Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Tabernacle stolen, hosts defiled at India church

So I found this story (link).

And these as well:

Catholic Bishop, priests attacked in India (link)
Attack on Bishop “barbaric”: Church leadership (link)
Mumbai: Bombay Catholic Sabha Condemns Attack on Vasai Bishop and Three Others (link)

I have a good friend from India so I asked him if this is common. He said that there is some anti-minority sentiment. Sometimes politicians use the Hindu=Indian for political purposes. And that Typically when these parties come to power they turn a blind eye to the attacks on minorities unless a big issue is made of it. He said that most of the attacks can be traced to a few organizations. There have been quite a few cases in recent years.

I noticed there is also violence against Muslims as well.

I mention all of this because it is very strange to me. In Egypt Copts have been oppressed most of the time for about 1400 years, it is truly the Church of Martyrs. Christianity is nothing new in India. St. Thomas the apostle took it there a long time ago, just as St. Mark took it to Egypt.

When my friend worked with me people would be surprised that he was Catholic. I'd say, "Christianity has been in India since before there was a Europe." The same is true of the Copts.

But in America we are not aware of the rich Christian traditions of other countries. The American media just assumes that there is no such thing as the persecution of Christians anywhere because we are a majority here. I'll see ten stories on the news tonight about what movie stars are no longer married, but not one on the suffering of the Copts or what just happened in India.

But, to quote Gandhi : "You must be the change you want to see in the world."

So, I'll keep posting. So people know.

God wants spiritual fruits, not religious nuts

I saw this phrase somethere, God wants spiritual fruits, not religious nuts.

I just thought, you know...that speaks for itself.

Muslim fundamentalists, Pat Robertson...just mixed up nuts. Sometimes I think of them and then think of the corporal works of mercy:

To feed the hungry;
To give drink to the thirsty;
To clothe the naked;
To harbour the harbourless;
To visit the sick;
To visit the imprisoned
To bury the dead.

Then the spiritual works of mercy:

To instruct the ignorant;
To counsel the doubtful;
To admonish sinners;
To bear wrongs patiently;
To forgive offences willingly;
To comfort the afflicted;
To pray for the living and the dead.

Where does it say: go crazy nuts and hurt people, God's gonna get you, love takes a backseat to hatred or punch thy brother?

Monday, January 30, 2006

Those who want to harm us see one body

I was reading an article about the recent attacks on Christian Churches in Iraq (link). One thing stood out to me. These were the Churches that were attacked:

A Catholic Church in Kirkuk dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
St. Mari,A Kirkuk Orthodox Church.
Catholic Church of St Joseph's in Baghdad.
An Anglican Church in the Nidhal area.
Syrian Orthodox church of St. Peter and Paul
A bomb near the Vatican Embassy in Iraq

Some of the reports are confusing, but that seems to be a decent list. The one thing they have in common is that they are Christian sites. Another point that can be raised is that no attention was given to rite or denomination.

Christains divide themselves, but those who try and kill them do not. Usually, they see one body.

I pray for our brothers and sisters. Those killed. Those hurt. And those who live in fear. I pray for the health and safety of all members of the body of Christ.

A word on media silence

On January 19 I posted an entry about how Coptic Christians were attacked while building a new church. If you search for Coptic on a news search you will find many stories about the oppression of Coptic Christians. But you will not find very many follow up stories. You can follow up on blogs but the main media is silent. We do remember the silence of our friends more than the words of those who hurt us.

Neferteeti's Blog (Link) has alot of informative posts on the controversial topic of forced conversions. She also has a post from January 24 called "A silent world" that says what I'm feeling right now better than I can. (link)

Here is a blog follow up to the Church story on Freecopts from January 28 (link)

I've seen message boards that deny there is any oppression. But the reluctance to even report on simple incidents would argue otherwise.

I know Muslims who are horrified by these stories as well. What we must remember is that the Muslim fundamentalists are just like Christian fundamentalists: They hear and heed the voice of hatred and fear.

I pray that our Lord, who made the blind see, will open the eyes of the world. And I pray that enough of us have the courage to help.

John the Baptist, sometimes forgotten

Roman Catholics sometimes forget John the Baptist. When you think about it, it can happen. After all, his contemporary was Jesus. The life of Christ overshadows John, and that is fine to a point. But John, even before his birth teaches us something very important about Christ.

I was praying the rosary the other day and took some extra time on the second joyful mystery, the Visitation. This is where Mary goes to see Elizabeth. In Luke the scene plays out like this:

During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
-Luke 1:39-44

So John leaps was he hears Mary. We are reminded in the old testament that:

David feared the LORD that day and said, "How can the ark of the LORD come to me?" So David would not have the ark of the LORD brought to him in the City of David, but diverted it to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite for three months, and the LORD blessed Obed-edom and his whole house. When it was reported to King David that the LORD had blessed the family of Obed-edom and all that belonged to him, David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the City of David amid festivities. As soon as the bearers of the ark of the LORD had advanced six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. Then David, girt with a linen apron, came dancing before the LORD with abandon, as he and all the Israelites were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts of joy and to the sound of the horn.
-2 Samuel 6:9-15

There are similarities between the two stories, but it is Luke's language that is very important. Luke uses the same greek verb for John leaping as was used for David dancing. The verb is used for a holy dance of joy.

So John does the same thing upon hearing May's voice as David did upon seeing the ark. Mary is the new ark: she is the God bearer the Theotokos. As St. Athanasius said of Mary:

O Ark of the new covenant, clad on all sides with purity in place of gold; the one in whom is found the golden vase with its true manna, that is the flesh in which lies the God-head.

