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)