Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A Penn State player who is an Inspiration: Tamba Hali

It may be my Penn State pride, but his story is something going right for a change. (link)

He is about to become a rich man, beyond anything he could have imagined when he was a child on the harsh streets of Liberia.

Tackling a running back is nothing compared to fleeing rebels with machine guns during a civil war.

"We were sitting there -- I remember my mother, she was cooking," Hali said. "Gunfire just started erupting all over the place. Then, that was like, all the time. It started happening frequently. We went into hiding. My stepdad would get a car and we'd go into a village far away from the city. We'd go to a far village, spend about six months there and come back out. Things would cease a little bit, and then they start again."

Hali fled the country at the urging of his mother. He and his siblings joined his father in the United States. He was 12. He left behind his mother, who no longer was married to his father and could not come to the U.S.

"It's been tough, first, going through life with your mother (in that situation), and then going through the second half of your 22 years without her," Hali said. "You deal with it and work through it."

The story goes on:

Hali has applied to be a U.S citizen and is awaiting word as to when he will take the test. When he becomes a citizen, he will be free to bring his mother over.

She doesn't understand the notion of football right now, but she knows her son plays the game. When she gets here, she also understand the perks that go with playing the game -- maybe more so than another mother in the league.

"It's going to be very drastic for her," he said. "She's going to go from living in, like, a hut, to living in a nice home, which she's never lived in before."

Hali laughed when he said that. He does that a lot, in fact. That's what appreciation for life can do to somebody. Hali clearly has that and more.

Everyone here at PSU knows this story, and we know that there has never been a bad word or rumor about Tamba Hali. A class act all the way, and something that has gone right.

Tunisian Reformist Researcher on Discrimination Against Christians in Egypt

Here is a link to the article (link).

Some quotes:

"[But] in a country in which there are monasteries, and in which the voice of the muezzin reverberates along with the sound of the bell calling to prayer, one cannot brandish the motto 'Islam is the solution' or call for the return of the 'Islamic caliphate' - and it is inconceivable for the constitution to set out that the state is Islamic.

The rich Cristian tradition of Egypt is vital to the soul of Christanity everywhere. This is the land that sheltered Christ. God chose Egypt to protect Christ when He was helpless. Egypt was the loving shield of a loving God. Through time the Coptic Christians of Egypt have suffered and held strong. Now, more than ever, the Church of Martyrs needs it's brothers and sisters of all Christian faiths around the world to extend their prayers, love and active support.

"The second example of the violation of the Copts' religions rights is manifested in religious coercion, that is, in pushing women, particularly underage girls, to convert to Islam under pressure... In this framework, there are cases of young girls abducted and forced to convert to Islam...

This is a horror that numbs the mind. At first my mind says, "That can't be true...it just can't. How can anyone do that?" But it is. The UN had mentioned it. The evidence has become to strong to deny. As Christians, we must not repeat the sin of Peter and say, "I do not know Him."

For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' Matthew 25:42-45

"But anyone who follows the events and the facts of daily life has noticed what the official discourse hides. Harassment has increased and the discrimination between Muslims and Christians has gotten worse... The state has not lifted a finger [to stop] the escalation in the discourse of the extremists, who support the Islamist movements and control the various institutions - particularly the media institutions...

If Islamists control the media, and they do, then I need to ask: With all the horrors we hear of, what do we not know.

"Feebleness, fear, and a sense of oppression and helplessness have infiltrated the souls of a not inconsiderable number of Copts, and they would rather remain silent than reveal the secret. They would rather submit to the powerful regime than fight it. This oppression has led them to accept the deeds of the ruling class, and to submit to the reality that is accepted as 'natural' in the society of the majority...

"The Copts are divided in opinion not [only] with regard to the appropriate time to deal with this matter, but also with regard to the [appropriate] way of defending [themselves],... and with regard to terminology: Is it permissible to talk of 'persecution,' 'discrimination,' and 'violation [of rights],' or is it necessary to use expressions like 'being ignored' and 'neglected' by the state, or '[the state] turns a blind eye?' Similarly, they disagree on the methods of struggle against discrimination... and whether the issue of the Copts should be presented as a problem of a 'minority that is persecuted and besieged' or else considered within the broader framework of the lack of democracy in Egypt and the violation of fundamental human rights?...

In summary, Dr. Grami stated: "Global and local circumstances no longer allow the situation to continue as it is... and even though some elements have objected to raising the Coptic issue at the present time, public debate on this most sensitive Egyptian issue cannot be put off any longer."

A great church is suffering. A great people are losing their hope. The above paragraphs should impress upon the reader the dire need to support actions that peacefully help the Copts.

An option is:

Coptic Orphans (link)

And see the links in my sidebar to keep aware of these issues.

I hope I didn't preach on too much, I just thought the article I linked to was a very nice summation of the situation.

Vatican issues defence of gypsies

The Gypsies have faced persecution in many ways through the centuries. The Vatican has issued a statement for the pastoral care of Gypsies (link).

A quote:

Vatican officials stressed that although the document refers to Gypsies, it is equally valid for other nomads, who share similar lifestyles. Monsignor Agostino Marchetto said the problems facing gypsies required governments to draw up comprehensive and common policies to steer them out of poverty and rejection. "It is vitally important that international organisations take an interest in Gypsies."


The new document, issued by the Vatican department which deals with migrant-related issues, recalled the suffering of gypsy people especially in the 20th century, when many thousands were killed in Nazi death camps .

The report - Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of Gypsies - said gypsies were a people "abandoned by men but not by God" and outlined the "special pastoral approach" that the Catholic Church intended to adopt to help them .

This was based on priests and lay Catholics living among gypsies for some time so as to understand their needs and culture better .

Key objectives were education and professional training for the population, as well as equal rights for men and women, it said .

I am filled with joy that Pope Benedict has picked up where John Paul II left off in the social justice issues that face the Church and the world. Here is a link to information about the Gypsy saint Ceferino Jimenez who is pictured above (link).

Polish "Martyrs of Our Time" Campaign Includes George Shahata and Fr. Santoro

This campaign is putting posters up on public transportation in Poland. I give thanks for these courageous Polish hearts. At times like this it is not hard to see where John Paul II came from.

The original post is over at Gateway Pundit (link)

Freedom For Egyptians has a moving post for the Coptic child George Shahata (link)

Post from this blog on Fr. Santoro:

Pope: May Fr Santoro “become the seed of hope for building authentic brotherhood”

“Meryem anà”: Fr Andrea Santoro’s prayer to Mary

May these lessons remain in our heart.

Fulton Sheen Said:

"Freedom is not just something with which we are born; it is something we achieve. America did not receive a perpetual endowment of freedom; it has had to struggle and fight to preserve it. Freedom is not an heirloom or an antique; it is a life that must fight against the corrosive powers of death and nourish itself on the daily bread of goodness and virtue."

"I am not fighting to preserve the kind of world we had just before this war , If I were I'd be fighting for a world that produced tyrants and dictators. The new world must be a better world than that or it is not worth fighting for."

