Saturday, August 27, 2005

blogging break

I'll be away through September 5 and won't be able to blog until then.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

September 11 archive

The fourth anniversary of 9/11 is only a few weeks away. The Smithsonian has a digital archive where anyone can submit their memories of 9/11. It's for anyone, not just for those who were in NY and Washington when the planes hit. You can become part of the historical record for future generations.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Catholic Recycle

I found this link to a site called Catholic Recycle from the blog "A Catholic Life." It looks like a sort of Craig's list for Catholics. If you haven't been to Craig's list, it's an online place where people can give things away and get things too, for free or to sell. It's a great idea, to get things from the people who want to give them away to those who need them.
It seems that Catholic Recycle isn't widely known yet so there's not a lot on the site, but maybe in time it will grow and be a useful place to give and get Catholic items.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pope Benedict on current issues

I'm reading a talk that the pope gave to parish priests in Italy last month. He answered several questions that they put to him. I'm very impressed at his pastoral response to these issues, including divorce and remarriage. Toward the beginning of the talk he said, "I share with you these questions, these queries. I also suffer. However, let us on the one hand suffer all together for these problems, and let us also suffer in transforming the problems. For suffering itself is the way to transformation, and without suffering nothing is transformed." (My italics)

This thought really struck me: let us also suffer in transforming the problems.
He's reminding us that difficult problems don't have easy solutions. Sometimes we can't just solve a problem; we have to suffer through the problem until we finally reach a solution. Take something like illness. If a person gets something serious like cancer, they can get treated for it and often recover. But the process causes suffering. Chemo can cause nausea, hair loss, and many other uncomfortable side effects. The anxiety that goes along with it causes the person to suffer mental distress.
Or take problems in family relationships. A parent often has to suffer through the problem of a wayward child. Or a spouse has to suffer through the problem of alcoholism, drug addiction or some other painful situations that afflict their spouse.
The usual way God works with us is to bring fruit out of our troubles by helping us suffer through the problem. God usually doesn't take it all away miraculously; that would be the "cheap grace" that Bonhoeffer spoke of. The "expensive grace" is the one that Jesus gives us to suffer through something. But the good news is that we don't have to do it alone--he's with us all through it.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Nuts to cancer!

In December 2004, a team of scientists at Purdue University led by Qing Jiang released the results of a study on Vitamin E and cancer. They showed that human cancer cells—from both prostate and lung cancers—were prevented from spreading by gamma-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E. Jiang said, “This is the first time gamma-tocopherol has been shown to induce death in lab-grown human cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone."
Vitamin E has several forms, with the gamma form being one of them. However, most supplements contain the alpha form. The gamma form is found abundantly in nuts, especially walnuts and pecans. So eating nuts may be a good way of avoiding some types of cancer.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Wandering shepherd

Today on the news I heard that an elderly Jesuit priest from Campion Center, a retirement center near Boston, wandered off the grounds and was lost from Thursday to Saturday. Luckily he was found today about a half-mile away from the retreat house. Father has dementia and somehow "escaped" unnoticed. I haven't heard more details, but I'm wondering how he survived for two nights in the woods. The Center is surrounded by woods. Luckily he was in good shape when he was found.
This brings up the problems that people have in taking care of the elderly who have Alzheimer's or simple dementia. Many people are so heroic in the love and attention they give to their parents, etc. If any of you have stories about this it would be great to hear about them!

The virtual rosary

The above link is to a great site on the rosary! The virtual rosary can be downloaded for free and you can pray the rosary on your computer.
Thanks to Karen from Missouri for pointing this out to me!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Bumper sticker prevents abortion

The link above is to a story about a girl who decided not to have an abortion after reading a pro-life bumper sticker: Abortion stops a beating heart.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Brother Roger of Taize murdered

From Zenit:
"The founder of the French religious Taizé Community, Brother Roger, was attacked and killed by a mentally disturbed man during vespers, his community said. Roger, 90, was attacked, probably with a knife, during evening prayer today at Taizé, near Cluny, in the eastern Burgundy region, a member of the community told Agence France-Presse. The Taizé movement started during World War II, when Swiss-born monk Roger Schutz, living in Taizé, provided a refuge for those fleeing the conflict, irrespective of their religion. Roger, a Protestant with a degree in theology, devoted his life to the reconciliation between Christian denominations. "

May he rest in peace.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Abortion pill controversy

The deaths of four women who took the abortion pill are being investigated as the above news story notes. If you read the story you will see there is a certain protocol for taking the drug. The Massachusetts legislature recently passed a bill that would allow some pharmacists to dispense this drug without a prescription. Governor Romney vetoed it.
Is this how the abortion industry treats the health of women? To allow a dangerous drug--one that is being investigated as the cause of death for some women--to be given without a prescription?

