Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Pope says divisions, abandoning tradition weaken Christian witness
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) -- Using unusually strong words for an ecumenical prayer service, Pope Benedict XVI said the witness of Christians in the world is weakened not only by their divisions, but also by some communities turning their backs on Christian tradition.
"Communion with the church in every age," he said, is needed particularly "at the time when the world is losing its bearings and needs a persuasive common witness to the saving power of the Gospel."
The pope met April 18 with about 250 representatives of U.S. ecumenical organizations and a dozen Christian churches and denominations for evening prayer at St. Joseph's Church in New York.
He began by praising the ecumenical commitment of U.S. Christians and acknowledging that the agreements found in their theological dialogues have contributed to the theological agreements later forged by the Vatican and its official dialogue partners.
But Pope Benedict also focused on ways the Christian obligation to share the good news of the Gospel suffers in the modern world.
"Too often those who are not Christians, as they observe the splintering of Christian communities, are understandably confused about the Gospel message itself," he said.
But another, growing problem lies in the fact that "fundamental Christian beliefs and practices are sometimes changed within communities by so-called 'prophetic actions' that are based" on a reading of Christianity "not always consonant" with that found in the Bible and in Christian tradition.
While the pope did not offer specific examples, he has in the past questioned Christian communities that have decided to ordain women to the priesthood and episcopacy or to bless homosexual unions and ordain openly gay men and women.
The pope's concerns obviously extend to the Anglican Communion and its troubled relations with the U.S. Episcopal Church and some dioceses in Canada.
The Anglican Communion is attempting to find ways to strengthen its structures for ensuring that one national member does not take actions that make other members of the communion uncomfortable. At times, bishops have been named to oversee pastoral care of members who do not go along with the changes.
Pope Benedict said it was unfortunate that some church communities have given up "the attempt to act as a unified body, choosing instead to function according to the idea of 'local options.'"
The pope said he was concerned that in a world marked by a greater sense of global unity and interdependence, the feeling of "fragmentation and a retreat into individualism" is seen in Christian denominations just as it is in the world at large.
The unity of the early Christian community and the cohesion of its members "was based on the sound integrity of their doctrinal confession," the pope said.
But now, he said, there are signs that some Christians are taking the same "relativistic approach" to doctrine that many modern people take to moral and ethical values in general.
Christians cannot pretend that there is no such a thing as Christian truth, he said. The Christian faith is not a matter of picking and choosing what to believe and what to discard from the Scriptures and Christian tradition.
When Christians think they only need to follow their own consciences and find a church that suits their individual tastes, the result is a "continual proliferation of communities which often eschew institutional structures and minimize the importance of doctrinal content for Christian living," he said.
Pope Benedict said that when a church, like the Catholic Church, asserts its doctrines, it is not throwing up an obstacle to progress in Christian unity.
"A clear, convincing testimony to the salvation wrought for us in Christ Jesus has to be based upon the notion of normative apostolic teaching," he said. Christians must hold the faith that Jesus gave to his apostles.
Only by holding on to the sure teaching of the Gospel, he said, will the Christian churches be able to find the basis for unity and for a united witness to a troubled world.
Monday, April 21, 2008
The problem with addictions is that they are easy to fall into and tough to break out. Sometimes addictions may start with an innocent action, but most of the time addictions are the result of a calculated decision. Many who are addicted to drugs or alcohol are trying to escape from reality. Their addiction provides them temporary relief from the realities of life, but drugs and alcohol are just temporary escapes. If only these people turned to prayer instead of drugs and alcohol they would see the great healing effect that prayer has in people’s lives. Prayer brings us closer to God and it will provide peace of mind without negative effects. Prayer is not an escape from reality. If anything, prayer is accepting reality and placing trust in God that he will help us overcome our obstacles. Prayer helps us understand truth.
Unfortunately, many are addicted and continue to lapse back to their bad habits. I heard a good analogy about drug addicts that I’d like to share. The brain of a drug addict is like a lemon. Each time they do drugs, it’s like squeezing the lemon. When you squeeze a lemon, the juice flows out. The juice might taste good but after repeatedly squeezing the lemon, eventually there is no juice left. Drug addicts therefore are left with a brain that is completely drained, a brain that is often depressed, and a brain that lacks all sense of reality. I ask that tonight we all say a special prayer for those who are addicted to harmful substances. If we have addictions in our own lives, let us pray that God will give us guidance and help us to defeat the addiction that keeps us from Him. God bless!
