Is Anybody There?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says Yahweh Sabaoth" Zach 4:6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dio di Signore, nella Sua volontà è nostra pace!" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin 1759

Monday, August 28, 2006

St. Augustine

"Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!
Lo, you were within, but I outside, seeking there for you,
and upon the shapely things you have made
I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
those things which would have no being,
were they not in you.
You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;
I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
you touched me, and I burned for your peace."

The Confessions of Saint Augustine, bishop

This quote is from St. Augustine who's feast is celebrated on 28 Aug. He was Bishop of Hippo at the beginning of the 5th Century AD. He is also considered a Doctor of the Church. However, anyone who knew him when he was about 20 yrs old would have said that none of this was ever going to happy. At that time he had a mistress & an illegitimate son named Adeodatus. Actually, there was 1 person who would have believed it if she had been told it would happen. That was his mother, St. Monica. She had been married to a Roman official named Patritius who had a violent temper & led a dissolute life. He did become a Christian shortly before he died. However, things didn't go so smoothly as fas as Augustine went. But, she kept praying for him year after year. At 1 point Augustine became a Manichean, a heretical sect that was very popular at the time. Eventually Augustine ended up in Milan. St. Monica followed him. There she meet the bishop of Milan, St. Ambrose.
At Milan, Augustine began to listenning to the preaching of St. Ambrose. He went through 3 more yrs of struggles as he attempted to sort out what he believed in. Easter 387 saw him along with his son Adeodatus & his close friend Alypius were baptised by St. Ambrose. Alypius went on to be a bishop himself & was canonized in 1584 by Pope Gregory XIII. Shortly after his baptism as they were heading back to Africa St. Monica died. The next yr Adeodatus also died. St. Augustine became bishop of Hippo in 396 & died in 430 AD.
St. Augustine spent his time fighting the various heresies rampant at the time including the 1 he had previously embraced, Manicheanism. He also founded many religious communities & wrote prolificly. His 2 greated works are his Confessions & The City of God.
The quote I opened this blog with is 1 of my favorite quotes from St. Augustine. It summarizes his life in a way that is both simple & profound. It reminds me of the poem The Hound of Heaven by by Francis Thompson. (
"Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you."
This is another quote from St. Augustine that states the truth about the human heart. St. Augustine spent about 30 yrs of his life searching. He went from pleasure to pleasure. He sought answers in philosophy & in false religions as well. But, until he surrendered to Jesus & made Him Lord of his life he was heading towards doom & disaster. This is how many people are today. They totally cut out God. They go from pleasure to pleasure. Or they chase after every new religious fad there is. Some try to pervert the teachings of Jesus as found in the Bible & the teachings of the Catholic Church. They want to deny the reality of sin, they want to turn Jesus into a good man, but not the Son of God. They deny the miracles of Jesus as mere stories that never really happenned. They try to remake God in man's image. Yet, in th end without Jesus as Lord, their lives are just as empty, just as much on the path to eternal death. The are literally on the "highway to hell". Yet, like St. Augustine, & Francis Thompson, God hasn't given up on anyone. St. Augustine is a sign that no one is too far gone into sin that God can't set him or her free. Jesus' death on the Christ was to bring salvation & redemption to all.
As for those who have a family member or friend who is running from God, St. Monica's life shows that we shouldn't give up. She prayed for 30 yrs. She cried out to God shedding many tears of sorrow for what he son was doing. She was tempted to give up. At 1 point a bishop comforted her with these words: "the child of those tears shall never perish." She remained faithful in her prayers. The whole Church has been blessed as a result.
She is also a sign of encouragement for those of us who are sorrowing over those who are trying to pervert the Church. Though they try from within to destroy what God is doing, in the end, they will fail. God will see that His message is preserved & proclaimed. God will restore & renew His Church in answer to our prayers for reformation & revivial. Our job, keep on praying. But also, speak out & call people to return to Jesus. Proclaim the truth as taught by the Magisterium of the Church. Learn from Ss. Augustine & Monica. They are an example for all.

Cartoonists' takes on IAU & Pluto

Here are some editorial cartoons about the recent changes in Pluto's status as a planet:

3 New Planets

Goodbye Planet Pluto

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Pluto Redux

I suppose I'm feeding into the overblown frenzy, but since I love astronomy, why not?
Officially Pluto has been demoted to a new class of bodies called "dwarf planets". Yet, they are not planets. Confusing, isn't it? Either it is a planet or it isn't. If it isn't then why does its name include the word planet?
The International Astronomical Union at their meeting in Prague finally came to a decision to name 3 basic groups of bodies in the solar system; 1) Planets: The eight worlds from Mercury to Neptune. 2) Dwarf Planets: Pluto and any other round object that "has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit, and is not a satellite." 3) Small Solar System Bodies: All other objects orbiting the Sun.
& of course rather than settling things it has created more controversy. Part of it has to do with how you decide that a planet is a planet. To be a planet it has to be found that it "has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit." Yet, following that definition you couldn't call Jupiter a planet since it has about 50,000 trojan asteroids. & Earth isn't any better. So many scientists are already petitioning for a revisit, esp since only 424 astronomers voted on the final resolution.
What do I think about all the to do? 1st of all, much as I hate to see Pluto taken out of the list of planets I go back to what I said in a previous blog, there needs to be a class of dwarf planets. Put Pluto, Ceres, & 2003 UB313 into a class called dwarf planets. Some argue that there will be many more yet to be found. So we can't call them planets. Why not, with the qualifier of dwarf they fit the general description of a planet that most of us use. They orbit the sun, they are round, they usually have moons but not always. All that is needed is a minimum & maximum size. The 2nd class would be the terrestrial planets. The 3rd would be the gas giants with a definition of where they end & brown dwarfs begin. A 4th class would be moons. Finally a 5th general class that would have subclasses such as asteroids & comets.
I know this won't please everyone. But, it strikes me as the most logical way to deal with things. The Solar System, or for that matter, creation in general is not as neat & simple as some people would like. It is a complex system that shows the handiwork of an intelligent designer. & to put it bluntly, it shows that creation did not spring up by chance. As Genesis puts it: "In the beginning God created the heavens & the Earth". I suspect that somewhere down the road another type of body will be found that won't fit into any of the current types. They keep finding smaller & smaller subatomic particles after they say they have gone as far as they can. The same is probably true on the macro-scale of things as it is on the micro-scale. The more that scientists discover about creation, in the end the more we discovery the glory of God revealed in His creation.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Special Olympics, an Endangered Species?

