Saturday, June 30, 2007

Tree Photograph

Took this photograph a year ago to the day after flooding in upstate New York.

(The "system" still won't allow me to upload. Imagine a beautiful wild willow tree in the sun over a muddy river that's actually an old canal. Stalkers of course already know what it looks like.)

Pope Benedict's Letter to the Chinese

A huge milestone and very important reading. It can be found on the Vatican website.

Glancing through press coverage this article in "Time" gives a very accurate and balanced summary.,8599,1639061,00.html

Prayers that this is the beginning of a new and fruitful era for the Chinese people. May this dialogue also be a model for the world's understanding and faithfulness.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Ripken's book used to kill huge cockroach

People have an odd sense of humor in the apartment complex where I live. There are huge roaches that get encouraged into my apartment through the vents and so forth by "neighbors." Even Cal Ripken Jr's book had trouble with the one today. And we wonder why it's such a sick world and why too few people are doing the things they are going to need to be saved.

Mary understands the soldier and their families

From Fulton Sheen's Wartime Prayer Book:

Our Blessed Mother alone knows how to console those mothers whose sons are in battle, for her only Son died in the War of Calvary. As she looked up into the night sky and saw a golden star, she became the first Gold Star Mother of Christian times.

Send prayer books to military service people

If you want to do something great for your loved ones in the military services, visit the website and make a donation to have "Fulton Sheen's Wartime Prayer Book" distributed among the military. I have one in front of me and it always reminds me of those who put their lives on the line so that others can be safe and free. My dad carried his own Confirmation prayer book from 1921 throughout World War II. Fulton Sheen composed this prayer book in 1943 and it's been a great source of comfort to all military people, whether Catholic or not, and there is even a kind message in it for atheists right on page 2. So this book is appropriate for everyone, and I understand there is always more demand for it than there are books and funds. Each book costs only $3.50 in donation to provide to a service member. And it's a small pocket size to fit in cam pockets where a Bible cannot be carried in the field or on patrol. Here is a sample of prayers provided in just one small section of this tiny but powerful 182 page book:

Prayer Before A Battle
Prayer On Coming Through a Battle Unharmed
Prayer Of A Wounded Man
Night Prayer
Universal Prayer
Prayer for Charity and Tolerance
Prayer for our Government
Prayer for Civil Authorities
Prayer to do God's Will

Chapters include "Thoughts in Wartime," "Reflections on Prayer," "Looking into My Soul," and "Encouragement." Again, while this book was written by that great Catholic Bishop Fulton Sheen, and part of the prayer book is devoted to Catholic beliefs and rites, over the years many Christians and even non-Christians of all denominations have been comforted by the topics in this book, as you can see a sample of above. You'll see great stories, photographs, and testimonials on their web site.

Americans, celebrate the 4Th of July with a donation to this wonderful organization, and buy a few copies for your family and friends (I think the police, firemen, emergency responders and civil authorities/anti-terrorist workers in your community would also love this book.) And for anyone around the world whose loved one can read English and who could use this book in their time of need for solace, I highly recommend it to you too.

Bless our military services men and women and also those working in peacekeeping units throughout this troubled world.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

St. Irenaeus and the people who knew Jesus

My friend at has a nice post regarding St. Irenaeus on his feast day today. He's one of the first apologists of the faith born in 130 AD and martyred in 202 AD.

Reading tiber's post you are reminded that many thousands of people saw Jesus in person, heard him preach, and knew his Apostles. Just because the Gospels have only a few people mentioned by name, there are frequent entries in the Gospels of the multitude of people who interacted with Jesus. I try to be patient with people who wonder if Jesus "really existed" and if he really "was the Messiah" and if he really "performed miracles." Tiber explains using Irenaeus' own words how he learned from St. Polycarp, who "All through his life, he told a friend, he could recall every detail of Polycarp's appearance, his voice, and the very words he used when telling what he had heard from John the Evangelist and others who had seen Jesus."

Tiber also quotes St Irenaeus how "Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man..."

Those of you who have been reading my Qur'an posts can now understand how there was a larger body of people than modern people realize, traveling in the Middle East and into Asia, people who personally witnessed Jesus and his Apostles in their times and carried this first hand information throughout the lands. Some of this information is preserved in the Qur'an, who accurately transmits what their ancestors saw and knew about Jesus. The real existence of Jesus as Messiah is not as "murky" and lost in the past as many would have you believe.

Immigration Bill.

Defeated. Good. Now can we get on with securing our borders? Not hermetically sealing the borders with electrified saran wrap, but ensuring the country's security and safety for everyone, citizens and immigrants. Sheesh. The USA can't secure their own borders yet criticizes the fledgling democracy in Iraq and the surrounding countries for not doing more to secure that mess? And how about some honest support for the border patrol who are putting their lives on the line every day; some of whom are being jailed unfairly for doing their jobs. There's plenty of compassion available for those illegally in the USA once the border is secured.

Fixing the mess is not done through 300+ page bills crafted in secrecy and rammed through without equal vigor being placed to securing the border. The government bureaucracy has already shown that they are challenged when trying to walk and chew gum at the same time. So now, let's make it easy for them. Step one, secure the borders. Then send in the report card that you actually cleaned the vegetables off of your plate, so we can then go on to step two of considering new initiatives about immigration.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Busy writing my book today

Good distraction from fuming over the cruelty in the world.

Miss my colored pencils which are in storage 1000+ miles away so I bought the Prismacolor 120 pencil set, wow! It's like Christmas.

Prayers for those who have lost their lives in severe weather. Also for the continuing suffering in Iraq. And for so many children killed with gun fire, such as in Chicago.

Love sent to all the wounded soldiers. Special prayers for the recovery of Joseph Briseno Jr. in the Tampa VA.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What the Hell is going on in Altoona-Johnstown Diocese?

A priest who was about to be charged with sex abuse has committed suicide. Reading about this event in the newspaper has led me to follow various links and read about this diocese's history. What the freak is going on there? Let me clear some things up.

1. This is the Roman Catholic Church. It is led by the Pope. Our Pope is named Pope Benedict XVI and he is located in a place called The Vatican located in Rome, Italy. The Pope is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. He is the direct heir of the key and seat of St Peter. When the Pope makes decisions you are to follow his decisions. That's why this is the Roman Catholic Church and not the Church of Whatever Down the Street. If you have a problem with the Pope I suggest you join the Church of Whatever Down the Street.

2. Secret associations of "priests" are an abomination to the Lord. You either are part of the Catholic Church and serving Jesus Christ in the open and in obedience or you are not. This is not a place for secret organizations, and twice as much for those who send threatening letters to fellow priests or the laity. I cannot believe what I am reading. Consider moving to the Church of Whatever Down the Street. God will judge members of secret associations who undermine his Church.

3. Bishops and other church leaders are to respect the desire of their parishioners for traditional mass. It is fine to discuss challenges in their implementation, but I expect teamwork, not disrespectful shutting down of dialogue. They are also to respect church sacred art and property that may have to be dismantled and at least offer this material reverentially to impoverished parishes and not humiliate Jesus Christ by throwing the fixtures of his church in dumpsters. While this happened some years ago I suspect the same mentality exists and I suggest per some brotherly advice that you change that disrespect.

4. If you have a problem with chastity, whether straight or gay, obey the Pope's motu to consider not applying for a religious vocation. If you want to be trolling, forget being part of this Church. If you find that you are sincere about being celibate but still immerse yourself in the culture of sexuality that you have forsworn to be ordained, then you are not placid in your vows and you are not suited for the priesthood. Priests are to be 100% devoted to their vocation and to Jesus Christ Crucified. If you are struggling with your sexuality you are robbing Jesus Christ and his flock of what you have vowed to give, and you are a ticking time bomb. You may think that society is "evolving" and that may be so, but the Church is not a place of social experimentation and angst. Find a place more suitable, lest God judge you.

An Idea for Parents, Students, Educators

One of the things that has most worried me about our society today is how as a nation, and even globally, people no longer know how to "do things." By this I mean they no longer have what used to be called a "trade." Corollary things that I worry about are the lack of physical activity for children (besides getting in trouble of course!) and how many, young and old, have depression and esteem issues that are related to valuing some of the most worthless things in society. I believe that we should have the coupling of our children's education in the school system with each child being encouraged to also learn a skill or a trade. I'm not talking about some bureaucracy here, but I'm encouraging individual students, parents, and academic institutions to think about this and make their own decisions.

How would this work? Most children when they are growing up can't wait to "help mommy" or "help daddy." So the desire to be involved is there at an early age. It is only later that children become trained to sit vacantly in front of TV, video games, or the computer, or "hang out" with the wrong crowds. The truly happy and well adjusted children I know are ones who learned how to do something "with their hands" in addition to traditional education. I'm saying to take this one step further and once a child shows a liking for something that could be a trade, to obtain for the child or student training or apprenticeship in that trade, in parallel with their school education.

