Thursday, March 30, 2006

From my wife, who loves me and knows I love Dr. Who

So the above wife calls me bunny. Like you all needed to know that. And I Dr. Who. With the new series now on in America, I have been driving her nuts. But the above picture she sent me is a bit of fun in a pretty hectic week. Click on it for a bigger version.

Thou shalt not test the Lord thy God...really...I mean test.

So I read this article (link).

Does praying for a sick person's recovery do any good?

In the largest scientific test of its kind, heart surgery patients showed no benefit when strangers prayed for their recovery.

And patients who knew they were being prayed for had a slightly higher rate of complications. Doctors could only guess why.

Let me say this, I do not believe that God said, "I'll mess with the people testing me." But I find the whole study screwy. And I'm not the only one:

Several scientists questioned the concept of the study.

Science "is not designed to study the supernatural," said Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at the Duke University Medical Center.

The researchers emphasized that their $2.4 million study could not address whether God exists or answers prayers made on another's behalf. The study could look only for an effect from the specific prayers offered as part of the research, they said.

2.4 Million dollars. the people who were not being prayed for. You at least made sure no one was praying for them...right:

The researchers didn't ask patients or their families and friends to alter any plans they had for prayer, saying such a step would have been unethical and impractical.

I agree there. But these results are shocking, according to experts...right?

Koenig, of Duke University Medical Center, who didn't take part in the study, said the results didn't surprise him.

"There are no scientific grounds to expect a result and there are no real theological grounds to expect a result either," he said. "There is no god in either the Christian, Jewish or Moslem scriptures that can be constrained to the point that they can be predicted."

Well, they did learn something for 2.4 million dollars right:

The study "did not move us forward or backward" in understanding the effects of prayer, said Dr. Charles Bethea, a co-author and cardiologist at the Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City. "Intercessory prayer under our restricted format had a neutral effect."

ok So the final verdict of the people in charge:

"Do we control God through prayer? Theologians would say absolutely not. God decides sometimes to intervene, and sometimes not," he said.

As for the new study, he said, "I don't think ... it's going to stop people praying for the sick."

Oh yes...thousands of years of faith would collapse with a second totally crackpot study that had no constant and three variables. The thing is, I know I'll hear about this from every person who wants to disprove God. Sigh...and all I have to counter with would be something as flimsy as the internationally renowned medical research from Lourdes (link). Or the Miracles of Zietun., actually there are thousands of medically researched miracles over just the past 300 years. is almost as if you can not test God. I read that somewhere.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Rejoice in the Goodness of the Lord: Afghan Arrives in Italy After Fleeing

Abdul Rahman is safe in Italy according to recent reports (link).

I can not add alot here. There is not alot to add, except:

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love is everlasting.

Being a Saint and The Music that God writes

What is a saint? What does it mean to be a saint? You'll get alot of opinions on those questions.

Fulton Sheen once said that there are two images for people: What God wants us to be and what we are. He has the musical score and then there is how we play that music. I've always liked that, and always thought that it was a good analogy.

In a piece of music, everyone has a special part. Without that part, the score is not right. Music takes practice to get right. It is a rare person who picks up an instrument or piece of music and plays it just right.

So were saints the ones who just could play it right from the start? No. I would think not. St. Augustine proved that. Saints practiced. But above all, saints struggled to see the music.

The score that God has written for each of us can be hard to see. It can be hard to understand. And it, like all great music, is hard to play.

Saints strive to see the music the great composer has written. They silence the worldly hearts inside of them and look for the divine music that is their particular theme in the greatest symphony ever written.

In this silence and struggle we can hear the voice in the whisper that teaches us the music. This inward journey is guided by Scripture, tradition, the example of Christ, the example of Mary, Joseph and all the saints. It is guided by our love for God and each other.

Following the examples of the saints helps us know what our part is in the score. When you hear one part of a symphony it helps you figure out the rest: especially if you've heard the main part of it before, if you know the theme, you can play the piece a can practice if you know the basics. And we have heard it:

The soft introduction of Mary saying "Be it done to me according to your word."
The early anticipating music of Bethlehem.
The hectic fury of the flight into Egypt.
The wedding music at Cana.
The grand movement of a ministery filled with miracles.
The deep sound of the suffering of Gethsemane.
The contradiction of music in the courage of the accused who loves those who hate Him.
The dirge of a suffering mother.
The mournful building action of the crucifixion.
The Glourious crescendo of the Resurrection.

We have heard it.

What is it to be a saint?

It is to play the love song that God has written for His children.
It is to play our part in that song as our love song to God.
To be a saint is to play the music written by the hand of God.

Very proud right now of Italy, country of my grandparents birth

Italy has offered asylum to Abdul Rahman. Way to Go Italy!

But it seems the Parliament of Afghanistan is trying to prevent him from leaving the country (link).

Just a short post first thing in the morning. I need to wake up yet.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Inter-faith meeting upholds religious freedom

This is an article from Asia news I'll repost the whole article(link).

Cairo (AsiaNews) – Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s most important place of learning, hosted a meeting that drew representatives from Christian Churches and communities as well as Muslim religious experts and imams. Participants discussed religious freedom, a demand that the UN intervene to protect religions and their symbols, defence of human life, support for peace and peace of mind in life.

The meeting on the “relationship between religion and fundamental human rights and everyone’s obligations” was presided by al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid el-Tantawi. Some 15 delegations from various Middle East religious denominations took part, including Copts, Maronites, Protestants, Anglicans, Greek-Melkites, Syriacs and Armenians.

The secretary-general of the event, Syrian Gerges Saleh, told AsiaNews, that “all participants agreed to back any initiative intended to protect the presence of all religious communities in the Middle East without discrimination and pressure”. He confirmed recent reports about the willingness of Christians and Muslims to fight all forms of “religious and ethnic racism”. The nine-point final communiqué released today said:

1. Participants reiterate their total faith in human life as a “gift from God”;

2. they assert their support for all initiatives by individuals or groups in favour of life based on dignity and ethical profit;

3. they proclaim the right to peace and peace of mind in life;

4. they support everyone’s right to be protected and educated in his/her rights and duties;

5. they make a passionate plea to governments to promote a culture based on faith and moderation;

6. they reiterate the right to religious freedom;

7. they call on the United Nations to protect and defend the rights of ethnic and religious minorities;

8. they assert the right of people to resist military and ideological occupation;

9. they demand the United Nations approve a declaration in support of peoples’ right to religious pluralism and a ban on all acts of aggression and violence against places of worship, churches, monasteries and on religious symbols.

Participants agreed on the need to contact civilian and religious leaders in the Middle East so as to implement these essential points which can guarantee everyone a dignified presence in this land blessed by God, a land of religions.

I bolded a few points that I thought were hopeful.

Maximilian Kolbe, a saint who would not stand idle as his brothers suffered

The story of Maximilian Kolbe is well known to Catholics, but I was not sure how well it is known to everyone else. I thought he was a good man to mention, since is a sign to us to do what we can for our brothers and sisters, no matter what differences we have.

When I was young my mother had alot of religious catalouges. I was looking though one and saw a book called No greater Love: The Story of St. Maximilian Kolbe. I aked my mother what it was and she looked and made a worried face. I was eight and she told me she would tell me some other time, but basically Father Kolbe had given his life for another.

When I grew up I realized that mom did not want to go into great detail because Fr. Kolbe had given his life at Auschwitz for one of ten men who were to be executed after another prisoner escaped. The can be difficult to explain the Holocaust to an eight year old.

St. Kolbe once wrote:

'No one in the world can change Truth'What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is an inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hecatombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, love and sin. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?'

