Saturday, August 31, 2013

It’s Time for Women to Be Deacons

There are nearly 40,000 men ordained to serve permanently as deacons. When Pope Paul VI rejuvenated the order of deacons, he asked the obvious—or not so obvious—question: What about women deacons? Because there is no modern ruling on ordaining women as deacons, the question continues to circle the globe.
The question of restoring women to the diaconate is attracting serious scholarly and internal Church discussion. The International Theological Commission of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith presented a study document about 10 years ago that said resolving the question was up to the “ministry of discernment” in the Church. The Chicago Tribune reported last year that Cardinal Francis George met with a pastor and his parishioners who have a woman candidate for the diaconate.

Scripture and the Diaconate
The bedrock of Scripture provides primary evidence for any ordained ministry. As the early Church grew and spread, eventually becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine, the people of God divided Church responsibilities and tasks. Some took leadership roles as overseers, some supported the overseers, and others represented the overseers in liturgical assemblies.
Now, the overseers came to be called bishops; their assistants, deacons; and, later, those who represented them, priests. In the Church today we well understand the role of bishops and priests, and we are increasingly learning more and more about the diaconate, including the fact that women were once included in it.
There is only one person in all of Scripture, Phoebe of Cenchreae, who is actually called diakonos—”deacon.” She appears in Paul’s Letter to the Romans:  “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well” (16:1—2, NSRV).
Early commentary recognizes Phoebe’s role in the early Church. Origen (c. 184—253) wrote: “This passage teaches by apostolic authority that women are also appointed in the ministry of the church.” Many others, including St. John Chrysostom (347—407) and Theodoret of Cyrrhus (c. 393—45 7), as well as the anonymous Ambrosiaster and Pelagius, writing in the West in the fourth and fifth centuries, each recognized Phoebe as a deacon.
Paul points to women serving as deacons in another Scripture text: “Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money; they must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons. Women likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things” (1 Tim 3:8—11).
Here, according to St. John Chrysostom— along with St. Clement of Alexandria, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, and Pelagius—Paul is speaking about women deacons. Even Theodore, bishop of Mopsuestia (Turkey) between 392 and 428, agreed with John Chrysostom. But not everybody was happy about women deacons. Ambrosiaster was so strongly against them he said only heretics would believe it meant women deacons. Then, as now, arguments abounded. Some local councils forbade women as deacons, even while some bishops allowed them. The fact that local councils forbade women deacons gives us a very good understanding of the fact that women were indeed living and serving as deacons in various places in Christendom.
As the Church grew, eventually clearly splitting between the generally Greek-speaking East and the generally Latin-speaking West, the tradition of women as deacons began to fade away. Some bishops—mostly in the East, but many in the West as well—continued to have women ordained as deacons, mostly serving in monasteries of women.

Called to Witness
So, what about the women who were deacons? The second-century Didascalia Apostolorum records that the bishop is to “choose and appoint as deacons: a man for the performance of most things that are required, but a woman for the ministry of women.” Most everyone agrees that women deacons assisted at Baptisms (including anointing), instructed the newly baptized, and visited the sick. The specific admonition was, “Let a woman be devoted to the ministry of women, and a male deacon to the ministry of men.” Another part of the woman deacon’s job description was, “She is the servant of the bishop and no woman may have communication with him except through her.”
There were many women in the diaconate, and both Christian and non- Christian writers wrote about them. One famous woman who we know was ordained a deacon in the West was Queen Radegund, who left her king in the middle of the sixth century and demanded to be ordained a deacon by a French bishop. The bishop did just that, and Radegund went on to found a monastery of women.
There is undeniable evidence left on the tombstones of other women known in their communities as deacons. Among them, Sophia of Jerusalem is called a “second Phoebe” on her fourth-century tombstone, and Athanasia is called a deacon on her fifth-century tombstone in Delphi, Greece. Others include Anna, buried in Rome; Theodora in Gaul; and Ausonia in Dalmatia, all in the sixth century. And I could go on with literary evidence—there is plenty.

Sacramental Ordination
The fact that these women and many others were called deacons (or sometimes deaconesses) may not necessarily mean they were ordained as we understand the term today. While both the East and the West have longstanding records of ceremonies for the making of a woman deacon, academic arguments stretching to the present question whether women ever really received the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
Why? Well, to some, having women ordained as deacons introduces the prospect of women ordained as priests. However, the Church states that it does not have the authority (understood to have come from Christ) to ordain women as priests. So ordaining women as deacons—especially permanently— would have no impact on the teaching that women cannot be ordained as priests.
Digging into history to forestall women as deacons, as some might, brings interesting surprises. For example, the eighth-century liturgical book of Bishop Egbert of York includes a ritual for ordaining a woman—in the West—as deacon. In fact, Egbert’s ritual book says the same prayer can be used for either a male or a female deacon.
In the next century, the Gregorian ritual repeats the same prayer for either male or female deacons. Only by the 10th century does the Romano Germanic Pontifical have separate ordination prayers for each, and by the 13th century the oft-repeated prayers for women deacons are dropped from Western liturgical books, though the prayers remained in the East.
Whether the books dropped the prayers because they were no longer used, or the prayers were no longer used because of a change in the way ordination was viewed, is for historians and theologians to battle out. There are opposing conclusions.
Throughout Christian history, the Orthodox Churches, for the most part, retained monastic women deacons. In some places, individual priests and bishops sought to create orders of them for social services outside the monastic setting.
In 2004 the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in Greece voted to restore at least monastic women as deacons and recorded serious discussion about women providing diaconal service to assist the larger Church. Also, today there are women serving as deacons in the Armenian Apostolic Church, which requires a deacon as an absolute necessity for the celebration of Eucharist to instruct the faithful, to assist the celebrant, and to read the Gospel.