He was speaking of world war II, but it applies to the struggle against fundamentalism. May the Polish people be blessed for their courage in bringing the courage of these martyrs to light.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Pakistani Nurse Raped for Refusing to Perform Abortions

Very few things disturb me as much as this article did. (link)

Pakistani Nurse Raped for Refusing to Perform Abortions

By Gudrun Schultz

MATTRAI, Pakistan, February 27, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A young woman was raped by three men in retribution for refusing to perform illegal abortions in a rural community in the western Punjab last Wednesday.

Rubina Kousar, 26, worked as a nurse in the Mattrai health center. She refused to carry out abortions on two women, reported the Telegraph, despite six months of constant pressure from the women’s families.

“In the past our staff have been subjected to this type of victimization for refusing to carry out illegal abortions, but they have not raised their voices for fear of retribution,” said Riaz Hussein, of the Punjab Healthworkers’ Association.

Abortion is illegal in Pakistan after the fourth month of pregnancy, unless the woman’s life is in danger. Under the tribal system operating in isolated districts of the country, village leaders sometimes order gang rapes as a punishment against women for various social “transgressions”.

"The family came and harassed me but I never imagined they would do this," Miss Kousar said, weeping. "They have threatened my family with dire consequences if we do not settle this. But this is not the past when we can get pushed around. God will give me the courage to fight them."

The UN has targeted Pakistan with aggressive population control measures over the past five years. In November 2000, the UNFPA threatened to withdraw US$250 million in health programs if the country refused to accept an additional $35 million in funding for birth control and abortion. Pakistan succumbed to pressure and agreed to make population control a “national priority” in the country.

This article is from a very pro-life news group. I, of course, am pro-life. But no matter what your opinion of abortion, this type of thing is disgusting. I just hope that the main media will pick this up. But I'm not holding my breath.

Egyptian Intellectuals Speak Out Against the Muslim Brotherhood Movement and its Slogan ‘Islam is the Solution’

Man, I am posting alot today. I want to let people know, I do work. I just make the most of my breaks:)

This article (Link) made me remember a post over at Neferteeti's blog: The Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian People’s Assembly (link)

The article says, in part:

"The right solution for Egypt is not a divine prescription which can be reduced to a slogan that will heal you the minute you utter it. [Egypt needs] a battery of practical scientific programs... which will increase our production capacity [and enable us to realize] our most far-reaching dreams for a better life. [These programs] will generate a significant change in our method of teaching, and produce generations of young people who are better equipped to meet the challenges of a world in which knowledge and science play a pivotal role in production. [They] will address the demographic problem, [bringing] courageous solutions to reduce the birth rate, [which currently stands at] over one million births per year... [But] before all that, [we need] a democratic regime based on multiple parties, in which the people have exclusive authority to choose their leader in free elections, and can hold him [accountable] should he fail to fulfill his promises and commitments...

"History is full of examples of regimes that ruled in the name of religion but spread [only] poverty, ignorance and corruption..."

It also says:

"Our real problem [with the Muslim Brotherhood] is that... they believe that to disagree with them is to disagree with Allah, and that whoever opposes their views is opposing the will of Allah, as was explicitly stated by their former [leader] Mustafa Mashhour. [However, even] the most senior leader of the Brotherhood is ultimately only a human being who may be right or wrong... [Moreover,] their history is full of mistakes - the most prominent of which is their [use] of political violence!

Why doesn't the main stream media cover this stuff! Oh...yea Brittany Spears didn't make a statement.

I think the article is spot on as to the dangers of the Muslim Brotherhood.

I think that religion and science should be partners in a better world. Science helping us explore God's creation with a sense of wonder and respect and religion helping us put it in perspective for ourselves. God gave us minds to use them. With the heart and mind together, we see God better.

On the Less serious side, a baseball post.

I saw the article headline:

First woman among 17 elected to baseball Hall of Fame (link)

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I love baseball. Man O' man do I! In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Yankee fan. My grandfather was born in 1910 and was a Yankee fan his whole life. He passed it onto my twin sister and I.

But the article above speaks of Effa Manley the owner of the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues. In addition to her, many other Negro League players are to be inducted...that always makes me happy. They were great players and great men. And Mrs. Manley was an amazing woman. Negro League players and executives going in this year are:

Ray Brown
Willard Brown
Andy Cooper
Biz Mackey
Mule Suttles
Cristobal Torriente
Jud Wilson
Frank Grant
Pete Hill
José Méndez
Louis Santop
Ben Taylor
Effa Manley
Alex Pompez
Cum Posey
J.L. Wilkinson
Sol White

To some people those names are unknown, but I love baseball and it's history and WOW! That is the most star studded class since the very first.

The great players who were not allowed to play in the MLB should be right there in the hall of fame. As was said at the funeral for a former negro league great:

"it is sad you guys didn't get to play against the best." The response, "Who says we didn't."

But Buck O' Neil was not inducted. He, for those who don't know, was not as good as the other players. He was good. Maybe great. But not hall of fame. Not as a player...but he is responsible for the movement that got everyone else in. If you ever have a chance to listen to an interview with the man, do so.

He is a living font of baseball history, and a good man. His book, "I was right on time." is a must read for a baseball fan. Buck O' Neil loves life, and honors the memory of all those who played with him. He'll get in someday...but you know, Buck is probably just happy for the others right now.

The man in the picture is Satchel Paige. The greatest pitcher, of any race, to ever play the game.

My own experience with the virtues of St. Joseph

Then the LORD said, "Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by." A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD--but the LORD was not in the wind.

After the wind there was an earthquake--but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire--but the LORD was not in the fire.

After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, "Elijah, why are you here?"
1 Kings 19:11-13

All my life I wanted to be a priest. It really was all I had ever intended to do. I even enrolled in the seminary. For me the priesthood was in the whirlwind. It was the earthquake and the fire. But it was not the voice of God in the whispering wind.

What on earth does the above have to do with St. Joseph? It has to do with his virtues...in particular Fidelity to Grace and Interior Life. In God's mercy and wisdom my prayers were never, "make me a priest." My prayers were, "Tell me where to go." I, of course being human and very smart, knew that meant the priesthood. God, of course being much smarter, knew otherwise.

But how do you tell a human what you know? It is a problem we face with each other all the time.

God did it by a whisper. An insistent whisper; A continual whisper that was always in the fire and the earthquake; A whisper that St. Joseph helped me to hear. He helped me be faithful to Grace by leading me to an interior life focused on God.

Following these two virtues led me to many years of saying to myself, "ok...not a priest. Do not do the seminary. Go to Penn state."

ok..Penn State is done. Family things have happened that I am glad I was here for those. I've dated, I've lived. There is still the earthquake. Still the fire. Still...Still the whisper.

Now, I'm not being kind saintly Mr. great guy during all of this. There are times when I want to say, "Shut up...tell me clearly or leave me alone." And there are times when I do what I know I should not. But God gets you back on track and does not let one or two wrong turns derail His plan.

So maybe God wanted me to experience life so I would be a better priest. Still, not it.

I'm in the right place at the right time to give aid during family illnesses and deaths. And there where some friends need me, where I would not have been. God lets me see this to comfort me in my weakness. And St. Joseph helps me be faithful to God's plan and focus on God.

