Friday, September 30, 2011

Nun on the Run !

I found this fun story over at the "Deacons Bench" - out of the Chicago-Sun Times... Nun-to-be to run Chicago Marathon - Her nun’s habit is too long to run with, so Stephanie Baliga won’t wear it when she runs in next month’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon.....

But you still might be able to pick out Baliga from among the thousands of runners by the rosary beads that she’s thinking she’ll bring along on the 26.2-mile run Oct. 9. Oh, and there’s also the special running skirt, designed for modesty.

Baliga, 23, is a former University of Illinois track star who’s in the process of becoming a nun for the Franciscans of the Eucharist, a new Catholic community based in West Humboldt Park at Our Lady of the Angels Church.

Now known as Sr. Stephanie, she considered joining a different group of nuns, but it didn’t allow running.

Baliga, who grew up in Rockford, found her calling with a running-friendly order that works to feed about 700 families a month and provides an after-school program for about 900 kids. She runs 40 miles a week, usually early in the morning near the lake or in Humboldt Park.

“I’m able to have a blank mind while running — it’s one of the only times I can do that,” she says. “I feel closer to God when I run, there’s a rhythm and a peace.”

Baliga says she realized what she wanted to do with her life in college, when she hurt an ankle and couldn’t run.

“I realized running was too big a part of my life and began to ask what God was asking me to do with my life — and, eventually, felt called to become a sister,” says Baliga, who will formally become a nun on Tuesday.

“I’ve found the correct balance of God and running,” she says. “I’m not using running for any selfish means any more. I use it to glorify God and help promote what we’re doing at our mission...If the Lord wanted me to give up running, I would do it, but he ended up giving it back. And that makes me happy.”

Baliga is running the Chicago marathon to raise money to renovate Our Lady of the Angels church.

“We need more space to do our ministries for the neighborhood,” she says. “The original estimate was about $2 million. We’re almost there. We’re only $40,000 short.”

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Missionaries of Charity in Ethiopia

Michael Hill wrote a nice article concerning all the good work the Missionaries of Charity are doing in Ethiopia. The article is out of CRS -


Missionaries of Charity Foster Dignity Amid Destitution

By all rights, the Missionaries of Charity Home for the Destitute and Dying in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia should be a depressing place. After all, the 1,000 people in here are almost all sick. And they are poor. Their sleeping quarters are crowded, beds nearly wall-to-wall. Some have physical ailments that might make you want to avert your gaze. Others are mentally challenged and behave erratically.

It is certainly not a place that makes you happy. These people have been dealt a tough hand by life. Few have smiles on their faces. On this cool afternoon, they are mostly sitting outside. Not listless, exactly, but hardly active. Some are in wheelchairs. Others remain in their beds in the wards.

The home is really two compounds, one for children, the other for teens to the aged. The occupants go from newborn infants to those near the end of long lives. Some are simply too poor to afford any sort of lodging during medical treatment in Ethiopia’s capital city. But many were abandoned by their families, too poor to care for, say, a handicapped child with mental issues; or for an elderly relative near death; or for an unwanted newborn.

There is an entire facility in the children’s compound for young mothers and their babies. Some of the mothers were rape victims. All had nowhere else to go in a society where an extended family essentially defines who you are, your status in the world. The three-month stay in this ward could make the difference between a young mother abandoning her baby or learning how to care and nurture her child.

This is not a luxurious place. All eating and much of the cooking is done outside on long benches. Not only are there no private rooms, your private space hardly extends beyond the edge of your bed. Outside the gates, people line up looking to get in, some for a visit to the health clinic for outpatients, but many seeking accommodation.

So why wasn’t it depressing? Hard to say. Certainly the facility was well-cared for. The paint seemed fresh, the floors swept, the beds made. And the patients, though often in terrible medical shape, also seemed well cared for, their needs attended to as best as possible.

But there was something else, something elusive. It probably has to do with the attitude of the founder of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa, whose familiar face beams down from many of the home’s walls. She came to Ethiopia in 1974 and met with the then-Emperor Haile Selassie. With his permission, she sent two nuns from her home base in India to begin work in Ethiopia. There are now 120 Missionaries of Charity in the country, running 18 homes like this one all over the country.

About 40 of the sisters work at this house in Addis Ababa, along with 60 staff. Much of the support for their work, including the food they serve, comes through Catholic Relief Services. Though the sisters were not that visible during my visit—first they were in their daily mass then involved in tasks in their part of the compound—their spirit was evident.