The Diaconate Returns— with Questions
In the Roman Catholic Church, the Second Vatican Council, 50 years ago, began to talk about deacons—male and female. The Council Fathers called for the diaconate, a “proper and permanent order” distinct from the priesthood, specifically described in the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church: “At a lower level of the hierarchy are deacons, upon whom hands are imposed ‘not unto the priesthood, but unto a ministry of service.’ For strengthened by sacramental grace, in communion with the bishop and his group of priests, they serve in the diaconate of the liturgy, of the word, and of charity to the people of God” (29). Council discussions of the diaconate included bishops who rose to suggest including women. Both a Peruvian Franciscan bishop and an Italian bishop suggested women as deacons.
While Vatican II did not restore women to the diaconate, it did serve as catalyst for the rejuvenation of the order. When Paul VI issued his apostolic letter Ad pascendum in 1972, he reportedly asked about the possibility of ordaining women as deacons. International Theological Commission (ITC) member Cipriano Vagagini composed a study that concluded ordaining women to the diaconate would be in keeping with the constant tradition of the Church. That study never became an official ITC publication, although it did appear (in Italian) in 1974 in an academic journal.
The debate about women deacons fell to the background when women’s priestly ordination debates took center stage. It’s a long story, but ultimately, in 1994, Pope John Paul II put that question to rest, with a sense of finality. But the question of women as deacons remained.
From 1992 until 2002, the International Theological Commission sought to prepare a study document on the diaconate, which aimed at answering— one way or the other—the question of whether women could be ordained as deacons. A 17-page draft eventually grew to over 70 pages in its original French and had two findings. First, the women who served as deaconesses (the document does not use the term “woman deacon”) are not the same as the deacons of today. Second, the question of ordaining women as deacons is something for the Church’s “ministry of discernment” to determine. The door for restoring women to the diaconate was left wide open. That door has not closed.

Women as Deacons
The main thing to remember when thinking about the diaconate is the word service. The deacon is not a powerful individual, nor is the deacon a power broker. The vocation of the deacon is to serve. As St. Francis of Assisi said, “servants... for God’s sake.”
So, the operative question becomes whether the Church needs the ministry of women ordained to the diaconate. Should women rejoin the Order of Deacons? Just how would women fit in? That, in large part, is the biggest part of the question. Since the Church has not had women as deacons in many hundreds of years, it is hard for anyone to think about what would happen if a bishop called forth a woman to serve as an ordained deacon. We know what deacons do today—at least we know what deacons do in the liturgy—but do we really know what service the deacons provide the people of God?
Chances are we really do not know why we have deacons. We know that we see them from time to time in church, assisting the priest at Mass, proclaiming the Gospel, greeting the people. From time to time they seem to take the place of a priest—at a funeral or Baptism or wedding, for example. But there is so much more to the diaconate. The more than 17,000 deacons in the United States are married men, mostly, serving part-time or full- time in a variety of ministries.
Deacons are teachers, chancery officials, hospital and prison chaplains. Deacons run soup kitchens and homeless shelters. They visit the sick and homebound in their parishes. They teach catechetics. The list of services is literally endless, for they are the eyes and ears of the bishop, his right arm in dispensing charity.
Women ordained as deacons would be the same. We tend to focus on the altar service of the deacons, and altar service by women is something people still argue about. But the simple fact is that a bishop would not need to have women ordained as deacons in his diocese if he did not want to. What is important is that a bishop be allowed to have women ordained as deacons if he needs them.

Dr. Phyllis Zagano two newest Pau list Press books are Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future (with Gary Macy and William T. Ditewig) and Women in Ministry: Emerging Questions on the Diaconate. She began her study of women in the diaconate at the request of New York’s Cardinal John J. O’Connor, for whom she was a researcher. She has written on Eastern Catholics and on the Examen for Catholic Update.

The Bible and Homosexuality

I am very confused about homosexuality. I know it’s a sin, but I don’t understand why society condemns this so much as compared to other sins. Not one of the four biblical passages about this comes from Jesus’ lips.
He did, however, give us two great commandments: love God “with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:30—31 a, with similar passage in Mt 22:37—40).
The Catholic Church’s teaching about homosexuality is not as simple as you have indicated. Having a homosexual orientation and engaging in genital, homosexual actions are not the same thing. A person’s sexual orientation may well be involuntary (and thus not a sin in itself), or it might be chosen. A person’s actions based on that orientation, however, are certainly chosen.
After the Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms that homosexual actions are contrary to the natural law and are closed to the gift of life (2357), it goes on to teach: “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (2358). The Catechism’s final section reads: “Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self- mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection”
In their 1997 pastoral message “Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Church Ministers,” the US bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family Life wrote: “Generally, homosexual orientation is experienced as a given, not as something freely chosen. By itself, therefore, a homosexual orientation cannot be considered sinful, for morality presumes the freedom to choose.”
The bishops later wrote: “God loves every person as a unique individual. Sexual identity helps to define the unique persons we are, and one component of our sexual identity is sexual orientation. Thus, our total personhood is more encompassing than sexual orientation. Human beings see the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart (cf. 1 Sm 16:7). God does not love someone any less simply because he or she is homosexual. God’s love is always and everywhere offered to those who are open to receiving it.” The bishops’ complete text is available through the “human life and dignity” link at
Gay marriage is very much in the news now. The Church understands Jesus’ teaching about a man and woman leaving their families in order to enter into marriage (Mt 19:5) as normative. Even if civil laws equate heterosexual and homosexual marriages (and they currently do in a minority of US states), that does not change the Catholic Church’s teaching on this issue.

