Monday, February 28, 2011

Hollywood - Named for "Holy Wood" of the Cross

Wow!  All I can say is just, "Wow!"  It never ever occurred to me that Hollywood a/k/a Tinseltown a/k/a Sodom and Gomorrah, was named after the "Holy Wood" of Christ's Cross.

Pat McNamara, another denizen of the Diocese of Brooklyn, writes about the first Hollywood priest, Father Daniel Murphy, on his blog "McNamara's Blog."  Pat explains how Fr. Murphy was ordained in Baltimore in 1899 and then shipped off to assist at the cathedral in Los Angeles.  After a four year stint at the cathedral, Father Murphy was then sent to run the parish of "Hollywood" where he built the church of St. Victor.  Hollywood had been established in 1769 when Holy Mass was offered by Fr. Junipero Sera, the friar who established the California missions. When a wooden cross was erected in the area, it was given the name "Hollywood".

Maybe there's still hope for Hollywood, having had such an auspicious foundation.  Read more of Pat McNamara's post here.  It's a fascinating look back at the history of a city that has drifted far from its Catholic roots.  And certainly a city for which the image of the holy cross is not the first image that comes to mind.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Said Musa Released from Prison

Said Musa, the Afghani man who was imprisoned for converting to Christianity, was released from prison this week according to news sources. reports that Musa was reunited with his wife and six children in a foreign country after numerous groups, including the U.S. State Department,  advocated for his release.

Musa was arrested back in 2010 when footage of a Christian worship service and baptism of converts was broadcast in Afghanistan.  It is hard for Americans to comprehend that the simple act of becoming a Christian can result in arrest in some parts of the world.  In our society, being a Christian is fairly ordinary.  The most we have to deal with lately is disdain.  However, that can change fairly quickly.  The fact that Mr. Musa and his fellow Afghans even decided to convert in their hostile surroundings was an incredible act of courage.

After his arrest, Musa was able to smuggle letters out of prison detailing his mistreatment.  This assisted in gaining notoriety for his case.  Other prisoners have not been so fortunate.   Shoaid Abadullah is a 23 year old Christian convert who is still in prison and facing the death penalty in Afghanistan.  According to he has been silenced and his case is not so well known.  Please keep him and the other Christians around the world who are being persecuted for the Faith in your prayers.  There are many of them.

Baby Joseph

There's a little baby in a Canadian hospital who suffers from a rare degenerative disease.   The hospital where he is being treated wants to remove his breathing tube which will, of course, lead to his demise.  The parents of 13 month old baby Joseph Maraachli are fighting the hospital and asking them to unhook his respirator and give the baby a tracheotomy so that they can take little Joseph home and care for him there.  His parents understand that he will not survive for an extended period of time, but they feel that it is their prerogative to take him home for the remainder of his time on Earth.

Unfortunately a Canadian court agreed with the hospital.

Baby Joseph's plight has been noticed and publicized by many of those active in the pro-life movement.  Terri Schiavo's family, who has certainly been in a similar situation, made the following statement:
"The Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network stands with the family of Baby Joseph Maraachli.  It is unacceptable for Canadian Health Allocation Officials and/or the Canadian government to make decisions for baby Joseph and his family. Every patient, regardless of age, has a right to proper and dignified health care. It is frightening to once again see government usurp the God given rights of parents to love and care for their child at home, especially when the child is dying.”   (Lifesite News)

The hospital claims that baby Joseph is in a vegetative state, however, they have also released a video that shows the baby responding to his parents.  In any case, the government should not impose its will on parents who want to care for their child.  Please keep Joseph and his parents in your prayers.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Priests Skiing in John Paul II Cup

Now this is fun.  Polish priests competing on skis for a trophy in the John Paul II Cup.  The competition was named after the beloved Pope because he used to ski.  The traditional opening run is made while wearing their black cassocks.

                              (Read the entire article at Catholic News Agency - CNA)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Polish Priest Murdered in Tunisia, Christian Tortured in Afghanistan for being Christian, ..Where is the outrage?