So I call to set up the phone in a new apartment. The lady asks, "do you want an unlisted number?" I want to say yes, but something makes me say no.

Later a friend from college calls. He found my number. He wants me to come to an Amway meeting. I don't like Amway. But I think, ok...why not. He does his pitch and I listen. His girlfriend knows someone that she goes to school with and after a few weeks of hanging out, I meet her. I've dated alot at this point. I've met alot of people in the 7 years since high school.

I see her and the earthquake stops. The fire and the whirlwind stop. And in my heart there is only the whisper, but now it is not whispering...it is a clear voice (Everyone, I'm not actually hearing voices...just want to say that :)).

Four years or so later that girl and I are married. Six years later, we've been married for two years. I could never have navigated the hundreds of twists and turns to get to her. God could have said, "Hey Dave...get to this point and be this person." I would have messed that up big-time if I had known where to end up.

I would not have known where to start. So many decisions made that sent me down one road or another. Things that happened that made me a different person than what I thought I'd be. But turns I didn't understand and sufferings I had cursed, put me in a place and a time as a man who was the person needed for this marriage.

A resounding affirmation: I am not the potter, I am the potter's clay.

And what did God make of the clay that thought he knew his form. He made just what the Catholic Church needs, a member of the lay faithful educated in the details of his faith.

People ask me, "If Catholic priests could marry, would you become a priest?" At this point, I'd say no. I know what a priest needs to do. I know what a married man needs to do. I am not a person who can do them both: Not to the level I believe God wants me to.

All I know is: Thank you St. Joseph for helping me to find the will of God by imitating your virtues. And thank you Mom for giving me a St. Joseph's day card when I was five.

Saint Joseph and his virtues

As we approach St. Joseph's day this article is very apt (link).

It is about how St. Joseph can help with vocations to the priesthood and help priests perform their duties.

In my mind the reason this is true rests in his four great virtues:

Fidelity to Grace
Interior Life (his focus on God)
Love for our Lady
Love for Jesus

These four things define the Guardian of The Redeemer, and all great saints. But these virtues are an aid for all of us in all of our vocations in life.

Fidelity to Grace

To be open to God's plan for us. To follow His words and His love. To go where we are led by the Lord.

It is difficult to be faithful to grace if we do not have the...

Interior Life

A close relationship with God. A mind and heart focused on God's will. It helps us to hear God's voice in the whisper, and leads us closer to Him.

Love for Mary

To love the mother of God, the God bearer, the Theotokos...is to share in the love of Christ. To imagine Mary singing the Christ child to sleep. To picture her at the foot of the cross. To love her for this as Christ did and through love imitate her devotion, is a spiritual gift that brings us closer to her Son.

Love for Jesus

Do I need to elaborate here? How many times has one we loved suffered. In those moments the magnitude of the cross is made clear. When we love someone enough to wish to suffer for them, it is in that emotion we see that this is how much Christ loved us all. He felt that for all people. In that moment we love Him. Not for what He did. Not out of guilt. But because in our own limited way we understand the Greatest Love, even if only for an imperfect moment.

This is the heart of Saint Joseph. This is why he obeyed the angel. Why he was the one who protected the Holy Family when they were hunted.

These virtues carried the Holy Family into the land of Egypt, the nation that God had prepared to be a shield for His Son when He needed protection. As the Pharaoh said of another Joseph, "go to Joseph" (Genesis 41:55). In our prayers we should also "go to Joseph" because he leads us to Christ.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Kidnapped Egyptian Woman contacts Family

Here is a link to this story (LINK)

I can not republish this article because I do not have the rights to it, but it is linked above.

In summation Theresa Ghattass Kamal has contacted her family in a brief phone call and stated that she has:

"Not yet succumbed to her captors demands that she become a muslim."

This contradicted police statements that she converted and did not want to see her family.

The article covers all of this better than me right now, please read it.

I'm looking into getting the rights so I can post the whole article. It needs to be in as many places as possible.

British court battle over 'The Da Vinci Code'

Here is the link

LONDON (AFP) - The author of the blockbuster novel "The Da Vinci Code" faces an English High Court challenge Monday from two men who claim he stole their ideas.

Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh are suing their own publishers, Random House, claiming Dan Brown's book draws heavily on their 1982 bestseller "Holy Blood, Holy Grail".

I normally stay away from the whole Da Vinci Code thing. But when I heard about the Da Vinci Code I said, "Isn't that Holy Blood, Holy Grail." Yes...yes it is. I read "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" when I was fourteen and thought, "well, this does not make any sense. This research isn't even coherent."

So it will be interesting to see what the courts say.

British religious leaders agree to teach many faiths in schools

A link to the article (link).

I learned about other faiths in my Catholic education here in America. As the manager for the Catholic education service said:

"It's been our position for some years that children in Catholic schools should have the opportunity to learn about other faiths," he said. "There has been concern in the last couple of years that some of the newer schools, particularly some independent Muslim schools, haven't been teaching a sufficiently wide curriculum.

"It's not a complaint that has been made about Catholic schools, but it's useful, we think, to reaffirm the church's commitment in this area," he said.

Walsh said the policy allowed Catholic pupils to "increase their understanding of contemporary society."

He said it encouraged their "religious literacy and helped them to develop ethically and spiritually."

To know other fatihs brings us closer to our own, and helps us open the lines of communication with each other.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Coptics to hold coming-out

I did not know about this until just now (link).


The first of what is likely to be many fund-raisers will be held this weekend, launching a campaign to raise $50,000 to give the old church at 118 W. Main St. an overdue facelift.

“As you look around the church, you can see it is in need of renovation,” Chehata said, showing a visitor around the building that for many years was home to St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church. “We are in need of some funds.”

The congregation of St. Anthony’s — one of only three Coptic Orthodox churches in Pennsylvania — will host a Winter Festival this weekend. Visitors can sample food typical of the Coptics’ Egyptian home, browse a flea market, make crafts and participate in a variety of activities.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow and again from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, the public is invited to peek inside the unusual church and meet its members and leaders.

“We would like to welcome everybody from the area and from outside the area,” Chehata said while seated in a community dining area of the church, where his congregation shares meals after weekly worship. “If someone’s interested in the history of our church, we will be willing to give them an account.”

Sadly, I'm not sure if I can go on such short notice. But my prayers are with the Coptic Christians in my state. I pray that they are welcomed and embraced by Pennsylvania.

An Article that speaks of peace and tolerance. Some sanity for a Friday.

I found this article and thought that it was very well written (link). The views in it are almost identical to the things I hear from American Muslims. I know that the words spoken by a leader and the actions of his followers can be vastly different.

My own Church's actions at times in history are not always in keeping with Christ's teachings. Does the Koran say:

Oh you who believe!
Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God,
even against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin,
and whether it be against rich or poor,
for God can best protect both.
Follow not the cravings of your hearts, lest you swerve,
and if you distort justice or decline to do justice,
verily God is well acquainted with all that you do.

There can be many debates that both the Koran and the Bible contain words of peace and words of violence. There can be debates about why passages in each contradict other passages. These are matters for elsewhere and a different post. I know that there have been many moderate Muslims calling for calm, but my question is:

Where have these voices been when hatred of Christians is taught in schools? Why are violations of human rights ignored in favor of a cartoon?

