Saturday, January 28, 2012

Jessica Ahlquist-Poor Judgment-Along With Her Parents

Jessica Ahlquist, a former Roman Catholic turned radical atheist is causing quite a stir in Rhode Island. As many people have read or heard by now, Jessica has been asking the high school officials at Cranston HS, where she is a student, to remove an eight foot prayer banner since 2010. She became the spokesperson for the plea when a complaint was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
As reported by the New York Times on January 11th federal judge Lagueux ruled that "it was unconstitional for the banner to hang at the public school." The community is fighting to leave it up. It's been covered for now. Many people consider the banner to be part of the school's history. A student wrote the prayer in 1963 and it has been hanging in the school since then.
It's a sad story. I have to ask myself why Jessica got involved in this controversial problem. She must have felt strongly about it but I wonder if her ego got in the way. Why was the prayer, that gave comfort to so many and was part of the school's history, so upsetting to her? Where were her parents? I'm surprised they were comfortable with her bringing so much negative attention to herself and getting involved in such controversy. There are so many important projects and positions worth fighting for. But to fight to have a much loved prayer removed and to be remembered for that is baffling to me. I read that Jessica is receiving threats for her actions. Of course that is not right, but why would she relinquish her peace of mind to make a point. She's not in an enviable position.
I might have a solution for school officials. Perhaps this would work. I'm sure someone has thought of it already. Why not have the banner reprinted? Leave out the first line. Students can say that to themselves if they wish. Leave the rest of the prayer as is. Maybe then it won't offend those who don't believe in God.
Thank God there are people in the world who do believe, who do give honor, praise and glory to God. For those who believe in mystery and the spiritual, religious dimension of existence, life holds hope and fulfillment. Maybe someday Jessica will realize that.

Our Heavenly Father,
Grant us each day the desire to do our best,
To grow mentally and morally as well as physically,
To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers,
To be honest with ourselves as well as with others,
Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win,
Teach us the value of true friendship,
Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West. Amen.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Gingrich-Redemption and Our Fascination With It

Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination has surprised many by winning the South Carolina primary race and surging ahead, despite difficult odds. (These are just observations I've had, I'm not endorsing any candidate and haven't made up my mind who I would vote for in the presidential election.) I do find the process of electing a president fascinating.
I have heard more than one political commentator say, "The American people are very forgiving." Or- "People can relate to someone who has turned their life around." It seems people can relate to a person who has fallen and admitted it, someone who by the grace and mercy of God has turned their life around and started anew in Christ, with Christ's help. It's a compelling story of the perseverance of the human spirit and what's possible when any human being embraces God's mercy and love. We are all beggars before God. We are all in need of God's encouragement, love and support. Every day when I read the psalms in prayer, I hear over and over again human beings crying out for God from the depths of their being. People in every age and time like the idea that people are given second chances, that God saves and that God's saving grace can be seen and witnessed in the lives of people, from all walks of life. God's grace is available to all who are receptive and open to it.
It seems to me that Newt Gingrich repented and then picked himself up, brushed himself off, accepted and embraced God's mercy and love and started anew in Christ, with Christ at his side. People like that kind of story, it gives hope to everyone. (Mr. Gingrich, who converted to Catholicism in 2009, also had a spiritual director who helped him-Msgr. Walter Rossi, the rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, so that was an added advantage. I'm sure the conversations and catechism discussions between them were most interesting.)
So I would imagine that's one reason that Gingrich's campaign turned around. People of all faiths want to believe in the power of God's grace and mercy and see it operative in the world. People are fascinated with redemption and the idea that with God's help all things are possible, second chances are real, just as God's mercy and compassion are real. Just as God is real.

"God is my rock and my salvation, I shall not be disturbed at all."

"Only in God is my soul at rest, from God comes my salvation."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hell-Did They Stumble Upon It?