It seems that wherever there is turbulence in the world, you can be sure that Christians will be murdered.  The latest was in Tunisia where a Polish priest was killed today.  The 34 year old priest who worked at a school in the town of Manouba was found with multiple stab wounds and his throat was slit.

And in Afghanistan, a country where our soldiers are spilling their blood, a Christian is being held in prison for the crime of...being Christian.   National Review reports that while in prison, the man, Said Musa, has been tortured, beaten and defiled.  He was arrested when he converted to Christianity from Islam.  No lawyer would take his case.  Papers in Europe have reported on this abomination, but in the United States?  Not so much.  However, when a crazy pastor in Florida threatened to burn a Koran, the media uproar was intense.  Even the president and his cabinet hit the airwaves denouncing the planned act.

Mr. Musa has six children, was an Afghani soldier, is an amputee, and worked for the Red Cross helping other amputees.  The National Review report includes the following:
"Nobody [wanted to be my] defender before the court. When I said ‘I am a Christian man,’ he [a potential lawyer] immediately spat on me and abused me and mocked me. . . . I am alone between 400 [people with] terrible values in the jail, like a sheep.” He has been beaten, mocked, and subjected to sleep deprivation and sexual abuse while in prison. No Afghan lawyer will defend him and authorities denied him access to a foreign lawyer. Any and every human being who is imprisoned, abused, or tortured for the free and peaceful expression of their faith deserves our support, but Musa is also a remarkable person and Christian. In a letter smuggled to the West, he says, “The authority and prisoners in jail did many bad behaviour with me about my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, they did sexual things with me, beat me by wood, by hands, by legs, put some things on my head.”
He added a thing much more important to him, that they “mocked me ‘he’s Jesus Christ,’ spat on me, nobody let me for sleep night and day. . . . Please, please, for the sake of Lord Jesus Christ help me."
May God help him and all of our brothers and sisters who are being killed and tortured for the Faith.

Update:   Matt Archbold at Creative Minority Report is reporting that he received notice from Senator Richard Lugar's office that Mr. Musa may be released and freed to Pakistan where his family is living.  Keep praying!

Hallelujah! House Votes to Defund Planned Parenthood

In a momentous vote today, the House of Representatives voted to cut off federal funds to Planned Parenthood.  Lifesite News reports that the vote was 248-185 in favor of Congressman Mike Pence's amendment to the 2011 Federal Spending bill.  

One of the great defenders of life in Congress, Rep. Chris Smith said:

"Despite the best and slickest market branding money can buy, the stubborn fact remains that Planned Parenthood clinics are among the most dangerous places on earth for a child.  Not only does Planned Parenthood vigorously lobby and litigate against parental notification and consent laws—thus enabling secret abortions for very, very young girls—but now we‘ve learned from recent undercover taped investigations at several of its clinics ... that Planned Parenthood employees were found to be more than eager to assist people posing as sex traffickers to procure abortions for underage girls.”

Of course the folks at Planned Parenthood and NARAL are foaming at the mouth over the impending cut off of funding.  What they seem to be missing is that the youth of the nation along with those who are suffering the effects of an abortion are rising up to insist on the protection of life.  It certainly seems that the tide is beginning to turn.  Of course, we need to keep up the prayers.  The evil one has his claws in this issue and he won't go down without a fight.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Joyful Sisters

Last weekend I had the privilege of going on retreat at the retreat house of the Sisters of Life near Stamford, Connecticut.  The house itself is beautiful, set on an expansive piece of property in a beautiful New England setting.  According to the sisters it was once owned by the writer Henry James and then by former ambassador Clare Booth Luce.  The Knights of Columbus who own the property, gave it over to the Sisters to run as a retreat house, unknowingly fulfilling a wish of Cardinal O'Connor.  It was the same Cardinal O'Connor, archbishop of New York, who founded the Sisters of Life as a community dedicated to upholding the sanctity of all human life.

Once we arrived at the house, which is called the Villa Maria Guadalupe, we learned that it was to be a silent retreat.  Some things are better left as a surprise.  And, honestly, it is a beautiful thing to have silence for extended periods of time, especially in this day and age of constant noise.  As the Old Testament relates, God comes to us in a still small voice.  But, as someone who is used to noise, it is a little unsettling at first to think of two days of silence.