The Ark of God. It contained the staff of priesthood, the tablets of the law and mana from the desert.

Mary, as the new Ark, carried the new priesthood, the living law and the bread of heaven.

John the Baptist, as an infant with eyes that can not yet see, is the first to proclaim Christ. It is even before Mary's beautfiul Canticle the Magnificant.

John heard Mary's voice and saw the Son of the Living God with his heart. Even as an infant, he paves the way for Christ with this basic and beautiful truth.

The picture I have here is a painting of Mary with Jesus and John as children.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

My view of eccumenism and Christian Unity

Although I think my other posts make all of this obvious, I thought I'd just write something today on how I personally view eccumenism and Christian Unity.

When people talk about unity, they usually go right to where faiths disagree. I don't understand that. I really think that what divides most faiths is a misunderstanding about where they actually agree.

If people focus first on their common ground, they find out that they are usually saying the same thing in different ways.

Just to focus on Catholic and Orthodox for a second, there is so much we have in common. There are also things we disagee on. But if you look at what we have in common, you see a shared mindset and love in Christ. If you look at where we disagree with that mindset, you see that we agree in many respects where we appear to disagree.

Sometimes I hear that Roman Catholics can be to legalistic in their dogmatic language. This is true. I do not know how many times I am talking with friends from the faiths of the protestant reformation and end up saying, "well, we believe that too...we just say it this way."

I could give a long list on where Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant disagree. But how about a short one on where they agree:

Jesus Christ is the son of God. He became man and died for us. He rose from the dead and defeated death for us. He loves us. He wants us to love each other. We are one body in Christ.

I could list dozens maybe hundreds of things we agree on, but above is where it all starts.

About His mother Mary, Catholic and Orthodox disagee on some doctrine, but we agree that she is the God Bearer and deserves veneration and love for her acceptance of Gods will. They yes of Mary to what God asked her to do, is the greatest example of the holy use of the gift of free will. We also agree that Mary loves us as well.

With our Protestant brothers and sisters, Mary is more difficult. Sometimes Roman Catholics are accused of worshiping Mary. But we don't, Catholic and Orthodox agree that nothing would cause Mary more pain than being placed above her Son. The Catholic rosary is a Christological prayer. With Mary we view the events in the life of Christ.

The rosary to me, has been and always will be, an invitation from the mother to know the Son. When I pray the rosary I imagine the mother of God taking my hand and saying, "Come walk with me and know my Son."

If we look at where we all agree that is the first step toward Unity.

I am in a very good mood today because my wife got me an ice cream cake. It is not my birthday yet, but we are off of work together today and will be working on my birthday.

There is somthing we can agree on: ice cream cake is tasty.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Catholic, Oriental Orthodox church leaders meet in Armenia

I'll repost the whole story:

Etchmiadzin, Jan. 26 (CWNews.com) - An international commission for dialogue between the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox churches is meeting this week in Etchmiadzin, Armenia, hosted by the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin II.

The joint commission is made up of 14 Catholic representatives and 14 delegates from the Oriental Orthodox churches-- the Christian bodies that broke with Rome in the 5th century after the Council of Chalcedon. Cardinal Walter Kasper (bio - news), the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, heads the Vatican delegation to the talks. He will co-chair the sessions along with Metropolitan Amba Bishov of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The Orthodox representation includes members of the Coptic, Armenian, Syrian, Ethiopian, and Eritrean, and (Indian) Syro-Malankar Orthodox churches; the Catholic delegation includes members of both the Latin and Eastern rites.

The commission is meeting this week for the third time since it was created in 2003. The first meeting took place in Cairo in 2004; the second was in Rome in 2005. This week's meeting is due to address the apostolic succession of bishops, the balance between papal primacy and episcopal collegiality, and the role of bishops' synods.

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit guides the representatives of both faiths to a productive meeting.

Open their hearts Lord to your love and wisdom. Awaken their minds and hearts to the work of unity, that all may be one.

A Request for Info

I'm going to put some links on my blog for a few things. If anyone has any suggestions please put a comment on this post or email me if you have that info.

The topics are:

Information on the Coptic Faith (Egypeter has already given me some excellent ones, but more are welcomed).

Information on the persecution of the Copts (Same as above from Egypeter).

Sites that tell us how to help our Brothers and sisters in Egypt.

Sites that promote Christian Unity.

So if anyone has any ideas of suggestions they are always welcomed.

Catholic Schools Week

Catholic Schools Week is January 29-Feburary 4 this year. I went to Catholic school all my life, and found it to be an enriching experience. In truth, there is so much to learn about the Catholic faith, I was glad to have daily religion classes.

I won’t be doing daily posts on Catholic Schools this week, but you might get a few stories and memories.

I offer a prayer for all the children who attend these schools that they may grow in knowledge and faith. I also pray for all of the teachers who work for less money than public and private school teachers. What they sacrifice for their students is seldom appreciated.

My appreciation for my brothers and sisters in Christ, in all faiths, comes in part from very good Scripture and Church History classes. Catholic School gave me a foundation that has helped me stand firm in faith and morals.

Still, I was ten before I believed that Nuns had feet or ears. And I just used a capitol “N” for nuns without knowing it. But if anyone ever wants to say bad things about a nun, just take a look at some of the holy sisters who have become saints.

Still, when I was six I could have sworn they just glided along the ground. No feet.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The End of The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

So we come to the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. What does that mean? Nothing. It should mean nothing. We should always pray for Christian Unity. And we should work toward it.

During this week, I started out with a simple focus on our Coptic brothers and sisters. As I learned more, I realized two things.

