Tuesday, June 30, 2009

An urgent appeal for the truth by Leticia Velasquez

Here is important news from Leticia Velasquez's Cause of Our Joy blog

This piece of news is a bombshell for those of us who love someone with Down syndrome. Right after we rejoiced that the Prenatally Diagnosed Condtions Awareness Act passed last October, the American College of Obstetricians, American College of Medical Genetics, and National Society of Genetic Counselors had a quiet meeting with National Down Syndrome Society and National Down syndrome Congress, at the University of South Carolina to agree on improving information given to parents expecting children with DS. Information has always been the ally of life. We are in favor of doctors and genetic counselors finally receiving some training about the positive aspects of life with Trisomy 21 as Dr Brian Skotko so eloquently expressed in this testimony before Congress at a meeting of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus last February.So far, great, right?But the document entitled "Toward Concurrence" didn't stop there. They denied the 90% abortion rate of DS children and that prenatal testing and genetic counseling were done to seek and destroy our precious children with DS. Have you ever seen it for any other reason? Then they took the absurdly unecessary step of saying that NDSS AND NSDC weren't pro-life. No kidding!I am preparing a press release to respond to these groups who have drawn a line in the sand by denying their help to unborn individuals with Trisomy 21 and their famlies (see attached).We MUST get this in front of the media. Please help me.I will do anything I can to help this reach the public before this type of poisonous lie becomes part of our nationalized health care system. Dr Jerome Lejeune, the French scientist who discovered the cause of Trisomy 21 devoted the rest of his life to find a cure for Down syndrome, for as he said, "If we don't find a cure, there won't be any left".Let honor his heroic efforts by declaring the awful truth of the holocaust of 90% of unborn babies with Down syndrome.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Rose and the Beetle

I was walking through the Brookdale Park Rose Garden this afternoon when I came upon this pretty rose. When I looked closer, I noticed a beetle resting comfortably on the lower petal. Now, I think this is a Japanese Beetle. These little guys not only want to rest on the rose, they want to eat it! If the gardener shows up and spots this beetle on the rose, the beetle is fertilizer! So, I took a quick shot with my camera, and walked away quietly, whispering to the beetle, Bon Appétit...

Evidence Points to Authenticity of St. Paul's Tomb

A Reading from the Second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy

I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.

The Lord stood by me and gave me strength,
so that through me the proclamation might be completed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.
And I was rescued from the lion's mouth.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat
and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom.
To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

I grabbed the following article today from ZENIT. The Vatican completed a scientific test on what is believed to be the remains of the Apostle Paul. The results seem to conclude that the remains belong to the 13th Apostle. How wonderful! This is good news for all Christian pilgrims who travel to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. To know that this is truly the resting place of Paul will surely help us in our meditation and contemplation of this great saint, bringing us closer to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Evidence Points to Authenticity of St. Paul's Tomb. Pope Says Scientific Analysis Seems to Confirm Tradition

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 28, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The tomb of St. Paul may indeed contain the remains of the Apostle of the Gentiles, Benedict XVI affirmed in his homily at the closing of the Year of St. Paul.

The Pope presided at first vespers this evening for the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, which marked the conclusion of the Pauline Year. The celebration took place at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, where it has traditionally been believed St. Paul was buried.

"An authentic scientific analysis" conducted on the sarcophagus conserved in the basilica, the Holy Father said, "seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul."

"A tiny hole was drilled into the sarcophagus -- which over many centuries had never been opened -- in order to insert a special probe, which revealed traces of costly purple colored linen fabric, laminated with pure gold and a blue fabric with linen filaments," Benedict XVI explained.

"Grains of red incense and protein and chalk substances were also discovered," he continued. "There were also tiny bone fragments, which were sent for carbon-14 testing by experts who were unaware of their origin. These were discovered to belong to a person who had lived between the first and second centuries."

St. Paul is said to have been beheaded at Aquas Salvias -- where the Church of Tre Fontane was then erected -- while he was buried at the place where the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls now stands, and where two basilicas -- one ordered by Emperor Constantine and the other the so-called basilica of the "Three Emperors" (Theodosius, Valentinian II and Arcadius) -- were constructed during the fourth century.

Despite the fact that the original tomb of St. Paul had been the object of profound devotion on the part of pilgrims from the beginning, over the centuries it disappeared from view and eventually could no longer be identified.

During the reconstruction of the basilica, which had been destroyed by a fire in 1823, two marble plaques dating from the time of Pope Leo the Great (440-461), which contained the barely visible inscription "Paolo Apostolo Mart" ("Paul the Apostle Martyr"), were discovered beneath the "confessio" altar.

The first archaeological inspections, which took place in 2002-2003 in the area of the "confessio," permitted the identification of the remains of the Constantinian and Theodosian basilicas.

Between May 2 and Nov. 17, 2006 excavations were carried out that brought to light a marble sarcophagus 2.5 meters long and about 1.2 meters long, which rested on layer of clay floor dating from 390, the time during which the Constantinian basilica was expanded.

Beginning in 2007, visitors were allowed to enter below the basilica's altar to pray before the tomb of the Apostle


* Top left image: Martyrdom of St. Paul in Rome by beheading. Detail of Peter and Paul Window in the ambulatory of Bourges Cathedral, dating from c.1215-25.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Simon Clayton, my Godson

This is my Godson, Simon Clayton. Simon is a graduate of St. Benedict's Preparatory school in Newark, New Jersey, now attending St. Vincent's College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Simon is an extraordinary young man and a very talented singer, and a friend of Francis Cardinal Arinze! A few years ago I was invited by Simon to a special Holy Mass at St. Benedict's Prep. When I arrived Simon wanted me to meet a good friend of his. When I walked into the Chapel, who was there waiting to meet me but the Cardinal himself. The Cardinal was very kind to me, very interested in my various ministries. Maybe someday I will be able to say that I shook hands with a Pope!

Here is a piece of music you are all familiar with, Simon Clayton singing with the St. Vincent's choir. click on the titled link below....

St. Vincent's choir with Simon Clayton

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Amnesty International continues its promotion of abortion

Webster's definition of "Amnesty" is as follows: "the act of an authority (as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals". It seems that Amnesty International does not deem the "unborn" worthy of pardon. People of life will be hard pressed to support this organization.

The following artilce was posted today on Catholic News Agency.com.

New York City, N.Y., Jun 27, 2009 / 05:04 pm (CNA).- Amnesty International has continued its promotion of abortion with a report on the state of human rights which criticizes Poland for denying Polish women “access to abortion.” The organization’s actions could reflect its partnership with a pro-abortion group to redefine abortion as a “human right.”

The Amnesty International (AI) 2009 report’s entry on Poland cites May 2008 criticism of its abortion policy by the Human Rights Council, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) reports.

Amnesty also criticized the Polish government for failing to implement the European Court of Human Rights’ 2007 ruling in the case Tysiac v. Poland, which declared a duty to “establish effective mechanisms for ensuring women have access to abortion where it is legal.”

The Tysiac v. Poland case resulted in a 25,000 Euro fine against the Polish government in favor of a severely myopic woman who claimed she would go blind if she could not get an abortion.

According to C-FAM, critics of the ruling say the woman’s claims were unsupported by the facts and the court ignored the opinions of eight experts, several of whom were medical specialists, who concluded there was no connection between her pregnancy and her condition.

