Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mamas Movin' With Mary

Via Faith and Family Live:  A group of Catholic moms in Ohio began walking together every week while praying the Rosary.  As they put it:
"Each week we prayed a rosary together and as our devotion to the Blessed Mother grew our hearts became filled with peace and we felt a closer connection to our Lord.  We began to fully appreciate and understand the phrase 'To Jesus through Mary'.  With increased endurance and enriched faith we completed the Columbus Half Marathon and called ourselves 'Mamas Movin’ With Mary'.
It is now our goal to inspire others to take time for themselves and 'Get Movin’ With Mary'."
They are selling t-shirts to support their enterprise and  a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Brian Muha Foundation.  Brian, who was murdered in 1999, was a Franciscan University student with a great devotion to the Blessed Mother,

Here are the very attractive t-shirts:
The shirts can be ordered here at the Mama's Movin With Mary website.

Surfer Nuns

The New York Post reports that every year the Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Stone Harbor, NJ, host a surfing competition.  This year the " Nun's Beach Surf Invitational" will be held on September 11th.  Proceeds from the event go to support the nun's retreat house, Villa Maria by the Sea.

New Jersey is blessed with some beautiful retreat houses on or near the ocean.  In addition to the Sister Servants in Stone Harbor, the Sisters of St. Joseph have St Mary by the Sea  in Cape May, the Vincentian Fathers used to have a place in Cape May (not sure if they still do) , and the Redemptorists have  San Alfonso retreat house  in Long Branch. 

While Sister James (pictured above) said that the closest she gets to surfing is standing on the board for a picture, it occurred to me that perhaps the priests of the  Marians of the Immaculate Conception could host a surfing fundraiser and actually have one of their own, Father Donald Calloway, compete.  Now that would be like totally awesome.

If you haven't read Father Calloway's incredible conversion story, go to his website:  www.fathercalloway.com and learn how he caught the wave of his life.

What Good Is It For A Man to Gain the Empire State Building...

"...but lose his soul."  Those were the words of Detective Steven McDonald at the Catholic League demonstration last week.  As you know, the reason for the rally was to protest the fact that the owner of the building wouldn't turn on the lights for Mother Teresa as he has done for so many religious and secular figures in the past.  Some of those who had the lights turned on in their honor include the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Simpsons.

While some of the speakers from the secular world were a bit vitriolic in their speech against the owner of the building, Detective McDonald captured the true spirit of the day in expressing the sorrow of those who love and honor Mother Teresa that she would not be recognized.  As you may know, Detective McDonald was shot in Central Park about 20 years in the line of duty.  He was paralyzed in the incident and has been a tireless advocate ever since for peace and forgiveness.  In spite of his reliance on a motorized wheelchair and a respirator, this tireless hero goes to parishes and schools to speak of the importance of forgiveness.

Below is a short clip of the evening's events, including Steven McDonald's speech.  The young people in attendance are from Chaminade, Kellenberg and Sacred Heart high schools on Long Island.  These schools maintain student chapters of the Catholic League and are quite an inspiration and encouragement to the rest of us.

(The video is a little bouncy. Sorry about that...first time with a new Flip camera. But it captures the feel of the event.)

Monday, August 30, 2010

"There Are Things That Are Shared, and Others That Are Not"

That was the statement last week of  Bishop Demetrio Fernandez, the bishop of Cordoba, Spain, concerning the demand of local Muslims to worship in the Cordoba Cathedral.  The cathedral had been built in the 13th century on the site of  the former Great Mosque of Cordoba when King Ferdinand III recaptured the area in 1236.  The mosque was erected after the Moorish conquest in the 8th century, prior to which the site had been occupied by the church of St. Vincent. 

The Christian Post reported Bishop Fernandez as saying that Catholic-Muslim relations in Cordoba have been good and that he "...wants to collaborate with Muslims in search of "peace, justice and coexistence between peoples.  But that is one thing.  It's another, very different, to want to share the same temple for worship, which is neither possible for Muslims nor for Catholics."  The bishop also said that sharing the cathedral would be "like a man sharing his wife with another man."

The bishops of Cordoba have been resisting the overtures of Muslim groups to share the worship space for some time now.  Back in 2004 Catholic Culture blog reported that Mansur Escudero, secretary general of the Spanish Islamic Council, applied to the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, requesting the ability to worship in the cathedral.  While the bishop of Cordoba remained circumspect, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald of the Pontifical Council was more pointed when he "... advised Cordoba’s Muslims to 'accept history,' rather than seeking to regain the building they had long ago lost, or 'take revenge' on the Church. The archbishop observed that Christians have not sought to reclaim former Christian church buildings in the Middle East that have fallen under Islamic jurisdiction."

In spite of the bishops' unwavering rejection of the shared worship space concept, groups continue to push the issue.  In addition, some local politicians also support the idea of making the site available for Muslim worship.  This struggle in Spain also sheds some light on current events in New York City.  When one understands the history of the conflict in the region, the rationale behind naming the proposed mosque at Ground Zero as "the Cordoba Project" takes on a more ominous significance.