Mercury is the planet closest to the Sun in our Solar System. It's also the smallest planet. Since it's closest to the Sun temperatures can reach as high as a scorching 840 degrees Fahrenheit. There are great fluctuations in temperature on and near the planet Mercury but obviously it can get very hot. That got me thinking some "out there," thoughts which I thought would be "fun" to explore.
NASA has a valid explanation (of course) for an unusual occurrence which happened recently. A camera on NASA's Stereo spacecraft caught an image of a wave of electronically charged material shooting out from the Sun and hitting Mercury. The solar flare appears to hit another object. "In one footage, one sees a huge spurt of plasma and other solar ejecta washing over Mercury, the material seems to flare up as it hits another object."
So I wondered if have they stumbled upon Hell? If Hell exists it seems perfectly plausible that it would be "parked" outside of the planet Mercury, but it would be "cloaked or invisible" of course.
UFO enthusiasts have come up with a stranger explanation which I found quite amusing. Obviously they have watched a lot of episodes of "Star Trek," since they're sure that the "mass" is a huge cloaked UFO mothership. Now that's really "out there."
NASA provided this explanation-"The mysterious object is actually Mercury itself. We're seeing in the footage the equivalent of Mercury's wake, where the planet was on the previous day, as it travels through the Solar System."
What does the Church teach about Hell? According to the Catechism, "The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire." The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs" (CCC 1035).
When I die I want to be in the eternal presence and light of God. That's one of the reasons I'm going to say Morning Prayer right now and live each moment with Jesus near.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tebow's A Winner-No Matter What!

I hope Tim Tebow isn't too upset about yesterday's devastating loss to the Patriots. Tebow is still a winner, each and everyday, for his willingness to share his deep faith and be a witness to belief in God. I disagree with a statement in an article in the NY Times by Judy Battista who wrote, "The cheer that has engulfed Tebow's confounding season gave way to mocking as the Patriots destroyed the Broncos, 45-10. " Who is mocking Tim Tebow? Fans of the opposing team perhaps. Tebow can hold his head up high. He has millions of admirers, he's a positive role models for kids who play sports, he's inspired songwriters to rewrite lyrics to songs in admiration of him, and of course "tebowing" is a new word in the English language. Having the courage to give honor and glory to God and praying on one knee (in front of millions) in gratitude for blessings received is noble, in any time, in my opinion.
No one likes to lose, but the positive example that Tebow has set for children is priceless. Children are in desperate need of positive role models in sports and every profession. He's a winner and will continue to be so. He's showing children and adults that it's OK to put God first, to have your priorities straight, to give witness to belief and the benefits of belief in God and to show gratitude for blessings received.

Why does anyone tell a story? It does indeed have something to do with faith, faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically.
Madeline L'Engle

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tim Tebow and the "Mile High Halo"

It seems there is a national obsession with the Denver Bronco's quarterback (and friend of God) Tim Tebow. (He is NOT a national nightmare! How could anyone even say that?) There are a lot of amazing things about Tim Tebow. He gives honor and glory to God openly on the football field, without apology. He's proud to be a believer and to show gratitude to God. He's a hero and a role model to many. He invented "tebowing" which officially became a word in the English language due to it's worldwide usage (Global Language Monitor). Check out www., to see images of people tebowing all over the world (getting down on one knee and praying, regardless of what's going on around you).
Tebow was rendered a superhero by Marvel Comics. His character was known as Super Tim. It is well known that he spent three summers prior to enrolling at the University of Florida in the Philippines doing missionary work. (Wikipedia)
And then there was Sunday's amazing finish to the Steelers/Bronco's game with Tebow throwing 316 yards to win the game in overtime.
There is a lot to admire about Tebow and there is no question he is a loyal and faithful friend of God but are strange occurrences starting to happen at Mile High Stadium or are people beginning to take this too far?
According to an online article at Huffington Post that is most popular right now titled, "Mile High Halo Forms Over Tim Tebow and Mile High Stadium," people claim (there are photos to back it up) that a smoke-like halo/ring appeared over the stadium after the Bronco's scored their first field goal. Is there an explanation, I wonder? It's interesting nonetheless.
I hope God will continue to bless Tim Tebow (and good role models like him) because he's doing a lot to promote faith in God and gratitude to God for blessings received. He's giving glory to the One who loves and gives mercy and gifts freely.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