When a prisoner escaped at Auschwitz ten were executed. As they chose the men to die that day, they chose a young married man. At that point, this is what happened:

Near the end of July, a prisoner apparently escaped, and men from Kolbe's bunker were paraded in the blazing midday sun, knowing what to expect. One man from each line was selected at random, including a sergeant, Francis Gajowniczek. He cried out in a despairing voice, "My wife, my children, I shall never see them again!" Then a man stepped out from the ranks and offered to take Gajowniczek's place. He was prisoner 16670, Father Maximilian Kolbe. The SS man, "Butcher" Fritsch, did not care who went to the Bunker, so long as there were ten of them, so he nodded. "Who are you?" he asked carelessly. "I am a Catholic priest. I wish to die for that man. I am old; he has a wife and children." Father Kolbe and the nine others were led off to the death chamber of Cell 18.

and what of the man who lived, Francis Gajowniczek?

Francis Gajowniczek, the man for whom Maximilian Kolbe gave his life, survived the war and was present at the 1971 beatification (blessing) ceremony of Father Kolbe. Gajowniczek died in 1995.

Links for info on St. Maximilian

My Hero Project
Patron Saint Index

Monday, March 27, 2006

Iran Plans a Silent Christian Execution

I found this at Gateway pundit (link).

And there is another link over there. I was not aware of the case, but believe that it needs to be noticed. There are links at Pundit (in the post) to other sites that give a good overview of the situation. I have not been able to read them all yet, but what little I have read makes me sure that this news needs to get out.

Our Great Examples a mirror of the Greatest Example

Neferteeti has an excellent post on St Sidhom Bishay (link). St. Sidhom's story, a story I did not know, is an excelltent reminder in these times of the sacrifice of the holy martyrs. It is a story that is a true testament of love and strength.

I've been thinking that after Easter I will do a month where I focus on the lives and stories of the many saints who are great examples of our shared Christian lives. What I hope to do is focus on Saints that are shared by all the Apostolic Churches and also saints held by our brothers and sisters that Roman Catholics may not know about.

In the true spirit of the communion of saints, I will focus on "all saints known and unknown."

In lent I will do some days on the holy martyrs.

If anyone has stories or favorite saints, post some links in the comments or use the email function in my profile.

I already know I will do St. Simon the Tanner, but there are many wonderful stories that enrich our faith and unity.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The difference is what you define as weakness

It is the difference between looking to the world and looking to God. This article explains what I'm kind of worked up about (link)

The sum up is that there is an Egyptian Orthodox Christian making a movie about Jesus. The first movie about Christ in arabic. There is muslim opposition because...get ready:

Christ is a prophet and you are not allowed to have images of prophets.

One of the quotes:

Abdel Moti Bayumi, a member of the Academy of Islamic Studies of Al Azhar, said the prophets cannot be portrayed “because that reduces their value in the human imagination,” and he pointed to recent Al Azhar fatwas on the issue. “Muslims hate seeing Jesus represented in human form and especially if they show him in moments of weakness."

Well, what is weakness? Was Christ ever weak? Weakness is sin, not suffering. Man may see suffering as weakness, but real weakness is sin. Christ was never weak.

The Agony in The Garden, where human will was made perfect by true submission to the will of God. It is not in the garden with Christ where humanity is weak, but in Eden. Two gardens frame the history of salvation, and the garden where our Lord accepts the will of God is not a place of weakness.

The Carrying of the Cross, an effort of perfect and infinite love and strength beyond measure to bear the weight of sin and death itself. This is not weakness.

His death upon the Cross. An act of pure, infinite and perfect love that in its' "weakness" conquered death and won for us salvation.

Give me this "weak" Christ. Let me see this "weakness" daily. This "weakness" that overcame all flaws, all corruption of nature and came forth from a tomb in Glory...still bearing the marks of that "weakness". The glorified body of Christ is perfect, and in that perfection are the wounds of the cross, not erased in the resurrection, but made all the more obvious. For it is in seeing that weakness that we, like Thomas, can be brought to believe.

The opinion of the screenwriter:

The screenwriter of the film, Fayez Ghali, said Al Azhar “has nothing to do with my film. That the depiction of the prophets is forbidden is an issue for our Muslim brothers, not for me.” “I am following my Orthodox Christian teaching. No human being ought to prohibit the movie, whether it’s Al Azhar, the church or even the state,” he added.

The producer said:

"Al-Azhar does not have the right to intervene in something which concerns the Christians, otherwise it would have to tear down the icons of Christ and the Virgin Mary from churches," he said. (link)

And don't think for a second they do not wish to do just that. They have in the past.

Christ...the Garden...the Cross, they are true submission to the will of God. They are not the Lord in his "weakness" but in an example of strength and love. For all, not for one. For us, despite the sacrifice He had to make and the pain He had to endure. To stand firm, not in hatred or vengeance, but for the love of another. Not to kill in the name of God. But to love in His name at the cost of everything. Give me this "weak" Christ. And show me His image, so I may never forget that love is not easy. But it is worth it.

Give me the strength O'Lord, to be that "weak"

Abdul Rahman likely to be set free...but far from safe

The story explains it, but it says that the "lack of evidence" is that fact that they believe that to be Christian you are crazy. Now, the worry is that if freed, he will be killed if not allowed to leave the country.

His comment on the issue:

"I am serene. I have full awareness of what I have chosen. If I must die, I will die," Abdul Rahman told the Rome daily, responding to questions sent to him via a human rights worker who visited him in prison.

"Somebody, a long time ago, did it for all of us," he added in a clear reference to Jesus.

Rahman also told the Italian newspaper that his family — including his ex-wife and teenage daughters — reported him to the authorities three weeks ago.

He said he made his choice to become a Christian "in small steps," after he left Afghanistan 16 years ago. He moved to Pakistan, then Germany. He tried to get a visa in Belgium.

"In Peshawar I worked for a humanitarian organization. They were Catholics," Rahman said. "I started talking to them about religion, I read the Bible, it opened my heart and my mind."

This man continues to amaze me. Could I, or rather would I, with my life in the balance say:

"I am serene. I have full awareness of what I have chosen. If I must die, I will die, somebody, a long time ago, did it for all of us."

May the Lord be with him, and I am sure He is. But may He also be with us, so we remember that he is not the only one who goes through this. In Egypt the Coptic Church has stood firm for over 1400 years. In Turkey and India and all across the globe things are said and done, such as the quote from the mother of Fr. Santoro after he was murdered while praying:

Fr Andrea’s mother forgives with all her heart the person who armed himself to kill her son and feels great pity for him, as he is also a child of the one God that is Love.’”

All around us there is the true expression of Christian love and sacrifice.

For Abdul Rahman.
For our beloved Coptic brothers and sisters.
For the Christians of Turkey and India.
For those throughout the world who are examples of all that we are called to be.
Be for them a mighty shelter O'Lord.
Let our strength be theirs and their strength be ours as One Body;
and let it all flow from Your infinite and boundless love and mercy.
Lord Hear our prayer and let our cry come unto Thee.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Update from Afghanistan

Well, this is not hopeful news (link).

Afghanistan’s constitution recognises the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and thus freedom of religion; however, it also states that no law can contradict Islam. We will call on the people to tear him into pieces so there's nothing left, says an ulema.

So why even have it in there that you would follow the declaration on Human Rights?

“We will not allow God to be humiliated,” said Abdul Raoulf, a member of the Ulemas Council, Afghanistan’s main clerical organization. “We will call on the people to tear him into pieces so there's nothing left.”

