Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bad rap for St. Martha

Reflection for Mass at Feast of St. Martha, July 29, 2009:

John 11.27: Martha "said to him, 'Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.'"

St. Martha has always been one of my favorite saints; much for the same reason that Thomas is. I am a very well named Thomas. I need to see the nail marks and the wounds far too often to be brought to belief.

If you ask someone what we know Thomas the Apostle for, without wasting even a moment, the word "doubter" comes running off of their tongue. The Doubter. Doubting Thomas. These are so much a part of our culture today it is possible to know these phrases even if you don't know Thomas.

But, this is a bad rap. Yes, Thomas had his moment of doubt. But, he concludes that story with perhaps one of the greatest proclamations of faith to be found in Scripture as he humbly proclaims, "My Lord and my God!" Why don't we remember him as Thomas the Faithful!

Which brings us back to Martha. St. Martha is likewise remembered too often for her less than glorious moments. I think we often hear Martha in the Gospel complaining. Jesus comes to visit at her house; Mary, her sister, sits at the feet of Jesus; Martha complains, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me."

Again, when Lazarus, her brother has died, Jesus arrives, Martha complains,"Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Too often, this is what we remember. But, just as for Thomas, this isn't the full story for this wonderful saint.

What I like about Martha is that she voices for us perhaps our similar reaction to difficulties. Even if we haven't said it out loud, we've more than likely felt the same way that Martha feels. We've wondered at the death of a loved one. We've been angry to be the only one seemingly doing the work.

But the story doesn't end there for Martha. Just as Thomas made his great proclamation of faith, "My Lord and my God," so does Martha. Once she's gotten her anger and confusion out at the death of her brother, she goes on to proclaim, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world." Yes, Lord, I believe in You; I beleive You are the Messiah; I believe You are the one to set us free; to lead us to the Kingdom; who can triumph even over the small and the great difficulties in my life.

Thank God for Martha and for Thomas and for Peter, who denied, but whose stories went on to redemption and glory. They are our witnesses, not as models we can never be, but as human beings as flawed as we are, but triumphant in and through the Grace of God.

Let us pray through St. Martha that we too may overcome our challenges of life and of faith, and arrive at the glory to proclaim, "Yes, Lord, I believe!"

Friars Trudge 300 Miles and Find Kindred Souls on the Way

By William Wan
Washington Post Staff Writer • Wednesday, July 29, 2009

They've been mistaken for Jedi-wannabes headed to a Star Wars convention. They've been investigated by police, approached by strangers, gawked at from cars and offered gifts of crumpled dollar bills and Little Debbie snacks.

After trekking along more than 300 miles of dusty Virginia country roads and suburban highways, six Franciscan friars reached Washington on Tuesday, having seen it all during an offbeat modern-day quest for God.

For six weeks, the brothers walked from Roanoke with only their brown robes, sandals and a belief in the kindness of strangers to feed and shelter them.

The sight of six men in flowing habits, trudging single file on the side of the road, prompted many to pull over and talk, even confess. People on their way to work described their loneliness. College students wanted help figuring out what to do with their lives. Children, mistaking them for the Shaolin monks in movies, ran up to ask the friars if they knew how to beat up bullies.

"Dressed like we are in our habits, it's like a walking sign that says, 'Tell us your life's problems,' " explained Cliff Hennings, the youngest of the friars at 23.

In every instance, the friars made time for conversation. They shot the breeze with a gang of drunk bikers, dispensed relationship advice to the brokenhearted commuters and bore witness to one and all, yea, even to the Chik-fil-A employee dressed as a cow.

The pilgrimage was the idea of four young friars just finishing their training in Chicago and working toward taking lifelong vows. Seeking to emulate the wanderings of their founder, Saint Francis of Assisi, they wanted to journey together as a fraternity, ministering to one another and to strangers, while depending on God for every meal and place to sleep.

Joined by two older friars supervising their training, they picked as their destination a friary in Washington, D.C., called the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land -- a symbolic gesture, because the actual Holy Land was too far away.

Then last month they drove from Chicago to Salem, just outside Roanoke, parked their van at a church and set out on foot.

