lord."
For those of us who have zeal for the Lord, we won't give up, we'll hold fast to truth and goodness, knowing God will act, in God's time.

Do great things for us, O Lord, for you are mighty and holy is your name.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Eva Rausing's Death and Hans Rausing's Need for Penance

Remember that there is a meaning beyond absurdity. Be sure that every little deed counts, that every word has power. Never forget that you can still do your share to redeem the world in spite of all absurdities and frustrations and disappointments. (Abraham Heschel)

I was thinking about the sad details of the story about Hans Kristian Rausing, the son of a billionaire, whose wife Eva was addicted to drugs as he was. So much opportunity, wealth and potential influence darkened and lost by the demon of drug addiction. It destroyed their family. According to news reports, apparently in a bizarre ending to Eva's life of addiction, "for more than two months Mr. Rausing went about his business while the corpse of his wife Eva decomposed in their luxury home in central London." After his wife died of heart failure combined with drug abuse, he left her buried beneath a pile of clothing and garbage bags, in their home. Two enormously wealthy people, with great potential, gave into drug addiction and lost sight of what's really important in life. Their own children had to be taken from them and cared for by relatives. Hans Rausing recently pleaded guilty to preventing the proper burial for his wife. She died without dignity because of drugs.
It says in the Bible that "To those who are given much, much is expected." Though they did give to anti-drug charities during their marriage, they could have done so much more, so much with all their wealth. But they gave into their demons and the demons got them in the end.
Hans Kristian Rausing is still alive. He owes it to his children, to the memory of his wife, to his parents and hers to pull himself together, to do penance and overcome his addiction, once and for all. He can still do a lot of good with his life. In my humble opinion, he should spend the rest of his life, helping others and using his wealth to make a difference in the world. That might be the only thing that could save him from self-destruction at this point.

Friday, July 27, 2012

If Only James Holmes...........

I keep thinking that if only James Holmes, the mastermind of the evil and destructive rampage in Aurora, Colorado had:
Stayed close to Jesus
Continued to attend Church
Put his trust and hope in God alone
Lived in Christian hope and expectation of good
Listened and incorporated the Christian values he was taught by his family and at his Church
Sought help when evil thoughts started to obsess him
Prayed and sought help from the pastor of his family's Church
Reached out to family or counselors and asked for help...

No one will ever know why James Holmes didn't seek help as he drifted deeper and deeper into a psychotic world filled with evil obsessions. Awhile ago I read in a front page article in the New York Times that increasingly young people entering college are in need of psychological counseling and therapy. Counselors are overworked trying to keep up with the demand for their time. Our fast-paced, competitive, economically volatile, anxiety-ridden, overly materialistic society, is causing stress and anxiety for many. Some cope better than others.
I just keep thinking that this horrific story didn't have to happen. James Holmes was brought up as a Christian. He heard the gospel preached, he listened in Church to Christ's message. He heard in his Church (Penasquitos Lutheran Church), the words of Scripture, as spoken by Jesus who said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." If only he had truly listened and incorporated that message into his being and way of life. If only he had stayed on the Christian path and entered into a deep relationship with Jesus. But he rejected the Christian message of love, hope and compassion. He dismissed the Ten Commandments that could have saved him from self-destruction. He turned away from the very thing that could have helped him-the support of a Church community, the peace and righteousness of knowing Christ and doing His will. He turned from God, from the light and was tempted by evil and the darkness. He strayed into a dangerous and evil world and he destroyed innocent lives as well as his own. His poor parents, how sad for them. He has destroyed their lives as well.
Innocent people died senselessly and tragically. People suffer and lives will never be the same. A tragedy that never should have happened, if only James Holmes had stayed the course, read the Bible, lived the truths within it and stayed close to Christ.
For the people who lived through that living nightmare and for those who died, in the theater in Aurora, they experienced an apocalypse, of sorts. The doomsday scenario happened on a small scale. Something very evil and destructive did surface in 2012, it is strange indeed.

**Update-According to recent developments, James Holmes was being treated by a psychiatrist at the University where he studied. Apparently he was a patient of Dr. Lynne Fenton.

Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. (1 Thess. 5: 21-22)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Devil's Outburst in Aurora, Colorado

Evil exists. Evil struck in a dark movie theater, late at night, after midnight in Aurora, Colorado. A deranged killer, dressed in black, "like an assassin ready to go to war," using the cloak of darkness, carried out the devil's work during a special late night showing of "The Dark Knight Rises." Chaos, destruction, confusion, violence perpetrated on the innocent, disregard for human life and dignity, the "Joker,"- the Devil had his hand in this atrocity. Signs of the evil ones intent are everywhere in the story and scarily in the face of the suspected killer.
Evil and violent thoughts can sometimes permeate the minds of psychotic, obsessed people. I believe the Devil preys on their weak and disturbed minds. Sometimes they act and follow through. We've seen this over and over again, violence and destruction of the innocent. My heart is deeply saddened for those who have died suddenly, for those who grieve and those injured. So many questions remain. How can someone buy so much ammunition online without raising suspicion?
According to the Huffington Post, "Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition along with four guns, online in the weeks leading up to the tragic event that claimed numerous lives and left dozens injured at a movie theater outside Denver. At a news conference on Friday night, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said, 'My understanding is all weapons he possessed, he possessed legally. All ammunition he possessed, he possessed legally." I have the same question that many are asking, "How can someone buy 6,000 rounds of ammunition and four guns over the internet in a few weeks time without a red flag going up somewhere?" Shouldn't someone have informed law enforcement that someone out there in Colorado was getting an arsenal together? I wonder what part "deadly greed" plays in this story.
I don't understand the presence of evil in this world and I never will. I also will never understand how a young man, with a brilliant mind, who comes from a nice family can turn crazy, psychotic and possessed with evil intent, without anyone noticing anything unusual. It is beyond my comprehension.
God must be weeping too. I'm sure Christ weeps for the injured, the grieving and those who died senselessly.
There are too many violent images in our society, there are grave consequences to that. I learned that in college years ago, and I've seen it play out in horrific ways.

Christ had the most tender heart that ever beat. He shed tears at the tomb of Lazarus; he wept over the evils that were to fall upon Jerusalem. Never did a son love his mother as he did. Blessed Columba Marmion

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Will God Save Us From Ourselves?

I watched a video clip of a corn farmer from Iowa, out in his dry fields, praying for rain. There has been a severe drought there and rain is desperately needed. If it doesn't come soon, the corn crop will be ruined and food prices will go up.
According to a recently released report from the National Climate Data Center, the "12-month period from July 2011-June 2012 was the warmest on record (since record keeping began in 1895), for the contiguous United States, with a nationally averaged temperature of 56.0 degrees, 3.2 degrees higher than the long-term average." Also, in June, "more than 170 all time warm temperature records were broken or tied." I find all that data troubling.
There have been recent droughts, wildfires and extreme weather such as the infamous derecho (straight line severe windstorm) which caused widespread damage and death across 700 miles in the mid-west through the mid-Atlantic United States. My cousin lives in Virginia, she experienced the full force of the derecho. According to her, the deadly storm came out of nowhere, hurricane force winds with little warning.
I believe in the power of prayer. I hope and pray the Iowa farmer gets the rain he's praying for. But it's obvious to me, since I read a lot, that we are damaging the natural environment and perhaps even throwing it into turmoil. The earth is heating up, there are consequences to polluting the environment and acting irresponsibly. We might have to face those consequences sooner than later. Thousands of scientists believe that global warming is a serious threat. I've read that the effects of global warming are extreme weather such as droughts in some places and heavy rain in others.
The Chinese have a saying, "May you live in interesting times." Well, we are certainly living in interesting times, let's just hope we are not living in times when things get out of hand, quickly......