To Christians God suffered humiliation and death for the love of all people. And triumphed over it all, and in doing so brought an unmatched dignity to His creations. How can God be so weak as to need Human beings to kill for Him? Or so petty as to need vengence above Mercy?

According to Afghan sources, thousands of young people are already converging on Kabul to demand the “apostate” be killed for renouncing Islam.

Muslim clerics don’t believe that Afghanistan’s constitution is an impediment. Even though Art. 7 says “The state shall abide by the UN charter, international treaties, international conventions that Afghanistan has signed, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, Art 3. clearly provides that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.”

Speaking to Asia Times Online, Ahmad Shah Ahmad Zai said that “[r]egardless of the court decision [whether or not he is hanged], there is unanimous agreement by all religious scholars from the north to the south, the east to the west of Afghanistan, that Abdul Rahman should be executed”.

Qucik sum up: We will kill him no matter what a court says.

A former prime minister in 1996 before the rise to power of the Talebans, Ahmad Shah added that there “is widespread dissent among the masses against the activities of Christian missionaries. These missions exploit the poverty of Afghan people and pay them to convert. These activities will only translate into a fierce reaction since Afghans do not tolerate anything against their religion”. to be Christian you must be insane or bribed. An old...old argument. How dare we give people food and charity when their own government refuses to do so. How dare we perform acts of kindness and love. A true Christian give and expects nothing in return, except that love will grow from love given.

God does not wish for vengence like a spoiled child when wronged. The death of Christ was for our sins, but not as a payment to a vengeful God. But as the will of a loving God, who seeks to make His creations closer to Him and desires that they not die forever. An sacrifice that resounds through time itself as a wave of Love.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Pun intended...This is just Crazy

I'll repost the whole articel from Catholic World News:

Insanity finding or execution in Afghan apostasy trial?

Kabul, Mar. 23 ( - Afghanistan's government is asking for "public understanding of the sensitivity of religious issues," in response to worldwide protests of the "apostasy" trial in which a Christian man could face the death sentence.

A statement released by Afghanistan's embassy in Washington, DC, sought to deflect the criticism with the announcement that the country's courts are now "evaluating questions raised about the mental fitness" of Abdul Rahman. The statement hints that the Christian convert could escape punishment if he is found mentally unfit.

So, if you turn to love and peace over killing anyone who offends're insane. You know, if sanity is the logic of the world over the Love of God. And to choose the love of God over the world is insane. Ok. Sign me up.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

All Eyes on Afghanistan

In a country that is moving toward democracy, with Shar'ia law still in place, Afghanistan must now answer: Is there still a death penalty for converting to Chrsitianity?

And this question is being asked right now (link).

A quote:

Abdul Rahman, 41 years, was imprisoned two weeks ago, denounced by his family as a convert. The man had left Islam 16 years ago, when he worked for a Christian NGO in Peshawar (Pakistan). He later migrated to Germany, where he lived until 2002. When the Taleban regime was overthrown, he returned to seek custody of his children. Now he risks the death penalty under the Shar’ia Islamic law, the foundation of the Afghan Constitution.

The bad news:

“Afghanistan is still in the hands of the mullahs and the Shar’ia has the last word about everything.” The sources – who chose to remain anonymous for security reasons – said “the country’s evolution needs a very long time, because religion is too deeply engrained and the decisions by mullahs, many of who are very ignorant even about religious law, are untouchable.”

The source continued: “That power is still in the hands of Islamic integralists is an objective fact: who won the elections? Who is sitting in parliament? Former mujaheedin and war lords. The judges are ulemas; the man heading the Supreme Court of Kabul – the institution charged with guiding all the national court apparatus – is a super-fundamentalist: Hadi Shinwari, leader of reactionary Afghan clerics.”

Rahman has stood firm:

Afghan websites are covering parts of the trial that is also being broadcast on national television. During one sitting, the prosecutor, Abdul Wasi, in a “very hard” tone, called for the “maximum penalty” – hanging – for the accused. Rahman, who was offered the chance to save himself by recanting, replied: “I accept (the penalty), but I am not an infidel or an apostate. I am a follower of Christ.”

This is a moment suspened in time. As the nato allies made their stance clear:

The reaction of the international community was swift and strong. Four NATO allies that have troops in Afghanistan – Italy, the United States, Germany and Canada – yesterday sent direct messages to Kabul, defending freedom of worship and demanding that Rahman be saved.

For a change there are stories on:

I've heard people say, "It is law in some places that you can't be Christian?" or "They can kill someone for this?"

And I want to say:

Glad you're finally waking up. Have some breakfast and take a deep breath...because Afghanistan is not the only place.

May our prayers be with Mr. Rahman and all who suffer.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Historic Coptic Monastery Threatened

This is a post over are Free Copts (link).

Many in the west are not aware of the spiritual debt we own to our Coptic brothers and sisters for the monastic tradition. The ascetic tradition of Monasticism is ancient and valuable. The Celtic tradition owes it's very existence to the Coptic faith. This Monastery is one of the first to ever exist.

St. Anthony the Great, also called St. Anthony of Egypt is held in great love and respect by both the east and the west. He is considered a saint by all of the Apostolic Churches. He is also the founder of Monasticism. This is one of the comon links that unite us, despite our differences, as One Body in Christ.

In the west we generally think of St. Benedict, but that is a different type of Monasticism (link).

Here are some links to explain the great gift that we have received from these holy men and women:

Celtic Monasticism and the influence of the Coptic Tradition

Coptic Monasticism (link)

May we pray for our Coptic brothers and sisters. May we raise our voices as one against this attack on the common roots of the One Body of Christ.

Christian Women in Pakistan work to be one body despite persecution

This article shows great courage and faith (link).

To quote:

Christian women held an inter-denominational Easter prayer meeting in the village of Haji Gaga, 55 km south of Punjab’s capital of Lahore on the initiative of Milap, a Christian lay organisation well appreciated by the Pakistani Church for its work in favour of inter-faith dialogue.

The meeting took place last Saturday and involved about a hundred Protestant and Catholic women. They all said they appreciated the experience, many adding that they were moved by the chance of following in the footsteps of Jesus’ Passion. They also plan to make a monthly occurrence.

May God bless their efforts and keep them safe.

Shafia Yosuaf, a Catholic participant, said that the Passion of Christ “was presented so well that people felt they were in the real situation. It was like we were walking with Jesus on the road to Calvary.”

She added that “as we were listening [. . .], most of the ladies, even some of the men, were crying. It was so touching because it is like what is happening today to Christians in Pakistan”.

Ms Piara said during Lent “churches are full on Sundays. Since we are in a Muslim country and face many difficulties, the Passion of Christ draws many people who feel they are sharing in Jesus’ suffering because this happens every day”.

May the Lord protect us all, and lead us to understand and love one another.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Who is Wafa Sultan

A good question. Wafa Sultan is an arab american psychiatrist who has been in the news lately since...well to quote (link):

Wafa Sultan, an Arab-American psychiatrist, has been at the center of a journalistic blizzard ever since debating—and devastating—an Egyptian professor of religious studies, Dr. Ibrahim al-Khouli, on Al-Jazeera TV. The broadcast was made available on the Internet by the Middle East Media Research Institute, and has since been viewed over a million times.

Some of her quotes:

When you recite to a child still in his early years the verse: “They will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off,” …you have made the first step towards creating a great terrorist.

It is seldom that someone that the media pays attention to will make such a straight forward statement, then she follows it with:

The Muslims are the ones who began using this expression. The Muslims are the ones who began the clash of civilizations. The Prophet of Islam said: "I was ordered to fight the people until they believe in Allah and His Messenger." When the Muslims divided people into Muslims and non-Muslims, and called to fight the others until they believe in what they themselves believe, they started this clash, and began this war. In order to [stop] this war, they must reexamine their Islamic books and curricula, which are full of calls for takfir and fighting the infidels.