Judge Javier Borrego Borrego of Spain wrote in his dissent in Tysiac v. Poland that the majority relied on the “isolated and muddled” opinion of a single general practitioner.

“By trumpeting decisions like Tysiąc and statements emanating from United Nations agencies to advance a global abortion agenda, Amnesty International has adopted a strategy originally spearheaded by pro-abortion public interest law firm Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR),” C-FAM charged in a Thursday press release.

Susan Yoshihara, a C-FAM official, reported that at the 2007 Women Deliver Conference in London, Amnesty International’s “reproductive rights” coordinator Stephanie Schlitt committed the group to partnering with CRR to make abortion recognized as a “human right” through litigation.

Yoshihara described Schlitt’s strategy as relying in part upon arguing that such a right could be found in existing human rights treaties. Even though such treaties are silent on abortion, she said, skillful advocacy could help sway United Nations officials and global jurists to recognize such a right.

Amnesty International, which was founded by a Catholic convert, took no position on abortion until in July of 2007 it began officially advocating for it as a “human right” in certain cases. The switch caused Catholics around the world, including some bishops, to cancel their membership in Amnesty.

C-FAM says that some critics see a growing trend of “human rights” groups seeking to impose abortion obligations on countries.


Morning thought...

It is a quiet Saturday morning. I will be leaving in a few minutes to attend Holy Mass at the Missionaries of Charity Chapel. I was sitting here thinking - it is time for me to rest. It has been a long work season. Here are a few images from St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. I won't be going there until October, but this quiet place is always with me...

God, I hear you in the waters of the stream.
Let the music of the running water bring me to a quiet contemplation.

God, your Abbey is a welcoming place.
Thank for your kindness.
As the birds find rest here,
so shall You bring me to rest.
To this place of peace.

* all images @bjm

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Goodbye to the King of Pop

Today we all heard the sad news of Michael Jackson's passing. When you grow up with someone, and they die, you feel as though a piece of your own life has been taken away. I grew up with the Beatles and I grew up with Michael Jackson, watching him and his brothers on our black and white TV, so many years ago.

The Jackson 5 - They sang the songs that I can't forget, "I want you back", "I'll be there"... then Michael struck out on his own - making great records like "Off the Wall", and maybe the biggest selling album ever - "Thriller." Thriller was and is an awesome album, featuring that scary character,Vincent Price! And Michael's gift of dancing, all you can say is -WOW-. Michael had passion. Do you remember the tribute he did for Sammy Davis Jr.? Find it on YouTube... you won't be sorry.

Of course, we all know of the controversy - but that has been put to rest, only God can judge. We can not deny that Michael Jackson was a great dancer and singer. And we have been blessed to be alive to witness his art.

Tonight there will be video clips of Michael Jackson dancing and singing all over the Internet and TV. I decided to post a video featuring my favorite Michael Jackson song the "Man in the Mirror." You won't see any images of Michael in this video. Just some images to help us look at the "man in the mirror", and know that he has to change his ways.

Need Washing?

My good friend Jorge just emailed to me this very beautiful reflection. And it's about rain! Remember my post last evening? All about the rain.

NEED WASHING?? A little girl had been shopping with her Mom in Target.. She must have been 6 years old, this beautiful red haired, freckle faced image of innocence. It was pouring outside. The kind of rain that gushes over the top of rain gutters, so much in a hurry to hit the earth it has no time to flow down the spout. We all stood there under the awning and just inside the door of the Target.

We waited, some patiently, others irritated because nature messed up their hurried day. I am always mesmerized by rainfall. I got lost in the sound and sight of the heavens washing away the dirt and dust of the world. Memories of running, splashing so carefree as a child came pouring in as a welcome reprieve from the worries of my day.

The little voice was so sweet as it broke the hypnotic trance we were all caught in 'Mom let's run through the rain,' she said.
'What?' Mom asked.

'Let's run through the rain!' She repeated

'No, honey. We'll wait until it slows down a bit,' Mom replied.

This young child waited about another minute and repeated: 'Mom, let's run through the rain,'

'We'll get soaked if we do,' Mom said.

'No, we won't, Mom.. That's not what you said this morning,' the young girl said as she tugged at her Mom's arm.

This morning? When did I say we could run through the rain and not get wet?

'Don't you remember? When you were talking to Daddy about his cancer, you said, 'If God can get us through this, he can get us through anything!'

The entire crowd stopped dead silent. I swear you couldn't hear anything but the rain. We all stood silently. No one came or left in the next few minutes.
Mom paused and thought for a moment about what she would say. Now some would laugh it off and scold her for being silly. Some might even ignore what was said. But this was a moment of affirmation in a young child's life. A time when innocent trust can be nurtured so that it will bloom into faith.

'Honey, you are absolutely right. Let's run through the rain. If GOD let's us get wet, well maybe we just needed washing,' Mom said.

Then off they ran. We all stood watching, smiling and laughing as they darted past the cars and yes, through the puddles. They held their shopping bags over their heads just in case. They got soaked. But they were followed by a few who screamed and laughed like children all the way to their cars.

And yes, I did. I ran. I got wet. I needed washing.

Circumstances or people can take away your material possessions, they can take away your money, and they can take away your health. But no one can ever take away your precious memories...So, don't forget to make time and take the opportunities to make memories everyday. To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. I HOPE YOU STILL TAKE THE TIME TO RUN THROUGH THE RAIN.

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to forget them.

Take the time to live!!!

Keep in touch with your friends, you never know when you'll need each other -- and don't forget to run in the rain!

Senator John Kerry - A Real classy Guy....

The Catholic? Senator John Kerry is now a comedian - maybe he should get his own talk show, right after Letterman.

I just grabbed this article from Boston Herald.com:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. John Kerry must have been channeling his inner Letterman yesterday.

The Bay State senator was telling a group of business and civic leaders in town at his invitation about the “bizarre’’ tale of how South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford had “disappeared for four days’’ and claimed to be hiking along the Appalachian Trail, but no one was really certain of his whereabouts.

“Too bad,’’ Kerry said, “if a governor had to go missing it couldn’t have been the governor of Alaska. You know, Sarah Palin.’’
The Democratic-centric crowd laughed.

Of course, Kerry couldn’t know that 24-hours later the Sanford story would get even stranger when the Republican governor confessed he had actually been in Argentina over Father’s Day weekend – a long, long way from the Appalachian Trail – and with his paramour, no less.

So if Palin is keeping count of potential GOP presidential rivals, well, another one just bit the dust.

Kerry and David Letterman will just have to cope with that.

By Rachelle Cohen

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's always raining, isn't it...

It's always raining, isn't it. At least it is here in New Jersey. Every day - maybe a glimpse of sky in the morning, but then it's gone. It's like our world, maybe at times we see a glimmer of peace, then it's gone. I'm tired now - a long day is done - and I hear thunder in the distance, like cannons.

Pray for peace, pray for Iran, pray for us.