Does the Koran also say:

If anyone slays a person
- unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land -
it would be as if he slew all people.
And if anyone saves a life,
it would be as if he saved the life of all people.

I do not speak Arabic and have seen the phrase spreading mischief also as spreading corruption. Can someone explain what that entails?

But if true Islam is different from the Islam that is practiced, and this is often the case with Christianity as well, it must fall to Muslims to fix this.

Catholics are not perfect, but we have fixed many of the wrongs we have done in God's name. We have apologized for them through John Paul II in a very public apology. We had to look at our own faults before truly reaching out to others. What scares me is that I see a very dangerous reluctance to do this on the part of Muslim leaders.

I pray that all of those who love peace and wish to bring justice to the oppressed, look upon their own faiths: No matter if they are Jewish, Muslim, Christian or any faith upon the earth, and fix our own faults so we may come to each other as we are...bearing the love of God. If we do that, even as one person to another, I have no doubt that Love will guide us. Lord grant us the courage to look at ourselves with open eyes, so we may see You better.

A man beaten, joins in a call for education and not violence

I'll repost the whole article (link):

Christian singer beaten in Islam conversion attempt

The singer is A. Nayyaf, well known in the country; the National Commission for Justice and Peace has written to the Minister of Religious and Minority Affairs.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – The move to rob a famous Christian singer in Pakistan became an attempt of forced conversion to Islam. The incident took place on 18 February in Lahore, Punjab. When he was returning home at night, the Christian, A. Nayyar, was stopped by six men who wanted to rob him. When the criminals recognized him, however, they started to beat and insult him, demanding that he recite the Salama-Tayyaba, the Islamic profession of faith.

After they robbed and injured him, the assailants fled, leaving Nayyar on the ground. Residents of the area, who had heard shouting, went to help the singer.

The singer, according to the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) – an organ of the Pakistani Church tackling human rights – has no intention of taking legal action against the as yet unidentified perpetrators. According to Waseem Muntazir, a friend of the singer, they were amateur criminals, because otherwise “they would have done much more”.

Nayyar, who performs many national songs apart from Christian lyrics, is very popular among Muslims too.

After the incident, the NCJP wrote a letter to the Religious and Minority Affairs Minister, calling on him to tackle such episodes and to seek to educate the people in religious respect.

What is positive in this story is that the man who was attacked sees that the people who attacked him are products of hate education.

He is not pressing charges against them, but stands behind a letter written by the church to the government minister to address education and religious respect. The article states that this man is well known and liked by both Christians and Muslims.

He is not standing up and trying to start a cycle of violence. He is not asking that vengence be taken. He is using the terrible thing that happened to him to reach out and educate. And perhaps, since he is well known and liked, this will get better results than the same attempt by a person not known throughout the country.

I pray that this true Christian behavior may inspire love and truth.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Vatican official: Live gospel to combat hatred of Christianity

I could not agree more with the statement. (link)

A quote:

The best way to combat fear and hatred of Christianity in the world is for Christians to authentically live out the Gospel in all aspects of their daily lives, said a top Vatican official.

But hatred or fear of Christians "is fought above all, I think, by having the person who calls himself a Christian try to be one (a Christian), with greater awareness and consistency in the family, at work, in politics,"


However, he said, much needs to be done to protect and guarantee the rights and dignity of religious minorities in mostly Muslim countries.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Last Supper Discourses and God in the whisper

As we head toward lent I love to read the discourses from the Last Supper in the Gospel of John. I find that these passages (John Chapters 14-17) are very close to the heart of Christianity. They contain some of the most beautiful passages in the gospels. I also think that given the suffering and strife in the world today, they are very apt.

It says:

I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.
John 17:20-23

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate 8 to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
John 14:16-18

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.
John 15:12-14

If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, 'No slave is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.
John 15:18-21

These four passages bring me great strength and joy. They sustain me in suffering and pain. There are so many other such passages in the Gospels and in the discourses. But throughout the year, and in lent, I read these chapters many times.

Another of my favotie passages, from Kings:

Then the LORD said, "Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by." A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD--but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake--but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire--but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, "Elijah, why are you here?"
1 Kings 19:11-13

God is not in the Hurricane, the fire or the earthquake, but in the whispering wind. It is so simple that it is almost feel good pop theology. But I love to read these verses when I'm trying to be open to God's plan for me.

A link to a post at Neferteeti's blog

There is a good post over at Neferteeti's blog that I think is worth reading (link).

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Vatican seeking to calm cartoon conflict

I'll link to the article (link)

As a nation Vatican city has an advantage that other nations have, but refuse to pursue in the Muslim world. They have diplomats. A quote:

Vatican diplomats have launched a world-wide campaign to reduce the tension over the Mohammed cartoons using the Holy See's extensive but little known diplomatic network. As an independent sovereign state the Vatican has diplomatic relations with 174 countries -- including most of the Arab nations and Iran -- with ambassadors (usually known as papal nuncios) in the capitals of most of them.

The nuncios are usually good diplomats. If no western power will take a stand, it is at least good that the Vatican will try and do what it can.

Vatican sources said diplomatic representatives in Islamic countries, including Pakistan, Indonesia, Syria, Iraq, and Algeria have been pressing Islamic governments to take decisive steps to halt the violence that has swept the Middle East to protest the publication of 12 cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammed, with some of them depicting him as a terrorist. In the Islamic faith it is considered blasphemy to show images of the Prophet in a hagiographic way, let alone in satiric cartoons.

The sad reality is that it is likely that the Muslim nations, at least the ones that are theocracies, will not listen. The Pope said today:

"It is necessary and important that religions and their respective symbols be treated with respect, and that believers are not provoked (with acts) that wound their religious sentiments," Pope Benedict declared. But the "responses to such offenses" must not be "intolerance and violence." He said the protests that had erupted across the Islamic world causing willful damage and even death was "a deliberate exploitation of the offense to religious sentiments to foment acts of violence."

look at that last line:

He said the protests that had erupted across the Islamic world causing willful damage and even death was "a deliberate exploitation of the offense to religious sentiments to foment acts of violence."

This is spot on. This situation is being exploited for maximum damage by individuals and governments.

the main role of Vatican diplomacy is generally to spread the church's message on morality and social justice, to defend Catholic minorities, particularly in the Arab world, and to protect the holy places, especially in the Middle East. Its vast collection of information through the network of the local clergy is legendary, and nuncios are reputed to be among the best informed diplomats in the business.

This role (the one in red) is becoming a high priority for the Vatican. It is also changing from Catholic minorities to all Christian minorities. All I have to say is, It is about time. I'm not sure what the Vatican can do. But what they can not do is sit by and watch. We remember the silence of our friends.

I pray that all Christians work toward unity and aid each other. Let us not remember each other for our silence. Let the aid and love we freely give each other, mirror the greatness of the salvation we have been freely given by God.

The Seven Sorrows of Mary

Mary is called the Mother of Martyrs. She was not martyred herself, but the pain she went through was martyrdom in life. No one, except Christ, has suffered like Mary. She had to watch her Son handed over to His enemies and broken. She walked beside Him in his Passion and death. And in the end, she watched her own child die on a cross.