I was planning on simply using this to talk about an event that is going on here in DBQ today that I feel very strongly about. Then I came accross an article about a UN sponsored event that raised my ire & gave me more proof that the culture of death is still doing its insidious best to triumph.
The event is a fundraiser for the Special Olympics Winter Games. The Winter Games have been held every yr here in DBQ since 1977. It is sponsored by Radio Dubuque & The Bike Shack. Riding for the Special Olympics Winter Games is a 10 mile bike ride in which the riders get sponsors to pledge so much per mile. The money goes to pay for the expenses of putting on the event evry yr. The 2nd part of the event is Rotary Club of Dubuque's Rock n Soul II" Saturday night at the Alliant Amphitheater. 2 bands will be performing with the proceeds from the event also going to fund the Winter Games. The 2007 games will be held 9-11 Jan 2007.
So what are the Special Olympics? Here's what the Iowa Orginization says on their website: "Special Olympics Iowa (SOIA) is a statewide non-profit organization that provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.
Special Olympics Iowa has served Iowans with intellectual disabilities for over 38 years. With the founding of Special Olympics in 1968, the first competition in Iowa had fewer than 100 participating athletes. The growth of the program has been dramatic. In 2005 Special Olympics Iowa provided training and competitions in 22 sports for over 12,850 athletes representing each of Iowa’s 99 counties."
The Iowa group is a part of "an international nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition. Special Olympics offers children and adults with intellectual disabilities year-round training and competition in 26 Olympic-type summer and winter sports."
The above information should be enough to tell you why I think Special Olympics is so important. But, it is more than that. In my High School & College days I was involved in groups that worked with the intellectually disabled. These are human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity because of their inate worth as a human being created in the image & likeness of God.
So, what has got me so upset was a press release put out 21 Aug by The World Congress of Families. The event they were talking about was The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities being held 1-25 Aug 2006 in New York. The convention is supposedly working on a treaty that's purpose is ostensibly to protect disability rights. The press release raises some concerns about the wording of the treay & how it may actually hurt rather than protect the disabled.
World Congress' organizer Allan Carlson said: “Ironically, what is being billed as a treaty to protect disability rights may actually be used to deny those rights, including the most fundamental human right -- the right to life." His evidence: “The treaty’s danger lies in its ambiguous language. For instance, the International Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the U.N. in 1948, speaks of the ‘worth’ as well as the ‘dignity’ of the individual. By contrast, the Disability Treaty speaks only of their ‘dignity,’ but not their ‘worth.’ Since euthanasia advocates use the expression ‘death with dignity,’ there’s a reasonable fear that a convention intended to secure their rights actually could lead to the killing of the disabled.”
He went on to point out: “With active euthanasia sanctioned in a number of countries, including the Netherlands, this concern is far from hypothetical."
Lately I have come accross some articles where people have moved beyond calling for the right to die to calling for the responsibility of the elderly & infirm to die so as to not be a burden on the rest of society. I see Mr. Carlson's concerns as having some strong basis in reality. As objectionable to me as active euthenasia is we are heading into the realm of passive euthenasia. In this view a person only has value when he or she can contribute to society & not be a burden on others. If the person is disabled or infirm in any way so that he or she cannot care for himself, then that peson has no right to go on living.
This is a far cry from the Judeo-Christian Biblical view that all men are created in the image & likeness of God. This was the "natural law" basis for the self-evident truths stated in The Declaration of Independence, "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life. . ." Notice it doesn't say only all who can contribute or only all that are healthy or all who have no disability. It says ALL. & all means all without exception.
Today we see the attitude toward the mentally & physically disabled that we say in Nazi Germany. I keep flashing back to a favorite scene of mine in the movie The Hiding Place. In this scene Corrie ten Boom is being questioned by an SS officer. When asked to talk about her work Corrie starts talking about her work catechising mentally retarded children. The officer sees her actions as a waste of time on those with no value. He says that her time would be better spent on those who have some value. Corrie's reply is to ask him how does he know that in God's eyes 1 of those children isn't of more value than he is. Corrie clearly learned the lesson Jesus taught about the value that is found in every human life even the least.
This is a lesson we seemed to have forgotten. When Pope Paul VI wrote the encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968, he was criticised for not only banning artificial birth control, but for his prophetic stand on the dangerous path along which it would take us. His warnings have been proven true in the yrs that have followed. People who spoke out in support of Pope Paul's position were ridiculed. People who warned of the slippery slope we were on when abortion was legalized were not only ridiculed but threatened, bullied & when they protested outside abortion clinics arrested for doing what the 1st Amendment protects as a natural right of everyone to free speech. Yet, in the yrs since 1968 what has since come to be known as the culture of death has come into ascendance. These prophecies have come to pass.
Now when a women has prenatal testing & the child is found to have a mental or physical defect there is great pressure put on her to have an abortion. Some ethicists are even saying that a newborn child doesn't have a right to live, esp if it has a birth defect. As I already noted, there is now the view that the elderly & infirm have an obligation to die. (See the article A Pact With Death?, linked to below) The call for fetal/embryonic stem cell reseach shows how little the unborn are valued in a culture that allows abortion.
So what can be done? Plenty, Pope John Paul the Great in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae gave us clear guidelines for what to do so that we can stop the culture of death & build the Culture of Life instead. It is not too late to stop this descent. By listenning to & putting into action what Pope John Paul has called us to do, we can turn things arround so that once again every life will be valued. So that those who see that every human being has an inate, God given worth & value from the point of conception to natural death are not the minority but the majority. If the cuklture of death continues to prevail events like the Special Olympics will be banned & then no longer needed because all those who are intelectually disabled will have been murdered because they are seen as a waste of resources rather that unique individuals who do have a VERY VALUABLE contribution to make to society.
Pray, study Evangelium Vitae & Humanae Vitae, ask God what you should & can do. Then do it. Write letters to the editor, write to elected officials calling them to change the laws, support pro-life candidates & orginizations, maybe even run for office yourself. It is not to late. Let's build the Culture of Life.
PS Also support the Special Olympics orginization in your area. They are doing a wonderful job of affirming the value of each & every intellectually disabled person they deal with. If you see a member of the Knights of Columbus selling a candy bar to support programs for the intellectually disabled, buy 1. Here in Iowa a portion of the money raised by the annual sale goes to the Iowa Special Olympics. This is 1 more small way in which you can build the Culture of Life.
Iowa Special Olymics website:

Press release by The World Congress of Families:

A Pact With Death? (Prison Fellowship)

Humanae Vitae:

Evangelium Vitae:

Friday, August 25, 2006

1 Step Forward, now 2 Steps Back

A few weeks ago President Bush veted a bill that would have expanded research using embryonic stem cells. Pro-Life groups applauded this as a step away from the culture of death & toward the culture of life. Sadly some recent developments have seen a turn back to the culture of death. Thursday the FDA announced the approval of what is called Plan B for sale over the counter to women over 18. So what is Plan B & why is it a step backwards?
Plan B, also known as the "morning after" pill is a hormone pill that will prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the lining of the uterus. In other words (& these are words groups like Planned Parenthood don't want you to hear) Plan B is do it yourself abortion. Quite bluntly, if the egg has been fertilized, then it is already a seperate human being. Preventing the embryo from being implanted is murder, plain & simple. It is now much simpler for an abortion to be performed.
Many pro-life groups are also pointing out another danger. Despite claims to the contrary by the FDA, this is going to be available to females under 18. There will be ways around the barriers to access found just as sure as people under 21 have still found ways to get ahold of alcohol to drink.
Plan B has also been shown to be harmful to many of the women who have taken it. Most of the pro-life websites I have listed will be able to go into details about the dangers of Plan B. So, I won't bother to go into the gory details of all the dangers. Please check out their sites.
In particular I would recommend the following from Life Issuses Institute, Inc. It talks about 4 forms of birth control (The pill, Norplant, IUDs & The "Morning After" pill aka emergency contraception) & the reality that the are abortifacients, not merely means to prevent conception.
The 2nd setback is the nomination by President Bush of Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach to head the FDA. Dr. von Eschenbach supports the decision made Thursday by the FDA. Clearly, having someone as the head of the FDA who supports making abortions more readily available is not the way to go.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Thoughts from Pope St. Pius X

"Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to Heaven."
"Truly we are passing through disastrous times, when we may well make our own the lamentation of the Prophet: "There is no truth, and there is no mercy, and there is no knowledge of God in the land" (Hosea 4:1). Yet in the midst of this tide of evil, the Virgin Most Merciful rises before our eyes like a rainbow, as the arbiter of peace between God and man. "
"My hope is in Christ, who strengthens the weakest by His Divine help. I can do all in Him who strengthens me. His Power is infinite, and if I lean on him, it will be mine. His Wisdom is infinite, and if I look to Him for counsel, I shall not be deceived. His Goodness is infinite, and if my trust is stayed in Him, I shall not be abandoned. "
"Now the way to reach Christ is not hard to find: it is the Church. Rightly does Chrysostom inculcate: "The Church is thy hope, the Church is thy salvation, the Church is thy refuge." ("Hom. de capto Euthropio," n. 6.) It was for this that Christ founded it, gaining it at the price of His blood, and made it the depositary of His doctrine and His laws, bestowing upon it at the same time an inexhaustible treasury of graces for the sanctification and salvation of men."
(Sec. 9 Supremi -On the Restoration of All things in Christ 4 October 1903 )
"The collection of psalms found in Scripture, composed as it was under divine inspiration, has, from the very beginnings of the Church, shown a wonderful power of fostering devotion among Christians as they offer "to God a continuous sacrifice of praise, the harvest of lips blessing his name." Following a custom already established in the Old Law, the psalms have played a conspicuous part in the sacred liturgy itself, and in the divine office. Augustine expresses this well when he says: "God praised himself so that man might give him fitting praise; because God chose to praise himself man found the way in which to bless God."
The psalms have also a wonderful power to awaken in our hearts the desire for every virtue. Athanasius says: "The psalms seem to me to be like a mirror, in which the person using them can see himself, and the stirrings of his own heart; he can recite them against the background of his own emotions." Augustine says in his Confessions: "How I wept when I heard you hymns and canticles, being deeply moved by the sweet singing of your Church. Those voices flowed into my earts, truth filtered into my heart, and from my heart surged waves of devotion."
Indeed, who could fail to be moved by those many passages in the psalms which set forth so profoundly the infinite majesty of God, his omnipotence, his justice and goodness and clemency, too deep for words, and all the other infinite qualities of his that deserve our praise? Who could fail to be roused to the same emotions by the prayers of thanksgiving to God for blessings received by the petitions, so humble and confident, for blessings still awaited, by the cries of a soul in sorrow for sin committed? Who would not be fired wiht love as he looks on the likeness of Christ, the redeemer, here so lovingly foretold? His was "the voice" Augustine heard in every psalm, the voice of praise, of suffering, of joyful expectation, of present distress."
(Divino afflatu 1 Nov 1911)