1) I had no idea how much they suffer in Egypt.
2) Unity begins with opening your eyes.

We are one body in Christ. If someone is stabbing you in the arm, how can you not notice? But that is what usually happens. Christians suffer all over the world. People Suffer all over the world. Minor differences of how something is said or what someone thinks was said over a thousand years ago, has become a divide in our minds more difficult to cross that any physical distance. But unlike a physical distance, all you need to do to cross it is decide to. Free will, the gift from God that makes us human, is the key.

When the year of the Eucharist ended, did we stop thinking about our Lord's gift to us?

When the Marian year ended, did we stop loving the Mother of our Lord the Theotokos (God-bearer)?

When the month of the rosary ends in October, do we put our rosaries away?

When Easter passes, do we forget that Christ died and conquered death?

Actually...yes. Alot of people do. And that is the problem. But if you say should we, everyone would say no. So why stop working for unity tonight at midnight.

My blog will continue to explore the beauty of the Coptic faith and the Roman Catholic faith.

I will also probably bang my head off of the keyboard when something happens in politics that is stupid beyond all hope of reason.

I'll be very Italian at times. Try to be funny at times. And I will try to draw attention to what I think is serious.

In short, I'll just be me.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

St. Joseph, The greeting card that deepened my faith and Christian Unity

During this last week I have focused on our Coptic brothers and sisters. I plan to keep posting on the trials and suffering they endure. Once our eyes are opened to such things it is a sin to close them.

Today I'd like to focus a little on St. Joseph. He is a saint we share with all Christians, and is not mentioned a great deal in scripture. But it does say he was a just man, and justice relates very well to all my pervious posts.

I have a twin sister. As we were growing up we would always get things together. If I received a gift, so did she. If one of us went somewhere, the other did as well. The bond between twins is a deep one that influences our whole lives.

My first memory (I think I was just over two) is waking up and not knowing where I was. I climbed over the safety devices (gates and such that my mother had placed in our room just in case we started to roam around without her knowledge) and moved down the hall. I poked my head into my Mother's room, where she was talking with my oldest brother. My thought on seeing them was: "Who's that?"

I knew them, but really did not. I was a little scared and went back to my bedroom. I looked and saw my sister. I thought, "Well, That's Holly, I know her." In a moment I realized who everyone else was, but there was never a doubt that this was my little sister. Even though she was only my little sister by 5 minutes, I even knew then who she was and that I was her big brother.

One morning when I was five I came downstairs, I was always up first. In my spot at the table was a cereal bowl and a card. I looked at Holly's spot and there was a cereal bowl, but no card. I picked up the card and handed it to my mother. "This is a mistake," I said, "it must be for Bobby." My mother smiled and asked why it was a mistake. "There is nothing for Holly." I said.

My mother handed me the card and told me to open it. I did. It was a beautiful card of St. Joseph holding the baby Jesus. It said Happy St. Joseph's Day and was signed by my mother, father and both sets of grandparents who were still alive (even then, the signature from my Italian grandmother looked happy about the card).

I was confused. My mother told me, "He is your patron saint." My middle name, and the name my family calls me is Joseph. "What's a patron saint?" I asked. "That is the saint you were named after, he takes special care of you just like he took care of Jesus." I nodded and looked at Holly's spot. "Who's Holly's patron saint?" My mother looked less sure:

"I don't know if there is a saint Holly."
"Well, Joseph is my middle name is there a saint Noelle?"
"I'm sure there isn't Saint Noelle."
"That's not fair."
"What's not fair."
"I can't get something and Holly not get something. Can I share my card?"
"You can..." she was getting a little put out now "but it's your card."

She saw that I was getting upset.

"Holly and Noelle are both Christmas names," she said, "How about we give Holly an extra present on Christmas and you get one on St. Joseph's day."

This, to me was acceptable. As I ate my cereal my mother said, "Well at least Joseph is the right patron saint for you. He was a just man."

I didn't really know how that applied, but I was having coco pebbles so it was all good.

Later on in life I realized how my mother's phrase applied. And I have tried to follow the virtues of Joseph. To be obedient and faithful to grace and God's voice in my heart and to be just.

Our Coptic brothers and sisters also love the Guardian of the Redeemer. St. Joseph taught Jesus to be a man. And he loved justice.

I pray to Saint Joseph for the unity of all Christians and for justice for our Coptic brothers and sisters. I pray that as one body in Christ we may soon look into the mirror of God's love and see the face of Christ.

Monday, January 23, 2006

What saints can show you

We can tell a lot about people by who they view as holy. We can tell a lot about how a person has lived and what they have gone through by what saints give them strength.

Even a brief look at the Coptic saints is a glimpse at an extraordinary and simplistic beauty.

The Coptic faith does not have a large number of official saints like the Roman Catholic Church. But if you look at their saints you begin to see a pattern.

When I look, I see mostly Martyrs. I see some hermits and warrior saints. I call the beauty I see simplistic, not because it is easy or as an insult. I say simple because what I see and hear from these saints is:

Live simply with God by your side and do not abandon the faith in your heart no matter what the price.

I call it extraordinary because what is simplistic to know or say is often extraordinary when it is realized by action.

Egypeter has posted some comments here (And I thank you again for your kind and informative words) and he mentions that the Coptic Orthodox Church is called the Church of Martyrs. It is indeed not hard to see why.

Not only for the official saints, but all of the Martyrs who have died for their Coptic faith. It is also the Church of Martyrs for the saints of today, who suffer each day. They suffer for a faith in Christ that has been written in their hearts by the hand of a loving God. This faith is accepted by their free will and has been maintained for centuries by an inspiring courage.