I remember my grandmother after my mother died, it is a pain beyond belief to lose a child. I can not imagine that pain. And I can not imagine losing a child who is also the savior of the world.

Catholics have a devotion called the 7 Sorrows of Mary. We think of them and pray, and let Mary guide us to a deeper relationship with Christ through the most difficult moments of her life. Mary comforts us, when we should comfort her. It is a devotion that has opened my heart many times. It has helped me to understand difficult concepts in times of suffering and brought me to a better understanding of Christ.

The 7 sorrows are:

The prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2: 25-35)
The Fight into Egypt (Matthew 2: 13-15)
The Loss of Christ in the Temple (Luke 2: 41-50)
Meeting Christ as He carried His Cross (Luke 23: 27-29)
The Crucifixion and death of Jesus (John 19: 25-30)
Mary receives the Body of Jesus (Reading: Psalm 130.)
The Burial of Jesus (Luke 23: 50-56)

An Online Chaplet of the Sorrows

Anti-Muslim Riot in Nigeria Turns Deadly

The story is too long to repost here, but here is a link (link).

Some parts of the story:

Christian mobs rampaged through a southern Nigerian city Tuesday, burning mosques and killing several people in an outbreak of anti-Muslim violence that followed deadly protests against caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad over the weekend.

First off, this is not Christian behavior. I do not pretend to know what the Christians in Nigeria go through. I do not pretend to understand it on a personal level, but nothing except protecting your own life or the life of another under the most direct circumstances, justifies killing.

"The mosque at the main market has been burnt and I've counted at least six dead bodies on the streets," Izzy Uzor, an Onitsha resident and businessman, told The Associated Press by telephone. "The whole town is in a frenzy and people are running in all directions."

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country of more than 130 million people, is roughly divided between a predominantly Muslim north and a mainly Christian south. Thousands of people have died in religious violence in Nigeria since 2000.

I'm sure that now there will be even greater reprisals in the Muslim north of the country against the Christians there. This was not the people persecuted rising up. This was the majority in the south taking vengence on the minority after the majority in the north killed the minority there.

And I am sure that the direct violence against Christians in Muslim countries will now increase.

The violence appeared to be in reprisal for anti-Christian violence Saturday in the mostly Muslim northern city of Maiduguri in which thousands of Muslims protesting caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad attacked Christians and burned churches, killing at least 18 people.

I pray for the Christians and Muslims in both areas who want peace. I pray for those who were killed in both the north and the south who were only going about their daily tasks. I pray for their families. And I pray for the human family, that we may love each other.

Police arrest 15 people after Muslim-Christian clashes in Egyptian village

I'll repost the whole article:

Police arrest 15 people after Muslim-Christian clashes in Egyptian village


CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Police have arrested 15 people after clashes between Muslims and Christians in a village south of the capital, police officials said Tuesday.

Police cordoned off Ezzbat Wassif on Tuesday and mounted patrols in the village, searching for people involved in Monday's fighting as well as ensuring calm, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the press.

Villagers fought with sticks and stones, leaving at least 11 people wounded, one seriously, said residents who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue. Police, however, said only six people were injured but confirmed that one was in serious condition in hospital.

Rioters managed to set three houses on fire before police restored order.

The clashes apparently began when Muslims objected to a community hall that Christians were building, taking it to be a church. Under Egyptian law, government permission is required to build a church.

Police are questioning the 15 detainees about the clashes. Last month, an attempt to turn a guest house into an informal church in a southern Egyptian town provoked clashes among Coptic Christians, Muslims and police in which one person was killed and at least 11 wounded.

Christians make up an estimated 10 percent of Egypt's 72 million people. They generally live in peace with the Muslim majority, but complain of discrimination in the job market, particularly in the upper ranks of the civil service.

I think that the "they generally live in peace" line is best read: They are true Christians and do not start the violence brought upon them. Getting your houses set on fire and being Martyred for your faith is a strange definition of peace.

Monday, February 20, 2006

A bit of a hectic day

I won't be posting today, we had to take a freind to the hospital. Nothing deadly, kidney stones that required an operation and an infection that is under control. But it has been a hectic day.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Muslims Assault U.S. Embassy in Indonesia

So, finally a US embassy has been attacked (link).

A quote:

A protest organizer said the West, and particularly the United States, is attacking Islam.

"They want to destroy Islam through the issue of terrorism ... and all those things are engineered by the United States," said Maksuni, who only uses one name.

"We are fighting America fiercely this time," he said. "And we also are fighting Denmark."

Actually fundamentalists are destroying Islam through terrorism. And those who refuse to see that are helping them.


Christians also have become targets. Pakistani Muslims protesting in the southern city of Sukkur ransacked and burned a church Sunday after hearing accusations that a Christian man had burned pages of the Quran, Islam's holy book.

I refer readers to an earlier post from this blog (link) that shows how these charges in Pakistan are usually lies.

And there was the incident in Nigeria:

That incident came a day after Muslims protesting in the Nigerian city of Maiduguri attacked Christians and burned 15 churches in a three-hour rampage that killed at least 15 people. Some 30 other people have died during protests over the cartoons that erupted about three weeks ago.

It is getting harder for the world to see any face for Islam besides hatred, fear and rage.

I pray for all Christians in the way of this tide of hatred. May God protect His One Body and comfort those who suffer.

Catholic League attempts to highlight double standard after Illinois Students are suspended from newspaper

Two Illinois students were suspended from the school newspaper after publishing the now infamous cartoons. All of the stories take great pains to point out that the paper is not actually part of the school. The students were suspended by the publisher of the paper. The problem lies in the support given to the publisher by the university chancellor. I'll quote the article (link):

A Catholic group Friday decried the suspensions of the editor-in-chief and the opinions page editor of the Daily Illini, the student newspaper at the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois, for republishing cartoons that mock the Prophet Mohammed...

"In March 1997, the same Urbana-Champaign campus displayed drawings by Michele Blondel that showed the red glass vaginas hanging inside European Roman Catholic cathedrals; two of them had red glass holy water cruets with crosses on them," said Donohue....

Donohue said he wrote a letter to the president objecting to the art display and the chancellor, Michael Aiken, replied, saying he regretted "that the art 'disappointed'" Donohue....

"He instructed, 'Most viewers find Blondel's art to be quite subtle as it invites the viewer to contemplate and reflect on topics as diverse as the body, the church, and architectural and religious symbolism.' Stupid me - I thought it was Catholic-bashing porn," said Donohue....

"His closer was precious: 'The University believes that true intellectual discourse extends not only to written communication but also to the visual.' Except when Muslims get angry," added Donohue.

Now, if you do a news search you'll see that the publisher and the other staff members say that they were not consulted about the cartoons. The suspended editors claim that they did indeed consult the rest of the editorial staff. I have no idea if all of that is true. But Mr. Donohue of the Catholic League, who I sometimes agree with and sometimes do not, raises a good point.