Last week, Escudero, was quoted as saying that the shared worship space would be “a beautiful paradigm of tolerance, knowledge, culture.”  Unfortunately, he is ignoring the fact that it is no longer a mosque, but a cathedral. What a trampling of religious rights it would be if Catholics were forced to open up their cathedrals and churches for use by other religions because of centuries old historical claims.  Unfortunately, in the world we live in things that would have seemed ridiculous in the not so distant past, are now distinct possibilities.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Atheist Doctors More Likely to Kill You

Or, as the guys at Creative Minority Report put it, "Ask your doctor if they believe in God."  The U.K.'s Guardian newspaper is reporting on a British study that determined the following:
"Independently of specialty, doctors who described themselves as non-religious were more likely than others to report having given continuous deep sedation until death, having taken decisions they expected or partly intended to end life, and to have discussed these decisions with patients judged to have the capacity to participate in discussions."
Fr. Timothy Finigan of the Hermeneutic of Continuity blog in England, discusses the underlying bias of the report against believers.   According to Fr. Finigan, "The spin given to the reporting of Clive Searle's research is a clear hint that "religious" doctors should be controlled and prevented from having so much influence in the palliative care of the dying." 

But, it has been my experience in the U.S., as well, that those of us who fight for ordinary care for the dying or seriously ill, are definitely swimming against the tide.  Unfortunately, some of the resistance comes from clergy or others in a position of spiritual authority, not just from medical personnel.  I once had a priest tell me that it would be better to remove a particular patient's feeding tube and let him "go home."  Now, mind you, this person was not suffering from a terminal illness, but from advanced dementia.  When I related to him Pope John Paul II's teaching on food and water as ordinary care, he told me that the pope wasn't always right.

St. Luke pray for us!

The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes

                                                                 Photo:  NY Daily News

Or at least maybe the Russian Orthodox Patriarch does.  CNA reports that the pope's cobbler (how great a job is that?), after shipping two pairs of shoes to the Holy Father, also sent a pair out to the Russian Orthodox Patriarch.

Adriano Stefanelli, first began making shoes for the pope when he saw Pope John Paul II on television in 2003 and asked himself what he could do to alleviate the Holy Father's pain.  He handcrafted four pairs of shoes for him and has been supplying footwear to the popes ever since. Each pair takes approximately one month to craft and along with shoes, he has made Benedict XVI hiking boots and slippers, as well.

In addition to popes, Stefanelli also provides shoes to the Orthodox patriarchs.  He considers it, "...a little sign to reinforce the desire for the unity of Christians."

[Based on my own experience, if women were admitted to holy orders, the ecclesiastical cobbler could potentially become a full time job!  ]

Look In The Mirror After You View And Read This

The following is taken from Nick Vujicic's website,  Life Without Limbs: From No Limbs To No Limits

Imagine being born without arms. No arms to wrap around a friend ; no hands to hold the ones you love; no fingers to experience touch ; no way to lift or carry things. How much more difficult would life be if you were living without arms and hands? Or what about legs? Imagine if instead of no arms, you had no legs. No ability to dance, walk, run, or even stand. Now put both of those scenarios together… no arms and no legs. What would you do? How would that affect your everyday life?
Meet Nick Vujicic, pronounced 'Vooy-cheech'. Born in 1982 in Brisbane, Australia, without any medical explanation or warning, Nicholas Vujicic came into the world with neither arms nor legs. Imagine the shock his parents felt when they saw their first-born brand new baby boy for the first time, only to find he was what the world would consider imperfect and abnormal. Nick Vujicic Childhood A limbless son was not what nurse Dushka Vujicic, and her husband Pastor Boris Vujicic had been expecting. How would their son live a normal happy life? What could he ever do or become when living with such a massive disability? Little did they or anyone else know that this beautiful limbless baby would one day be someone who would inspire and motivate people from all walks of life. God uses Nick to touch lives and bring the hope of Jesus Christ to people across the globe.
Throughout his childhood, Nick dealt not only with the typical challenges of school and adolescence such as bullying and self-esteem issues; but also struggled with depression and loneliness.  He constantly questioned why he was different than all the other kids surrounding him; why he was the one born without arms and legs. He wondered what the purpose behind his life was, or if he even had a purpose. According to Nick, the victory over his struggles throughout his journey, as well as the strength and passion he has for life can be credited to his faith in God. His family, friends and the many people he has encountered along the way have also encouraged him.
Nick Vujicic SkateboardAfter school, Nick went on with further study and obtained a double Bachelor’s degree, majoring in Accounting and Financial Planning from Griffith University in Logan, Australia. By the age of 19, Nick started to fulfill his dream of being able to encourage other people and bring them the gospel of Jesus through motivational speaking and sharing his testimony about how God changed his life and gave him a future and a hope. “I found the purpose of my existence, and also the purpose of my circumstance. There’s a purpose for why you’re in the fire.” Nick wholeheartedly believes that there is a purpose in each of the struggles we each encounter in our lives, and that our attitude towards those struggles, along with our faith and trust in the Lord can be the keys to overcoming the challenges we face.
Now at 27 years old, this limbless young man has accomplished more than most people accomplish in a lifetime. Nick recently made the massive move from Brisbane, Australia to California, USA, where he is the President of an Nick with Kids in Indiainternational non-profit organization; Life Without Limbs, and also has his own motivational speaking company; Attitude Is Altitude. Since his first speaking engagement back when he was 19, Nick has traveled around the world, sharing his story with millions of people, speaking to a range of different groups such as students, teachers, youth, businessmen and women, entrepreneurs, and church congregations of all sizes. He has also told his story and been interviewed on various televised programs worldwide. “If God can use a man without arms and legs to be His hands and feet, then He will certainly use any willing heart!”