Everybody's thinking about the rain,

Wonder if the sun is gonna come again,Things are looking bad,

Everybody in the world, in the world's looking so sad,
Everybody's thinking about the storm,
Wonder where all the good weather's gone,

Things are looking bad,
Everybody in the world, in the world's looking so sad,
Tell me if I got to build a boat to carry us to sea,
Tell me what the shape of it will be,
Tell me if it's gonna be a home for every kind of beast,
Tell me who the lucky ones would be,
Tell me if you gotta build a world,
What that world would be,
If we're gonna build it well enough for thee,
Tell me if it's gonna be a home for all humanity,
Will it be believers with me...

Everybody's thinking about the flood,
Wonder if the water's gonna turn to blood,

Things are looking bad,
Everybody in the world, in the world's looking so sad,
Everybody's thinking about the rain

Jewish pressure an obstacle for Pius XII Canonization?

Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli, Pope Pius XII. Papacy began March 2, 1939 - ended October 8, 1958.

Pope Pius XII is known for the rebuilding of post war Europe, advocating peace and reconciliation, including lenient policies toward vanquished nations and the unification of Europe.

Sister Margherita Marchione, a sister with the Religious Teachers Filippini, has been and is a staunch defender of this controversial Pope. Sister Margherita, and many other Catholics, is convinced of this Pope's worthiness for beatification and canonization. Now we hear that Jewish pressure may be an obstacle.

The following article is By Sarah Delaney , Catholic News Service:

Pope Pius XII promoter says Jewish pressure an obstacle to sainthood

ROME (CNS) -- A top proponent of the beatification of Pope Pius XII said Pope Benedict XVI has not moved the cause forward because Jewish groups have warned it would permanently damage Catholic-Jewish relations.

Jesuit Father Peter Gumpel said Pope Benedict has not given the green light to proceed with the controversial beatification, a major step toward sainthood, because he was concerned about the warnings by the World Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League and other groups.

After Father Gumpel spoke, the Vatican swiftly issued a statement saying that the pope alone is in a position to determine the progress of the cause and that any interference was "unjustified and inopportune."

Speaking at a Vatican bookstore in Rome June 19, Father Gumpel said Pope Benedict has not signed the decree recognizing the heroic virtues of Pope Pius XII because representatives of several Jewish groups have told him "loud and clear" that "if you do the least thing in favor of the cause of Pius XII, relations between the Catholic Church and the Jews are definitively and permanently compromised."

Pope Pius has been criticized by many Jews and some historians who say he did not speak out forcefully enough against Nazi Germany and the deportation and extermination of millions of European Jews in World War II.

Defenders say Pope Pius did all he could by encouraging Catholic institutions to hide Jews from Nazi persecution, and that an open clash with the Germans under Adolf Hitler would have resulted in many more deaths.

Distancing the Vatican from Father Gumpel's declarations, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said late June 19 that "signing the decrees regarding beatifications are the exclusive competence of the pope, who must be left totally free in his evaluations and decisions."

"If the pope thinks that more study and reflection on the cause of Pius XII is required," the statement continued, "this position must be respected without unjustified and inopportune interference."

Statements by Father Gumpel, a German who said that as a boy he knew the future Pope Pius when he served as papal nuncio to Germany and who has worked enthusiastically on the sainthood cause for decades, have prompted clarification by the Vatican in the past.

When his most recent statements caused a stir in the media, Father Gumpel said he had been misinterpreted.

During the bookstore conference June 19, Father Gumpel said he has a good relationship with Pope Benedict and did not judge him negatively for his position, "which I understand." The current pontiff, he said, "wants to do everything he can to promote better relations with Jews, and this is very admirable."

Still, he said, he thought it was time that "these people change, the attacks stop and we make them realize that they are mistaken and that Pius XII did much for the Jews."

However, Rabbi Riccardo di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, told the Italian news agency ANSA June 19, "I doubt that the responsibility lies with the Jewish associations that have expressed reservations regarding the beatification of Pius XII."

The rabbi said he believed the delay is the result of "an internal problem of the church, first of all. Evidently this is something burdensome that divides the church itself."

Father Gumpel said all the necessary documents for the beatification of Pope Pius had been gathered by the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes by 2004. Subsequent evaluations by historians, theologians and a panel of cardinals and bishops, he said, had resulted in the "enthusiastically positive" recommendation to proceed with the advancement of the beatification process.

Verification of a miracle attributed to Pope Pius cannot go ahead until the signing of the decree recognizing the pope lived the Christian virtues heroically, he said, adding that there are a number of allegedly miraculous healings waiting to be evaluated by medical authorities.

Progress with the cause also has been hindered by ideologically motivated media, he said, but "things are changing, and I hope that the Holy Father realizes this and signs the decree."

Pope Benedict, he said, "has great admiration for Pius XII; he knows he saved hundreds of thousands of Jews and wants the procedure to continue."

"When it will happen, I don't know; we are not in a hurry," said Father Gumpel. "Sooner or later, the beatification and then the canonization will go through."

In October 2008, Father Lombardi issued a statement requesting a halt to all pressure on Pope Benedict regarding Pope Pius, whether for or against the sainthood cause. He was prompted by a statement by Father Gumpel who said that a visit to Israel by Pope Benedict "would be a scandal for Catholics" because of a critical caption on a photograph of Pope Pius in the museum of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.

Father Gumpel said that when the pope visited the memorial in May he did not enter the museum where the photograph with the "scandalous" caption is displayed. "He visited the monument to the victims of the Shoah, and this was admirable," Father Gumpel said. "But he didn't set foot in the room with the photograph, because if he had Catholics would never have forgiven him."


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Where Are the Voices of Faith About Iran?

Writer Jeffrey Weiss, a contributor to Politics Daily, writes an editorial questioning the silence of religious leaders during this Iranian crisis. Mr. Weiss sources AP and the Jewish Journal to make his point. I wonder, have you heard your priest in the pulpit speaking out about the present situation in Iran?

Watching the TV and Internet as events spin wildly in Iran, I went searching for what I was sure would be religious institutional voices weighing in. I've mostly come up dry. Usually such hugely public events mean that my e-box fills with official statements from the broad spectrum of institutional religion. So far I've seen nothing. So I went searching. I've done Internet news searches for "Iran" and a bunch of other religious terms: "Bishop" and "Catholic" and "Baptist" and "pastor" and "rabbi."

Aside from the leaders of a few U.S. congregations that include Iranian immigrants, I'm finding nothing.

Here's an AP story about Iranian Christian churches. They're praying.

And here is a blog post by the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles about a rabbi who leads a congregation with many Iranian families. He gave a sermon Saturday saying that "the events unfolding in Iran echo the Biblical promise of freedom."

There's nothing on the website of the Southern Baptist Convention. Understandable, perhaps, because the SBC's annual convention is set to begin in Louisville this week and pretty much anybody important is in transit.

The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops is similarly silent. That body's semi-annual meeting just ended a few days ago, so maybe they too are in transit.

United Methodist Church, Union for Reform Judaism, Committee on American-Islamic Relations, Unitarian Universalists. These are all folks who usually jump pretty fast to take stands. All silent thus far.

Maybe nobody knows what to say that would be remotely useful. I know that's where I stand. It's thrilling to see so many people willing to risk their lives for freedom. But Tiananmen Square taught the world (if the lesson really needed repeating) who wins in a battle between civilians and a government that's willing to use whatever force is needed to maintain control.

Would statements from American religious leaders help or hurt?