And then goes, not in the direction of blaming the terrorism on the west, but on what the terrorists have been taught:

In our countries, religion is the sole source of education, and is the only spring from which that terrorist drank until his thirst was quenched. He was not born a terrorist, and did not become a terrorist overnight. Islamic teachings played a role in weaving his ideological fabric, thread by thread, and did not allow other sources—I am referring to scientific sources—to play a role. It was these teachings that distorted this terrorist and killed his humanity. It was not (the terrorist) who distorted the religious teachings and misunderstood them, as some ignorant people claim. [Emphasis added].

the hundred thousand innocent women and men killed in Algeria, thousands of Syrian civilians, including the murder by the Muslim Brotherhood of Sultan’s professor at the University of Aleppo; the massacre of Coptic peasants in Egypt, and terrorism in Indonesia and Turkey—all this is the handiwork of people who’ve heeded, not hijacked, Islam.

She then makes a statement that I'm sure will not be well taken at all:

The Jews have come from the tragedy (of the Holocaust), and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror, with their work, not their crying and yelling. Humanity owes most of the discoveries and science of the 19th and 20th centuries to Jewish scientists. Fifteen million people, scattered throughout the world, united and won their rights through work and knowledge. We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them.

But why is she getting all of this attention? As the article at Blogcritics says (link):

The difference seems to be one of authenticity. That a Muslim woman would dare to go head-to-head with a senior and respected Muslim cleric in prime time struck a nerve. According to the Memri TV, the Al-Jazeera debate has been viewed more than a million times. Dr. Al-Khouli , who teaches at the famed Al-Azhar university in Cairo, seems to be something of a regular on Al-Jazeera; he's the reliably medieval voice on its Al-Itijah Al-Mu'akis (Opposite Directions) program. The dude didn't know what hit him. At one point, the poor man was reduced to:

If you are a heretic, there is no point in rebuking you, since you have blasphemed against Islam, the Prophet, and the Koran...

As far as her own story goes:

As a medical student in Syria, she'd been a witness to the murder of her professor in 1979 by the Muslim Brotherhood. As she told the New York Times:

They shot hundreds of bullets into him, shouting, 'God is great!' " she said. "At that point, I lost my trust in their god and began to question all our teachings. It was the turning point of my life, and it has led me to this present point. I had to leave. I had to look for another god.

I think that we will be hearing much from Dr. Wafa Sultan over the next year or so. Once the media grabs something, it does not set it down. That can be a strength or a weakness. What the effects of Dr. Sultan and her message will be is a question that people will need more time to answer. What we do know is that this is a new voice, and although she is not saying new things, she is saying them in a new way...directly.

Fr. Santoro's mother. A phrase that made me cry.

This story is not about the title above but I'll link to the article that contained the quote (link).

The quote that I'm talking about:

This sacrifice is crowned by the words of his elderly mother. ‘Fr Andrea’s mother forgives with all her heart the person who armed himself to kill her son and feels great pity for him, as he is also a child of the one God that is Love.’”

Such a strong woman. Such a true Christian. May we learn from the strength and love of both her and her son, as we learn from Mary and our Lord through Lent.

Churches Growing closer in Love for Christ

This was a nice uplifting story for a change (link).


VATICAN CITY, MAR 17, 2006 (VIS) - Made public today were two Messages, exchanged between Benedict XVI and His Holiness Alexis II, patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias, during the month of February.

At a meeting in Moscow, Russia that took place on February 20, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, vice dean of the College of Cardinals, presented the patriarch with the Pope's Message and with a gold medal commemorating the current pontificate. In his turn, Alexis II, following a solemn liturgy celebrated of February 24 in the cathedral of the Holy Savior in Moscow to mark his birthday and name day, presented the cardinal with his own Message and a pectoral cross for the Holy Father, as a sign of his gratitude and respect.

In his Message, the Pope declares that he "spiritually associates" himself with the patriarch's double celebration, and invokes "abundant blessings from the Lord upon your person and your ministry, so generously dedicated to the great cause of the Gospel.

"The gestures and words of renewed fraternity between pastors of the Lord's flock show how ever more intense collaboration in truth and charity contribute to increasing the spirit of communion, which must guide the steps of all the baptized."

The modern world, Benedict XVI continues, "needs to hear voices indicating the way of peace, of respect for everyone, of condemnation for all forms of violence, of the higher dignity of all individuals and of their intrinsic rights."

In his Message, Alexis II thanks Benedict XVI for his greetings and writes: "In our own times, with the rapid growth of secularism, Christianity finds itself facing important challenges that require a shared testimony.

"I am convinced," the patriarch continues, "that one of today's priorities for our Churches, which have a shared vision of the many problems currently facing the modern world, must be the defense and affirmation in society of the Christian values by which humanity has lived for more than a millennium. I hope that the rapid resolution of outstanding problems between our two Churches will also contribute to this end."

The patriarch concludes his Message by expressing his "best wishes for good health" to the Holy Father and invoking divine assistance "in carrying out the exalted office of primate of the Roman Catholic Church."

In these times it is good to see two worldwide religious leaders are open to the love of Chrsit and the actions of the Holy Spirit. I am very happy with the part of the message that says:

"The gestures and words of renewed fraternity between pastors of the Lord's flock show how ever more intense collaboration in truth and charity contribute to increasing the spirit of communion, which must guide the steps of all the baptized."

A heartfelt and hope-filled Amen.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Happy St. Joseph's Day!!

St. Joseph's day is today, March 19th. I know that it is moved this year because it is a Sunday in lent...but Happy St. Joseph's Day anyway!!

The UN Throws Denmark under the bus

Here is the link.

Ok, I agree that people can not just trod on the religious beliefs of others. But is that what the newspaper did? Or were they making a political statement, covered by free speech, about what radical Islamic factions do to their own faith?

I think it is the second one. Did a cartoonist draw the cartoon? Oh yes.

Did a paper print it? Again yes.

But who created the image? Who led the world to view the religion in that way? I'd say the fundamentalists. Just the same way Christian fundamentalists create negative views of Christ. And the negative views created by them are always protected.

If the Catholic Church creates a bad image for Christ or the Church by our actions, like...say the sexual abuse issue...we should focus on fixing the issue that creates the image, not telling people they should not have the image that our inaction created.

But the UN is too scared that riots will break out in their own countries, so they throw Denmark under the bus.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Canada sends Copts back to Egypt and the U.S. Helps

It is a long article so I can not repost the whole thing (link).
Some quotes:

He's from Egypt -- a Coptic Christian who came to Canada in 2003 to make a refugee claim. He doesn't want his name used, because he's afraid his home country may punish him for speaking out.

He claims, as a young man in Egypt, he was beaten by Muslims because of his religion. His case was heard and decided by a Muslim member of Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). She didn't believe he had a credible claim.

"She said that everything I said was almost a lie and she said that Egypt was safe for any Christian to live in," he said.

This is just...and pardon me, Crap. How can anyone who even does a news search say that. How can anyone who talks to these people say it is safe.

The U.S. State Department's 2005 Country Report on Human Rights says Egypt is responsible for "numerous human rights abuses" against its citizens, particularly religious minorities. The report cites numerous cases of "religious discrimination" against Coptic Christians and says there is widespread "torture and abuse" in Egyptian prisons.