Sunday, April 20, 2008
People who know me well know that I have a handful of interests. One thing I like to do is to tell a story usually through writing. I have written and completed a movie script entitled "Blind Trust," which tells a story about a man who learns to place his trust in God. I wrote it with limited intention for it to be read, but it was a story that I had in my mind that I felt I needed to get on paper. Although my cousin and I did not actually make the movie, we did get a group together that read through the script and I received positive feedback.
Now, I have another story in my head that I feel I need to get out. I am going to attempt to write a novel. My sister Jennifer is the real talented writer in the family and is nearing completion of her first book. I eagerly await it's completion. My novel is tentatively titled "Doubting Thomas Lambert" and it will encompass several religious themes including the evils of abortion, the gift of life, the true meaning of love, and making tough life decisions. My work has just begun, but I have a story to tell and I plan on telling it. God Bless!
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
The fiery sermon, delivered by Yunis al-Astal and aired on Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV, predicted that Rome would become "an advanced post for the Islamic conquests, which will spread though Europe in its entirety, and then will turn to the two Americas, even Eastern Europe."
"Allah has chosen you for Himself and for His religion," al-Astal preached, "so that you will serve as the engine pulling this nation to the phase of succession, security and consolidation of power, and even to conquests through da'wa and military conquests of the capitals of the entire world.
"Very soon, Allah willing, Rome will be conquered, just like Constantinople was, as was prophesized by our prophet Muhammad," he added.
Al-Astal last June preached how it was the duty of Palestinian women to martyr themselves by becoming homicide bombers.
"The most exalted form of jihad is fighting for the sake of Allah, which means sacrificing one's soul by fighting the enemies head-on, even if it leads to martyrdom," he said in a June 23, 2007 interview.
"When jihad becomes an individual duty, it applies to women too, because women do not differ from men when it comes to individual duties," he said, calling Jews "the brothers of apes and pigs" who should "taste the bitterness of death."
Friday's rant repeated that theme: "Today, Rome is the capital of the Catholics, or the Crusader capital, which has declared its hostility to Islam, and has planted the brothers of apes and pigs in Palestine in order to prevent the reawakening of Islam.
"I believe that our children, or our grandchildren, will inherit our jihad and our sacrifices, and, Allah willing, the commanders of the conquest will come from among them.
"Today, we instill these good tidings in their souls – and by means of the mosques and the Koran books, and the history of our Prophets, his companions, and the great leaders, we prepare them for the mission of saving humanity from the hellfire at whose brink they stand."
I found this facebook posting written by Michael Levandoski (Penn State) written on Apr 14, 2008 at 12:37 PM. Let us pray that this will never happen. We must never fall into a false security and take our freedom and our religion for granted. There are people this very day who want to destroy us and our religion. Pray that these misguided people might find God and have a change of heart.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I received this email from the Archdiocease of Atlanta and thought I'd share it with you.
View Papal Visit Events Live On The Web
A special Web site, www.uspapalvisit.org, will live broadcast events from Pope Benedict XVI's April 15-20 visit to the United States. From the pope's arrival at Andrews AFB to his departure from New York, the Web site created by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will live stream the events. The events will have commentators, guests, and live phone-in interviews from U.S.bishops and others. The events also will be packaged for viewing at anytime. Coverage of events will start 15 minutes ahead of time. Check the site for times.
"It's a major event and for some a once-in-a-lifetime event. We want to make sure everyone gets a chance to experience it," said Joe Larson, director of Digital Media for the USCCB. Larson added, "We look to bring the Holy Father's visit to your computer at the workplace during lunch, at school, at church or in the home. And with the on demand video, if you miss an event live you can view the video at your leisure."