Jeffrey Weiss is an award-winning reporter who covered the ins and outs of faith 'n values for more than a decade for the Dallas Morning


Cartoons can be Worth a Thousand Words

* Cartoon by Michael Ramirez

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pope Benedict visits the Tomb of St. Padre Pio

When I was a young boy attending Catholic grammar school, I remember clearly the sisters speaking to my classmates and me about a special priest who lived in Italy who was blessed with the "stigmata." Not understanding the meaning of "stigmata", the sisters went into detail how the wounds of Christ were manifested on the body of this priest. It was very mysterious. A few years ago I read a biography of Padre Pio - I found it fascinating. Yesterday Pope Benedict XVI visited the tomb of this great saint.

This article was posted today by the Catholic News Service:

Pope visits tomb of St. Padre Pio, asks priests to imitate him.

SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO, Italy (CNS) -- St. Padre Pio's devotion to the Eucharist, the hours he spent in the confessional and his concrete care for the sick make him a model all priests should try to imitate, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Visiting the tomb of the Italian saint, celebrating Mass outside the huge church bearing his name and meeting the patients and staff of the hospital he established, the pope urged priests to look to him during the Year for Priests.

Love for the Eucharist is what motivated Padre Pio's "total willingness to welcome the faithful, especially sinners," the pope said during an evening meeting with priests, religious and young people in San Giovanni Rotondo June 21.

"The sacrament of penance must be valued more highly and priests must never resign themselves to seeing their confessionals deserted nor limit themselves to noting the faithful's lack of appreciation for this source of serenity and peace," the pope told them.

A major summer storm forced the pope to fly by plane rather than helicopter to the southern Italian city where Padre Pio entered the Capuchin order and ministered and where he died in 1968.

Commenting on the Gospel story of Jesus calming the storm, he said Jesus' action was clearly a sign of his lordship over every negative power in the heavens and on the earth.

"Like it was for Jesus, the true battle, the radical combat Padre Pio had to sustain was not against earthly enemies, but against the spirit of evil," Pope Benedict said.

"The greatest storms that threatened him were the assaults of the devil, which he defended himself against with the armor of God, the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God," the pope said.

Padre Pio devoted himself so totally to Christ that he became an instrument of Christ's "power of love for souls, of pardon and reconciliation, of spiritual fatherhood and of concrete solidarity with the suffering," he said.

"The stigmata that marked his body intimately united him to the crucified and risen One," the pope said. Padre Pio bore the stigmata -- the bleeding wounds of Christ -- for half a century.

"This was always his first concern, his priestly and paternal anxiety: that people would return to God, that they could experience his mercy and, interiorly renewed, they could rediscover the beauty and joy of being Christians, of living in communion with Jesus, of belonging to his church and practicing the Gospel," he said.

Addressing representatives of the thousands of Padre Pio prayer groups scattered around the world, members of the Capuchin order and the staff of the hospital he founded, Pope Benedict said that communion with Jesus and personal holiness always must come first in their lives.

"Many of you, religious and laity, are so involved with the thousands of tasks required by serving pilgrims or the sick in the hospital that you run the risk of overlooking what is truly necessary: listening to Christ to fulfill God's will," he said in his homily.

He encouraged them to follow the example of Padre Pio and seek the intercession of Mary. "Then even in the storms that come unexpectedly you can experience the breath of the Holy Spirit that is stronger than any wind," he said.

Reciting the Angelus after Mass, Pope Benedict also offered prayers for the millions of refugees around the globe; the United Nations marked World Refugee Day June 18.

"Many people seek refuge in other countries, fleeing situations of war, persecution and calamity," the pope said. While welcoming them can be difficult, "it is an obligation," he said.

The Cross of Christ - A Sign

Today's events are very disturbing. North Korea may already have a nuclear bomb, Iran is trying to build one. Both are enemies of the free world. The situation today is not so different from events in the 1960's i.e. the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War. The Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, was quite concerned with the proliferation of nuclear weapons and wrote about it frequently. Back in 2001, on Holy Saturday, I was asked to offer a short reflection at my home parish. I chose to speak about "The Bomb" and the "Cross of Christ." Here is the reflection...

Holy Saturday April 14, 2001

In the early morning hours of August 6, 1945, a B-29 bomber named Enola Gay took off from the island of Tinian and headed north by northwest toward Japan. The bomber's primary target was the city of Hiroshima, located on the deltas of southwestern Honshu Island facing the Inland Sea. Hiroshima had a civilian population of almost 300,000 and was an important military center, containing about 43,000 soldiers. At approximately 8:15 a.m. Hiroshima time the Enola Gay released "Little Boy," its 9,700-pound uranium bomb, over the city. The Bomb dropped over Hiroshima, Japan killed about 100,000 people. On August 9, 1945 another bomb was dropped over Nagasaki, Japan killing approximately 36,000 people. Many eyewitnesses undressed that night to find their clothing designs tattooed to their skin.

The Cistercian Monk Thomas Merton aka Fr. Louis, said we should be “Thankful for the BOMB as a sign.” What does he mean? How can we be thankful for something that has caused so much death, destruction and human misery? Merton said that “The Bomb” is a REVELATION.

Who designed it, who built it, who tested it, and who used it? We did. Was it a necessary evil? Maybe, maybe not. For sure, this frightful human creation reveals all human iniquity. For any good to come out of it, we must be able to understand it as revelation, discern its meaning, and grasp its significance. Only then can we begin to know who we are, that we need conversion.

And what do Christians know to be the greatest tragedy in all of history? The Crucifixion of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Now we must ask ourselves, “How could any good come out of anything as dreadful as death by Crucifixion”?

Maria Valtora, an Italian writer, and considered by many to be a mystic, wrote this about the Crucifixion of Christ:

Two executioners sit on His chest to hold Him fast. A third one takes His right arm, holding Him with one hand on the first part of His forearm and the other on the tips of His fingers. The fourth one, who already has in his hand the long sharp-pointed quadrangular nail, ending with a round flat head as big as a large coin of bygone days, watches whether the hole already made in the wood corresponds to the joint of the wrist. It does. The executioner places three point of the nail on the wrist; he raises the hammer and gives the first stroke. Jesus, who had closed His eyes, utters a cry and has a contraction because of sharp pain. He opens His eyes, flooded with tears. The nail penetrates tearing muscles, veins, and nerves, shattering bones.

Like the Bomb, the Crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus Christ is also a REVELATION. Through Christ’s passion, God has given sinners, you, and me, the ability to conquer Death and receive the gift of eternal life. The question is, how do we respond to this offer of Eternal life?

We must look deep into our hearts, pray for the guidance of The Holy Spirit. Then we will recognize our sinfulness. Once we recognize our sins, we can die to our sins. After conversion, our own tombs will be empty, and we will be restored to new life.

The Cross of Christ is the sign of God’s all-embracing love and is the fountain from which every grace flows. Today, let us all be thankful for it as a sign.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day musings about Grandpa

This is a picture of my Grandfather, John Murphy, my Aunt Dotty, and my Grandmother Etta. It was taken in the mid to late 1920's. My Grandfather was a big guy, hard working. He worked for the Railroad Express Agency for 53 years! When he began working for the REA in 1913, he drove a horse and buggy. A few years later he graduated to a truck. My grandfather didn't have a great sense of humor, although his Irish/New York accent could bring on some laughs. He had a tough life. His Irish parents died when he, his brother and sister were very young and was raised by his Aunt Annie, who lived in a shack with a dirt floor - in the Secaucus Meadowlands.
This is a picture of Aunt Annie below. I don't think anyone would fool around with this Irish lady!