Humility and Mother Teresa

                                                     Photo:  TheHindu.com

Interestingly, one of the frequently raised objections to the Catholic League's demonstration at the Empire State Building yesterday was that "Mother Teresa would not have wanted this recognition."  I found this to be a somewhat topsy turvy analysis.  Thank God that Mother Teresa would not have wanted all of the hoopla in her honor!  What sort of moral, religious or spiritual leader would want that kind of recognition for themselves?  If they would, they wouldn't be much of an example, would they?

The point of the demonstration at the Empire State Building was not to satisfy any long held desire by Mother Teresa for attention, but rather to continue to hold her up as an example and a beacon of goodness for the world.  And, in addition, to defend her from the slings and arrows that have been coming her way from some misguided and mean spirited commentators who are intent on maligning her reputation.

Mother Teresa probably did not want the notoriety or acclaim that she received when she was awarded the Nobel Peace prize some years ago, either.  However, she was able to use that opportunity to speak out on behalf of the weakest among us; the unborn, the poor and the marginalized.

So, although Mother Teresa would not have wanted all of the attention, just like any other saint or holy person, it is good for us to honor her and to keep her good works in the public eye as a light to the world.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mother Teresa's 100th Birthday Will Still Be Celebrated!

Today would have been Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s 100th birthday. Mother Teresa, a.k.a “servant to the poor of Calcutta” - was the only Nobel Prize recipient to forego a celebratory luncheon, and she insisted the money be given to charity instead. Mother Teresa offered all of herself in service. She gave hope that we could make the world better.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, requested for the Empire State Building to illuminate the tower in blue and white - the colors of Mother Teresa’s  sari - to mark the centenary of her birth. Anthony E. Malkin, an owner of the building, refused Donohue’s request.

It’s an outrage that they would not agree. After-all, since 1964, the top floors of the skyscraper have been regularly lit in different colors to celebrate holidays and special occasions. In recent years it has been lighted at the deaths of New York Cardinal John O'Connor and Pope John Paul II, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and that it routinely changes its colors for Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid al Fitr (the Muslim holiday that ends Ramadan) and other religious holidays.

So... while the Empire State Building refuses to ‘light up’ in the blue and white colors in honor of Mother Teresa , there are many other ways that her 100th birthday is being honored. Just to mention a few:

•    First, Donohue will hold a rally outside the Empire State Building on behalf of Mother Teresa on August 26. He expects several thousand protesters to join him Thursday evening.
•    The Peace Bridge, on the Niagara River in New York, and the Hutchinson Metro Center’s two office buildings in the Bronx will be lit blue and white.
•    Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas is not only lighting several campus buildings in blue, but is also naming its new nursing program building in honor of Mother Teresa.
•    Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California marked the day with a memorial Mass at 11:30 a.m. and by publishing videos from her visit and Commencement Address at the school in 1982.
•    The Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, CT is hosting the American premiere exhibit of Mother Teresa: Life, Spirituality and Message.
•    And, the Mother Teresa International Film Festival is being held Aug. 26-29 in Kolkata, India.

To quote Sr. M. Prema M.C., Superior General:
“Her life and work continue to be an inspiration for young and old, rich and poor from all walks of life, religions and nations,”

To read more on Mother Teresa visit:

Happy Birthday Mother Teresa

Russia Establishing Center Dedicated to Mother Teresa

Now, this is interesting. The Russian news agency Pravda has announced that a center is being established in Borovsk in the Kaluga region of Russia honoring Mother Teresa.  It's not entirely clear from the article what the center will entail, but it does say that it will be divided into 52 ethnic areas showing the customs and traditions of different countries.

What was most interesting to me was the following paragraph from the article:
She cared especially for those who were often treated as outsiders in their own communities - the starving, the crippled, the impoverished, the diseased and the dying, from the old woman with a brain tumor in Calcutta to the young man with AIDS in New York City. Her special focus was the care of mothers and their children. This included mothers who felt pressured to sacrifice their unborn children by want, neglect, despair, and philosophies and government policies that promote the dehumanization of inconvenient human life.
For those of us who grew up during the Cold War era, this is astonishing language coming from Pravda which had been the mouthpiece for the Communist government.  Maybe this would qualify as the miracle needed for Mother Teresa's canonization?

Christian Imagery on Tokyo Subway Posters

Having spent many years working in a Japanese corporation, I am used to seeing odd juxtapositions of western images with Asian messages, but this one took me by surprise.  Over at Faith and Family Live, Rebecca Teti has linked to a site featuring vintage Tokyo subway posters.  Two of these posters feature Christian religious symbolism.  The first is this poster of the Madonna and Child entitled "Mary is Tired."  The point is to encourage people to give up their seats to women with young children.

The other poster features Jesus at the Last Supper being overwhelmed by umbrellas.  The message is a play on Japanese words that fit the religious imagery and also invoke the concept of having too many of something.  The point of this poster is to remind people not to forget their umbrellas.

The Japanese appropriate many western secular and religious images without assigning too much sentiment or value to them other than their sense of being exotic.  Perhaps one day I will do a blog post about my experiences of Catholic worship in Japan.  For now, let's just say that missionaries from St. Francis Xavier onward have not been very successful in that country.  It's a bit of a puzzle since other Asian cultures such as Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. have accepted the Gospel message in much larger numbers.  Perhaps one day...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Empire State Building Protest, Here We Come!