New Year's Resolutions and Staying Healthy

I read an article at HuffPost Healthy Living, titled "Keep Walking To Stay Mentally Sharp," by Gary Small, M.D., and I thought this idea is a good resolution to stick with. I try to walk everyday (or go on the treadmill) but sometimes I get distracted. I know walking is the least expensive and easiest way to stay in good health (amazingly it also prevents strokes). The latest studies now confirm that walking regularly helps your brain stay young, healthy and alert as you age.
From the article, "In a study of 18,000 older women, Harvard researchers found that 90 minutes a week of brisk walking or approximately 15 minutes a day, was all one needed to delay cognitive decline and reduce possible risk of future Alzheimer's Disease. University of Pittsburgh scientists found that the more older people walked the better their cognitive abilities and the larger their brains." (I'd like a large brain, how about you?)
One of the diseases I fear as I age is Alzheimer's Disease. It's such a devastating disease. Walking everyday sounds like such a simple way to prevent it.
From all that I've read (and I read a lot) to age well and to keep your mind, body and soul healthy these suggestions are mentioned over and over again by different experts, scientists and spiritual teachers:
Reading-books, articles and blogs of course
Staying social-belonging to groups
All forms of exercise-especially walking
Practicing Christian meditation- practicing mindfulness
Eating fruits and vegetables-especially berries, apples and green leafy vegetables
Finding time for silence and solitude
Being part of a faith community and attending religious services or Mass
Believing in God and praying often
Developing good friendships
Trusting in God in good times and bad-staying faithful no matter what life "throws" at you
Smiling often and staying optimistic
Believing in God's abundant favor
Walking in the sunshine each day (or as often as possible).
I also say morning and evening prayer which I find soothing for my soul.

God bless and good luck. I hope you keep some of your resolutions if you make them.
"With God all things are possible"

Monday, January 2, 2012

Fr. Claudio-The Healing Priest

Last Thursday evening I attended a healing Mass, with my cousins at The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Ozone Park, Queens. My cousin, who lives in Brooklyn, asked me to meet her there. She recently received an alarming medical report. What does a Christian do (or any believer for that matter) when they receive a bad medical report? They seek expert medical help (in New York we are fortunate to have excellent doctors) and they also rely on family and faith. Non-believers don't get it but there is nothing more comforting or soothing in times of stress and crisis than the ability to turn to God and the comfort of prayer. Having the gift of faith enables one to draw upon it in a moment's notice. Such a blessing and grace!
Anyhow, I was going to meet my cousin at the Church but when I arrived the Church was locked. The priest was locked out too, though I didn't know he was the priest at the time. When my cousin arrived she recognized him since she had been at a previous healing Mass. Other people arrived and as we all waited on the steps for the Church to be opened, in the cold, I realized that having an obstacle so early in the experience was a good sign. Only a spiritual person would understand that paradox!
As we entered the beautifully decorated Church during the Christmas Octave, on that evening, the comfort of being in that sacred space, surrounded by objects that I find very pleasing, immediately relaxed me and gave me reason to hope. My two cousins that I was with, found peace in that experience too.
Fr. Claudio Antecini, the celebrant, is the newly installed pastor of Visitation Parish in Red Hook, Brooklyn. However, he celebrates a healing Mass at Nativity of the BVM once a month.
During the Mass, he tells his story. He's from Italy originally. God called him as a teenager to give his life to Him. He tells about how he cried upon realizing his call to be a priest and serve God. Fr. Claudio is down-to-earth, unassuming, and gifted. He greeted a family during the Mass that had come from New Jersey to have him pray over their child. He knows how to connect with the people in the pews.
After Mass, he prayed over the people who came forward for prayers. Some people were "slain in the spirit." I felt alittle unsteady after he prayed over me, but I walked back to the pew only to realize my cousin was lying on the floor of the Church, peacefully overwhelmed by the Spirit. It was a night of blessing.
Fr. Claudio explained during the Mass how he was able to raise enough money in one year to take the parish of Visitation out of debt. One year to do that. I can see why. He's a likeable priest and I'm sure people are willing to help his ministry. He asked us to write down prayer petitions which he took with him.
Fr. Claudio has a winning formula. He relies on the Holy Spirit, he gives himself to God completely, he's down-to-earth and he connects with people and gives them hope. After celebrating Mass, he prays individually with each person present, making that personal connection, which is affirming. Perhaps some people experience a healing, in one way or another. Yet everyone leaves the Church feeling better, more hopeful, more confident in a loving, merciful God who wants us to be healed, whole and happy.
Jesus was a healer, a compassionate healer. In my opinion, priests should spend more time cultivating the healer within them and sharing that with God's people. It would definitely help our Church.