How little choices can have major effects

On the post below I wrote about my father getting blown out of his plane during World War II. The ironic part of it is that he never wore his parachute--except on that flight. For some reason, he put it on that day and it saved his life.

It might seem like such a little decision--to wear a parachute or not, like wearing a seat belt or not. Most of the time the choice might be incidental. How many times we wear them and nothing happens, so it really didn't make any difference. But that day for my dad, his decision to put on the parachute was a life or death decision. Of course he didn't know that at the time. But it was. And it had so many consequences. If he had died then, me and my brothers and sisters would never have been born. My mother's life would have been very different. But the reality is that I'm sitting here typing this today because on Dec. 11, 1943, my dad put on a parachute.

On earth we can never know all the consequences of the decisions that we make. But every time we make a decision to do something evil, something sinful, bad consequences follow. On the other hand, every time we make a decision to do something good, to do some act of charity or some other virtuous thing, good consequences follow. Some of those choices might seem so little, but in reality they could be a life or death decision for someone. We may never know on earth what those consequences are. But at the final judgment we'll see our whole life in the wider scheme of things, and how everything we do has ripple effects of good or evil.

The Assumption--a feast of reunions

This morning I was looking at an icon of the Assumption outside our chapel. It shows Mary embracing Jesus in heaven, and it made me think that Mary's Assumption into heaven must have been the greatest reunion of all time.
Ironically, today I got a letter from an aunt whom I probably haven't seen in about 20 years. It was such a pleasant surprise to hear from her. Someone life just keeps us busy and we go our separate ways, so our paths don't cross for a long time. She contacted me because she came across a message I had left on a World War II site almost 3 years ago when I was looking up information about my father's experiences in the war. After I posted that, someone kindly sent me a list of the missions my father had flown in Europe. That's when I found out he had bombed Rome, besides about 20 other cities! He also spent about a year and a half in a prisoner of war camp in Germany, Stalag Luft One. He was blown out of the plane when it got hit by German fire that opened a large hole. The plane didn't go down, though, and made it back to base.

All this had made me think about my family a little more and relatives that I haven't seen in a while. These kinds of reunions are just preludes to the great reunion that awaits us in heaven, when we will be reunited with Jesus and Mary and the saints, and the other people we've known in our lives.

EnCouraged

As always, the experience of the Courage Conference was truly wonderful. We recorded and duplicated on-the-spot 15 talks, including the keynote presentations and some of the workshops that were given. The people purchased quite a few of them, along with many books and other AV's.
I am always so edified and impressed by the Courage members. They are really going against the current today, in a society that thinks nothing of people indulging in any kind of sexual behavior they want. The Courage members are trying their best to live a chaste life according to the teachings of the Church. They're real heroes.
What struck me too is that they're happy people. They have their crosses to bear and struggles to deal with, like all of us do. But they radiate a certain peace and happiness, the kind that comes from living a good life. In the next few days I'll blog more about some particular things from the conference.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Courage Conference

Tomorrow through Sunday I'll be away at the Courage Conference with a couple other sisters. For many years now we have recorded the talks at the conference and made them available, along with having a book display. I've gone to it several other times and it's been a wonderful experience to meet with the members of Courage and be of some service through our media apostolate. This year it will be at the seminary in Douglaston, NY, on Long Island, not so far from where I grew up.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

St. Edith Stein

Today is the feast of St. Edith Stein. Pope John Paul not only canonized her but proclaimed her a co-patroness of Europe. Born Jewish, she became an atheist and eventually converted to the Catholic Church, became a Carmelite, and was murdered by the Nazis in a concentration camp.
Here is a saint who experienced in her own life and death the depths to which Europe had sunk. She is a great patron to pray too that Europe may rediscover its Christian roots.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Prayer of petition and doing God's will

Leanne Payne is one of my favorite authors, and I was recently reading her book Listening Prayer. She said something really wonderful about prayer of petition. Of course it means placing our petitions before God, but she suggested something else as part of it: to receive God's answer. She recommends doing this by simply picturing in our imagination the thing we've asked for, and then placing that image before God in prayer and letting him speak to us about it. Very often, the picture will change to bring it more in accord with God's will. This listening to God in prayer will help us receive in our lives what God wants to do.