In the "old days" children learned directly from their parents. I grew up in a generation whose parents knew things like how to build a house from the foundation up, how to do plumbing or electrical work, how to roof, how to plant a garden that one could actually live off of, how to repair a car, and how to keep livestock (my stepfather and his brothers plowed the family farm's fields with draft horses!) Children had parents who worked in factories and knew how things were made, were cooks in restaurants, poured concrete, knew how to blow glass, were carpenters and cabinet makers, and could make stained glass. These were hard jobs and hard times, but people were still more balanced, because they knew important parts of how to sustain one's self and one's community. In the town where I grew up, the fire department consisted of everyone's dads as volunteers. So they knew how to drive a fire truck, fight a fire, perform first aid. Kids picked these things up and often wanted to be like their dads (or moms.) Also, children had more exposure to both babies in the family, and the elderly, and they knew how to care for both the young and the old. All of this has changed. In one way it is good, because our parents worked hard so that their kids would not have to break their own back in factories or in the fields. And I'm not suggesting going back to that at all. But I am suggesting that a child be encouraged to learn a trade that they have a natural interest in, so that they can be proficient (to the point of being licensed) in a skill that is in parallel to their traditional education.

My grandfather was a carpenter, but he lived in Germany while I was in the US, so I didn't have more than a handful of visits with him during the time he was alive after I was born. I went to a university and got a bachelor's degree in a general field of science. If I could wave a magic wand and things would have been different, I would have loved to have learned carpentry from my grandfather at the same time as pursuing my science education. I say this for both aesthetic and practical reasons. I would have enjoyed the accomplishment of being a trained and licensed carpenter. And I would have had a trade to fall back to when things went all wrong in the dog eat dog corporate world, as inevitably they did. We are not doing our children a favor by letting them learn only "skills" such as web design, media arts, business, and other soft white collar skills. They are then chained to occupations and beholden to the mandarins who run corporations for their paychecks and their worldly goods. I've seen people obsoleted in their 50's, and then in their 40's, and then in their 30's because their high tech and fadish jobs have changed right out from under them. People start to do anything to keep their jobs and their high maintenance lifestyles, and I've seen terrible loss of moral judgment as people get caught up in corporate "success."

Then they drop out of the "rat race" and open a crafts store. How many crafts can people buy? I'm being only partly humorous here. When children grow up without a trade that they love to fall back on, they are beholden to whims of an artificial work world, and they are also part of the weakening of our country's capital structure. Capital is not just money in the bank. It's the ability to produce goods and services that have "add on," that is, long term value. I have Christian friends who are carpenters. The dad is the professional carpenter and the sons grew to love working with wood. The oldest son worked with his father to saw their own timber, cut it into beams, dry it and use it in building an addition to their home - all while the oldest son is in school! No matter what he majors in while in school, and while he may have a white collar job, he will always be able to add to the value of his family's assets by carpentry, and will always have that to fall back into if things do not work out otherwise. I almost had that happen. While in high school I learned mechanical drawing ("drafting") and that actually got me my first job while in university. But this was on the brink of computers, and so it was not a skill that lasted for me. I'd rather have learned the carpentry lol.

The best way to do this is to decide on a skill that you, or your child, would genuinely enjoy and apprentice one's self with a professional in that area. If you have access to money, by all means, take courses in a trade school or where training is offered, but I'm assuming that a lot of people who read this do not have the money. Also, if you have young children, that's not an option. I wish that there were guilds as there was during the medieval times, though without the exclusiveness and semi-slavery of course lol. For those of you who didn't learn about this in school, guilds were organizations of people who shared a similar trade (such as being a goldsmith) and membership in a guild was a requirement to make your living in that trade. It was like a combination of a license and an exclusive club. Guilds then took in young people as apprentices to learn their skills. There's a good entry on guilds in Wikipedia. I'm not interested in resurrecting all the problems and exclusivity of guilds; I'm just pointing out that there used to be an organized vested interest in a specialized field of knowledge that had a formal apprenticeship related to obtaining those skills.

So if there is a way that you can expose your child to skills and trade craft activities through a family member or trustworthy family friend, that is still the time honored and simplest way to discern an aptitude and interest for a child. Then make time for the child, appropriate to his or her age of course, to learn and participate, rather than hang out in front of the computer or in the mall. If you are a student already and are reading this, think about many choices you have and make some time, even when time is at a premium. It's summer break time now and this would be a great time to chat with people and find those who have knowledge that might be of interest to you. How about metallurgy? Skilled painting and wallpapering? Installing security systems? Operating heavy equipment? There are so many cool things that could be learned and practiced, and these are real - you never lose them according to the whims of popular culture. These are real "how to" things that help you and your family to have true self realization. If any educators are reading this, how great it would be if in your school systems you could offer some choices. The ship yards near where I live have great programs for students who plan a career in their area. I'm suggesting that there also be a program where students are learning this as a secondary skill. The web designer who is also a trained welder. The systems analyst who is also a carpenter. The actor who is also trained as a medical aide. The PR person who can also be a plumber. The mind boggles. And this goes both ways... if you are in a trade, why not also learn a language? The construction worker who is multi-lingual. There are so many things to be learned, and so many options, that it's sad to see so many of my generation who lost out on learning these skills from parents or grandparents, and who then were subject to the puppeteering of office politics and the fads of soft skills in a hard world.

Theological view of addiction, "rage," insanity

The news is reporting the murder by a pro wrestler of his wife and 7 year old son, and his subsequent suicide. There are reports he put a bible next to the bodies of his wife and son. This reminds me of how much discussion there was around the Yates murder, when a mother killed all of her children, and whether she was liable or not due to insanity. This post is not about legal liability. But I feel I need to correct a seriously wrong assumption that has crept into common thought about liability to God and how God will judge such cases.

Suppose your family was eating a food, let's say a whole wheat bread, that later was found to have contaminants that caused psychotic episodes, resulting in a crime or a death. Because your family had no way of knowing that the food was contaminated and would have that effect, God would certainly not judge the buyer or consumer of the bread to be guilty unless the following occurred. If an adult started to have unexplained symptoms, such as violent thoughts, the adult has an obligation to report those violent thoughts to a medical authority while the adult is still able to have clear thoughts. If the onset is sudden and there is no chance, for example the person literally goes crazy through no fault of their own through ingestion of a contaminated legal food and is psychotic before even being able to report feeling ill or deranged in their thoughts, then the person is not in fault, in God's eyes. But if the person is still lucid and knows that he or she is having unexplainable violent thoughts they have a moral obligation to seek help while they are still able to request it. Once the person is insane, and harms someone, being "out of control" or "not guilty by reason of insanity" may be legal judgments, but they will not reflect God's view, who will judge the person based on what they did during their last lucid moments when they could have asked for help.

How much worse is this when a person is knowingly ingesting and abusing an illegal substance that is known to have a danger of mind altering affects, and then harms someone. It does not matter if the person thinks they "can't stop themselves" and has, for example, a "roid rage." What matters is that we are not unsophisticated rubes with no TV, education or media to know these are illegal drugs that are subject to abuse, and that there are deviant side effects. There are many times that an addict can state to someone, "I have a problem," "I am losing control," and "I am having violent thoughts." God will judge what the addict does when they are truly finally out of control and genuinely cannot stop themselves by what they did during the span of time when they could have reported the problem to a medical professional.

If an addict goes to a bona fide medical professional and reports his or her addiction and/or violent thoughts, receives treatment, and makes every effort to recover, then God will judge that as a medical condition that the person is in good faith seeking to heal. But someone who is able to take care of all other aspects of their life (they can give interviews, they can write checks, they can accept rewards, they can manage their daily affairs) but does not state to a medical professional that they need help, and then pursue it, is guilty in God's eyes of any subsequent sin or violence, unmitigated and in total. This does not mean that God cannot forgive even the unforgivable, but remember, to forgive there must be repentance, sincere conversion, and penance. By killing one's self one eliminates one's own opportunity for being forgiven. I'm not trying to add to the pain of anyone, especially not in the families around the world who are in this situation with a loved one. But it is essential to point out to people that if you are in an addicted situation now, and if you are having violent thoughts, that perhaps not in the legal system but definitely before God's final judgment, you must report the situation and in good faith seek treatment to be saved. It was different when years ago there was no place to go for addiction treatment. Those were truly wounded souls who lived in a society that could not cure them, as there was little psychiatric resource and knowledge. But nowadays there are people who literally beg addicts to come in for treatment. I know because I'm one of those who treated addicts and begged them to be rehabilitated before it's too late and they ruin their own lives along with the others around them and who do care.