Hope for a Decent English Roman Rite Liturgical Text

After Vatican II changes were made in the Roman Rite liturgy of the Catholic Church. The new version of the Missale Romanum came to be known as the Novus Ordo. The International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) was set up to provide a uniforn English translation of the Mass & other liturgical texts. These texts came out in the early 70s. They quickly received criticism as being a poor translation of the Latin text. & there is much evidence that it was poorly translated. A few years ago I got a book with a parallel text of the basic parts of the Mass in Latin, English, Italian, Spanish & 4 other languages. I know a little Latin & some Italian & Spanish so I was able to compare the translations. It quickly became clear to me how valid those complaints were. The translations in other languages were much more accurate thus more faithfully presenting the truths of the Catholic Faith that the liturgy contains & proclaims. Pope John Paul the Great & others in the Vatican agreed.
Pope John Paul wrote Vicesimus Quintus Annus calling for, in part, a faithful adherance to Vatican II's Sacrosanctum Concilium. This call wasn't welcome in some parts of the Church. But was welcome by those of us who wanted to see the Novus Ordo achieve what it was ment to do. To see that a more faithful English translation came out the Holy See did 2 things. The 1st was to see that a thourough restructuring was done of the ICEL. The 2nd was to issue in 2001 the document Liturgiam authenticam, containing guidelines to insure faithful translations into all languages as needed. In 2002 the 3rd typical edition of the Missale Romanum, in Latin, came out. A new orginization, Vox Clara, was formed to ensure that the ICEL adhered to Liturgiam authenticam. The 1st set of texts of the new English translation were approved by the US Bishops in June & sent to Rome for approval. There are still some more texts, the prefaces & propers, to be approved. Other Bishops conferences have done the same in their respective countries. When everything is approved the new translation will come into use. This will probably be a couple years down the road.
Why is an accurate translation of the liturgy important. The answer to this is found in Sacrosanctum Concilium. "In the Liturgy the sanctification of the man is signified by signs perceptible to the senses, and is effected in a way which corresponds with each of these signs; in the Liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and His members.
From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the Priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree.
In the earthly Liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that Heavenly Liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a Minister of the Holies and of the true Tabernacle." (7-8)
"(T)he Liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the Sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's Supper." (10)
The document calls on the faithful to a full participation in the liturgy. This means not only singing & saying the proper responses, it means coming to Mass or the Divine Liturgy properly prepared. We are to go with the proper attitude, ready to worhsip God in the way He deserves to be worshiped. Also, we need to go expecting God to nourish us by feeding us with His Word in Scripture & in the Eucharist. Or as it is put in Sacrosanctum Concilium: "From that time onwards the Church has never failed to come together to celebrate the paschal mystery: reading those things "which were in all the scriptures concerning Him" (Lk 24:27), celebrating the Eucharist in which "the victory and triumph of His death are again made present"(Council of Trent, Session XIII, Decree on the Holy Eucharist, c.5.), and at the same time giving thanks "to God for His unspeakable gift" (II Cor 9:15) in Christ Jesus, "in praise of His glory" (Eph 1:12), through the power of the Holy Spirit."(6)
There is an orginization, Adoremus - Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy, who is working for proper renewal of the Liturgy. They are striving to see that all that was called for in the various documents I mentioned are properly implimented for the Roman Rite here in the US. In the July/August issue of The Adoremus Bulletin there was an article titled A Proclamation. This proclamation, in the style of the tradtional proclamation used in the Church to announce the Birth of Jesus. This proclamation gives a rundown of the history of liturgical renewal & reformation in the Roman Church over the last 103 yrs. It can be found at:

Clearly, just coming out with the better translations/revised texts isn't going to accomplish this renewal by itself. It is the responsibility of every Catholic to do his or her part to see that the changes are properly implimented. Groups like Adoremus are working to provide the education & tools needed for it to be done. It is our job to learn what our role is, how to fullfill it & to do what that role calls us to do.

(Note: The various Eastern Churches of the Catholic Church have also been working on the restoration of their liturgies. Over the yrs there have been additions from the Roman Church to their liturgies. These are being removed so that the various Eastern Rites are being restored to their traditional forms.)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Today, 20 Aug, is the feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1830 by Pope Pius XIII. He is called the "Doctor Mellifluus". At aged 22 he joined the monastery at Cîteaux. Later he was sent to be the founder of a Cistercian monastery at Clairvaux. He led the reform of the Cistercian order.
In his encyclical Doctor Mellifluus, 24 May 1953, Pius XII said that he "was remarkable for such qualities of nature and of mind, and so enriched by God with heavenly gifts, that in the changing and often stormy times in which he lived, he seemed to dominate by his holiness, wisdom, and most prudent counsel."
Here is a sample of his writings that shows why he earned his nickname of "Doctor Mellifluus".

"You want me to tell you why God is to be loved and how much. I answer, the reason for loving God is God Himself; and the measure of love due to Him is immeasurable love." On Loving God

"In this, therefore, brethren, let us affectionately love His angels as one day our future coheirs; meanwhile, however, as counselors and defenders appointed by the Father and placed over us. Why should we fear under such guardians? Those who keep us in all our ways can neither be overcome nor be deceived, much less deceive. They are faithful; they are prudent; they are powerful; why do we tremble? Let us only follow them, let us remain close to them, and in the protection of the God of heaven let us abide. As often, therefore, as a most serious temptation is perceived to weigh upon you and an excessive trial is threatening, call to your guard, your leader, your helper in your needs, in your tribulation; cry to him and say: 'Lord, save us; we perish!' " The Holy Guardian Angels

"In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal."

