Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bullying is being blamed for the death of Asher Brown, a Texas thirteen year old, who committed suicide on September 23. I am not sure that bullying is strong enough a word. I am dumbfounded as to how people can relentlessly ridicule and harass another person. Day after day, showing up at school just to make another person's life miserable. Terrible enough to push this young man to take his own life. Satan was at work on both sides of this issue. Even more startling was a comment left by an apparent adult about this tragedy. Instead of mourning the loss and focusing on lifting the grieving family up in prayer, this person identified only as ModerateChuck said, "Another point that stands out is: how could a 13 year old get access to a pistol without his parents noticing? In my house, weapons are strictly controlled and locked." If you have read my blog before, you know of my passion for the Epistle of James. In this instance, St. James words have unfortunately come true. James 3:5-9 says, "In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions. Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze. The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God." Yes it was the tongues of others that caused Asher Brown so much pain that he chose to take his life. His tormentors used the same tongue that God has given them to praise Him and used it to curse Asher. Before we as adults think this stops at a certain age, pick up any newspaper or glance at any number of web blogs and look at the evil and vicious things we say about each other. Our loss of civility has unleashed the fire of Gehenna. People do not think twice about spreading gossip or lies about others. I have seen people smile in glee when bad things befall their supposed friends. I am praying for Asher Brown and his family. I am also praying for his tormentors that they realize their error and seek the Lord's forgiveness. Finally, I am praying for all Christians that we have the courage to make a stand when confronted with a situation like this. Have the courage of God to stand up and stop this vile activity.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Christian event on Saturday for Fort Bragg soldiers and members of the surrounding area is unconstitutional and should be canceled, according to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. The anti-Christian group said in a statement Thursday that the planned event — a concert and other activities called "Rock the Fort" — improperly enlists the military in a bid by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to win Christian converts. The Charlotte-based ministry has sponsored similar events on military bases around the country. According to the BGEA's website, Saturday's event in Fayetteville is different because civilians as well as military personnel will be able to attend. "Chaplains at the fort identified 20 churches in the area where most soldiers are involved," the site
says. "The churches are now walking alongside chaplains from Fort Bragg, hosting training and praying for this event." The site describes "Rock the Fort" as a chance to hear evangelists speak as well as listen to music by such Christian artists as Hawk Nelson and God Rocks. There's also a planned set of activities for
children. Bragg, which is home to the U.S. Army Airborne and Special Forces, has about 45,000 people living on post. In a letter to Secretary of the Army John McHugh
sent Thursday, lawyers for Americans United urged that the event be canceled. "The military's participation in a religious event designed to proselytize soldiers and the community departs from the Army's obligation to maintain 'official religious neutrality,'" the attorneys wrote. In its letter to McHugh, Americans United included a letter on Army stationary bearing the signature of Fort Bragg Garrison Chaplain David Hillis. The letter, dated June 2, is addressed to area Christian
pastors, asking for assistance with "this unifying Christian event." Americans United contends that chaplains in the military are restricted to holding religious services and making other accommodations for soldiers who want to practice their faith while serving in the Army. "'Rock the Fort' is not an event designed to minister to the needs of soldiers unable to otherwise access religious services," the letter to McHugh says. "Rather, it is an event designed to proselytize
soldiers and community members into the worship of Jesus Christ." I am going to be praying for the success of this event and I urge you to do the same.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman and said his vision of religion's vital role in society should serve as a model today. the pope read aloud the decree proclaiming Cardinal Newman "blessed," a major step on the way toward official recognition of sainthood. Blessed Newman, a 19th-century theologian and a prolific writer on spiritual topics, left the Anglican Church and embraced Catholicism at the age of 44. The pope announced that his feast day would be October 9, the day of his entry into the Catholic Church. In his homily, the pope drew a portrait of Blessed Newman as a man who had profound insight into the Christian call to holiness and the importance of prayer and whose eloquent prose was able to inspire many of his time and subsequent generations. In particular, he said, Blessed Newman examined the relationship between faith and reason and "the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society." The pope paid special tribute to Blessed Newman's vision of education, which combined intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment. He quoted the theologian's appeal for a well-instructed laity and said it should serve as a goal for catechists today: "I want a laity not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it." Newman is known as the architect of the Oxford Movement. He wrote a defense of his life, Apologia pro Vita Sua, now considered the greatest spiritual autobiography since St. Augustine's Confessions

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. I am sure, like me, you have said those words thousands of times. Perhaps you were just repeating them along with everyone else. I encourage you to take a close look at what this really means. Pope Benedict XVI covers it very nicely in his book Jesus of Nazareth if you want an "expert" opinion. I am increasingly concerned that we are not paying attention to things that Jesus has specifically asked us to do and this is one of them. We know about this beautiful prayer because the apostles asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. The Lord's prayer is a definitive instruction and we are urged to listen carefully. Luke 11:4 says, "and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us." It is difficult to forgive people. We usually want to retaliate. To make them feel like we felt when they hurt us. But let's go deeper. When we "trespass" against someone we are creating hate and anger. Those things are the opposite of love and happiness and that is what God is for us. God is the truth and the way and He is love, happiness and everything good in our lives. If you have someone in debt to you, you are called to forgive them. It is a humbling experience and I am working my way down a list of folks that deserve my forgiveness. In the end, the forgiveness I offer allows me to join God in Heaven for eternal life. Isn't that our goal after all? By offering forgiveness, we are telling God that we love Him above everything else. We are so in love with God that we are not going to allow anything to cause us to miss out on a life of perfection with the Lord in Heaven. God has already forgiven our trespasses. What are we waiting for?