St. Anthony Messenger, September 2013, Pages 54-55.

Immigration Reform

We first minister to the migrant as a human person, as our brother or sister in Christ.”  Fresh from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) spring 2013 meeting in San Diego, Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez spoke with St. Anthony Messenger about immigration and the role of the Catholic Church in the United States. Archbishop Gomez, chairman of the US bishops’ Committee on Migration, is one of the leading voices in the Church to speak and write about immigration, its effect on the Church as well as the United States, and the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
At the time of the interview, immigration reform legislation had survived contentious passage in the Senate, and then faced a difficult, uncertain fight in the House of Representatives. As the bill entered the Senate, Gomez called it “the most comprehensive change in our immigration laws in 30 years.”
As debate centered on secular issues has heated up, Archbishop Gomez and other Church leaders have framed their discussion of a path to legalization and citizenship, family unification, and other issues within a context of faith, justice, and American character and history, which, from its founding, was built by immigrants and inspired by belief in God.
“For me, our national debate about immigration is a great struggle for the American spirit and the American soul,” he wrote in The Tidings, the newspaper of the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

God and Country
This faith-centric framing of the immigration discussion might seem at odds with the other secular voices that focus on economics, social engineering, and politics. But looking through the prism of Catholic values helps illuminate an understanding of America’s past, present, and future. A Catholic perspective looks at the history and future of the Church in America. In both ways, it shows the immediate need for comprehensive immigration reform, especially regarding the 11.1 million current immigrants who are living here illegally.
In a statement issued during the spring 2013 meeting of the USCCB, Archbishop Gomez said, “The Catholic Church in America has an important stake in the outcome of this [immigration reform] debate because we are an immigrant Church and have grown with the country for over 200 years.
“Each day in our parishes, social service programs, hospitals, and schools, we witness the human consequence of a broken immigration system. Families are separated, migrant workers are exploited, and our fellow human beings die in the desert. Without positive change to our immigration laws, we cannot help our brothers and sisters. Simply put, the status quo is morally unacceptable. This suffering must end.”
Archbishop Gomez is himself a United States citizen and an immigrant, the son of a physician father from Monterrey, Mexico, and a mother who was raised in San Antonio, Texas. He can trace some of his ancestry back to 1805, when what is now the state of Texas was under Spanish rule. As he spoke with St. Anthony Messenger, responding calmly and clearly to some “hot-button” questions about the Church’s involvement in the issue, he also discussed the deep personal and pastoral experiences that provide for him a unique context.

Welcoming the Immigrants
With no legal status, and other obstacles, why come? The way across the border can be perilous, the lack of English language ability daunting at best. Archbishop Gomez tells St. Anthony Messenger the simple truth: “Most of the people who come from Latin America are looking for a job. They come to improve their lives, the way that immigrants came in the past.”
Indeed, many Americans today can trace their roots back to other poor but hopeful people fleeing poverty and oppression, including religious persecution, in search of a better life. For them, lack of education and little or no ability to speak English were also stumbling blocks. But for them, too, determination and, often, faith provided fuel to succeed.
As the United States has welcomed immigrants and benefited from their work, so has the Catholic Church. Many of today’s American Catholics can point to contributions made by their forebears in church buildings, schools, hospitals, and programs, as well as the positive impact stemming from Catholic values active in society.
This tradition has continued with the latest and largest wave of immigrants, most of whom have come from Latin America, especially Mexico, and the majority of whom are Catholic. Their large numbers have rejuvenated many parishes throughout the country and increased the overall number of Catholics in the United States.
“They have a deep faith in God,” Archbishop Gomez explains. “They have Catholic values. They come here to work, which is an important value. They have a great sense of community, too. Their lives are based on community.”

Assimilating Lives
Welcoming recent arrivals has long been a concern of the Church. So, too, is helping immigrants sustain and nurture their faith and encouraging them to learn skills to better assimilate and improve their lives and those of their loved ones, as well as their communities.
Immigrants have been “a constant concern for the bishops of the United States,” explains Gomez, and there has been a strong effort to develop Hispanic ministries throughout the United States, as parishes have expanded with their numbers.
At the 2013 spring bishops’ meeting, says Archbishop Gomez, there was a “decided call for the faith and spiritual support for the immigrants,” as well as helping them to “learn En gush and really become active members of our society.”
The archbishop is involved with other efforts, including the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL), which, among its activities, reaches out to Latino professionals in the United States.
“We have a large number of them,” he tells St. Anthony Messenger. “The challenge for these young professionals is for them to continue to practice their faith. We help them to know that the Church is a family. They can continue to practice their faith and also participate in public life.”