Prayers for strength and discernment to seek rehabilitation for all who abuse substances, including alcohol, and for their families, friends, and colleagues who have to cope with this most difficult of life's challenges.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Why Christianity and Islam differ about Jesus Christ

Why Christianity and Islam differ about Jesus Christ (and where they agree!)

I plan to write something that will be fully referenced with quotes from the Bible and the Qur'an on this subject. You can think of this post as just a quick outline of what I will cover.

As I've shown in previous posts, Muslims believe that Jesus was a great Prophet who was empowered by Allah to perform miracles and teach Allah's will. They refer to Jesus as "Jesus son of Mary" (Isa son of Marium.) They believe in and acknowledge the virgin birth, and highly praise Mary for her obedience to Allah's will and her as an example of purity and a sign for all people. They also believe that Jesus knew how to speak the words of Allah even as a child. In a way, they have a sounder faith in these dimensions of Jesus Christ's life and works than some liberal "Christians" I could mention, who do not believe in the literal performing of miracles, the virgin birth, and his role as a divinely inspired Prophet of God. They believe that he ascended up to heaven. They believe Jesus Christ was the Jewish Messiah predicted in the Old Testament and they call him by that title at times in the Qur'an.

Where they differ is that they do not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God ("is not Allah" and "is no more than a Messenger of Allah") and they do not believe that he physically died. They believe that the report of his death was an honest mistake and that people did not understand that he arose.

Surach 4: 156-158

And for their unbelief and for their having uttered against Marium a grevious calumny.

And their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, the apostle of Allah; and they did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them so (like Isa) and most surely those who differ therein are only in a doubt about it; they have no knowledge respecting it, but only follow a conjecture, and they killed him not for sure.

Nay! Allah took him up to Himself; and Allah is
Mighty, Wise.

Now, what I'll demonstrate in a future post, and what I've alluded to in previous posts, is why they do not believe that Jesus the Messiah physically died and was the Son of God. In summary though the reasons are twofold:

o While they believe that Jesus is the Messiah of the book (the one predicted in the Old Testament) they do not believe that Allah would appear in a human form and be subject to human physicality and persecution. They believe that this would be incredibly beneath the dignity and all powerfulness of Allah himself. Muslims accept that Jesus lived as the Messiah as the result of virgin birth from Mary and the spirit, and received power and support from Allah to perform miracles, and that he was called up to heaven to Allah without dying a physical death.

o Muslims also do not believe that Jesus was the Son of God because they reason that if he was, and since Allah is all powerful, that the entire Jewish people would have converted. This is one reason there is hostility between Muslims and Jews, because Muslims point out in the Qur'an that Jews did not believe their own Messiah when he appeared. So they criticize Jews for their lack of belief, but they also reason that Allah would have converted everyone and there would not have been the rejection of Christ that did occur. They point to scripture where they believe that Jesus Christ, correctly, cursed the Jews for their lack of faith. (They also believe that some words of King David could be interpreted the same way.)

Christians believe that Jesus Christ was born Son of God because Christians believe in one God (Allah) but they believe that God has the form of the Holy Spirit, who becomes the spirit father of Jesus through the Virgin Mary, and that therefore God takes form as the Son within Jesus Christ. This is known as the Trinity in Christian faith, whereby there is one God in three forms: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christians believe that God remained in heaven as all powerful God, even as him as Son in Jesus Christ, was on earth. In other words, God did not remove himself from heaven in order to be inside a human body. This is an important point to emphasize when having dialogue with Muslims, because obviously no one would agree in God ever in total giving up his universal being and infinite existence beyond human understanding. But sometimes Christianity can sound like that at first listening. Jesus Christ often referred to God the Father as being in heaven and that all that he does is the will of God the Father. One reason Muslims are very cautious about Christians who focus exclusively on Jesus Christ as Son of God is that they do not hear as much emphasis on the all powerful and wise God the Father (Allah) and if one looked at the scriptures, Jesus Christ himself constantly pointed back all glory to God the Father (Allah.)

Christians argue that the way to salvation is through Jesus Christ, and quote scriptures to that effect. Muslims agree that Jesus Christ is the Messiah of the Jewish faith predicted in the Old Testament and of the House of David. So Muslims would understand perfectly well Jesus Christ's teaching of being "the way" in the context of the time and audience, which is the Jewish Messiah being the way to fulfill the old covenant and inaugerate the new covenant. That would be their interpretation of Jesus Christ being "the way." However, they believe that literal worship of Jesus Christ as God takes away from their absolute and firm belief in One God, who they call Allah and who Christians call God the Father. In a way, Muslims view themselves as being the true defenders of faith in One God and One God alone. And this is the same God who spoke to Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Elias, Aaron, Noah, Jacob (all the Old Testament Prophets and Patriarchs) right down in time to John the Baptist, who they also believe heralded the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ. Here is one of the references to John the Baptist (whose day we just celebrated this past week):

Surah 19: 7, 12-15

O Zakariya! We give you good news of a boy whose name shall be Yahya. We have not made before anyone his equal.

O Yahya! take hold of the Book with strength, and We granted him wisdom while yet a child.

And tenderness from Us and purity, and he was one who guarded (against evil).

And dutiful to his parents, and he was not insolent, disobedient.

And peace on him on the day he was born, and on the day he dies, and on the day he is raised to life.

So the point of this post is not to minimize the differences between Islam and Christianity, but to show that the differences are easily understood, if not so easily resolved. There is far more in common between Christianity and Islam than the rhetoric of extremists on both sides would lead one to believe who did not read and study for oneself. I'm willing to bet that few people really understood before reading this the huge amount of common body of belief between Christians and Muslims. And this study will help people to understand some of the harder sections of the Qur'an regarding tolerance, because it is essential to understand that Muslims feel they are the true vanguard of belief in One God, the original God, Allah, of the time of Abraham through the time of Jesus Christ and to the present time. It is that belief that drives some of the vigor and rigorousness of the Islamic faith (and again, I'm talking about mainstream reading of the Qur'an, not extremist on either side.)

I hope that this is helpful to understanding and truly fruitful dialogue, and to the mutual interest in maintaining devotion to God/Allah in an increasingly secular and de-sanctified world that is so impious and demeaning of the sacred.

Interview with recovering meth addict

An interview with a recovering meth addict. He is part of a drug recovery alternative to incarceration program called Drug Court. I'm glad he spoke up in this article; some insights about how the cycle of drug abuse begins, and how it is possible to break through and help these people heal.

"It took jail to put me on the knees on the concrete next to the hard steel bed, praying to Jesus Christ," Alvey says. His pencil drawing of a heart attached to a ball and chain, and an accompanying poem called "Concrete Dreams" embody his feelings about being humbled in jail, he says, and how "good intentions and hopes and dreams . . . can flutter away."

Alvey - whose father was a Vietnam veteran who would get drunk and have flashbacks - says he started using marijuana at age 12 or 13. "Most of my [family] memories are bad ones," he says. "After he and Mom split up, I blamed myself. I was looking for something to ease the pain." During high school, Alvey says, he smoked grass daily, got drunk on the weekends and experimented with methamphetamines.

He says he stays away from dangerous places and people. "If there's something going on that's going to get me in trouble, I just walk away." And when he feels a craving for drugs, Alvey says, he will "think things through" before acting. "A craving takes from 10 to 30 minutes to go through. That's where the thinking comes in. The first thing I think is, 'It'll pass.' ''

Concrete Dreams Concrete walls they hear it all, Today and tomorrow Things are said, hopes and dreams are made Good intentions somehow stay Even now they seem to fade away Day in, day out Someday we all get out It seems like all good intentions Are soon forgotten about While inside concrete rooms We all humble ourselves It's when we leave, the pride comes out Somehow it's the pride That puts us all back inside Concrete walls, they seem so stout How do the dreams so easily get out? Cracks in those walls Must be how dreams so easily go When we leave the concrete rooms we know The concrete we need is in our souls Concrete souls hold hopes, dreams, and good intentions the best It does not matter, all the rest It's a humble soul that holds the best A concrete soul is the strongest yet. - By Andy Alvey

I wish him and all others who are undergoing treatment for addiction all the best and prayers for their complete rehabilitation and a future clean and sober life full of joy and possibilities.

The Qur'an for Christians (6)

Surah 6:95-99

Surely Allah causes the grain and the stone to germinate; He brings forth the living from the dead and He is the bringer forth of the dead from the living; that is Allah! how are you then turned away.

He causes the dawn to break; and He has made the night for rest, and the sun and the moon for reckoning; this is an arrangement of the Mighty, the Knowing.