They tried to live by the ascetic rules Jesus laid out for his 12 disciples: "Take nothing for the journey -- no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic." The less they brought, they reasoned, the more room they could leave for God. The friars did make a few modifications, carrying a toothbrush, a wool blanket, water and a change of underwear ("a summer essential," one explained), as well as one cellphone in case of emergency.

Some rules, however, had to be made on the fly. They had agreed not to carry any money, but just minutes into their first day, strangers were pressing dollar bills into their hands. So they made a pact to spend what they received each day on food, often high-protein Clif bars, and to give the rest to the needy.

They walked 15 miles their first day and found themselves at dusk in front of a fire station just outside Roanoke. One of the friars, Roger Lopez, a former fireman himself, knocked on the station door and asked whether there was somewhere they could sleep. As they talked, the friars spotted a giant trampoline out back.

"It seemed like such a good idea at the time," said Lopez, 30.

The six spread out on the trampoline as if they were spokes on a wheel. But soon they realized gravity was against them, pulling everyone toward the center. Some tried to sleep clutching the side railing. When one person rolled over, the rest bobbed uncontrollably like buoys. No one got much sleep, but the firefighters did send them off the next morning with corned beef sandwiches.

Since then, they have slept on picnic tables outside Lynchburg, basement floors in Charlottesville, even on office tables at a food pantry.

One night they were hosted by a man with tattoos on his arms, an unkempt ponytail and all of his front teeth missing. He had pulled up in his beat-up Jeep and offered to let the friars stay with him in an old one-room schoolhouse in Nelson County.

"He looked like he had just gotten out of prison," said Hennings, but the man turned out to be a Native American healer. The friars stayed up all night talking to him. He told them Native stories and played his double flute. They chanted Latin hymns in return and told him stories from the Gospel.

Such moments of grace became a daily occurrence for the friars. Sure, some passersby gave them the finger. One guy even leaned out the window to add a sprinkling of Nietzsche ("God is dead!") to his vulgarities. But most encounters were meaningful, even profound.

Just outside Harrisonburg, a woman in her 40s with a young daughter pulled over in her old Dodge sedan to talk to 25-year-old friar Richard Goodin.

She'd recently caught her husband cheating on her. He had kicked her and her daughter out of their house, she told Goodin. Now, like the friars, they were wandering through the wilderness, unsure of their next meal or their next move.

As they talked, the woman's daughter rummaged through the car and gave the friars a soda. Then she found a chocolate bar and offered that. As the conversation began winding down, the daughter said there was nothing more in the car. The woman reached for her purse and told Goodin, "I want to give you what we have left."

She pressed $3.52 into his hand, which he accepted reluctantly.

"I realized she wasn't giving this to us or to me," Goodin said. "I think she heard us talk about trusting in God and she wanted to try to trust in the same way. She was giving that money to God."

He and the other friars have thought about the woman a lot. Last week, they thought about her as they walked along Lee Highway in Fairfax, where Mary Williams and her three kids pulled over in their minivan and offered to take the brothers to a Chik-fil-A.

"It was the oddest experience sitting there at Chik-fil-A with everyone staring at us," said Williams, 45. "The high point was when the guy dressed up like a cow came out and gave us all high fives. He was in costume. They were in robes. A lot of people were wondering what was going on."

People had much the same reaction Tuesday as the friars crossed the Memorial Bridge and wandered past the Lincoln Memorial. In an instant, tourists went from posing in front of Lincoln's statue to posing with the Franciscans.

Their plan was to spend one last night wherever God provided and then arrive this morning at the monastery near Catholic University. They hope to spend the day there, telling the story of their journey and the goodness they encountered to anyone who wanted to listen.

Their message will be simple: "Anything can happen when you live in the moment, one step at a time," said Mark Soehner, 51, one of the mentors to the young friars. "But to find that out, you have to be willing to take that one step."

New research backs abortion-breast cancer link

Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Jul 29, 2009 / 12:14 am (CNA).- A Turkish researcher has reported a statistically significant 66 percent increase in breast cancer risk among women who have had an abortion.