Feeding Families
“We want legal immigration,” Archbishop Gomez emphasizes in our interview. But, for the estimated 11.1 million people currently living in the United States illegally, there has been no line to stand in to become legal, as there has for others, such as students or those with specific professional, artistic, or athletic skills, for example.
Extreme poverty and other conditions propelled them to come to the United States, and they did so without authorization. Once here, a combination of factors, including lack of legal status, limitations with English proficiency, and low skills, opened them up to exploitation and abuse, and created an underclass of people that some have referred to as “living in the shadows.”
“Most of them came here to feed their families,” says Archbishop Gomez. “If you have education and qualifications, it’s not as difficult to get a work visa. But if you come here for menial jobs, it makes it very difficult to get a work visa. Those are the people who are more vulnerable and poor. Our first concern is for them.”
Welcoming the stranger, caring for the neediest in our midst, and showing respect for the dignity of each person are manifestations of Catholic faith in action. These values echo throughout Church leaders’ discussions of immigration issues, especially in questions Archbishop Gomez posed at a press conference at the June USCCB meeting.
“Do we want a country with a permanent underclass, without the same rights as the majority? Do we want to continue to separate children from parents, creating a generation of young US citizens who are suspicious and fearful of their government? Do we want a nation that accepts the toil and taxes of undocumented workers without offering them the protection of the law?” said Gomez. Then he provided an answer on behalf of the Catholic Church: “The answer to these questions, of course, is a resounding no.”
Some weeks later, during our own interview, Archbishop Gomez returns to the Church’s role. “We are not the ones to make the decisions,” he concedes. “But we can help our government face this issue. And we can pray, through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, for our government officials to find a solution.”
Then he pauses and reflects on our immigrant sisters and brothers. “This country is becoming the reality of their dreams,” says Archbishop Gomez, the words coming quickly, almost eagerly. “They love this country.” Then his voice gathers strength. “We love this country.”

Hispanic Catholics in the US
In the mid-to-late 20th century, immigration to the United States shifted demographically from predominantly European countries to Latin American—especially Mexican—and Asian and African peoples. The growth of the Catholic Church in the United States correlates with this shift; of the estimated 77.7 million Catholics, approximately 39 percent are Hispanic. Of these, 64 percent self-identify as Catholics who attend church services regularly. More than 50 percent of Catholics in the United States aged 25 or younger are Hispanic.
Pew by pew, parish by parish, the Church has been and continues to be intricately intertwined in very personal ways among those who established roots in the United States generations ago and those who are recently arrived and are just embarking on their American journey.

What about the Border?
MOST, AMONG THE WAVES of Irish, Italian, German, and other immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries, came to the United States by sea. They disembarked and were processed at one of several ports. Their countries of origin were far away, and it was less easy to maintain constant contact with family and friends left behind.
The majority of today’s wave of immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America came from across the southern US border. That’s why familial and cultural ties can not only seem but actually be more immediate.
The Church recognizes that the United States has the right to secure its border. And, Archbishop Gomez tells St. Anthony Messenger, there are good reasons for this: “No doubt, there is drug trafficking and violence and there is a need for vigilance. Given the reality of the world in which we live, it is important that the US have some control of the border.”
But there are personal and human nuances that bring better understanding to some of the issue’s sensitivity. “I have relatives on both sides of the border,” Archbishop Gomez explains, “so for my whole life I’ve seen the relationship between both countries, especially in the border cities, and how the border doesn’t separate people from cultural and community points of view. It is important to have immigration reform that reflects the relationship between these two countries.”
Besides physical means, other reforms could improve border security, too, and help lessen the number of people for whom a perilous journey northward through harsh deserts ends in death. “We have economic treaties with other countries, through NAFTA (North American Free Trade Alliance), for example,” says Gomez. “In my view, just having a realistic work visa situation would help to protect the border. People who come here would be legal, have work permits, and be known by our government.” In addition, addressing the root causes of poverty and other conditions that compel people to leave their home countries to provide for their families would also lessen the strain at the border.
Another concern related to personal ties and the border is the separation of families. The bishops have continued to call for reform that includes reunification of families separated by the realities of the current immigration system. Writes Gomez, “Family unity, based on the union of a husband and a wife and their children, must remain the cornerstone of our nation’s immigration system.”
But with different cultures, family can mean different things. What constitutes family? Archbishop Gomez laughs softly. “That’s a good question. It would be ideal to have a more open view of the importance of community and family. But the priority is immediate family.”
“Families are separated” by a “broken immigration system,” says Archbishop Gomez. “This suffering must end.”

Maureen Pratt writes the syndicated column “Living Well” for Catholic News Service and is the author of six books, including Peace in the Storm: Meditations on Chronic Pain & Illness. Her website is Archbishop José Gomez book is Immigration and the Next America: Renewing the Soul of Our Notion (Our Sunday Visitor).

