Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hope, Optimism, God and Writing

I was in need of a dose of hope and optimism today. I try not to read negative news stories because they disturb me but sometimes I do it anyway. A cousin I am very close to is undergoing chemotherapy and the side effects make her sick and that upsets me too.
So I needed an optimistic story and I found one. The article at HuffPost titled, "Formerly Illiterate Lobsterman, James Arruda Henry, Becomes Author at 98." That's exactly the kind of uplifting story I needed today. "Never give up, keep persevering, you can do anything at any age, if you keep trying." I need to be constantly reminded of that. I say affirmations all the time, I recite the psalms during prayer, but sometimes the problems of individuals and the world seem overwhelming.
But when you read about someone like James Arruda Henry who was illiterate and had to hide it all the while he was a lobster boat captain and how at 98 his self-published collection of autobiographical essays is now being read in elementary schools, you realize it's never to late to pursue dreams and to attain them if you work hard and stay the course.
He told the Associated Press, "I didn't think it was going to go too far....I couldn't read or nothing. I tell you it makes me a very, very happy man to have people call me and write letters and stuff like that."
There are so many happy stories of good people attaining dreams and that gives me hope for my dreams.
The other night when I turned on the TV, it was late and I switched to EWTN and there was Pope Benedict in Cuba. He looked tired as he should be at his age and yet amazingly he is doing so much good, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, even at his age. He's 85, still traveling and I thought to myself, "How wonderful that he can do that, still be so vital and share so much." I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. I was a child but it was a frightening experience to go through.  And there was Pope Benedict decades later bringing the healing Mass to Cubans and to the world. He brought the healing ritual of the Mass and his presence and that was enough.
"With God all things are possible." Optimism and hope, along with faith in God can bring light to the darkness in our world.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Prior General of the Order of Carmelites

Today I traveled with a group of Lay Carmelites from Queens to Middletown, NY to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. We were invited along with other Lay Carmelites to be a part of a special Mass and luncheon in honor of the visit of the Prior General- Most Reverend Fernando Millan Romeral, O. Carm. It was well worth the trip to Middletown.
Along with Carmelite Friars, Sisters and Lay members of the Order, we worshipped in the beautiful chapel, on the grounds of the Shrine, surrounded by relics of Carmelite saints. The Mass was beautiful and the choir extraordinary. The Prior General who presided and gave the homily was sincere, authentic and genuinely pleased that so many had traveled long distances to be a part of the day. What a good man! His goodness was shining through his words and smiles, which is why I imagine he was called to be the Prior General! He seems to be enjoying his role. He said that we are family, all of us, the Friars, the Sisters and the Lay Carmelites. He said that when he met Pope Benedict, the Pope mentioned the special prayer charism that Carmelites have.
His words reminded me of how uplifting it is to be a part of something that has inspired and helped so many to grow in holiness and sanctity over the ages. The Carmelites saints such as St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese were extraordinary human beings, who all became great saints. The heights of holiness that they achieved through the Carmelite way of life shows the power of the Carmelite path.
Principal concelebrants of the Mass were Very Reverend Raul Maravi Cabrera, O. Carm., General Councilor for the Americas and Very Reverend Mario Esposito, O. Carm., Prior Provincial of the Province of St. Elias. (Some impressive titles!)
We restated our intention to love God and Mary and to serve and remain aware of the awesome call and vocation we have by reciting an "Act of Consecration to Our Lady of Mount Carmel." It begins.......
"O Mary, Queen and Mother of Carmel, I come today to consecrate myself to you, for my whole life is but a small return for the many graces and blessings that have come from God to me through your hands. Since you regard with an eye of special kindness those who wear your Scapular, I implore you to strengthen the darkness of my mind with your wisdom and to increase in me faith, hope and charity that I may render, day by day, my debt of humble homage to you............."
It was an enriching day, full of surprises, good fellowship, delicious food and most importantly a day to praise God and to be thankful for the Carmelite Order, which has produced such great "fruit" in the Church and will continue to do so, into the future.
The best gift I ever gave to myself was becoming a Third Order Carmelite. A day such as today reminds me of that.
NJ Azzaro, T. O. Carm.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Are You Listening Church?