Human Life International's Cardinal von Galen Award, Summer 2006

Yesterday I talked about Human Life International's Millstone Award. Today I'd like to look at the winner of the other award HLI gives out. This award was named for Blessed Clemens August Graf Cardinal von Galen, Bishop of Munster, Germany from 1933-1946. He earned the nickname The Lion of Munster because of his outspoken criticism of Hitler's Euthenasia program. In 1934 he wrote pastoral letter that was a criticism of the "neopaganism of the national socialist ideology". In 1937 he was called to Rome along with the Bishop of Berlin to be consulted about the situation in Germany with Pope Pius XI as well as to discuss an upcoming encyclical. Shortly thereafter, on 14 March 1937 that encyclical, "Mit brennender Sorge" (To the Bishops of Germany: The place of the Catholic Church in the German Reich). Bishop von Galen ensured that it was widely distributed in his diocese. In the Summer of 1943 he gave 3 homilies that were highly critical of the Nazi seizing of Church prperty & the euthenasia program. His diocese's fidelity to the Catholic faith & esp its Bishop became a great embarrasment to Hitler. 10 October 1943 saw his residence bombed. Eventually he was forced to leave Munster. After the war, on 21 February 1946 Pius XII made him a cardinal. On 22 March 1946 after surgery, he died. He was beatified on 9 October 2005.
HLI gives out this award quarterly to the Catholic prelate who exemplifies the values of Cardinal von Galen. "HLI believes that good bishops who act like true shepherds in protecting the sheep from the modern age need our support & their example needs to be spread far & wide." He is one, like von Galen, who "has stood against the agressions of the culture of death & who shows the Church & the world that the moral conscience can never be silenced."
The latest to be honored with this award is His Eminence Alfonso Cardinal López Trujillo. He has been the head of the Pontifical Council for the Family since 8 Nov 1990. In addition he is amember of the following Congregations: of the Doctrine of the Faith, of the Cause of Saints, for Bishops, & for the Evangelisation of Peoples. He is also a member of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. He has written many books & articles on ethics, marriage & the family, & social theology.
HLI cites several reasons for recognizing him with this award. They point out his continual reminding Catholic leaders & lawmakers of "their solemn duty to fight abortion & the culture of death." As the secretary general of CELAM he lead the movement to denounce the Marxist elements of Liberation Theology. As Cardinal Archbishop of Medellin, Columbia he refused to let constant death threats silence his condemnation of the activities of the drug cartels. Under his leadership the Pontifical Council for the Family has instituted bio-ethics courses for the episcopate. It has also published the Lexicon: Ambiguous & Debatable Terms Regarding Family Life & Ethical Questions. The English edition will be published this year. Over the years his outspoken criticism of the culture of death & promotion of the authentic teaching of the Church has earned him the criticism of anti-life groups & journalists. HLI is preparing a 72 page booklet, The Case Against Comdoms, which includes his 2003 document Family Values versus Safe Sex. Cardinal López Trujillo continues to reaffirm the Church's clear teaching against the use of condoms to fight AIDS.
On 7 Oct 2005 at the XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops he gave an intervention on the duties of Catholic politicians, Eucharistic Coherence of Politicians and Legislators. In it he said: "Politicians and legislators must know that by proposing or defending projects for iniquitous laws, they have a serious responsibility and must find a remedy for the evil done and spread in order to be allowed access to communion with the Lord who is the way, truth and life". On 8 Aug 2003 he gave a reflection titled Cloning: the disappearance of direct parenthoodand denial of the family. In it he clearly warns of the dangers of cloning to society as well as the moral implications.
In a 29 Mar 2003 reflection on partial birth abortion he had the following to say about what was going on in the US Congress: "If partial-birth abortion is banned in the United States by the House of Representatives (as everything seems to indicate it will be), we will be witnessing a true step ahead, not only of the culture of life, but also of a legal discipline more in tune with it that is rooted in a deeper understanding of the prerequisites of human dignity and in a more refined perception of the deep harmony between the right to life and the dignity of the woman."
On the importance of family prayer he said: "As everyone knows, an important purpose of the prayer of the domestic church is to serve as the natural introduction for children to the liturgical prayer of the whole Church, both in the sense of preparing for it and of extending it into family and social life. Thus family prayer is not an escape from social commitment, but a strong incentive to the Christian family to assume fully all its responsibilities as the primary and basic cell of human society. Reinforces stability, solidity of family." (The Rosary as Family Prayer 4 Feb 2003)
Cardinal López Trujillo was recently the main celebrant at the Mass for EWTN's 25th Anniversary celebration in Birmingham, AL. In his homily he said: "The Church denounces inhuman conduct that according to the great theologian Romano Guardini, produces the infirmity of the spirit, resulting in a spirit without truth, freedom and hope. EWTN, reaching more than a hundred million homes on earth, gives a firm testimony that God lives, loves us, defends our dignity, redeems us at the price of His blood, and invites us not to sadden the Spirit. We have to imitate God, as his dearly beloved children, following the way of love, as the Letter to the Ephesians says: ¿How can we hate what God loves, or despise the human being, as if we were not concerned with him? We cannot follow the logic of love without following Christ’s example, in his supreme self-giving on the Cross to the Father. From a degradation that enslaves, only love can liberate us through the Gospel, the Good News of Christ who died and resurrected. With legitimate pride, continue your witness to the whole world. Only in this mystery of our faith can we preserve the world from ethical relativism and from the various forms of confusion that imprison the truth and generates the culture of death!"
Clearly, His Eminence takes his vocation as a priest seriously. He is faithful to his vows taken at his ordination as a bishop. HLI is right in calling him a true shepherd. He listens to the Good Shepherd & follows His example. May Jesus continue to bless his efforts & service to all of us. May his efforts bear much fruit for the King he is serving. & may all be open to the Gospel message he is proclaiming. He is an apostle for the culture of life!
Vatican biography of Blessed Cardinal von Galen:
Pontifical Council for the Family:


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Human Life International's Millstone Award, Summer 2006

Thursday I received my copy of the Summer 2006 issue of Human Life International's FrontLines. It included the latest winner of their Millstone Award. In the Spring of 2005 HLI instituted the award to be used as a tool for "exposing those who cause grave scandal to the faithful by their words, teachings or example." It is given to a Catholic in a public position because of his/her "dereliction of duty to teach the Faith & protect the faithful from spiritual harm." HLI took the title from Luke 17:1-2 where Jesus warns of the punishment ahead for those who by their words & deeds cause others to sin. "He said to his disciples, "Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin." Taking their lead from the next verse "If your brother sins, rebuke him." The purpose of the rebuke is to hopefully lead the person being rebuked to repentance & a return to orthodox Catholic teachings & actions. The winner receives a model of a small millstone
The roll call of previous winners reads like a hall of shame, a list of those who have brought disonore to the Lord & to His Church. The list includes Fr. Richard McBrien, theology proffesor at Notre Dame; Fr. Robert Drinan SJ; & Fr. Charles Curran. Sadly, the latest winner is another priest, Fr. John I. Jenkins CSC, President of the University of Notre Dame.
So what did the recently appointed head of the University do to deserve this recognition. The article points out 2 main actions he took as head of the school. Actually, inaction is a better word. Instead of standing up for what the Catholic Church teaches he allowed 2 events on campus, 1 a play, 1 a festival, that by what they stood for flew in the face of what a Catholic College has the responsiblity to promote.
The festival was a gay film festival. It showed a variety of movies promoting & glorifying the gay lifestyle as something good, acceptable & normal. The play that was performed was the infamous Vagina Monologues. I won't even go into what sort of garbage it contains.
In an interview found in the 23 April 2006 issue of Our Sunday Visitor he justfied his actions. "We are committed to a wide-open, unconstrained search for the truth, & we are convinced that Catholic teaching has nothing to fear from engaging the wider culture". The 15 May 2006 issue of The New America had the following justification for his actions: "I am very determined that we not suppress free speech on campus. I am also determined that we never suppress or neglect the Gospel that inspired this university".
The 1st question raised in my mind by these statements is this: "How did you enage the culture?" Engaging the culture isn't done by allowing any & all things on campus. engaging the culture is done by proclaiming the Truth of the Gospel. It is done by calling sin a sin, obscenity as obscenity & evil as the evil it truly is. It is not done by allowing evil to flourish, let alone promoting it. By allowing the play & film festival to occur under the auspices of Notre Dame that is exactly what he did. He didn't engage the culture, he surrendered to it. He, like Judas, betrayed Jesus, selling out for 30 pieces of silver, in this case to what HLI calls a "new god". Rightly so, HLI points out "The god that academics like Fr. Jenkins worship are false idols called repectability, political correctness, free speech & academic freedom. & Fr. Jenkins regretfully serves that god's agenda".
HLI is absolutely correct in what it points out about Fr. Jenkins actions. I think that he would do well to go back & read the apostolic constitution issued by Pope John Paul the Great Ex Corde Ecclesiae which clearly lays out what a Catholic University must do to correctly engage the culture. He would do well to properly implement the guidelines found in the document.
By allowing events like these, what kind of message is Fr. Jenkins sending to the 1000s of students who attend Notre Dame? It clearly isn't a message promoting & upholding Catholic values. He is failing to do what he should in his role as president of a Catholic college, his role as an educator & esp he is betraying his vocation as an ordained priest.
The University of Notre Dame was named so in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Theotokis, the Mother of God. Do events like this bring her honor. I think not.
Kudos to HLI for the courage to speak out & challenge Fr. Jenkins. Pray that he will hear the prophetic voice that Jesus has inspired to speak out. Pray that he will repent & allow the Holy Spirit to transform him into the faith filled orthodox Catholic priest that he was called to be.


Friday, August 18, 2006

3 New Planets (& more on the way?)

The International Astronomical Union has released the draft of its Planet Definition Committee (PDC) report on what defines a planet. If it is approved by the IAU General Assembly there will be a new class of planets defined as well as what is the lower limit to being a planet. the 3 new planets are Ceres, Charon & 2003 UB313.
For Ceres it is a return to the status it had when 1st discovered in the 1800s. It was demoted after several other asteroids were found between Mars & Jupiter. Some other asteroids may eventually be reclassified as dwarf planets. They include Pallas, Vesta, and Hygeia.
Pluto, Charon, & 2003 UB313 would be the 1st of a new classification called Plutons. To be classified as such it would have to meet a few criteria. It would have to have an orbit lasting longer than 200 Earth yrs. It would have to be highly excentric & tilted much more than the average planet. & of course above the minimun size.
Til now Charon has been considered a moon of Pluto although it has sometimes been called a double planet system. This makes it official. Yet, the same description has been used for Earth & the Moon. But, the moon isn't being reclassified due to a 2nd requirement, that the barycenter (the point that represents their common center of gravity, or the point they share an orbit arround) be outside the surface of the larger body. If the barycenter is inside the surface of 1 of the bodies then the other is considered to orbit arround it. So the Moon, Titan Ganymede, & a few other moons will remain satellites.
Any object, currently known or yet to be discovered that doesn't fit into 1 of the 4 types of planet (Terrestrial, Jovian Dwarf or Pluton) is put into the class of Small Solar System Bodies. The term currently used, minor planet, will be retired. There is still 1 more type of object that might be a part of our or another solar system, That would be an object that would fit into the brown dwarf star or any other category of star. A full definition of what is the point of differentiation between a Jovian or gas giant planet & a brown dwarf star has yet to be decided.

