04 August 2015

A good news story: A lost iPad recovered

Last evening I joined an old group of friends who used to call ourselves the Tuesday Night Supper Club - or TNSC for short - for dinner. We decided that this time I would provide the main course (a pasta with smoked turkey in a tomato cream sauce), another of us would provide the salad, another the bread, and another the dessert.

Since I had the recipe on my iPad, I brought it with me to the store so as not to forget any of the ingredients. All was going well as I made my way through the store until I arrived at the deli counter for the turkey: the deli was out of the turkey that I needed.

Somewhat flustered - and knowing I was going to be late arriving at the house to begin the preparations (my friends would not have minded, but I do not like being late) - I went to pay for my groceries while guessing in my mind which store I should go to next in the hopes of finding the turkey. As I distractedly put the bags of groceries in the cart, I readjusted my iPad in the part of the cart where you would normally put a small child.

After putting the groceries in the car I went to another store to find the turkey. This extra mission was thankfully successful. Since I had all of the ingredients for the pasta, I drove to my friend's house and began collecting the various bags together when I realized that I did not have my iPad. After placing the groceries in the kitchen I returned to the car to look a second time, but still there was no iPad.

I distinctly remembered adjusting in the cart at the check-out and figured I must have left it in the cart when I placed in the corral in the parking lot. We called the grocery store (about an hour after I must have left it behind) - for the Quincyans, the Hy-Vee on Harrison Street - hoping someone turned it in to the customer service desk. No one had turned in an iPad, but the associates would do a quick search and call us back.

Thirty minutes or so went by when the store called to say that, after a search of the carts, no iPad had been found. I described the case the iPad was in (it looked like a book) and the associates said they would search again, at which point I whispered a quick prayer to Saint Anthony of Padua, who has helped me in the past, and marked the iPad as lost.

Another thirty minutes or so later, the store called again to say the iPad had now been found. I could not believe it and had already resigned myself to its being gone. Naturally, I was very pleased and said I would stop by this morning to collect it. Having now the name of the employee who searched so diligently for it, a thank you note and a small gift will soon be on the way. I'm deeply grateful to the employees at Hy-Vee and to the people of Quincy!

The city of Quincy is currently celebrating the 175th anniversary of its incorporation as a city. In how many communities of 40,000+ people would an iPad still be found in a shopping cart some 90 minutes after it was left behind? This is only of the many reasons why I love Quincy!

Boko Haram Ongoing Updates - August 2015

Previous Updates: July 2015  | June 2015 | May 2015 | April 2015  March 2015 | February 2015

2 August 2015
1 August 2015

Islamic State Ongoing Updates - August 2015

Previous Updates: July 2015 | June 2015 | May 2015 | April 2015 | March 2015 | February 2015 | January 2015 | December 2014 | November 2014 | October 2014 | April - November 2014

2 August 2015
1 August 2015

Father Damien on the Curé d'Ars

In a letter written to his brother Pamphile on 23 August 1864, Saint Joseph Damien de Veuster said of his near contemporary, Saint John Vianney,
If Providence were to send us a holy priest like the Curé d'Ars, these stray sheep would soon be gathered in. Among the volcanoes of Puna I should wish above all to have that pure love of God, that ardent zeal for the salvation of souls, with which M. Vianney, the Curé d'Ars, was inflamed.
As I continue to consider yesterday's sad and reprehensible vote by the United States Senate to continue funding Planned Parenthood despite the recent revelations of their despicable practices, I cannot but wonder how the vote might have gone if we had not just one priest like Saint John Vianney, but many (Senator Durbin [D-IL], a Catholic, voted against S. 1881 to prohibit the federal funding of Planned Parenthood).

The holy priest of Ars spent his life crying out to God, saying, "Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned" and himself did penance for sinners both repentant and unrepentant (see Psalm 51:3). Truly, as a nation we have sinned, and sinned greatly, as yesterday's vote clearly shows and we - priests and laity, but especially priests - must follow Saint John Vianney's example and do penance for sinners repentant and unrepentant.