As we pray on All Saints Day, for all saints known and unknown. For those whose names are known only to God. Let us pray for the daily saints and Martyrs in Egypt and throughout the world.

What is a Coptic Mulid?

The best way to describe a mulid to a Catholic is to think of a saint's feast day. Most mulids are Islamic and celebrate the birthday of a holy person. In the Coptic faith mulids are usually on the day the holy person died, and celebrate their birth into the kingdom of heaven. Mulids can also celebrate events, such as the Flight of The Holy Family into Egypt.

As I read about mulids, they reminded me a lot of the grand southern Italian festivals on feast days. In fact, I find many folk religious practices of the Coptic Church must have influenced the meditation area.

At a mulid miraculous manifestations are expected. Healings, apparitions and other miracles are seen as a divine acknowledgment of the holy day. Mulids also serve as a place for authorized rites of the church. Baptisms are common at mulids.

Candles and offerings similar to ex voto offerings are present at the place of veneration for the saint’s relics. For those who don't know, an ex voto offering is an offering left at a place of veneration in thanks for a healing or miracle. Many times, in western culture, there are small replicas of a healed body part or the crutches you used to use.

Sometimes Mulids can lead to a great deal of folk superstition. This, however, is common in Italian festivals and is not isolated to the Middle Eastern cultures.

Mulids, unlike some Italian festivals, are inclusive. Official Church celebrations strictly define participants. Since most of these are Sacraments, that is totally understandable. But mulids, especially those along the Nile Delta are attended by Coptic and Muslims alike. The community gathers to celebrate as one. Two of the most inclusive mulids are the mulids of St. George and St. Damiana. At these folk festivals, all are welcome. I do not know how true this currently is since the Egyptian government is opressive toward the Coptic Christians.

In some Italian folk festivals there is a regional rift that separates the customs of the Northern Italians from the Southern Italians. The rift is widened by other historical problems between the two groups.

My point in all of this is that we celebrate our holy men, women and events in very similar fashions. Even if the outward customs are different, our core reasons: The human need to celebrate with each other and share what we care about with each other is the same.

When I celebrate St. Joseph's Day I invite friends who are Catholic, Muslim, Jewish and Neo-Pagan. The only rule is that you respect what the day is for and respect my guests. Last year we talked about vastly different politics and religious beliefs, and no one got upset with each other.

All over the world we celebrate. This week, let us pray that we may celebrate together.

Most of this info is from, "Two Thousand Years of Coptic Christianity" by Otto Meinardus.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


I use Icons as part of my personal prayer life. My home altar has several on it. Some of my Non-Catholic Christian friends are wary of the whole images and statues thing. I try and tell them to think of statues and images of saints as pictures of friends or family. They serve to keep them in your mind, to help you remember why you live a good life. It is veneration and remembrance, not praise. Praise and worship belong to God alone.

Icons of Christ, of course have a deeper meaning. Through Christ, God has made the human form holy. Images of Christ are acceptable because the incarnation itself is such an image. God became man, and we should remember and praise Christ in His incarnation. God became a human being and He wants us to remember that, since it was by that act our redemption became possible.

For modern Roman Catholic, Icons are a lost part of our heritage. I am particularly fond of the Icon above. The Dormition of the Virgin (The falling asleep of Mary, her death) shows Christ holding his mothers' soul, which is seen as an infant. There is a circle there of mother holding child and the child, who is the Lord of all, holding his mother. It shows how we all, no matter how important, will be held as a child by God. It reminds me of Calvary, where the Sorrowful Mother has to hold her lifeless child. It reminds me of the nativity. It reminds me to be as a child at heart and look upon God with eyes filled with wonder. It reminds me of the whole Holy Family, and how we all are a family.

This image enriches my Faith in ways that would be more difficult to grasp had I never seen it. It instructs and inspires me. Icons, like Scripture and tradition are the heritage of all Christians. We should make an effort during the Week of Christian Unity and beyond to be instructed and inspired by all three.

A Link to a brief history of Icons.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Catholic-Orthodox Meeting

Just a quick post today with a link to an article about the meeting between the two branches in Spetember. (link)

It is good to see some hopeful signs.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Coptics attacked While Trying to Build New Church

My original intention was to focus on what unites us with Coptic Christians in theology. By extension I was going to move into the two branches of Orthodox faith. But this week I saw some things on what they go through because of our shared faith. So I did my post yesterday on that general topic.

The deep talk of theology should take a backseat to this:


Here in America, we a closing Churches because no one is going or because of a shortage of priests. There, they are being attacked and hurt because they are trying to build a church.

Here is a Link to the BBC overview of Christians of the Middle East.

Everyone knows that Christians are oppressed in the Middle East. It is not new. It is not shocking. But it should be shocking. It should be treated like the problem it is. However, since it is so common, it slides right by us.

Martin Luther King said, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Plight of The Coptic Christians

Coptic Christians face horrible sufferings at times. They are not given equality under the law in Egypt and often killed or tortured. In a recent case in Canada some coptic christians are being sent back to Egypt where they will likely be killed (link).

In the land where the Holy Family sought refuge from Herod, those who keep that event holy have no help. They do not have safety or refuge.

A site that details what Coptic Christians are going through and suggestions to help.The Orginization is Christian Solidarity Worldwide. I do not know alot about them. I have it listed here for information, I do plan to research it, but at this time I make no recomendation about the organization. Their first way to help is Pray. I do endorse that.

(Link) A site that goes into greated historical detail, a bit dated (from 2001).