After some discussion & refinement the resolution will be up for approval on 24 August.
Whatever the result this whole debate continues to show how complex creation is. & for me all the more proof that it didn't just come into existence by chance. For me, everytime I see a picture of a planet, look up at the skies at night or even read about the planets, stars, etc, Psalm 8 becomes even more real & true to me:
"When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast established; what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him?"Psalm 8:3-4(RSV)

The resolution:

To read more about the resolution:

To read more about why Charon made the cut & Earth's Moon didn't:
Astronomy Magazine Article:

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hizbollah & Hamas: Israel didn't win (even though it did)

Reading some of the news reports you would think that Hizballah had defeated Israel & was poised to wipe them off the face of the Earth. At least that is what a leaflet distributed by Hamas to the Lebanese people would have them believe happenned. An article I read on quoted the leaflet as congratulation the Lebanese on their "big victory" over Israel. quoted Sheikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah claim of "strategic, historic victory." & on I saw some video of a protect in Washington, DC. The people interviewed put all the blame on Israel. On the other side, both President Bush & Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called it a victory for Israel. Talking about the changes the President said: "There's going to be a new power in the south of Lebanon."
It seems to me that while it wasn't a total victory for Israel. But hey are well on the way to seeing the changes needed in S Lebanon if, & given the UN's track record a big if, the UN & Lebanon do their part to completely disarm Hizbollah. The fact that already Hizbollah has fired some rockets & that Islamic Jihad have also fired some rockets shows how fragile the peace is & how dangereous the situation still is for Israel.
Fighting for control of that area has been going on for 5000 yrs or so. There is a deep seated hatred for Israel & the Jews by many Muslims in the Middle East & elsewhere. & things aren't going to change without divine intervention. I again go back to my same theme, we need to pray for peace, pray for God to change hearts & pour out the Holy Spirit so that there will be a spirit of forgiveness on all signs. Pray to for people to go who will be able to proclaim the Gospel message of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. & be willing to go if God calls.
Without Jesus, there will never be true peace. With Jesus, even in war, a person will have the only true peace there is.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

What is a planet?

This week the International Astronomical Union will hold its XXVIth General Assembly in Prague, Czech Republic. & even though most people have no idea who they are 1 of their discussions will have an effect on all of us. OK, it won't be Earth shaking, but it may change the way we define what a planet is. So, I guess maybe in a way it will be, at least for text book publishers & science teachers.
Isn't it a fact that we have 9 planets in the Solar System? That is what most of us have been taught since the discovery of Pluto in 1930. But what most of us haven't been aware of is the debate about whether Pluto reall ys a planet or not.
When Pluto was 1st discovered most people were expecting another gas giant like Uranus & Neptune. But it was quickly realized that Pluto was anything but a gas giant. As time went on & measuerments got more accurate Pluto kept on shrinking in size & the debate kept growing. Recent discoveries added to the debate. When the 1st moon orbiting Pluto, Charon, was found, some people used that as an arguement in favor of Pluto being a planet. Charon added to the problem because it was another tool to more accurately determine the size of Pluto, shrinking it even more. Since then 2 more smaller moons, Hydra & Nyx, have been discovered.
In 2002 Quaoar was discovered at 1/2 the size of Pluto. Then in 2003 another trans-Neptune object was found in the Kuiper Belt. Designated "2003 UB313", it also has moon. It is larger in size than Pluto. More fuel for the fire was added. If Pluto is a planet than it should also be considered as 1. Not officially named the object has been unofficially nicknamed Xena & its moon Gabrielle. Meanwhile, another object, "2003 VB_12" with the proposed name of Sedna was also discoverd. It is smaller than Pluto.
This debate actually began with the discovery of Ceres in the 1800s. Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt. But at the time of its discovery, it was the only known object in the area between Mars & Jupiter. Again, it is smaller than Pluto.
Whiles Ceres is currently defined as an asteroid, the debate is going on for what to call the rest of these objects. Are they planetoids? Should they be called ice dwarf planets. & at what size does an asteroid become a dwarf planet?
& to top things off what size defines a moon orbiting a planet vs considering it a double planet. Mercury is smaller than Jupiter's moon Ganymede. & Titan, orbiting Saturn runs a close 2nd in size to Ganymede in size. In comparison to the planets they orbit they are clearly much smaller. When you compare the size of Charon to Pluto or Earth to our moon you find them much closer in relative size. The arguement could be made for calling them double planet sytems.
Clearly some arbitrary definitions are going to have to be made. & no matter what, not everyone will be happy. These decisions have to be made. That is part of the reason the International Astonomical Union was created about 80 yrs ago. They are the body recognized by the scientific community, as well as the rest of us, to do this. Their job is to help clarify astronomical terms. & that includes what a planet is. Another major responsiblity they have is that of settling on a name for a planet, moon, star or other astronomical object. More info about what they do can be found at their website:
Meanwhile, for what it is worth, my suggestion is to set a 3rd set of planets in addition to the terran & gas giant types. The ice dwarf name would be fine with me. The reality is, no matter what they decide, someday some new object will come along that will create a new dilema for what makes a planet. God still has quite a few surprizes waiting for us out there that will raise more questions than they answer. As for the text book publishers, they will have to live with the changes. The reality is that discoveries are being made so regularly thanks to things like the Hubble Telescope, the Galileo, Cassini-Huygens, New Horizons missions, etc, that these ongoing discoveries make a textbook outdated almost as soon as they are published. & no matter what is decided, life goes on. Things went on before Uranus was found, it will be the same whether we have 9 or 23 planets of some sort or another. The info adds to our storehouse of knowledge. It adds to our understanding of how God set up our Solar System. But it doesn't determine where we will spend eternity. Our faith in Jesus & living out that faith is what determines that.
To follow what is going on at the general assembly from 14 -25 Aug 2006:
IAU XXVIth General Assembly
IAU General Assembly News