Tomorrow I'm heading over to the protest at the Empire State Building with my nephew and my dad, along with a busload of others from Chaminade High School in Mineola, Long Island.  This is to protest the refusal to light the building in honor of Mother Teresa's 100th birthday.  It seems like such a dumb p.r. move, as well as just a petty attitude.  And, interestingly since the refusal to honor Mother Teresa the building has come down with a case of bedbug infestation.  Coincidence?  Pestilence?? Hmmm.

The protest is being spearheaded by Bill Donohue and the Catholic League.  My nephew is very involved with the Catholic League at Chaminade.  It's great how the students at the high school level throw their time and energy into supporting worthwhile causes and being a public witness to the Catholic faith.  It certainly is an encouragement to the rest of us.

I'll post some pictures tomorrow.  It should be a great turnout in honor of one of the bright lights of our age.  As some argue, Mother Teresa certainly doesn't need the tribute to bolster her image, but if the Empire State Building can turn on the lights in honor of the bloody Communist Chinese revolution, they can certainly turn them on for someone who poured out her life for the sick, poor and dying. 

Well,  in any event, we'll be there to give Mother Teresa the tribute she so richly deserves.  If you're in Manhattan come on down at 6 p.m.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Store Wars!

Well, here we go again!  Yet another attempt to bring you, our Jedi-related Catholic Academicians, the questionably best in amusing Star-Wars-themed videos!  
This one comes from a Group called Free-Range Studios (From their Mission Statement: "We're a team of passionate, wildly creative people who spend our days strategizing, branding and designing so the most important social messages get through loud and clear. Free Range is known for being the most successful cause-based viral movie makers ever.")
I'm not quite ready to endorse these guys' mission.  But they did make a truly creative and funny video!

Not long ago in a supermarket not so far away, Cuke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Cannoli, Princess Lettuce, Ham Solo, Chewbroccoli and their loyal groceries, banded together to fight the dark side of the farm.
And here's what happened:

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Concerning Zeal - Part Four

Our fourth part of our exploration of  Zeal awaits! So, let's get right to work, Academicians!(If you haven't read them yet, please use the following links to
Part One and Part Two  and Part Three)

"The Charity Of St. Elizabeth Of Hungary" by Leighton Edward Blair

Saint Paul adamantly states that zealous activities, to be truly zealous -- truly in Christ and not disguised forms of selfish ambition or jealousy -- must issue from a love that is free of selfishness and envy (Romans 12:3-21).
And, our beloved Saint Paul also strongly emphasized that Christian charity must take precedence over zeal (1 Corinthians 13:1-14:1; also cf. 1 John 3:2 and 2 Peter 1:4)

Christian zeal is founded upon Christian charity: 
  • Christian charity is the state of living in God's love and favor through and in Christ, and responding to God's love and favor with our wholehearted love.  
  • Our wholehearted response to God's love simultaneously impels us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  
  • Paul understood that charity — not zeal — is the bond of union among Christians (Romans 12:10; Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 1:4; 3:14) and the supreme and lasting activity of Christian lived-faith (1 Corinthians 13).

The early Church Fathers deepened this understanding of the mutual dependency of Christian zeal and Christian charity. For the Fathers:

  • Zealous love of God and neighbor was the way of Christian life -- the only way a Christian should live; 
  • Zealous love of God and neighbor is to be directed toward maintaining the unity of the faithful.  A unity which is realized in the Eucharistic communion, and fostered through Christians' practical, selfless love for one another.
    • Christian zeal -- if it's real -- always directs and encourages our love to act in ourselves (for our own continual imitation of Christ's moral precepts and for our unending growth in thinking and feeling with Christ's attitudes);
    • Christian zeal -- if it's real -- always directs and encourages our love to act through us, outward toward others: in unmistakable kindness and charity, using specific deeds of justice for all human beings.
    A poster from a Salvation Army campaign for disaster relief.
    "Let us therefore give ourselves to God with a great desire to begin to live thus, and beg Him to destroy in us the life of the world of sin, and to establish His life within us."
    Saint John Eudes
    This installment concludes our series on Zeal ... maybe... we'll see.
    "The Assistant Headmaster"

    Saturday, August 21, 2010

    Concerning Zeal - Part Three

    Our exploration of Christian Zeal
    sallys forth with this third installment
    (here are links to Part One and Part Two).
    In the New Testament, Christian zeal can be best understood by examining Saint Paul's writings.  Saint Paul was a man filled with zeal for God — both before and after his conversion to faith in Jesus as the Christ promised by God.
                In the time of Our Lord Jesus and Saint Paul, "zeal" furnished the political party name for a staunch and pernicious Jewish patriotism which repeatedly bedeviled the Roman Empire's attempts to dominate Palestine. They were labeled "Zealots."
                Saint Paul, while not a Zealot party member, adapted the label of "zealot" to himself.  His unenlightened zeal for God led him to persecute the infant Church (Philippians 3:6; Acts 8:3; 22:3-21; 23:6; 26:4-23).  To describe himself, Saint Paul converted the meaning of "zealot" just as he converted the quality of zeal in himself.  He gave zeal its proper force and aim after encountering the Crucified and Risen Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-30).  His sorrow over his spiritual blindness in persecuting those who professed faith in the Lord Jesus, led Saint Paul to repentance and a transformed zeal for God. Paul Of Tarsus and his zeal were both now in Christ.  Saint Paul's experience of graced sorrow for sins led  to a transformed zeal for God: namely, zeal-for-God-in-Christ!
                From that moment of his conversion, Saint Paul called all people to the only zeal which is true — zeal for Christ's sake, who Himself was totally, unstoppably zealous for God:
    John 2:17: Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,  as well as the money-changers seated there.  He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables,  and to those who sold doves he said, "Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace."  His disciples recalled the words of scripture, "Zeal for your house will consume me."