Dr. Vahit Ozmen and his colleagues at the Istanbul Medical Faculty and Magee-Women's hospital conducted a retrospective study in breast cancer risk factors which discovered the connection. Their study was published in the World Journal of Surgical Oncology, an open access, peer reviewed online medical journal

New research backs abortion-breast cancer link

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St. Martha - Saints & Angels - Catholic Online

St. Martha
Feastday: July 29
Patron of cooks

"Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus." This unique statement in John's gospel tells us of the special relationship Jesus had with Martha, her sister, and her brother.

Apparently Jesus was a frequent guest at Martha's home in Bethany, a small village two miles from Jerusalem. We read of three visits in Luke 10:38-42, John 11:1-53, and John 12:1-9.

Many of us find it easy to identify with Martha in the story Luke tells.

St. Martha - Saints & Angels - Catholic Online

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

St. Mary Magdalene


Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene

St. Mary Magdalene

Except for the mother of Jesus, few women are more honored in the Bible than Mary Magdalene. Yet she could well be the patron of the slandered, since there has been a persistent legend in the Church that she is the unnamed sinful woman who anointed the feet of Jesus in Luke 7:36-50.

Most Scripture scholars today point out that there is no scriptural basis for confusing the two women. Mary Magdalene, that is, “of Magdala,” was the one from whom Christ cast out “seven demons” (Luke 8:2)—an indication, at the worst, of extreme demonic possession or, possibly, severe illness.

Father W.J. Harrington, O.P., writing in the New Catholic Commentary, says that “seven demons” “does not mean that Mary had lived an immoral life—a conclusion reached only by means of a mistaken identification with the anonymous woman of Luke 7:36.” Father Edward Mally, S.J., writing in the Jerome Biblical Commentary, agrees that she “is not...the same as the sinner of Luke 7:37, despite the later Western romantic tradition about her.”

Mary Magdalene was one of the many “who were assisting them [Jesus and the Twelve] out of their means.” She was one of those who stood by the cross of Jesus with his mother. And, of all the “official” witnesses that might have been chosen for the first awareness of the Resurrection, she was the one to whom that privilege was given. She is known as the "Apostle to the Apostles."
Comment:

Mary Magdalene has been a victim of mistaken identity for almost 20 centuries. Yet she would no doubt insist that it makes no difference. We are all sinners in need of the saving power of God, whether our sins have been lurid or not. More importantly, we are all, with her, “unofficial” witnesses of the Resurrection.

From www.americancatholic.org

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vatican paper finds good and bad in new Harry Potter movie

Rome, Italy, Jul 14, 2009 / 01:29 pm (CNA).- In an article entitled, “Magic is no longer a surprising trick,” the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano has reviewed the new film in the Harry Potter series, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” The paper finds that the movie's message is a mixed bag, with references to New Age spirituality and praiseworthy aspirations toward choosing the good.

On the eve of its worldwide July 15 release, the L'Osservatore article notes that “magic is no longer the surprising pastime that it was before.” “It’s no longer about adventures for children or even for those gifted with exceptional powers. Now, as we saw in the previous episode, lives are really at risk and what is really in danger is huge: preventing the forces of darkness from gaining the upper hand.

Vatican paper finds good and bad in new Harry Potter movie

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Vatican daily recalls 40th anniversary of first lunar landing

Vatican City, Jul 20, 2009 / 04:57 pm (CNA).- L’Osservatore Romano published a series of articles today commemorating the 40th anniversary of the first lunar landing on July 20, 1969, by Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins.

The Vatican newspaper called it “an historic event” that was “truly colossal, costly and difficult,” with “hundreds of millions of spectators throughout the world” following the landing on black and white television.


Vatican daily recalls 40th anniversary of first lunar landing

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First Communion on the Moon

As we mark the 40th anniversary of the first men to walk on the Moon today, I want to share this account of the second man on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin. Perhaps as profound as the event itself, Aldrin brought along with him some wine and communion hosts and the very first meal ever consumed on the Moon was in fact a kind of communion meal. This is Aldrin's account of the event:

"This is the (lunar module) pilot," Aldrin said on July 20, 1969. "I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way."

Aldrin's way was to serve himself communion, using a kit provided by the pastor of Houston's Webster Presbyterian Church.