An orginization for the benifit of Coptic Orphans. As above I do not know the details of the charity. It seems they have many good programs and are supported by the Foundation center of Washington DC and some funding for their Valuable Girl project comes from the U.S Embassy in Cairo. Here is Give.orgs evaluation of the charity (Link).

In this week above all, we should make sure our prayer and Rosary intentions include our Coptic brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

St. Anthony of Egypt

St. Anthony (Of Egypt, The Great, The Abbot) is one of the people held to be a saint by the Orthodox, Coptic and Roman Catholic Churches. Born into wealth, St. Anthony made sure his sister finished her education and then gave all of his money to the poor. His life is the prototype for the image of the Holy Hermit.

One of his symbols is the Tau cross. This links us even deeper into the Old Testament. It was a tau cross that Moses used, at God's command, with the snake upon it in the desert. This is often seen as a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ as it was by Christ Himself (Numbers 21: 8-9 and John 3:14).

Anthony's feast day is today. He is a saint with deep ecumenical meaning. Embraced by Orthodox, Coptic and Roman Catholics he speaks to us of what we all hold holy. He is linked by the Tau to the Old Testament (Ezekiel 9:4 and Numbers 21:8-9) and the deep history of salvation, where he speaks to us of our common heritage.

And his example of self denial can be imitated by each of us in smaller ways as we work toward an interior life focused on God.

(link) Patron Saints Index on St. Anthony
(link) Anthony on Wikipedia
(link) Anthony on Orthodoxwiki

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Zeitoun (Zeitun) Apparitions

In April of 1968 and for three years the Virgin Mary appeared in Zeitoun Egypt (also spelled Zeitun). The apparitions were silent, but seen by more than a million people hundreds of times. They are accepted by the Coptic and Roman Catholic Churches as authentic. People were healed, as Christians and Muslims together saw Mary.

Muslims believe in the virgin birth and the Immaculate Conception (although they believe that Mary was born immune to temptation, since they differ on original sin). And they hold Mary as ever virgin.

Above the dome of St. Marks Coptic Church the Virgin appeared. What makes this different from other apparitions? Not only is it something that unites us in belief to our Coptic brothers and sisters, but there are photos. Photos that millions of people agree, are what they saw.

(link) Art Gallery with photos
(link) Story
(link) Web Gallery with photos, video and copies of the news stories

Also, the book, "God-Sent : A History of the Accredited Apparitions of Mary" by Roy Abraham Varghese has a nice section on Zeitoun.

There continues to be healings and miracles to this day at St. Marks. But why there? Why Zeitoun?

Zeitoun has long been held as a place where the Holy Family rested as they fled into Egypt.

On some of the pages there are links to other mideast apparitions, I have not heard of them being jointly approved by Coptic and Vatican authority.

A tale of two Nuns

You know, I fully intended to try and stay away from news stories and have a nice flow of stuff for the week of Christian unity. But this headline got me:

Nun in bribery scandal

Warsaw - A Polish nun who caused two accidents while driving under the influence of alcohol informed on a police officer who asked for a bribe to cover up her mishaps, prosecutors said on Thursday.

The 35-year-old policeman has been accused of corruption and faces a possible jail sentence of up to eight years, said Ewa Weglarowicz-Makowska, spokesperson for the state prosecutor's office in Jelenia Gora, southwest Poland.

The Benedictine nun caused two accidents, the first in 2004, when driving a tractor towing a snowplough, she hit a car parked at the entrance of her convent in the southwestern town of Krzeszow.

A year later, her car ended up in a ditch after she drove at high speed.

Anxious to avoid scandal and particularly worried that her convent would find out, the nun went for help to a friend who was a police officer.

The policeman promised her he would make sure no one found out - in return for a payment of 3 000 zlotys ($960) Weglarowicz-Makowska said.

"When the policeman demanded another payment of 3 000 zlotys to keep the second accident under wraps, she decided to inform on him," the spokesperson added.

Ok, the part about driving a tractor pulling a snowplow is just strange (even if it is Warsaw). I hate saying things that begin "In my day...." But man, in my day Nuns never drove drunk and bribed people.

To contrast, a nun in Phialdelphia was struck and killed by a hit and run driver (link). A quote from the article:

”Many children came to her viewing that she taught in the past and they all had nothing but good to say about her and it was all very inspiring. I had no idea in this world that she touched so many people.”

Let us offer a prayer for Sister Paul Mercedes Perreca and her eternal repose. Also, a prayer for the Sister in Warsaw that she may overcome her problems.

Still, in my day nuns never drove drunk and bribed people. And, who would blackmail a nun?

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and The Coptic Traditions

The week of Prayer for Christian Unity is January 18-25 this year. This week sometimes goes under the radar for Latin rite Catholics, but this year we should take some extra time in prayer and study.

Pope Benedict has made ecumenical dialogue a priority of his pontificate, and this week is an excellent time to follow the Holy Father's lead. Personally I am going to focus on the traditions of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

They have, in their traditions, devotions to the Holy Family in Egypt that can only serve to expand our own devotion to Jesus, Mary and Joseph. There is an excellent site on the Flight into Egypt (link) from the Coptic perspective. It is from a tour company, and I do not endorse or disapprove of them. It is just a good informational site. Besides it is from the year 2000, so I won't be drumming up business unless you have a time machine.

Here is another site with loads of info on the journey of the Holy Family (link). There is a part at the top that tells you that the site comes from a Non-Chalcedonian perspective. Take note of that, since this is the main division that separates us from Coptic Theology. For an explanation see this Link.

There has been some progress in a common Christology between Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental (Non-Chalcedonian) Orthodox in recent years. There is another excellent article that helps explain how we are not as far apart as we think we are (link).