THE GOOD, the bad & the (at times) ugly

This month sees the celebration of 3 different 25th anniversaries. All 3 of these have had a profound effect on the world. 1 for good, 1 for bad & 1 that while at times bringing good has also had some ugly effects on life. The good is the 25th anniversary of EWTN. The bad is the 25th anniversary of MTV. The (at times) ugly is the 25th anniversary of the launch of IBM's PC.
On 1 Aug 1981 MTV (for Music TeleVision) launched its cable service with the music video Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles. At 1st it seemed fairly innocuous as all it did was play videos of songs. But that didn't last long. Soon controversy about some of the videos surfaced. At times it was overblown. But some of the videos did foretell the garbage to come. As time went on it devolved into what it is today, a network where raunchy, soft porn programs are the norm. Most of the time it spews out shows that promote promiscuity, sinful lifestyles, & immodest, immoral behavior. Occasionally it does still play a few videos. I am not going to debate to what extent MTV has influenced the culture & to what extent it merely reflects the state of American culture today. All I will say is that to the extent it reflects our culture, it shows how far our country has turned from the decency & morality that were a part of the Judeo-Christian foundation America was built on. Clearly MTV is a force for bad by what it does, even though I'm sure the would argue the point. In their twisted viewpoint what they are promoting is making the world better. they will deny the reality that what they are selling is garbage at best, poison at worst.
On 12 Aug 1981 IBM launched its 1st personal computer (PC). At the time few people realized the far reaching effect that it would have on the world. There were just a few business applications available & some of them not very good. Since IBM aimed its products towards businesses the PC 1st began to appear in offices across the country. Before this most computers were hugh things that could take up a whole floor of a building & cost a fortune to buy. Data was still often being fed in by punch cards. Apple, Commodore & Tandy did have a few small computers for home use. Nothing as powerful as the PC. For example, my 1st computer at home was a Commodore VIC 20 with 2K RAM. Soon the PC began to appear in homes. People began using them at home for things like word proccessing & filing. Playing games quickly became a large part of the time spent on them. & with the launch of the internet, well, the fact that you are reading this shows how much a part of everyday life computers have become.
The effects of the internet are why I call this anniversary the (at times) ugly. A computer is morally neutral. It is just a tool. & like any tool how it is used is what makes it good, bad or ugly. Back with the early home computers there were community bulletin boards. I ran a section of 1 via a phone modem thru my VIC 20 & my cassette drive. The bulletin board was operated on a Commodore 64 with 2 floppy disk drives. By todays standards what we were doing was what Spock would describe as "using stone knives and bearskins" (Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever). Today via the internet so much more can be done. The internet is the information superhighway. People can get needed info, news etc, faster & easier than ever. While that is good there is the other, ugly side of the internet. It enables sexual preditors to hook up with children/teens & take away their innocence. It allows easy access to 1 of the worst things on Earth, something that should never exist, child porn. & except for abotion, there is nothing uglier than that.
Then on 15 Aug 1981 EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) began to send out its programs to the few cable systems that carried it. It was founded by Mother Angelica PCPA, abbess of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Birmingham, AL. There were 4 hrs of programs a day that went into 60,000 homes. Not a very big start. Today EWTN has programs 24 hrs a day. It is available via cable, sattelite & the internet 24 hrs a day. There is also a shortwave radio station & radio programming for those who want to carry it on a local station. & there is also a Spanish version of the radio & TV networks. It carries quality solidly orthodox Catholic programming that teaches, entertains & inspires its viewers adults & children alike. It is spreading the Good News of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is doing the ultimate good that can be done on Earth.
A timeline (short with links that go into more detail for each decade) is available on their website:
So, how did an Italian cloistered Franciscan nun come to the point where she started a global cable TV network? & do so in the Bible Belt? & in doing so proclaim the truth thus become the bane of those so-called progressive Catholics who would misappropriate Vatican II & use it to try & destroy the Catholic Church & what it has stood for for 2000 yrs, replacing its Spirit lead teachings with heresies? The answer is the story of how God can work miracles thru a "dodo" (her own description) who is willing to trust God to do the impossible.
The short version: In the late 70s Mother Angelica began to appear on CBN, doing a series of programs about Catholic teachings. The station where she filmed the shows was about to carry a program from the network it was affiliated with that she considered blasphemous. Mother asked the station owner not to carry it. He refused. Having been a guest on The PTL Club & The 700 Club & doing the programs she decided she could do this herself. Thru a series of miracles of God's provision she was able to start the network that has grown into what it is today.
If you would like the full story I recommend reading Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles by Raymond Arroyo. It is an excellent bio that doesn't cover up the flaws & faults of Mother Angelica.
EWTN has been a blessing to countless people over the years. It has been faithful to the Magesterium of the Catholic Church. In doing so it has upset, as I pointed out earlier, those who are not faithful to the Magesterium, & at times, even a few American bishops. The Network has been a tool used powerfully by God to bring healing, to bring comfort, to bring the Gospel to a world that needs it even if it doesn't always welcome it.
In the name of full disclosure I must admit that I have met Mother Angelica twice. The 1st time was in the mid 80s when she spoke at the 5 Flags Civic Center here in DBQ. The 2nd time was in 1989 when I went down to Birmingham to visit the network. While there I got to attend the live program & also the celebration of 1 of the sisters taking her vows. I got to see Mother at work & at play.
I have not always agreed with how Mother has done some things, but I agree wholeheartedly with her vision. Mother, as pointed out in the bio, has at times let her Italian temper get the better of her, at other times that same temper has been the impetus to get accmplish what needed to be done. Sadly, the last few yrs she has been unable to do much because of her health. Even so, God is still working thru her as she offers up her sufferings. The fact that EWTN has thrived without her visible presence is evidence that its foundation is Jesus, not Mother Angelica.
EWTN has been a great blessing in my life. I praise God for the work He has done in my life thru EWTN. There are times when I have been encouraged in the midst of struggles. There are times when I have learned more about my faith. There have been times when I have been challenged top more fully live out my faith. & there are times when I have been very uncomfortable watching it. Those are the times I am most thankful for. Those were the times when God was convicting me of sin, calling me to repentance. Throughout it all, esp those times of calling me to repentance, God's love have been revealed to me.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Santa Chiara, Papa Benedetto & Fr. Euteneuer, 3 People, 1 Message

Yesterday I wrote a bit about about Santa Chiara (St. Clare). As I was thinking about her life, the incidents with the army of Frederick II kept crossing my mind. Then my mind lept to what Papa Benedetto said a few weeks ago at the prayer service for peace in Lebanon/Israel. Quickly my thoughts lept to what the article by Fr. Tom Euteneuer had to say about what was going on. I began seeing a common thread connecting all 3. A thread that is evidence of how the Holy Spirit works in the Catholic Church throughout the centuries.
Let's go back to what the Holy Father said was the solution. Remember, when the fighting started, he called for prayer. Then, he practiced what he preached, there was that prayer service. At it he laid out the solution to bring about peace. People need to proclaim the message of the Gospel. What is the message, that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. That he did so to enable us to be reconciled to God & to one another. That the only way there will be true peace is when Jesus is Lord of our lives. Each of us is called to raise up Jesus for the world to see.
Cut to Santa Chiara. What did she do in the midst of war & danger. She turned to Jesus. She called for prayer, she prayed & she raised up Jesus for the world to see. How did she raise up Jesus? In this particular incident by bringing out the Eucharist from the chapel & holding it up before the army. When she did so, Jesus stopped the army from attacking. She knew by faith, that what appeared to be a mere piece of bread was no longer bread, but was in reality Jesus under the appearance of bread. She knew that she was truly, physically raising up Jesus. She knew that God would protect her & her sisters. She was right. She knew that when she & her sisters prayed to that same Jesus, the Son of God, that he would protect Assisi from attack. Her faith filled prayer was answered.
Next, let us turn to what Fr. Euteneuer said. He stated that terrorism is satanic. & that merely human means will not overcome it. They may put it on temporay hold or partially remove it, but they cannot exorcise it, removing it completely. He said: "(T)he actual solution to it is to conquer Satan and his minions with the Church’s spiritual power." This power he talks about comes from the Holy Spirit working in & through the Church. This power is ours because of what Jesus did on the cross. As Father pointed out: "modern terrorism is just another manifestation of the evil that is in men’s hearts". To deal with it "it is our duty to evangelize the world".
Fr. Euteneuer said: "the Church should be sending saints and exorcists to hammer out the devils who are the spiritual instigators of all sin." Papa Benedetto issued that call when he said: "What we can do is to give witness of love, witness of faith and, above all, to raise a cry to God: We can pray!" Santa Chiara gave us an example to show us it could be done.
So, why is there this common thread. It is simple. All 3 are people of deep faith & prayer. & because they spent time in prayer when the time came they were able to act in the ways that were needed. Santa Chiara was so in tune with God because she was a woman of prayer & open to the Holy Spirit speaking to her, that when the 1st attack came, she was able to instantly do what was right. The same is true of both Papa Benedetto & Fr. Euteneuer. They spent the time in prayer communicating with Jesus & with the Father so that when the time comes to act the Holy Spirit can act through them. Prayer is not an excuse not to act. Sometimes people try to make it that. Some people will pray & pray & expect God to do something, but will not be willing to be the person God uses to do it. They expect God to do a miracle. Sometimes God will, as when he sent the storm to Assisi. But, in that case the miracle came about because the sisters did act, the responded to the call to pray. Much of the time prayer is the prelude to action. The person who prays needs to be ready to be the person to be used by God.
Very few of us will be called to go to the Middle East & evangelize. But some of us will. At that point in time we can learn a lesson from San Francisco & his friars. At that time there was a situation similar to ours. There was an attack on the west by a group of Muslims determined to wipe out the West & impose their form on Islam. Muslims controlled much of the Middle East Northern Africa & even parts of Europe. The Franciscians went to the lands controlled by the Muslims & proclaimed the Gospel. Many of them died for their faith in doing so. This blood shed by the martyrs was the seed God used to eventually bring about the removal of Muslim control from Europe.
So too today, some of us may be called to lay down our lives as martyrs for the faith. Many of us will be persecuted. We will be told to stop proclaiming te message of the Gospel. We will be told that it is that message that is causing the divisions & all the problems. They will try & silence us by any means possible. Are they right? Is what they say true? Again to quote the Pope: "(I)t is not true. Precisely at this time, a time of great abuse of the name of God, we have need of the God who overcomes on the cross, who does not conquer with violence, but with his love. "
So, let each of us pray. Let each of us seek God's Face, listen to His Voice. Let each of us turn from our sins, repent & seek the forgiveness Christ won for us on the cross. Let each of us ask the Holy Spirt to dwell within, to strengthen, to guide, to empower us, to lead us. The Holy Spirit will lead. As it happens each of us must be willing to say "Yes!", knowing that it is not our efforts that will bring about the change. We are merely the instruments that God will use to bring about miracles. As we let God use each of us to confront evil, whether it is abortion, terrorism, anti-semitism, whatever, it will be overcome. It may take some time, we may not live to see it happen, but it will happen. In the end, evil will always be overcome.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Santa Chiara d'Assisi