Aldrin's brief and private Christian service never caused a flap, but it could have. Aldrin has said that he planned to broadcast the service, but NASA at the last minute asked him not to because of concerns about a lawsuit filed (later dismissed) by atheist Madelyn Murray O'Hare after Apollo 8 astronauts read from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas.

"In the radio blackout," Aldrin wrote in Guideposts magazine in 1970, "I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. Then I read the Scripture, 'I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit.'

"I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think: the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements."

The small chalice Aldrin used for the wine went back to Webster Church. Each year on the Sunday closest to July 20, the congregation celebrates Lunar Communion. "Communion can be celebrated anywhere," senior pastor Mark Cooper said Sunday. "Even cramped up in a lunar module on the moon."

Aldrin wasn't the only person to bring his faith to the moon that day. The astronauts left behind a tiny silicon chip containing a message of peace from four U.S. presidents and 73 other world leaders. Seven of them made references to God -- the presidents of Brazil, Ireland, South Vietnam and Malagasy, the king of Belgium, Pope Paul VI -- and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, who wrote:

"On this occasion when Mr. Neil Armstrong and Colonel Edwin Aldrin set foot for the first time on the surface of the Moon from the Earth, we pray the Almighty God to guide mankind towards ever increasing success in the establishment of peace and the progress of culture, knowledge and human civilisation."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite, 92, American icon and longtime TV anchorman - The Boston Globe

As a former journalist, Walter Cronkite was a real hero of mine. I always strove to be the kind of journalist who had the kind of skill and more importantly integrity that Cronkite exemplified. May he rest in peace.

Walter Cronkite, whose steadying, avuncular presence made “The CBS Evening News’’ the dominant network news program for much of his 19 years as its anchorman, died yesterday in New York. He was 92.

Mr. Cronkite’s longtime chief of staff, Marlene Adler, said he died at 7:42 p.m. at his Manhattan home surrounded by family, the Associated Press reported. She said the cause of death was cerebral vascular disease.

Walter Cronkite, 92, American icon and longtime TV anchorman - The Boston Globe

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Punday Funnies

As heard on "Car Talk:"

A doctor made it his regular habit to stop off at a bar for a hazelnut daiquiri on his way home. The bartender knew of his habit, and would always have the drink waiting at precisely 5:03 p.m. One afternoon, as the end of the work day approached, the bartender was dismayed to find that he was out of hazelnut extract. Thinking quickly, he threw together a daiquiri made with hickory nuts and set it on the bar. The doctor came in at his regular time, took one sip of the drink and exclaimed, "This isn't a hazelnut daiquiri!" "No, I'm sorry," replied the bartender, "It's a hickory daiquiri, Doc."

* * *

A horse goes into a bar and the bartender says: "Why the long face?"

* * *

A hungry lion was roaming through the jungle looking for something to eat. He came across two men. One was sitting under a tree and reading a book; the other was typing away on his typewriter. The lion quickly pounced on the man reading the book and devoured him. Even the king of the jungle knows readers digest and writers cramp.

* * *

A mushroom walks into a bar, sits down and orders a drink. The bartender says, "We don't serve mushrooms here." The mushroom says, "Why? I'm a fun guy!"

* * *

A neutron goes into a bar and asks the bartender, "How much for a beer?" The bartender replies, "For you, no charge."

* * *

Did you hear about the red ship and the blue ship that collided? Both crews were marooned.

* * *

There was a man who entered a local paper's pun contest. He sent in ten different puns, in the hope that at least one of the puns would win. Unfortunately, no pun in ten did.

* * *

These friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened up a small florist shop to raise the funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, the rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close. They ignored him. He asked his Mother to go and ask the friars to get out of the business. They ignored her too. So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to "persuade" them to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he'd be back if they didn't close up shop. Terrified, they did so, thereby proving that: Hugh, and only Hugh, can prevent florist friars.

* * *

This guy goes into a restaurant for a Christmas breakfast while in his home town for the holidays. After looking over the menu he says, "I'll just have the eggs benedict." His order comes a while later and it's served on a huge fancy chrome plate. He asks the waiter, "What's with the fancy plate?" The waiter replies, "There's no plate like chrome for the hollandaise!"