While bereft of chatter, the weekend was full of warmth and encouragement.  The Sisters gave spiritual talks, wonderful priests came in to hear confessions, Holy Mass was offered, and the Blessed Sacrament was exposed throughout for Adoration.  Fifty women were blessed with two days of time alone with the Lord.  I am so grateful to the sisters for this gift.

God is good in calling these new orders into being to fulfill a need in time.  The joy, humor, devotion and loveliness of the Sisters of Life can only succeed in bringing light to a world that is slipping into darkness.  May the Lord continue to bless them with new vocations. 

                                 (photo:  National Post)

Email From An Atheist

Indiana Atheists' Bus Campaign in April 2009

Several days ago, I received an anonymous email for the Catholic Jedi Academy.  The email was sent through an unregistered version of Atomic Mail Sender.  The email was from an organization run by Atheists, "Good Without God."  They must be trawling the web collecting site names containing "Catholic" to bombard them with their insulting, empty, pseudo-intellectual hatred.  Here's what it said:
From an Atheist :
"There is a growing movement. It is the people who do not believe in organized religion or the gods they try to force on others. Our country was not created to be a christian nation. People can lead happy and meaningful lives without religious dogma. If you have had doubts, you are not alone. If you have outgrown fairy-tales, you are not alone."
Then came some links to Atheist websites and podcasts, followed by:
"Remember, many people are living just fine without any belief in an invisible man lurking in the sky. To find other Atheists, go to facebook [sic] and search the word Atheist."
I decided not to personally respond to this email.  Instead, here's a response from someone more eloquent than I.
There are nocturnal birds, such as the owl and the little owl, whose eye is made to see in the dark of night, not in the day. The light of the sun would blind them. These birds know everything and move at ease in the nocturnal world, but know nothing of the daytime world. Let us adopt for the moment the genre of the fable, where the animals speak among themselves. Lets suppose that an eagle makes friends with a family of little owls and speaks to them of the sun: of how it illuminates everything, of how, without it, everything would fall into darkness and cold, of how their nocturnal world itself would not exist without the sun. What would the little owl answer other than: "What you say is nonsense! I've never seen your sun. We move very well and get our food without it; your sun is a useless theory and therefore it doesn't exist." 
It is exactly what the atheist scientist does when he says: "God doesn't exist." They judge a world they do not know, applies their laws to an object that is beyond their scope. To see God one must open a different eye, one must venture outside the night. In this connection, still valid is the ancient affirmation of the Psalmist: "The fool says: there is no God."
Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap: December 3, 2010: First Advent Homily: The Christian Answer to Atheist Scientism "WHEN I LOOK AT THY HEAVENS, THE MOON AND THE STARS, WHAT IS MAN?" (PSALM 8:4-5)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Off to a Retreat

I'm off to a weekend retreat with the Sisters of Life.  I'll keep one and all in my prayers.  Can't think of a better place to be than praying with the Sisters!

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Canons - Heavy Artillery of the Church Militant

                                   (American Canons Regular of Klosterneuberg, Austria)

Did you ever have one of those days when the same topic keeps popping up in different ways, thereby giving you the idea that you're supposed to be paying attention?  Well that happened to me today concerning the monastic life and the Church.  Specifically, those priests who are known as Canons (They're not monks, but they spring from monasticism, following the Rule of St. Augustine).

Never heard of a Canon?  Well neither did I until recently, but then, like I said, they kept popping up in my reading, in my studying, in my Twitter account. 

First, I've been listening to the outstanding series of talks provided for free download by the Institute of Catholic Culture.  (Never heard of them?  Well, go immediately and book mark their site.  You will not regret it).  Anyway, I'm listening today to a series of three talks on Monasticism by Father William Fitzgerald who is a Canon Regular of St. Norbert (the Norbertines).  He explains in these talks that  Canon Regulars are priests who live together around a particular church or cathedral and have vowed to renounce private wealth.  This rule was first established by St. Augustine.