The Web site is full of information such as the papal itinerary, facts and figures on the Church in the United States, biographical information on Pope Benedict XVI and stories of the papal visit. There is also a great selection of multimedia files including the pope's video-message to the U.S., Cardinal Edward Egan's walk-through of the New York itinerary and Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl and others welcoming the pope to the U.S. The first videos to premiere on the site were the finalists in a "Papal Video Contest," sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington and open to Catholic youth from kindergarten through 12th grade.
In addition to the other features on the Web site, a blog provides an inside view of papal visit preparations, views from the pew and reflections on the meaning of the visit.
The www.uspapalvisit.org Web site is made possible by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and by donations from parishioners across the United Statesto the annual Catholic Communication Campaign collection, which provides funding for a variety of Catholic media efforts.
Catholic Communications Office
Archdiocese of Atlanta
Monday, April 14, 2008
As many of you already know, Pope Benedict XVI will be making his first visit to the U.S. as a pope this week; he came here 5 times when he was a Cardinal. He is expected to send a message of hope; fitting since my last post was about hope. It is a very important message always, but especially during times of difficulty and struggle. I would love to meet the pope or at least see and hear him speak. I will not be able to see him during this visit, but hopefully he will return to the U.S. and I will get to see him.
Below are two articles written in Newsweek regarding the Pope’s visit. Read both articles and then read the rest of my post. Click on the names of the authors to access the articles.
The first is written by George Weigel, who is a brilliant writer who was the author of John Paul II's biography Witness to Hope. His article portrays a very positive outlook of the visit and on its importance. The second article was written by Lisa Miller. Her article is what we have typically come to expect from our media. She uses some disheartening statistics to attempt to justify her opinion that the pope does not “connect” with the American people.
While it is true that the former Pope John Paul II was and still is incredibly popular, that should not lead to criticism by comparison. Pope Benedict my have a different personality, but that does not make him a lesser person or a less capable leader. The fact that a majority of Americans do not practice their faith according to the teachings in no way justifies their actions. We are weak as human beings and we all sin, but is not a sin by the majority still a sin? During the time of Moses, the people worshiped idols and God gave us the Ten Commandments. Not all things in life are put to a democratic vote. Religious teachings and the teachings of Jesus himself are not up for discussion. Issues such as abortion are not choices to be left up by the individual. Those who argue individual freedom to justify their every action are misguided. Freedom without God is anarchy. If the numbers given in Lisa Miller's article are accurate, I am incredibly disappointed and sad. Sadly, a large percentage of people who call themselves Christians do not truly understand what they believe. I strongly feel that if a large majority of Christians truly understood what they believed and lived by the simplest and most fundamental teachings of Jesus, our world would be a much more peaceful place and the impact would have a huge ripple effect. It is our job to help make that ripple effect grow in size.
The pope’s job is not to connect to the American people, but rather to help guide us so that we might connect better with Jesus Christ! Our failings as individuals is not a reflection of the church and should not influence teachings. Throughout history there have been Popes, Cardinals, and religious faithful at all levels that have been sinners, but the teachings of Jesus have survived and thrived for over 2000 years. It is arrogant to suggest that the church that Jesus founded should change its ways to connect with us. It makes sense to me that we must trust the guidance of the Church leaders who have preserved Jesus’ message and have been guided by the Holy Spirit for over 2000 years. We are not above the Lord.
Keep the Holy Father in your prayers. Pray for a safe and successful visit. May his messages of hope, love, peace and religious tolerance in a culture that so often ignores God touch the hearts many in our nation. God bless!
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
As Christians, we are people of hope. Jesus is the reason for our hope. He died for our sins, but he also rose from the dead. He showed us the way to heaven, the way to salvation. As Christians and followers of Christ, hope is a trust and confidence of a future good made possible through God. Those who do not believe are deprived of hope because there can be no hope without God. The two are inseparable. We are grateful for our many blessings here on earth, but we also acknowledge the existence of heaven. This allows us to face challenges and obstacles in our lifetime from a different perspective than do nonbelievers.
I am currently in the middle of a great book; Island of the World. It's a monster of a book, 800+ pages, but it is very rewarding if you allow yourself to take the time to read a good book. The main character is a young boy who is growing up in Croatia during WWII. In one day, he loses all that is near and dear to him. He loses everything and everyone. It makes me think about what I would do in his situation. I imagine it would be very easy to give up on life in a situation like that. It would be easy, but Josip does not give up on life. Despite the tragic situation he is in, he survives. I anxiously wait to read about how this faith-filled boy faces the challenges that await him.