* * *

Two atoms are walking down the street and they run in to each other. One says to the other, "Are you all right?" "No, I lost an electron!" "Are you sure?" "Yeah, I'm positive!"

* * *

Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, but when they lit a fire in the craft, it sank–proving once and for all that you can't have your kayak and heat it, too.

* * *

Two silkworms were in a race. They ended up in a tie.

* * *

What do you get when you toss a hand grenade into a kitchen in France? Linoleum blownapart.

Pope and Obama discuss respect for life, economy and immigration

Vatican City, Jul 10, 2009 / 01:36 pm (CNA).- The Vatican has announced the topics discussed during U.S. President Barack Obama’s Friday afternoon audience with Pope Benedict XVI. The two leaders reportedly discussed the promotion of life, the peace process in the Middle East, the global economic crisis, and immigration.

In the course of what a Vatican statement called a “cordial exchange,” the two spoke about the defense and promotion of life and the right to abide by one’s conscience. They also discussed immigration issues such as reuniting separated families.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, S.J. told Vatican Radio that the U.S. president “reiterated his commitment to reducing the incidence of abortion.”

Pope and Obama discuss respect for life, economy and immigration

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Head Knight of Columbus hopeful about upcoming Benedict XVI - Obama meeting

CNA STAFF, Jul 9, 2009 / 08:09 am (CNA).- Knights of Columbus leader Carl Anderson has expressed his hopes that the meeting between U.S. President Obama and Pope Benedict XVI this Friday will be a "wonderful opportunity" for sharing the Catholic faith. In an interview with CNA, Anderson said that the meeting will be a chance for the Pontiff to clearly explain Church teaching on a wide range of topics.

"I think it is always a wonderful opportunity when a Head of State meets with the Holy Father," Anderson told CNA. "Obviously, the relationship between the United States and the Vatican is very important, is very complex," he noted.

Head Knight of Columbus hopeful about upcoming Benedict XVI - Obama meeting

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Red Sox player shares how faith sustained him in cancer battle

Boston, Mass., Jul 8, 2009 / 02:38 pm (CNA).- Mike Lowell, 3rd baseman for the Boston Red Sox, was featured on a CatholicTV talk show on Tuesday. A Golden Glove Winner, 4-time All-Star, and the 2007 World Series MVP, Lowell spoke about baseball, family and the faith that helped him survive his battle with cancer.

Lowell was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Miami at age 3. In the interview with CatholicTV, he recalled the influence of his grandparents, whom he described as “very religious,” and his parents, who instilled family values in him from a young age.


Red Sox player shares how faith sustained him in cancer battle

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

In Search of Dignity

From the Op-Ed page of today's "New York Times."

By David Brooks

When George Washington was a young man, he copied out a list of 110 “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” Some of the rules in his list dealt with the niceties of going to a dinner party or meeting somebody on the street.

“Lean not upon anyone,” was one of the rules. “Read no letter, books or papers in company,” was another. “If any one come to speak to you while you are sitting, stand up,” was a third.

But, as the biographer Richard Brookhiser has noted, these rules, which Washington derived from a 16th-century guidebook, were not just etiquette tips. They were designed to improve inner morals by shaping the outward man. Washington took them very seriously. He worked hard to follow them. Throughout his life, he remained acutely conscious of his own rectitude.

In so doing, he turned himself into a new kind of hero. He wasn’t primarily a military hero or a political hero. As the historian Gordon Wood has written, “Washington became a great man and was acclaimed as a classical hero because of the way he conducted himself during times of temptation. It was his moral character that set him off from other men.”

Washington absorbed, and later came to personify what you might call the dignity code. The code was based on the same premise as the nation’s Constitution — that human beings are flawed creatures who live in constant peril of falling into disasters caused by their own passions. Artificial systems have to be created to balance and restrain their desires.

The dignity code commanded its followers to be disinterested — to endeavor to put national interests above personal interests. It commanded its followers to be reticent — to never degrade intimate emotions by parading them in public. It also commanded its followers to be dispassionate — to distrust rashness, zealotry, fury and political enthusiasm.