I have some interesting childhood memories of Grandpa. I must have been about eight or nine years old. Grandpa would come to my house early Saturday mornings, driving his REA truck. He would pick me up and bring me to New York City, through the Lincoln Tunnel, to Horn and Hardart, the Automat. This was neat store. When you walked in, you would see a wall of small glass doors. Inside each door there would be a sandwich or a nice yummy pie. For me, this was the Kingdom of Heaven! Grandpa would say, "here's a quarter kid, go get lunch." After eating, we would get back in his truck and drive to Hoboken, NJ, to the Dukes House, a fancy bar with high stools. Grandpa would sit me on the stool, and order himself a Rheingold beer. This beer was an important staple of his diet. I don't know what he would do without it. For me he would order a small glass of beer. I don't think I liked it much, but it was fun to sit with Grandpa at the bar, it made me feel important. Now, if Grandpa did this today, he would end up in the poky!

So today, I am thinking about my Grandfather. I think of my father as well, and all my family. I miss all of them so much. And now I am a father of two grown-up children, one is already married. It's hard to believe, time goes by so fast. I thank the Lord for allowing me to be a father, it is truly a wonderful gift. Of course, it is a huge responsibility. I hope I am doing a good job.

I pray that you all have a wonderful Father's Day. Enjoy this tune by Paul Simon, Father and Daughter. I post it here for my own daughter Cory Ann, who I love so very much.

The Watchung Presbyterian Church of Bloomfield, NJ message board. A good message for all fathers...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Pope: There is an answer to Empty Confessionals

In a town very near to me there is a Benedictine monastery dedicated to the Holy Face of Jesus. I go there often for Confession. There are two monks who reside there, hearing Confessions every day except Sunday, mornings and afternoons. The waiting room is very small, many times standing room only. I remember the nervousness I experienced when I was a child, waiting on the line. I still experience it today - but after absolution, you are free as a bird.

I found the following article in Zenit. An Answer to Empty Confessionals

St. John Vianney's "Virtuous Circle" Secret

VATICAN CITY, (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is urging priests to not become resigned to empty confessionals, but to help people rediscover the beauty of the sacrament by deepening their understanding of the Eucharist.

The Pope stated this in a letter to the priests of the world, on the occasion of the Year for Priests, which begins Friday in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney, the Curé d'Ars.

The saint "taught his parishioners primarily by the witness of his life," the Pontiff affirmed. "It was from his example that they learned to pray, halting frequently before the tabernacle for a visit to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament."

He taught them about the Eucharist, but it was "most effective when they saw him celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass," the Holy Father said.

He added that the saint "was convinced that the fervor of a priest's life depended entirely upon the Mass" and "was accustomed, when celebrating, also to offer his own life in sacrifice."

This identification with the sacrifice of the Cross led him from the altar to the confessional, Benedict XVI affirmed.

He continued: "Priests ought never to be resigned to empty confessionals or the apparent indifference of the faithful to this sacrament. In France, at the time of the Cure of Ars, confession was no more easy or frequent than in our own day, since the upheaval caused by the revolution had long inhibited the practice of religion.

"Yet he sought in every way, by his preaching and his powers of persuasion, to help his parishioners to rediscover the meaning and beauty of the Sacrament of Penance, presenting it as an inherent demand of the Eucharistic presence.

"He thus created a 'virtuous' circle."

Hospital for souls

The Pope explained that St. John Mary spent long hours in church before the tabernacle, inspiring the faithful "to imitate him by coming to visit Jesus with the knowledge that their parish priest would be there, ready to listen and offer forgiveness."

Over time, he said, penitents started coming from all over the country, and the priest would be in the confessional for up to 16 hours a day.

Thus, the Pontiff said, his parish became known as "a great hospital of souls."

He quoted the saint who said: "It is not the sinner who returns to God to beg his forgiveness, but God himself who runs after the sinner and makes him return to him."

The Holy Father urged priests to learn from St. John Mary Vianney to "put our unfailing trust in the Sacrament of Penance, to set it once more at the center of our pastoral concerns, and to take up the 'dialogue of salvation,' which it entails."

He noted that "those who came to his confessional drawn by a deep and humble longing for God's forgiveness found in him the encouragement to plunge into the 'flood of divine mercy' which sweeps everything away by its vehemence."

"He awakened repentance in the hearts of the lukewarm by forcing them to see God's own pain at their sins reflected in the face of the priest who was their confessor," Benedict XVI stated.

He continued, "To those who, on the other hand, came to him already desirous of and suited to a deeper spiritual life, he flung open the abyss of God's love, explaining the untold beauty of living in union with him and dwelling in his presence."

The Pope affirmed: "In his time the Cure of Ars was able to transform the hearts and the lives of so many people because he enabled them to experience the Lord's merciful love.

"Our own time urgently needs a similar proclamation and witness to the truth of love."

He affirmed that the saint "sought to remain completely faithful to his own vocation and mission," lamenting that "a pastor can grow dangerously inured to the state of sin or of indifference in which so many of his flock are living."

The Pontiff noted the priest's sacrifices on behalf of the souls who came to him in confession, quoting his words to another confrere: "I will tell you my recipe: I give sinners a small penance and the rest I do in their place."

"Souls have been won at the price of Jesus' own blood," the Holy Father stated, "and a priest cannot devote himself to their salvation if he refuses to share personally in the 'precious cost' of redemption."

* Above image is Holy Face Monastery Clifton, NJ

Friday, June 19, 2009

So begins "The Year of the Priest."

So begins the "Year of the Priest." Pope Benedict XVI has released his letter "PROCLAIMING A YEAR FOR PRIESTS ON THE 150th ANNIVERSARY OF THE "DIES NATALIS" OF THE CURÉ OF ARS.

The letter draws from the most wonderful example of St. John Mary Vianney the Curé of Ars.

St. John Vianney is the living image of the priest after the heart of Christ.

Here is an excerpt of Pope Benedict's letter, taken from NCRegister.com . If you would like to read or print the complete text of the letter, see the link at the bottom of the post.

From the Pope’s letter:

There are also, sad to say, situations which can never be sufficiently deplored where the Church herself suffers as a consequence of infidelity on the part of some of her ministers. Then it is the world which finds grounds for scandal and rejection. What is most helpful to the Church in such cases is not only a frank and complete acknowledgment of the weaknesses of her ministers, but also a joyful and renewed realization of the greatness of God’s gift, embodied in the splendid example of generous pastors, religious afire with love for God and for souls, and insightful, patient spiritual guides. Here the teaching and example of Saint John Mary Vianney can serve as a significant point of reference for us all. The Curé of Ars was quite humble, yet as a priest he was conscious of being an immense gift to his people: “A good shepherd, a pastor after God’s heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy”.3 He spoke of the priesthood as if incapable of fathoming the grandeur of the gift and task entrusted to a human creature: “O, how great is the priest! … If he realized what he is, he would die… God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host…”.4 Explaining to his parishioners the importance of the sacraments, he would say: “Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest… After God, the priest is everything! … Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is”.5 These words, welling up from the priestly heart of the holy pastor, might sound excessive. Yet they reveal the high esteem in which he held the sacrament of the priesthood. He seemed overwhelmed by a boundless sense of responsibility: “Were we to fully realize what a priest is on earth, we would die: not of fright, but of love… Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail. It is the priest who continues the work of redemption on earth… What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door? The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of his goods … Leave a parish for twenty years without a priest, and they will end by worshiping the beasts there … The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you”.6

* Pope's Letter proclaiming "Year for Priests."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The New Compassion

Our Lord Jesus taught us - to be a Christian, one must have compassion. Compassion is not pity. Compassion is an action. It is a decision to sacrifice, to go out of one's way, to leave one's comfort zone - a decision to love our neighbor by corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
Now we confront a
"New Compassion."

