Thursday, January 15, 2015
Community Giving Article Published  

 Recently, Seton Magazine, which is an online and print magazine targeted to homeschoolers, published my article on our experience with what we call our Community Giving project.  My wife had the idea to make giving to our community a project each month.  We have had fun with the various projects and giving to others, and I appreciate the opportunity to share our experience in the Seton Magazine.

The article on the idea and how we have implemented it can be read here.

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Saturday, December 06, 2014
What did St. Nicholas leave for you?  

There are a number of traditions surrounding St. Nicholas Day including the tradition of children leaving out their shoes the night before his feast day on December 6th in order that St. Nicholas has a place to leave presents and treats. We have had fun with that tradition for many years with LG. There is a similarity to the tradition of putting out your stockings by the fireplace on Christmas Eve. And both traditions are often traced back to the real St. Nicholas who was a Fourth Century bishop.

The shoes tradition has a couple of nice ideas associated with it. First, it gives us the opportunity to remember that saints are real people who really lived and our still a part of our reality. We can talk with them and ask them for help. And they help us in many ways which we will only better understand God willing in the next life. Second, the tradition of gifts from St. Nicholas is based in the generosity he displayed in his life. The legacy of St. Nicholas' generosity which we know of through the stories we have of his life remind us that generosity is fun as well as a way for us to live a fully human life. By celebrating this fun tradition, we have had the opportunity of integrating these ideas into our Advent preparation and celebration.

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Thursday, December 04, 2014
The Rabbits Celebrate Advent and Christmas eBook is now Available  

Last month saw the release of the first Bear and Rabbit Reader series eBook--The Rabbits' Thanksgiving.

Just in time for Advent and Christmas, the second book in the series has been released--The Rabbits Celebrate Advent and Christmas. The story follows Tom and Martha Rabbit and their family through their preparation during Advent and their fun Christmas Day.

The Bear and Rabbit Book Series is for story time, bedtime reading, and for early readers. The stories include fun illustrations on every page.

The story is available in virtually any type of eBook format.  If you are looking for a fun story to read to your children or for one of your early readers to read to you, you can get a copy of the eBook for Kindle, Nook, or Kobo.

For more information, you can visit the the Bear and Rabbit Reader Series Facebook page.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Every Day is Thanksgiving  

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Our family has always enjoyed the opportunity that Thanksgiving provides to remind us to be grateful not just once a year, nor even for a month, but every single day and throughout the day.

Recently, I have tried to cultivate two habits for giving thanks.  First, I try to begin time in prayer with thanks and to spend as much time giving God thanks as I would spend in any other part of my prayer.  Second, I try to take just a moment at the beginning of each day in the office by writing on a small pad of paper at least seven things for which I am grateful at that moment.  I read about this idea, and I have found it to be very helpful for starting out the work day in the right frame of mind. By my thinking,we should be grateful to God constantly; it should be our overall mindset.  With reminders like these, I hope to cultivate is an attitude of thanksgiving in order to maintain it at all times as much as possible.

For some fun ideas to help you celebrate Thanksgiving in your family and to remind you to give thanks, you can check out these Thanksgiving ideas from the Homeward blog.

[Painting: Angelus, Millet,  Musée d'Orsay]

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014
My Memory of the St. Martin's Day Lantern Procession  

In Fifth Grade, I lived in Heidelberg, Germany, and I attended an American school. At least once a week, we received instruction in German from a nice native speaker who patiently taught us number, colors, key phrases, and lessons about German culture.

One of my main memories of her instruction is when she had us make St. Martin's Day lanterns. In Germany, and other European countries, St. Martin's day processions with lanterns are very popular. At the time, it seemed much better known than Halloween among the Germans, and it was a fun event to celebrate the saint's day on November 11th.

The lantern which I made was from sturdy black paper, It was rectangular in shape with four sides that allowed spaces for light to shine out of the lantern. We glued brightly colored tissue paper over the spaces which gave the lantern a stained glass window effect.

The highlight was that we actually took part in the city's procession. I do not have strong memories of the parade, but I remember that I carried a wooden dowel with a hook at the end which held the lantern aloft as my friends and I walked down the Hauptstrasse. It certainly must have been a beautiful sight to see all those candle-lit lanterns light up the dark November night.

Our German teacher certainly told us the story of St. Martin and his generosity toward the beggar. However, it is the memory of my making and carrying the lantern that has remained with me over the years.

I was not a Catholic at the time, and it would be many years before I would enter the Catholic Church. However, I recognize that this was another of His seeds of faith which He planted and then continued to grow over the years in order to draw me to Himself and His Church. I am very grateful for this seed and the happy memories it brings.


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Friday, November 07, 2014
My new eBook for Early Readers--The Rabbits' Thanksgiving  

Many years ago, LG and I started working on a series of books about rabbits and bears.  The books were simply fun to make as we came up with a story (often LG made up most of the story) and then I (mainly) added pictures to illustrate.  Over time, quite a number of stories were written and more information about the rabbit and bear characters was developed.

Not too long ago, I thought that these books could be edited and then published as eBooks for early readers as a series entitled the Bear and Rabbit Reader Series.  I was very interested in this idea and got started on this soon after thinking of it.  Since then, I have learned much about eBooks, and I know there is much more to learn.

I am very excited that the book has been published and in time for Thanksgiving, the first story has been released--The Rabbits' Thanksgiving.  The story follows the young rabbits Tom and Martha through the week of Thanksgiving and the fun they have getting ready and celebrating the holiday with their family.

The story is available in virtually any type of eBook format.  If you are looking for a fun story to read to your children or for one of your early readers to read to you, check it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Kobo.

For more information, you can visit the the Bear and Rabbit Reader Series Facebook page.

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Sunday, November 02, 2014
All Souls Day and Purgatory  

On the Feast of All Souls, Holy Mother Church urges us to remember our brothers and sisters who have passed away, but are not yet prepared to behold the Lord because of the effects of the stain of sin that have not yet been fully cleansed from their souls. Through our prayers and sacrifices, we can help them to be purified and enter into the Beatific Vision.

Purgatory is perhaps one of the most misunderstood doctrines of the Catholic Church. Despite the many ideas about what the teaching is, the actual doctrine is quite beautiful and makes perfect sense in light of other truths of the Faith. God is all holy and nothing unholy can be in His presence. When we die, we have made a choice to be with Him or to not be with Him. Even if we have chosen to be with the Lord and have repented of our acts of rebellion against Him, we might not have addressed the consequences of our wrong actions.

The example is often given of a boy who is told by his father that he should not play baseball in his back yard because of the risk of breaking something with his baseball. After he he refuses to obey and actually breaks a window with the baseball, there are two effects to his disobedience. First, he has disobeyed his parent and damaged that relationship, and second he has broken a window. To address the former effect, the boy apologizes to His father, and His father forgives him. The boy intends to not disobey his father again and play baseball in the back yard. The relationship with his father is repaired. The second effect of the broken window might be addressed in several ways including the boy helping in some way to repair the window.