Remnants of the dignity code lasted for decades. For most of American history, politicians did not publicly campaign for president. It was thought that the act of publicly promoting oneself was ruinously corrupting. For most of American history, memoirists passed over the intimacies of private life. Even in the 19th century, people were appalled that journalists might pollute a wedding by covering it in the press.

Today, Americans still lavishly admire people who are naturally dignified, whether they are in sports (Joe DiMaggio and Tom Landry), entertainment (Lauren Bacall and Tom Hanks) or politics (Ronald Reagan and Martin Luther King Jr.).

But the dignity code itself has been completely obliterated. The rules that guided Washington and generations of people after him are simply gone.

We can all list the causes of its demise. First, there is capitalism. We are all encouraged to become managers of our own brand, to do self-promoting end zone dances to broadcast our own talents. Second, there is the cult of naturalism. We are all encouraged to discard artifice and repression and to instead liberate our own feelings. Third, there is charismatic evangelism with its penchant for public confession. Fourth, there is radical egalitarianism and its hostility to aristocratic manners.

The old dignity code has not survived modern life. The costs of its demise are there for all to see. Every week there are new scandals featuring people who simply do not know how to act. For example, during the first few weeks of summer, three stories have dominated public conversation, and each one exemplifies another branch of indignity.

First, there was Mark Sanford’s press conference. Here was a guy utterly lacking in any sense of reticence, who was given to rambling self-exposure even in his moment of disgrace. Then there was the death of Michael Jackson and the discussion of his life. Here was a guy who was apparently untouched by any pressure to live according to the rules and restraints of adulthood. Then there was Sarah Palin’s press conference. Here was a woman who aspires to a high public role but is unfamiliar with the traits of equipoise and constancy, which are the sources of authority and trust.

In each of these events, one sees people who simply have no social norms to guide them as they try to navigate the currents of their own passions.

Americans still admire dignity. But the word has become unmoored from any larger set of rules or ethical system.

But it’s not right to end on a note of cultural pessimism because there is the fact of President Obama. Whatever policy differences people may have with him, we can all agree that he exemplifies reticence, dispassion and the other traits associated with dignity. The cultural effects of his presidency are not yet clear, but they may surpass his policy impact. He may revitalize the concept of dignity for a new generation and embody a new set of rules for self-mastery.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/07/opinion/07brooks.html

Monday, July 6, 2009

Saint Maria Goretti

St. Maria Goretti (1890-1902):

One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti.

She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class.

On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it," she cried out. "It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger.

She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack.

Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother.

Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.
Comment:
Maria may have had trouble with catechism, but she had no trouble with faith. God's will was holiness, decency, respect for one's body, absolute obedience, total trust. In a complex world, her faith was simple: It is a privilege to be loved by God, and to love him—at any cost.

Quote:
"Even if she had not been a martyr, she would still have been a saint, so holy was her everyday life" (Cardinal Salotti).

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Seeing with eyes of faith

FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, July 5, 2009:

I was reading a book recently that took place in a small mid-western town; the kind of place you passed through on your way to someplace else. It was pretty unremarkable – there was a Main Street with a few stores, a bank, a movie theater and a bakery. Like a lot of small towns, it had its own culture, and its own way of looking at the world. Everybody knew everybody – and everybody’s business. One of the characters who had moved away would say of the town, “It was a good place to be from,” implying that he couldn’t imagine spending his whole life there.

After hearing today’s Gospel, I can’t help but wonder if Jesus might have felt the same way about Nazareth. In Mark’s telling of this event, Jesus returns to His hometown – another place where everybody knew everybody and everybody’s business. He finds people who dismiss Him as merely a carpenter, Mary’s son, someone who couldn’t possibly be capable of greatness. They can’t understand how someone like that could have such power and wisdom. And we’re told that Jesus was amazed at just one thing in Nazareth: their lack of faith.

Faith. We’ve been hearing that word a lot lately, haven’t we? Two weeks ago, when Christ confronted the storm at sea, He asked His disciples, “Do you not yet have faith?” Last week, Jesus marveled at the woman who touched His garment and told her, “Your faith has saved you.” Moments later, He said to the synagogue official whose daughter had died, “Just have faith.” But this week, it isn’t the power of faith that makes the biggest impression. It is the absence of it.