Let us beg the Lord to raise more shepherds after the heart after Saint John Vianney, not just one, but many, so that the stray sheep might be gathered again into the fold of the Good Shepherd.

01 August 2015

Pope Francis on Cecil and the apathy about Planned Parenthood and the murder of Christians

The amount of anger over the killing of one lion, Cecil, currently expressed on the Internet and within the news media, baffles me. I have not spent much time on Twitter over the past few days, but a number of friends on Facebook have voiced their outrage about the killing of Cecil.

Most of these same friends have never voiced their outrage over the killing of innocent men, women, and children by the Islamic State, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, or others, simply because they are Christian. Nor have they voiced their outrage over the killing of unborn children simply because their mother's find them inconvenient. They have also not voiced their outrage over Planned Parenthood's recently exposed selling of baby parts for profit. Why? It cannot be because they are ignorant of these outrages against the dignity of the human person; I share such stories frequently and often.

A few memes convey my continuing and growing frustration at such apparent and long-sustained apathy:

At the very least, I suppose I should be grateful none of my friends have called for the hunter's death.

It may be time for more people to actually take the time to read the encyclical letter Laudato Si of the Holy Father Pope Francis wherein we read these words:
A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings. It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted. This compromises the very meaning of our struggle for the sake of the environment. It is no coincidence that, in the canticle in which Saint Francis praises God for his creatures, he goes on to say: "Praised be you my Lord, through those who give pardon for your love." Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolve the problems of society (91).
Is there are a greater problem confronting society than the murder of unborn children or murder of Christians simply because they are Christians? I do not think so. Raise your voices!

29 July 2015

The March of Dimes is "neutral on the subject of abortion"

It has not happened since I have been back in the United States of America yet this summer, but in years past the cashiers at some of the stores I shopped at would ask me a simple question: "Would you like to make a donation to the March of Dimes to help save babies?"

My response to this question always surprised the cashiers and my response was always the same:
No, I would not. The March of Dimes helps fund Planned Parenthood, the leading provider of abortions in this country and killing babies seems a very strange way to save them. I was born six weeks premature and I do not support the March of Dimes.
The cashiers always responded with expressions of surprise and sometimes even shock.

I do not blame the cashiers for being surprised. What the March of Dimes does with monies collected under the pretense of a mission to "help moms have full-term pregnancies and research the problems that threaten the health of babies." Nothing threatens the health of a baby quite like abortion.

For its part, the March of Dimes maintains that it has no direct connections to Planned Parenthood, though local affiliates of the March of Dimes have made donations to Planned Parenthood and insists that "The March of Dimes is neutral on the subject of abortion." How one can simply remain "neutral" on the killing of children in their mothers' wombs is simply beyond me.

If the March of Dimes cannot see that abortion poses the greatest threat to the life of unborn babies, it is unworthy of your donations.

Bishop Paprocki on Planned Parenthood videos: "We should be shocked and appalled at this moral depravity"

Responding to the horrific activities of Planned Parenthood exposed in recent days in a series of undercover videos, His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki said in a video of his own that "we should be shocked and appalled at this moral depravity."

After describing the revelations detailed in a series of recently released videos, the Bishop of Springfield in Illinois prayed that we might "never grow apathetic to the plight of unborn babies" and that "government officials act decisively to put an end to this gruesome practice."

Please watch his video and listen carefully to his words:

How anyone can watch what Planned Parenthood does in its clinics and not be disgusted and heart-broken is quite beyond me. Let us join our prayers to those of Bishop Paprocki.