The example illustrates the double effect of our sin. Sin always damages the relationship between us and our Heavenly Father. If it is serious sin, the relationship is broken and must be repaired through the Sacrament of Confession. However, there is a second effect to the sin that also needs to be addressed. For instance, stolen goods must be returned. Also, we are effected. Yes, through reconciliation we have a pure soul once again, but because of our sin, we might, for example, be more inclined, rather than less inclined to commit that sin or another sin. If we had resisted that sin in the first place, we would have strengthened our will rather than weakened it.

In this life, there are opportunities for us to repair the damage caused by our sin through penance. However, it might be that we do not complete this damage repair before we die. Purgatory is the place where we will complete that purification of our souls. In His mercy, God grants us the opportunity to be purified. Let us pray for those who await the completion of their purification in Purgatory.


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Saturday, November 01, 2014
November's Reminder--the Call to Holiness  

November is dedicated to the Souls in Purgatory. In a special way, during the month we remember to pray for those who are not yet cleansed of all of temporal effects of sin. They need our prayers in order to be purified and to enter into the glory of Heaven.

The month, however, begins with the feast day of All Saints. On that feast day, we are reminded of our calling in life--to be a saint. Every single person that God creates is called to be a saint and to live with Him forever and ever. We might get there via Purgatory, but nonetheless, we are called to live eternally with the Holy Trinity.

We should take comfort that, although it can seem very difficult at times, God is with us on every step of our journey. He wants us to be with Him. He created us to be with Him. He will help us be with Him. On All Saints, we can remember that all of these saints from every different time, place, and station of life, with God's grace, have been welcomed into Heaven. We, too, can cooperate with God's grace in order to receive His awesome gift of eternal life.

All you saints, pray for us!


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Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Angels and Calendar Connections  

As part of LG's daily lesson, we have a brief session in the morning routine which is called Calendar Connection. The idea which we received from 1+1+1=1, is to have a brief daily piece of information on a particular theme for the month. In the past, we have had covered monthly themes on the weather, Thanksgiving, astronomy, ocean life, and botany, This year, I have been making my own. September was dedicated to the Apostles, and October has been about angels.

After a few days providing general information about angels, the rest of the days in the month have been about angels appearances in the Bible. It is quite amazing to see how often throughout salvation history, God has sent his special messengers to intervene in human affairs.

Of course, the most amazing and well-known appearance of angel was at the Annunciation to our Blessed Mother. In a few weeks time, we will begin the Advent season which will be followed by the Christmas season. During those two seasons, the familiar passage from the first chapter of Luke's Gospel will be read many times during the liturgy. It might be fruitful to use those opportunities to meditate on God's angels whom He calls to help us in many ways known and unknown to us. Perhaps, we might even ask our guardian angel to have a greater appreciation of him and for how the Lord works through these special messengers. Also, it is a good idea to often thank your guardian angel for his assistance and prayers and to thank our Lord for this special minister of His grace that He has given to each one of us.

(By the way, I hope to make the calendar connections I have made, including the one on angels, available soon for those who might be interested.)

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Sunday, October 26, 2014
Pope Francis and the Autobiography of St. Ignatius  

Our Holy Father Pope Francis is a member of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits as they are typically called. The contribution to the Church by the Jesuits since their inception in the Sixteenth Century has been immense.

There are many saints who are Jesuits including St. Francis Borgia, St. Francis Xavier, and St. Aloysius Gonzaga. If you would like to know more about the founder of the Jesuits--St. Ignatius of Loyola--you can read his autobiography in an eBook version which I recently published. It is an attractive copy with the original translation into English and the original artwork. It is available for a reasonable price of $1.99 at both Barnes and Noble and at Kobo.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013
Memorial Day: Joyce Kilmer, "Trees", and Duty  

A hand shot up from among the troops sitting on the ground. It was an eager sergeant who raised his hand and asked if he could help. In front of the troops was an enthusiastic young lady who was a volunteer with the YMCA. The sergeant's offer to assist her came as somewhat of a surprise. She was reciting a recently published, but well-known poem, and she had suddenly forgotten the remaining lines.

It was 1918 in France. The young lady, Eloise Robinson, who was a poet, was with the doughboys near the front lines of the Great War. Here the men knew all the ugliness of fighting and this war of attrition with its mustard gas, isolation in the trenches, and rampant diseases. The young woman hoped to bring some good cheer with poetry and chocolates. The troops of the Fighting 69th Regiment from New York were eager for any type of distraction from both the daily grind and the quick terror of war. A recitation of poetry held their interest perhaps because it was so unlike anything like combat.

In response to her quizzical look, the sergeant recited the remaining verses of the poem. Although not a long poem, Eloise Robinson was surprised that he knew the lines. The sergeant answered her unspoken question when he gently explained, "Well ma'am, I guess I wrote it."

The sergeant was Joyce Kilmer, and the verses he completed were the end of his best known poem "Trees".

Joyce Kilmer did not have to be at the front lines; he wanted to be there. Shortly after the United States entered the war, he enlisted in the New York National Guard. Although he had a wife and children and was on the older end of the age range for enlistment, he volunteered because he thought it was his duty. He wrote,
"I have considered this step I am taking from every side and I feel there is no doubt that I have an obligation to join the colors. I would be ashamed later on to look at the children if I don’t volunteer. However other married men feel about going, I consider my enlisting as a duty I owe to God and country.”

After a short stint in the 7th regiment, Kilmer was able to transfer to the Fighting 69th Infantry Regiment. He soon rose from private to the rank of sergeant. Kilmer was fiercely loyal to his comrades and refused several officer commissions in order to remain with his regiment. As the war went on, Kilmer volunteered for more dangerous assignments in military intelligence which involved him leading scouting parties ahead of the regiment’s lines. His comrades were impressed by how calm he remained in the midst of these patrols into no man's land.

Back home, Kilmer had a wife Aline Murray, who was also a poet, and four children. In the year before he enlisted, Kilmer and his wife had lost their four-year-old daughter to polio. Through their daughter's suffering, the Kilmers were on led on a journey of faith which brought them into the Catholic Church. That same faith buoyed them through her illness and their mourning of her death. It also carried the Kilmers though his military service and sacrifice for his country.

When Kilmer had surprised the YMCA volunteer by completing the lines of his poem, he might have given his last presentation of those famous verses. Only weeks after that day, Kilmer was leading a scouting party to find German machine gun positions when he was killed by a sniper. He was just 31 years old. His desire to fulfill his duty to God and his country had resulted in his making the ultimate sacrifice. Although his life was cut short, he has lived on in his family, his example, and his writings, especially "Trees" which has become one of the most familiar poems in American culture.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breat;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

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Saturday, May 18, 2013
Back Again  

It has been a while--September 2007--since I last posted on this blog.  I would like to begin posting again, and there is no time like the present.

Currently, we are in the midst of the last three weeks of the homeschooling year for LG, and we have been packing in many more activities than I could imagine.