                For Saint Paul, zeal is a necessary expression of the life of the Christian community.  Zeal determines the community's ethical behavior and spiritual growth.  This Christian zeal is intimately tied to faith in Our Lord Jesus.  Such zeal for our Lord Jesus is a gift from God which each Christian must develop:
    Philippians 3:2-21:  Beware of the dogs! Beware of the evil workers! Beware of the mutilation! For we are the circumcision, we who worship through the Spirit of God, who boast in Christ Jesus and do not put our confidence in flesh, although I myself have grounds for confidence even in the flesh.  If anyone else thinks he can be confident in flesh, all the more can I.  Circumcised on the eighth day, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrew parentage, in observance of the law a Pharisee,  in zeal I persecuted the church, in righteousness based on the law I was blameless.  (But) whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ.  More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith to know him and the power of his resurrection and (the) sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ (Jesus). Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead,  I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God's upward calling, in Christ Jesus.  Let us, then, who are "perfectly mature" adopt this attitude. And if you have a different attitude, this too God will reveal to you. 
    Saint Paul called Christians to greater and greater zeal.  He praised such zeal being put into action, because Christian zeal put into action is the underlying foundation of Christian living (Colossians 3:23-24).  Thus we read in his Epistles:
    • Saint Paul's exasperated reminder to the Galatians of their waning missionary zeal (Galatians 3:1-5, 4:15-18);
    • His calling the Corinthians to earnestly (that is, zealously) desire the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:1,12,39), for it is the Spirit who energizes Christians' zeal; 
    • That all are expected to give themselves completely to Christ (Romans 12:11)
    • That the example of this zeal can prove contagious (2 Corinthians 8:7-18)
    What is the visible proof that a Christian's zeal is authentic and bearing fruit for the Lord? Saint Paul says that the power of an intense Christian zeal will readily be seen in:
    • In the common effort to maintain the unity of the community (Ephesians 4:3);
    • In aiding other Christians and Christian communities (2 Corinthians 7:7,11f; 2 Corinthians 9:2);
    • And in the leadership of the Church (Romans 12:8).
    But, watch out, Academicians!  Do not fool yourselves about the tightrope walk which our zeal requires us to accomplish! Because, all of these expressions of Christian zeal, like other forms of human zeal, can be perverted.  Saint Paul adamantly states that zealous activities, to be truly zealous -- truly in Christ and not disguised forms of selfish ambition or jealousy -- must issue from a love that is free of selfishness and envy (Romans 12:3-21).

    To Be Continued ...

    Friday, August 20, 2010

    Concerning Zeal - Part Two

    We now continue our exploration of zeal (to read Part One, click here).
    Many languages have attached pejorative meanings to words which originally denoted a true and good zeal that benefits self and others. This phenomenon is evidence of the universal experience that zeal is liable to dangerous perversion.

    Perversion occurs through the intrusion of selfish emotions and ambitions, or an obsessive over-devotion to an objective that is merely secondary to a higher good, or through impatience and haste. 

    Zeal is not the same as haste for results. When these two very different states become confused, either depression or oppression results. If the zealous person is in a condition of powerlessness to achieve the objective, he or she experiences depression; if the zealous person is in a position of power, others experience persecution from him or her.

    Zeal in general and religious zeal, while similar, are different in their sources.  True religious zealousness has its source in God while all other zealousness emanates from within the human heart. My purpose now is to explore Christian zeal with you, our zealous Academicians! To form our proper understanding of it, we gotta turn the microphone over to the Word of God.

    Sacred Scripture speaks of the "zeal" of God for us and the "zeal" for God in us. 
    God's "zeal" for us describes the uncompromising involvement, love and mercy with which God deals with human beings. This is very evident from many Old Testament passages in which Yahweh is described as having an exclusive relationship with Israel. Yahweh's loving preoccupation with Israel is so great, the sacred books often describe Yahweh as "jealous" for Israel (Exodus 20:5).

    Human "zeal" for the Lord God is planted in human hearts by God, in Whom God's people place their trust and hope of salvation. In their human zeal for God, the people of God experience a passionate readiness for the kind of service to God that allows the will of God to control it, even in the face of difficulties (Psalm 69:9; 1 Kings 19:10,14; 2 Kings 15:16)

    An Icon Of The Holy Seven Maccabee Children
    The perfect Old Testament example of human zeal for God is described for us in the First and Second Books Of Maccabees. 
    One of the main causes of Israel's dwindling and corrupted faith in God and His Covenant was the Israelites' acceptance of foreign influence from the Greek cultures. Tense and angry debates delved into how much Hellenism was too much before it erased Judaism.   While these questions occupied the Israelites, one of the major "foreign influences," the Hellenist Seleucids, launched a campaign in 167 BC meant to eliminate Judaism and solidify the domination of Greek culture and religion in Palestine. When Seleucid soldiers attempted to enforce anti-Jewish edicts in the city of Modi'in (about 12 miles northwest of Jerusalem), they met resistance from a local leader, Mattathias Maccabeus A large-scale revolt was organized and directed by Mattathias and his sons: Jonathan, Simon, Judah, Eleazar, and Yohanan --  five of the seven Maccabee sons. The Maccabean Revolt achieved rapid success. Tragically, during the course of the revolt, all of the Maccabees were put to death in the year 168 B.C.  Nonetheless, the revolt succeeded, and at the end of the year 164 BC, the first Festival of Light -- Hanukkah, "inauguration" -- was celebrated in the Temple which the faithful Israelites purified of all pagan cults. 