The following article is posted on Catholic Online, written by Jennifer Hartline. All good Christians should know that the evil one has many disguises. This article is important - read it - if you can add something to the discussion, please post your comment.

CHESAPEAKE, Va - I sense a growing weariness among Christians in the fierce cultural battles currently being waged, such as abortion and gay “marriage.” Does it seem like life would be so much easier if we stopped making a big deal about things and just let people do what they wanted? Live and let live, right? Isn’t that the compassionate attitude?

The accusation goes like this: if you dare to call something wrong or immoral, or if you insist that some things are inherently good and others are inherently evil and therefore should not be allowed, then you are being exclusive and insensitive, judgmental and without compassion. If you have the temerity to actually call something a sin, well, that’s the new capital offense.

With regard to the most serious moral and social issues of our day, those with an anti-Christian agenda are trying to redefine compassion -- they equate compassion with tolerance and acceptance, and it just ain’t so.

Beware the new “compassion.”

The new “compassion” says that we must include and accept everyone, regardless of their opinions or lifestyles, actions, beliefs or choices. We should simply agree to disagree, and stop being so critical. After all, doesn’t Jesus welcome everyone with open arms?

It sounds good. It sounds kind and sympathetic. It sounds loving, even. It sounds pretty convincing. But I’m not convinced.

Yes, Jesus surely did stretch His arms open wide and die for the salvation of all mankind, and absolutely no one was excluded from that sacrifice. It is for everyone who accepts it. Accepting the sacrifice means we accept the reason it was necessary in the first place: sin.

Sin is a big deal! It’s deadly, serious stuff. So deadly that only God Himself could save us from it. Let’s not forget, though, that we are still accountable for the part we can do – we have to turn our backs on sin. We are supposed to “go and sin no more.” In a word, we have to repent. God calls us to repentance, as proof of His great compassion.

Imagine how hopeless we would all be if God had merely been sympathetic toward us instead of compassionate? We would still be lost if He had been tolerant and accepting. What if He had left us to be doomed to our eternal death without any hope? After all, the screw-up was ours. He was under no obligation to rescue us from our disobedience and pride. Yet, He is a loving Father, and His children were being devoured by the beast we shook hands with.

He could not simply look on us with a sad sigh, accepting our sinfulness with tolerance. God is unchanging; holy and perfect. Sin can never stand in His presence, and He loves us far too much to ever tolerate anything that would keep us from Him.

I am unutterably grateful that God is not tolerating and accepting! This is what makes our Father so amazing! Sin was killing us, and watering it down wasn’t the answer. God dealt with sin not by making allowances for it, or making excuses for us. He didn’t lower His standards or adjust His expectations one iota. In His perfect justice He showed us compassion, and He met His own demands on our behalf.

Christ died to set us all free from sin, but we will not be free if we remain slaves to it. “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” Romans 6:16-18

Our freedom comes through repentance. That’s the point – we can’t stay where we are, making allowances, making excuses for ourselves and others, trying to be tolerant. That’s not compassion. It’s a death sentence.

This new “compassion” is a cunning trick that says each of us can decide for ourselves what is right and wrong, but don’t be fooled. It is a lie from the pit of hell because it deceives us into tolerating sin and calling evil good. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Isaiah 5:20

We’re not doing anyone any favors by denying or “fudging” the reality of sin. God tells us quite specifically that certain things are sinful, whether we like it or not. And that’s precisely the problem – a lot of people don’t like it.

The modern motto is that people should be able to live as they please without moral “imposition” from anyone else. I even hear Catholics saying the Church has no right to impose its beliefs or morality on anyone else. I strongly disagree – with the premise and the wording. The Church has every right, and more importantly, every obligation, to tell mankind of the danger of sin and the deadly consequences of indulging in it. That’s not “imposing morality.” It is the greatest demonstration of compassion.

God desires that not one of His children be lost for eternity, and His people are charged with the mission of telling the world that each of us has a choice to make. “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live…” Deut 30: 19

We must be motivated by the same love and compassion that compelled Christ to die for us. We cannot be afraid to call sin what it is. We will be scorned and called every name in the book for insisting that some things are wrong and sinful. We’ll be labeled judgmental, self-righteous and hateful. But consider this: do you leave your door unlocked and welcome the criminal who would rob your house and maybe even kill you? Satan is just such a thief. He comes to kill and destroy our souls and sin is his weapon. How, then, is it compassionate to welcome and tolerate the sin that threatens to kill?

Jennifer Hartline is a Catholic Army wife and stay-at-home mother of three precious kids who writes frequently on topics of Catholic faith and daily living. She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.


* The image above is the cover of the program used for the Beatification Mass for Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta in Rome October 19, 2003.

Deacon healed though the intercession of Cardinal John Newman

Deacon John Sullivan, of Marshfield Massachusetts, claims to have been healed through the intercession of Cardinal John Henry Newman. If the miracle is confirmed, Cardinal Newman may be on the road to beatification as early as this summer.

This story was published in the Catholic Herald - London.
LONDON (UK Catholic Herald) - An American deacon has described in detail how he was cured from a severe spinal condition after praying to Cardinal John Henry Newman.

John Sullivan, 70, of Marshfield, Massachusetts, described the healing to American television networks just days after it was reported that Vatican theological consultors had unanimously ruled it a miracle that could pave the way for the beatification of the Victorian convert.

The healing, which was earlier concluded to be inexplicable by medics, now awaits the approval of the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood and Pope Benedict XVI before Cardinal Newman can be declared Blessed.

If the miracle is confirmed, Cardinal Newman could be beatified as early as this summer, said Rev. Mr Sullivan, a deacon at St Thecla's parish in Pembroke, Massachusetts.

In its sainthood process the Church generally must confirm two miracles as having occurred through the intercession of a prospective saint, one before beatification and one before canonisation.

In 2000 Mr Sullivan, a married father of three grown children and a long-serving court magistrate for Plymouth District Court, was in the middle of his diaconal studies at St John's Seminary when he began experiencing severe and incapacitating back pain. Tests and scans revealed that several of Mr Sullivan's lumbar vertebrates and disks were squeezing his spinal cord and affecting the nerves going to his legs. Doctors told him that, without surgery, he could become paralysed.

"I was in agony. There was no traumatic event that occurred that would have caused this pain. It just suddenly happened," explained Mr Sullivan. "I was doubled over in agony and experienced constant pain."