And He it is Who has made the stars for you that you might follow the right way thereby in the darkness of the land and the sea; truly We have made plain the communications for a people who know.

And He it is Who has brought you into being from a single soul, then there is (for you) a resting-place and a depository; indeed We have made plain the communications for a people who understand.

And He it is Who sends down water from the cloud, then We bring forth with it buds of all (plants), then We bring forth from it green (foliage) from which We produce grain piled up (in the ear); and of the palm-tree, of the sheaths of it, come forth clusters (of dates) within reach, and gardens of grapes and olives and pomegranates, alike and unlike; behold the fruit of it when it yields the fruit and the ripening of it; most surely there are signs in this for a people who believe.

One of my favorite quotations from the Qur'an. Coincidentally the numbers 95-99 remind me of the years in my life between 1995-1999 when these words had particular meaning and comfort for me when there was enormous pain and hardship.

June 26: Saint Josemaria Escriva, priest

St. Josemaria Escriva (1902-1975), the founder of Opus Dei, opened a new path of holiness in the Catholic Church, teaching that people can become holy by performing their work and daily duties with a Christian spirit.

I will give you shepherds after my own heart, and they shall feed you on knowledge and sound teaching.
Dabo vobis pastores iuxta cor meum, et pascent vos scientia et doctrina.

God our Father
you chose Saint Josemaria
to proclaim the universal call to sanctity
and apostolate in the Church.
By his example and prayers,
grant that in faithfully carrying out
our daily work in the Spirit of Christ,
we may be formed in the likeness of your Son,
and together with the most Blessed Virgin Mary,
serve the work of redemption with an ardent love.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son

The above is from the Daily Roman Missal for June 26.

And I want to send greetings to all religious and laity who serve in Opus Dei.
Especially one priest whose sermon I once admired!

Another reason to read Cal Ripken, Jr's book

I posted before that I bought Cal Ripken, Jr's book, being a big fan of baseball and of him personally. The book is called "Get in the Game" and it's written by Cal Ripken, Jr. with Donald T. Phillips, Gotham Books, 2007. It's considered kind of a business advice book combined with baseball fan book, but now I recommend it for parents!

As I read the book I'm so impressed at how Cal looks back on his home life while growing up and the important lessons his father taught him just in the simple acts of being a caring, wise, and demanding dad! For those of you who are parents, either a mom or a dad, I think you will get a lot of support in reading this book. It's a reminder of how good "normalcy" is, and that parenthood is not a competition with your child and their friends about who is the most "cool." While Cal's dad managed a baseball team, it was not a glamorous life and thriftiness and hard work were vital to the family's success. His family did not get a short cut to celebrity, and therefore skip the character building basics of life and self worth that every child needs to grow up with. In addition to parents, I'd also recommend this book for people who grew up without a dad's positive influence.... either because the dad was missing, or because they were cheesy or irresponsible. Reading this book you can "borrow" Cal's dad (I'm sure he won't mind at all.) It's never too late to read about a good role model and apply even a few of the simple lessons to one's own life and family.

"Jesus of Nazareth" Chapter Four

This is a beautiful chapter and I'm not going to comment on it other than to point out one of the most important statements in the book:

The Beatitudes are promises resplendent with the new image of the world and of man inaugurated by Jesus, his "transformation of values." They are eschatological promises. This must not, however, be taken to mean that the joy they proclaim is postponed until some infinitely remote future or applies exclusively to the next world. When man begins to see and to live from God's perspective, when he is a companion on Jesus' way, then he lives by new standards, and something of the eschaton, of the reality to come, is already present. Jesus brings joy into the midst of affliction. (Chapter 4, pages 71-71.)

Pope Benedict does a wonderful job of explaining that Christ did not erase the need to follow the Ten Commandments and the basic law of God, and that the Beatitudes certainly were not meant as a "replacement." The Beatitudes are a map to health and joy on earth as also, with hope at achieving heaven. They are a map because they show how God perceives humans and the suffering that sin generates, and following the precepts of the Beatitudes together with the Commandments ensures greater joy for everyone even in a life of hardship. This is not too hard to figure out if you think about it... the more people who live obeying God's will for humankind, the less "human on human" sin and oppression occurs. Pope Benedict does a lovely job of shedding light on this understanding in this paragraph, and the rest of the chapter (which I'm still enjoying reading.)

Caution to those seeking Counseling/Psychiatric Help

Caution to those seeking Counseling/Psychiatric Help

I'm reminded of this by listening to the brave and loving mother of the pregnant lady who was murdered in Canton, Ohio as she talks wisely of helping her 2 year old grandson to cope with loss of his mom. (My heart goes out to the whole family, and prayers for their solace.) Pat has wisely told the little boy that his mom is with Jesus. This is a very good thing to do and will give him the foundation of faith he will need to grow up strong even under the weight of the cruel and unrighteous loss of his mother. Talking heads who analyze this story on the media are quick to suggest that the boy will "need professional help." That may or may not be true, but I urge all who are in this situation or similar situations to be VERY careful about your selection of a professional counselor. Be sure that they are God fearing and of your faith. That is a harsh statement but I've seen things that would horrify you. I will tell you about my personal experience working in a Catholic hospital where the psychiatric outpatient unit was controlled by secularists.

Patients were forbidden to discuss their faith at all, either during intake (where their illness is diagnosed) or later in therapy. If they insisted in even providing the most basic of information (e.g. a Hispanic patient saying she is a devout Catholic) that information is viewed as a symptom of her illness. Yes, you read right, proclaiming one's faith even in a Catholic hospital was viewed as a symptom of mental illness. These counselors were not Catholic, and if anything, they tended to be New Age freaks. The most religiosity that I noticed was discussion of their hot tubs, their arts and crafts business, and their reviews of the latest shows on stage. They viewed themselves as either very haute elite, or gosh, down earth "one of the little people." Instead of talking about the patients they spent a good 45 minutes every morning before clinical rounds talking about their wonderfulness as modern women. I was warned many times not to discuss religion with the patients, even when they want to as part of their wholeness and therapy, even though that is not in any authentic text or teaching of psychology, where one's faith is fundamental to one's healing. Just look at AA, for example.

Now, listen to this. Even in group therapy, where the patients are supposed to be able to discuss anything they want in a, "SAFE PLACE" (one of liberal and secularists favorite terms) they were forbidden from discussing religion. If even one mention was made, the patient was told they were imposing their beliefs and not to say anything. Needless to say this hindered recovery. The worst thing I saw was that coincidentally, in one new group that was formed, there were three avidly pro-life patients. The secular oppressors got together and decided that cannot be allowed, so they broke up the group, using the excuse that the religious people "MADE UNCOMFORTABLE" other patients (though "being sexually abused as a child" discussions did not make anyone uncomfortable, if you know what I mean.) Instead of the patients' who had interests outside of their illness being encouraged, such as working at their churches or just being pro-life, it was viewed as being a symptom of their illness and not one to be encouraged. Often faith is the only thing poor people have, and most of our patients were very poor. Some literally did not have an extra dollar on a given day. And they were humiliated and shunted out of the system just for having faith. I saw it with my own eyes and it made me sick.

The faithful are viewed by secularists as having a bull's eye on their back, in that secularists think they get "bonus points" in some insane system for denying people their faith, even if it's the only true thing sustaining them. So please, anyone who has a member of the family who needs professional psychiatric or counseling help, be sure that expression of their faith is accepted and supported by their professional. Do not assume that a religious affiliation necessarily means quality service either. Check the actual counselor out very carefully. Do not trust that the affiliation is necessarily indicative of the quality of care. The people I met in the system would love to take Jesus Christ away from even a toddler, because they would view it as an "ignorant crutch that will cause him or her problems later." Can you believe this? I could not until I saw it. This was what turned me off from the entire profession. This was my first year of internship after paying a small fortune for my Masters degree, and I was unpaid and not beholden to the hospital system.... except, of course, without references and connections you don't go anywhere in the profession. I'd rather go broke (and I have) than be part of the "helping profession" that views robbing people of their faith as a worthy goal. The Old Testament warns that thou shalt not put stumbling blocks in front of the blind. These type of people have a lot to answer for. I'm totally with Tom Cruise in one respect... medication is God for many of these systems. I then disagree with him, obviously, about where God is, and medication is needed when one is highly psychotic and in severe pain. But I'm telling you, you who read this of faith, psychiatry and counseling is rife with "New Age" secularists who use their work to suck the faith out of the most helpless and the most in pain. Be very careful with who you put the precious care of your family members.