    Ironically, by the year 30 BC, the Maccabean Revolt eventually seemed to have been for nothing. The cause now was internal foreign capitulation: by King Herod The Great.  Herod The Great decreed that the Temple be repaired and restored. Yet, Herod The Great (and his sons after him) also polluted the land of Israel by building cities, pagan temples, theaters, amphitheaters, gymnasiums, hippodromes for games -- all dedicated to praise and find favor with Herod's political backer and Israel's conqueror: the Roman emperor and his thousands of Legions.  Herod The Great died in 4 BC, and Rome decreed that he be succeeded by three of his sons: Herod Antipas was to rule Galilee and the east bank of the Jordan as a Tetrarch ("governor of the fourth part of the larger province and kingdom"); Philip was to be Tetrarch  of the Golan heights in the north-east; and Archelaus became the ethnarch ("national leader") of Samaria and Judaea. 

    An Icon of Saint John The Baptizer
    But God's loving zeal for His battered People did not end.  As the prophets of the previous ages had told Israel, God promised to send them a Savior, the Christ, who would bring salvation to them and to the whole world.   
    In about 5 BC,  Saint John the Baptizer was born to be the last of the prophets, consumed with intense zeal for God and His People, proclaiming that Israel's promised redemption was finally possible: because the Christ has come.  In 33 AD, Herod Antipas completely suppressed Saint John's zeal: by beheading him.

    To Be Continued ...

    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    Pray for Pakistan

    Yesterday, the Holy Father included prayers for the flood victims in Pakistan in his Wednesday audience.  To date there are 1,600 dead and over 2 million homeless.  It makes me think of how blessed we have been in this country to have good housing and well run emergency systems.  Even when disaster strikes, we don't see the vast devastation that happens in countries like Haiti and Pakistan.  That is to take nothing away from the suffering of people after disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, but the resources available to people in third world countries are so meager.  The pope is asking for relief services to provide assistance that is desperately needed in the area.  Caritas, a European version of Catholic Relief Services, has made an appeal to raise $5.5 million in relief.  Catholic Relief Services is also sending aid to the area.  The flooding has affected 16 million people who are now being hit by mudslides, disease and crop failure.

    Concerning Zeal - Part One

    Consider the following scenarios for a moment:
    • During this sinful age, the Nazis created death camps which were designed to run like finely tuned engines: inexpensively murdering the maximum number of people per hour and then disposing of the human remains using efficient, compact methods.  Some of the commentators of that time described these demonic murderers as filled with “zeal” for fulfilling the commands of Der Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler.
    • Replacing the Nazis: Margaret Sanger and her glib, superficially charming, sociopathic, racist stepchildren who run Planned Parenthood. Their Godless, morally necrotic supporters praise “Planned Barrenhood” for their endless "zeal" for championing the rights of women to choose — by inexpensively murdering the maximum number of babies per hour and then disposing of the babies’ remains using efficient, compact methods.
    • In this sinful world at present, Islamic Jihadists strap explosives to a brainwashed, homicidal, fanatic volunteer (or to an innocent child or teen volunteer, or to a terminally ill cancer patient volunteer), send the suicide bomber into a crowd, and tell the bomber to scream out "Allahu akbar!" / “God is greatest!” as the bombs detonate.  The sympathetic Islamic news services often describe these suicide bombers as “zealous” for God and his prophet Mohammed.
    While the three groups of people presented above may be described as zealous, their kind of zeal is an evil, sinful and essentially selfish mutation of zeal.  A "zeal" which is not inspired by the Holy Spirit, but the evil spirit.  Each individual in these groups experiences a sense of membership in an alliance of people who share the individual's dissatisfaction with some state of affairs and the individual's vision of a "better" version of it. Their completely excessive enthusiasm and intense, uncritical devotion to their collective enterprise relegates these persons to the category of fanatics!  

    I presented these groups at the beginning of our exploration of zeal, to contrast them with the characteristics of  Christian Zeal.  The gift of Christian Zeal, which is inspired by the Holy Spirit, is very, very different from fanaticism. That being stated, let's get down to basics as a starting point.  Let's define "zeal."

    When our efforts to reach a goal, any goal, are intense and earnest we can be described as "zealous."  But there is quite a difference between “zealousness” (as depicted in the three groups above) and Christian zealousness. We must very carefully define that state which involves our faith, emotions, intellect, and actions.
    • Zeal, generally speaking, means to speed oneself, to hasten, to strive for.
    • Zeal is an inner movement catching up one's entire person.
    • Zeal is to give oneself trouble, to seek to do, to be concerned for.
    • Zeal connotes rapid and decisive movement in the interests of a cause or person.
    • Zeal is a serious preoccupation with something, and a willingness to involve oneself wholeheartedly in order to gain it or participate in it.
    • Zeal — if it is good-willed — may be described as an "emotional going out to" an idea, cause or person.
    • Zeal — where the goal of one's zeal is good — connotes enthusiastic diligence, eager and intense striving, and admiration, praise and glory.
    Sinful zeal -- as depicted in the three groups mentioned above -- has the ill-willed goal of depriving or destroying a person, or an object, or a cause.  Thus, in sinful zeal, one strives not to gain or earn the objective, but to possess it and dominate it. 