There's so much wisdom in that. It's easy to think that when I ask for something, God should give it to me exactly as I asked for it. If it doesn't happen, I can think my prayer wasn't answered. But if I wasn't asking according to God's will, God will answer it in a different way. By using the imagination to picture the desired result, and then let God shape it, we can find that our desires will be more in line with what God wants.

I tried this with a couple petitions I was praying for, and I was amazed at how well it worked. I found that God showed me what I should really be asking for. Holding the picture in our imagination also taps into the psychological reality that we tend to strive toward goals we can picture.

Pain is temporary; victory is forever!

Today at Mass the priest used this saying in his homily. He said how in sports, enduring temporary pain often leads to victory. Basking in victory, the pain is forgotten.
It's like that in the spiritual life too. It's hard to practice virtue, to deny ourselves things, to put others' needs before our own. Jesus said it too in the Gospel, "How rough the road that leads to life!" But to keep the goal in mind makes it all worthwhile.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Ancient Bible text going online

The Codex Sinaiticus is a very ancient copy of the entire Bible, written in Greek. A project is underway to make the text available online, which will be finished in about four years.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Thomas Tuesday

The Exodus reading today is about envy directed at Moses. St. Thomas deals with envy in the Summa, q. 36 of part II-II:

"Charity rejoices in our neighbor's good, while envy grieves over it...." Then he lists some of the things that envy brings along:
"tale-bearing, detraction, joy at another's misfortune, grief at another's prosperity" and finally this all leads to hatred.

Envy is one of those sins that few people like to admit to, because it seems like we fall into it because we think we're inferior in some way. St. Thomas' reflections on it make me ask myself today: if I say something negative about someone else, is envy at the root of it?

Moses

I really like today's reading from Exodus, about the time Aaron and Miriam got jealous of Moses. He's called "the meekest man on the face of the earth." When God punishes Miriam by giving her leprosy, Moses pleads for her in such a heartfelt way, "Please! not this!"
Moses must have had boundless compassion and mercy. He didn't want to tightly grasp onto God's gifts to him, but when others started to prophesy, he thanked God for it. It was like he had an "abundance mentality," praising God for giving his gifts to all. Moses didn't want to be the special one as if he had a privileged place. He's a great role model for all those who have some sort of authority over others. How do you relate to Moses?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Great books from the 20th century

I happened to come across this list of 100 great books from the 20th century.

Glimpses of the Devil

The link is to a review of Scott Peck's new book on diabolical possession. I haven't read it yet but I would like to when I'm able to find the time.
A few years ago I read his book "People of the Lie." In it he recounts examples of people he met in his psychological work who had freely chosen evil. While many, if not most, sins are the result of human weakness, evil is still a reality and we are capable of choosing it.
Peck's new book is of interest because of his association with Malachi Martin, a controversial Jesuit who took some extreme positions in his later years.

Jesus and the storm

At Mass today the priest said something about the Gospels of today and tomorrow that I liked a lot. It was about connecting the miracle of the loaves with Jesus walking on the water. Matthew recounts both these events right after the death of John the Baptist. So Jesus is mourning John's death, and he wants to go away by himself to pray. But the crowds follow him so he changes plans and feeds them. Only after that does he dismiss the crowd and find the time to pray. In that prayer, he somehow came to terms with the death of John the Baptist and in prayer faced the reality of his own death. Then he came down, and met the disciples while walking on the water. That miracle of walking on the water is symbolic of Jesus as the conqueror of death. Perhaps Peter fell not only because of his lack of faith, but because his lack of faith meant he didn't yet understand the mystery of death.
For some reason I liked this interpretation a lot. It has much to say to people who are mourning the death of loved ones. Even Jesus mourned for those he loved; we also see that when he cried at Lazarus' tomb.

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