Today is the feast of St. Clare of Assisi. She died on this date, 11 Aug 1253. She was the co-foundress of the Order of Poor Ladies (Poor Clares) along with St. Francis of Assisi. Chiara Offreduccio was the eldest daughter of Favorino Scifi, Count of Sasso-Rosso. At age 18 she heard St. Francis preach & was touched by his message. She continued to meet with him for spiritual guidance. On Palm Sunday, 20 Mar 1212 she left home to follow in St. Francis' way of life. That nite at the Portiuncula St. Francis cut her hair, gave her a habit of rough cloth & a veil. She took a vow of poverty & service to Jesus. Needless to say, her family was less than happy. 16 days later her sister Agnes followed her. Eventually she was joined by more followers & at San Damiano founded the 1st Poor Clare convent. She was appointed Abbess by St. Francis in 1215 & remained so until her death in 1253.
In 1234 the army of Frederick II attacked her convent at San Damiano. She got up from her sick bed & went to the chapel. There she got the ciborium with the Eucharist & went to the door of the convent. Holding up the ciborium (some versions say it was a monstrance) the army was repeled. Some time later a 2nd force came to attack Assisi. She gathered her sisters in prayer. a storm broke out & scattered the army, driving it away. Assisi was spared.
Santa Chiara was named the patroness of television because of what occured during an illness in the later part of her life. She was unable to attend Mass so God allowed a vision of it to appear on her wall of her cell. Some stories even have an angel bringing her the Eucharist. It is appropriate that 1 of her daughters, Mother Angelica PCPA, went on to found the 1st Catholic television network, EWTN. Thus her service to Jesus continues to this very day.
On 15 Aug 1255 Pope Alexander IV officially declared her a saint.
"Place your mind in the mirror of eternity;
Place your soul in the splendor of glory;
Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance;
And, through contemplation, transform your entire
being into the image of the Divine One himself,
So that you, yourself, may also experience what his
friends experience when they taste the hidden
sweetness that God alone has kept from the beginning
For those who love him."
(From a letter to her sister, St Agnes of Prague)

Death of a Iowa Hero

Wed morning, 9 Aug 2006, saw the loss of a pioneer in the US space program. James A. Van Allen PhD, 91, died of heart failure at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, IA. He was a retired professor & former head of the Physics & Astronomy dept at Iowa. Van Allen was best known for his discovery of what came to be known as the Van Allen Radiation Belts arround Earth.
Dr. Van Allen was born 7 Sept 1914 in Mt. Pleasant IA. In the early 1950s he came to the U of I after an already illustrious career of physics research & rocket development. The most famous rocket of which he was a codeveloper of was the rockoon. This was the combination of a rocket & balloon. He continued to use them after he arrived at Iowa. Using them he found the 1st evidence for the radiation belts arround Earth. With the help of graduate students at Iowa, he developed a cosmic ray experiment that was included on Explorer 1 launched 31 Jan 1958. The info from this & a 2nd experiment on Explorer 3 lead to the discovery of the 1st radiation belt. With the data from Pioneer 3 launched 6 Dec 1958 he was able to discover a 2nd radiation belt. Therse belts were eventually named after him. This work also resulted in his work being the cover story of the 4 May 1959 issue of TIME magazine. He was named as 1 of the 15 TIME men of the year on the 2 Jan 1961 cover.
He continued to be a dedicated teacher & reasearcher who's influence was widely felt in the fields of physics & astronomy. His experiements & those of many of his graduate students were included in many space probes including NASA's Pioneer 10 and 11, Voyager 1 and 2, Galileo and Cassini spacecraft. Another Earth orbit satellite known as Hawkeye 1, after Iowa's nickname, was designed & built by the Physics & Astronomy Dept at Iowa. It was launched on 3 June 1974 from Vandenberg Air Force Base. It's primary objective was to conduct particles and fields investigations of the polar magnetosphere of the earth. Its secondary missions were to make magnetic field and plasma distribution measurements in the solar wind, and to study Type-3 radio emissions caused by solar electron streams in the interplanetary medium. It returned to Earth 28 April 1978 after 667 orbits. & this is only a part of all he accomplished.
Dr. Van Allen refused to bask in the glory by himself. He always acknowledged the debt to his coworkers & his students who helped him in his research. In an article written for the Annual Review of Earth & Planetary Sciences, #18, 26 Jan 1990 entitled What is A Space Scientist? An Autobiographical Example he stated: "My closest working relationships with students involved ones at the graduate level. The following are those who finished advanced degrees under my guidance. The first date in the parentheses after each name is the date of an M.S. degree, the second of a Ph.D. degree. Some students who did their M.S. work with me later earned a Ph.D. elsewhere or under another advisor at Iowa. Others terminated their graduate work at the M.S. level. Every one was a collaborator in the fullest sense of the word, a fact that is amply represented in authorship or co-authorship of published work." This was followed by a list of 59 students. This is probably his greatest accomplishment. All these scientists are building their work on the shoulders of a giant.
In that article he then went on to say: "In addition, I have benefited by the highly competent efforts of an uncounted number of members of our technical staff of whom the following are representative: William A. Whelpley, Roger F. Randall, Robert B. Brechwald, Evelyn D. Robison, John E. Rogers, Joseph G. Sentinella, Donald C. Enemark, W. Lee Shope, Edmund Freund, and Robert Markee.

Finally and most importantly, I am indebted to my wife of 44 years, Abigail, and our five children who have provided the circumstances under which sustained and intensive professional work has seemed worthwhile." (
As a child I was fascinated by the US Space Exploration Program. Any news about space discoveries caught my attention. So, Dr. Van Allen became a hero of mine for all the work he did & discoveries he made. The fact that he was an Iowa boy, doing it here in Iowa only added to my pride & admiration for what he accomplished. He wasn't a fan of manned exploration. He pushed for more unmanned exploration instead. (I somewhat disagreed with him. I want more unmanned programs, but see the need for some human exploration. There are some things that only humans can do.) Fortunately, he was somewhat successful in seeing that more unmanned programs were developed. I never got to meet him & now I never will. Yet, all our lives are so much better because of the work he did & will continue to do through those he taught. Mille Grazie! Dr. Van Allen.
His full obituary can be found at the following page at the Uof I website:
Info on the Van Allen Radiation Belts:

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Sock It To ME?