And the foundation of that spirit is to treat all with dignity, even the poor and the sick who have been cast off from society. That was what pervaded the place, a feeling of the dignity of each of these patients, from the tiniest baby crying his eyes out to the oldest woman nearing her last breath. (One way of insuring dignity is to forbid photographs, by the way).

The presence of dignity affirmed the beauty in each of these people, giving the place a calmness that belied the turmoil of so many of these lives. It was a privilege to be amongst them.

The Missionaries of Charity feed more than 40,000 people in their homes across Ethiopia thanks to food donated by the U.S. and CRS private donations. Above Photo by Mikaele Sansone/CRS

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Way

This is a "must see" movie..

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


In the last analysis,

the individual person is responsible
for living his own life

and for finding himself.
If he persists in shifting his responsibility to somebody else,
he fails to find out the meaning
of his own existence.

- Thomas Merton

Friday, September 23, 2011



Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I begin to speak, I would like first of all to thank you for this opportunity to come together with you. I am particularly grateful to Pastor Schneider for greeting me and welcoming me into your midst with his kind words. At the same time I want to express my thanks for the particularly gracious gesture that our meeting can be held in this historic location.

As the Bishop of Rome, it is deeply moving for me to be meeting representatives of Council of the EKD here in the ancient Augustinian convent in Erfurt. This is where Luther studied theology. This is where he was ordained a priest in 1507. Against his father’s wishes, he did not continue the study of Law, but instead he studied theology and set off on the path towards priesthood in the Order of Saint Augustine. On this path, he was not simply concerned with this or that. What constantly exercised him was the question of God, the deep passion and driving force of his whole life’s journey. “How do I receive the grace of God?”: this question struck him in the heart and lay at the foundation of all his theological searching and inner struggle. For him theology was no mere academic pursuit, but the struggle for oneself, which in turn was a struggle for and with God.

“How do I receive the grace of God?” The fact that this question was the driving force of his whole life never ceases to make an impression on me. For who is actually concerned about this today – even among Christians? What does the question of God mean in our lives? In our preaching? Most people today, even Christians, set out from the presupposition that God is not fundamentally interested in our sins and virtues. He knows that we are all mere flesh. Insofar as people today believe in an afterlife and a divine judgement at all, nearly everyone presumes for all practical purposes that God is bound to be magnanimous and that ultimately he mercifully overlooks our small failings. But are they really so small, our failings? Is not the world laid waste through the corruption of the great, but also of the small, who think only of their own advantage? Is it not laid waste through the power of drugs, which thrives on the one hand on greed and avarice, and on the other hand on the craving for pleasure of those who become addicted? Is the world not threatened by the growing readiness to use violence, frequently masking itself with claims to religious motivation? Could hunger and poverty so devastate parts of the world if love for God and godly love of neighbour – of his creatures, of men and women – were more alive in us? I could go on. No, evil is no small matter. Were we truly to place God at the centre of our lives, it could not be so powerful. The question: what is God’s position towards me, where do I stand before God? – this burning question of Martin Luther must once more, doubtless in a new form, become our question too. In my view, this is the first summons we should attend to in our encounter with Martin Luther.

Another important point: God, the one God, creator of heaven and earth, is no mere philosophical hypothesis regarding the origins of the universe. This God has a face, and he has spoken to us. He became one of us in the man Jesus Christ – who is both true God and true man. Luther’s thinking, his whole spirituality, was thoroughly Christocentric: “What promotes Christ’s cause” was for Luther the decisive hermeneutical criterion for the exegesis of sacred Scripture. This presupposes, however, that Christ is at the heart of our spirituality and that love for him, living in communion with him, is what guides our life.

Now perhaps you will say: all well and good, but what has this to do with our ecumenical situation? Could this just be an attempt to talk our way past the urgent problems that are still waiting for practical progress, for concrete results? I would respond by saying that the first and most important thing for ecumenism is that we keep in view just how much we have in common, not losing sight of it amid the pressure towards secularization – everything that makes us Christian in the first place and continues to be our gift and our task. It was the error of the Reformation period that for the most part we could only see what divided us and we failed to grasp existentially what we have in common in terms of the great deposit of sacred Scripture and the early Christian creeds. The great ecumenical step forward of recent decades is that we have become aware of all this common ground and that we acknowledge it as we pray and sing together, as we make our joint commitment to the Christian ethos in our dealings with the world, as we bear common witness to the God of Jesus Christ in this world as our undying foundation.