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cosby on Education

They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English.  I can't even talk the way these people talk:
                                       Why you ain't,
                                       Where you is,
                                       What he drive,
                                      Where he stay,
                                     Where he work,
                                     Who you be.
       And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk.
       Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth.  In fact you will never get any kind of job making a decent living.
       People marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an Education, and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around. The lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids.  $500 sneakers for what?  And they won't spend $200 for Hooked on Phonics.  I am talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was 2?  Where were you when he was 12? Where were you when he was 18 and how come you didn't know that he had a pistol? And where is the father? Or who is his father? People putting their clothes on backward: isn't that a sign of something gone wrong? People with their hats on backward, pants down around the crack, isn't that a sign of something? Isn't it a sign of something when she has her dress all the way up and got all type of needles [piercing] going through her body? What part of Africa did this come from? We are not Africans. Those people are not Africans; they don't know a thing about Africa
I say this all of the time. It would be like white people saying they are European-American. That is totally stupid. I was born here, and so were my parents and grandparents and, very likely my great grandparents. I don't have any connection to Africa, no more than white Americans have to Germany, Scotland, England, Ireland, or the Netherlands. The same applies to 99 percent of all the black Americans as regards to Africa ... So stop, already!  With names like Tamaqua, Tahlequah and Mohammed and all of that crap. And all of them are in jail. Brown or black versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person's problem. We have got to take the neighborhood back. People used to be ashamed. Today a woman has eight children with eight different 'husbands' -- or men or whatever you call them now. We have millionaire football players who cannot read. We have million-dollar basketball players who can't write two paragraphs. We, as black folks have to do a better job. Someone working at Wal-Mart with seven kids, you are hurting us. We have to start holding each other to a higher standard. We cannot blame the white people any longer.'
Dr. William Henry 'Bill' Cosby, Jr., Ed.D.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Take Up Your Cross

I invite you to reflect on the conditions that Jesus asked of those who wanted to be his disciples: “If anyone wishes to come after me”, he said, “he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23). Jesus is not a Messiah of triumph and power. In fact, he did not free Israel 1mm Roman rule and he never assured it of political glory. As a true Servant of the Lord, he carried out his mission in solidarity, in service, and in the humiliation of death. He is the Messiah who did not fit into any mold and who came without fanfare, and who cannot be “understood” with the logic of success and power, the kind of logic often used by the world to verify its projects and actions.
Having come to carry out the will of the Father, Jesus remained faithful to it right to the end. He thus carried out his mission of salvation for all those who believe in him and love him, not in word, but in deed. Love is the condition for following him, but it is sacrifice that is the proof of that love. “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23). These words denote the radicality of a choice that does not allow for hesitation or second thoughts. It is a demanding requirement that unsettled even the disciples and that, throughout the ages, has held back many men and women from following Christ.
But precisely this radicality has also produced admirable examples of sanctity and martyrdom that strengthened and confirmed the way of the Church. Even today these words are regarded as a stumbling block and folly. Yet they must be faced, because the path outlined by God for his Son is the path to be undertaken by the disciple who has decided to follow Jesus. There are not two paths, but only one: the one trodden by the Master. The disciple cannot invent a different way.

Blessed John Paul II (Message for World Youth Day XVI, 2001)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

John & Annie Glenn

In New Concord, Ohio, his parents and hers were friends. When the families got together, their children played. John -- the future Marine fighter pilot, the future test-pilot ace, the future astronaut -- was pure gold from the start. He would end up having what it took to rise to the absolute pinnacle of American regard during the space race; imagine what it meant to be the young John Glenn in the small confines of New Concord.
Three-sport varsity athlete, most admired boy in town, Mr. Everything. Annie Castor was bright, was caring, was talented, and was generous of spirit. But she could talk only with the most excruciating of difficulty. It haunted her. Her stuttering was so severe that it was categorized as an "85%" disability -- 85% of the time, she could not manage to make words come out.  When she tried to recite a poem in elementary school, she was laughed at. She was not able to speak on the telephone. She could not have a regular conversation with a friend.  And John Glenn loved her. Even as a boy he was wise enough to understand that people who could not see past her stutter were missing out on knowing a rare and wonderful girl.
They married on April 6, 1943. As a military wife, she found that life as she and John moved around the country could be quite hurtful. She has written: "I can remember some very painful experiences -- especially the ridicule."  In department stores, she would wander unfamiliar aisles trying to find the right section, embarrassed to attempt to ask the salesclerks for help. In taxis, she would have to write requests to the driver, because she couldn't speak the destination out loud. In restaurants, she would point to the items on the menu.
A fine musician, Annie, in every community where she and John moved, would play the organ in church as a way to make new friends. She and John had two children; she has written: "can you imagine living in the modern world and being afraid to use the telephone? 'Hello' used to be so hard for me to say. I worried that my children would be injured and need a doctor. Could I somehow find the words to get the information across on the phone?"
John, as a Marine aviator, flew 59 combat missions in World War II and 90 during the Korean War. Every time he was deployed, he and Annie said goodbye the same way. His last words to her before leaving were: "I'm just going down to the corner store to get a pack of gum." And, with just the two of them there, she was able to always reply: "Don't be long."
On that February day in 1962 when the world held its breath and the Atlas rocket was about to propel him toward space, those were their words, once again. And in 1998, when, at 77, he went back to space aboard the shuttle Discovery, it was an understandably tense time for them. What if something happened to end their life together?  She knew what he would say to her before boarding the shuttle. He did -- and this time he gave her a present to hold onto:  A pack of gum. She carried it in a pocket next to her heart until he was safely home.
Many times in her life she attempted various treatments to cure her stutter. None worked. But in 1973, she found a doctor in Virginia who ran an intensive program she and John hoped would help her. She traveled there to enroll and to give it her best effort. The miracle she and John had always waited for at last, as miracles will do, arrived. At age 53, she was able to talk fluidly, and not in brief, anxiety-ridden, agonizing bursts. John has said that on the first day he heard her speak to him with confidence and clarity, he dropped to his knees to offer a prayer of gratitude. He has written: "I saw Annie's perseverance and strength through the years and it just made me admire her and love her even more." He has heard roaring ovations in countries around the globe for his own valor, but his awe is reserved for Annie, and what she accomplished: "I don't know if I would have had the courage."
Her voice is so clear and steady now that she regularly gives public talks. If you are lucky enough to know the Glenn’s, the sight and sound of them bantering and joking with each other and playfully finishing each others' sentences is something that warms you and makes you thankful just to be in the same room.
If you ever find yourself at an event where the Glenn’s are appearing, and you want to see someone so brimming with pride and love that you may feel your own tears start to well up, wait until the moment that Annie stands to say a few words to the audience. And as she begins, take a look at her husband's eyes.