Last week, we were in Raleigh, NC for a few days.  It was quite a nice trip in which we enjoyed a number of things including a great bed and breakfast, the great weather, the art museum, a really nice children's park, and the natural sciences museum.

Here are a few photos of that trip.

On the porch of the B&B.

Whale at the natural science museum.

Paddle boats at the children's park.

Art Museum.

Art Museum.

Also, Duc In Altum is now on Facebook, as well.

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Friday, September 21, 2007
Mary Vitamin  

Both M and I take vitamins. It is an essential part of our daily routine that L has picked up on to the point that she asks us on a given day whether or not we have taken them or not. Except when she asks, what she says sounds like, "Have you taken your diamonds today?" Of course, we joke about the diamonds that are actually vitamins, and we talk about how L's term might indicate the importance of these daily vitamins.

One woman has taken the idea of a daily vitamins to include the vitamin of devotion that we all need. She provides help in this area by encouraging Marian devotion through mental prayer. Her apostolate is to provide material to encourage mental prayer through an email that she sends five days a seek. The emails often contain quotes from saints referencing the virtues of our Lady. Then there is a vow to action that urges the reader to put in to practice what our Lady shows us through her example.
Mary Vitamin is a daily email support for Marian mental prayer. Each day (Monday through Friday) members will receive a brief Marian quote with a corresponding Marian meditation and resolution. The Mary Vitamin is designed to make mental prayer a little simpler and bring Our Lady into your day in a systematic way.

Real Marian devotion is studying the life and virtues of Our Lady and then putting into practice what we learn from her.
She calls her emails Mary Vitamin, and the emails are quite like taking a daily Marian vitamin. For more information, click here. To view her blog, click here.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007
More on Christendom College Podcasts  

Recently I mentioned that this past July we attended the Christendom College 2007 Summer Institute on Marriage and the Family. As it has been in past years, it was a wonderful conference. One of the main reasons that the Summer Institute is always so enjoyable is because the organizers always manage to bring in great speakers. This year was no different as the speakers included Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Ms. Mary Stanford, Bishop Thomas Welsh, Bishop Robert Morlino, Dr. Timothy O'Donnell, and Sen. Rick Santorum.

A few weeks after the conference, L asked to see some pictures of the speakers. While looking on the Christendom College Web site, I found that the college posts podcasts of lectures that are given as part of the school's speakers program. However, I was disappointed to not find the Summer Institute talks on the Christendom podcast site.

It turns out, I just needed to be patient. Today, I received an email from Tom McFadden who is the Director of Admissions at Christendom. He had read my blog entry on the Christendom College podcast site, and he sent me an email to let me know that the Summer Institute podcasts have been made available.

I appreciate Tom's heads up on the podcasts being posted, and I am happy to pass on the information. It is certainly worth taking the time to listen to these talks. To listen to them, as well as other lectures given at the college during the academic year, click here.


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Monday, September 17, 2007
Vatican Confirms Requirement to Provide Feeding Tubes  

In response to questions posed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Vatican has confirmed the moral obligation to provide nutrition and hydration to patients who are in a vegetative state.

In light of the tragic case of Ms. Terri Schiavo who was put to death by starvation and dehydration , the USCCB asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) for a clarification on the Church's teaching on this issue.

The response which was approved by Pope Benedict XVI, confirmed that "the church position that patients in a 'vegetative state' are living human beings with inherent dignity and deserve the same basic care as other patients. This basic care would include nutrition and hydration, even when provided through artificial assistance."

Furthermore, the CDF indicated that the food and hydration should be given regardless of the prognosis of the patient regarding consciousness. The CDF stated that, "ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food even by artificial means" should be supplied regardless of the prognosis of recovery of consciousness.

In a separate commentary, the CDF did note that there might be exceptions to this moral obligation, but these would be rare. Such circumstances might be remote places with extreme poverty, a situation in which it is futile to provide food and water because the patient is unable to assimilate the nutrition and hydration, or a case in which the discomfort of the reception of food and water far outweighs the benefits of providing it. In the Q&A document written by the USCCB to help apply this teaching, the example given for this last case is a patient who has stomach cancer. In this case, the patient may not be able to assimilate the food and water without great discomfort. Even given these exceptions, the CDF made clear that the exceptions do not negate the general provision that giving food and water, even by artificial means, represents "a natural means for providing life."

It would have been fairly easy to anticipate these answers. John Paul the Great made it clear that nutrition and hydration were ordinary means of care for a person regardless of the person's level of consciousness. The natural law, which is often understood as common sense, dictates that you cannot starve or dehydrate a person simply because the person is not conscious as is commonly understood. The fact that this was permitted to be done to Ms. Terri Schiavo, not to mention the numerous other people whose stories are lesser known, is a horrific and deeply disturbing tragedy.


The responses from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF)
A CDF commentary, approved by Cardinal William Levada and bishop members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
A Q&A from the USCCB Committee on Doctrine and Committee on Pro-Life Activities




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Thursday, September 13, 2007
Virtual Rosary  

I just recently discovered the Virtual Rosary. It is a small desktop application which guides you through praying the Rosary. There are attractive images, simple music, and meditations for each bead in the five decades. It comes in various languages, and it is up-to-date as it includes the Luminous Mysteries inaugurated by John Paul the Great. The Web site also offers additional modules with different meditations including ones based on St. Louis de Monfort. And for those who need it, there is a reminder feature.

The Web site states the goals.
Virtual Rosary is a free program with three goals in mind:
  1. To teach the rosary and make it simple with the program's super-easy operation.

  2. To help keep the rosary refreshing and deep for anyone with the aid of scripture, illustrations, and music.

  3. To build a worldwide community of people to pray for each other through the PrayerCast network.
I think it is a terrific idea for encouraging praying the Rosary. I, myself, would rather not look at a computer monitor while praying the Rosary, but I am sure many people find this very useful as an aid in their prayer life. I added a link to the site on the right pane under Web sites of Interest.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Christendom College Podcasts  

This past July, we made our annual journey to the Christendom College Summer Institute. It was a wonderful day of inspiring speakers and a beautiful mass at the school's Christ the King Chapel. The theme this year was defending the family, and the speakers included Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Ms. Mary Stanford, Bishop Thomas Welsh, Bishop Robert Morlino, Dr. Timothy O'Donnell, and Sen. Rick Santorum. As usual, we had a great time, and we left with much food for thought. (We also left with a few books, but that might need another post.)

L was with us, as well, so we sat together to hear the talks as much as we could, but when she got fidgety, I would take her outside to walk or stroll around the attractive campus. Fortunately, unlike most summers before, the temperature was rather mild for a day in the middle of July. One highlight was that M was able to speak with Fr. Groeschel. She enjoyed her chat with him, and she found him to have that wonderful fully human ability to relate to someone right away.

Yesterday, L wanted to see some pictures of the speakers that she had heard at the conference. (She has a remarkable memory for names and places for an almost three-year-old.) While showing her the picures of the speakers, I came across a podcast site where the school posts lectures from their speakers program which occurs during the academic year. I thought this was a site worth noting because the College draws a number of good speakers during the year, in addition to its own faculty including the remarkable Founding President Dr. Warren Carroll. Unfortunately, the Summer Institute talks are not posted here because they must be purchased.