Experts say Christians sent back to Egypt after making refugee claims in the west will almost certainly be detained when they arrive, and quite possibly tortured.

So, the countries know, they just don't want to face it.

He is one of approximately 20 Egyptian Christians currently facing deportation from Canada. In his case, the IRB member's decision was overturned by the federal court, which allows him to have a new refugee determination hearing.

Other Coptic Christians haven't been so fortunate; however, and have exhausted all their appeals. They are now being sent back to Egypt the same way they came in -- through the United States.

Some have already been turned over to U.S. custody. At least one was sent on to Egypt last month and his supporters say they have no idea what has happened to him since.

"He's just disappeared. He's disappeared from the record since he arrived in Egypt. He's gone," said Majed El Shafie, an Egyptian-born Christian, who now lives in Canada and runs a Christian organization called One Free World International.

"How can we send them back to be tortured?" he asked. "I think there is something wrong with the system in the Immigration and Refugee Board."

One life gone. Two great countries complicit in sending him back to where he was in danger. It's time to write a congress here.

Canada's new minister of public safety, Stockwell Day, said he doesn't think the IRB is biased against Coptic Christians. He also indicated he has faith that Egypt won't mistreat them when they return.

"When that country has made a commitment that there is not going to be torture or persecution then we expect that to be followed through with," Day said.

But are you going to do anything to make sure it does not happen, and if it does change your policy of sending them back?!!

El Shafie said Egypt has been very effective at making westerners believe it protects its people from abuse.

"The (Egyptian) government is dealing with the West and the government is expecting money and support from the west and the west will not support the Egyptian government until they are sure there is complete human rights for everyone," said El Shafie.

On the other hand, he pointed out, "While we are in this nice place (Canada) there are between six and seven thousand Egyptian Christians in jail in Egypt because they are Christian."

The refugee claimant with the Canadian wife insisted, if forced to return to Egypt, he won't allow her to follow him. He would rather leave his wife behind than subject her and their child to life in Egypt as a Christian.

"She can't go," he said, as they looked at each other with tears in their eyes, "It will be the end of her. It will be the end of my son."

"Whoever says there is no Egyptian persecution (of Christians) they just don't know anything."

This is just plain wrong. And this statement:

"Staying for me is a kind of paradise. Going back is hell."

I know how much Egypt is a part of the heart and soul of every Egyptian. I know that many would rather die than say that it is a Hell in any way. If the situation has the children of this great land calling it a is a grave sin to ignore their cries.

Some links on how to mail Congress about the United States and their role in this:

House of Representatives faq



Thursday, March 16, 2006


I'll repost the response but here is the link as well (Link).

The Most Rev'd & Rt. Hon Dr. Rowan Williams,
Archbishop of Canterbury,
Lambeth Palace, London, SE1 7JU.

Your Grace, dear Brother-in-Christ,

Last month at Trinity College, Dublin, a meeting was held to launch a resource pack "The Hand of History (Exploring Christian/Muslim Dialogue)" attended by the Grand Mufti of Egypt & Rector of Al-Azhar University in Cairo; the President of the Dialogue with Monotheistic Religions at Al-Azhar and Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis, the Anglican Bishop in Egypt.

Whilst recognising the great importance of continuing dialogue in this vital but difficult area and valuing the contribution of Christians of all traditions, there were statements made by Dr. Mouneer which caused me some concern. When asked to comment on the issues of conversions from Islam and the increase in attacks on Coptic Orthodox churches, Dr. Mouneer replied by:

stating that the Egyptian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion; quoting the Quran that "there is no compulsion in religion"; stating that most of the problems with conversion issues were within families rather than from outside agencies; and observing that, in his experience, the situation has improved greatly in the past 20 years.

It is certainly true that Article 46 of the Egyptian Constitution theoretically guarantees freedom of belief and the practice of religious rites; however, the Government places restrictions on these rights in practice, so it is misleading to quote this article without further qualification. Islam is not only the official state religion but, since the 1980 Constitutional amendment (article 2), Shari'a is the primary source of legislation effectively superseding article 46. Indeed, article 151 concerning the binding nature of International Laws and Treaties ratified by the Egyptian government, includes the qualification "taking into consideration the provisions of the Islamic Shari'a".

Dr. Mouneer's quotation from the Koran "Let there be no compulsion in religion ...." (Sura 2.256) is rather misleading as he must be aware that is a verse which is considered as abrogated (an-nāsakh wa'l'mansūkh) and is, at the very least, ambiguous.

Whilst there are undoubtedly many problems within families as a result of individual conversions, Dr. Mouneer must also know that current legislation makes conversion a dangerous course, at least for those converting from Islam to Christianity.
There is no legal process by which religious identity can be officially amended, resulting in harsh measures against those who obtain illicit identity papers. Those who convert also lose many of their civil rights regarding inheritance, property rights and custody of children. Such inequalities in civil rights are the fundamental cause of problems for converts, rather than mere family tensions.

Since the violence and murders at El-Kosheh on New Year's Eve 1999, instances of violence against Coptic Christians and Coptic Churches have increased both in frequency and in number. Several weeks of public rioting and sectarian protests in Alexandria last November does not suggest an improvement. On the contrary, international human rights groups are unanimously agreed that the situation has become more serious in the past few years.

As Your Grace well knows, the Coptic Orthodox Church under His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, has continued to pursue a positive and constructive dialogue with Islam and has actively supported the current Egyptian government in eschewing all forms of violence and extremism. The path of reason and moderation means that the Church prefers not to dwell on negative or divisive issues but equally the Pope's measured yet unequivocal pronouncements against injustice and repeated assaults on Coptic Christians show the depth and potency of his concerns.

I am saddened that Dr. Mouneer has chosen to contribute to this dialogue with what some may see as a lack of frankness about the complex and profound problems faced by the Coptic Christians. Brotherly support from the Anglican community worldwide, and especially in Egypt is something much to be valued, but if it is to be of lasting value in enabling the diverse religious communities to live together in harmony,
it is also necessary to highlight the source and reality of the problems which militate against this.

Commending myself to Your Grace's prayers.

Yours very sincerely in XP,

Metropolitan Abba Seraphim
Metropolitan of Glastonbury

Cc. His Grace Bishop Angaelos
H.R.H. The Prince of Wales

The bolds above are mine. It is a simple logic:

Unity and tolerance are ideals to work for...the the first step, the most difficult step is seeing the pain and suffering of those who are oppressed and moving to stop it. Unity, love and tolerance can not be achieved while we ignore the suffering of others.

May our eyes and hearts be open. May our love transform hatred. May the Lord guide us, if we will but listen and see.

Women Religious Stabbed to Death in Moluccas

Women Religious Stabbed to Death in Moluccas

AMBON, Indonesia, MARCH 15, 2006 ( A Catholic nun was fatally stabbed by an intruder in her convent near Ambon, in the Molucca Islands, according to the Vatican-related Fides agency.

The 33-year-old sister, a member of a community of Daughters of the Sacred Heart, happened upon an intruder last Friday in the convent at Jalan Pattimura. The assailant then attacked her with a knife.

The woman religious, whose name was not released, was found by other religious and rushed to a hospital, where she died.

According to local sources, religion was not the reason for the crime. The nun's murderer is thought to have been a common thief, Fides said today.

In 1999-2002 Ambon was the scene of interreligious clashes between resident Protestant Christians and immigrant Muslims in which as many as 15,000 people were killed. The Catholic Church acted as a mediator to promote reconciliation.

Local sources say there are isolated attempts by extremists to rekindle the conflict, in part by taking advantage of the region's poverty.