Not only was Mr Sullivan shocked by the diagnosis, but he was also devastated that he could not return to his diaconal studies, which started up in a month. "I enjoyed the first two years of the process and my heart was really set on being ordained because I wanted to be of service to the Church and to serve God in the best way that I knew how," he said.

To distract himself from his pain and disappointment, he left his doctor's office and went home to watch television. A programme on the beatification process for Cardinal Newman happened to be on the Eternal Word Television Network.

After the programme Mr Sullivan said he decided to recite this simple prayer to Cardinal Newman: "Please, Cardinal Newman, intercede with God to help me go back to classes and be ordained."

When he awoke the next morning Mr Sullivan was pain-free and could walk upright for the first time in months.

His doctors had no medical explanation for that turn of events. He returned to his diaconate classes and remained free of back pain for the next eight months.

In April 2001, the day after his diaconal classes ended for the year, the pain returned in "full fury", said Deacon Sullivan.

A cortisone injection to the spine provided no relief and his doctor again recommended surgery to repair his back, which the doctor said was the worst he had ever seen.

Before the surgery, Mr Sullivan struggled to complete as many hours as he could in his diaconal internship at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Surgery revealed that his back was in an even worse condition than his doctor had thought and that he probably would not be able to walk again for at least four months.

In severe pain after the surgery, Mr Sullivan again prayed to Cardinal Newman to help him to walk so that he could finish his internship and be ordained with his class.

"I felt a very warm sensation and a tingling all over that lasted about five or 10 minutes and a tremendous sense of joy, exuberance and confidence," said the deacon, adding that he immediately became pain-free.

"I had no pain anymore and I had been in agony a couple of minutes before."

"I walked all over the hospital and they released me immediately," he continued. "There is no other explanation than that Cardinal Newman interceded for me." Mr Sullivan's doctor confirmed that there was again no medical explanation for his recovery. After receiving his doctor's confirmation, Mr Sullivan wrote to Fr Paul Chavasse, the postulator for Cardinal Newman's sainthood cause at the Birmingham Oratory, and the process for validating the miracle began.

On the day of his diaconal ordination in September 2002, he received news that the reputed miracle would be presented to Rome for confirmation.

Mr Sullivan, who now walks at least a mile and a half a day and can do hours of gardening pain-free, says that he has the back of a 30-year-old and he owes it all to Cardinal Newman.

"I needed a lot of help because I was in serious straits and for some reason Cardinal Newman was made available to me, and it was God who answered my prayers through Newman," he said.

"I wouldn't be deacon or a father or husband without Cardinal Newman. He gave me back my life and I am very, very grateful and I certainly had nothing to do with it."

Mr Sullivan hopes to serve on the altar during the beatification Mass.

The Vatican would not comment on the vote of the theological consultors. A spokesman for the Birmingham Oratory said the fathers were still awaiting formal notification on the progress of Cardinal Newman's cause.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


In October of 2006, a tragic incident occurred in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. A man walked into an Amish school and shot ten young schoolchildren. The story was published in newspapers around the world. On the afternoon of the shooting, the Amish grandfather of one of the children expressed forgiveness towards the killer. That same day Amish neighbors visited the killers family to comfort them. The Amish culture follows the teaching of Jesus, that one must always forgive, in any circumstance. In our society, this reaction is (almost always) unheard of. I remember reflecting on this story, how much I had to learn about forgiveness. The Amish have so much to teach us.

Today, out of Kathmandu, we hear another moving story about forgiveness. Yes, forgiveness is possible, in any circumstance. The folowing article was published in "Agenzia Fides" online.

A Christian testimony of forgiveness in the aftermath of the Cathedral bombing

Kathmandu (Agenzia Fides) – Balan Joseph Palamootil, Catholic layman of Indian background who was wounded in the attack on the Assumption Cathedral in Kathmandu on May 23 of this year (see Fides 25/5/2009), forgave in Jesus' name the woman (Sita Thapa Shrestha) who carried out this terrible atrocity, meeting with her in the police station near the site of the bombing, where she has been taken into custody.
Balan's life changed following the tragic attack that killed his wife and daughter, yet he had the strength to forgive. “When I saw Sita, I was reminded of the story of Saint Paul, who persecuted Christians and I thought of how Sita might also have this same experience of conversion. So, I conveyed Christ's message of love and forgiveness to her,” says Balan, a native of Kerala (India).
Balan gave his testimony in public during a celebration that was recently held in the Cathedral, in the presence of many faithful who gathered to pray for the victims and for peace in Nepal.
The man told his story to Christians of other denominations, declaring his decision to remain in Nepal, where he came as a migrant 20 years ago, to work for peace and reconciliation.
Balan also said he will continue dedicating his life to his other two children, taking care of his family and all those whom he will meet, offering his testimony of a Christian life, following Christ as a layman. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 12/6/2009)

* Image of "Amish Church" is from "webshots."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"Nest" by Joann Cucinello

I offer you here the poem "Nest", written by the Poet Joanne Cucinello. It is a moving and thought provoking poem. Cucinello's blog "I See the Bridge" is full of surprises, inspired words and images.

In the warm dark waters
of my mother's womb
I swam alive and innocent
unaware that in my universe
of darkness, simple cells
were multiplying and I
would soon be filled with light.

Moment by moment
I blossomed into being
caught in the current
of pulse and rhythm
my mother's blood
pumping through tributaries
gushing and swirling like
one great river and I,
safe inside my burrowed
nest of softness.

Joanne Cucinello

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Year for Priests

The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 19, 2009, will mark the beginning of the "Year for Priests." This will be a special time for us to pray for our priests, who, by their ordination , are invested with the power to change bread and wine, good things of the earth, into the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Pope Benedict XVI has declared June 19th, 2009 the beginning of the "Year for Priests." This should be a time for us to pray for priests and for priestly vocations. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has created a website offering many resources to aid in the celebrations of this important year.
St. John Vianney, Prayer

I love you, O my God, and my only desire is to love you until the last breath of my life. I love you, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving you, than live without loving you. I love you, Lord, and the only grace I ask is to love you eternally . . . . My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love you, I want my heart to repeat it to you as often as I draw breath.

* Iconographer Marek Czarnecki of Seraphic Restorations in Meriden, Connecticut

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Homily by Deacon Greg Kandra - Corpus Christi

Deacon Greg Kandra, of the Deacon's Bench, wrote an important homily for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. If you have some time, I would highly recommend that you read it.

Deacon Greg's Homily

Corpus Christi

"Office of Readings at Sunrise"
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his love is for ever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his love is for ever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his love is for ever.

It is the Solemnity of the Body of Christ. I arrived home minutes ago from my "down the shore" formation retreat, refreshed, rejuvenated, and full of the Spirit. The retreat was a joyous event, full of prayer, discernment, friendship. It was a movement towards self realization - becoming who we are.

images from the New Jersey shore....

Corpus Christi

Outpouring of Love

Sand and Foam


* all images by Brian ©bjm

Friday, June 12, 2009

Time for Retreat

I will be leaving this morning for my yearly "diaconate formation" retreat "down the shore", as we say in New Jersey. I always loved going down the shore, so this retreat is special. Bruce Springsteen said "down the shore everything's alright." And I pray that it will be alright - sunny, warm, and a sky of blue. Retreats are important. Time to get out of the daily routine, change the schedule. Meditate on heavenly things. A time for discernment. Please pray for me while I spend some quiet time with God. I will be praying for all of you...