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Monday, September 03, 2007
Pope calls for more Catholics to help protect the Environment  

The Holy Father was in Loreto, Italy during the first two days of September as he presided over a national meeting of young people. Yesterday, in the homily at the concluding Mass, he urged the young people to consider the importance of helping to preserve the environment.

I appreciate the Holy Father highlighting this important area of justice. Ever since I was quite young, I have had a great interest in the environment. I remember at an early age reading magazines like National and International Wildlife and Audubon. In fact, one of my elementary school teachers predicted that I would become an environmental lawyer.

I never wound up in law school, but after receiving my degree in mechanical engineering, I have been able to work for several consulting firms that to a lesser or greater degree allowed me to work in my area of interest. My current job is the most directly related to preserving the environment, in particular, improving air quality.

I am grateful for the opportunity to work in this area because I know that it does make a difference in improving the lives of others. I have come to understand that preserving the environment is indeed an issue of justice because we are responsible for how we treat God's creation, particularly humans, and we are called to consider what legacy we will leave for future generations.

I can only echo the Holy Father's call to young people to be involved in this work. Faithful Christians can make an important impact by maintaining that any work to preserve the environment must keep human beings, created in the image and likeness of God, as the focus of all efforts.

The world is in urgent need of Catholics working to protect the environment, says Benedict XVI.

Following Christ, the Holy Father affirmed, brings with it "the continual effort to make one's own contribution to building a more just and solidary society, where all can enjoy the goods of the earth."

"I know that many of you dedicate yourselves with generosity to bear witness to your own faith in various social ambits, volunteering, working to promote the common good, peace and justice in every community," he said. "One of the areas in which work appears to be urgent is without a doubt that of protecting creation.

"To the new generations the future of the planet is entrusted, in which there are evident signs of a development that has not always known how to safeguard the delicate equilibriums of nature.

"Before it is too late, it is necessary to make courageous decisions that reflect knowing how to re-create a strong alliance between man and the earth.

"A decisive 'yes' to the protection of creation is necessary and a firm commitment to reverse those tendencies that run the risk of bringing about situations of unstoppable degradation."

Benedict XVI applauded an initiative from the Church in Italy to promote sensitivity to the issue of protecting creation. Sept. 1 has been established as a national day for promoting awareness of these matters.

"This year," the Holy Father observed, "attention is focused above all on water, a most precious good that, if it is not shared in a fair and peaceful way, will unfortunately become a cause for significant tensions and bitter conflicts."



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Sunday, September 02, 2007
Another Look at the Pharisees  

In his commentary on this Sunday's liturgical readings, the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa offers a different view of the Pharisees. One of the major religious groups of Jesus' day, the Pharisees have become synonymous with hypocrites. Fr. Cantalamessa points out the problems and the harm in making this judgement of the Pharisees.
The beginning of this Sunday's Gospel helps us to correct a widely diffused prejudice: "One Sabbath when he went to dine at the house of a ruler who belonged to the Pharisees, they were watching him." Reading the Gospel from a certain angle we have ended up making the Pharisees the prototype for all vices: hypocrisy, duplicity, falsity; Jesus' enemies par excellence. The terms "Pharisee" and "Pharisaical" have entered into the vocabulary of many languages with negative connotations.

Such an idea of the Pharisees is not correct. There were certainly many among them who corresponded to this negative image and it is with these that Jesus has serious problems. But not all of them were like this. Nicodemus, who comes to see Jesus one night and who later defended him before the Sanhedrin, was a Pharisee (cf. John 3:1; 7:50ff.). Saul was a Pharisee before his conversion and was certainly a sincere and zealous person then, if misguided. Gamaliel, who defended the apostles before the Sanhedrin, was a Pharisee (cf. Acts 5:34ff.).

Jesus' relationships with the Pharisees were not only conflictual. They often shared the same convictions, such as faith in the resurrection of the dead and the love of God and neighbor as the first and most important commandment of the law. Some, as we see in Sunday's Gospel, even invited Jesus to dinner at their house. Today there is agreement that the Pharisees did not want Jesus to be condemned as much as their rival sect, the Sadducees, who belonged to Jerusalem's priestly caste.

For all these reasons, it would be a very good thing to stop using the terms "Pharisee" and "Pharisaical" in a disparaging way. This would also help dialogue with the Jews who recall with great respect the role played by the Pharisees in their history, especially after the destruction of Jerusalem.

From Zenit (Also for the full commentary)
To view the liturgical readings for today, click on the link, Today's Mass Readings in the top right of this post.


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Saturday, September 01, 2007
September Prayer Intentions  

General - That the ecumenical assembly in Romania this month may contribute to the growth of unity among all Christians.
Pope Benedict is concerned about the Church in Europe, a continent that has seen a long decline in all traditional Christian churches. Europe seems to have forgotten its first love, the Crucified and the Risen Jesus Christ, and the darkness of relativism has invaded all the institutions of Europe.

Opposing this darkness, the 3rd European Ecumenical Assembly has chosen this theme: "The light of Christ shines upon all. Hope for renewal and unity in Europe." Ironically, the diminished churches bring an opportunity for greater unity as 3,000 delegates gather in Sibiu, Romania, September 4-8.

This meeting culminates a “pilgrimage” of the major Christian traditions of Europe as they listen together to the Word of Christ and seek the essence of what makes us Christian. At the Last Supper, Jesus prayed that all his followers might be one in him. He knew how easily divisions set in, even among sincere followers.

With Jesus, we pray that the assembly delegates may grow in understanding, love, and unity through the power of the Holy Spirit. We pray for the light of Christ on them as they discuss many topics, including the visible unity of the Church, the reconciliation between peoples and cultures, the safeguarding of creation, and the dialogue with other religions and philosophical viewpoints, starting with Judaism and Islam.

We pray that they may set in motion a powerful unification of all Christians in Europe and throughout the world.

Missionary - That following Christ joyfully, all missionaries may know how to overcome the difficulties they meet in everyday life.
While celebrating Eucharist with fellow bishops in Brazil this past May, Pope Benedict spoke of the missionary nature of the Church. As Jesus was the missionary of the Father, so the Church extends Christ’s love throughout the world.

What difficulties face today’s missionaries? According to the Holy Father, "secularized culture, the crisis of the family, the drop in vocations, the aging of the clergy, churches closing in on themselves, and lowered hopes" are difficulties more formidable than perilous travel, primitive life, and savage rejection such as have afflicted past missionary efforts.

Some of today’s greatest missionary difficulties arise from the need to re-evangelize formerly Christian nations and peoples.

We pray in obedience to the Holy Father that missionaries may be full of Christ’s joy. We pray that their joy will give them strength and understanding needed to overcome the serious difficulties they face in their work.