I am not up to speed on Mouluccas. Here is a link with some info. A brief quote:

“The military and police should protect people and not create problems,” said the relative of the injured boy. Another resident added: “These tensions risk destroying the peace only recently re-established.”

The conflict between Christians and Muslims in the Moluccas (1999 – 2001) led to the death of 5,000 people and the displacement of 500,000.

May our prayers be with them to prevent another horrible clash of hatred.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Psalm 37, The Lord supports those who suffer

I just thought that this was a good Psalm for those who suffer. To me it states clearly, Do not kill in God's name, stay faithful to Him and He will bring justice. Very directly, "Trust in Him and He will act"

Psalm 37

A Psalm of David

Fret not yourself because of the wicked,
be not envious of wrongdoers!

For they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the LORD, and do good;
so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security.

Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.

He will bring forth your vindication as the light,
and your right as the noonday.

Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over him

who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself;
it tends only to evil.

For the wicked shall be cut off;
but those who wait for the LORD shall possess the land.

Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look well at his place, he will not be there.
But the meek shall possess the land,
and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.

The wicked plots against the righteous,
and gnashes his teeth at him;

but the LORD laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that his day is coming.

The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows,
to bring down the poor and needy,

to slay those who walk uprightly;
their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

Better is a little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked.
For the arms of the wicked shall be broken;
but the LORD upholds the righteous.

The LORD knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will abide for ever;

they are not put to shame in evil times,
in the days of famine they have abundance.

But the wicked perish;
the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures,

they vanish -- like smoke they vanish away.

The wicked borrows, and cannot pay back,
but the righteous is generous and gives;

for those blessed by the LORD shall possess the land,
but those cursed by him shall be cut off.

The steps of a man are from the LORD,
and he establishes him in whose way

he delights; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the LORD is the stay of his hand.

I have been young, and now am old;
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging bread.
He is ever giving liberally and lending,
and his children become a blessing.

Depart from evil, and do good; so shall you abide for ever.
For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints.
The righteous shall be preserved for ever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.

The righteous shall possess the land, and dwell upon it for ever.
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.
The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.
The wicked watches the righteous, and seeks to slay him.
The LORD will not abandon him to his power,
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

Wait for the LORD, and keep to his way,
and he will exalt you to possess the land;

you will look on the destruction of the wicked.
I have seen a wicked man overbearing,
and towering like a cedar of Lebanon.

Again I passed by, and, lo, he was no more;
though I sought him, he could not be found.

Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright,
for there is posterity for the man
of peace.
But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;

the posterity of the wicked shall be cut off.

The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
he is their refuge in the time of trouble.

The LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked, and

saves them, because they take refuge in him.

May the Lord hear our prayer.

Voices unite against Hate in India

Varanasi: Fatwa against those who attack holy places of all faiths

After last week’s terrorist attacks, the leading Madrassah school in Lucknow condemned “those who kill innocent people and strike places of worship, whichever religion they belong to.”

Lucknow (AsiaNews/INCS) – The leading Madrassah in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, has issued a fatwa against “terrorists and militants” who target “places of worship and innocent people in India”. According to the Darul-Ifta Islamic school, “there is no room for terrorism in Islam and the murder of one innocent person amounts to murder of entire humanity.”

The sentence was pronounced in the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks in Varanasi, the “holy city” of Hinduism: three bombs placed in one of the main temples and a train station killed 23 people.

Firangi Mahal, the head of the Madrassah, quoted from Koran when issuing the order: "It is notable that the Prophet never reacted violently even against those who attacked him or against those who tried to harm him in various ways. Muhammad was also totally against causing the slightest harm to any place of worship, belonging to any faith.”

"If any Muslim causes harm to any place of worship of indulges in killing of innocent people, Islam would regard it as a crime. This is stated in the Shari’a [Muslim law],” added the fatwa.

As well as this article (link):

Christian leaders: “Unite against Varanasi bombs, seed of hate”

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The Varanasi bombs “have shed innocent blood in vain” and “they should be firmly condemned by all protagonists of Indian public life, political parties and religious groups, so that those who want to defeat peace with violence will not triumph”.

Thus have India’s Christian groups condemned the three blasts which struck Varanasi, the holy Hindu city, on Tuesday afternoon, claiming 23 lives.

John Dayal, human rights activist and president of the All India Catholic Union, issued a statement in which he emphasized that such violence “can only serve those religious fundamentalist and extremist factions who thrive on exacerbating real and imagined divides and grievances. They want national attention and with bombs and bloodshed, they forcibly divert energies away from tackling the country’s social problems.

“It is for the governments of the state and the centre to ensure the safety of the people. However, the Christian leadership calls on all right-thinking citizens to respect others’ rights, thus ensuring national stability.

“This gesture would send a clear message to religious and political extremism: you have no place in a democratic, secular and republican India.

There are dfinite problems in India when the extreme parties get into power. Those who equate India with only Hindu for political gain can cause great harm to minorities. But in this case, at least reasonable people are stepping up and calling for a stance against hatred.

The question is: Who will be heard? Will this incident be used to create more violence and give the only Hindu groups more traction or will reasonable voices prevail.

May our prayers always be on the side of love.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

An Excellent Post over at Gateway Pundit about The Situation for Christians in Turkey

This is an excellent post and a must read (link).

The situtaion in Turkey is getting very bad indeed. Considering the small number of Christians, it is very frightening to ponder what may happen.

Other posts from this blog on Turkey

Fr. Santoro's Murder
When Children of The Black Sea are Tought to Hate Priests
More than Just a Minor Behind Fr. Santoro's Murder
Fr. Santoro and The Inaction of Turkish Authorities
Martyrs of Our Time Campaign
Fr. Santoros' Prayer to Mary
Priest Beaten in Izmir to Cries of "We'll Kill You All"

Egypt's Mubarak speaks with Pope on Iraq, Iran

You know, it is interesting to read offical statements from places. There is a bunch of subtext. Take this article for example:

Mar. 13 ( - The situation in the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Iran, was the main subject discussed when Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Monday evening, March 13.

In a statement released to the media after the meeting, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said that the Pope spoke with Mubarak about relations between the different religious groups in Egypt, and that country's diplomatic ties with the Holy See, as well as Iran and Iraq.

That the Vatican statement did not refer directly to Iran's drive toward a nuclear capability, the Pope had previously indicated his concern about that development. In a telegram sent last November to Mohammed el Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Holy Father had said that the development of nuclear arms continues to endanger world peace. Mubarak arrived at the Vatican at 6 in the evening, under heavy security. Police had temporarily closed off the Via della Conciliazione, which leads into the Vatican, and a police helicopter hovered above the Vatican as the Egyptian delegation arrived. The level of security was comparable to that observed at the Vatican during recent visits by leaders from Israel, Iraq, and the Palestinian Authority.

Mubarak was accompanied on his visit to the Vatican by the Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Abdoul Theit, the country's ambassador to the Holy See, Nevin Halim Abdallah, and several other officials. In a distinct break from the usual practice for visiting political leaders, Mubarak left the Vatican after his visit with the Pope, without holding a conversation with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano

Here are some interesting parts:

the Pope spoke with Mubarak about relations between the different religious groups in Egypt

That must have been an interesting conversation. Maybe it led to this:

In a distinct break from the usual practice for visiting political leaders, Mubarak left the Vatican after his visit with the Pope, without holding a conversation with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano

The article, from Catholic World News, makes a point of mentioning that. No other article I read brings up that this happened. My view is that the conversation might not have went as well as most media outlets say.

Another report from right after the meeting:

Benedict XVI Meets Egyptian Leader

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 13, 2006 ( Benedict XVI and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak held a private, 20-minute meeting in the Vatican.