We live in an age when faith is so often absent. Last week, there was an item in the New York Times, asking readers to define faith. They received thousands of responses, ranging from the secular to the sacred, from the disbelieving to the devout. A lot of them were discouraging and took a cynical view of any kind of belief. I was reminded of a quote I once heard that said: “Faith walks simply, childlike, between the darkness of human life and the hope of what is to come.” Now, that kind of childlike wonder may have been something the people of Nazareth just couldn’t accept.

Faith, ultimately, requires acceptance. It is a gift – freely offered from a loving and generous God. But it is a gift many people reject. According to polls, only about a quarter of Catholics attend Holy Mass every Sunday. Fewer Catholics are getting married in church. Fewer still celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Many don’t believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The mystery and beauty of the faith that binds us together -- that defines our values and that ultimately saves our souls -- are all in danger of becoming lost.

Too many people are living in their own Nazareth, blind to the great gift before them. Do we realize what we have been given? Do we understand it? Do we see the wonder before us? Do we believe it? Do we even want to? Because wanting to – that is the very beginning of faith. And faith, once accepted and embraced, yields extraordinary results. It helps us to understand how God works in our lives. It lets us see the world through different eyes. Eyes that can see with tenderness and hope. Eyes that can see a carpenter as a king.

Thinking about all this, and what Jesus encountered when He returned to His hometown, I went back to one of the greatest accounts of small town life, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. It never fails to touch my heart. In the beginning, the stage manager who is narrating the story of life in Grover’s Corners describes it this way: “Nice town,” he says. “Nobody very remarkable ever come out of it, s’far as we know.” But what you find as the play unfolds is that everyone is remarkable - every blessed person in that town. But nobody living there realizes that. And in the final scene, in the graveyard, one of the dead says of the living, with sorrow and regret, “They don’t understand.”

So many of us don’t – whether it’s Grover's Corners, or the small fictional town in my book, or the North End, or Nazareth. We tend to see with the hard eyes of the world, and not with the eyes of faith. We see only what is -- not what can be with God.

This Fourth of July weekend, we celebrate a great holiday that exists, really, because men and women 233 years ago in this town saw what could be. They had faith. Faith in the future. Faith in their ideals. Faith in the God who created them.

As we are reminded of their courage and sacrifice, let us also be reminded of their faith – and pray that we, too, might be moved to see the world differently. To see in Jesus not just a carpenter, but a king. To see in the host not just bread, but God Himself. To see in one another God’s continuing spark of creation. To see, above all, possibility.

To do that, I believe, is to see the world as God intended. It is to see … quite simply ... with the eyes of faith.

May the Lord give you peace.

Tribute to Michael Jackson (not what you'd expect)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Nick Cannon - Can I Live?

Declaration of Independence

I am a big fan of reading things aloud. Take a moment today, as we celebrate our freedom, to gather some people around and read the Declaration out loud. You'll be glad you did.

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

— John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts:
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut:
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland:
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia:
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Good out of evil

I finished "The Shack" last night and highly recommend it. Here is one last quote for you. This is Mack trying to understand whether or not the death of his daughter was part of God's plan. People assigning evil to God as a punishment or a mystery is so very common, in my experience, which I have never understood. How could anyone worship a God that they believe does such things. This is a great way to understand things better and I really like it.

"Obviously you know about my daughter's fascination with waterfalls and especially the legend of the Multnomah Princess." Papa nodded. "Is that what this is about? Did she have to die so you could change me?"

"Whoa there Mack." Papa leaned forward. "That's not how I do things."

"But she loved that story so much."

"Of course she did. That's how she came to appreciate what Jesus did for her and the whole human race. Stories about a person willing to exchange their life for another are a golden thread in your world, revealing both your need and my heart."

"But if she hadn't died, I wouldn't be here now..."

"Mack, just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn't mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don't ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me. Grace doesn't depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors."

"Actually, that's a relief. I couldn't bear to think that my pain might have cut short her life."

"She was not your sacrifice, Mack. She is and will always be your joy. That's enough purpose for her."