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The anniversary of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 has certainly caused many people to stop and reflect on the implications of that event nine years removed. The topic has been raging in the national media for a while especially over the plan to place an Islamic cultural center and mosque a couple of blocks away from ground zero in New York. Georgetown University theology professor Chester Gillis says that at its core, the mosque furor is not unlike what Catholics experienced in the United States for more than 100 years. He also is dean of Georgetown College and the founding director of the program on the Church and Interreligious Dialogue within the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. While there are a wide range of political, philosophical and even zoning arguments about the Islamic center plans, Gillis sees anti-Muslim sentiment -- based in misconceptions and xenophobia -- at the core of the debate. "The neophytes in society are always on the outside," Gillis said. "With Catholics, people feared they would have loyalty to a foreign power, the Holy See." With Muslims, he added, people fear a possible connection to an Islamic government or to a terrorist organization. Public outcry erupted this summer over plans to convert a former Burlington Coat Factory store, located a little more than two blocks from the World Trade Center complex, into a nine-story Islamic cultural center, with a mosque included. The area's Muslim community already uses the vacant retail space for worshippers who overflow from the al-Farah Mosque, about a dozen blocks north of the trade center property. At an impromptu news conference August 18, New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan noted that "as Catholics, we ourselves are somewhat touchy about this issue because in the past we have been discriminated against." He said he would be happy to participate in efforts to negotiate a compromise over the Manhattan mosque as part of "a very civil, rational, loving, respectful discussion." Gillis noted that the "No Irish Need Apply" signs common in Massachusetts early in the 19th century were rooted in fears over how American society might be changed by immigrants, but particularly by their Catholic faith and culture.The fear of Catholics extended beyond the refusal to hire Irish immigrants. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes mobs descending upon a cathedral in Cincinnati in 1853, on churches in New Jersey, New York, Maine and New Hampshire the following year. It tells of a Maine priest who was dragged from his church, robbed, tarred and feathered; of Ohio churches being blown up and convents burned in Massachusetts and Texas. The development of Catholic schools, hospitals and organizations for writers, physicians, teachers and so on all happened because Catholics were not allowed in counterpart entities, Gillis explained. "CYO, for example, was intended as a counter-organization to the YMCA, where Catholics were not allowed."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Did you watch the various programs about the terrorist attacks of 9/11 this weekend? I caught a few on the National Geographic Channel. The amount of detail was astonishing. I heard for the first time, many of the personal phone calls made by people trapped in the Twin Towers and on the various airplanes used as weapons by the Al-Qaeda. I am still shocked when I see the the planes flying into the Twin Towers. The Catholic News Service also recently ran an interesting story about Fr. Tom Iwanowski, who is pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Oradell, NJ. For Jersey City residents living near Our Lady of Czestochowa (where Fr. Tom previously served), the absence of the twin towers of the World Trade Center -- which had been a dominant point of reference on the horizon -- is a constant, sad reminder of the brutal murder of 3,000 innocent people, including more than 670 from New Jersey. "As the afternoon progressed, people came to seek consolation in church and comfort in the rest area we had so quickly set up," Father Iwanowski said. "We had workers from Manhattan. We had residents from Battery Park City. We had folks from a hotel in Manhattan who arrived in their sleepwear. We had 22 students from the High School of Economics and Finance. The students literally had no idea where they were. They ran for their lives and headed for the river. The spirit of God was working in me and the parish staff members that day," he said. "God used us to be the light in the darkness. We simply reacted to the situation. Somehow we knew what we had to do. It was instinctive. How could anyone be prepared for such an event?" he asked. "The only thing you can do is be open to God. There's a sense of prayerfulness; you allow the Holy Spirit to guide you so that you can do something to answer the prayers of others." Turning from death to life, I wanted to share that Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, presented the People of Life award to three individuals for their lifetime commitment to the pro-life movement at a recent ceremony in Houston. Those honored were Professor William E. May, Msgr. Philip J. Reilly and Patricia Bainbridge. The People of Life Award recognizes those who have answered the call outlined by Pope John Paul II in The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae, 1995) by dedicating themselves to pro-life activities and promoting respect for the dignity of the human person. It is bestowed on occasion to a practicing Catholic in honor of his or her significant contribution in service to the culture of life.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I was listening to Catholic Radio this morning and heard an interesting conversation about abortion. Perhaps I haven't been paying close enough attention but apparently many of the Pink organizations (namely Susan Komen Breast Cancer) has created numerous alliances with Planned Parenthood. As you are well aware, PP is extremely pro-abortion and promotes the culture of death with the use of our tax dollars. Karen Malec, who runs the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, maintains a very informative website that explains this connection much better than I could. The program also talked about a useful source of information on the aftereffects of abortion and post-abortion healing. The website was an eye opener for me and I consider myself a very informed pro-lifer. Just goes to show how life can distract you from what is truly important. I would urge you to pray for an end to abortion in America. It is truly the most egregious human-rights violation that our great nation allows.