And, another Link for the Holy Family in Egypt.

This topic and Icons will be the focus of my blog until the 25th of January. Of course, other things will slip in there between now and then.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Of course Pat Robertson said he was sorry, It was costing him a 50 Million dollar deal

Pat Robertson issued an apolgy for his insane comments only after Israel decided it would not do buisness with him. This sunk a 50 million dollar Christain Heritage center he had planned in Israel (link).

Really, when you think about it, his original comments were his apology. His defense of his skewed view of Christianity is a perfect example of fundamentalist apologetics. They take a phrase or a book out of context, say it is the word of God, and use it to back their own agenda.

The passion for the belief, however, is lessened if you could lose some money or influence.

I personally believe that people need a complete understanding of the Bible. This includes when the books were written, their historical context and what type of literature a book happens to be (History, poetry, prophecy, et al).

This doesen't put the claim of divine inspiration into question at all. If a book written thousands of years ago can still be assert the truth despite changing cultures and times, then the claim of divine inspiration is strengthened. A deeper understanding of how God used our human mechanisims to convey His word can also be a deeper understanding of the Incarnation itself.

Is this a dangerous process? Can this view be abused for reltativistic purposes? Of course it can. The difficult but simple solution is don't let it be.

It is much more dangerous to allow the word of God to be hijacked by men and women who care only for the authority it gives them, and not for the beautiful expression and message of love from the Creator that it is.

St. Joseph's Day

It is only a little over two months until St. Joseph's day. In a overly Italian way, I really enjoy this day. You'll see Joseph alot on this blog, and as we get closer to the day some recipies will be posted.

I'll also go over what makes the Guardian of The Redeemer so special and some traditions of St. Joseph's Day.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Bibles stalking our children

Some parents in California are upset that the Gideons gave Bibles to grade school kids. (Link)

I would be more upset about the crappy translation being given to kids. My favorite quote from the article is:

Parents say bibles were handed out on the sidewalk in front of the school. School officials say that this sidewalk used by hundreds of kids a day is public property. Parents aren't buying that.

Ah..they aren't buying that public property is public property.

I also liked:

This public school is protected by the separation of church and state. But some kids believe these small bibles violated that separation.

"It was kinda uncomfortable what he did. I'm used to not having anybody push religious stuff down my throat."

This part Followed:

"All they did was put it in my hand and said 'this is a gift for you for the day' and they never mentioned what it was," 8th grader Ariana Wilson told us.

Yes, very pushy. You know what I did last time a Gideon gave me a bible (And that happens alot here at Penn State)? I thanked him. He asked if I had a religion. I said I was Catholic. He actually gasped. I wanted to fall on the ground with the Bible saying, "IT BURNS US!" But he might have taken me seriously.

In the end, I'm sure what they want to say is, "A Bible, here in California, and in Cathedral City!! What does religion have to do with our town? We're going to go and stay in a hotel, where we're safe from these things."

You know what they need to keep those sidewalks safe. Nuns. I went to Catholic school k-12 and they keep a tight ship. Just a suggestion.

A bit of Funny on a Friday

I am easily amused. I was looking around at news headlines and saw:

Catholic defense proves too much for the Dragons

It was about a basketball game. At that point, however, a baseball game with St. Geroge as a far fielding shortstop played out in my head. Man, the dragons never had a chance.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Accuser retracts blasphemy charge against Pakistani Christian

I'll repost the whole story here:

Jan. 11 (AsiaNews) - A blasphemy charge against a Pakistani man, which had ignited anti-Christian violence in the town of Sangla Hill, has been withdrawn.

The Muslim man who had accused Yousif Masif of insulting Islam has signed a statement admitting that the charge was based on "mere suspicion." The retraction appears likely to end any change that Masif will face the severe punishment that Pakistani law allows for anyone who speaks disparagingly of Islam. The Christian man had always said that he was innocent of the charges.

After the accusation was withdrawn, Christian and Muslim leaders in Sangla Hill signed a "document of peace and reconciliation," ending several weeks of high tension between the two religious groups.

In November, after the original charge was lodged against Masih, Muslim leaders delivered fiery sermons denouncing the alleged offense. In response, on November 12 an angry Muslim mob destroyed three Christian churches, a convent, two Catholic schools, the homes of a Protestant pastor and a Catholic parish priest, a girls’ hostel and the homes of some Christians.

There is an earlier Story (Link) that says, in part:

Local Christians told Daily Times that they had to opt for a compromise because “the government’s role in resolving the issue is not encouraging”. They also referred to a Lahore High Court judicial inquiry into a similar incident in Shanti Nagar in 1997, when a Christian village was burnt “but no action was taken”.

Another story (link) says:

Masih was accused of setting fire to a ‘Quran Mahal’, a room used to store old copies of the Quran. Suniara and others lodged a First Information Report with the police on November 11 accusing him of blasphemy, and Masih was arrested the same night. It later emerged that the accusations were made by Muslims who owed Masih gambling debts. (The red and italics are mine)

A judicial inquiry was conducted into the attacks on churches but the report has not been made public. The men accused of attacking the churches and other Christian properties were not arrested.

And Pakistan is our ally? I'm glad the people there were able to work it out for themselves. It would have been a shame to bother the government with such a small problem. They have much bigger problems: They play India in Cricket this week. You know what, Go India. I would have said that anyway, since I have a good and dear friend from India.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Court In Italy To Decide If Jesus Exists

This is so stupid I am left speechless.

January 9, 2006 4:30 p.m. EST

Andrea Moore - All Headline News Staff Reporter

Rome, Italy (AHN) - An Italian court is taking on Jesus - and whether the Roman Catholic Church may be breaking the law by teaching that he existed 2,000 years ago.