Just Checking In Today

A Minister passing through his church
In the middle of the day,
Decided to pause by the altar
To see who came to pray.

Just then the back door opened,
And a man came down the aisle,
The minister frowned as he saw the man
Hadn't shaved in a while.

His shirt was torn and shabby,
And his coat was worn and frayed,
The man knelt down and bowed his head,
Then rose and walked away.

In the days that followed at precisely noon,
The preacher saw this chap,
Each time he knelt just for a moment,
A lunch pail in his lap.

Well, the minister's suspicions grew,
With robbery a main fear,
He decided to stop and ask the man,
'What are you doing here?'

The old man said he was a factory worker
And lunch was half an hour
Lunchtime was his prayer time,
For finding strength and power.

I stay only a moment
Because the factory's far away;
As I kneel here talking to the Lord,
This is kinda what I say:

'I Just Came By To Tell You, Lord,
How Happy I Have Been,
Since We Found Each Other’s Friendship
And You Took Away My Sin.

Don't Know Much Of How To Pray,
But I Think About You Every day.
So, Jesus, This Is Ben,
Just Checking In Today.'

The minister feeling foolish,
Told Ben that it was fine.
He told the man that he was welcome
To pray there anytime.

'It's time to go, and thanks,' Ben said
As he hurried to the door.
Then the minister knelt there at the altar,
Which he'd never done before.

His cold heart melted, warmed with love,
As he met with Jesus there.
As the tears flowed down his cheeks,
He repeated old Ben's prayer:

'I Just Came By To Tell You, Lord,
How Happy I've Been,
Since We Found Each Other’s Friendship
And You Took Away My Sin.

I Don't Know Much Of How To Pray,
But I Think About You Every day.
So, Jesus, This Is Me,
Just Checking In Today.'

Past noon one day, the minister noticed
That old Ben hadn't come.
As more days passed and still no Ben,
He began to worry some.

At the factory, he asked about him,
Learning he was ill.
The hospital staff was worried,
But he'd given them a thrill.

The week that Ben was with them,
Brought changes in the ward.
His smiles and joy contagious.
Changed people were his reward.

The head nurse couldn't understand
Why Ben could be so glad,
When no flowers, calls or cards came,
Not a visitor he had.

The minister stayed by his bed,
He voiced the nurse's concern:
No friends had come to show they cared.
He had nowhere to turn.

Looking surprised, old Ben spoke up
And with a winsome smile;
'The nurse is wrong, she couldn't know,
He's been here all the while.'

Every day at noon He comes here,
A dear friend of mine, you see,
He sits right down and takes my hand,
Leans over and says to me:

'I Just Came By To Tell You, Ben,
How Happy I Have Been,
Since We Found This Friendship,
And I Took Away Your Sin.

I Think About You Always
And I Love To Hear You Pray,
And So Ben, This Is Jesus,
Just Checking In Today.'