Rather than lose hope ourselves, we ask God to make us passionate about evangelization in all its forms. Let us see new opportunities in new technologies. Let us welcome missionaries into our own midst. And, most of all, let us give ourselves to the missions in our prayers. We Apostles of Prayer seek everyday to “be apostles now.” We venture by our prayers into all the difficulties faced by the men and women missionaries we support.

With joy, with hope, we offer ourselves in prayer for missionaries today. We will offer ourselves again tomorrow—and again and again—until God’s Kingdom comes.


That God may bless and strengthen the pro-life efforts of college students.


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Sunday, August 26, 2007
No Words Can Express their Grief  

In very sad news, Jude Gilliam, the two-year-old boy who was in the ICU, has passed away. This little boy had captured the hearts of so many who were supporting his family and praying for his full recovery. We entrust him to our Heavenly Father, and we grieve with his family at their terrible loss. I do not think that words can capture what they must be feeling at this time. How can parents ever bury their child, especially a child so young?

A memorial service will be held on Tuesday. For more information and to read the notes signed in the guest book, click here.

Please join your prayers with many others who are praying for the family that is mourning the loss of such a young child.


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Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Prayer Request for a 2-year-old boy in ICU  

Obviously, it has been quite some time since I last posted. I am compelled to add an entry asking for prayer for Jude Gilliam, who is a 2-year-old boy in an intensive care unit. He is in the hospital because several days ago, he was pulled from his grandparents' pool after having nearly drowned.

Now in the ICU, he is being assisted with life support machines, and the medical staff continue to monitor his brain activity. There was significant swelling in his brain, and the doctors believe that his upper brain which controls movement, speech, and sight has not been working since he was pulled out of the pool.

The little boy is one of four children in the Gilliam family. My wife and I are acquainted with Robert, the father of the little boy, and we also know a number of the other family members and friends who have been affected by this terrible accident.

As parents ourselves, we cannot image what this family has endured and continues to face. It is simply a parent's worst nightmare to see your child hooked up to machines in an ICU. We, too, have known this horrible experience, and our hearts and prayers go out to the Gilliam family.

Many people throughout the world have expressed their support and empathy for the family. In addition, a number of friends and family members are keeping a prayer watch at the hospital. The family has expressed tremendous faith that God will heal their little boy Jude.

I would ask you to join your prayers with all of those who are praying. Pray that little Jude has a full recovery. I thank you for your prayers, and I know the family would, as well.

For more information, click here. On this site you can read the journal entries from family and friends, and you can view the hundreds of kind notes that have been added to the site.

I thought, given his name, that it is quite appropriate to ask for the intercession of the patron of desperate situations. St. Jude, pray for us ...


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Thursday, June 14, 2007
Positive Discipline: No spanking  

If you are a parent, you owe it to yourself to look into the whole concept of positive discipline. The ideas put forth by Dr. Jane Nelsen and others are fairly simple, but, depending on how you were raised, may require you to think about things completely differently than you have.

The basic premise is that it is unnecessary to use strictly punitive methods to discipline children. As it is often stated in the Positive Discipline books, why is it a given that you have to make children feel badly in order to teach them how to behave. Translated into practical terms, parents are discouraged from ever using spanking or any type of hitting to punish children.

Now this flies in the face of many people's assumptions that spanking is quite alright. After all, spanking was the discipline method of many people's parents and they turned out okay. Dr. Nelsen replies:
He: There are times when it is necessary to spank my children to teach them important lessons. For example, I spank my two-year-old to teach her not to run into the street.
She: After you have spanked your two-year-old to teach her not to run in the street, will you let her play unsupervised by a busy street?
He: Well, no.
She: Why not? If the spanking teaches her not to run into the street, why can't she play unsupervised by the street? How many times would you need to spank her before you would feel she has learned the lesson well enough?
He: Well, I wouldn't let her play unsupervised near a busy street until she was six or seven years old.
She: I rest my case. Parents have the responsibility to supervise young children in dangerous situations until children are old enough to handle that situation. All the spanking in the world won't teach a child until he or she is developmentally ready. Meanwhile you can gently teach. When you take your children to the park, invite them to look up the street and down the street to see if cars are coming and tell you when it is safe to cross the street. Still, still you won't let them go to the park alone until they are six or seven.
Studies show that approximately 85 percent of all parents of children under twelve years old resort to spanking when frustrated, yet only 8 to 10 percent believe that it is dignified or effective. Sixty-five percent say that they would prefer to teach through positive methods to improve behavior, but they don't know how. This book shows you how.

A response to the argument that adults who were spanked by their parents turned out okay can be found here. The basic idea is that although a lesson may have been taught and even caught when punitive means were used, it might not have been the best lesson for the child.

For our part, we have never spanked our daughter, and we have no intention of ever doing so. The key for us is to remain firm but kind while keeping in mind that the goal of discipline is to teach our daughter to become the respectful, responsible adult we want her to become. We want her to want to be virtuous. We do not want her to want to be good because she fears the wrath of her parents (or God) if she does not behave. This goes beyond getting her to mind us. That can be accomplished via shaming types of punishment, but in the long run, it will only cause problems. Finally, there are alternative methods for teaching her to behave even in the midst of her misbehavior. For me, it requires looking at things from a different perspective than how I was raised. Shaming and strictly punitive methods were constantly used. Although I turned out okay, there are many problems I have carried with me into adulthood that I have no desire to pass on to my daughter.

I have only touched briefly on this philosophy of raising children. There is much more I could mention. For more information, check out Jane Nelsen's blog and the Positive Discipline Web site.


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Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Returning to Action and Abandonment to Divine Providence  

Over the past nine months or so, most posting has been very occasional. I continue to believe that there might be a more full return to action. Or at least a more frequent schedule of posting. Perhaps it would be best if I consider an achievable goal such as once a week. That seems somewhat reasonable.

That being said, this is my first attempt at moving in that direction. However, the most important thing is that I place all of this in His hands. I have been reading and listening to the book, Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade, S.J. I received the tip on this book from Fr. Groeschel who mentioned that he has been re-reading it ever since he first read it as a teenager.

Reading this book has solidified in many ways what I have thought and experienced in my life. Namely, that the path to following God is one in which one completely abandons oneself to following God's will in the present moment. Every item of one's life, no matter how mundane, is important to the life that God has planned. In each moment, He is calling to me to be obedient to His Will. Focusing on the past or the future will not help me as much as my concentrating on doing His will by fulfilling my duties in the present moment.

Although there is only Way for salvation, there are countless variations of the details of how to follow Christ that are made particular by God to suit the individual creatures He has created. In practical terms, I will not be called to live as you are called to live. You will not be called to live as I am called to live.