The term "Canon" rings a bell because a couple of months ago, I read in the Long Island Catholic that three Canons Regular of St. Augustine from Klosterneuberg, Austria, were coming to staff  parishes in the Rockville Centre diocese.  While the Canons will live in common, they will run different parishes.  One of the men described the difference between the Canons Regular and diocesan priests:
The most significant difference, he said, is that as members of a religious order they live in community and take vows of obedience, chastity, common property and stability.

"People shouldn’t be worried. We are not like monks who are set apart. We are not going to form a community hidden from the parish. We want to share with the faithful and the clergy in the diocese our way and offer it to them as a model."
One example is that the canons pray the Divine Office communally. Diocesan priests also say these prayers daily, but usually in private. "We will invite everyone to join us. Our communal prayer will be open to all the faithful.”
Next, when I get home from work,  I go on the Academy's Twitter account, and what do I see?   A tweet from Magnificat Magazine saying, "look at our new cover art."  And, where do you think their new cover art came from?  That's right, Klosterneuberg in Austria, home of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine.  The cover is a beautiful altarpiece created in 1181 by the goldsmith  Nicholas of Verdun.

But wait, there's more.  As I read further in the Twitter account I find a tweet from Zenit, the Italian Catholic news agency stating, "First Norbertine Female Canonry Established in United States."  That's right, today, February 7th, in the diocese of Fresno was established the first U.S. branch of the feminine order of the Norbertines.  The Canonesses' (that's what they're called) press release states the following:
 ... liturgical prayer "is the essence and heart of their vocation, interceding for the needs of the Church and the world day and night during Holy Mass, the liturgy of the hours, and their other community and private prayers."
For this reason, the members of this order are called canons and canonesses to signify their vocation and mission "for the solemn and reverential celebration of the sacred liturgy."
I don't know about you, but I feel better already about the Church militant here on earth...we've got Canons on the front lines.  We can all sleep easier.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Follow Pope Benedict on Twitter!

I didn't realize that the Holy Father was tweeting.  But I just went onto the Acadmey's Twitter account and we were given a few recommendations of who to follow.  One of them was Pope Benedict XVI.  How could we not?  And, it pretty much goes without saying that his tweets are worth reading.  No fluff about the weather in Vatican City or what he had for breakfast.  Although, how much fun would that be to read a little light news from the Holy Father?  Here is the link to his Twitter account:  Benedict XVI.

I think I'm going to go now and re-tweet one of his posts.

Update:  I just noticed that he hasn't posted a tweet in over one year.  I guess the Holy Father has been busy with other things, like dissenting theology professors!

Ho-Hum, German Theologians Call for End to Church Disciplines and Teaching (Again)

Last Friday, the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung reported that one third of the theology professors in Germany, Austria and Switzerland signed a document demanding an end to mandatory celibacy in the Church.  They also demanded that the Church ordain women and that the laity have a greater role in selecting bishops.  Didn't this happen once before? Say, back in the 1500's when another dissenting priest provided all of them with the option of selecting a different church if they were really unhappy?  But, if they deserted the one true Church, who would provide them with work as dissenting theologians?

The more things change...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

How Sad: Children of Artificial Conception Share Their Painful Stories

The Church teaches that In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is wrong.  Many consider this teaching to be hurtful and uncaring toward those who are not able to conceive a child.  Perhaps those who disagree with the Church on this point should read the personal reflections of the children who have been conceived through anonymous donor programs.  The website "The Anonymous Us Project" provides a space for those children to share their stories and their pain.   Here are a couple of excerpts:

I am a human being, yet I was conceived with a technique that had its origins in animal husbandry. Worst of all, farmers kept better records of their cattle's genealogy than assisted reproductive clinics had kept for the donor conceived people of my era. It also made me feel strange to think that my genes were spliced together from two people who were never in love, never danced together, had never even met one another.
And another:
My mother said the only way to unlock the donor records was if I were to get a terminal illness, since having my father's medical information could help the doctors treat me. It turns out she was wrong about that -- there was no way to find out the identity of my "donor" under any circumstances. According to the office where my mother was inseminated, her records had already been destroyed by the time she told me this story. But I don't think either of us knew that at the time. A fact I've never told anyone else until now is that I prayed for a disease that would allow me to unlock the file that I imagined would tell me who my father was and what siblings I had. I prayed for it every night for I'm not sure how long -- at least a few weeks, but it seemed like a few months -- as I cried myself to sleep.
 I found out about the Anonymous Us Project through a post by Fr. Tim Finigan at the Hermeneutic of Continuity.  Father Finigan points out that the 1987 Vatican document Donum Vitae asserts that one of the moral wrongs associated with IVF is that it deprives a child of a "filial relationship" with its parents.  The child does not know its father or, possibly, even its mother. 

Just recently while waiting on line at the supermarket I caught sight of the cover of a magazine showing the singer Elton John and his boyfriend with "their" new baby.  What a tragedy.  They have no right to that child.  A child is not a trophy.  A child is not a pet.  A child is a human being who should not knowingly and willingly be deprived of a mother and a father.  At times it happens that a child is left without parents due to death, accident or some other difficult situation.  To "manufacture" children to fulfill the desires and whims of those who cannot conceive naturally is completely immoral and puts the needs of the child way below the desires of the adults.  We live in a very selfish culture.  Unfortunately, children seem to take the brunt of it.  The stories at "Anonymous Us" bear this out.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Egypt: Haven for the Holy Family

Egypt is in the new these days.  Lost of unrest, uncertainty, violence, and fear.

Did you know that a little over a year ago there were reports of the Virgin Mary appearing above the dome of a Coptic Christian church near Cairo?  I don't remember hearing anything about it, but it only took a little digging to find this post by Rod Dreher at Beliefnet and this post at the LA Times Middle East blog.  The LA Times piece includes the following:
Hundreds, if not thousands, have been lining up for hours every night at the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church in a Cairo neighborhood just off the Nile. Many of them claim that a mysterious light hovering above the church's domes is an apparition of the Virgin Mary who will bring Christian Copts prosperity and relief in a time of national and religious struggle.
The crowds began appearing Thursday evening when a number of residents spotted a flickering light. No one was sure where the illumination was coming from, and word quickly spread that the light took the shape of the Virgin Mary wearing a blue gown and standing in the sky between the church's two high crosses.
Copts form 10% of Egypt's population of 80 million, and many firmly believe that this is the fourth time an apparition of Virgin Mary has taken place. The most famous incident was claimed to have happened in 1968, a few months after the country's military defeat at the hands of Israel and the latter's occupation of the Sinai peninsula.
At the time, some people assumed that she has appeared to help Egypt -- a predominantly Muslim nation -- through a time of crisis. Some Copts believe the Virgin is again appearing at a time of turmoil. There has been no official word from the Coptic Church.
"I had a seven-hour train journey to come and see the apparition," Magdi Sam'aan, a farmer from Asyut told The Times. "Our life in upper Egypt is very rough because of my limited income, but I believe the Virgin Mary has come at this specific moment to lend me and the whole country a hand."
I had heard of the appearance of Mary in the little town of Zeitoun, Egypt during the years 1968 to 1970.  Many people reported seeing her there, Muslim and Christian alike.  Those apparitions were approved by the Coptic hierarchy, and reportedly also by the local Catholic bishop (see this article).

There were also reports of an apparition in September 2000 in a town 300 miles south of Cairo.  The local priest said the sightings were a blessing (BBC article) and thousands came to the town, again both Muslim and Christian.  Bishop Mark Hanna, said the Virgin Mary came to the town of Assuit because that was were the Holy Family stayed during their flight into Egypt (ABC news report).

I often forget the connection between Egypt and the Holy Family and how that country  provided them with safe haven as they fled from the murderous regime of Herod.  I would imagine that the Blessed Mother would have a special place in her heart for those people who sheltered her and her beloved husband and divine son.  It's a place where they found peace.  Interestingly, all of the reported apparitions in Egypt include the appearance of luminescent white birds, the doves of peace.

Here is a video of the most recent alleged apparitions.  See what you think:

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.