I have highlighted in red the response that the chancellor gave Mr. Donohue over an anti-Catholic display (above). If that is the policy then why did the chancellor say this about the recent cartoons:

Chancellor Richard Herman maintains that “a discussion about the controversial Danish cartoons could have taken place without republishing them.”

It is indeed a double standard.

The Question:

Why is it alright to offend Catholics with a display of sexual imagery inside of a cathedral but not alright to publish the cartoons?

The Answer:

Despite the fact that people want to portray Catholics as insane dogmatic theocrats, they won't kill or hurt anyone over such displays. It is all about fear, not freedom.

Is it part of free speech in America to insult a religion?

The Supreme Court has ruled (1952 Burstyn vs. Wilson):

"It is not the business of government in our nation to suppress real or imagined attacks upon a particular religious doctrine."

Now, I believe that everyone has a right to peacefully protest such things. It does fall under our basic freedoms in the United States to offend each other, like it or not. It is a difference between what we can do and what we should do. Everyone has a right to show the world what an idiot they are. It is a right we take advantage of a lot. Like by saying:

'The University believes that true intellectual discourse extends not only to written communication but also to the visual.'

and then saying:

“a discussion about the controversial Danish cartoons could have taken place without republishing them.”

But are the cartoons really an attack on a religion?

I do have some questions:

Are the cartoons an attack on Islam?

Or are they an attack against what the fundamentalists have done to Islam?

Should those offended be angry at the cartoonists or at those who have given this perception of their faith to the world?

If the cartoons are a mirror reflecting what the world sees, and if that is wrong, then oppose those causing that reflection.

When I see a cartoon that paints all priests as sexual offenders, I am offended more by the priests who have caused the perception than by the cartoon. I want to take an active stand against those who deform my faith by their actions.

When the media focuses only on priests and not on the rampant culture of sexual abuse in all other areas of society...that is bias, that is wrong and that offends me. There is a subtle but important difference.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Cleric Offers Bounty on Cartoonist

I think the above picture says it all. It is not, to my knowledge from the story I mention below, but it is from an earlier protest and shows mindset.

Friday stupidity. (link)

A quote:

In the northwestern city of Peshawar, where riots left two dead and scores injured on Wednesday, prayer leader Mohammed Yousaf Qureshi announced the bounty for killing a cartoonist to about 1,000 people outside the Mohabat Khan mosque, where worshippers burned a flag of Denmark and an effigy of the Danish prime minister.

He said the mosque and his religious school would give $25,000 and a car, while a local jewelers' association would give another $1 million. No representative of the association was available to confirm it had made the offer.

"This is a unanimous decision of by all imams (prayer leaders) of Islam that whoever insults the prophet deserves to be killed and whoever will take this insulting man to his end, will get this prize," Qureshi said.

I see, there is no God but Allah and a million dollar prize. Now, do they mean the Dutch cartoonist or the Muslims who brought the folder of cartoons to the Middle East with cartoons that were never published and were there to start trouble? You know this part of the story (link):

On the trip, the group carried a dossier with purported examples of images offensive to Islam, including photocopies of the 12 Muhammad cartoons and three additional images – two offensive drawings of the prophet and a copy of an AP photograph that was unrelated to the controversy. That photograph, showing a bearded man wearing fake pig ears and a pig nose, was from a pig-squealing contest in France in August and had no connection with Islam or the prophet caricatures.

Just want to be sure. I know it is offensive to publish these cartoons but not a problem to create false ones and bring unrelated images just to stir up trouble ahead of Denmark taking over the presidency of the security council: but I was just asking.

Back to the first article:

Qureshi did not name any cartoonist in his announcement. He did not appear aware that 12 different people had drawn the pictures — considered blasphemous by Muslims.

Oh, a pity to let facts get in the way and spoil a perfectly good riot. And here is one of the prayers from today:

"Give enough power to the Muslim countries and enable them to take revenge," said Qari Saeed Ullah, a prayer leader in Islamabad.

This was the prayer. The prayer. Not for justice or understanding, but revenge.

On a side note take a look at The Gateway Pundit Blog (link) and read the post from 2/16 about the woman Journalist who was attacked while reporting on the riots. The story is covered very well there. Here is a link to a news article on the story, but the commentary over at pundit is worth a read.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Pope names Vatican's Muslim expert as nuncio to Egypt, Arab League


Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald has been appointed as nuncio to Egypt and the Arab League. So, can Catholics expect the Vatican, through Archbishop Fitzgerald, to take a stronger stand for the rights of Coptic and other Christians in the Muslim world?

Two points need to be considered.

The first is that Archbishop Fitzgerald stands a very good chance to be among the first group of Cardinals elevated by Benedict XVI. This would give his actions a greater perceived weight and may be a subtle signal of the importance the Vatican will place on relations.

The second is a comment made by Archbishop Fitzgerald on April 15, 2005 (link):

Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, said the next pope might more emphatically demand rights for Christian minorities in Islamic countries and the freedom of all people to choose their faith.

"There may be a greater insistence on religious liberty," said Fitzgerald, the church's point man on Islamic relations. "But I don't think we're going to go to war. The times of the Crusades are over. . . . I don't see any fundamental change in the way the church has been dealing with these questions."

This statement may not seem like much, but viewed through the language of international politics and Church speak, it could be very important. There are a lot of maybe's, but remember he was talking about what the new pope would do when elected. The line about no fundamental changes is designed to prevent speculation.

The fact that after making the statement Archbishop Fitzgerald is now appointed as the nuncio to Egypt and the Arab League is a good sign.

Here is some insight on how he plans to address the current tension over the cartoons (link).

a quote from a speech by Archbishop Fitzgerald from 2005 (link) gives us insight to where his heart and mind are on some issues. In this speech he cites John Paul II and John XXIII:

Pacem in Terris, after having mentioned first the right to life and all the means necessary to sustain life, moves on to freedom. Here is the key passage:

Moreover, man has a natural right to be respected. He has a right to his good name. He has a right to freedom in investigating the truth, and --- within the limits of the moral order and the common good -- to freedom of speech and publication, and to freedom to pursue whatever profession he may choose. He has the right, also, to be accurately informed about public events.

The proviso about respect for the moral order and the common good calls attention to the limits of this right. Access to information has to be combined with the necessary respect for confidentiality in some areas.

Libelous assertions or incitements to hatred cannot be justified on the grounds of freedom of speech. Yet the principle of freedom remains, to be respected both in the private and the public sectors.

Religions have a role to play in safeguarding this fundamental right. They are, or can be, a significant part of a communications network. They help to form public opinion. They have a duty to educate people about the issues that concern society, particularly from the moral aspect.

They must be concerned about inculcating respect and protecting human dignity. Their voices will be more powerful if they can be joined together. Hence the importance of joint statements by religious leaders, whether emanating from established interreligious bodies or ad hoc groups. In order to accomplish this task, religious bodies themselves need to enjoy freedom.

The encyclical thus goes on to enunciate this other basic freedom:

Also among man's rights is that of being able to worship God in accordance with the right dictates of his own conscience, and to profess his religion both in private and in public.