    To Be Continued ...

    Sunday, August 15, 2010

    9/11 - The Face of Christ

    I've been wanting to write something about the proposed mosque at Ground Zero, but my emotions have been running so high that I needed to calm down and collect some thoughts.

    9/11 was a horrific, brutal, cowardly attack on innocent people that was executed by zealots who gave the excuse that they were fulfilling God's will.  I cannot believe that they were truly convinced of this motivation, but rather they were primarily intent on fulfilling their own evil desires.

    For anyone to suggest that the people of New York are intolerant because they object to the placement of a mosque and Islamic center right on the perimeter of Ground Zero is an ignorant and malicious excuse for political demagoguery.  Are these politicians so obtuse or fearful that they cannot comprehend the insensitivity of placing an Islamic cultural center on the edge of this hallowed ground?

    Perhaps if they could be transported to that day to see it through the eyes of the people of New York they would understand.  Or, perhaps not.  Perhaps their only interest is to be admired by the world at the expense of the ordinary people who showed extraordinary courage, grit and bravery on that terrible sunny September day. 

    Perhaps if they could sit with the families who sat through the nights waiting for word on loved ones who were never to come home.  Or perhaps they could be with the firemen who were loading up with gear to go  into those buildings as everyone else was coming out.  Or perhaps they could be with the EMTs who were racing to the towers to care for the wounded, the burned, the dazed, the shocked and who never came out again.  Or they could stand with the priests who were granting absolution to groups of firemen as they stopped momentarily before going into the burning holocaust.

    Maybe they would understand if they had heard the mournful bagpipe day after day at the local parish as the rescuers were laid to rest.  Or if they sat in the church to watch the honor guard process in with the fireman's helmet because it was all that remained of him and there was no body to bury.

    Those firemen, EMTs, police officers and others were the face of Christ that day.  It was their Christian faith that imbued them with the spirit to live a life of sacrificial love.  They were not raised to ask first about a person's religion or ethnicity.  Their instinct was to care for others first and think about themselves later.  To imply anything different about the loved ones they left behind and their neighbors and friends in New York is beyond disgraceful.  Why is it that the ones who showed the care, the bravery, the generosity on that day and who continue to live with the pain, both physical and emotional, are now the ones who must defend themselves against charges of intolerance?  As the editors at National Review have written, "...America's tolerance is a matter of record."

    Judy Collins wrote a song about that day and the selfless sacrifice of the rescuers, entitled Kingdom Come :

    To Kingdom come, to hell and gone
    To somewhere far away
    Where murder doesn’t break the heart
    On a sunny day

    A burly man with a handsome face
    Stuck out his hand and smiled
    Say, meet my wife, we like your songs
    We’ve been with you mile for mile
    Though he had a rugged face
    I knew I saw the hurt
    Then he pointed to a spot above the collar of his shirt.”
    “Just look here on the back of my neck,
    There’s a tattoo, can you see?
    Just right here,” I got up close
    And saw the number 343,
    The number of the Firemen
    Who were lost upon that day
    The numbers of those heroes,
    Ground Zero was their grave

    To Kingdom come, to hell and gone

    To somewhere far away
    Where murder doesn’t break the heart
    On a sunny day

    Those firemen loaded up with gear

    Climbed to their deaths that day
    Along with all the other hundreds
    Blasted on their way
    Police and EMS and those
    On whom death took its toll
    And more whose dreams will never dawn,
    More than three thousand souls
    I left the party after that
    I could not stay my tears,
    For all our gifts for all our hopes
    For all our nameless fears
    For all our heroes, men and women
    Lost on that black day
    Those firemen with courage
    In their hearts so strong and brave,
    Who made sure in their final hours
    There were 30,000 saved.

    They’ve gone to where there are no tears

    And every heart is gay,
    And they won’t be forgotten on a sunny day

    To Kingdom come, to hell and gone

    To somewhere far away
    Where murder doesn’t break the heart
    On a sunny day

    Where murder doesn’t break the heart

    On a sunny day.


    Happy Anniversary

    I just noticed that it was one year ago, on August 12th, that the Catholic Jedi Academy opened its doors.  It's been an interesting and, at times, nerve wracking year.  But, if the only purpose of this Academy is to get the pearls of wisdom of our Assistant Headmaster, Father James Reynolds, out to a wider audience it is certainly worth the effort.  I consider myself to be his humble place holder while he creates the spiritual exhortations and explanations that are very much needed in our world today.  So, thanks for reading and, God willing, the Academy will continue to live long and prosper (oh wait, wrong fictional universe).  Well, you know what I mean.