And yes, there was huge jealousy of my successes with patients, and it was highly unbecoming and unprofessional and carried over into the care of the patients.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

St Paul speaks

St Paul wrote:

Titus 3: 1-7

Admonish them to be subject to princes and authorities, obeying commands, ready for every good work, speaking evil of none, not quarrelsome but moderate, showing all mildness to all men. For we ourselves were once unwise, unbelieving, going astray, slaves to various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared then not by reason of good works that we did ourselves, but according to his mercy, he saved us through the bath of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit; whom he has abundantly poured out upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior, in order that, justified by his grace, we may be heirs in the hope of life everlasting.

What Paul did not say:

o that it's "OK" to be disobedient, avoiding good works, trash talking everyone, picking fights, and showing all aggressiveness toward all.

o that it's "OK" to be unwise, unbelieving, straying, and slaves to lusts and pleasures, and cultivating feelings of malice, envy, and hate.

o that any or all of the above becomes "OK" if one believes in Jesus Christ and believes that one has received the grace of Jesus Christ

o that anyone is GUARANTEED life everlasting.... I know people love to quote this passage as cover for some of their less charitable actions but notice he says HEIRS and HOPE.... you don't KNOW until the "will is read" at the end of the totality of one's life.

If St. Paul were alive today

... he'd totally flip his mind at what society has come to, especially the use of drugs, booze, violence, and porn. St. Paul always taught that people would lose their faith through the appearance and "teachings" of the antichrist. He would not believe it unless he saw it with his own eyes that people would surrender their faith so easily without the antichrist, that they would throw it all away for "relativism" and hedonism. St Paul would never have envisioned a world that regardless if Christian, other faith, or pagan, that the people did not put God first in their lives, because in his time, that is how it was - everyone had Godly respect and fear. He who had seen such horrors in his lifetime would never believe what he would see today.

Honestly, this is another reason I'm glad that the faithful in heaven are totally separated from the woes of living humans and what they do and worse, what they tolerate.

I read the news today, oh boy...

...and I find myself wondering if it's all too little too late. Everyone has a big fat smart mouth, maybe a concert to "raise awareness" but little piety before God and hardly any defense of life and the helpless. And the violence toward the helpless and those of all faiths rolls on.

I seriously wonder.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Qur'an for Christians (5)

Another reason to read the Qur'an, even if one is Christian, is because there is a frequent and healthy mention of the reality of hell. There is a terrible smugness about many Christians, who either mitigate their belief in hell, or too quickly assume their avoidance of it. I count over fifty references to it. Listed in the index, here are specific topics under the title of hell: a place of ambush, blazing in fury, breaks to pieces, filled with jinn and men, fuel is men and stones, inhabitant there is viewed by former companion in Paradise, insatiable, neither dying nor living there, penalty of Eternity, and placed in full view. Read this:

Surah 66:6-7

O you who believe! save yourselves and your families from a fire whose fuel is men and stones; over it are angels stern and strong, they do not disobey Allah in what He commands them, and do as they are commanded.

O you who disbelieve! do not urge excuses today; you shall be rewarded only according to what you did.

Pope makes a "funny but true" statement

Pope Benedict XVI: "Yes, yes, although it is taking some time - miracles are hard to come by in Britain."

How true. I could not have said it better myself.

St. John the Baptist Vigil of the Nativity

June 24 is the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. In the 1962 proper of the saints, June 23 is honored as the Vigil of St. John the Baptist. That was an important day because it put the birth of St. John the Baptist in the context of the Old Testament prophecies too, just as Jesus Christ was. Here's the Lesson for that day, with an explanatory introduction:

The Church applies to St. John the history of Jeremia, who was also sanctified from his mother's womb to be a Prophet of God. Jeremia was born about 650 BC of a priestly family from the little village of Anathoth, near Jerusalem. He was called to "active duty" as a prophet while very young in 628 BC, for the King Josia.

From Jeremia the Prophet, 1: 4-10

In those days the word of the Lord came to me, saying: Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. "Ah, Lord God!" I said, "I know not how to speak; I am too young." But the Lord answered me, Say not "I am too young." To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord. Then the Lord extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying, See, I place my words in your mouth! This day I set you over nations and over kingdoms, to root up and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant.

Here are the next two lines from that passage, relating the first thing the young Jeremia saw after God spoke to him:

The word of the Lord came to me with the question: What do you see, Jeremia? "I see a branch of the watching-tree," I replied. Then the Lord said to me: Well have you seen, for I am watching to fulfill my word.

So you can see why St. John the Baptist, who was aware of the pre-born Jesus Christ while John himself was still in the womb, is very much modeled after Jeremia the Prophet, who spoke to God before he knew "how to speak."

By the way, the "watching-tree" is the almond tree, which was the first tree to bloom in the springtime in the Holy Land. That is why one of its nicknames is the "watching tree," which comes from a play on words in Hebrew, implying that it does not really sleep over winter, just watches for the right time. So it is with the Lord and his prophets.

Notice also Jeremia 1 is the origin of that quotation from the Lord God, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you," that informs everyone that life and soul of a human being exists in the pre-born infant, putting to lie all those who say otherwise. The Lord God is declaring here that even before the infant is fully formed in the womb, the infant is a human being known to God and in possession of their eternal soul. This scripture is much quoted, correctly, by the pro-life movement.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Congratulations to 60 newly ordained deacons

Hat tip to Whispers in the Loggia for reporting on this.

The ordination of 60 men to the Permanent Diaconate at Santa Barbara City College's La Playa Stadium represented the largest single group of deacons ordained at one time in the history of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and possibly in the country. Held a week following the ordination of seven deacons in Los Angeles, the celebration also represented the successful efforts led by pastors of the Santa Barbara Region (Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties) to draw forth more men to ordained ministry in their local parish communities."This is one of the most glorious days of my 40 years of priesthood," declared Santa Barbara Region Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry, who oversaw the formation process that began in 2002, and who delivered the homily at the ordination Mass. "Your presence is testimony to the good work of God that is present in all of you."

My Book Mene

I was tagged by my friend tiber jumper from just about a month ago and am finally getting around to responding!

Three non-fiction books everyone should read:

The Catholic Bible, for completeness of the books included within. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament should be read, as the Gospel is Jesus Christ's leading of all to God, and a complete understanding of God's will really involves understanding the Old and the New Covenants. In the OT the Prophetic books and the Wisdom books in particular can be of great consolation and aide even with modern day problems. And I'd add "The Catechism of the Catholic Church" as a supplementary text so that one can cross reference.

The Qur'an (Koran). Oddly, with all of the "politically correct" and liberal education our children have been receiving, including "comparative religion" and all sorts of "cultural" and "lifestyle" information, I think people have had wisdom sucked out of their heads instead of being informed by wisdom. If we are to survive on earth our collective faith in the God of Abraham must be well informed and understood. The Qur'an is essential reading, even if one is disturbed by where our faiths differ, because ultimately it is a book of great faith and true comprehension of it only adds to one's faith, rather than deters.

Any great and comprehensive biography of George Washington. I have quite a library of books about him, including my favorite, first edition (in the 1790's) publication of his letters to Congress during the Revolutionary War. It is an amazing experience to read the letters of the father of our country as he struggles to get the basics for his troops as we fought the greatest military power in the world. While he was "upper class" George Washington is the ultimate man who had to rise up beyond belief into the role of Commander in Chief and President, and knowing his true story inspires anyone in any place in their life. Don't read an analysis, read an actual chronological biography, because only then do you get the true understanding of the progression of this great man and birth of this great country. I see Amazon has tons of books... mine are in storage and are the classics about Washington written in the mid-1950's so I can't give author and purchase info. Use discernment about reading revisionist works that minimize his faith. My all time favorite, beside reading Washington's own letters, is the six volume work by Freeman, published in the 1950's (Freeman died as he was finishing this series,) which is considered the definitive biography of Washington. The American journalist Douglas Southall Freeman (1886-1953) was one of the major biographers in the United States during the 20th century. There is also an out of print one volume edition of Freeman's works.

Three books of fiction everyone should read:

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. The movie, while a worthy effort, is no substitute for reading this monumental work.

Carl Sandburg's poetry. I see that a volume of the complete poems is available so that would be the best investment. I bought his individual books of poetry in used book stores, back when used book stores existed, sigh. I loved "Cornhuskers" and "Smoke and Steel."

"The Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance" by Herman Wouk. Sheer brilliance and illuminating. I loved the miniseries too.

Three authors everyone should read:

Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. Especially his Memoirs, and one can include the Peter Seewald series of interviews.

Somerset Maugham. "The Painted Veil" is my favorite. or Joseph Conrad. Both represent when literature really was "fine."

Gladys A. Reichard for any of her wonderful classic books about the Navajo. Frank Waters. "Book of the Hopi" is extraordinary and a treasure. Both for their tour de force non-fiction and fiction books of Native Americans.