Pope John Paul II has been even more radical, identifying religious freedom as the most basic human right after the right to life. In his peace message for 1999 he put it this way:

Religion expresses the deepest aspirations of the human person, shapes people's vision of the world and affects their relationships with others: basically it offers the answer to the question of the true meaning of life, both personal and communal. Religious freedom therefore constitutes the very heart of human rights.

It must be observed that this principle of religious freedom has a public, a communal dimension. It cannot be reduced to a merely private matter. There cannot be harmony in a given society if certain sectors of it feel oppressed on religious grounds. Respect for religious freedom is therefore a factor in establishing and maintaining peace.

He then says:

It is obvious that this principle and its application have to be part of ongoing interreligious dialogue. Religious leaders may not themselves be able to rectify abuses of religious freedom, but they can put pressure on governments that may be guilty of such abuses and at the same time help to create a public opinion favorable to greater freedom in the religious domain.

All in all, I'd say that Archbishop Fitzgerald seems to be a man of excellent education, a good heart and impressive political abilities.

I pray that the Lord guides the heart, mind and actions of Archbishop Fitzgerald. May the Lord work through the new nuncio for the benefit of all who reach out to Him with an open heart.

Religious intolerance is taught every day, says Church in Pakistan

Here is a link to the story (link)

A quote:

“One cannot expect people not to practice what they learn,” it read. “Intolerance is found in textbooks, the media, and policies based on discriminatory laws” like the blasphemy law. “We must confront all this in order for our society to develop a culture of peace”.

I am amazed at the obvious nature of this statement. It is something that the western world keeps ignoring. If you teach hatred on an institutional level, people will hate.

At the same time the media asks, "what goes into making someone a Muslim Fundamentalist?" Do they mean besides setting out to do so through the state sponsored education system?

Pakistan is quickly becoming the focal point of the riots. You know Pakistan, the place the government says is one of our best allies...right after, oh yeah...Saudi Arabia.

St. Joseph's Day a little over a month away

I went and got the mail today, and my new issue of Catholic Digest had an article on doing a St. Joseph day altar. I love doing these because of the fellowship that they foster.

For those not familiar with the tradition on March 19 it is an Italian tradition (mainly Sicilian, but some of southern Italy as well.) To erect a three level altar representing the Holy Trinity and the Holy Family and decorate it with food and religious items. We invite family and friends and share food and company.

I love to cook. My wife will sometimes not let me go grocery shopping because she says I go "Italian Chef" and buy too much :) I do try and feed an army.

Working in a college town, my wife and I often make food and invite the students we work with over. We call it our "feed a hungry student program."

Off and on over the next month I'll post some recipes and traditions for St. Joseph's Day, as well as some comments on St. Joseph himself.

It is important to remember that St. Joseph's Day, as all Christian holidays and feast days, have the glorification of Christ as their main objective. It is Joseph's obedience and fidelity to God's word and his loving care of Christ that makes him special to us.

Joseph has four special attributes:

Fidelity to Grace
His Interior Life
His Love for Mary
His Love for Christ

I'll do a post on each of these in the near future. So if you like Italian food, keep reading over the next month.

Virtual St. Joseph Altar (link)
St. Joseph's Day info (link)
St. Joseph's Day from Catholic Culture (link)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Italian court rules in favor of crucifix in classroom

I'll repost the article. (link)

Feb. 15 (CWNews.com) - Italy's top administrative court has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to have the crucifix removed from public-school classrooms.

A 19-page decision from the Council of State ruled that the crucifix is a symbol of "principles that undergird and inspire our constitution." For that reason, the judges said, the crucifix has an educational value for Italian students.

The court's decision marked the second time that a top Italian tribunal had found in favor of displaying the crucifix. In 2004 the country's top constitutional court rejected an effort to remove the crucifix, but offered no explanation for its decision.

You mean taht Christianity is part of history? Not just the mistakes we've made, but from a moral basis standpoint. Well. Wow.

Unicef Releases Report On Children Situation

It is short so I will repost the whole article:

Luanda, 02/15 - A report on the situation of children in the world in 2005 entitled "Excluded and Invisible", will be launched on February 23rd at the amphitheatre of the Catholic University of Angola in Luanda by the United Nations Children`s Fund (Unicef).

According to a communiqu`, issued by the UN children agency, which ANGOP had got access on Wednesday, the report examines the situation facing the most vulnerable children in the world.

The note adds that the children are more likely to become invisible and forgotten and they are grouped into different circumstances, namely lack of official identity, for those who do not receive care from their progenitors.

The title "Excluded and Invisible" is very true and very sad. The report itself is already out. Below are links to some ways to view it.

(link) UNICEF web page with the ability to go to different sections of the report
(link) The Full report for download

I have not read the full report yet, but I plan to this weekend.

Lent begins in a few weeks

Roman Catholic Lent begins on March 1. Every year I try to prepare for lent both physically and spiritually. I begin a deeper devotion to the Stations of the Cross and try to read the Bible more often (In particular the Last Supper in the Gospel of John) and think about how I have grown and faltered since last Easter.

Physically it is only a problem if I am giving up something difficult or doing something involved as part of lent. This year...oh my...this year.

Drum roll of foreboding doom:

This year I am giving up smoking.

I am not putting this on my blog to say, "Hey look at me...I'm giving up smoking on March 1! I am a really good person."

No...I am putting this here because, in the best tradition of human weakness I might actually be able to do it if more people know I am trying and say, "Hey...how did that go?"

I have found that Wintergreen lifesavers or a video game will keep me from smoking, so I'll start with that, willpower and faith. But does anyone know someone who quit or has quit themselves and might have any advice?

I am donating the money I would spend on smoking to charity (I'm thinking Coptic Orphans) as a way to make firm my resolve and extend the benefits beyond a personal level.

I have told my wife that starting March 1, my occasional moments of stupidity might become more pronounced and to just throw a wintergreen lifesaver at me if I become too stupid. I have about two weeks to cut back and then quit...so buy stock in wintergreen lifesavers, they will make a killing off of me.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Agony in the Garden and True Submission to God

May God bless the most holy rosary; it leads me daily to greater love for Christ.

I was praying with the Mystery of the Agony in the Garden. This mystery has always led me deeper in my love for Christ. It is at once a human and divine moment; and in a way our Lords' most human moment.

He is suffering deep within His soul. He knows what His Father wills, but does not wish it. In a real way there is a moment of fear, a struggle with the acceptance of His Fathers' will. A great pain and an inward battle make the savior of the world to sweat blood.

He will miss his friends, His family and life itself. He knows that there will be a Resurrection. And still, the suffering that is to come is unwanted. He asks for the cup to pass from Him. But in the end He says, with all sincerity and love, "Not my will, but yours be done." It is true submission to the will of God. It is a moment where we are shown how to deal with our own suffering as a human being.

It is a lesson that in these last few weeks is very relevant to the world.

'Islam means “Peace” and "submission". It comes from the term 'aslama, which means "to surrender, resign oneself." In Islam, the fundamental duty of each member is to submit to Allah (Arabic for "the God") and whatever Allah wants of them. A person who follows Islam is called a Muslim, and this means "one who surrenders to God."

But what I've seen is people taking upon themselves Gods' tasks. It is not the given to mankind to kill for God. It is not given to humanity to smite nations in Gods' name. God does that, He has done that Himself and does not call upon us to do it. If we raise our hands it should be in the defense of the oppressed.