    The Blessed Virgin And The Repairing Of Our Metaphysical Integrity

    At the beginning of the 1900s, it seemed like a non-stop series of horrible, evil events would be shaping the rest of the 20th Century.  
    • Between the years 1914 and 1918,  the First World War was waged, leaving 10 million dead!
    • The Russian Revolution in 1917 cost 40 million lives!
    • Between 1939 and 1945 came a Second World War, with 50 million dead in Europe. This included the Holocaust of 6 million Jews.
    • On August 6, 1945 the Atomic Bomb killed 140,000 Japanese in Hiroshima in one bombing!
    • Three days later, a second Atomic Bombing killed 74,000 in Nagasaki!
    In total: over 100,200,000 human beings -- that's one-hundred-million, two hundred thousand -- died during the first forty-five years of the 20th Century! 
    And there were also millions and millions of people who were wounded, tortured, psychologically traumatized, starved, wasted by disease, or maimed and left handicapped for life!  
    In the year 1950, unexpectedly,  Pope Pius XII solemnly declared, as a Doctrine of the Catholic Faith, that the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, was assumed bodily into Heaven and glorified by God.   Why did Pius XII officially define what Catholics had already believed for over 1,900 years?
    Perhaps -- in the aftermath of forty-five years of the horrible things wars had done to destroy or maim people --  Pius XII knew that the world needed to be made mindful about what the holy, assumed body of the Mother of God meant for ALL human beings.
    By Christ's Cross and Resurrection, the Risen, Glorified Life that our Blessed Mother enjoys right now can also be extended to us.   On the Day of the Resurrection of the Dead, we who have been faithful to Christ will also be taken up into Christ's Risen Life with our bodies glorified!
    Pius XII must have hoped that the Doctrine of Mary's Assumption would help deepen, within all people,  a holy respect  for every human person: Respect for their physical nature (their bodies) and their personhood from conception through adult life.  Perhaps Pius XII officially defined the authenticity of Mary's bodily Assumption into Heaven in order to inspire all people to compassionately care for those inflicted with illnesses, injuries, handicaps, and old age -- as Christ commanded us to.
    You see, because the Blessed Virgin Mary resisted all temptations to sin throughout her earthly existence -- at the moment of her death -- God preserved her body from decay and corruption: like the Body of her Son, Jesus.  Mary's body was assumed by God into Resurrected Life with her Son.  At death, our Blessed Mother – body and soul – immediately  passed from an earthly to a heavenly state of existence.
    Unfortunately for us, sin has taken its toll on our human physical nature.  Original Sin has deprived us of the metaphysical integrity between body and soul which God originally gave human beings.  Our bodies will undergo decay and corruption.  We will not pass immediately from an earthly to heavenly state within our bodies.  Our bodies will be raised at a later event, when the last day comes.  This is made possible because Our Lord Jesus’ death and rising from the dead compensate for what sin destroys in us! 
    The Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived without sin and selfishness, lived without sin and selfishness, and died without sin and selfishness.  This places our Blessed Mother Mary in a privileged position within God's Plan of Salvation for us: 
    • She can and does help us, pray for us, encourage us from Heaven.  
    • We have her messages from Lourdes, and Fatima, and most likely, Medjugorje.  
    • And we have her example.  Our Blessed Mother shows us how to respond to Jesus, her Son, God's Eternal Word made Flesh. 
    The Virgin Mother Of God, Mary -- now Queen of Heaven with a glorified body and soul --  teaches us from Heaven, how to RESPECT the LIFE, the BODY, and MIND of EVERY human person, from the pre-born infant to the very elderly.  Alleluia!

    Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy!
    Our life, our sweetness, and our hope!
    To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve,
    To thee do we send up our sighs,
    Mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
    Turn, then, most gracious advocate,
    thine eyes of mercy toward us.
    And after this, our exile,
    Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus!
    O clement, O loving, O sweet virgin Mary!
    Pray for us, O holy Mother of God:
    That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

    Feast of the Assumption

    "By contemplating Mary in heavenly glory, we understand that the earth is not the definitive homeland for us either, and that if we live with our gaze fixed on eternal goods we will one day share in this same glory and the earth will become more beautiful. Consequently, we must not lose our serenity and peace even amid the thousands of daily difficulties. The luminous sign of Our Lady taken up into Heaven shines out even more brightly when sad shadows of suffering and violence seem to loom on the horizon.
    "We may be sure of it: from on high, Mary follows our footsteps with gentle concern, dispels the gloom in moments of darkness and distress, reassures us with her motherly hand. Supported by awareness of this, let us continue confidently on our path of Christian commitment wherever Providence may lead us. Let us forge ahead in our lives under Mary's guidance".
    — Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience at Castel Gandolfo Aug. 16, 2006.

    Saturday, August 14, 2010

    St. Maximilian Kolbe

    How appropriate that the feast day of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe comes on the vigil of the great feast of the Assumption.  Father Kolbe, a Polish priest who gave his life for that of a fellow prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp, lived a life of devotion to the Blessed Mother. 

    In 1922 Father Kolbe began to print a newsletter called Knight of the Immaculata.  He also began a radio station.  He might be considered the patron saint of Catholic media. 

    St. Maximilian's life was greatly influenced by a childhood vision he had of the Virgin Mary:
    "That night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both."
    That act of submission was to be fulfilled at the concentration camp when Father Kolbe was sent to a starvation cell for three weeks with other prisoners.  When he was found to be still alive at the end of that time, the guards killed him with an injection of carbolic acid

    Father Kolbe's body was cremated on the Feast of the Assumption.

    Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!

    Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!
    Take a moment and visit the MOSJ website.