Three books no one should read:

Left Behind by Tim LaHaye. I read the whole series, knowing that it was written over a period of like ten years, thinking that maybe some reality would dawn on the authors and they'd feel some shame over their cartoonish treatment of God and the faithful. Nope.

Anything by Sylvia Browne and her ilk. In my "open mind phase" I read her books to see if she had a clue. Her stuff is so bad I would not let my dog vomit on it, the vomit being more realistic of course.

Other Lives, Other Selves by Roger Woolger and any other "self help reincarnation" book. People aren't crazy enough? Irresponsible garbage. How to really mess up someone's mind, lead them away from Christ, and leave them feeling victimized by an imaginary life they never led. And I know people who do this to children.

Food Blessing and Latin Lesson

Food Blessing and Latin Lesson

The 1962 Missal has "The Blessing of Any Kind of Food." I think that in addition to saying grace at the table before eating, little children might enjoy the idea of blessing individual foods for the family! And for adults it's a way to read a blessing in both English and Latin. Here it is.

Bless, + O Lord, this (name the food) which Thou hast made, that it may be a wholesome and healing remedy for mankind, and grant that they who eat of it may be calling upon Thy holy name get health for their bodies and salvation for their souls. Through our Lord.

Benedic, + Domine, creaturam istan (name the food), ut sit remedium salutare generi humano; et praesta per invocationem nominis tui: ut quicumque ex ea sumpserint corporis sanitatem et animae tutelam percipiant. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.

Isn't it interesting how such "new age" terms like "wholesome" "healing" "remedy" "health" are in this 1962 Catholic priestly blessing? Kind of makes you feel ahead of your time, huh?

I Would Welcome Tony Blair to the Church

1 Corinthians 12, 26

But all these things are the work of one and the same Spirit, who allots to everyone according as he will. For as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, many as they are, form one body; so also it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free; and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear says, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were hearing, where would be the smelling? But as it is, God has set the members each of them, in the body as he willed. Now if they were all one member, where would the body be? But as it is, there are indeed many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I do not need thy help"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." Nay, much rather, those that seem the more feeble members of the body are more necessary; and those that we think the less honorable members of the body, we surround with more abundant honor, and our uncomely parts receive a more abundant comeliness, whereas our comely parts have no need of it. But God has so tempered the body together in due portion as to give more abundant honor where it was lacking; that there may be no disunion in the body, but that the members may have care for one another. And if one member suffers anything, all the members suffer with it, or if one member glories, all the members rejoice with it.

St Paul wrote those words in his very famous passage about the various gifts of the Holy Spirit, and how they are apportioned differently among the faithful. Remember, St Paul did not have an established base of Catholics - everyone he spoke to was a convert to the faith! They were converts from Judaism, they were converts from Gentile pagan religions ... everyone was a convert. So St Paul was able to see first hand how each convert brought with them their individual backgrounds, with their strengths and their weaknesses. In his letters St Paul often had to "coach" these fledgling converts in their parishes in all things, from huge theological issues to minor but important behavioral matters. St Paul makes the fascinating and insightful point in the above passage that often the weakest part of the body that comes to the church brings ultimately the strongest and most valuable part.

I urge people to be more open minded about those who convert or revert to Catholicism who may bring baggage or who struggle with baggage from their secular or pre-Catholic life. For example, I am perfectly able to take Presidential candidate Mitt Romney at face value when he says he has had a change of heart regarding abortion and is now sincerely pro-life. I even wrote him an email of support on this subject. For is that not what everyone is trying to do? To bring more people to faith in what we believe? And should we not be happy when that occurs, even when that person, such as Mr Romney, are not part of the Catholic church but profess to belief in Jesus Christ. How much more so should we welcome conversion of not only faith, but in understanding of the pro-life position of that faith, when someone joins the Catholic Church? Rather than question their heart, or the progress of their conversion, we should applaud and support the process, just as St Paul says in the above passage.

For let us be honest, secular society has dirtied everyone in some way. The importance of cleansing has been emphasized over and over in the Bible, both Old Testament and New, and Jesus Christ himself washed the feet of his Apostles. I know some very correct in the faith Catholics who have an uncomely demeanor due to their pride over others. While it may be a journalist's job to roll their eyes with words of skepticism about Tony Blair's past social positions that are contrary to the Catholic Church's beliefs, I do not think it is the role of the faithful to scorn or undermine his path to conversion. Over and over the Bible warns against putting stumbling blocks in one's path. We know from the many who have "crossed the Tiber" that they often become some of the strongest pillars of our Catholic faith, no matter how long the swim was, or from what truly alien and foreign shore they may have swam from.

So I would welcome Tony Blair should he announce his intention to convert to Catholicism and would look forward to his learning of the Catholic beliefs in the open, as he has not been truly able to as yet. And I understand that the journey from believing in abortion to becoming staunchly pro-life can be one that takes time and raises questions, and I'd be delighted no matter how many conversations and contemplations Mr. Blair needs to have to fully embrace all the beliefs of the Church, as I am confident that he will. After all, I think that Mr Blair has some great "street cred" in his own home, when he and his wife had that sweet baby while in office. I remember thinking at the time that he did not get as much moral credibility as he merited in the example he set in his own life. So like St Paul, I think that should Mr Blair announce his intention to convert he will contribute "abundant honor" so there is "no disunion."

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Does central Chinese government approve of this?

Henan government: destroy the sanctuary of Our Lady of Carmel in Tianjiajing


The government from the province of Henan has in fact decreed that the historic sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel will be blown up with dynamite; a complete ban on Catholics organizing their annual pilgrimage; a complete ban on any religious gathering or function being celebrated in the area. A statue of the Virgin, over one hundred years old, is destined to be destroyed along with 14 stations of The Way of the Cross which punctuate the entrance to the shrine.

I strongly urge the Chinese central government to investigate the motives of the Henan province local officials and stop their plans for destruction and banning of this shrine. Is this a wise and necessary thing to do? I do not think so. After reading today's daily news in China and seeing how secure they are in being introspective and honest about mistakes that have taken place, for example with the oppression of slave workers in the brick kilns, I would think that the central Chinese government will see that they are stronger and more honorable than it appears from this rash and cruel local decision. Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

Again I urge Iraqi Christians to save themselves

Pope Benedict XVI lamented the suffering of Christians in Iraq, and their steady exodus from that country, during a June 21 conversation with an Iraqi Orthodox leader.
The Pope remarked that Christians are "suffering both materially and spiritually" in the Middle East, the birthplace of the faith. "Particularly in Iraq," he said, "Christian families and communities are feeling increasing pressure from insecurity, aggression and a sense of abandonment. Many of them see no other possibility than to leave the country and to seek a new future abroad."

Meanwhile, the Pontiff said, the immediate struggles of all Christians in Iraq "are a source of great concern to me, and I wish to express my solidarity with the pastors and the faithful of the Christian communities who remain there, often at the price of heroic sacrifices."

I share the Pope's concern for Eastern Christians, as I've posted on this blog before. But they should get out as soon as possible, and I urge them to go to Syria if they are in a dangerous area, rather than wait for permission for a Western country. It is not as though the brave Eastern Christians are taking a stand for their religion, but rather, they are being used as unconscionable cannon fodder as all sides slaughter each other, and the Christians are the only ones to be non violent and turn the other cheek. That is not a sacrifice that God would want them to make; the safety of their families and their clergy must come first. I urge those who have contacts in Iraq to stress that they should get out as soon as possible and to see if they can go to Syria quickly. As sad as it is I am more optimistic than our Holy Father that they can carry their faith with them and be supported in places that they do not expect.

Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria in Syria

Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria Arrives in Damascus

From the Syrian Arab News Agency at, this article:

DAMASCUS, (SANA)-Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa on Wednesday underlined that peoples of the region have strong ties in spiritual, religious and culture domains , saying "Syria is the source of religions and the cradle of civilizations."

The Patriarch, arriving in Damascus international airport, expressed amity to Syria and its citizens which "live a national consolidated unity and enjoy coexistence, the fact that makes Syria a unique example in the world."

Patriarch Theodore is on a 5-day visit to Syria. He will visit holy places and worship houses in Damascus, Homs and Damascus countryside.

Interesting news from Chinese daily news

I have a list of about twenty international and local newspapers and news web sites I like to regularly read. For news about China I read I've always been fond of Chinese people and culture, and as I mentioned in a previous post, learned to draw Chinese characters, and also spent time learning Chinese martial arts, philosophy, and some herbal medicine. My heart is grieved about the situation with abortion in China, and I also wish for greater communion with the Roman Catholic Church. I'm also saddened by incidents such as the poisoned food filler that made its way into pet food in the US several months ago. But this does not take away from my interest in their doings and support for their people, most of whom just want a good life for their families. Anyway, there are some fascinating stories in today's online edition. Here are some topics:

* China has begun building a highway to Mount Everest base camp, partly to smooth the way for the carrying of the Olympic torch up to the highest peak in the world, state press reported Tuesday.