Plaintiff, Luigi Cascioli, is a vocal atheist who will have his day in court later this month saying, "The Church constructed Christ upon the personality of John of Gamala," the 1st century Jew who fought against the Roman army. "I started this lawsuit because I wanted to deal the final blow against the Church, the bearer of obscurantism and regression," Cascioli told Reuters.

Defendant, Enrico Righi, 76, is a priest who writes for the parish newspaper. He says, "The judge will decide if Christ exists or not."

Cascioli says Righi, and by extension the whole Church, broke two Italian laws. The first is 'Abuse of Popular Belief' meant to protect people against being swindled or conned. The second crime, he says, is 'impersonation.'

Cascioli admits that the odds are against him, especially in Roman Catholic Italy. He jokingly says, "It would take a miracle to win."

Ok...well, this is up there with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays winning the world series. You know, I don't think that Luigi Cascioli exists. I think he is based on Howard Dean.

Crosses broken, thrown into bushes

I'll just repost the whole article here. It is from a news station in Louisiana.

Crosses broken, thrown into bushes

Advocate staff report
Published: Jan 10, 2006

About 600 crosses memorializing aborted fetuses were pulled from ground at the Catholic Life Center and thrown into bushes and onto a parking lot overnight Sunday, church officials said.

Twenty of the crosses were broken, said Sgt. Don Kelly, a spokesman for the Baton Rouge Police Department. Kelly said police are investigating the incident.
Volunteers with the Knights of Columbus and Louisiana Right to Life put up about 800 crosses Saturday at the Catholic Life Center at 1800 S. Acadian Thruway in preparation for the Bishop’s Life Rally scheduled Jan. 15.

Each year the church puts up the display of crosses, said Julie Orr, Respect for Life coordinator for the Marriage and Family Department of the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge.

“We generally leave the crosses up all month as a reminder of the day, Jan. 22, 1973, that Roe v. Wade was enacted,” Orr said.
The Bishop’s Life Rally will be from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. Jan. 15.

Well, I see that freedom of expression does not count to the pro-abortion crowd if you disagee with them. I am shocked, I haven't been so shocked since the sun came up this morning.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Richard Dawkins equates religion with child abuse

Ahh...Richard Dawkins. First off, who is Richard Dawkins (Link)? If you don't know, he'd be sadly disappointed. He has been called Darwin's' Rottweiler , and is a firm atheist and opponent of anything to do with faith. And, as is normal for the media, is considered a non-biased critic. And as such, an expert. Although anyone as biased and close minded as him does not deserve to be called a scientist, he is considered one.

Mr. Dawkins has a two part television show (Link) that will be appearing in England this week, where he makes the claim from the title of this post. I don't know if he, or Pat Robertson frustrate me more. It is probably Pat, but Richard is close.

One quote from him about Lourdes:

"If you want to experience the medieval rituals of faith, the candle light, the incense, music, important-sounding dead languages, nobody does it better than the Catholics."

Ahhh...anti-Catholic vigor. So new, so unexpected form the man who believes that Apes should have all the rights that a human does. (Link).

As I have stated before, I believe in evolution. I don't really care how we got here, but why we are here. And original sin and the need for salvation and grace is not dependant upon the creation story. If God wanted to create us by evolution, then that's fine by me. But, to Lourdes...

Lourdes has a medical board that takes great care with their proof of what happens there. (Link) They don't just employ Catholics and evidence from Catholics is more closely inspected to avoid problems. Lourdes engages in real and unbiased science to document what happens at the shrine.

I get a more accurate view of Catholicism from Fr. Ted on BBC America, than from the opinions of a vehement anti-Catholic bigot with an intellectual masturbatory tendency for self aggrandizement and an ape fetish.

Science against religion is typified by Richard Dawkins in one corner and Pat Robertson in the other. You know, it is no wonder this topic can't reach a reasonable conclusion.

Fanatics on both sides love the sound of their own voices and the idea of being right more than the truth. They care about making inflamatory statements and asking what someone believes, rather than why they believe it.

And these are the poster boys for each side in the mind of the public. Great, ill informed bigot against ill informed bigot. Winner fights Stalin in a "why the hell do they bother" cage match.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Catholic priest reveals to parishioners he is gay

Here is a link to the story: Link.

Basically, Fr. Jim Morrison has revealed to his parish that he is a celibate gay priest. They, for the most part, have no problem with it. The bishop, Sam G. Jacobs, has no problem with it. And, for those of us paying attention, the Church has no problem with it.

There has been alot of talk about these things lately, and what the media never comments on is that being gay is not a sin in the eyes of the Church. It is the homosexual act that is considered sinful.

Fr. Morrison does have a problem with the fact that gay priests, celibate or not, can not teach at seminaries. He addresses his opinions in the article. I don't think that he has revealed himself in order to garner publicity, or fame. I believe he has done it to be more honest with his flock.

I am conservative and a Catholic. I am a Traditionalist in many ways, and Fr. Morrison is in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church on this one.

What I found funny, is that a news search revealed one article about this. Granted, it is a new stroy, but if the bishop was against him and removed Fr. Morrison, I would have seen this on the television this morning. I would have also seen articles and stories about how Catholics hate people. The bishop accepted him, according to Church law, and it is a silent story for the most part. This is, in fact, the bishops' statement:

"As Jesus says, one judges a tree by the fruit it bears. A good tree does not bear bad fruit and a bad tree does not bear good fruit," Jacobs wrote. "In my short tenure as bishop of Houma-Thibodaux, I have known Father Jim Morrison to be a compassionate and energetic priest who has provided good pastoral ministry to the people he has served. Unless I discover otherwise, as with all of our priests, I support him in the good that he does for our people."