This seems so obvious, but in reality, many stumble in this area because they expect, conscioulsy or uncounscioulsy, everyone to follow the details which they follow. For example, I have found people who practically function as if one mass time on Sunday at a particular parish is the only mass to attend for "serious" Catholics. This is nonsense. What if God is calling them to attend that mass, but God is calling me to attend mass at a different time? Indeed He does this all of the time. The volumes of the lives of the saints are filled with men and women who did not necessarily follow the established path. The common bond for these saints was that they submitted to God's will, as best they could, in every moment of their lives. Perhaps today they are called to do one thing. The next day God might call them to do something else. Their trust in Him allowed them to not become attached to either things or creatures, but to remain attached to Jesus. This is my hope. That, I too, would strive to radically follow Jesus wherever He may lead me in the present moment He has given me. Much of this will be mundane fulfillment of the duties of my state in life. No matter, if it is what He wills, it is the best for me.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007
New This and That and Patient Endurance of Suffering  

This is the first post with the new Blogger. I have not fully explored the new features, but then again, I did not seem to have a choice. When I connected to Blogger, I was given the choice to either convert to the new Blogger or never post again. Fortunately, I already had a Gmail account. That saved one step. The other thing that made this less painful was the fact that I now have high speed Internet. It is somewhat unbelievable given my background, but we have just now moved from dial-up to DSL. So far so good. It is fast, and that makes quite a difference.

The next step is to move the graphics and scripts for this blog from the current server to the a new server because I need to shut down the dial-up service. That should not take too long, but tonight is not the night for that. I need to do a few more things and then head to bed.

This has not been a particularly theological or spiritual post. To make up for that I will add a quote from St. Colette whose feast is March 7th:
If there be a true way that leads to the Everlasting Kingdom, it is most certainly that of suffering, patiently endured.
The older I get, the more I grasp the very simple truth of that statement. Suffering, patiently endured, was the way of our Lord, and there is no reason why it should not be my way too.

Every time I avoid the cross, I quickly am given an opportunity to remember that my (spiritual) life is fundamentally about my cross that must be carried every day. The key, as St. Colette notes, is the patient endurance by which the suffering is borne. It is so easy for me to get caught up in the moment and to forget the need to remain calm under the pressure of daily life.

The virtue of patience allows me to recognize that often, well within 24 hours, what seemed to be a terrible crisis, is no longer even a problem. If I am able to remain focused on our Lord, have faith in Him no matter what the problems are, I can endure the suffering that is permitted. If I forget our Lord and try to muddle through on my own without the cross, I will make a mess of things. And if I try to do an end run around suffering or numb myself from it, I will be even worse off than if I had let it beat me down like wave in the ocean. No, my only hope for success is to heed this saints message and pray for the grace to patiently endure all that He allows, and to strive to overcome my own reluctance to accept suffering and embrace it as the way of our Lord.

Image Credit

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Sunday, February 25, 2007
Lenten Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving  

For Roman Catholics, this is the first Sunday in Lent. Since I was not able to post in time for the beginning of Lent last week on Ash Wednesday, I thought I would use this liturgical day to post on the beginning of the season of Lent.

The traditional means of keeping the season is to increase one's efforts in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Because I am a convert to Catholicism, I did grow up with the concept of giving something up for Lent in order to learn the concept of fasting. Instead, after I heard it several years ago, I have tried to practice the idea of fasting from sin. To that end I have established two fasts. One is a personal sin to overcome, and the other is the more traditional food item--chocolate. I realized a while ago that I actually consume quite a bit of chocolate; it should be a great thing to not have any in order to discipline my appetite.

Prayer comes in to play because in order to overcome sin, I must pray to obtain the grace to have a will that is able to choose good over evil. In addition, I must pray to cooperate with the grace that God gives me.

I do not have a plan for increased almsgiving. However, after reading this, I think that I not only need to come up with a plan, but I need to decide to put it in to action through consistent tithing. And that means tithing my time, as well as my money.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Der Kaiser geht wieder gerne in die Kirche  

Apparently, the private audience in October 2005 which Franz Beckenbauer had with his fellow countryman Pope Benedict XVI had a profound impact upon him. In a recent interview, he described the meeting, and the impact it had upon him:
German soccer legend Franz Beckenbauer has told the Munich newspaper Abendzeitung that his October 2005 meeting with Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) was "the most important experience" of his life.

As chairman of the German committee organizing the 2006 World Cup competition, Beckenbauer met with the Holy Father at the Vatican in October 2005. The encounter made a deep impression on the German athlete, and after the Pope's trip to Bavaria in 2006, Beckenbauer began to immerse himself in the Pope's writings. As a result of his reading, Beckenbauer returned to the active practice of his faith.

"Benedict XVI leads people to the Church," Beckenbauer told Abendzeitung, "and I myself am the best example of that." CWN
I have always been a bit of a Beckenbauer fan. When I was first introduced to soccer as a child, I learned about this legend of the sport. I was able to see him play for a while prior to his hanging up his boots for good. After retiring from playing, he went on to add to his successful career by winning championships from the front office and as a head coach including Germany's last World Cup triumph in 1990.

Of course, this story is fascinating for me because of Beckenbauer, but it is also interesting simply because of the impact that Benedict XVI had on him. Benedict XVI is not considered to be as charismatic as Pope John Paul the Great, but this story points out that it is not the person, but the person who allows the Holy Spirit to work through him. Clearly, the Holy Father has the special charism of the office, and stories like this show the impact that this can have on people who are disposed to meet God through the Holy Father's ministry. This surely seems to be the case foBeckenbauerer who called it "the most important experience" of his life. That is fairly strong statement from someone who could have pointed to a number of personal and professional moments rather than a visit with Benedict XVI.

H/T Open Book

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Saturday, November 18, 2006
Moving Fast  

Thanks be to God. For so many reasons. We are fast approaching moving day. The old house has been rented, and the renter will come in on the 27th of this month. That means it is time to get into the new house. Fortunately, we have been moving things into the new house since we bought it back in July. There are a number of items left to go, but probably about eighty percent is already there. However, there is much to be done to ready the old house so we will be very busy over these next several days as we go from one house to the other and clean up the old one in anticipation of its new occupant. Thank you for your prayers for a renter. It certainly was not my timing, but I trust it is His and that will always be the best.

As it has been some time since my last post (Five months is considered a long time in the information age), I will see what I can do to increase the frequency of posts. Perhaps, once we are in the new house with DSL, I will be motivated to post more often. Believe or not, I have never had anything faster than dial-up at the old home. It will be nice to have a faster connection when that gets set up at the new home.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Watching the Time Go By  

I recently bought a new watch. It is not anything fancy. That really is not my style. Instead it is just a functional face watch with an hour hand and a minute hand which I purchased from a discount store. The only special feature on the watch is a small panel that displays the current date. Today I decided to set it to the right date, but I did not have the instructions. I do not think they were necessary because the watch only seems to have one way to adjust it. I ended up turning the little knob numerous times until it set the date to today's date. As I was doing this, I was struck at how fast the hands went around. I could not help thinking that my life is just like that. It really is speeding by, and the next thing I know it will all be over.

I am not that old, but fairly regularly I think about whether I have done much with my life. The answer is not one that makes me very comfortable. Instead, it really bothers me because I figure that even if I live to a ripe old age, I have wasted so much time. And it really pains me to realize what everyone knows--which is that you cannot go back and do it again. There really is only one shot, and the older I get the more I realize how much more seriously I need to take my life.