The new road will begin at the base of the mountain in China's Tibet region and replace a rough 108-kilometre (67-mile) track that leads to the northern base camp, the Xinhua news agency reported. Construction of the 150-million-yuan (20-million-dollar) highway began on Monday and will take about four months to complete, according to Xinhua. The road is being built to "ease the path of those bearing the Olympic torch," Xinhua said. Organisers of next year's Beijing Olympics have said they intend to include the summit of Mount Everest in the 130-day torch relay leading up to the Games.

* Shanxi Governor Yu Youjun yesterday made a self-criticism on behalf of the provincial government for the recent slavery cases in illegally-run brick kilns and mines across the province. The rare move came during a meeting of the State Council, or the Cabinet, presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao.

It asked government departments to go all out to crack down on such criminal activities and save the victims to "safeguard social justice". "The criminals should face the full force of the law and the rights of the public, particularly children, must be protected," said the meeting. To prevent a recurrence of such cases, a large-scale investigation will be launched nationwide into laborers employed in small kilns and collieries. About 160 suspects have been detained in Shanxi and Henan. By Sunday night, about 45,000 police personnel had raided more than 8,000 kilns and small coal mines in the two provinces and freed 591 workers, including 51 children. The State Council ordered the Shanxi provincial government to step up the investigation into the scandal and compensate the victims. It also urged local governments and central ministries to learn a lesson from the tragedy. Police have arrested 168 people and are seeking more than 20 other suspects involved in the forced labor scandal. By Sunday night, about 45,000 policemen had raided more than 8,000 kilns and small coal mines in the two provinces and freed 591 workers, including 51 children.

* China and Iraq on Thursday signed four agreements in Beijing, including one about exemption of Iraqi debt, as Iraqi President Jalal Talabani pays his state visit to China. "China has always been supportive and has participated in the rebuilding of Iraq," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular news conference.

"We will reduce or forgive Iraq's debt on a large scale, and help it to train people in the fields of economics, electrical power, diplomacy and management," Qin said, adding that Chinese companies were also willing to participate in the rebuilding. Commerce Minister Bo Xilai later signed an agreement with Iraqi officials to cancel the debt owed the Chinese government. But no further information is available about how much Iraqi debt owed to China will be forgiven. "We hope Iraq can restore stability, safety and development as soon as possible," Qin said. China donated 50 million yuan (3.3 million pounds) of aid to Iraq in May, he said.

* China's first national park, the Potatso National Park, was inaugurated on Thursday in Shangri-La, an area famous for its natural beauty in the southwest province of Yunnan. The 2,000 square-km national park covers 17 percent of Diqing, an autonomous prefecture mainly inhabited by Tibetans. Its centerpiece sceneries are crystal-clear lakes, undulating mountains and gurgling streams.

Now about 69 km of blacktop roads have been built in two major scenic spots, the Shudu Lake and Bita Lake, in Potatso. The roads also serve as fire separation stripes. Plank roads stretch 10 km along the mirror-like lakes to protect the grasslands. Seven solar-energy powered public toilets and shuttle buses consuming clean energy are also used in the park to minimize pollution. During the past ten months of trial operational, the national park received 600,000 visitors. More than half of the revenue from ticket sales went to environment protection.

* The theme of the third Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Interfaith Dialogue speaks volumes for what it stands for: "Deepening Interfaith Dialogue for Peace, Development and Harmony."

Co-chaired by Cui Tiankai, assistant minister of foreign affairs of China and Senator Gianni Vernetti, undersecretary of state at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the two-day dialogue brought together religious and political leaders, academics and intellectuals from Asia and Europe to discuss four topics: Dealing with the interfaith dialogue and globalization, peace, social cohesion and development, and the promotion of cultural and educational cooperation.

* China is soliciting public opinion on its environmental sanitation regulations which envisage tougher disinfection, ventilation and hygiene standards. The original regulation, two decades old, has been outpaced by rapid social and economic development. The revised regulation expands its scope to cover all public places with a special focus on hotels, public toilets, swimming pools, beauty parlors and waiting rooms.

"Local health officials who cover up public health incidents such as epidemics will be demoted or expelled, and business operators who delay in reporting public health incidents in their precincts will be fined up to 30,000 yuan (3,900 U.S. dollars)," the regulation said. It also requires operators to install air purification facilities to prevent the spread of disease, and those defying hygiene rules and facilitating the spread of infectious diseases will have their business licenses revoked and be fined up to 100,000 yuan (13,000 U.S. dollars), and could be charged with crimes. The revised regulation bans the opening of public places that are being renovated. Reopening must wait until the air quality has reached normal standards.

All babies go to heaven, not limbo

There are many ongoing discussions about what happens to unbaptized infants when they die. I am always amazed at the convoluted philosophy (including the well meaning ones!) about this question when the truth is so simple.

All babies have an individual guardian angel when they are conceived and they "quicken," that is, their cells start to grow and thrive so there is indeed a living being present. So Christian or not, every baby has a guardian angel. If a baby dies either pre-birth due to miscarriage or that horror of abortion, or as a born infant, but one that has not been baptized, the baby goes to heaven because the guardian angel is their "godparent." So all babies who die go to heaven, regardless of their religious identity or baptism.

How do we know this? We all agree that even the worse sinner who truly repents and confesses before death, and whose heart is converted, is saved. If such a grace is given to a person who may have led a deplorable life of many decades, God provides an instant "benefit of the doubt" for every baby that this baby would have lived a righteous life, but never had a chance. So the baby is in essence baptized in heaven by their receipt into heaven with escort and sponsorship of their guardian angel. They do not go to "limbo" as there is nothing to atone for. They are baptized in heaven of their original sin because just as baptism is available to any adult who wants to be saved, the baby who has not received baptism does so upon their entry into heaven. So all babies who have ever perished are in heaven. And family members who merit and achieve heaven will see them there.

I support Bishop Peric

From Catholic News Service:

Bishop Peric vehemently opposes claims that Mary has appeared in the village almost 40,000 times in the last 26 years and last year complained personally to Pope Benedict XVI that priests from overseas were ignoring the wishes of the local bishops not to go on pilgrimages there.

"As the local bishop, I maintain that regarding the events of Medjugorje, on the basis of the investigations and experience gained thus far throughout these last 25 years, the church has not confirmed a single apparition as authentically being the Madonna," he said.

What a crock. If anyone reads the so called messages from Medjugorje you'll see that the people who supposedly are getting these messages are weaving astrology into it.

Pilgrims, go to authentic shrines like Lourdes and Fatima. Medjugorje is a heretical rip-off.

Heat here sure isn't fake

Oh dear, it's summer allergy season and I'm sure sneezing. Partly because I'm no longer getting the allergy injections I received for years, back when I was getting medical care.

Running and other outdoor exercise are really out of the question anyway with the incredible heat and humidity in this part of the country. Air conditioning is not an option, it's a must! How funny to think I lived comfortably for over twenty years in my house up north without any central air!

Feeling sorry for maintenance and construction folks that have to work outside regardless. Know those dudes digging up the sewer line in front of my apartment house are really feeling the heat!

When everything's insane at least baseball's good

I'm grateful the worst we have to worry about in the great sport of baseball is steroids and some players being waaaaay overpaid. When the news is just so terrible, at least there's a place families can go and not be traumatized.

I listened to the fantastic Colorado Rockies v. NY Yankees game yesterday. The coverage was so good I felt I was there. In the past I've listened to Rockies games when the Padres have been in town. Congratulations Rockies on a really exciting and fun game.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Prayers for the Lost Firefighters and their families

As Chief Thomas held back tears at the news conference, Rae Wooten, the Charleston County coroner, read off the names of the nine firefighters who died. They were Capt. William Hutchinson, 48; Capt. Mike Benke, 49; Capt. Louis Mulkey, 34; Mark Kelsey, 40; Bradford Baity, 37; Michael French, 27; James Drayton, known as Earl, 56; Brandon Thompson, 27; and Melven Champaign, 46.

And as they went on, walking and talking together, behold a fiery chariot and fiery horses parted them both asunder: and Elias went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Eliseus saw him and cried: My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the driver thereof. And he saw him no more. And he took hold of his own garments, and rent them in two pieces. And he took up the mantle of Elias, that fell from him, and going back, he stood upon the bank of the Jordan.

