Monday, December 30, 2013

Obamas Didn't Attend Church on Christmas-It Does Matter

There is some controversy over the fact that the Obama Family, vacationing in Hawaii during Christmas Time, didn't find the time or choose to attend Church Services on Christmas Day. There is a lot of commentary and opinion on whether this matters and whether other presidents in the past have attended Church services on Christmas. To me it matters. One thing I do as a religious educator is give talks to parents and children and I always make a point, during the talks to say how important religious rituals are to children and adults. Psychologists also say that rituals, even religious rituals are important for the security and well being of children and adults. There are numerous studies that suggest that attending worship services (of any one of the major world religions) is good for the body, mind and soul. Yes, prayer is good for you and so are religious services and Mass. Besides that, if you are going to be a believer, if you are going to believe and profess faith in Jesus Christ then on the second holiest feast day (at least in Catholicism, which is my tradition) shouldn't you spend time in adoration and prayer, with a faith community? I understand that some Protestant congregations do not have services on Christmas and I don't get that at all. Jewish people believe that adoration of God and praise of God is the highest form of prayer. Shouldn't Christmas be a time of prayer and reflection, in a communal setting for Christians. Why wouldn't a believer spend some time (one hour) in prayer and adoration on Christmas? It says in Scripture that Jesus said, "Where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them." Don't we want to spend quality time with Jesus on Christmas Day?" If not then, when?  I think it's important and more importantly, I think for the President of the United States, who states that his religion is important to him, to spend one hour on Christmas Day in prayer with his family sends a positive message to the country, to the journalists covering his stay in Hawaii, to his two daughters and to believers all over the world. That's just my opinion.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year Too!

I pray you will have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May all of God's blessings be upon you and your family.
I'm busy breading shrimp and making rice balls. Each member of my family does some of the cooking for Christmas Eve. And so I'm preparing my part of the meal. "Food is love" as a psychology professor once stated, but I learned that from growing up in an Italian American household in Brooklyn.  Good food, cooked with love is part of what is best about being Italian American.  Growing up we always had lots of family, friends and neighbors eating over, sharing meals, yes food is love. I learned that early on.
And so, this is Christmas, a beautiful time of the year, made ever so glorious by the knowledge of Christ and His gift to humankind and to me personally.  To know Christ, to love God that is the fullness of life and the hope of existence.
To know Christ, to be part of the great Christian tradition is a gift beyond measure, beyond words. I can't wait for Mass tomorrow, before the Christmas Eve meal, my family will attend a beautiful family Mass which will engage my senses and give me a feeling of awe and completeness.
To know Christ is to realize life without God is lacking depth, lacking real meaning, lacking the fullness of truth.
The older I get the more I can appreciate the Incarnation, the extraordinary gift of God that is and what it means for my life, as a human being.
Knowing Christ means appreciating the encounter, the communion that Christ offers and being aware of what that adds to life. Christmas brings hope, hope that "all will be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing will be well"  (Julian of Norwich).
God Bless You!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dustin Friedland-Laying Down His Life for The Woman He Loved

During the holidays it should be a time for joy, celebration and greater compassion but unfortunately it is also a time when violent crime increases. There is a horrific story in the news from New Jersey about a young man who was out shopping with his wife for Christmas presents when he was involved in an attempted carjacking. In trying to save his wife, who he had just placed in the car, he struggled with the evil attackers and was shot and killed. He was a good man, well liked, hard working, a loyal husband and instead of wrapping presents, he's dead. How can one fathom such evil and violence? What kind of depraved, heartless human beings kill a man during the Christmas season or during any season for that matter?
Jesus said, "there is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend." Or for a loved one, for the woman you love.....Jesus knows what it is to give, not counting the cost, to give of oneself totally for love.  In this sad incident, an instant decision, made out of love, cost Dustin Friedland his life. He wanted to protect the woman he loved and he did that.  It's such a tragic, yet romantic story.
A few years ago I was out shopping late and I returned home with a lot of packages. I was followed without realizing it. A man started to walk up my driveway as I was taking the packages out of my car.  I ran into the house. Luckily I was alert because I later read that it was happening to others. People were followed and then robbed.  I don't shop anymore in the evening, when it's dark. I changed my shopping habits because of that incident.
Our country is a great country but we live in a society with great income inequality.  And that inequality keeps growing. Such a disparity in wealth causes problems in society. Problems that no one can escape from.
Dustin Friedland was the best of human beings and he was killed senselessly by the worst of human beings. He died a hero, protecting the woman he loved. How fortunate she was to be married to such a wonderful man who gave up his life trying to protect her from violence. May his soul be at peace.

They do not love, that do not show their love.  
(Shakespeare, "Two Gentlemen of Verona)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Time's Person of the Year-Pope Francis-Something To Rejoice Over!

Just what I needed some good Advent news to rejoice over. Pope Francis being named Person of the Year by Time Magazine just confirms what many Catholics already believe. Pope Francis is the right Pope for this time in history. The Cardinals who elected him, following the guidance of the Holy Spirit got it right and the Catholic Church is blessed by Pope Francis' wisdom, goodness, insight and willingness to be guided by the Spirit.  Times managing editor Nancy Gibbs explained their choice for 2013 to the media......
"In his nine months in office he has placed himself at the very center of the central conversations of our time, about wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalization, the role of women, the nature of marriage, the temptations of power.......When he kisses the face of a disfigured man, or washes the feet of a Muslim woman, the image resonates far beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church."
What especially endeared him to the editors of Time and made him win out over the other choices was his humility and his dedication to fighting poverty. He consistently reminds and challenges Catholics and others that the "least of our brothers and sisters" deserve a chance to a good, decent and fulfilling life. They deserve to be fed, literally by having enough to eat and spiritually with food for their souls. "The poorest of the poor" as Mother Teresa called them deserve a chance to lift themselves out of a spiral of poverty and hopelessness.
He has followed the mandate of God, "Humble yourself and I will exalt you."
A reason to be joyful this Advent-the success of the pontificate of Pope Francis and the recognition that goodness and selflessness is rewarded in time, in God's time.

Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord and He will exalt you 

Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.
(James 4:9-11)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Times Square Digital Billboard Mocks Christ-Desecrates the Name of Christ

I went to the Frick Museum in Manhattan yesterday to see one of the most famous paintings in the world, " Girl With A Pearl Earring" by Vermeer. The new exhibit at the Frick of famous Dutch paintings is worth seeing but on the way back home, I passed Times Square. That's when I saw something which greatly disturbed me. Radical atheists who have no respect for the beliefs of others, most especially Christians, have put up a huge digital billboard, "Who Needs Christ During Christmas? Nobody," is what it says and the name Christ is crossed out. "The 40 by 40 foot sign shows a series of motion graphics which starts with the question, "Who Needs Christ During Christmas? Then a hand crosses out Christ and writes "Nobody." It's disgusting and it made me very upset.
I don't care how much money they were willing to spend on that outrageous digital billboard, they should not be able to do that. I understand freedom of speech but there are certain sacred beliefs that should not be treated disrespectfully. Christ's holy and sacred name is being crossed out during the holy season of Advent in a public area seen by hundreds of thousands of people.  It shouldn't be. It's not right.  The holy name of Jesus Christ should not be treated so disrespectfully and mocked.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Demolition of St. Ignatius Retreat House-Could the Jesuits Have Done More to Save the Brady Mansion?

I toured, visited often and led a few discussion groups on Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.,  at St. Ignatius Retreat House on Long Island.  During the tour,  I learned a lot about the history of the magnificent gold coast mansion (that became St. Ignatius Retreat House) which was once owned by the generous Catholic philanthropists- Nicholas and Genevieve Brady.  They had no children.  Mr. Brady must have loved his wife very much because he had "Inisfada" (Gaelic for Long Island) built for his wife for their 10th wedding anniversary in 1920.  It was an architectural gem and an historic Long Island house -a 72,000 square foot Tudor Elizabethan mansion, with beautiful and peaceful grounds.  It had exquisite details, such as ornate wooden moldings, magnificent staircases, a stunning sunroom and two beautiful chapels. (One chapel, the St. Genevieve Chapel has been dismantled and brought to Fordham University in the Bronx to be reassembled.) Cardinals and a future Pope even stayed at the mansion (Pope Pius XII), as the Brady's often had visitors and dignitaries as guests.
After her husband died, Genevieve went to Rome to live and she donated the mansion and the property to the Jesuits to use as a Seminary. Unfortunately, she should have thought to place a clause in the donation contract insisting it never be demolished, but she probably never thought it would be.
But the demolition has begun, much to the dismay of preservationists and civic groups on the North Shore of Long Island, who tried in vain, to save it through court actions and appeals.
Politicians issued the final permit that was required so that the 93 year old mansion could be knocked down, so that luxury single family homes can be built on the 33 acre property.
Local civic groups, some like-minded politicians and preservationists have been fighting to keep the mansion intact. In a NY Newsday article which appeared today, a realtor was quoted as saying, "It is one of the grandest and most intact homes to come down in over 30 years on Long Island."
So the question arises, could the Jesuits have done more to save the mansion? Did they owe anything to the memory of Nicholas and Genevieve Brady? I think (and I'm not a lawyer) they could have sold the property with a stipulation saying that the mansion had to be kept intact and preserved.  The Jesuits received $36.5 million for the sale of the mansion.  Couldn't they have negotiated for the preservation of the mansion in the real estate deal? It certainly would have made many of the residents of the North Shore of Long Island happy. But instead they have angered many Catholic residents of the North Shore, who are dismayed by the destruction of this magnificent, historic house.
The Jesuits couldn't keep up the maintenance of the huge mansion and that is understandable, but with alittle effort on their part they could have fought for this historic mansion to be saved. What a pity, that they didn't try to do that, when they thought of selling the property.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Black Friday Violence-Shopping on Thanksgiving

How sad that Thanksgiving Day as well as Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, were marred by violent episodes, in many states in our country. What a disgrace! It's bad enough that some retailers are opening on the evening of Thanksgiving but now come reports that people are fighting in stores, pushing, shoving and acting irrationally not only over big ticket items such as TV's and computers but over towels. Fighting, pushing and cursing over towels on Thanksgiving??  Shouldn't people be at home spending quality time with family or friends, giving thanks for their blessings? But instead we hear reports, year after year of people acting wildly to get a bargain.  It's unimaginable that people are fighting over towels (or anything for that matter) on Thanksgiving evening. This is materialism and consumerism run amok. The Founding Fathers of our country must be "turning over in their graves".
In one article I read, "Starting as early as Thursday night, shootings and stabbings have been reported at retailers in several states." In New Jersey, it was reported that a man was arrested after getting into an argument with a Walmart manager. The police were called and he then attacked a police officer (this was over a TV). These stories are so absurd that they are hard to believe.
It's a sad commentary on modern culture and what is happening in our country.
Pope Francis in his first published major document, "The Joy of the Gospel," asks all Christians to bring about a "revolution of tenderness" by being receptive to God's love and forgiveness and sharing that with others. We would be wise to heed that advice.

"Come Lord Jesus"