Saturday, July 7, 2012

"God Particle" One More Proof Of God's Existence

As a Christian believer and a person with a very deep faith, proof of the existence of the "God Particle," or the subatomic particle called Higgs boson, is just another proof of the existence of God for me. The Universe has order, diversity, intricacy and creative, intelligent design. It wasn't just thrown together, there is simply too much order and mathematical exactness. The Universe as we know it was created by a Divine Creator. Billions of people from all walks of life believe that. Flowers alone and their magnificent designs and colors would be proof enough for me. But in any event, the "God Particle," is a nickname for this subatomic particle that physicists believe gives mass to matter. This is, of course, a very important discovery, but scientists still cannot say who created Higgs boson or why mass exists or why intelligent beings on this planet Earth, with rational minds, can even study the Universe and the existence of matter. So many unanswered questions still exist.
I think pride ( deadly sin) keeps human beings (some at least) from giving God the credit for this magnificent and orderly, awesome creation. I sometimes think that if there wasn't a Supreme Being/Creator everything on this earth could be the same color. For instance,what if everything was the color gray? Boring!! Or what if we each had two heads, wouldn't that be annoying! The colors in the natural world are beautiful, pleasing to the eye, there is so much beauty, so much creativity present in the natural world.
Believers are thankful to God for this magnificent creation. We give praise to God for life, existence, goodness, love, mercy, compassion and joy. We don't know all the answers but we do know that God exists and God is good. There is much mystery, it surrounds us but when we pray, regardless of the religion we follow, we know that God hears us and God is present to us. Thank you God for the "God Particle," and for creating this magnificent Universe. Amen to that!

I call to God the Most High, to God, my benefactor. (Psalm 57:3)

In this circle of earthly existence you shine with radiant light so finely,
it surpasses understanding.
God hugs you, You are encircled by the arms of the Mystery of God.
Gaze at the beauty of earth's greenings.
Now, think.
What delight God gives humankind with all these things.
Hildegard of Bingen

Friday, June 29, 2012

Thoughts From A Long Island Retreat

I attended a spiritual/religious writers' retreat titled, "Writing Your Way Home," this week at Our Lady of Grace Spiritual Center on Long Island, NY. The retreat was led by S. Paula Gallagher, IHM, of Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was thought-provoking and affirming. The retreat gave the participants an opportunity to write, share, to give witness, to be affirmed and to pray. We were fortunate to have Fr. Michael Greene, C.P., a Passionist priest celebrate Mass each day. His heartfelt, sincere homilies and his kind way added a lot to the retreat.
The history of the estate, where the retreat house is located is fascinating. The house which is located on beautiful grounds was donated to the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1959 by J. Peter Grace, Jr. He offered the Congregation "a gift of land and buildings adjacent to his estate. Mr. Grace was head of W.R. Grace and Company, which owned a fleet of 35 ships, chemical plants and the Grace National Bank of NY as well as other business ventures...."
When you go on retreat, so much happens that it's hard to put it into words. S. Maria Regina, the director of the spiritual center/retreat house thought of a wonderful idea during the retreat to further promote the beautiful and peaceful house. So the fruit of the retreat, for all of us is already beginning to flourish.
I had a great experience during the retreat. I was standing alone in the library looking at the books on the shelves (I love books, especially religious/spiritual books and am drawn to them). All of a sudden a strong gust of wind threw open the large wooden/glass doors which cover a set of huge windows. The wind just blew right into me. (The weather was mild that day, it wasn't stormy.) I was surprised and bewildered. Was it the Holy Spirit?.....I'd like to think so........but it could of been just a gust of strong wind.
Just a few thoughts from the retreat, that were shared......that I wrote in my journal.......
"Expect goodness," "You are good enough", "There are many surprises awaiting us from God," "Remember each day to be grateful, " "Be intentional each day about being centered," "Be fully present to what God is doing in and around us," "Possess a hopeful heart," "Be receptive," "Maintain a healthy balance between prayer, contemplation and action," "All will be well," Be patient and persevere," Be truly present to others." These are just a few, there were so many tidbits of wisdom.
Here is a sample of my writing: (in response to the writing prompt..."I am thinking of......."
I am thinking of peaceful days of summer, enjoying sunshine, waves crashing on the beach, walks along the seashore. I am thinking of the beauty of summer flowers, bursting with color, created by the Divine Artist- a feast for the senses, these summer months ahead. I am thinking of how healing summer can be.
I read through books in the library and I came across this quote which struck me in its simplicity, by Aldous Huxley, "It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned all one's life and find that at the end one has no more to offer by way of advice than: Try to be a little kinder."
So I thought: try to be a little kinder, a little more compassionate, a little more caring, more patient, and learn as S. Paula said to live with unanswered questions, to live with mystery as it unfolds.....