I leave you this video of the sea - while you watch you can reflect with me...

An old man was asked, 'How can I find God?' He said, 'In fasting,
in watching, in labours, in devotion, and, above all, in
discernment. I tell you, many have injured their bodies without
discernment and have gone away from us having achieved nothing.
Our mouths smell bad through fasting, we know the Scriptures by
heart, we recite all the Psalms of David, but we have not that
which God seeks: charity and humility.'

Apophthegmata Patrum

* See you Sunday afternoon...


Good morning - it's Friday! When I clicked on Yahoo News this morning I came upon this interesting article - a woman in Iowa, Jane Wiggins, was looking out of her office window. There she saw an out-of-the-ordinary cloud formation. Another masterpiece by the "Divine Artist."

Here is the article from Yahoo/Associated press:

DES MOINES, Iowa – Looking out the 11th floor window of her law office, Jane Wiggins did a double take and grabbed her camera. The dark, undulating clouds hovering outside were unlike anything she'd seen before.

"It looked like Armageddon," said Wiggins, a paralegal and amateur photographer in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "The shadows of the clouds, the lights and the darks, and the greenish-yellow backdrop. They seemed to change."

They dissipated within 15 minutes, but the photo Wiggins captured in June 2006 intrigued — and stumped — a group of dedicated weather watchers who now are pushing weather authorities to create a new cloud category, something that hasn't been done since 1951.

Breaking into the cloud family would require surviving layers of skeptical international review. Still, Gavin Pretor-Pinney and his England-based Cloud Appreciation Society are determined to establish a new variety. They've given Wiggins' photo and similar pictures taken in different parts of the world to experts in England, and are discussing the subject fervently online.

"They (the clouds) were the first ones that I noted of this type and I was unsure which category to put them under," said Pretor-Pinney, author of "The Cloudspotter's Guide." "When we put pictures up online we list the category, and I wasn't sure how to categorize it."

Some scientists are skeptical. They argue that researchers who have long watched the sky haven't seen anything distinctly new for decades.

There are three main groups of clouds: cumulous, cirrus and stratus. Each has various sub-classifications built on other details of the formation.

Brant Foote, a longtime scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., said the clouds photographed by Wiggins already fit into the existing cumulous classification.

But Pretor-Pinney, who never studied meteorology, believes the clouds merit their own cumulus sub-classification. He proposes they be called altocumulus undulatus asperatus. The last word — Latin for roughen or agitate — is a reference to the clouds' undulating surface.

"Not necessarily gentle or steady, but quite violent-looking, turbulent, almost twisted in its appearance," he said.

The group has compiled several photographs documenting the formations from the billowy, rolling clouds shot by Wiggins in Iowa to ones from New Zealand that were much more menacing, hanging lava-like in the sky.

Foote said it would be "very unusual" for such a formation to be recognized as a new variety of cloud.

"People have been looking at clouds for hundreds of years and the general cloud classification is well defined," Foote said. "It's not as if someone discovered a new plant in the Amazon. It's what you've seen every day. There was no atmospheric condition that caused a new kind of cloud to form."

Pretor-Pinney is working with the Royal Meteorological Society in Reading, England, to prepare his case. If that group signs off, the proposal will go to the United Nation's World Meteorological Organization in Geneva.

Society executive director Paul Hardaker said a small panel within the society is gathering evidence to review. Their efforts include talking with those who took the submitted photos to determinine when, where and amid what weather they were taken. Hardaker said meteorologists tend to be skeptical of such proposals.

"We like to believe that just about everything that can be seen has been, but you do get caught once in a while with the odd, new, interesting thing," Hardaker said. "By this stage we think it's sufficiently interesting to explore it further and we're optimistic about the information we've got."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Anji by Paul & Eddie

Back in the early 70's, after I received that Christmas present I mentioned in a previous post, the Ovation Guitar, the official "Cat Stevens" guitar, I decided to learn how to play it. I already had some lessons at the local music shop. My teacher was an elderly man - he looked like Andre Segovia, but it wasn't him. His class room, or should I say - class closet - was three long flights upstairs. For a little guy, it was a heck of a climb. He was a nice man, he taught me the notes, some basic chords - and how to play "Red River Valley." Anyway, I was already a Paul Simon fan. My brother, who is "almost" ten years older than me, belonged to a record club. Records were always being mailed to our house. Four Seasons, Simon and Garfunkel. I believe it was the Columbia record club. So, there were always records around the house. I really liked Paul Simon. I listened over and over again to the "Sounds of Silence" album. I wanted to play like Paul. I found out that Paul's brother, Eddie, opened up a music school in Manhattan, the Guitar Study Center. I signed up for some classes. To get there, I carried my guitar, in the big case, on a bus from Union City, NJ - to the Port Authority in New York. Then, a long walk to West 60Th Street. And back! To my surprise, my first teacher was Eddie Simon! Yes, Paul's brother. I could not believe it - hey, maybe I would become famous, knowing Paul's brother would really do it for me. Well, it didn't happen. I'm not famous. I ended up in the fruit business - but - I did learn how to play!

I found this video on YouTube - Paul and Eddie Simon playing "Anji." This is the first tune Eddie Simon taught me how to play - and I still play it today, but not like these guys play.. these guys are cool...

Going home....

It is the end of the work day - I'm ready to head on home. I was thinking of today's Gospel - Jesus' words "be reconciled with your brother before you leave your gift at the altar". These words make for a good end-of-day examination of conscience. If you did not read todays Gospel, maybe you can read it now - reflect - will you rest easy tonight? do you have some repair work to do before your night prayer? Have a safe drive home....

The Gospel according to Matthew 5:20-26

Jesus said to his disciples:
"I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.

"You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his brother,
Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says, 'You fool,' will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny."

Morning memo

A few nights ago, on the CBS "Late Show", David Letterman spoke some hateful, perverted comments about Governor Sarah Palin's daughter. I will not mention them here. I can not believe that Mr. Letterman's behavior is acceptable. His words are insulting, not only to the Palin family, but to all good people. I call on Mr. Letterman to accept responsibility for his words and resign. If he refuses, CBS must remove him immediately. If CBS refuses to remove him, we should remove CBS as a viewing choice. CBS was once a respectable organization. It has now become "trash" TV. WAKE UP AMERICA! We are heading down the wrong road, and there may be little time to turn back.

Response from the Palin family...

"Any 'jokes' about raping my 14-year-old are despicable. Alaskans know it and I believe the rest of the world knows it, too."
- Todd Palin

"Concerning Letterman's comments about my young daughter (and I doubt he'd ever dare make such comments about anyone else's daughter): 'Laughter incited by sexually-perverted comments made by a 62-year-old male celebrity aimed at a 14-year-old girl is not only disgusting, but it reminds us some Hollywood/NY entertainers have a long way to go in understanding what the rest of America understands - that acceptance of inappropriate sexual comments about an underage girl, who could be anyone's daughter, contributes to the atrociously high rate of sexual exploitation of minors by older men who use and abuse others.'"
- Governor Sarah Palin

Umbert the Unborn

From the Catholic Register-