All of us are presented with difficulties and tragedies in our lifetime whether they be big or small. We can look at this as a great burden or we can accept that life will present us with difficulties and that God will take care of us. He never presents us situations that we can not handle. When we place our hope and trust in God we can overcome any obstacle. Those who don't believe in God often live in depression and despair. Let us pray now for those who do not believe in God, who have a pessimistic outlook on life, who have no one to trust and seemingly no place to go. Let us pray that they might find God in their lives and realize the awesome hope and joy He brings in our lives. God is love. God is hope. Let us share our hope and love with those who don't know God's forgiveness and love. In this way we can revive the walking dead; those who are physically alive but spiritually dead. What greater gift can we give than the gift of love? Our love can bring great hope to those who are desperately searching for hope. Our love can heal. God bless!
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
I have been reading through a magazine my dad gave me called Family Foundations. It has several articles that are geared toward engage and newly married couples. I recently came across an article written by Dr. Stephen J. Genius (good name right?) on the importance of empathy in marriage. He brought up many good points and I believe that we need to show empathy in not only our marriage but in all our relationships.
Empathy is not acceptance or weakness. A definition of the term states that it is identification with the understanding of another’s situation, feelings and motives. It can be very hard for us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and not rush to judgment. In order to have a successful relationship there must be an understanding. We can not understand without being able to identify with that person. When we are quick to anger without first examining the situation, we are wrong. This is something many have not figured out, but it’s an old adage. “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29).
I still struggle at times to keep from judging without understanding, and I remember situations as a young child where I was quick to judgment. I was riding home with my mom and we were at a stop light when I looked out the window. It was summer, so it was hot and we had the windows down. There was a man driving the car beside us who had an earring and he was smoking. I remember saying to my mom in a loud voice, “Look mom, that man is smoking. He is bad!” Of course mom was a little embarrassed since the man could certainly hear what I had to say, but I was just an innocent kid and I didn’t know better. This man made some lifestyle decisions that I had been taught was wrong, and so I thought this man must be a bad person. I’ve grown to realize that things are not always so black and white.
It is important to restate that empathy is not acceptance but an understanding. I do not condone smoking. I think it's a stupid habit, but I understand that habits are hard to break. I have a bad habit of biting my fingernails. I don't even know how it started, but it's a habit that is hard for me to break. I would hope nobody watches me bite my nails and think that I am a bad person. Understanding is knowledge, and with knowledge we can make informed conclusions and decisions that might lead to change. For example, when I was in college I rented a house with 3 of my high school buddies. They are all really great guys and I got to know them a lot better during the time I lived with them, but they made some bad choices. Like several college aged kids, they did not understand the great gift of abstinence before marriage. Often times girls would stay the night, and it brought some tension between me and my fellow roommates. My reaction was often to stay quiet, ignore them for a while; pretend the issue wasn’t there and then eventually forget about it. There was nothing I could do about it, right? I could just show them by my example that I disagreed with their lifestyle. Well, eventually I began to think negatively of my friends. I’m not talking about their actions, but them as people. I was truly mad, but I had not done anything to let them know it was bothering me. I also didn’t understand them like I thought I did. They were not privileged enough to grow up in the same family and support system I did. I had an opportunity to have a positive influence on them, but rather I held them in contempt. I saw how their relationships would fall apart constantly. When people live like this, relationships never last. I had an opportunity to educate them and improve their lives, but I chose to do nothing and as a result I was upset.
What good comes from thinking bad about someone? All we are doing when we do this is hurt ourselves. If we truly want to make changes in people’s lives, we must know how to communicate with them and touch their hearts and minds so that they will change their ways. It’s easy to tune out a person who is quick tempered and folly, but one who speaks from a position of reason, truth and understanding is one who can make a difference. He is the one who will have good relationships. He is the one who will bring Christ in people’s lives who don’t truly know Him. Empathy does not divide but heals. Empathy is not acceptance but understanding. Empathy is not weakness just as Jesus dying on the cross was not weakness. Empathy is love. God bless!