The risk of losing this, sadly, is not unreal. I would like to make two points here. The geography of Christianity has changed dramatically in recent times, and is in the process of changing further. Faced with a new form of Christianity, which is spreading with overpowering missionary dynamism, sometimes in frightening ways, the mainstream Christian denominations often seem at a loss. This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability. This worldwide phenomenon poses a question to us all: what is this new form of Christianity saying to us, for better and for worse? In any event, it raises afresh the question about what has enduring validity and what can or must be changed – the question of our fundamental faith choice.

The second challenge to worldwide Christianity of which I wish to speak is more profound and in our country more controversial: the secularized context of the world in which we Christians today have to live and bear witness to our faith. God is increasingly being driven out of our society, and the history of revelation that Scripture recounts to us seems locked into an ever more remote past. Are we to yield to the pressure of secularization, and become modern by watering down the faith? Naturally faith today has to be thought out afresh, and above all lived afresh, so that it is suited to the present day. Yet it is not by watering the faith down, but by living it today in its fullness that we achieve this. This is a key ecumenical task. Moreover, we should help one another to develop a deeper and more lively faith. It is not strategy that saves us and saves Christianity, but faith – thought out and lived afresh; through such faith, Christ enters this world of ours, and with him, the living God. As the martyrs of the Nazi era brought us together and prompted the first great ecumenical opening, so today, faith that is lived from deep within amid a secularized world is the most powerful ecumenical force that brings us together, guiding us towards unity in the one Lord.

Pope Benedict XVI will meet with the Lutherans

As a descendant of German Lutherans who arrived into Hoboken, New Jersey in the 19th Century, the idea of Catholics and Lutherans coming together is intriguing to me. Of course we have come together already on the Joint Declaration. Hopefully there will be more movement torwards that time in the future, when we will all be "one."

Here is a good article out of the Spectator by Freddy Gray...

A Catholic-Lutheran rapprochement?

Ecumenism doesn’t excite the media, as a rule. The quest for Christian unity usually involves beardy men drinking tea together, making safe and unfunny jokes about themselves, and agreeing to disagree. It doesn¹t make headlines.

Tomorrow, however, Pope Benedict XVI will mark an amazing shift in the relationship between Protestantism and Catholicism, as he visits Erfurt, the spiritual home of Martin Luther.

The Pope digs Luther, you see. He even digs Lutheranism. As John Allen Jr put it in his biography of Benedict, ‘The Lutherans are to Benedict what the Orthodox are to John Paul: the separated brethren he knows best, and for whom he has the greatest natural affinity.’

Benedict is German and his cultural sensibilities are therefore rather compatible with Germanic Lutheranism: he likes J S Bach and rigorous theology. In fact, as one of the world’s leading Augustinian scholars, Benedict has a natural rapport with Luther’s Augustinianism. In 1998, as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he played a key role in formulating with the Lutheran World Federation the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification), arguably the most groundbreaking ecumenical document of the last twenty years.

It would be overkill to talk about a new era of Catholic-Protestant unity. Benedict told reporters last weekend not to expect a ‘sensation’ in Erfurt. He has said in the past that Lutheranism’s lack of central authority represents an obstacle to meaningful dialogue (‘As soon as there is a Lutheran Church, we can discuss it,’ he once remarked). Plenty of Lutherans, for that matter, can't bear the thought of rapprochement with Rome.

Yet a Roman Pontiff leading an ecumenical service at the monastery of the man who sparked the Reformation, an event that would have been unimaginable 50 years ago – that’s a significant story.

* Bottom right image > Erfurt's Augustine monastery, where Luther lived as a monk before his protest against the Roman Catholic Church in 1517.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Amish Life

This image speaks volumes...God's Love in action...

More photos of Amish Life HERE

Friday, September 16, 2011


Today I was on as deacon at Benediction. The new sense of practicality did not extend to the ceremonies. I was in a fog, but very happy. All I could think about was picking up the Host. I was afraid the whole Church might come down on my head, because of what I used to be -- as if that were not forgotten! But God weighs scarcely anything at all. Though containing more than the universe, He was so light that I nearly fell off the altar. He communicated all that lightness to my own spirit and when I came down I was so happy I had a hard time to keep myself from laughing out loud.