Monday, June 25, 2012

Who Will Save the World?

It seems the world needs saving, according to some economists who think that the European fiscal crisis could spin out of control. It could happen quickly, if nothing is done. So who will save the world? Will the Germans act or will the United States act? Or maybe China will help out. I started thinking about this after reading Paul Krugman's article in the New York Times titled, "The Great Abdication." He seems to believe (along with others) that someone has to act to save Europe from spiraling out of control. Greece, now Spain, soon Italy and then the contagion could spread.
The world seems to need two kinds of help, one earthly, the other Divine. For years there has been high unemployment in the United States, as Mr. Krugman mentioned in his article. High unemployment is dehumanizing and causes tremendous problems for families, most especially children. People are suffering in this country because of high unemployment and this is going on for years and nothing seems to be done about it. It's absurd when you think about it. Politicians keep promising solutions but nothing changes.
There are dangerous fires burning out of control in the Western U.S. The West is dry from record heat. In Colorado alone, eight wildfires are burning across the state. A frightening situation. One woman described it as "hell opening up." There is a water crisis developing in the West. Each year the problem gets more serious. There simply isn't enough water. Where are those solutions?
Major problems seem to be ignored as if they will just go away if nothing is done about them. Universities are filled with academics who study, do extensive research and write and yet problems persist in our country and the world and only patchwork takes place. Well thought out and researched solutions seem to be lacking. Sometimes nothing makes sense to me.
As I've written many times, I don't know how people live without prayer, especially in this uncertain, unsettling world we live in. I'm on retreat this week, but obviously I can't stay away from reading or blogging. But I am praying a lot and that calms me and helps me to deal with what I read. On retreat tomorrow I will remember to pray for everything I mentioned in this entry and to pray for realistic solutions that work and truly help people.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Meditation, the Saints and Positive Brain Changes

There are many types of prayer and one prayer experienced by many saints is called contemplation. Contemplation is infused prayer which means God does most of the work and it is a pure gift of God. In order to prepare yourself to receive the gift of contemplation, you have to practice Christian meditation or Centering Prayer (or mental prayer as St. Teresa of Avila called it). Meditation opens you to the possibility of experiencing contemplative prayer.
According to a pamphlet on Centering Prayer by Fr. Thomas Keating, "The source of Centering Prayer, as in all methods leading to Contemplative Prayer, is the indwelling Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The focus of Centering Prayer is the deepening of our relationship with the living Christ. It tends to build communities of faith and bond the members together in mutual friendship and love."
A simple way to practice Christian meditation is to repeat a one or two syllable word while breathing in and out mindfully. I use the Holy Name of Jesus and breathe in-Jesus- and in breathing out I use one of His sacred titles such as Savior or Redeemer. When thoughts arise I gently push them away as if with a feather and repeat the sacred Name. This type of prayer which can also be called the "Holy Name of Jesus Prayer," not only brings you closer to experiencing contemplation but also reduces stress, helps one to focus better and has a great many physical as well as psychological benefits. It also can deepen your relationship with God.
Now in an interesting study recently published by the National Academy of Sciences, when participants in the study practiced mindful meditation there were measurable positive effects in the brain. Healthy brain changes occurred which could be seen in MRI imaging. Fascinating. It seems the saints have been right all along. St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese- the Little Flower, St. Catherine of Siena, the Desert Fathers and Mothers (as well as many others) all practiced some form of meditation which opened them to contemplative prayer. It is fruitful prayer, as we can see in the life of the saints and those who practice this discipline.
I've been trying to work Christian meditation into my morning prayer discipline. It's worth the effort from everything I've read and experienced. But to see the "fruit" of this prayer you have to stay with it and be consistent. It takes time to see the graces of this prayer.

Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

...But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret and your Father, who sees in secret, will repay you. (Matthew 6:6)

For mental prayer, in my opinion, is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him, who we know loves us. (St. Teresa of Avila-"The Book of Her Life" 8.5)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Be Happy, Have Faith-Live Longer

I've read numerous studies over the years stating that people who believe in God, have faith, pray and attend religious services are happier, more fulfilled and healthier than people who don't. Religious rituals, like secular rituals are good for human beings as they provide comfort and security in an uncertain world. Religious rituals help people engage with the mystery (and God) present in sacred places and houses of worship. Christians believe in the resurrection of Christ, a very hopeful event for humankind and also believe in life after bodily death. Eternal life and the existence of a soul, gives people hope, knowing there is more to life than earthly existence.
A recent study at HuffPost-UK titled, "Happiness Is The Key To A Longer Life," stated the following, "Feeling happy and having a positive outlook on life could be the key to a longer life.....The five year study of almost 4,000 people aged between 52 and 79 years old, discovered that those who were happier and more content had a lower risk of dying young than those who looked on the gloomier side of life. Optimism is good for you, which makes sense. ("Researchers took into account age, disease, health related conditions and gender before coming to their conclusions.") This information reinforced a previous study at the University of Illinois which found that positive thinking reduced stress and made the immune system stronger.
I use positive affirmations, at times, to feel better as I tend to worry which is obviously not good for my health. Positive affirmations from Scripture such as, "With God all things are possible," or "God is my rock and my salvation in whom I trust," helps to lift my spirits. I also like to repeat, "I am a child of God, a member of the household of God, made in the image and likeness of God." Or "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," is another powerful quote from Scripture, which is helpful for keeping a positive outlook.
Christian meditation also helps one to put things into perspective, but it takes discipline to do it everyday (in addition to my prayer disciplines) and it takes time to see the "fruit" of doing it.
I have to work at staying positive, even with my deep faith and trust in God. Every life is a work in progress, but it seems staying positive has many health benefits.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Millennials Losing Belief in God

The latest bad news for believers, churches and Jesus came in a recent Huffington Post article titled, "Millennials Losing Faith in God: Survey," which quoted from a Pew study which stated that more and more young people are losing faith in God. This is a disturbing finding.
But I didn't need a study to tell me that. Firstly, I am often in Manhattan visiting my sons who live in a trendy, Manhattan neighborhood teeming with millennials. Thankfully my sons (who are both millennials), believe in God, pray and are practicing Catholics. But as for most of their friends, from what I can tell, very few practice the faith they were brought up in. On Sunday mornings in Manhattan, (and the outer boroughs) most young people are having breakfast or brunch in trendy neighborhoods, from what I've observed. (Probably some have attended Church on either Saturday evening or Sunday morning/ afternoon but not enough.)
Millennials are the children of baby boomers, born sometime between the late 1970's to the mid-1990's. All definitions of millennials include those born between 1981 and 1989. These are the young adults of today who are very comfortable with and probably couldn't live without media, technology, cell phones, and computers of all sorts. They are tech-savvy. They can't live without technology or their cell phones, but it seems many can live without God or worship.
According to the article and the study, older adults continue to believe in God and that remains stable, but the millennials belief in God is dropping. "About 68 percent say they never doubt the existence of God which is a decline of 15 points since 2007." That greatly concerns me and it should be of concern to all Christian evangelizers, from every denomination.
One quarter of millennials identify themselves as religiously unaffiliated.
There is a lot of work that needs to be done to show this age group the importance of belief, prayer and worship and how belief contributes to an enriched and meaningful life. The New Evangelization will have to address this alarming and sad finding and put much effort and resources to engage young adults, for the future of the Church.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A European Mess-Financial and Spiritual