Jewish Boycott

A short time ago, Iran's Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khomenei urged the Muslim World to boycott anything and everything that originates with the Jewish people.  In response, Meyer M. Treinkman, a pharmacist, out of the kindness of his heart, offered to assist them in their boycott as follows:
  1. "Any Muslim who has Syphilis must not be cured by Salvarsan discovered by a Jew, Dr. Ehrlich. He should not even try to find out whether he has Syphilis, because the Wasserman Test is the discovery of a Jew. If a Muslim suspects that he has Gonorrhea, he must not seek diagnosis, Because he will be using the method of a Jew named Neissner.
  2. "A Muslim who has heart disease must not use Digitalis, a discovery by a Jew, Ludwig Traube.
  3. Should he suffer with a toothache, he must not use Novocaine, a discovery of the Jews, Widal and Weil.
  4. If a Muslim has Diabetes, he must not use Insulin, the result of research by Minkowsky, a Jew. If one has a headache, he must shun Pyramidon and Antypyrin, due to the Jews, Spiro and Ellege.
  5. Muslims with convulsions must put up with them because it was a Jew, Oscar Leibreich, who proposed the use of Chloral Hydrate.
  6. Arabs must do likewise with their psychic ailments because Freud, father of psychoanalysis, was a Jew.
  7. Should a Muslim child get Diphtheria, he must refrain from the "Schick" reaction which was invented by the Jew, Bella Schick.
  8. "Muslims should be ready to die in great numbers and must not permit treatment of ear and brain damage, work of Jewish Nobel Prize winner, Robert Baram.
  9. They should continue to die or remain crippled by Infantile Paralysis because the discoverer of the anti-polio vaccine is a Jew, Jonas Salk.
  10. "Muslims must refuse to use Streptomycin and continue to die of Tuberculosis because a Jew, Zalman Waxman, invented the wonder drug against this killing disease.
  11. Muslim doctors must discard all discoveries and improvements by dermatologist Judas Sehn Benedict, or the lung specialist, Frawnkel, and of many other world renowned Jewish scientists and medical experts.
  12. "In short, good and loyal Muslims properly and fittingly should remain afflicted with Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Heart Disease, Headaches, Typhus, Diabetes, Mental Disorders, Polio Convulsions and Tuberculosis and be proud to obey the Islamic boycott."
  13. Oh, and by the way, don't call for a doctor on your cell phone because the cell phone was invented in Israel by a Jewish engineer.
  14. Muslims have received 7 Nobel Prizes; the Jews 129!
On the other hand:
  • The Jews are NOT promoting brainwashing children in military training camps, teaching them how to blow themselves up and cause maximum deaths of Jews and other non-Muslims.
  • The Jews don't hijack planes, nor kill athletes at the Olympics, or blow themselves up in German restaurants.
  • There is NOT one single Jew who has destroyed a church.
  • There is NOT a single Jew who protests by killing people. The Jews don't traffic slaves, nor have leaders calling for Jihad and death to all the Infidels.
  • Perhaps the world's Muslims should consider investing more in standard education and less in blaming the Jews for all their problems.
  • Muslims must ask 'what can they do for humankind' before they demand that humankind respects them.
  • Regardless of your feelings about the crisis between Israel and the Palestinians and Arab neighbors, even if you believe there is more culpability on Israel 's part, the following two sentences really say it all:
  • 'If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel."
Benjamin Netanyahu: General Eisenhower warned us. It is a matter of history that when the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight Eisenhower, found the victims of the death camps he ordered all possible photographs to be taken, and for the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps and even made to bury the dead.
He did this because he said in words to this effect: 'Get it all on record now - get the films - get the witnesses - because somewhere down the road of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.’ Recently, the UK debated whether to remove The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it 'offends' the Muslim population which claims it never occurred. It is not removed as yet. However, this is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving into it.  It is now more than 65 years after the Second World War in Europe ended.
Now, more than ever, with Iran, among others, claiming the Holocaust to be 'a myth,' it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets. How many years will it be before the attack on the World Trade Center 'NEVER HAPPENED' because it offends some Muslim in the United States?

Slow Dance

Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round?
Or listened to the rain slapping on the ground?
Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight?
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?

You better slow down. Don't dance so fast.
Time is short. The music won’t last.

Do you run through each day on the fly?
When you ask how are you? Do you hear the reply?
When the day is done do you lie in your bed
With the next hundred chores running through your head!

You better slow down. Don't dance so fast.
Time is short. The music won’t last.

Ever told your child, we'll do it tomorrow?
And in your haste, not see his sorrow?
Ever lost touch let a good friendship die
Cause you never had time to call and say,'Hi'

You better slow down. Don't dance so fast.
Time is short. The music won’t last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere
You miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day,
It is like an unopened gift thrown away.

Life is not a race. Do take it slower
Hear the music before the song is over.

This poem was written by a terminally ill young girl in a New York Hospital. This young girl has 6 months left to live, and as her dying wish, she wanted to send a letter telling everyone to live their life to the fullest, since she never will. She'll never make it to prom, graduate from high school, or get married and have a family of her own.

Marilyn Marsh

Christmas at God's House

Twas' 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38
when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven's gate.
Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.
They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
They were filled with such joy; they didn't know what to say.
They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
"Where are we?" asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.
"This is heaven." declared a small boy. "We're spending Christmas at God's house."
When what to their wondering eyes did appear,
but Jesus, their savior, the children gathered near.
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.
Then He opened His arms and He called them by name.
And in that moment was joy that only heaven can bring
those children all flew into the arms of their King
and as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,
one small girl turned and looked at Jesus' face.
And as if He could read all the questions she had
He gently whispered to her, "I'll take care of mom and dad."
Then He looked down on earth, the world far below
He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe
then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,
"Let My power and presence re-enter this land!"
"May this country be delivered from the hands of fools"
"I'm taking back my nation. I'm taking back my schools!"
Then He and the children stood up without a sound.
"Come now my children let me show you around."
Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.
All displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
"in the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT."

Written by Cameo Smith, Mt. Wolf, PA.

The Devil’s Dream

In those most sacred moments of meditation, wedged into one of the massive clefts of the mountain, Francis felt at the mercy of nature’s wildness. Would the rocks shift some day and squash him between the granite folds of Mount La Verna? Would he slide into a crevasse, never to be found again? Or would Christ’s care for him keep the mountain quiet and immobile in God’s own embrace? He did not know until one summer’s evening at La Verna.
He had been praying and suffering temptation all day long. At La Verna Satan seemed always at hand, ready to fill every void with his own suggestions and visions of the Dream. Sometimes it was terrible and the Dream became a nightmare. Then it would change and the Devil’s Dream would look more beautiful than Christ’s, and Francis could not tell the difference.
That particular evening the Devil’s Dream was especially beautiful. There was about it the halo of the sun setting over La Verna itself. In the dream there were great golden fields of grain and red hillsides of poppies and the brothers were running through the fields toward a little stream. Then suddenly the whole scene froze and the brothers stood still in midair. They panted for the life-giving stream, but they could not move. Then Satan himself began to walk across the field with a long scythe. The brothers began to back up, but behind them was the large flaming pit of hell itself. They could move backward but not forward.
Francis watched in horror as the Devil cut to pieces those who would not back up. Some from fear and panic backed into Hell itself. And when all were gone, Francis realized he was in the field himself, the last one facing Satan. The scythe was lifted and aimed at his face. Then Satan swung with all his might. Francis screamed; and whirling about, pressed his face and body into the stone face of La Verna, groping for something to cling to.
The sudden movement had caused him to lose his balance and he would have been dashed to bits on the rocks far below, had not Jesus saved him. The rock suddenly became soft as wax and Francis melted into it. Then there was a great calm and a warm gentle breeze. Francis lifted himself from the rock bed and saw the deep imprint of his body in the cold stone. Jesus had made a mold of La Verna from the fire of his temptation and spiritual trial, and he understood that the furnace one must pass through is hot enough to melt granite and yet in Christ one survives it. And never again did he fear the wildness of nature.