This does not mean we do not defend the weak. We are not idle bystanders in the story of salvation. Social Justice is a concern for us all. To uplift the weak and the suffering is the duty of all people. We are called to defend the name of God in peace. We are called to raise our hands in the defense of our brothers and sisters. If God wishes to punish a nation for blasphemy, He has proven He will.

There are principles for a just war in the Catholic faith:

1. the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

2. all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

3. there must be serious prospects of success;

4. the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition" [CCC 2309].

None of them say to fight to protect God. It is all to protect each other.

We are told:

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

We are told:

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.

And whatever we do to the least of our brothers, we do that to Christ.

But fundamentalist Islam does not submit to God, they try to usurp the authority of God. To defend God, we defend each other. To offend God, we kill each other. They oppress others and claim the rights and duties of the creator.

To submit to God we submit to the service and defense of each other. We submit to our suffering in the certainty that God has a plan and all things are part of it. We accept that even as we suffer, God will turn it to good.

When I was 10 my mother died. She suffered for a long time with cancer. I can honestly not remember a time when she was not sick. I asked her once why God would do this. She told me that her faith in God was not shaken by the suffering. God did not send suffering, but He turned it to good. And that if she had to suffer so that another person, who would lose faith would not, she accepted that.

That is submission to God.

Mother Theresa said:

Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.

To kill in the name of God while oppressing others is to believe in your own weakness. It is an effort to earn salvation through the blood of others rather than through the Love of God. It is submission to fear.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Sexual abuse in the Church, public schools and around the world.

First off, this is an unusual post for me. I usually stay away from the sexual abuse issue, because so many people cover it. I just never felt that I had anything to add.

However I was reading this article:

Denver Archdiocese uncovers sexual abuse bias for public school teachers (link)

Let me be clear: The point of what follows is not to exonerate the actions of members of my church who have committed the most evil and destructive acts. Priests who are guilty of such acts are not fit to be called priests or Christians. In a very real way they have a fundamental disconnect with what it is to be a decent human being.

My aim is to draw attention to the fact that this issue is much larger than the press shows. It is not my attention to draw attention away for the Church, but to draw attention to the fact that this is a pandemic problem. The media focus that is solely on the Church trivializes the impact and draws attention and solutions away from the equal and greater numbers of abuse in other areas of society.

The Public Schools and Why We Now Have Data

The No Child Left Behind Act is the first legislation that requires schools to report on sexual abuse. No matter what opinions people have about President Bush or No Child Left Behind, this fact alone supports the act. From these reports several facts have been discovered.

6-10% of American school children have been sexually abused and harassed. 290, 000 students have experienced some form of sexual abuse from1991-2000. The extrapolation of data makes it likely that the number of cases in American public schools is 100 times the number of abuses by priests in a ten year period. (Link)

In 2004 the United States Department of Education released a report suggesting that 4.5 million students may be victims of educator sexual misconduct during their school years.
(link to the document in PDF form )

For information of the breakdown across schools and other religious bodies:



There can be no argument that the sexual abuse of children is a worldwide problem. The best way to get information on that would be:

UNICEF Site (link) Just use the search bar, there are too many articles and studies connected to the site to even choose things to link to.

The Ultimate Point of The Issue

The point is that this disgusting sexual abuse of children in all of its' forms is a global issue. For the American media to focus on the sexual abuse performed by priests, to the exclusion of the larger issue is criminal.

Priests who abuse children should be defrocked and punished. The media should not relax vigilance in that area. But they should focus on the wider problem. If the perception continues that this is only a problem in the Church, then it can not be solved.

If it exists as an issue that is used to generalize all Catholic priests and provide fodder for anti-Catholic sentiment, then it is not even fixing the problem in the Church. People are sometimes happier that this issue reflects badly on the Church instead of being horrified by the global and usually secular nature of the problem.

Children are being preyed upon the world over by those they trust; In the Churches (not just Catholic), the classrooms and their own homes.

This is indeed an issue that affects one group: Humanity.

Visit by the Pope of Alexandria unites cultures in São Paulo

It is nice to have a positive post here. (link)

The article is a bit long so I can't repost it all, but some parts:

"São Paulo is an excellent example of relations between the various religions," stated cardinal Cláudio Hummes, archbishop of São Paulo, who was at the Coptic temple to greet Pope Shenouda. According to the cardinal, all orthodox churches are considered sisters by the Catholics. "It is therefore a pleasure to meet him here," he said. "The Coptic community in Brazil is small, but not less important," he added.

It is nice to see the stated declaration that we are all family by a Catholic Cardinal. We make these statements often, but usually in the context of deep theological documents and press releases. Here however it was in the physical act of being together to celebrate.

The meeting of cultures was also clear among the faithful. The young Sérgio Roberto de Lima Lee, aged 16, has been a deacon at the Coptic church of São Paulo since it opened its doors, in 2001. Deacons are not preachers, but they help the priest during the service. They are similar to altar boys in the Catholic church, but have greater responsibilities. A curious fact is that Sérgio's father is Korean and he has no Egyptian or Arab origin.

The above quote shows the universal appeal of the Apostolic Churches and the Christian faith in general. Again, it is very uplifitng to see such a wide range of people together in peace. But the following part touches me greatly:

Egyptian tradesman Ibrahim Saad, who has been in Brazil for 12 years, lived a special emotion. His daughter, Sofia, three months old, was one of the two children baptised by the Coptic patriarch at the ceremony yesterday. "I am very happy," said Saad, who volunteered to drive the Pope around during his visit.

I'm sure the parents never expected that in such a small community, so far removed for the physical seat of the faith, that such a thing would ever happen. It shows that even geography bends to the law of our hearts and the hopes of our souls.

I pray in joy for the Coptic Church in Brazil. I pray a joyous prayer for the parents, children and single members of this Church. And I pray that the Roman Catholic Church may always view them with the love of a sibling in Brazil and around the world.

Pakistan: Muslim women vandalize Church

This story shows not only the violence that exists, but how the authorities refuse to do anything but oppose it in name only. (link)

From the story:

A crowd of Muslim women and a few men attacked a Catholic church in Pakistan's Punjab province recently, injuring two Christian women - one 70 years old - and vandalizing the building.

At least three men and 20 women attacked the Kawanlit village chapel on February 3, leaving 70-year-old Veero Mehnga Masih with broken legs and also injuring Saleema Mazir Masih, 50. The mob broke windows, smashed the altar and burned Bibles.

And the response of the police:

Despite prompt condemnation of the violence from church leaders across Punjab, police refused to file an official complaint.

and of course:

The mob threatened the Christians with further attacks if they attempted to seek legal recourse.

As always, there is no American media coverage of a 70 year old woman having her legs broken. If they covered this story, the media would have to break their own falsehood that average people do not engage in these attacks on Christians. They would also have to admit that both sexes promote and perform this type of action.

It is so easy to say that the average fundamentalist is a young male Muslim youth on the outside of socitey. But in reality, people on the outside of society in these countries are the Muslims who want peace and the Christians being killed and maimed.