This business about being serious keeps coming to me. It is a form of the virtue of prudence in which you figure out how you are going to reach your goal. If my goal for my family and me is heaven, I need to map out, as best as I can, how we can hope to attain that beautiful and most magnificent of gifts. This requires seriousness. Not an uptight type of seriousness, but a seriousness that this is God's call to me. It is not a joke, but a real invitation that I can either plan to accept everyday with the long term plan in mind, or I can fritter away my time and painfully regret it later.

I am not sure where this thinking will lead me, but it certainly has given me food for thought and prayer. I know that I cannot remain where I am. My family depends on me to help plan for the future. I need to be more sober about my daily actions because the sum of them is what is building my life. There are just far too many habits and behaviors that are troubling to me, and I know that it is up to me to prayerfully work on those. The hands of time do not lie and they do not stop. Here is prayer that I use what time I have left much more prudently than I have the time to now.

Posted by David at 12:34 AM  |  Comments (3)  | 

Sunday, June 18, 2006
Requests for Prayer  

I was reminded by a commenter that I had written about the Pope's address to young people at Blonie Park in Krakow when he was in Poland last month. (By the way the commenter is TheresaMF, who is graduate of the tremendous Christendom College and whose blog Destination: Order is listed in my list of Blogs of Interest. Also, she could use our prayers as she is discerning a vocation to the Dominicans. Click here to read more.) The theme of the Holy Father's talk regarded the parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount where are Lord speaks about the wise and the foolish man (Matthew 7:24-27). The foolish man builds his house upon the sand, and the wise man builds his house upon the rock. The storms test the houses of both men. Only the wise man's house survives the storms. I wrote a bit about how these theme really meant much to me because of my own understanding of how I desire a home.

Her reminder about my post seemed quite apropos because as it turns out one of the reasons that I have not been posting over the past weeks has been because my wife and I are trying to purchase a home. We are set to close at the end of July, but one of the contingencies in our contract is that we are able to rent our current home. Consequently, we have been busy getting our house in order (so to speak) in order to show it to potential renters. I would appreciate your prayers for God to provide us with a good renter. Since we have never been landlords this is all a bit daunting. However, it seems like this is what should be the next step. And truly this has been one small step at time while trying to trust God and to discern His Will. Thanks for your prayers.

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Monday, June 05, 2006
Patron Saint of World Cup 2006?  

As the world, or at least the sporting world, begins to turn its focus in earnest toward Germany because of the 2006 World Cup which begins on Friday, today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Boniface who is known as the Apostle to Germany.
A Benedictine monk was chosen by divine Providence to become Germany's great apostle and patron. Boniface's first missionary endeavor proved unsuccessful (716). Before attempting a second he went to Rome and received papal authorization (718). Under the holy bishop Willibrord he converted Frisia within a period of three years. On November 30, 722, Boniface was consecrated bishop by Pope Gregory II.
In 724 he turned his attention to the Hessian people, among whom he continued his missionary activity with renewed zeal. On an eminence near the village of Geismar on the Eder, he felled a giant oak that the people honored as the national sanctuary of the god Thor. Boniface used the wood to build a chapel in honor of St. Peter. This courageous act assured the eventual triumph of the Gospel in Germany.

The resident clergy and the priests dwelling at the court, whose unworthy lives needed censure, were constantly creating difficulties. Nevertheless Boniface continued to labor quietly, discreetly. He prayed unceasingly, put his trust in God alone, recommended his work to the prayers of his spiritual brothers and sisters in England. And God did not abandon him. Conversions were amazingly numerous. In 732 Gregory III sent him the pallium, the insignia of the archiepiscopal dignity. Boniface now devoted his time and talent to the ecclesiastical organization of the Church in Germany. He installed worthy bishops, set diocesan boundaries, promoted the spiritual life of the clergy and laity, held national synods (between 742 and 747), and in 744 founded the monastery of Fulda, which became a center of religious life in central Germany. In 745 he chose Mayence for his archiepiscopal see, and affiliated to it thirteen suffragan dioceses. This completed the ecclesiastical organization of Germany.

The final years of his busy life were spent, as were his earlier ones, in missionary activity. Word came to him in 754 that a part of Frisia had lapsed from the faith. He took leave of his priests and, sensing the approach of death, carried along a shroud. He was 74 years of age when with youthful enthusiasm he began the work of restoration, a mission he was not to complete. A band of semi-barbarous pagans overpowered and put him to death when he was about to administer confirmation to a group of neophytes at Dockum. Source
Here is an article about some of the efforts of the Church in Germany to use the World Cup to reach out to proclaim the Gospel to football supporters. Also, here is a Web site (in German) put together by the Catholic Church in Germany to the same ends. (I like the link "Play and Pray" which provides meditations with a sports-related theme from a book of the same name.) I know there are many other efforts by Christian groups to share the Good News during the upcoming tournament. I think that St. Boniface will be praying in support of their efforts.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006
June Prayer Intentions  

General - That Christian families may lovingly welcome every child who comes into existence and surround the sick and the aged with affection.
[M]arriage and the family are rooted in the innermost core of the truth about man and his destiny. Sacred Scripture reveals that the vocation to love is part of that authentic image of God that the Creator willed to imprint in his creature, calling man to become similar to him precisely in the measure in which man is open to love. The sexual difference entailed in the body of man and woman is not, therefore, a simple biological fact, but bears a much more profound meaning: It expresses that way of love with which man and woman become only one flesh; they can realize an authentic communion of persons open to the transmission of life and cooperate in this way with God in the procreation of new human beings. (Benedict XVI in an address to the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family)
Missionary - That the Pastors and the Christian faithful may consider inter-religious dialogue and the work of the inculturation of the Gospel as a daily service to promote the cause of the evangelization of peoples.
In carrying out his ministry, the new Pope knows that his task is to make Christ's light shine out before the men and women of today: not his own light, but Christ's. Aware of this I address everyone, including the followers of other religions or those who are simply seeking an answer to the fundamental questions of life and have not yet found it. I address all with simplicity and affection, to assure them that the Church wants to continue to weave an open and sincere dialogue with them, in the search for the true good of the human being and of society. I ask God for unity and peace for the human family, and declare the willingness of all Catholics to cooperate for an authentic social development, respectful of the dignity of every human being. I will make every conscientious effort to continue the promising dialogue initiated by my Venerable Predecessors with the different civilizations, so that mutual understanding may create the conditions for a better future for all. (Benedict XVI in his first address to the College of Cardinals)

For fathers who are trying to save their unborn children from abortion.