Car Air Conditioning

Now this is very interesting! My car's manual says to roll down the windows to let out all the hot air before turning on the A/C.  No wonder more folks are dying from cancer than ever before. We wonder where this stuff comes from, but here is an example that explains a lot of the cancer-causing incidents.  Many people are in their cars the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night, 7 days a week.
Please do NOT turn on A/C as soon as you enter the car. Open the windows after you enter your car and then after a couple of minutes, turn ON the AC. Here's why: According to research, the car's dashboard, seats, a/c ducts, in fact ALL of the plastic objects in your vehicle emit Benzene, a Cancer causing toxin. A BIG CARCINOGEN. Take the time to observe the smell of heated plastic in your car when you open it, and BEFORE you start it up.
In addition to causing cancer, Benzene poisons your bones, causes anemia and reduces white blood cells. Prolonged exposure can cause Leukemia and increases the risk of some cancers. It can also cause miscarriages in pregnant women.  The "acceptable" Benzene level indoors is: 50mg per sq.ft.  A car parked indoors, with windows closed, will contain 400-800 mg of Benzene - 8 times the acceptable level.  If parked outdoors in the sun, at a temperature above 60 degrees F, the Benzene level goes up to 2000-4000 mg, 40 times the acceptable level.  People, who get into the car, keeping the windows closed, will eventually inhale excessive amounts of the BENZENE toxin.  Benzene is a toxin that affects your kidneys and liver. What's worse, it is extremely difficult for your body to expel this toxic stuff.

Snopes: FALSE
A 2007 German study on "Toxicity of Parked Motor Vehicle Indoor Air" which specifically tested the health effects of emissions from one new and one three-year-old vehicle exposed to “parked in sunshine” conditions found "no apparent health hazard of parked motor vehicle indoor air":
  • Buters and his colleagues first collected molecules from the air inside a new car and a three-year-old vehicle of the same brand placed under 14,000 watts of light, where temperatures reached up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. They next exposed these compounds to human, mouse and hamster cells grown in lab dishes. These are commonly used to test toxicity.
  • New car smell does not appear to be toxic, the scientists found. Air from the new car did cause a slight aggravation of the immune response that could affect people with allergies, but the same was not seen with the older vehicle.
  • (The German study also found the total amount of volatile organic compounds in a new car to be one-tenth the level claimed in the e-mail for Benzene alone.)

The ACS similarly noted of this e-mail that:
We found no published studies that confirm the claims of this e-mail. Benzene levels that exceed recommendations for chronic workplace exposure have been observed in some moving cars, but these levels seem unlikely in properly maintained cars.
The e-mail did get one thing right, though: Upon returning to a closed car on warm days, you should open the windows for a minute or so rather than immediately turning on the air conditioning. The reason has nothing to do with Benzene levels, however — rather, it's because when a car is parked in the sun with its windows rolled up, that condition can create a greenhouse effect which causes the interior of the vehicle to warm up to a temperature considerably higher than that of the outside air. Opening the windows for a few moments allows for the exchange of hot air from inside the vehicle with cooler air outside, speeding up the process of cooling off the car more than air conditioning alone would.

Jury Duty - Fraud

Most of us take those summonses for jury duty seriously, but enough people skip out on their civic duty that a new and ominous kind of fraud has surfaced.
The caller claims to be a jury duty coordinator. If you protest that you never received a summons for jury duty, the Scammer asks you for your Social Security number and date of birth so he or she can verify the information and cancel the arrest warrant. Give out any of this information and bingo; your identity was just stolen.
The fraud has been reported so far in 11 states, including Oklahoma, Illinois, and Colorado, AZ, OR and more. This (swindle) is particularly insidious because they use intimidation over the phone to try to bully people into giving information by pretending they are with the court system. The FBI and the federal court system have issued nationwide alerts on their web sites, warning consumers about the fraud.

Snopes states:
·        Court workers will not telephone to say you've missed jury duty or that they are assembling juries and need to pre-screen those who might be selected to serve on them, so dismiss as fraudulent phones call of this nature. About the only time you would hear by telephone (rather than by mail) about anything having to do with jury service would be after you have mailed back your completed questionnaire, and even then only rarely.
·        Do not give out bank account, social security, or credit card numbers over the phone if you didn't initiate the call, whether it be to someone trying to sell you something or to someone who claims to be from a bank or government department. If such callers insist upon "verifying" such information with you, have them read the data to you from their notes, with you saying yea or nay to it rather than the other way around.
·        Examine your credit card and bank account statements every month, keeping an eye peeled for unauthorized charges. Immediately challenge items you did not approve.

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