Spain is in a recession with 25% unemployment. From the "Economic Times," these sobering words, "Crisis is the watchword in Madrid. Take your pick-liquidity crisis, debt crisis, banking crisis, economic crisis, confidence crisis, jobless crisis. Spain, the ailing euro zones latest problem child has them all..."
I'm not a financial expert (though I follow business news), but it sounds pretty serious to me. And the worry is that all this European debt and uncertainty will drag down the United States economy too. I hope things improve for every ones sake.
Sadly a 5.8 earthquake hit central-northern Italy this week. That is going to further hurt the economy in Italy. But that's not the worst of it. People lost their lives, others are homeless or afraid to return to their homes because of aftershocks. They need prayers.
And then there is the "man-made earthquake" in Vatican City. On Wednesday, Pope Benedict spoke for the first time about the crisis associated with leaked Vatican documents. His personal butler was arrested by Vatican police and is accused of stealing personal correspondence belonging to the Pope.
What a strange story. Talk about betrayal, a personal butler is suppose to be very loyal. And who in their right mind would steal from the Pope? The Pope expressed "sadness in my heart," over the embarrassing scandal and betrayal.
The story sounds like fiction, something Dan Brown could have written. But it's true. The Pope assured Catholics that the Church would survive and weather this latest "storm." The Church is a divine institution, I never doubted that for a minute.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Greek Crisis And A Loss of Religious Faith

A few years ago, I was speaking with a Greek-American business owner who had just returned from visiting his relatives in Greece. He was telling me about his trip and he also mentioned how sad he was to find such a loss of faith and religious practice in Greece. It had been many years since he had visited and he noticed a big change. He observed young people (for the most part) not practicing their religion or taking it seriously as the older generations did. He observed a decline in faith and near-empty churches, in some parts of the country. Of course there are many devout Greek Orthodox people, who remain faithful, but he saw a loss. He said to me, " Young people think they can live without God, religious observances, prayer and devotions." He was lamenting all of it. It shook him up.
I listened. It's a well known fact that it's a problem throughout Western Europe and in Southern Europe as well. People think they can go it alone, they don't need prayer, God's wisdom or guidance. Some people don't even believe that God exists. It's all foolishness in my opinion. People are "playing with fire."
From what I've read and heard the current Greek economic crisis is very serious. Greece might exit from the euro which will have terrible effects in many countries. Greece has massive deficits and there has been a "run on the banks." People are fearful and they are withdrawing money out of banks in record numbers. Banks could fail. It's all scary stuff. The rest of Europe is having financial troubles as well. It's all uncharted territory and no one knows what will happen next. Let's pray it has a good ending...........
I wonder if "empty" churches, a loss of ancient devotions, and a decline in faith (or no faith at all) has anything to do with it. Has individualism, consumerism and secularism contributed to this mess in Europe? Perhaps. People can try to live without God and God's wisdom and guidance but eventually it will "blow up" and we are seeing that in Europe.
I think Europeans need God and prayer and the wisdom the Bible holds. But that's my opinion and many would disagree. There are many faith-filled people in Europe, and they try to keep the faith alive, but there has been a drastic increase in secularism and it's not a good thing.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Economic Uncertainty-Something's Out of Whack!

In business news you read such headlines as, "The trading losses suffered by JP Morgan have surged in recent days past the bank's initial $ 2 billion estimate by at least $ 1 billion...."
Billions lost, just like that. Heads roll, some people will be fired, others already have and the average person can't even get their head around how much a billion dollars is. A bad trade and a company loses billions and only a few people even understand what happened and those are the experts.
Then there's the Facebook billions. I'm not on Facebook and probably never will be. This blog is plenty of exposure for me. But in the latest news, the networking giant has an IPO value of $104.2 billion and make the offering worth $16.08 billion. Whatever that means.
Today I visited Kykuit, the magnificent hilltop estate, overlooking the Hudson River which was home to four generations of the Rockefeller family, beginning with John D. Rockefeller, the philanthropist and the richest man of his day. According to the tour guide, he was America's first billionaire. The Rockefellers are great philanthropists, billions made, billions given away. Kykuit is now an historic site. Very commendable. I look up to philanthropists, generosity is a blessed attribute.
And so I was thinking about all this, having been to Kykuit today. Billions of dollars buys lots of luxurious things such as expensive art, beautiful gardens and estates and that's fine. Capitalism is a great economic system, it helped my family climb the ladder of economic success in this country.
But there is too much income disparity in our country and it's growing wider everyday. Income inequality and joblessness causes hopelessness, anger and an increase in crime and domestic violence. That's the cold reality. You can't hide from hopelessness or from disenchanted and frustrated people. All people deserve to live with dignity and hope.
Three billion dollars in losses, (at least) that amount of money could have helped a lot of poor people and yet it's lost, lost in "financial outer space".........and no one really understands what happened, oh well a few people do.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Devilish Vandals Desecrate Historic Church