Thomas Merton

Monday, September 12, 2011

Nikie the Service Dog at Ground Zero

I am a lover of dogs, especially Golden Retrievers. We have a lovely Golden Retriever at home named Shelby - she is sweet, loyal and just about the most perfect friend. Frank Shane, a professional dog therapist and CEO of the K-9 Disaster Relief Foundation, also has a perfect friend, his Golden Nikie. Frank Shane wrote a nice article about Nikie, and their experience at Ground Zero.

Soon after the attacks, Nikie and I were walking around the Family Assistance Center when a woman made a beeline for us. Trained in crisis intervention, I had decided to bring Nikie to the Center at Pier 94, set up by the city to help families of the missing or dead, because I thought he might cheer up some of the kids whose parents were navigating this unbelievable tragedy.

The woman tackled Nikie and threw her arms around him.

"Hello," I said.

The woman didn't respond, and she didn't let go.

"What's your name?" I tried again.

Nothing. Despite Nikie's and my many experiences working with people in hospitals and trauma centers, we had never elicited this kind of emotion before.

A mental health worker came over and began to talk to the woman about the dog. When she finally did speak, the woman said she had a dog named Ginger. "My husband loved to throw a yellow ball to Ginger," she said.

Slowly, the mental health worker discovered that the woman needed financial assistance because her husband, who was missing, was the breadwinner of the family.

In that moment, I recognized the power of an animal in making a human connection. I had learned about the incredible ability of dogs—and in particular Nikie—to communicate while working with him in a New Jersey brain trauma center years before 9/11.

Nikie, a majestic golden retriever, was smart and intuitive. But I didn't know just how smart until I saw him in action at the trauma center. Nikie knew how to carefully step around the cords next to a patient's bed. If a patient was alert, he approached for a scratch or some kind of contact. Often the connectivity between him and patients broke through obstacles that doctors and nurses couldn't overcome.

Read the rest of the story

Frank Shane, a professional dog therapist and CEO of the K-9 Disaster Relief Foundation, had to improvise when he brought his golden retriever, Nikie, down to Ground Zero. There was no protocol for anything—from the kind of footwear Nikie should wear to how Frank should deal with the unfathomable grief of 9/11. Yet from the moment Frank and his dog stepped onto the site, they both knew they had a job to do. As it turned out, a pair of soft ears and a wagging tail offered one of the best ways to connect to the people on the ground.

Father Mychal Judge Walk of Remembrance

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Message from Pope Benedict XVI to Archbishop Timothy Dolan

Pope Benedict XVI at Ground Zero

To my Venerable Brother
The Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

On this day my thoughts turn to the somber events. of September 11, 2001, when so many innocent lives were lost in the brutal assault on the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the further attacks in Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. I join you in commending the thousands of victims to the infinite mercy of Almighty God and in asking our heavenly Father to continue to console those who mourn the loss of loved ones.

The tragedy of that day is compounded by the perpetrators' claim to be acting in God's name. Once again, it must be unequivocally stated that no circumstances can ever justify acts of terrorism. Every human life is precious in God's sight and no effort should be spared in the attempt to promote throughout the world a genuine respect for the inalienable rights and dignity of individuals and peoples everywhere.

The American people are to be commended for the courage and generosity that they showed in the rescue operations and for their resilience in moving forward with hope and confidence. It is my fervent prayer that a firm commitment to justice and a global culture of solidarity will help rid the world of the grievances that so often give rise to acts of violence and will create the conditions for greater peace and prosperity, offering a brighter and more secure future.

With these sentiments, I extend my most affectionate greetings to you, your brother Bishops and all those entrusted to your pastoral care, and I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and serenity in the Lord,

From the Vatican, September 11,2011

Benedict XVI

Friday, September 9, 2011

Archbishop Timothy Dolan: A Time for Remembrance, Resolve and Renewal

As we commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon, it is a time for remembrance, resolve and renewal.

We reverently recall those who were most directly affected by this tragedy—those who died, were injured or lost loved ones.In a special way we recall the selfless first responders—firefighters, police, chaplains, emergency workers, and other brave persons—who risked, and many times lost, their lives in their courageous efforts to save others.

We also remember how our nation responded to the terrifying events of that day—we turned to prayer, and then turned to one another to offer help and support.Hands were folded in prayer and opened in service to those who had lost so much.