I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor 2:2)

At our baptism, every Christian is anointed "priest," prophet and king. This is a great and powerful anointing, one that unfortunately too few Catholics truly understand. But in any event, this morning I thought I would write something from a prophets point of view. I mean no disrespect, on the contrary I'm just thinking out loud. This is Lent, a sacrificial liturgical season when all Catholics are suppose to concentrate on self-forgetting and immerse themselves in some form of asceticism- giving up, sharing more, thinking and praying more about God than themselves.
I read last night at that famous blog, Whispers in the Loggia, that a number of formal announcements were made by the Vatican, concerning the appointments of new Bishops and Archbishops. I certainly wish all those worthy and illustrious men good will and God's blessings but I have to question the timing. Why were these announcements made during Lent? Why not wait for the Easter Season when the Church is rejoicing and celebrating the Risen Christ? I just think the timing is off to announce appointments to the episcopacy when the Church is in a period of self-forgetting and sacrifice. Timing is very important in life.
As St. Paul reminded us in Philippians (Phil 2:8), "Jesus humbled himself becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross." The cross of Christ, the humiliation that Christ suffered by being betrayed, rejected and ultimately succumbing to that horrific death on a cross is what should be on the minds of all striving for holiness during Lent. That's all. And that is my humble opinion.

May your love draw down upon you the mercy of the Lord, and may he let you see that within your soul a saint is sleeping. I shall ask him to make you so open and supple that you will be able to understand and do what he wants you to do. Your life is nothing; it is not even your own. Each time you say 'I'd like to do this or that,' you wound Christ, robbing him of what is his. You have to put to death everything within you except the desire to love God......" Jacques Fesch

Friday, March 16, 2012

Anti-Catholic Ad-New York Times Responds To My Letter

The New York Times has let the "devil in the door" and now has a problem on its hands. In the latest development it appears that the paper has refused to print an anti-Islam ad, saying it would endanger people's lives by printing the ad. When Pamela Geller tried to pay for an anti-Islam ad she was told "no," for the time being.
Below is the response I received from the New York Times regarding an e-mail I sent them, expressing my disappointment (and outrage) over the anti-Catholic advertisement that appeared in their newspaper last Friday. The highly controversial ad was titled, "It's Time To Consider Quitting The Catholic Church."

Dear Ms. Azzaro
Thank you for your note regarding the advertisement we ran recently from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. We regret that you were disturbed by the substance of that advertisement. We want you to be aware that The New York Times accepts advertisements from advocacy groups who wish to share their points of view on particular matters, including those involving faith. We publish this type of advertising because we believe in the First Amendment, which affords us the right to publish news and editorials but more importantly, guarantees the public's right to be heard. It should be noted that we have accepted many advertisements from organizations making opposing statements about various religious faiths, including anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim groups. We offer opportunities for pro-religious groups to have their voices heard. In fact, we have given pro-Catholic causes many opportunities to use the New York Times to get their message to our very influential audiences. The Catholic League of New York advertises in The Times' with their last ad running in April of 2011. We sincerely thank you for taking the time to write and hope this clarifies our position....."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Winter That Wasn't

I'm not complaining about the warm weather we've had in the Northeast. I love the nice weather we've been having in New York. Winter for the most part never arrived in New York City and the metropolitan area and that's fine with me. Nothing stresses me out more than icy roads and slick walkways. It makes you wonder, is this the new normal? Is this unseasonably mild winter we've been having in the Northeastern part of the United States, proof of global warming and climate change? Is this the beginning of a trend of warmer winters and earlier Springs? We'll have to see what happens next year. Time will tell. According to Bill Korbel, News 12 Long Island meteorologist, "Temperatures will average more than 10 degrees above normal, for this week."
Early spring flowers are blooming already, some flowering trees have begun to bloom, God's magnificent creation is starting to come alive and it's a feast for the senses!
But there are some serious matters to ponder. Let's hope future generations find the solutions that we might need. An article in today's New York Times, ("Sea Level Rise Seen As Threat to 3.7 Million"), states that "About 3.7 million Americans live within a few feet of high tide and risk being hit by more frequent coastal flooding in coming decades because of the sea level rise caused by global warming.....By far the most vulnerable state is Florida, the new analysis found........but Louisiana, California, New York and New Jersey are also particularly vulnerable...."
We should be concerned for the sake of the next generation.
I recently went on vacation in Florida. It is a beautiful state. I was speaking to someone who lived there, she worked in the hotel. She said something interesting to me. "It's so beautiful here', she said, "but people say it's not going to last." In her circle of friends and family, that is what they say. Strange, I thought.
Let's hope and pray for the best. Let's hope the future geniuses of the world get us out of this mess, if it turns out that global warming is a fact, which seems to be the case.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