How sad that vandals (filled with destructive hate) have desecrated and vandalized the historic Holy Cross Church and property in Santa Cruz, California. Police reported widespread damage as windows were broken with rocks, paint was poured and sprayed on doors, walls, religious statues and a fountain area. The main Church, the museum and a nearby home serving pregnant women all suffered damage. Anti-church slogans and symbols were also spray painted and the vandals went so far as to climb on the roof to damage the Church's bell tower with paint. Paint was also poured on statues of Junipero Serra and the Blessed Mother. Many historic, cultural artifacts were also damaged. Mission Santa Cruz was one of the 21 Franciscan missions founded by Blessed Junipero Serra and his friars. A baptismal font brought to Mission Santa Cruz by Junipero Serra in the 1700's was also damaged.
Enough is enough. This destructive, desecration at Churches has happened too many times and must stop. Churches (and other houses of worship) need to be alarmed (this one was but the outside vandalism did not set off the alarm), as well as protected with high definition surveillance cameras and motion detectors.
Whatever the motives of these hateful criminals, these actions are evil and they must be stopped. The technology exists to make sure these incidents don't happen in the future. Let's hope all houses of worship make it a priority to protect the sacredness and sanctity of religious property. Whatever the cost, it is well worth it.

O Lord, Our God, you are worthy to receive glory and honor and power......
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and
strength, honor and glory and praise. (Rev. 4:11, 5:12)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Fr. Claudio-Healing Masses, Prayer and Good Medicine

My cousin is undergoing cancer treatment, chemotherapy at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. One of the good things (and there are many) about living in or near New York City, is the expert medical care that's available. My family has rallied around my cousin. We go with her for treatment, we sit with her while intravenous medicines are blasted into her body to kill off the cancer cells and stop their spreading. We are also praying for her daily. I've accompanied her, along with other family members, to a few of Fr. Claudio Antecini's healing Masses which have taken place in parishes in the Diocese of Brooklyn, where he resides. So almost four months into this combination of intense and persistent prayer, healing masses and expert care from cancer specialists in a world renown facility and my cousin received encouraging news. Things look good, the experimental drugs which they have had good results with (with other patients as well) are working. Thank God!
When good science, advances in medicine and the power of prayer are combined, miracles can and do happen. And that is the perfect combination.
And so, there is a long way to go, but we will continue to believe in the power of prayer, the healing power of being prayed over and the mercy of God. The modern advances that are being made each day to combat this devastating disease are the result of hours and hours of research and dedicated doctors and researchers. And they are making progress. I will continue to pray for my cousin, each day and also to pray that a cure for this disease will be found soon.

Monday, April 30, 2012

St. Catherine of Siena and the Truth

St. Catherine of Siena prayed to know eternal truth. St. Catherine was often challenged and at times ridiculed. She was even called an "ignorant little woman." One day a Franciscan scholar and an Augustinian Brother decided to challenge her as they felt it their duty "to speak to her so that she may see her errors.." The two theologians decided to question her, in the midst of a large group. And so the story goes:
Now Master Gabriele lived in his convent in the style of a cardinal. He had had the walls taken down between three cells to make himself a spacious room; his bed was provided with curtains and rugs of silk; he possessed books and many other things worth many hundred ducats. Catherine knew this and suddenly she upset all the snares which the Franciscan had prepared for her and told him to be ashamed of the life that he, a son of St. Francis dared to live. 'How is it possible for you to understand anything of that which pertains to the Kingdom of who live only for the world and to be honored and esteemed by men? Your learning is of but little use to others and only harms yourself, for you seek the shell, not the core. For the sake of Jesus Christ Crucified, do not live this way any longer'!
Her words struck the heart, mind and soul of the learned Franciscan. He took the keys from his belt and handed them to Catherine. He looked around the room and shouted, "Is there no one present here who will go to my cell and take everything he finds there and give it to the poor?"
Both of those learned men changed their lives dramatically from that day on. They both gave away all their possessions to the poor and lived humbly for the rest of their lives.
They had been challenged by a living saint and a doctor of the Church and by God's piercing truth.