No details of today's meeting were immediately published, though it was expected to focus on peace in the Middle East.

The meeting, which took place in the Pope's private library, was described as cordial by Vatican sources.

After the audience, there was an exchange of gifts.

Mubarak gave the Holy Father a silver case with Benedict XVI's name engraved in Arabic, and the Pope gave the Egyptian president and his entourage rosaries and medals of his pontificate.

I blinked at the above line that I have bolded. Rosaries. I'm sure they loved that.

Another article says (link):

Mubarak's spokesman did not immediately answer his cell phone. Egypt's semiofficial Middle East News Agency said Benedict and Mubarak discussed "recent regional developments" as well as respect for religious differences.

I don't know what this all means. And not much can be done in half an hour, but it is one of those times where you think:

He gave him a rosary and talked about respect for religious differences and then Mubarak left without talking to Sodano. Kinda want to be a fly on the wall. Ah, the language of International clear as mud. And, in the end, that is our problem.

A moral duty to support Christians in the Holy Land

I came across this article (link).

Some parts of the article:

All Catholics have a duty to show their "concrete solidarity" for the Christians of the Holy Land, a new Vatican statement argues.

No argument here.

The Christian population of the Holy Land has steadily declined, from 28% of the population in 1947 to barely 2% today.

Just think about that for a second. 2 percent. In the land of His birth, life, suffering and death...Christians are not welcomed. My prayers will be with these Christians, as they always are.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Pope On the Transfiguration

This is the Pope's address from the midday Angelus on March 12.

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Yesterday morning the week of spiritual exercises ended, which were preached here, in the Apostolic Palace, by the retired patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Marco Cé. They were days dedicated entirely to listening to the Lord, who always speaks to us, but who expects more attention from us, especially in the Lenten season.

Today's Gospel passage also reminds us of this, when proposing the account of the transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor. Astonished in the presence of the transfigured Lord, who was speaking with Moses and Elias, Peter, James and John were suddenly enveloped in a cloud from which a voice arose that proclaimed: "This is my beloved Son, listen to him" (Mark 9:7).

When one has the grace to sense a strong experience of God, it is as though seeing something similar to what the disciples experienced during the Transfiguration: For a moment they experienced ahead of time something that will constitute the happiness of paradise. In general, it is brief experiences that God grants on occasions, especially in anticipation of harsh trials. However, no one lives "on Tabor" while on earth.

Human existence is a journey of faith and, as such, goes forward more in darkness than in full light, with moments of obscurity and even profound darkness. While we are here, our relationship with God develops more with listening than with seeing; and even contemplation takes place, so to speak, with closed eyes, thanks to the interior light lit in us by the word of God.

The Virgin Mary herself, notwithstanding the fact that she was the human creature closest to God, walked day after day as though on a pilgrimage of faith (cf. "Lumen Gentium," 58), keeping and meditating constantly in her heart the word that God addressed to her, whether through the sacred Scriptures or through events of the life of her son, in which she recognized and accepted the Lord's mysterious voice.

This is, therefore, the gift and commitment for each one of us in the Lenten Season: To listen to Christ, like Mary. To listen to him in the word, preserved in sacred Scripture. To listen to him in the very events of our lives, trying to read in them the messages of providence. To listen to him, finally, in our brothers, especially in the little ones and the poor, for whom Jesus himself asked our concrete love. To listen to Christ and to obey his voice. This is the only way that leads to joy and love.

I thought this was nice and to the point. I bolded my favorite parts. God sustains us with hope in darkness. It is a message for lent, as we move toward the Cross and Resurrection. But it is also a message for every day.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

St. Joseph's Day right around the corner

Ah...alas some current situations prevent me from doing a full St. Joseph's day celebration this year as I have before. But I'll still make some bread and food and have a prayerful weekend from the 17-19. What will I make, well...Caponata for one. Although not traditonal for all St. Joseph tables it is a nice lenten dish that I make all year round. The recipe I usually use is one modified from the book Cooking With the Saints.

I use more sauce, I like the taste and the look with a little extra sauce. But there are many ways to make caponata. Some include pine nuts some don't. Some have rasins, though I've never had it that way.

Here is a recipe from Italian food forever since I don't have mine on me right now:

3 Small Eggplants
2 Teaspoons Salt
1/3 Cup Olive Oil
3 Small Onions, Chopped (I only use one Onion and Add peppers, as below)
2 to 3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 Stalks Of Celery, Chopped
1 (28oz.) Can Chopped Tomatoes
1/2 Cup Olives, Green or Black, Chopped (I use both Green and Black)
1/4 Cup Capers
1/4 Cup Fresh Chopped Parsley
1/4 Cup Wine Vinegar (I use Basalmic Vinegar instead)
Salt & Pepper

(I also Add one red, Yellow and green pepper, nice taste and very attractive.)

(I also add A tablespoon of brown sugar or Coco powder. Gives a nice touch of sweet)

To Serve:

Garlic Toast (I use any nice thick bread)

Peel the eggplants, and cut into 1 inch pieces. Put in a colander, sprinkle with the salt and leave 30 minutes. In a large pan, add a few tablespoons of the oil, and when hot add the onions, and cook until soft. Add the celery and garlic, (At this point I add the sliced up peppers If I'm using them) and cook 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook an additional 10 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thick.

Rinse the salt from the eggplant and pat dry. Add the rest of the oil into a frying pan and once it is hot, add the diced eggplant. Cook until the eggplant is tender and turning golden brown. Add the eggplant to the tomato mixture with the rest of the ingredients, and cook on low for another 15 minutes. Check the seasonings and let come to room temperature before serving.

All in all a nice dish. The picture above is from a St. Joseph's day in New York. That is all bread in front of the table.

Wave of arrests of Protestant Christians in China

Here is the story (link)

This line really got me:

Chinese police have arrested three leaders of an official Protestant church in Henan for being “devotees of an evil, illegal cult”.

May the lord protect them. Christianity, evil and illegal. The heart breaks.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Passers-by at the cross

Fulton sheen talks about the passers-by at the cross.

Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, "Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross.
Mark 15:29-30

Sheen says that they don't stay long enough to understand the cross. I see some current events reflected in this verse.

Today we might not say "Come down" but we pass by the cross alot. We look away. Our brothers and sisters in Christ in the middle east are on a cross. They are suffering. And in many ways, the west looks away. We pass by going nowhere.

In a real way, there is not alot a common person can do. Or is there?

Writing congressmen and congresswomen.
Promoting awareness

These are ways to acknowledge this modern cross, and in doing so we say a prayer at the foot of the eternal cross.

All of us who write blogs and draw awareness to these issues, think a moment on a possibility. Maybe someone who has the political or social power to effect a greater change may be made aware by such efforts.

Maybe one day we will be in a place to do even more.

The hand of the Lord guides all things, even if we do not understand.

Let the Cross and its' meaning be in our hearts. Let us take a moment each day to look without turning away. If one person stops on a street to look at something, another will stop and look the same way. Then another, and another. Soon enough to make a difference will be gathered.

Muslim and Christian women against discrimination and violence

I applaud and pray for these brave women (link).

9 March, 2006
Muslim and Christian women against discrimination and violence

Kasur (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Our Lady and Mother Teresa as role models for Pakistani women seeking improvements of their condition in society as well as society as a whole was one of the topics of discussion in yesterday’s meeting in Kasur (south of Lahore) of young Christian and Muslim women organised by Milap, a Catholic NGO, for International Women’s Day.