Now, before overly conservative Catholics pitch a fit, let us look at Bishop Jacobs. First off this alone gives me respect for him:

Houma diocese call for cooperation with authorities. HOUMA (LA) (AP)

A new policy for dealing with sexual-abuse allegations within the Catholic Church's Diocese of Houma Thibodaux calls for unprecedented openness and cooperation with authorities, a spokesman says. Bishop Sam G. Jacobs ordered a week ago that the new policy, modeled closely on principles adopted by U.S. Roman Catholic bishops last year, take immediate effect. The policy eliminates the long-standing practice of confidentiality agreements between the diocese and complainants, except in those cases where victims or parents request them and even then only under restricted circumstance. The policy also calls for the naming of a coordinator to help with spirtual care of any victims, an independent review board to review actions by the diocese and reporting allegations to police. "The policy will be published in booklet form and given to all clergy, seminarians, religious, lay employees and volunteer workers" diocese spokesman Louis Aguirre said. -- The Times-Picayune, www.nola.com , The Associated Press, Oct 31 2003

A few people have some problems with bishop Jacobs because he is a Charismatic Catholic. He is, in fact, former chairman of the U.S. National Service Committee of Catholic Charismatic Renewal and Chairman of the U.S. Bishops Committee on Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

A lot of people are put off by the nature of Charismatics, and I admit, I can be one of them. I do however, see the value in what they do and strive to imitate their love and deep connection to the Holy Spirit in a more personal and subdued fashion. All I can say is that the recent Popes have had not problem with the movement in general (link). He is also the chairman elect of the USCCB Evangelization Committee.

All in all, we will have to wait to see what the media, and Catholics make of this. I could be wrong and this could be a publicity move, but I give Fr. Morrison the benifit of the doubt. And I pray for the continued success of his ministry, in cooperation and union with Rome.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Pope John XXIII and Miners

I grew up knowing the following story, I copied it here from a website (http://www.edconrad.com/lifeafterdeath/) since it had all of the details.

"In August 1963 when a pair of coal miners were entombed more than 300 feet below the surface following a cave-in inside a mine in Pennsylvania's anthracite region. David Fellin, 58, and Henry "Hank" Throne, 28, seemed destined to die a horrible death because their chance of being rescued was astronomical, probably even worse.

However, when all hope seemed gone, God stepped in, flicked His finger and, all of a sudden, Pope John XXIII -- who had died in a hospital in Rome, Italy, 10 weeks before the cave-in -- appeared to Fellin and Throne in their pitch-black tomb, radiating a bluish light that cast no shadow.

Pope John, half the age of the old man he was when he passed away, was grinning at the two miners, his arms folded in front of him, and remained inside their subterranean chamber for at least eight full days.
It was in the 14th day of the ordeal that the most incredible mining rescue of all time took place as Throne, then Fellin, were hauled to the surface through a bore hole, wearing football helmets and parachute harnesses.

After being entombed for 14 days -- the first 5 1/2 without any contact whatsoever with the outside world and the last 7 1/2 during a phenomenal rescue operation watched by people around the world in complete fascination --the two miners finally were safe on the surface, a most happy ending that was front-page news in every newspaper throughout the Free World.

We thank You Lord for the miracle of one survivor.

For the West Virginia miners we pray for the repose of their souls and that their families are comforted in their time of grief.

Eternal rest grant unto them O' Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed rest with You forever.

The Coal Miners prayer.
By W.Calvert

Each dawn as we rise, lord we know all to well,
We face only one thing - a pit filled with hell.
To scratch out a living the best that we can,
But deep in the heart, lies the soul of a man.

With black covered faces, and hard calloused hands,
We work the dark tunnels, unable to stand.
To labour and toil as we harvest the coals,
We silently pray "lord please harvest our souls".

West Virginia Miners

I am from Pottsville Pennsylvania, the Anthracite region. My great grandfather died in the mines. I can't count all of the uncles who have died in the black hell. My father was a miner for over thirty years and had many medical complictations from his job. I have been in mines, I can not imagine dying there. To die there, it must seem that you are removed from God. It must seem that you are forgotten and forsaken. In all honesty, it seems like that when you are in one for only a little while.

But we are never removed from God. We are never forsaken. The love of God reaches us, even when we run. Sometimes, it is most elusive when we look for it. Even in a mine, God gives us a sign.

My next post deals with my belief about that. This post is a rant.

How can you announce that people have survived and wait three hours to correct yourself? I understand that there was a mistake, but the real mistake was not saying, "Look, this isn't verified." That was all they needed to do.

For three hours people celebrated, but the mine executives said they knew in 20 minutes that the men were dead. (Link)

They say that they waited so that they could be sure.

They didn't care to be sure at first. They didn't care to make the mine safe.

The Governor announced, "The rescue people have been talking to us. They told us they have 12 alive." So, did he know? Did the company lie to him? Was a photo Op in a church, just too special a moment to spoil with the truth?

Men, died. Families were shattered. And the company cared about its' image.
Maybe the Governor only cared about damage control to the publicity, I don't know.

The one sure thing is that the people in authority in this situation let families and friends be comforted by a lie for three hours.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

What We Take for Granted

Here is a link to a news article about how many of Priests and religious have been killed for their faith this year.


Eternal Rest Grant Unto Them O Lord. May we keep them and their families in our prayers. May we continue to pray for those who enter, with confidence and hope in the Lord, into difficult situations out of Love for God and our fellow human beings.