O eternal Trinity, my sweet love! You light, give us light
You, wisdom, give us wisdom, You, supreme strength,
strengthen us,
Today, eternal God, let our cloud be dissipated so that we may
perfectly know and follow your truth, in truth, with a free and simple heart.
St. Catherine

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pope Benedict's Common Sense Down-To-Earth Advice

At the end of Pope Benedict's weekly public audience in St. Peter's Square, he gave some good common sense advice to the pilgrims present. Speaking in Italian, he offered prayers for those who have lost their lives in recent traffic accidents in Italy and sympathy for their relatives. He mentioned the need for people to "drive carefully and with a sense of responsibility." Let's hope and pray the pilgrims and the Italians heed his advice.
I've been to Italy twice, once in the 1970's with my cousin and another time with my son who accompanied me on a Italian pilgrimage during the Jubilee Year 2000.  I love Italy and can't wait to return. In the 1970's when I went with my cousin, we flew into Stuttgart, Germany where my cousin bought a brand new Mercedes Benz and we then drove it through Germany, Switzerland and Italy. I will never forget my cousin driving on the German autobahn, in a brand new car, driving close to a 100 mph. She was not alone, it seemed like everyone was driving that fast. There is no general speed limit on the autobahns only an advisory speed limit of 81 mph.  I was a teenager at the time and it was a thrilling experience and one I will never forget. The car was eventually shipped from Sicily, where we finally wound up, back to the United States.
It was a trip of a lifetime. But from my experience (and granted that was a long time ago), I think the Pope gave Europeans some very good and needed advice. Driving carefully and mindfully and with a sense of responsibility is not only a civic duty and common sense, but it can save lives.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fr. James Martin, S.J. Supports Nuns

Fr. James Martin, prolific writer and speaker has started a twitter drive, WhatSistersMeanToMe according to a HuffPost article I read. He's doing it to show support to nuns in the United States, (The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, in particular) who have come under scrutiny of late by the Vatican.
I wonder why the Vatican didn't handle this delicate situation differently. Why does this have to play out in the media? Couldn't this of been handled behind closed doors with recommendations given to the Sisters in private, if officials in the Vatican thought changes should be made? How would Jesus have handled this matter? More compassionately I think. But anyhow, Fr. Martin wrote this to the Huffington Post in explaining his twitter campaign-
"Catholic Sisters are my heroes. In light of the Vatican's desire to renew and reform their main organizing body, The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, I think it would be a great time to speak a word of support for Catholic Sisters to acknowledge the hidden ways that these women have generously served God, the poor and served this country." In all respect to Fr. Martin, I don't think anyone is questioning the generosity of Catholic nuns. We've all benefited from their generosity, in many ways. I've read many supportive and encouraging tweets as a result of Fr. Martin's effort.
This morning I read an editorial in the "New York Times" supporting the Sisters as well. Titled "American Nuns, Conscience and the Vatican," it noted the "very fine work in schools, charities, prisons and impoverished neighborhoods being done by about 60,000 nuns across the nation.............The nuns clearly are caught in a classic crossfire of church doctrine, politics and hierarchical obedience. It would be a tragedy, far beyond the Church, if their fine work and their courageous voices were constrained."
I think some damage control is necessary. What would Jesus do to straighten this out?

One of the tweets read as follows-WhatSistersMeanToMe-

"They taught me what love was during a very dark time in my life"