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Monday, May 29, 2006
Longing for a House  

During his visit to Poland, Benedict XVI met with many Polish young people at Blonie Park in Krakow. His address to the young people was based on Matthew 7:24-27 where Jesus gives the parable of the wise man and the foolish man who are building houses. The foolish man builds his house on sand, but the wise man builds his house on the rock. When the rains and the storms come, the foolish man's house is swept away, but the wise man's house stands. The Holy Father captured the essence of how this parable touches each of us in the beautiful and profound description of our hearts' yearnings for a secure home:
My friends, in the heart of every man there is the desire for a house. Even more so in the young person’s heart there is a great longing for a proper house, a stable house, one to which he can not only return with joy, but where every guest who arrives can be joyfully welcomed. There is a yearning for a house where the daily bread is love, pardon and understanding. It is a place where the truth is the source out of which flows peace of heart. There is a longing for a house you can be proud of, where you need not be ashamed and where you never fear its loss. These longings are simply the desire for a full, happy and successful life. Do not be afraid of this desire! Do not run away from this desire! Do not be discouraged at the sight of crumbling houses, frustrated desires and faded longings. God the Creator, who inspires in young hearts an immense yearning for happiness, will not abandon you in the difficult construction of the house called life. (Source)
He continues the rest of his message to describe how when can build that house by constructing it on Christ who is the rock and the Church which our Lord founded.

I found this passage especially moving because it put into words a deep longing in my own heart that I have known for some time. Many years ago, I was moved to tears as I realized how much that I wanted a home, a place to truly belong. My own family had rejected me, and it was not certain where I would be able to call home. Thanks be to God He has given me a new home through my marriage to my wonderful wife. And in addition, He has added to that home by blessing us with a beautiful daughter. Finally, He has given us a new home in the Catholic Church. These were all unexpected gifts from God, and I am foolish to not be certain to give Him thanks every day for these gifts.

However, lest this seem like a fairy tale ending, let me assure you that it has been anything but happily ever after. Instead, it has been more like the storms that Jesus notes will come and test the foundation of the house. There have been plenty of gales over the past years. And there continue to be many storms that constantly prove whether we are continuing to build on Christ or whether we have tried to build on something or someone else. In the midst of this, I still have that deep longing for a home. It would, perhaps, of all motivations, be the one that drives me the most although it seems to move beneath the surface in ways that are difficult to detect. And there are many times I have squelched that desire in order to make room for a more ignoble purpose.

Now, through the Pope's words, I am reminded again of this desire that God has planted within my soul. And I hope that once again I allow that motivation to move me forward. The end of a stable, secure house is Heaven, and I must always keep that goal in mind. In the present, I can look toward that house in order to help me make prudent decisions that either help me build toward that house or waste my time building a house that will crumble with the next storm that comes up the coast.

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Saturday, May 20, 2006
My Brief Take on the Da Vinci Code Release  

As the movie the Da Vinci Code opens this weekend in theaters across the United States, I thought I would finally write about the movie and the bestselling book of the same name by Dan Brown. Although there would be much for me to write about, others have done a wonderful job of addressing the many grave problems with the book and the film. (e.g, Amy Welborn of Open Book)

The phenomena that astounds me the most about this book is just how widespread has been the acceptance of the falsehoods that are presented as so many truths about Christianity. And this "new perspective" on the Faith is being swallowed by countless numbers of people who consider themselves to be Christians. It is such a sad commentary on the state of Christian formation that Christians (not to mentioned others of good will) are accepting as a viable possibility that for instance, Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. This idea is completely opposed to the truths of Christianity. I think that it might even be blasphemous to state it as a fact. This one idea alone should cause believers to put the book down for good.

Unfortunately, it seems that the march of the "success" of the book and movie continues virtually unabated. The positive approach is to see this as an opportunity to speak about the truth of Christ and His Church. There will be ample opportunity with the release of the movie. The long term goal is to change the landscape of religious illiteracy as Dr Richard Umbers described it an interview. Perhaps over time, the "nowness" of the book will fade along with the desire of its adherents to want so much secret knowledge. The problem is that there will be some other neatly package set of falsehoods poised to fill the void. In the meantime, for those of us who profess to believe in Jesus and His Church, will we have done anything to help others to recover from the current lies and to prevent others from not being duped again?

Posted by David at 12:42 AM  |  Comments (0)  | 

Thursday, May 18, 2006
Does Prayer Help? (Part II)  

There is a well-known phrase that "the devil is in the details" which captures the idea that it is the small things that can cause failure. Through experience, I have learned that this phrase is poorly worded. It is not the devil, but God who is in the details because He is interested in all of the details of life, and in particular, He is interested in all the particulars of each person's life. Nothing is too small or insignificant that He does not care about the impact it has upon the life of one of His creatures. Jesus told us that God the Father is concerned about even the sparrow, how much more is He concerned about His children (Mt. 10:28-31).

The problem we have is that it is easier for us, in order to keep God at a distance, to ignore His loving concern for our lives. It is pride which masks itself as humility that claims that God would not be interested in me. Of course, He is interested in you and me. He created us and He longs to have a relationship with us. He is constantly seeking to get our attention, but we ignore Him by dismissing His attempts to talk to us. It is not just the two-by-four over the head incidents either. It is the simple mundane details of life where God is found. The busy signal when you must make the call. The parking spot that cannot be found. The friend who calls you "out of the blue". The child who wants to be picked up and held. In all of these God is acting and He wants us to respond in love.

I had no idea about this type of concept of a relationship with God because growing up, I was not taught that God acted in this way. However, if I had stopped to think about it, I might have asked myself why God would not be interested in all of the details of my life? He knows about everything and He knows each one of us perfectly. In addition, He is working to use everything to draw you and me to Himself. That is why it is incredible to hear people claim that God would not care what kind of car you buy or where you live. Consequently, one should not bother Him with such trivial prayers such as whether you should eat this or that for lunch. Figure it out for yourself because you are only bothering Him if you have to ask. What nonsense! If my daily bread, not to mention every breath comes from God, why would it be foolish to ask Him what He would have me do in the multitude of decisions I need to make each day. Better yet, thank Him for all of these things and the guidance He gives to help us follow Him.

This is one reason why prayer works. The perseverance in prayer reminds me that I am a child of God who is completely dependent upon Him. With each prayer I am in some way large or small acknowledging that He is God and I am not and that I need Him to show me the way. From my own experience, I know that when I at least begin to have that perspective, I live my life in a much more fulfilling way. The same problems and difficulties might be there, but I am able to face them with God rather than off on my own with some vague hope that somehow I will muddle through. The world becomes ordered correctly with God as the center and my life lived in and through Him.

If we consider the life of Christ, we know that He perfectly fulfilled His Father's will. Everything about His life on earth was in perfect conformity with His mission. That perfection inclued even the small details such as knowing whom He should first encounter in a certain town. Or His perfection also meant that He should make mud with His spittle to put on the eyes of a blind man in order that he might wash and have his eyesight restored. All of His actions were meaningful even if they seemed insignificant. This is truly God in the details. He wants us to follow Him with the same radical concern for the everyday details.

Prayer works because it is the way to ask Him what it is He wants me to do even in the smallest incident of my life. The key is for me to ask and then to be open to His response whatever it might be. My experience is that He will respond. My response should be to trust Him by accepting His reply.

Posted by David at 11:59 PM  |  Comments (0)  |