28 July 2015

The Knights of Columbus ride to the aid of Christians at Risk

As the persecution of our brothers and sisters in Christ continues to increase throughout the world, the Knights of Columbus recently announced an increase in their efforts to come to the aid of the Christians in the Middle East:
Having already donated more than $3 million in humanitarian aid to persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East, the Knights of Columbus will expand its efforts even further with a national campaign to raise funds and foster awareness of the terrible suffering of Christians and others in the Middle East.
As part of these efforts, the Knights of Columbus have created the web site Christians at Risk through which donations may be funneled to persecution Christians. Checks and money orders may also be sent to this address:
Knights of Columbus Charities
P.O. Box 1966
New Haven, CT 06509-1966
Please be sure to include "Christian Refugee Relief" on the memo line.

There are, of course, many organizations who seek to assist those suffering and at risk, but the Knights of Columbus stands apart from the crowd when it comes to the work they do for others:
One hundred percent of all donations directly supports humanitarian assistance and raising awareness for persecuted Christians and other religious minorities, especially in the Middle East. Donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. Knights of Columbus Charities, Inc., is recognized by the IRS as a charitable organization under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.
The Knights of Columbus began airing a commercial last weekend to raise awareness of the Christians at risk in Iraq:

Please, support their efforts!

24 July 2015

Galgano, the Saint of the Sword in the Stone

Summer vacation is always a good time to spend extra time with books, especially with books you've long wanted to read. So it was that I delved with great interest into a recently published collection of essays titled, The Arthur of the Italians: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval Italian Literature and Culture (a generous gift from a good friend). Curiously (or not), I'm the only person to have added this book to my collection over at Library Thing.

When I first became aware of the book a few months ago, I knew I wanted to read it to learn more about the Otranto mosaic (about which I've written briefly before) and the sword of Saint Galgano (about which I've also written before). Though the book provides me with no new information or insight into the mosaic at Otranto, it did answer a question I've long had about the Sword in the Stone (which, according to the legends, was not named Excalibur [which came from the Lady of the Lake], but Caliburn).

Saint Galgano was born in the castle at Chiusdino, a short distance away to the south of Siena) somewhere in the middle of the twelfth century. We have several historical documentations of him, so there can be no question of his existence even if his dates are not so certain. He died on November 30th, probably in 1181, but some texts say in 1183.

He is mostly remembered because of a sword that he thrust into stone, a sword which remains in the stone to this day:

In his essay titled "Arthur in Hagiography: The Legend of San Galgano," Franco Cardini relates that after receiving two visions of the Archangel Saint Michael, Galgano decided to leave behind his military life and become a hermit. Cardini continues:
Sometime afterwards, riding from his native Chiusdino to nearby Civitella, he noticed that at a certain point his horse obstinately stopped. Galganus let the reins hang loose on the horse's neck, and it carried him up to the top of the Montesiepi hill. Then and there he chose the hill for his dwelling-place and dismounted. Either not finding or not wanting to seek wood to make himself a cross, he unsheathed his sword - crucifom, as swords were in the twelfth century - and thrust it into the ground. The sword struck deep into the rock and afterwards could not be removed. That stone, topped by the sword-cross, served as an altar and, more significantly, as a symbol of Calvary. Before it, the aspiring knight lived and prayed as a hermit until the end of his life - a short period, as his biographers say that he died less than a year later.
I have long wondered which came first, Galgano's sword or the Sword in the Stone of the Arthurian legends. Before reading this essay, I could not easily or clearly determine the answer.

After exploring the symbolism of Galgano's dreams and his name (a popular one at the time which may have connections with Gawain), Cardini concludes that the sword of the saint came first:
Ultimately, the name Galgano/Galvano and the echo of the 'sword in the stone' - attested since the end of the twelfth century in the written sources, but present as a material and concrete datum further back than we can pinpoint - could actually suggest an idea that was born in the episcopal-seigneurial court of Volterra and in the Cistercian order during the Duecento, when Arthur was well known, to popularize the 'sanctuary' of Montesiepi and the adjancent abbey [built in honor of Saint Galgano].
Unfortunately, he ends his essay with this sentence.