I hope that the families and the firefighter brothers and sisters can find the strength to go forward and pick up the mantle of those who were lost, and be at peace knowing that no greater love is there than one who gives one's life for one's brother.

Their years of service:

Captain William "Billy" Hutchinson, 48, 30 years of service; Captain Mike Benke, 49, 29 years of service; Captain Louis Mulkey, 34, 11.5 years of service; Engineer Mark Kelsey, 40, 12.5 years of service; Engineer Bradford "Brad" Baity, 37, 9 years of service; Asst. Engineer Michael French, 27, 1.5 years of service; Firefighter James "Earl" Drayton, 56, 32 years of service; Firefighter Brandon Thompson, 27, 4 years of service; Firefighter Melven Champaign, 46, 2 years of service.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Explanations of the Qur'an for Christians (4)

In one of my previous posts, "Why Jesus Lived as a Human," I describe how the words of the twelve year old Jesus, when he is found in the Temple of Jerusalem, indicate that already he had a continual and adult conversation and communion with God the Father. It was internal because Joseph and Mary did not know about it, and Jesus himself explained during his adult public ministry that he communicated and learned from God the Father through prayer.

One of the things that drives me crazy are secularists and, how do I put it charitably, Catholics who are easily swayed in their faith, who attribute a period of human cluelessness and angst to Jesus, as if God had dumped him in human form to wonder who he was and what was going on. If I had one of those old fashioned robes and if I could afford to ruin my clothes I'd rend them in extreme ire. So I'm going to show you a part of the Qur'an that may forever change your misperceptions about the wisdom and knowledge contained in the Qur'an. It is the series of passages where the Prophet (Peace be upon him) records that Jesus spoke as a newborn baby. In the index to the Qur'an there are three sections cited that relate how Jesus "spoke in infancy."

Surah 3:45-46
When the angels said: O Marium, surely Allah gives you good news with the Word from Him (of one) whose name is the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, worthy of regard in this world and the hereafter and of those who are made near (to Allah).
And he shall speak to the people when in the cradle and when of old age, and (he shall be) one of the good ones.

Surah 5:110
When Allah will say: O Isa son of Marium! Remember My favor on you and on your mother, when I strengthened you with the holy Spirit, you spoke to the people in the cradle and when of old age, and when I taught you the Book and the wisdom and the Taurat and the Injeel: and when you determined out of clay a thing like the form of a bird by My permission, then you breathed into it and it became a bird by My permission, and you healed the blind and the leprous by My permission, and when you brought forth the dead by My permission; and when I withheld the children of Israel from you when you came to them with clear arguments, but those who disbelieved among them said: This is nothing but clear enchantment.

Surah 19: 29-34
But she [Marium] pointed to him. They said: how should we speak to one who was a child in the cradle?
He said: Surely I am a servant of Allah; He has given me the Book and made me a prophet;
And he made me blessed wherever I may be, and He has enjoined on me prayer and poor-rate so long as I live;
And dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me insolent, unblessed;
And peace on me on the day I was born, and on the day I die, and on the day I am raised to life.
Such is Isa, son of Marium; (this is) the saying of truth about which they dispute.


Has this rocked the world of those of you who have not read the Qur'an? There is greater faith and insight into Jesus Christ (putting aside the disagreement about whether he is titled the Son of God and their problem with the Trinity for the moment) than in many, many Christian "analyses" and "literature" that I have read. When the profane and frankly, just not very intelligent books of fiction and even some horrible liberal theology come out, I just laugh and shake my head, because as people scratch their heads and wonder where the proofs are about Jesus Christ, there is a wealth of it in the Qur'an of all places. This is why I am annoyed extremely when people mischaracterize the mainstream Islamic faith. Anyone who reads the Qur'an devoutly and not as a political agenda cannot miss the love of and respect for Jesus Christ and his mother Mary. Remember that the Arab people were scholars and doctors before Europeans were, and had access to information about the times of Christ that are since unknown and forgotten. And no one can accuse the Prophet of writing in order to propagate Christianity myths and stories, as the Apostles are sometime most horribly accused. How beautiful these writings are, and there is no fault within them, for look: they understand the "at birth" adult knowing and self comprehension of Jesus and his communion with Allah/God, they show how Mary points to Jesus and is always humble and pure (and I have many more passages to share about their view of Mary as "chosen by Allah," "a sign for all peoples," and "woman of truth,") they show how Jesus knows that all comes to him from Allah/God, and that he is the child/man of peace, and that he will be "raised to life." When people "wonder" if Jesus "knew who he was" I am dumbfounded at the ignorance. And I am thankful for the precious information about our faith that is preserved so beautifully in the Qur'an. I am wondering when people of the faith of Abraham will realize that they are not so far apart at all, and I hope that I am helping to bind together and unify the faith in one God and mutual understanding.

Another thing to ponder. The ancient icons of Mary and the child Jesus always show Jesus portrayed as a miniature adult. While it is true that this was a not unknown artistic device at the time, there is also a greater truth revealed in those icons. They are likewise confirming understanding of Jesus Christ's adult knowledge of his purpose and teachings imparted from God the Father, even as a babe.

"Jesus of Nazareth" Chapter Three

In this chapter Pope Benedict explores the frequent mention of "The Kingdom of God" in the preaching and teachings of Jesus. As he states on p. 47 the phrase "Kingdom of God" occurs 122 times in the New Testament, concentrated mostly in three Synoptic Gospels (those being the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke that most closely focus on the episodes during Christ's ministry.) He explores whether the Kingdom of God refers to the future heavenly kingdom (one that may come rapidly in apocalyptic cataclysm or a long way off), or the Kingdom of God that an individual finds upon dying, or the Kingdom of God that is the body of the faithful who are alive at a given time, or if the Kingdom of God is ushered in and therefore present here and now in Jesus Christ as Messiah and Son of God. Benedict cautions against making an "arbitrary claim" and trying to "bend everything else until it fits," especially when hypothesizing about comments where Jesus is "enigmatic" or speaking in a "mysteriously coded" way (p. 59.) As it is the basic tenet of the Christian faith that Jesus Christ is the means by which the Kingdom of God is here, Benedict writes "it is not simply in Jesus' physical presence that the 'Kingdom' is located; rather, it is in his action, accomplished in the Holy Spirit. In this sense, it is in and through him that the Kingdom of God becomes present here and now; that is 'drawing near' "(p. 60.) In a way, this is a restatement of Benedict's most eloquent summary of what Jesus Christ has done for humankind: "What has he brought? The answer is very simple: God. He has brought God. He has brought the God who formerly unveiled his countenance gradually...."

So I do not think that Jesus is quite as enigmatic and mysterious in his sayings as some find him to be. For example, Benedict (and others) have found Jesus to be enigmatic when he says "the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force" (Matthew 11:12) (p. 59.) I'd argue that it's not that mysterious if you couple it with what Benedict said, quoted above, that Jesus "brought the God who formerly unveiled his countenance gradually..." Jesus is observing that the personage of God, in the form of the faithful and the non-believers, has indeed "suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force." Those who do not heed and discern God's true will often perform literally and symbolic violence upon the Kingdom of God as it exists among the faithful on earth. Violence is a forceful and harmful impatience. Jesus is not referring to religious wars or conflicting faiths because remember, when he said this he was only preaching to and trying to convert those of the Jewish faith. He viewed the profanities and lack of charity being exercised by many who claimed to be of the highest faith to be a form of violence. When reading the scriptures, I agree with Benedict that one must not "bend everything until it fits." To avoid this, one must constantly touch base with where Jesus was and for whose benefit he was speaking, and in the conflict of the times, not the future. Jesus focused like a laser beam on his mission to preach to and convert the Jews, as witnessed by his momentary hesitation to miraculously cure the daughter of the Samaritan woman. So Jesus viewed, for example, the rejection and killing of John the Baptist as violence on the Kingdom of God, because John was the one warning that excesses and perversions of the Law needed to be repented. Jesus was referring more to the violence as being the harm done to the faithful by the refusal to discern and obey the true will of God.

Another reason that Jesus referred to the Kingdom of God so often is that just as he constantly reminded his followers that what Jesus wrought was from God the Father, he never wanted people to forget that all power and goodness comes from God. Jesus did not want people to worship him in his bodily form as he lived. He constantly reminded people that he was speaking for God, and that he was bringing God to them in his form, but so that they might know and comprehend better God's purpose and will, not to represent God in his entirety on earth. This is the source of one of the biggest misunderstandings among faiths; how Christians can believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and bring the "unveiled God," yet not be removing the God from the heavens and placing him in a human body. I'll write more about this in another post. But the frequent mentions of the Kingdom of God and God the Father are Jesus' way to constantly point his followers to the One God that all children of Abraham believe in.