Milap Director Margaret Piara said that “women and girls can find in Our Lady and Mother Teresa a role model in the service of humanity”. She noted that “a good woman is a crown for her husband” and criticised the tradition of celebrating the birth of a boy with a great family feast but bemoan the birth of a daughter. “How can a woman do this to another female?” she asks.

The meeting saw the participation of some 30 Muslim and Christian women and girls currently attending Milap’s sewing centre. One of the students, Shafia Yusaf, said that “women today are not weak, but are like a rock. If they want it, they can fight and overcome any obstacle”. “You are weak when you don’t fight and others take advantage of you,” she added.

A teacher at the centre, Agnes, urged the students “to pray and overcome even the greatest obstacles with love.” She told the future seamstresses to use every opportunity that comes their way at the school, and encouraged them take advantage of inter-faith exchange. “Women,” she insisted, “can lead inter-faith dialogue at a grassroots level”.

Another teacher, Rani, said that “in a society like that of Pakistan, dominated by men, if we always keep an eye on God we can continue to fight and pray together so that women can get respect”.

Participants also prayed for the NGOs involved in promoting women’s legal rights. They prayed especially for those who are fighting against the Hudood ordinances. Even among majority Muslims, many women are demanding the repeal of such discriminatory laws.

The Hudood ordinances were introduced in 1979 when Pakistan was ruled by a military junta led by the late General Zia-ul-Haq. They are operating principles are drawn from Islamic law and, in four parts, address issues relating to property, adultery and what is illicit.

Rape and adultery are treated as the same. Four adult male Muslim witnesses willing to testify are required to prove rape. Unless their evidence is entered in court of law, a rape victim can be charged with adultery and sentenced to prison or death (by stoning).

May this fight for justice bring us together in peace.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

More than just a minor behind Fr Andrea Santoro’s murder

Some strange things here (link).

Some excerpts:

A Roman volunteer, Loredana, was working with Fr Andrea. She was a witness to the crime. From a window in a corridor looking onto the church, she saw a young man, who was not the 15-year-old suspect, looking suspiciously from right to left at the door of the church. After a few seconds, when she went into the church, she saw only the arm and hand pointing a pistol and shooting Fr Andrea’s shoulders. From three, four metres away, the first bullet went precisely to the heart of Fr Andrea, who was kneeling in prayer. Just like a professional killer, while the boy held to be guilty said he had only ever shot on computer: it was the first time he was pointing a real weapon. The second bullet hit Fr Andrea as he was falling. She distinctly heard the shout “Allah ekber” (Allah is great) which came from the killer as he escaped, and it was certainly not the voice of an adolescent.

As well as:

As long as the press continues its denigrating campaign with insinuations and suspects, always reporting about Christians and churches in a negative way, the atmosphere will remain poisoned, and it will be impossible to build a future of peace. Turkey is a marvelous country, rich in history, human warmth and welcome, but small fanatical and violent minorities continue to fight in the name of a nonexistent identity, appealing to religion and nationalism. Many newspapers are playing the game and even acting as spokesmen. Many fanatics use religion as a means of division, aggression and death in the name of God. This is the tragedy being lived out today in this land, where the Christian seed, that has wondrously sprouted since the dawn of Christianity, has almost disappeared.

That last line:

This is the tragedy being lived out today in this land, where the Christian seed, that has wondrously sprouted since the dawn of Christianity, has almost disappeared
Is so true.

We in the west now look to the Middle east and are shocked to see Christians there. Shocked to see Christians in the lands of Christ and the birthplace of Christianity. The sorrow of that fact is great indeed.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Thereza Ghattass Kamal, may the Lord protect her

Neferteeti has a post on the situation of Thereza Ghattass Kamal(link). The original article is from the Canadian Coptic Association. Here is a link for their site (link), and here is a link to their original story (link).

Thereza was kidnapped in a forced conversion attempt and has managed to call her family. Here is a quote from Neferteeti's blog:

"Why have you all left me? Theyve kidnapped me and are treating me very badly. They want to force me to convert and I don't know where I am"

The aunt had caller ID on her phone and the call was traced back to someone who works for the Egyptian State Security!!

State security. May the Lord protect her, and deliver her back to her family. It is hard for Americans to really wrap their minds around this, but we must.

Something to keep in your prayers

I'll repost the article:

ROME, Italy (Reuters) -- Italian police questioned a mafia informer on Monday over the kidnapping of a 17-month-old toddler suffering from epilepsy whose disappearance has shocked the country and baffled investigators.

Tommaso Onofri, who needs an anti-convulsive medicine twice a day, was abducted by two men on Thursday from his home in Casalbaroncolo near the wealthy city of Parma in northern Italy.

Since then a picture of wide-eyed, curly-haired Tommaso wearing a blue and red clown costume, has been splashed on the front pages of all newspapers as politicians, priests, leading singers and soccer players have appealed for his release.

At the weekend, Tommaso's mother appeared on television in tears to urge kidnappers to give him regular doses of the anti-epilepsy drug he is taking, as police struggled to come up with a motive for the abduction.

The Onofri family is not rich and investigators say that no ransom has been demanded so far.

Paolo and Paola Onofri say they were eating dinner at home with Tommaso and his eight-year-old brother Sebastiano when the light went out.

When Paolo went outside to investigate he was forced back into the house by two masked men armed with a knife and what his wife told police appeared to have been a toy gun.

She gave the intruders 150 euros ($180) but instead of searching the house for a bigger bounty, they bound and gagged the family, took the screaming Tommaso from his highchair and fled.

Sebastiano has confirmed his parents' story and investigators, who at first appeared to suspect foul play within the family, seem now to think the kidnapping was carried out as a vendetta or as a means of extracting money.

They have repeatedly questioned Tommaso's father, who is the manager of a local post office, to find out whether a disgruntled customer might have wanted revenge.

The anti-mafia police have also joined the probe after a jailed pentito, or informer, said he knew something about the case.

Pope: Free kidnapped sick toddler
Italy shocked by baby abduction

May all of our prayers be with this family.

Monday, March 06, 2006

I normally don't go too Political but...

There is a post at Dust Allergies of the Spirit (link) about the WMD issue. The new book "Saddams Secrets" has some interesting stuff (link). Such as:

Elder: What happened to the chemical and biological weapons?

Sada: The chemical and biological weapons were available in Iraq before liberating the country, but Saddam Hussein took the advantage of a natural disaster that happened in Syria when a dam was collapsed and many villages were flooded. So Saddam Hussein took that cover and declared to the world that he is going to use the civilian aircraft for an air bridge to help Syria with blankets, food and fuel oil, and other humanitarian things, but that was not true. The truth is he converted two regular passenger civilian aircraft, 747 Jumbo and 727 ... all the weapons of mass destruction were put there by the special Republican Guards in a very secret way, and they were transported to Syria, to Damascus, by flying 56 flights to Damascus ... In addition ... also a truck convoy on the ground to take whatever has to do with WMD to Syria.


Elder: Fifteen months before we invaded Iraq, the president began talking about what our intentions would be if Saddam would not comply with the U.N. resolutions. During those 15 months ... did Saddam have WMD, have stockpiles of WMD, and, if so, what type?

Sada: Iraq possessed WMD and they were there, and they were chemical and biological, and nuclear weapons. He have also deals with China to make it in China this time, not in Iraq, because F-16s of Israelis have destroyed the Iraqi nuclear project, therefore, he designed a new system to have the atom bomb to be done in China, and he would only pay the money, and he did for $100 million, and $5 million were paid for down payment. I know the bank, I know the branch, and I know the accountant who did it.

I don't know how reliable Sada is, but I just thought this was worth a mention.