We resolve today and always to reject hatred and resist terrorism.The greatest resource we have in these struggles is faith.Ten years ago our Conference of Bishops issued a Pastoral Message, Living with Faith and Hope after September 11, which drew on the rich resources of our Catholic faith to minister to our nation and world.The truth of that Pastoral Message still resonates today.

A decade later we remain resolved to reject extreme ideologies that perversely misuse religion to justify indefensible attacks on innocent civilians, to embrace persons of all religions, including our Muslim neighbors, and to welcome refugees seeking safety.We steadfastly refrain from blaming the many for the actions of a few and insist that security needs can be reconciled with our immigrant heritage without compromising either one.Gratefully mindful of the continuing sacrifices of the men and women in our armed forces, and their families, we also resolve to bring a responsible end to the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This tenth anniversary of 9/11 can be a time of renewal.Ten years ago we came together across religious, political, social and ethnic lines to stand as one people to heal wounds and defend against terrorism.As we face today's challenges of people out of work, families struggling, and the continuing dangers of wars and terrorism, let us summon the 9/11 spirit of unity to confront our challenges.Let us pray that the lasting legacy of 9/11 is not fear, but rather hope for a world renewed.

In remembering the fateful events of September 11, 2001, may we resolve to put aside our differences and join together in the task of renewing our nation and world.Let us make our own the prayer of Pope Benedict XVI when he visited Ground Zero in New York in 2008:

O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain….

God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.
Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all.

PDF version for printing HERE

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) says the world is currently in the midst of a horrifying abortion surge.

Important article out of EWTN News...

The future of faith-based health care in the developing world is being threatened by the global pro-abortion lobby, led by the U.S. administration of President Barack Obama, a U.S. Catholic politician has warned.

“Make no mistake about it; they are going for the jugular. No country, save the Vatican, is immune,” said Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.) to a global conference of Catholic health care professionals in Rome Sept. 2.

The New Jersey congressman said that pro-abortion forces are willing to kill off faith-based health care in the developing world – despite the fact that such bodies provide up to 70 percent of all health provision in places such as Africa.

“The threat to mothers and children is real and growing. Faith-based health care is at risk of global defunding and disenfranchisement,” said Congressman Smith.

He claimed the world is currently “in the midst of a horrifying abortion surge” fueled, to a large extent, by the Obama administration.

“The Obama Administration poured over $61.5 million dollars - subsidizing a reported 83 NGO’s - to secure a new constitution in Kenya,” said Congressman Smith giving a recent example, “that includes a fundamental right to a ‘health’ abortion performed by anyone described in the constitution as a trained health professional.” Prior to the approval of the new constitution, abortion was illegal in Kenya.

Congressman Smith recalled speaking recently to a “Speaker of a Parliament in a large African country” who told him that such tactics “take advantage of our poverty.”

He also highlighted how the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, initiated by George W. Bush in 2003, now issues grant proposals that “require condom procurement, promotion and/or utilization activities as a core element of an HIV prevention program with no reference to the conscience clause in the document.”

Meanwhile, the U.N’s new “Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health” demands that abortion be included in any health care provision which, said the congressman, “apparently leaves little or no room for inclusion of Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) and secular NGOs of conscience.”

Read more HERE

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day

THROUGH WORK man must earn his daily bread and contribute to the continual advance of science and technology and, above all, to elevating unceasingly the cultural and moral level of the society within which he lives in community with those who belong to the same family. And work means any activity by man, whether manual or intellectual, whatever its nature or circumstances; it means any human activity that can and must be recognized as work, in the midst of all the many activities of which man is capable and to which he is predisposed by his very nature, by virtue of humanity itself. Man is made to be in the visible universe an image and likeness of God himself, and he is placed in it in order to subdue the earth. From the beginning therefore he is called to work. Work is one of the characteristics that distinguish man from the rest of creatures, whose activity for sustaining their lives cannot be called work. Only man is capable of work, and only man works, at the same time by work occupying his existence on earth. Thus work bears a particular mark of man and of humanity, the mark of a person operating within a community of persons. And this mark decides its interior characteristics; in a sense it constitutes its very nature. Blessed John Paul II

Excerpt from Laborem exercens

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Break, Break, Break

Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

O well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!

And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill:
But O for the touch of a vanish'd hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break, break,
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.

By Alfred Lord Tennyson

* Painting - The Ocean by Michael Bozell