Recently at DBQ's Public Library I discovered that they had gotten in the 1st 3 disc set of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In episodes. It was 1 of my favorite series back in the late 60s, early 70s. When it was on the cable channel TRIO I got to see many of the episodes again. But, it has been a while so I couldn't pass up the oportunity to see the show again, even if it was only 6 episodes. (This is the 1 weakness with how this show is being put out, only a few episodes, not a season. There are a few other shows that have, unfortunately done it the same way. To me, I can only see it as a way to rip off fans. The same is true with how The Dean Martin Show & several others, like The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour have been released, or only partially released.)
Even though the episodes are over 35 yrs old they still hold up. & they are just as topical today as they were back then. It was great to return to "Beautiful Downtown Burbank", stay at the "Nern Hote"l with "Morgel the Friendly Drelb" & let them "Sock it to me" so hard I laughed off my "Sweet Bippy". Of course, I had to be sure I wasn't buzzed by the "Flying Fickle Finger of Fate" at the "Cocktail Party" while dancing "The Farkel".
By now I am sure a few people are shocked that I am even talking about this show. Wasn't that show anti-establishment, pro-drug, pro-free sex? Not really. What they were about was making fun of pomposity, arrogance, stupidity & the like whether it came from the left, right, center, liberal, conservative, libertarian, or moderate. There were no sacred cows they wouldn't touch. In the end, most of what they did was just plain & simple funny entertainment. The show had plenty of biting satire. For the 60s it was cutting edge, but no where near as radical as people seem to remember. It just seemed to be so because, as I said, it had no sacred cows. They were like the court jesters of ancient times who could use humor to cut the sting of the harsh light of day looking at the truth.
My proof, well look at the following facts. During the 1968 election they invited Hubert H. Humprhrey, the Democratic candidate & Richard M. Nixon the Republican candidate for President. Only Nixon took up the challenge. Some say that was what helped to get him elected. I doubt it. It does make for a good myth though, doesn't it?
1 of their main writers was Paul Keyes who went on to be a speech writer for President Nixon. & if anyone knows anything about Mr. Keyes they know he was very conservative. In fact, in an interview with George Schlatter, he admits that Keyes helped to keep the political balance of the show.
& some of the regular guests, like John Wayne & Sonny Bono, were anything but liberal in their politics
Those 2 names are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to guests. The list included Cher, Robert Culp, Flip Wilson, Jack Benny(1 of the best I think.), Barbara Feldon, Lorne Greene, Kaye Ballard, James Garner, Bobby Darin, Sammy Davis Jr., Lena Horne, Mel Brooks, Guy Lombardo, Vincent Price, Carol Channing, Ringo Starr etc, etc, etc. I could go on & on & on. There were so many great guests who popped up.
Some of those on the show, like Dan Rowan & Dick Martin were already fairly well known before the show started. Some, like Henry Gibson, Judy Carne & Artie Johnson had a career in movies & TV that soared even higher as a result of their being in the cast. Others, like Jo Anne Worley had a solid career but little experience with TV. Others, like Goldie Hawn & Lily Tomlin were launched into stardom by the show. & David Madden went on to be the long suffering manager of a musical family we all know as The Partridge Family.
Speaking of launches, the most famous, or infamous in some opinions, career launched by the show was Tiny Tim. For those who don't remember him he was famous for his long stringy hair, his ukelele, his falsetto voice & his biggest hit of all Tiptoe thru the Tulips. He made TV history when his marriage to Miss Vicki on the Tonight Show 17 December 1969 brought the highest ratings every to a late night show, an 85% share. I will admit to being a fan of his. I think his camp cult statis has overshadowed his talent. On 1 of his albums he sang both parts of I Got You Babe. & on his songs he sang straight, he had an excellent voice. For a while in the late 80s, early 90s he lived in Des Moines, IA. Apropriately, he died in Minneapolis from a heart attack he had while performing Tiptoe. He was buried with a tulip & his Ukelele.
Then there were the famous characters created by the show's stars. Artie Johnson brought us the WW II escapee Wolfgang, the German soldier with a crush on Lucille Ball. He also created the stereotypical dirty old man, Tyrone F. Horneigh who was always trying to show off his Walnettos (a candy bar that is still made). Ruth Buzzi brought to life Tyrone's love interest, the spinster Gladys Ormphby. Goldie Hawn played the stereotypical dumb blonde. Jo Anne Worley was the obnoxiuos loud mouth.
Gary Owens, as the announcer, bit the hand that fed him. He had had a career as an announcer before starting on the show. His overly modulated announcer carried the profession to new lows thru his oblivionism to what was going on arround.
Who could forget the Fabulous Farkel Family? There was Frank & Fannie Farkel & their whole ever changing slew of kids. The youngest was Sparkle who, like a typical toddler did a lot of flashing of her underwear. Frank was always being told by his neighbor Ferd Berfle that "That's a mighty fine looking family that you have there Frank!" Ferd should know, the kids all looked exactly like him, with neon red hair (cheesy wigs) & huge freckles. Why Frank never realized the truth is 1 of life's little mysteries, & a great comedy point in the skits. Most every visitor caught the resemblence even if Frank didn't.
Lily Tomlin created some of the greatest & 1 of the most famous characters ever. There was the Tasteful Lady, the effite snob who was anything but tasteful in the way she stood up. Sally Sorority of the Silent Majority who was a space cadet cheerleader. Then there was loveable Edith Ann, the lisping precocious 5-yr old. In her gigantic rocker, she would point out the foibles of the adults in her world with all the innocence that only a 5 yr old could have. But her most famous character was Ernestine Tomlin, the telephone operator for Ma Bell. God help anybody who crossed her by not paying their bill or misusing their equipment. William F. Buckley, Gore Vidal & President Nixon were all on the receiving end of Ernestine's wrath. Not to long ago Ernestine popped up as, no surprize, a spokesperson for a phone company.
But probably 1 of my all time favorites, even if he did spell his 1st name wrong, was Alan Sues. He had 2 great characters. When you heard "This is Uncle Al, the Kiddies' pal" you knew it was time for a send up of all those afternoon children's shows on local stations. Like several of the real life hosts, Uncle Al hated the kids & was a drunk. Unlike most of them he drank on stage & showed his hatred. My favorite was his sketches that started out with "Hi there sports fans! Big Al Here!" & a overly exagerated wave of his hand followed by his ringing a bell. This was followed by a comment about the joy his "tinkle" gave him. Big Al was a sportscaster who knew even less than I about some sports. But, the character did bring me a moment of fame my junior year in high school when at some of the basketball pep rallies as well as the year end talent show I got to be Big Al. I just wish I had his writers, my jokes were bad bad, not good bad like his.
Even the behind the scenes talent went on to bigger & better things. Chris Bearde was 1 of the writers. He went on to produce The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour & The Gong Show. Lorne Michaels took what he learned into Saturday Night Live. Producer Ed Friendly went on to produce Little House on the Prairie.
The show was fast paced, most of the bits were blackouts, less than 30 seconds. But there were some longer bits some of which I've already mentioned. Every week they would look at the news past, present & future. Each way they had the female regulars dressed up in some outlandish get up to introduce the segment. The time they were dressed up like Mae West & the time it was Tiny Tim are probably my 2 favorites. The present news was always done by "the man to whom the news wouldn't be the news without the news", Dick Martin. There was some actual event that much of it was based on, but with a twist. Her was 1 of the areas were all points of view came in for it. The news of the past was usually a very skewed interview of a historical personage. After Goldie's (usually) muddled up intro, Dan would share the news of the future (usually) 20 yrs from now. Most of the time it was so improbable to be real, like President Eldrich Cleaver, but a couple of times they hit the mark. The 1st was 1989, when Dan talked about the Berlin Wall being taken down. The other was a bit about President Ronald Reagan. Big Al did the news. At times there was Buzzy Buzzi with the gossip. Judy Carne would do some of the live remotes from places like Berkeley or the UN (which looked remarkable like a NBC soundstage).
The Mod Mod World looked at something that in the current events area. It took plenty of potshots at everything from fashion to the Olympics. Between the skits & blackouts in the segment 1 or more of the females appeared as a go-go dancer in a bikini with plenty of body art. Yes, even Ruth Buzzi, in a grass skirt, & Jo Anne Worley took their turns.
Probably their most overtly political bit was the "Flying Fickle Finger of Fate". This was an award, the other was the somewhat sarcastic "Whoopie", that they often gave to some person or group for something they really did. Yes, Congress did get theirs for some of the things they spent money on. Some government regulatory agencies got it for stupid red tape. Even some local governments who did something so stupid it made national news, won it.
They added so many catch phrases to the language. I've already mentioned a few such as "beautiful downtown Burbank". "Here comes the judge" introduced the courtroom scenes which always ended up with the accused getting hit on the head. The skits were created many years earlier by "Pigmeat" Markham, who did many of them himself on the show. "Look it up in your Funk & Wagnells" sounded dirty when said fast enough even though it refered to an actual dictionary. "Sock it to me" usually ment poor Judy Carne was about to get wet, dropped down a trap door or something worse. It was usually the intro to a series of blackouts.
1 of Dick Martin's most famous lines was "You bet your sweet Bippy!" I think everyone can figure out what a bippy was supposed to be. That phrase is still arround. I was watching Mon nite's The Journey Home on EWTN. The guest, Michael Cumbie, used the phrase in answer to a question from Marcus Grodi.
The shows roots were in vaudeville, Ernie Kovacs & the Broadway show Hellzapoppin! It was part variety show, part political satire & all funny. It did a great job at pointing out the foibles of the rich & powerful as well as the rest of us. & never maliciously.
The show could never be made today. It was too politically incorrect. The cocktail party would be seen as glorifying alcohol. Dan Rowan could never get away with his on air smoking of a cigarette. Dick Martin's learing & double, or triple, entendres would be banned. Who would dare do a Polish joke today? Even though he was in on the joke, some of the things done to & by Sammy Davis would bring cries of outrage as being racist. It wasn't. They may have been irreverent but they never crossed the line to disrespect that often comes from the left today. We have lost our ability to laugh at ourselves, esp if you're liberal. Nixon was paranoid & didn't like some of the humor at his expense, nor did LBJ. But almost everyone else got it. Today, most conservatives can laugh even if it is at themselves. Look at George Bush at this year's Washington Press Corps Dinner. But, if you dare to make fun of a liberal sacred cow they will crucify you. But, when they cross the line from humor to actual hate filled disrespect don't you dare critcize them. Very few shows today can get away with crucifying sacred cows. & none so well as Laugh-In did. & the did it without the shock talk or any of the other filth that is often spewed out today in the name of humor.
I know that it is impossible to repeat those few shining moments that were Laugh-In. But, do I wish they could: "YOU BET YOUR SWEET BIPPY!!!!!" Headlines

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