One particular element of the connection between the sword of Saint Galgano and the Sword in the Stone noted by Cardini is worthy of both mention and reflection:
Arthur proved that he was destined for the throne by removing the sword held fast in a tree or anvil; Galganus by contrast abandoned the world of sin and signalled [sic] his conversion by fixing his sword in the stone and thereby renouncing his arms, to worship the cross whose form the sword suggests.
Let us strive to follow Saint Galgano's example. He stopped pursuing the glory of this world to pursue the glory of heaven. Through his intercession, may we do the same.

23 July 2015

Why are we not at least feeding our persecuted brothers and sisters?

This past weekend, I preached once again about the plight of our persecuted brothers and sisters, principally in Iraq and Syria, but also throughout the world. I was stunned after the Saturday evening Mass when one of the parishioners thanked me for my words because he did not know anything about the sufferings of Christians in the Middle East and in many parts of Africa, sufferings which have been happening for years.

I've known - or at least suspected - for a long time that most Americans are more concerned with who won Dancing with the Stars last night or the score of the recent sporting event than they are with matters of true import. Even so, his words caught me off guard and left me speechless. And very sad.

Too many people simply do not care about what is happening. They do not realize that we are all one in the Body of Christ. They do not realize the danger what is happening now poses to the future. They have learned nothing at all from the past (if they are even aware of history).

What is more, the dire situation of our brothers and sisters in Christ is not improving. The Catholic Herald summarized the current situation today with the words of His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins:
Overall, the refugees’ situation is getting worse as people are feeling crestfallen because they realise they will be unable to return to their homes in Iraq or Syria, he added.
“There is no hope, no life, no hope for an end,” the patriarch said.
While Christian schools, Jordanian parishioners and agencies such as Caritas Jordan have been doing their best to care for the refugees, they are running short of resources and are finding it difficult to maintain current levels of support, he explained.
“Now everyone is tired,” Patriarch Twal said. “The parish priests are tired, the donors are tired, the people are tired and losing their enthusiasm. At the beginning, they were happy to help. But now [they look at] the future [and see no end]. Caritas does not have the resources to give three meals a day to each person” [more].
How can it be that the universal Church is not providing even three meals a day to our brothers and sisters who are greatly persecuted because of their faith in Christ? There is no excuse for this lack of concern and sustenance!

Could it be that we simply do not how to get our support to them? Here are a few reliable organizations worthy of our support (the links will take you to their appropriate donation pages):
What are we waiting for? Why are we not helping? Why are we not talking? Our brothers and sisters cannot wait for us. Please, help today! Give what you can and remember them in your prayers!

21 July 2015

Fr. Robert Barron named Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles

Today the Holy Father Pope Francis named three Auxiliary Bishops for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Two of the Bishops-elect are priests of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Monsignors Joseph V. Brennan and David G. O'Connell. A third Bishop-Elect, however, is a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Father Robert E. Barron, Rector of Mundelein Seminary and founder of Word on Fire.

A media savvy man of great intellect, energy, and enthusiasm, Bishop-elect Barron is a great preacher and witness of the Catholic faith to the culture through his popular YouTube videos and through his Catholicism series. His is a clear and consistent voice seeking to demonstrate the reasonableness of the faith.

The appointment of Bishop-elect Barron to Los Angeles came as quite a surprise to me. I first learned of the appointment this morning after providing a Roman restaurant recommendation to a friend. I opened Twitter on my iPad and saw this tweet at the top of my feed:
I looked at the man on the left and thought, "Is that Bob Barron?" The picture looks like him, but it's a very poor photograph. After checking the daily bulletin from the Holy See, I learned it is indeed him.

Having been a student of Bishop-elect Barron when I studied at Mundelein Seminary, I am particularly pleased with his appointment and look forward to seeing how he presents the faith to the people of the City of Angels.

Enjoy ice cream and help Catholic Charities

Yesterday was, in the United States of America, National Ice Cream Day. If you missed it yesterday - or even if you didn't - and are in the area of Mattoon (Illinois), you can enjoy a bowl of ice cream on Wednesday while helping Catholic Charities.

Here are the details:
(You can click on it to blow it up.)