New York Times Publishes "Vicious" Anti-Catholic Ad During Lent

I sent an e-mail to the publisher of the New York Times today expressing my outrage over the full-page anti-Catholic advertisement which was printed in Friday's New York Times. As Catholic League president Bill Donohue stated at the League's website, "Never has there been a more vicious anti-Catholic advertisement in a prominent American newspaper than the one in today's New York Times by Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). The demonization of Catholicism is palpable." The ad which is titled, "It's Time To Consider Quitting the Catholic Church," later states in the ad, "Please, Exit En Mass."
I asked the publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., in the e-mail who approved the ad for publication. The ad was filled with lies, misinformation and distortions of the truth. As a Catholic I am offended by the ad and by the New York Times willingness to print it.
As a longtime subscriber to the New York Times I am on the verge of canceling my subscription over this incident. The Times showed a lack of respect for its Catholic readership by approving the publication of this distorted and vicious advertisement. Radical atheists have gone too far with this ad and with other disrespectful actions in the last few weeks. In another bold and offensive action, a billboard was put up near the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn which offended the Jewish Orthodox community by disrespecting the name of God. This is not advertising atheism as the atheists suggest. These ads lack sensitivity and civility. These ads present one-sided views filled with exaggeration and distortions.
Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." Christians live that truth everyday and their lives are enriched by it. Christians throughout history have contributed to society in positive ways and have also contributed to and funded charitable organizations which help the poor, the marginalized and the sick throughout the world. No mention of that in the ad.
Why don't the major world religions join together to start advertising on billboards stating the benefits of belief in God, the power of prayer, and the good that has been done for others by religious people throughout history?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Jeremy Lin and His Parents

I'm preparing to speak to Catholic parents along with their children this weekend about the importance of faith, family closeness, belief in God and prayer, forgiveness and staying faithful to the teachings of Jesus. I will tell them an interesting fact or two (well at least I find them interesting). One fact is that children who attend Mass (or other religious services) have higher GPA's than children who don't. (Obviously we should attend Mass to give honor and praise to God but there are many benefits of doing so......educational, spiritual, psychological and physical.

I read a great article in the New York Times on Sun. Feb. 26th titled, "Tight-Knit Family Shared Lin's Achievement Before Stardom," written by S. Borden and K. Bradsher. It told about the support and encouragement that Jeremy Lin's parents gave to him, not only in supporting his love of basketball (they showed up proudly at all his games), but also how important faith and Church was to the family. Jeremy Lin, the NY Knicks guard who has become an international sensation has been very vocal about his deep faith in God. He's not shy about praising God in thanksgiving for his blessings and talent. The events that led him to get "off the bench" and prove himself to the coaches (and the rest of the world) shows that when you combine talent, perseverance and prayer, miraculous things can happen. "With God all things are possible," is truth. Believers know that Scripture to be true, they've experienced it, over and over again.
As the Church teaches-parents are the primary religious educators of their children. It is crucial for parents to encourage their children to be faithful, to pray, to trust in God, and to be receptive to God's blessings, regardless of the faith community they belong to. Jeremy Lin is Protestant and his family is very involved in their Church. Jeremy was taught from an early age the importance of faith, prayer, patience and the benefits of belonging to a faith community.
As mentioned in the article, "Jeremy's life was formed by his parents", 'Fu-Chang Lo, an elder at the Lin family Church said last week and he and others who know the family maintain that in order to fully comprehend Lin's rise from relative anonymity, his parents' story must be understood.'" Later in the article it stated, "As devout Christians, Shirley (his mother) and Gie-Ming preached humility to their children and they spoke from experience...."
As this story clearly shows, good virtues, deep faith in God, a willingness to be receptive to God's abundant graces can help families to grow and develop in positive life-giving ways. I pray I can share that message this weekend with conviction.